Doubters of the World Unite: Peter Ustinov on Belief and Doubt

The British actor Peter Ustinov, who died in 2004, made this rather astute observation:

Beliefs are what divide people. Doubt unites them.

The quote is taken from Jack Huberman’s The Quotable Atheist, p.306.

The way I read the quote is that expressions of certainty make for emotional rigidity and a disinclination to walk in the shoes of others, or to see things, however briefly, their way.

Confessions of doubt, by contrast, open the field to sympathy for others’ experience and ideas. Doubt unites humanity in the recognition that we are limited, mortal beings in time and space, and that no individual sees the truth whole. 

Belief, by contrast, is essentially dead, because it closes down discussion, or drives it into a space where it must run in pre-determined grooves, or with pre-determined defenses.

Let a million doubts bloom.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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