Monday, May 27, 2013

I am a Theist

I stood in my kitchen watching ground beef sizzle in a green pan. The leftover homemade salsa I dumped into the skillet was the only flavoring; I didn't feel like pouring salt on it. My mind began to wander: I imagined someone asking me if I believed in God. I ran over my answer: I am an epistemological agnostic, which places me in the without-theism camp, but I love God and I am willing (or at any rate, willing to will) to let his will prevail over my life and to try to always make the decision to ultimately love my existence no matter how hateful it is on every level short of the ultimate.

Something did not feel right in this, though. There was something different in my character, which resulted in a feeling of dissonance when I gave my answer. Initially I thought that maybe it was certain recent refinements in my thinking and philosophy that produced the dissonance. I sat down and re-read my blog Why I am an Atheist, and found that there was really nothing in that blog that I once agreed with and now no longer did. That blog still describes my stance.

So what is the problem?

I think the problem lies in this: if you ask me if I am a theist, I would ask you "in what sense? According to what game? What schema? What Layer?" But if you refused to clarify and give me context and simply repeated the question (or if I was in a real world situation where asking "in what sense" tends to make people roll their eyes at you), what answer would I give? What would be my default answer to the question if it lacked context?

That is what has changed. In the past my default answer would have been either "atheist" or "agnostic" because I saw the question first in terms of assent to propositions. Now, if you ask if I am a theist, my first response is not to approach the question as a question about my beliefs, but instead as a question about my attitudes and values. In those respects I am a theist through and through.

Therefore, I am a theist. And if you provide me with the adequate context, I will explain to you that I am an atheist. And if you change that context, I will explain to you that I am a theist. 

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