Since I’ve been in Boston amongst so many philosophical folk, I am often asked, “What are your philosophical interests?” Usually, my response is this: ethics, epistemology…and philosophy of religion, depending on the day of the week. Last week, when I offered this rather tongue-in-cheek response, someone actually pressed me on why my interest in philosophy of religion varies depending on the day of the week.
And I totally failed at answering that question. While I know that my interest in philosophy of religion doesn’t really vary depending on the day of the week, I had more than a little bit of trouble articulating exactly why my interest in philosophy of religion does vary. Shortly after this conversational fail, I thought that I should spend some time thinking about my answer to this question. So, here’s me spending time on this question: Why do I only do philosophy of religion on Thursdays?
Well, I think the issues tackled by many philosophers of religion just don’t matter all the time for me. Why? Because, depending on the day of the week, my “religious” beliefs may or may not give rise to the problems that these philosophical folk are trying to solve. Yep. That seems right. The problem of evil can’t be a problem if God is not a being…or not all-powerful…or not all-loving, and the fact is that, depending on the day of the week, these beliefs change. Today is Tuesday. God is a being. But tomorrow (or in three seconds) God is not a being. Now you see the problem of evil. Tomorrow you don’t.
Now, if this explanation is right, then I’ve got to wonder: What is causing these massive fluctuations in belief? I think a part of the reason is that God, that Thing that’s infinitely more awesome and baller than we are, is kind of hard to figure out. But less, abstractly, I think the reason is that there are several kinds of Christianity wrestling inside of me. I’ve got a Tillich-non-realist-ish Christianity. Then I’ve got a Plantinga-question-the-presumption-against-the-rationality-of-Christianity kind of Christianity. And finally, I’ve got a Kierkegaard-its-all-a-bunch-of-nonsense-and-that’s-the-point Christianity.
So, whether I have the kind of beliefs that give rise to traditional problems in philosophy of religion depends on which kind of Christianity has the upper hand inside of me on that particular day…or that particular second.
What can be said about this?
One thing I can say is that if all of this is true, then its not actually true that I only do philosophy of religion on Thursdays. If I’m having a non-realist kind of day, ethics and (limited) epistemology are just the same as doing a kind of philosophy of religion. Same thing with a Kierkegaardian kind of day: “What I really must get clear about is what I must do, not what I must know, except insofar as knowledge must precede every act.”
Another thing that can be said is a question: Is this contest of Christianities good? Is it, in other words, a kind of contest that a let’s-do-what-God-would-approve-of-kind-of-Christianity would be down for? Meh…I’ve asked this question before. I’ve tried answered it too. Maybe the answer’s no good, but I can’t get into that here.
Welp…uh…I’ve finished what I’ve set out to do in this post: to think about why my interest in the traditional problems of philosophy of religion waxes and wanes. I’ve got an answer. Hopefully, the next time someone calls me on my tongue-in-cheek response, I’ll have a good answer, an answer that might lead to discussion of the Divine. And that discussion, if its a genuine seeking of the truth, probably should be had regardless of what kind of Christian I am that day.