There has been a great deal of discussion about the question of whether I can “try on” atheism for a year, or any length of time. This question—the methodological question—seems to be the main concern about my exploration (aside, of course, from whether I engineered this as a huge media stunt). Over the next several weeks I will write more about my methodology, but today I want to begin by sharing what I understand to be the relationship between thinking/knowing and acting/behaving as best I can in a short blog post.
The nature of knowledge
I understand my basic knowledge or beliefs about the world to be deeply embedded in a narrative about that world. Beliefs are not, as we sometimes think, free floating ideas that we can take or leave at will and combine in any number or ways to create our own personal identities. Postmodernity presses us into this possibility, it seems, but I still think we live in a deeply narrated world where our beliefs and ideas are networked into a larger cultural tapestry. That being said, our most deeply held beliefs (for example, that people are essential good or evil, that freedom and hard work are unqualified goods and that love and justice will—or won’t—overcome hatred and inequality) can and do change over time. We have new experiences, encounter new people, learn new facts. All these things have a bearing upon our understanding of how the world actually is—what I’m calling belief.