Daniel Dennett has argued for a position half-way between realism and irrealism on intentionality. When we say “Bob believes bread is nourishing” our ascription of belief to Bob is a consequence of adopting the intentional stance. This statement “Bob believes bread is nourishing” is a short hand for broader functional descriptions of Bob as a physical system — for example when Bob is hungry and in need of nourishment and he sees bread and there are no tigers about, Bob will eat it. The intentional stance description “Bob believes bread is nourishing” is not the most fundamental description of Bob — that would be the description that predicts his behavior. Relative to the intentional stance it’s not untrue though — Bob does believe bread is nourishing.
Dennett is an atheist after the fashion of David Hume — he thinks belief in God and gods is a monstrous illusion, a hold-over from our brain’s over-active pattern recognition system. But the theist could take the same position regarding God as Dennett does regarding intentionality. Seventeen billion years ago and change the universe came into being. Why? For the theist the reason is that God willed a universe to exist because God believed it was good. Just as the psychologist using the intentional stance explains Bob’s pursuit of a piece of bread with the statement “Bob believes bread is nourishing” so the theologian using his stance explains the Big Bang with the statement “God thought the universe was good and willed it into being.”
Does God actually have a will? For theists like Thomas Aquinas and Maimonides the answer is the same as Dennett’s to the question “Does Bob actually believe bread is nourishing.” Yes and no. If we apply human predicates to God then yes, but from a more fundamental point of view, no. Relative to our human stance it’s not untrue though that the existence of the world is to be explained by an act of divine will.
What do we want to do about things that exist or don’t depending upon what sort of stance we take? Obviously, decide what stance to take. Once we know what stance to take we will know what exists. How should we decide what stance to take? That depends upon a lot of things, what stance we feel forced to take, what sort of people we are or want to be, what stances have worked for us, what stances other people we love and respect take, and last but not least, what stance the things we encounter draws out of us.
Does that mean what things exist depend upon what stance we take and what stance we take depends upon what things exist? Yes. Both depend upon who we are and what we are after too. Also who we are, and what we are after depend upon the things and people we encounter and how we encounter them.
Does who I am really depend upon what stance I take? Of course. If the stance I take is defensive, I am a defensive person. If the stance I take is open and welcoming, I am an open and welcoming person. If the stance I take is confused, puzzled, and ambivalent, I am a confused, puzzled and ambivalent person. Thank God we are able to change stance, subtly adjusting how we hold ourselves every moment of the waking day.