What is a worldview?
A worldview is a set of ideas which sit in our head by which we interpret all that we see and experience in this world.
Who has a worldview?
Every person has a worldview whether they acknowledge it or not.
What are these ideas that sit in our head by which we understand and explain the world?
These ideas are how we understand the great issues of life such as where did we come from? why are we here? and where are we headed? Questions about what is a human? what is man or woman? what are children? how should we live? what is death? etc. etc.
What example can you give of this?
Take the example of a suicide bomber. To us, it is preposterous that anyone would kill himself and others in this way, but clearly there is a set of ideas in the head of this person which makes this a very rational, even heroic thing for him to do. In our own head, there sits a different set of ideas which makes such an act to be a horrific act of barbarism. The suicide bomber interprets this action through his set of ideas; we interpret the act through an entirely different set of ideas. It is no surprise that we end up in very different places.
How does a worldview differ from one’s religion?
A person’s religion will have a huge impact on his worldview, but the two are not the same. A worldview is broader than religion and involves more aspects of life and society. A worldview is an attempt to make sense of all of our life including but not limited to our religious beliefs. More on religion here.
Aren’t a person’s religious beliefs going to be at the very center of their worldview?
Yes, this is surely correct. We can narrow this even more and say a person’s understanding of God is the most important question any worldview must address. Adler wrote: “More consequences for thought and action follow from the affirmation or denial of God than from answering any other question.”
So the first question that any worldview must address is the question of God’s existence?
Yes, theism vs atheism is the first and most significant question any person must address. In Plato’s dialogs, we find this exchange:
Socrates: Then let us begin by asking a question.
Protarchus: What is the question?
Socrates: Shall we say, Protarchus, that all things and this which is called the universe are governed by an irrational and fortuitous power and mere chance, or, on the contrary, as our forefathers said, are ordered and directed by mind and a marvelous wisdom? source
Some people label themselves agnostics.
Yes, an agnostic is a person who claims ignorance on this point whereas an atheist makes the positive assertion that there is no god. Agnostics answer the question of God with a shrug of their shoulders; they just don’t know. At the end of the day, however, an agnostic is for all intents and purposes an atheist. Whatever doubts he might have on the subject, he lives as if there is no God. Orr writes that really agnosticism and atheism amount to the same thing.
…in all its forms, even the mildest, Agnosticism is entitled to be regarded as a negation of the Christian view, for two reasons.
First, in affirming that God is not, or cannot be, known, it directly negates, not only the truths of God’s natural Revelation, which Christianity presupposes, but the specific Christian assertion that God can be and is known through the series of His historical Revelations, and supremely through His Son Jesus Christ. “The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.”
And, second, if God exists, it is impossible in the nature of things that there should not be evidence of His existence, and therefore the denial of such evidence is actually tantamount to the denial of His existence. Why do I say this? It is because the truth about God differs from every other truth in just this respect, that if it is truth it must be capable of a certain measure of rational demonstration. For God is not simply one Being among others. He is the necessary Being. He is the Being whose existence is necessarily involved in the existence of every other being. The whole universe, ourselves as part of it, stands in a relation of necessary dependence upon Him. God, therefore, is unlike every other being our thought can take account of. Other beings may exist, and we may have no evidence of their existence. But it is rationally inconceivable that such an all-comprehending Reality as we call God should exist, and that through Him the whole material and spiritual universe should come into being, and yet no trace be found connecting this universe with its Author—so vast an effect with its cause. If even man, for however short a space of time, sets foot on an uninhabited island, we expect, if we visit his retreat, to find some traces of his occupation. How much more, if this universe owes its existence to infinite wisdom and power, if God is unceasingly present and active in every part of it, must we expect to find evidence of the fact? Therefore, I say that denial of all evidence for God’s existence is equivalent to the affirmation that there is no God. source
What important consequences follow from this worldview choice?
If atheism is true, than naturalism is true.
What is naturalism?
Naturalism is the idea that nature is all there is. The universe is a closed-system with nothing acting on it from without.
What follows from this?
A whole pile of dominos fall when one surrenders belief in God. Wittgenstein writes, “To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning.” source Furthermore, it is now meaningless to hold people responsible for their choices. There is no such thing as guilt, morality, and obligation. Dawkins writes about it here where he asserts that people are no different than cars in this respect.
In a naturalist worldview, what is a choice?
A choice is no longer the action of a rational and free agent but the simple collocation of atoms and chemistry in the human brain. In the naturalist worldview, a human choice is nothing more than what your phone does when you tap on its screen or give it a voice command.
What other questions does a worldview address?
There is the question of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and anthropology. See Nash, Faith & Reason, p 30.
What is metaphysics?
To understand metaphysics, first understand the physical. By physical, we mean to refer to all the things which we can know via our five senses. We see trees, concrete, cars, people, fields, buildings, etc. Now metaphysics goes behind these things and tries to know what makes these things exist and how they function in this world. For instance, what is the relationship between God and this universe? Is there any kind of purpose behind the universe or is it driven forward purely by material causes? Is there anything beyond this universe; i.e is the universe a closed system? Are miracles possible? and many other such questions.
What is epistemology?
This is the study of knowledge. Epistemological questions are such questions as, how do we learn? how do we form beliefs? what counts as true belief? false belief? what degree of certitude can we attach to our beliefs? are the five senses reliable in what they teach us? and many other such questions.
What is ethics?
Ethics is the study of human conduct and whether it is good or evil. Ethical questions are not so much directed to whether this action or that is moral or immoral but to the deeper question of how do we judge if something is right or wrong? Is there a transcendent moral code outside of us and above us by which we can make moral judgments? and many other such questions.
What is anthropology?
This is the study of human nature. What is a person? What is human life? Is human life valuable? Are humans body and soul? What is the human soul? are humans able to make free choices? and many other such questions.