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What are the basic worldviews?

Worldviews come in all shapes and sizes. As attempts to understand reality, they do share certain characteristics and can be categorized under the following basic worldviews that are found in our world: Naturalism, Transcendentalism, Humanism and Theism.

Naturalism: This is the view that nature is all that there is. In naturalism, there is no supernatural realm, no “outside” intervention in the universe. It is a “closed” to supernatural explanations. The physical universe created itself and explains itself. The implications for holding this view are profound: no free will, no basis for morality, no purpose in history, no mind, no soul, only molecules and energy interacting with each other. The universe and everything in it is the product of blind chance evolving over billions of years. This worldview is held by many notable scientists including Richard Hawkins, Stephen Jay Gould and the late Carl Sagan. We would venture to say that Carl no longer holds this position.

Transcendentalism: This is the worldview that matter is not all that there is. There are dimensions of reality that are not part of the time/space realm, dimensions which transcend our senses : a spiritual reality that accounts for things like soul, mind, morals, beauty, etc. Transcendentalism includes everything from belief in God to belief in ghosts, spirits, etc. Any acceptance of the supernatural falls under the broad worldview of transcendentalism.

Humanism: In between naturalism and transcendentalism, we find Humanism. This view starts with the premise that “man is the measure of all things” that is, whatever may be true of the world, humans are at the center of it. Some humanists may believe in a deity, these are the religious humanists. But most humanists are secular humanists, believing that there is no god, but rather that humans determine what is moral, what is significant and what is of value. Famous humanists include Isaac Asimov (2001 Space Odyssey) Joseph Fletcher (situation ethics), and B.F. Skinner (behaviorist).

Theism: This is a more specific worldview that an infinite personal God created the universe and miraculously intervenes in it from time to time. Theists believe the universe is the result of intelligent design; that design in the universe requires a Designer. Theists come in a variety of shapes and sizes. For example, Judaism Christianity and Islam are theistic religions. Jews and Muslims believe that God is One person (monotheism), Christians believe in a trinitarian form of monotheism: There is One God in Three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Theistic religions stand in contrast to Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism. These religions share the worldview of pantheism, which means everything is god. This is the belief in an infinite, impersonal oneness, an invisible force that permeates the universe. The Star Wars trilogy and prequels are based on this pantheistic view of reality. The Force is impersonal and can be tapped for good or evil.

The religions and philosophies of the world will find their place under these broad worldviews. Understanding these worldviews will help you make sense on how religions and philosophies relate to one another.

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