When I began my Sophomore year of college, I didn’t know I would soon be an Atheist. What I understood to be true and important was about to go through a radical upheaval. For as long as I could remember, I’d been a Deist: I believed God existed, but didn’t interact with the universe. I didn’t trust organized religion, and had no interest in what others considered to be divinely inspired books or stories about Jesus.
In short order, I drifted through agnosticism, atheism, and even reexamined Christianity. After that intense season of questioning what I believed and seeking answers, I graduated college with a degree in world religions. Although it’s been many years and I’m still a very skeptical person, I’ve come to have a deepened respect for the Christian faith. I hope my life journey and perspective may be helpful to your understanding of yourself, others, and reality.
What is a Worldview?
Our worldviews consist of our best guesses or firm convictions in answering the universal human questions: How did everything come to be? Why are we here? What happens after we die? What’s important? A worldview is made up of the beliefs about what is real and important. It is our beliefs about the unseen – the spiritual, the philosophical, and valuable. Our worldview will determine how we interpret our lives and the world around us. It shapes how we think about everything.
There are four core areas of belief which form the heart of our Worldviews:
- God and the immaterial
- The meaning and purpose of life
- Human nature
- What we trust is the primary source of spiritual* truth
These core areas of belief determine our specific beliefs. Specific beliefs are the finer details: they fill the gaps and form the stories of our lives. We construct this “worldview” story to make sense of our lives. Here are just a few examples of how specific beliefs flow out of our core beliefs.
God & The Immaterial
Our view of God – including the existence of many gods, no God, and other ideas about the immaterial – influences our specific beliefs about the origins of the universe and what happens after we die. A monotheist is likely to believe in heaven. An atheist is likely to believe the universe originated from natural, impersonal causes. Supernatural beings are major characters in many worldviews.
The Meaning & Purpose of Life
Our view of the meaning and purpose of life influences what we value most and how we live. If our purpose is to help others, then we’ll likely… well, that’s pretty self-explanatory. If our purpose is to live for ourselves, we’ll focus our thoughts and actions on comfort, pleasure, and feeling important. This could be viewed as the story plot of our lives.
Our view of human nature influences how we identify and solve problems in the world. If we believe humans are basically good by nature (but learn to do bad things due to their environment) then we may likely view education and awareness as solutions to many problems in the world. If we believe humanity has a spiritual problem then spiritual solutions may be required. All good stories have well-developed characters, so we naturally view ourselves as main characters in life’s story. Another aspect of human nature is what, if anything, lies beyond death.
The Source of Spiritual Truth
Our source of spiritual truth directly influences many of our specific beliefs, just as a screenplay would a movie. Our source of spiritual truth might determine what we think about the future of humanity, how to pray, what to eat, who to marry, how to be moral, how we view material possessions, and what adventures we pursue. It can also influence what we believe about the other core beliefs. A belief in prayer is more likely to be encouraged by a source of spiritual truth like a sacred book, or spiritual encounter, and discouraged by a source of truth like the need for hard evidence.
There’s another level of belief deeper than these four core beliefs; I call them foundational beliefs. I’ll write more about this important belief in the article Where Do Our Worldviews Come From?
Explore Your Perspective:
- What do you believe is true in each of these four areas of core beliefs?
- How connected are many of your specific beliefs to your core beliefs?
- Honestly, how confident are you that your beliefs reflect reality?
* I use the word “spiritual” in “spiritual truth” broadly to mean truth about what is unseen. Worldviews which don’t believe in spiritual things do include belief in unseen things, even if those things are ideas. To use “Source of truth” would be too specific as all kinds of things are true, but may not relate to someone’s worldview. I believe a composer named Mozart existed, but I didn’t learn that truth from an angel, the Bible, or by a philosophical argument. I listened to his CD in high school.