The History of the Development Of Western Worldviews

From: Richard M.
Sent on: Wednesday, February 8, 2012 12:40 PM

Worldviews


In The Universe Next Door, A Basic Worldview Catalog by James W. Sire, we have a archeological dig of Western worldviews.  Sire describes himself as a “Christian apologist.”


The flaws of each view led to its abandonment and the creation of the next. But like everything else in nature, you can always find individuals and communities still living in every stage of development. I know people who hold each of these worldviews. (You can watch them play it out in person, on TV and in political campaigns everyday.)

Sire explains how our modern worldviews developed and why. Here is a list of them which I constructed from his book. They seem not to be the only way worldviews could develop, but how common ones came about in Western crazization.


1. Animism – The universe is filled with spirits with all sorts of personalities. These spirits make things happen. Everything that happens is because some spirit wanted it to.  Evil spirits can be placated and good ones can be wooed.


2. Theism - There is ONE transcendent, supernatural being (Being.) In the Western Judeo/Christian tradition. God is infinite, personal, transcendent, immanent (within possible experience or knowledge), omniscient, sovereign and good and of course HE.)

But, during the Age of Enlightenment, masses of people learned that the new information (available through the scientific method) did not support that worldview. Opps!


3. Deism – Since this new information did not confirm God’s daily participation in human affairs, many thoughtful people decided that God exists but was only the first cause. After creating everything, he let the clockwork universe run by itself. Therefore he is not immanent, fully personal or sovereign over human affairs. This was the world view of most of America’s founding fathers, or at least they hid their atheism behind it.


4. Naturalism – God does not exist, (there is no need or evidence of him), nature (the cosmos) is primary. It just cranks along without noticing or carrying about us.


5. Nihilism – Naturalism is depressing. Humans are not the center of anything and we have no purpose for being here. There is no meaning to anything. Gee, that sucks!

6. Existentialism – Since naturalism is depressing, existentialism is its antidote.


A. Atheistic Existentialism – The world was not designed for us or to our liking. Therefore it seems (to us) so out of kilter that it’s outrageous, or “absurd.” Apparently, meaning does not come from the outside (God didn’t create us and certainly not for any purpose.) God died so to speak, and we all became orphans.


But there is a way through this depressing swamp of pointlessness. It is to accept pointlessness and psychologically move on. To do that we must each find meaning for ourselves. That gives us each a great responsibility but also tre mendous freedom. Only the brave and strong have the courage to pick a side and play the game. P. 117


B. Theistic Existentialism – God does exist, but we are separated from him and cannot prove his existence. Therefore (since a world without him would be intolerable) we must make a leap of faith to believe. When you do that, you will find a new world of meaning. P. 127 (Kierkegaard proposed this in his many pamphlets, no one read them, then he died.) William James asserted this under the name of pragmatism. (My adoration of the Snake God is based on his belief-without-a-shred-of-evidence-but-it-works-for-me philosophy.)


C. Aestheticism – Each person makes art out of his life, thereby bringing order to chaos and meaning to absurdity. Your life is performance art. You have freedom and responsibility of choosing for yourself. It takes courage.


7. Eastern Pantheistic Monism – Each person is god or a manifestation of him/her/it/they. Everything is God, God is everything. Spinoza suggested this in the 1600’s and was roundly condemned by theists of all stripes. p. 143


8. New Age / New Thought – Whatever is objectively out there (in the universe), the kingpin is the self. There is a “cosmic consciousness”, a self-awareness in the whole universe. In that consciousness, ordinary space, time and morality disappear.


Each person can participate in it by learning a higher level of consciousness. The visible world is experienced only through conventional consciousness, but the invisible cosmic consciousness can be experienced through altered states. p. 178


This stuff (like all others worldviews) has always been around and always will be. Examples of it are the spiritual movement after WWI, psychedelic drugs, paranormal research, UFO-ology, alien abductions, aromatherapy, pyramid power, etc.

The New Thought movement however, distances itself from all that and emphasizes thinking differently. It draws extensively upon William James and Epictetus. James said that you get to choose what to believe, it doesn’t matter in the scheme of things, so believe whatever makes you happy. Epictetus suggested that you only focus on things you can change and don’t fret about what you can’t.


9. Postmodernism – Confusion reigns, life sucks, then we all die in the dark vacuum of empty space, frigid, lonely, cold and pointless.


A. Definitive knowledge is not attainable, there will always be uncertainty.


B. There is no one way for humanity to solve its problems.


C. It is unlikely they it ever will.


The modern world view (naturalism) was that science will solve all human problems. All we have to do it get everyone to abandon superstition and embrace reason (the scientific reasoning based on careful, repeatable observations.) WWI and people around us everyday have shown that belief to be clearly unrealistic.


You can’t convince people to abandon their reassuring superstitions. Even enlightened 20th Century scientific Westerners used their new-found reason to build bigger bombs to destroy each other. Now they have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the planet many times over, but can’t stop themselves from making more.


Finally even matter is torn into nothingness by the ever expanding universe.

Have a nice day!

 

See you there.



Richard Mohley
Febuary 6, 2012


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