“Nothing is more dangerous than a dogmatic worldview -
nothing more constraining, more blinding to innovation,
more destructive of openness to novelty.” ~ Stephen Jay Gould
"Most people catch their presuppositions from their family and surrounding society the way a child catches measles. But people with more understanding realize that their presuppositions should be chosen after a careful consideration
of what world-view is true." ~ Francis Schaeffer
Everyone has a worldview whether they realize it or not. A worldview is basically a philosophy of life, the fundamental orientation of an individual and includes a person’s point of view and beliefs derived from their knowledge, culture, experiences and expectations. The best worldviews can change with convincing evidence. Worldviews usually include values, ethics, existential postulates, and a picture of reality. Perhaps life stance or life-view might be more appropriate descriptions. Many people cobble together different aspects of various world views into a unique life philosophy for themselves, even if they are not aware of it. This mosaic patchwork often borrows the better items from Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Stoicism, or other philosophies even though taken seriously all religions include the absurd. I will have more to say about preposterous claims all religions eventually make in another post. Major religions are each usually considered worldviews as they contain characteristics shared by members identifying with a particular belief system and core values.
From our worldviews we derive meaning and purpose. Our worldviews are also built on a foundation of origins. From what, where, when, and how humans have come to be on earth establishes a platform to build our worldviews and they inform many of the “whys” of ultimate questions. As I have written, in my opinion many of those ultimate questions of life are grounded in evolution, which unexpectedly answers many questions of life that philosophers and theologians have wrestled with for thousands of years. Even art and music explore what it means to be human, our emotions and desires. One cannot understand human psychology and treat it properly without evolution. The field of evolutionary psychology yields practical results.
A correct picture of reality and origins is thus vital. We should not desire to build our worldviews on a false bedrock of reality and history since that will lead to erroneous beliefs, expectations, disappointments and false predictions.
Funk in 2001 outlined some components of a worldview, but for many of us we don’t necessarily need this amount of detail. Our worldviews are simply the way we view and live our lives. Or wish and hope to.
Epistemology - beliefs about nature and sources of knowledge
Metaphysics - beliefs about the ultimate nature of reality
Cosmology - beliefs about the origins and nature of Man, Life, and the universe
Teleology - beliefs about the existence and nature, if any, of God
Anthropology - beliefs about the nature and purpose of Man
Axiology - beliefs about the nature of value, what is good/bad; right and wrong
Note that those worldviews that have well supported true views of science, evolution, history, methods of truth seeking, ethics, and human origins will construct views of life that will be more successful in establishing individual and societal human well being and flourishing.
Atheism is Not a Worldview Nor a Religion
As I wrote in a previous post, atheism can’t be a worldview. It is the lack of belief or withholding an acceptance of a deity due to a lack of evidence. A lack of belief can’t be a belief. It’s true that atheism is often defined as a disbelief in God, but that is not how it is defined by those working in this area. See the section on Atheism. The best proof that atheism is not a worldview is that different atheists can hold markedly different worldviews. Consider Pol Pot and Stalin vs. Sagan, Dennett, and E.O. Wilson.
Neither is atheism a religion. There are no creeds, no scriptures, no rituals, no worship and no belief in the supernatural. What about the communist countries where atheism is officially the non-belief of the state? Well, they effectively ask their citizens to worship their communist leaders through parades, making huge posters of them and erecting statues to their chiefs and presidents. Communism appears more like a religion. During parades there are no flags with a large “A” on them. In addition, communist countries do not follow humanism and it’s tenets. They control, kill, and often torture innocents with the judiciary controlled by the Party.
Atheism is frequently and falsely linked to immoral values due to especially some despotic communist leaders. As demonstrated here, atheism is not a worldview and does not tell us anything about the values a person holds. In fact, there are atheist disaster relief agencies and organizations that help the poor and homeless. See for example: https://seculardirectory.org/charities/
What worldview do most atheists adopt? That is Secular Humanism, which can overlap with many of the principles of Religious Humanism. It is by far what I most often see in my secular communities. Two definitions of secular humanism I prefer:
"A comprehensive, nonspiritual life stance based on science, naturalistic philosophy, and an ethical system of consequentialism and reciprocity” ~ Center For Inquiry (CFI)
“A progressive philosophy of life that, without theism or other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity”. ~ American Humanist Association (AHA)
Please see my comments about morality and ethics, it’s origins and refinements, and how we know where it came from in this section. The term secular here refers to not spiritual or not relating to religion. In terms of a secular government for example it is one which does not promote one worldview or religion over another including nonbelievers and agnostics, nor promoting atheism. It does not promote one worldview over another as policy; it is as neutral as possible. Secular applied to individuals in contrast refers to a lack of belief in the supernatural.
Which Worldview Is Best and How Can We Know?
We can compare worldviews and use human flourishing and well-being as our metrics. I will leave it to the experts to define those terms exactly but to me it would mean on average people would be healthier, happier, living in safer and more just societies, and able to live longer lives with more opportunities to reach successful fulfillments.
Studies and research comparing societies that predominate around the globe show the same results year after year. The least religious, most global secular societies and states in America emerge as having the best quality of life. They are the healthiest and most happy. Thus atheism and agnosticism does indeed correlate with the best places to live. The worst places to live are nearly all the most religious. These may only be correlations and not causations due mainly to poverty, but if religious belief gave the best worldviews, the best way to live your life, we would see positive correlations with the best places to live as the most religious and that is not seen. This research is basically showing us outcome data; how do the most secular societies stack up to the most religious societies in pragmatic, real life situations?
1. 10 Countries with the highest quality of life. All are the most secular
2. Top 10 countries in which to live. All are the most secular or moving quickly secular.
3. The least corrupt countries in the world are the least religious and most secular https://www.transparency.org/en/cpi/2021
4. Countries compared using a list of important characteristics for well being and flourishing. Notice where the least religious countries are placed on the graph Y-axis of healthy vs. dysfunctional scale.
5. The worst area in America with regards to the lowest well being is mostly in the “Bible Belt” of America, in the southeast. Those states that constitute “The Bible Belt” in America give the “belt” titles such as the Divorce Belt, Teen Pregnancy Belt, Gay Porn Belt, Obesity Belt, Homicide Belt, Poverty Belt, Smoker’s Belt, Stroke Belt, Heart Attack Belt, Infant Death Belt, and Low Life Expectancy Belt.
> 10 worst American states according to quality of life are the most religious https://www.ibtimes.com/10-worst-us-states-live-2022-texas-second-3578547
> Top least religious (secular) states in America. Notice that these correlate with higher quality of life.
The Atheist 10 Non-Commandments
In 2014 CNN held a contest that asked their atheist readers to submit what they thought were the 10 most important principles to live by. Compare these to the traditional 10 Biblical Commandments people hold in esteem. In America it is ironic that evangelicals often wish to erect those 10 Commandments in front of government buildings when the first one alone violates the Constitution. These were the consensus of CNN atheist readers:
Be open-minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence
Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true.
The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world
Every person has the right to control of their body
God is not necessary to be a good person or live a full and meaningful life
Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them
Treat others as you would want them to treat you, and reasonably expect them to want to be treated. Think about their perspective
We have the responsibility to consider others, including future generations
There is no one right way to live
Leave the world a better place than you found it.
World views matter in terms of well being and flourishing. It is ironic that Francis Schaeffer’s worldview of Christianity is demonstrably wrong (see here) and correlates to less well being and more suffering than that of secular humanism as demonstrated here. The least religious countries and American states have the best quality of life by surveys and research studies year after year. Those countries often include the Scandinavian countries, Japan, Canada, and Australia.
The official atheist and communist countries of China, North Korea are not societies that practice secular humanism, the best worldview as shown here by evidence, outcome data and philosophical principles. Atheism does not guarantee rational thinking and compassionate persons. Many of the most successful countries in terms of quality of life are the social democracies. The countries that demonstrate the most secular humanism are the best places for quality of life. Important foundational principles of secular humanism include science/evolution and atheism. Although nothing humans invent can be perfect, these societies appear to have established the best societies to live in that modern human history has seen, and they are the least religious. This is not a coincidence. They have a high percentage of evolution acceptance, a more educated population, universal health care, better average education systems, and better social nets.
Consider, in America, which groups commonly are against universal health care, better social nets, evolution, easy access to safe and effective birth control, easier and fairer voting, better pollution controls, and climate change. In other words, which political and belief systems often actually work against human well-being and flourishing and often share a worldview based on religion?
"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge" ~ Stephen Hawking
The Scientific Worldview and its Implications by D.J. Grothe