Testing worldviews: the religious worldview defined

Continuing our look at schooloffish’s post DOES YOUR WORLD VIEW PASS THE TEST, we come now to the definition for the religious worldview.

In general a religious world view embraces that there is something greater than man. That a GOD in some form is responsible for creation, morals & an afterlife (in some form). This world views is much more broad than the naturalistic world view as there are many different religious positions.

To be nit-picky again, the religious view is certainly not the only worldview that tells us there is something greater than man. Indeed, naturalists are often criticized by religionists for failing to rank man as highly as they do. But I think it’s clear that this is not what schooloffish is thinking of here; he’s actually referring to the idea that there is something (or somethings) greater than the whole physical cosmos, namely God (or gods).

I’ve already talked at some length on the topic of the source of morality, so I want to take this post to focus on the last statement in the quote above: that the religious worldview is much more broad than the naturalistic world view. This is not a good thing for religion, as I would like to show using the parable of Mt. Sinai and the Burning Bush.

Suppose there are several of us who wish to climb to the very top of Mt. Sinai. We all live in different parts of the world, so we are all a certain distance from each other. Also, because of our different locations, we are all approaching Mt. Sinai from different sides, and sadly, we are inexpert mountaineers, and we find that we must frequently backtrack and start over. But we learn as we go, and we share information with one another, and gradually we approach the top.

And there an interesting thing happens: though we started from different places, and approached Sinai from different sides, we find that the closer we all get to the peak, the closer we all get to one another. We are searching for something that actually exists in the real world, and that means we all have something objective in common. This common objective draws us closer to one another as we draw closer to it.

Now, suppose that at the top of Mt. Sinai we find a burning bush. That’s a slight departure from the Biblical tale, but we’ll let that pass because we really want to focus on the bush itself, because it is so interesting. We notice that, though the bush emerges from the ground as a single stalk or trunk, it soon branches out in different directions. What’s more, the branches in turn also divide into still smaller branches, which themselves divide, and so on. The result is that the bush tends to fill a whole cloud of physical space, each branch separating off from the others, and the branches drawing further away from each other the farther they get from the root.

This is the pattern of the burning bush: it starts out as a unified whole, but then divides and splits and separates itself into branching branches the longer it grows. It’s a pattern that arises when people start from a common starting point, but then have no further source of direction other than their own sense of what seems right in the light of their personality, culture, education, experience, imagination, and so on. The endless branching and divergence is a consequence of not having a real-world objective truth to hone in on, thus drawing the branches together.

We see this in various literary traditions, in the evolution of fictional tales. In Bram Stoker’s original Dracula, for example, Renfield was never a lawyer and did not become the slave of Dracula. The movie versions of the story, however, branched off from that convention and made Renfield a perfectly normal citizen who became Dracula’s helpless thrall. Meanwhile, Ann Rice’s vampires took a different branch, and became more seductive than repulsive, and so on.

When schooloffish tells us, then, that the religious worldview is broader than the naturalistic worldview, this is not a good thing. This is religion falling into the pattern of the burning bush, the pattern of men and women using their imaginations, their subjective sense of right and wrong, and their personal charisma, to branch out in different ways, according to their unique personal characteristics and background. The pattern of Mt. Sinai, which is the pattern of men converging on a common, real-world truth, fits the history of science and naturalism quite nicely, but does not fit the history of religion, which is more of a burning bush.

Each twig of the bush, of course, can trace the flow of its sap back through its predecessor branches, down through the trunk, and into the root, and in the same way, religionists can each claim to have “inherited the true faith” though some historical/ideological lineage or other. But the overall pattern remains the same. There is no objective standard of religious truth sufficient to bring the various branches together into a single, common faith. There’s not even any objective means to stop the branching (which today has reached the point that many churches identify themselves as “non-denominational,” not realizing that this carries the level of fragmentation all the way down to individual churches).

So here at least I must agree with schooloffish: religion, as a worldview, encompasses a much wider range of varying and mutually inconsistent sub-views. The truth is consistent with itself, which means that naturalism, by conforming to the pattern of Mt. Sinai, is much more likely to be true than religion, which always and inevitably falls into the pattern of the burning bush. God does not show up in real life to prove any religious view right or wrong, so men have only their own imaginations to turn to for theology. Endless division is the unavoidable consequence of such an approach.

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Posted in CAMWatch, Unapologetics. 4 Comments »

4 Responses to “Testing worldviews: the religious worldview defined”

  1. drmikero Says:

    Wow, I actually created a wordpress account just so I could leave a comment saying how fantastic that metaphor is. It is just a beautiful illustration.

  2. schooloffish Says:

    Don’t recall saying that the religious world view is broader than the the Naturalistic World view. However looking past putting words in my mouth and setting up a straw man argument against my view, I will tell you that you have told a good story, but what does your story have to do with the facts?

    First, your argument doesn’t follow that because man errors, that we necessarily must err in making decisions about GOD. Your argument seems to state, that because there are broad variations in religious views that none can be true. That’s ridiculous and simply doesn’t fit the facts. Let me tell a story to show you what I mean. You go by the title, Deacon Duncan. What if I were to tell you that I have had 10 people this week tell me that they were Deacon Duncan. Because the name Deacon Duncan is so “broad” that none of you can obviously be correct about who you are? If I made this point, you’d think I was a nut-job (and deservingly so). There are only two possible outcomes from this reasoning. Either you are all right and are all “the” Deacon Duncan, or 9 of the 10 are lying.

    When I was an atheist, I used to make the argument that “all religions start from a common point of origin, and human interpretation over time has lead us to so many different religions”. I used to be so proud of my ability to shut a Christian down with this – apparent – lucid argument. My own argument, unfortunately didn’t support my view (it was self-refuting). Because if I believed in my own argument, I couldn’t be an atheist. The most I could say is that the common origin theory started from some point of truth, and if that truth was GOD then I had had to become a deist. Based on your line of thinking, you have only two possible claims about your own faith. (1) All religions stem from a kernel of truth and therefore you are a deist, or (2) All religions are equally true and valid and therefore you are a relativist (and confused). If you are anything other than these two possibilities then all you have told us is a story that cannot account for the facts with in it. You will have failed to account for the details in your own point. Details like, why did man “come up” with a divine origin in the first place?

    Another fatal flaw in your reasoning is that you make the claim that “God does not show up in real life to prove any religious view right or wrong” Certainly that is not my claim. In my post, “Does Your World View Past the Test?”, I use three tests to show if a claim is correct. All three tests really test to see if a world view fits within the evidence given to us by God. I make the claim that God has given us tons of knowledge in tons of different ways. Some are certainly more specific than others, but all are Godly characteristics built in to everything around us. For instance, the cosmos show order, not chaos. This gives us a general picture of an orderly creator (frankly, a comment on someone else’s blog is not the appropriate time to prove the cosmological argument, so I will just make my point without tons of evidence. Your reader can read my Blog or other to test the claim) Second, things like logic, DNA and the complexity of our species shows order and design as well. This is more proof of the existence God. Last we have special revelation (the Bible) to show us the character of God and any truth related to other world views. The Bible has fulfilled prophecy (a point so disturbing to non-Christians that many have tried to prove that the book was either written later than history allows, or that it was doctored in some way). The Bible has unity telling the same supernatural, redemptive message throughout the ages. The Bible answers the big questions about the existence of the universe, morals, sin, and more. The Bible tells an accurate pictures of historical events, places and times, as well as records supernatural events within history. It has supernaturally changed lives like no other book though time. It has stood the test of criticism for and persecution since the beginning. So the evidence of the authority of the Bible is overwhelming. The Bible also records the the event of Jesus Christ who can to Earth, claimed to be God, performed supernatural miracles to prove it, died for shaking things up, and rose out of the grave. An event steeped in history and witnessed by historical writers. Events we can read today from primary and secondary sources. So when you make the assertion that God hasn’t come to earth to give us a picture of what religious views are right and which are wrong, this simply isn’t the view most religious world views, and it is certainly not the view of Christianity. Christianity is a religion based on evidence, and then active trust in the evidence. It’s not blind faith at all.

    One last point about Christianity over other world views. Ideas have consequences. And the consequences for an idea should be evidence of the validity of the world view. In other words, even if a world view is not true, it’s ultimate outcome should at least show if it is good, right and moral. Naturalism at it’s very core is based on the point that our creation is based on chance, so there is no foundation on which the view can stand. If we are nothing more than another animal, then we have no reason to be outraged when a woman abandons her child on the streets. After all other animals do this all the time. We should NOT be celebrating Earth day, or trying to save species, or worrying about conserving food supplies. Do you think the cockroach is worried about saving food for the grasshopper? Only the religious world view can account for an overwhelming desire of humanity to take care of the planet. A naturalistic world view simply can’t account for such things. After all we are nothing more than another animal put of the earth through chance. The naturalistic world view leads us to ethnic cleansing, Nazism, and communism (all based on the evolutionary/naturalistic world view or survival of the fittest). The ultimate consequence for the idea of naturalism doesn’t support the actions of most naturalists who tend to act in a religious way by trying to limit natural consequences like extinction of species pollution and starving children. Sometime actions are a great test than the words people speak.

    The religious world view and specifically Christianity, on the other hand, leads us to a morally distinct species with solves problems like slavery, woman’s right, and hopefully in the future abortion.

    So to summarize:

    1. Because there are several different interpretations of religions this doesn’t mean that all must necessarily be false. The conclusion doesn’t follow from the argument

    2. That God has come to earth to tell us which religious views are true and which are false. God has given this information through the general revelation (the cosmos and his creation), through special revelation in the Bible and through God actually coming to Earth in the form of the God-Man Jesus Christ. Whether or not you accept the evidence is your problem, but to state that there is no evidence to support a religious world view is simply false.

    3. The ultimate consequence for the idea of naturalism doesn’t support the actions of most naturalists who tend to act in a religious way by trying to limit natural consequences like extinction of species pollution and starving children. Sometime actions are a great test than the words people speak.

    Lastly what are you to say? I think it is Dawkins who asked the question about religions (specifically addressing the problem of evil) “What are you going to say to a dieing child about the love of GOD?” On the surface this is a great question. How can I support my position for God when a small child is painfully dieing? I don’t know, it doesn’t seem fair. But it strikes me odd that a naturalist would ask such a question. What would Dawkins say? “Tough luck, better luck next time?” The consequence for such an idea of naturalism is simply ridiculous…

  3. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Hi, thanks for commenting.

    I think if you go back and review your original post, in the fourth paragraph, under the heading “RELIGIOUS WORLD VIEW,” you will find that you did indeed say that the religious world view “is much more broad than the naturalistic world view as there are many different religious positions,” just as I quoted above.

    Speaking of straw men and putting words in other people’s mouth, however, I’m afraid that the argument you refute (“some are wrong, therefore all are wrong” ) is one that I neither said nor meant. My point is pretty much what I said: that those who study objective truth tend to fall into the pattern of Mt. Sinai: the closer they get to the truth, the closer they get to one another, because the self-consistency of real world evidence tends to draw them all in to the same, common, objective conclusion. Those who study subjective truth, however, tend to fall into the pattern of the burning bush: because they have no common, external, self-consistent truth to draw them together, each one tends to “discover” whatever personal “truth” happens to best suit their own personality, experience, understanding, morals, culture, education, and so on, leading to as many branches as there are variations in human character and experience. Historically, science has been Mt. Sinai, and religion has been the burning bush. That’s all I’m saying.

    As for your other points, you seem to have overlooked some crucial points about the significance of the burning bush pattern in religion. As an argument against Christianity, it is not self-refuting. Monotheism is historically rooted in polytheism, which in turn is rooted in animism, which is rooted in human superstition. The grain of truth at the root of religion, therefore, is not God, but superstition (which does indeed exist, even if it does not lead us into the truth about the real world).

    Also, you claim I am wrong about the fact that God does not show up in real life, yet your counter-argument is to refer to stories men tell about events that allegedly happened thousands of years ago. It’s significant that you had to go back that far to find anything to claim as an example of God showing up; thus you confirm the truth of what I said: you and I do not see God showing up in the real world. We are expected to believe the stories men tell about God, just because men say so, even though what we see in the real world is inconsistent with what the Gospel says about God’s desire and ability to be with us forever. This kind of unquestioning trust in the doctrines of men is not faith, but mere gullibility.

    Finally, this blog has dealt extensively with a number of the other topics you mention, such as the cosmological argument, the secular basis of all morality, and the true source of purpose and meaning in life. So I won’t repeat all that here (except to point out, in passing, how ironic it is to credit Christianity with the humanistic rejection of the Biblically-sanctioned practice of slavery). You can use the search box in the top right-hand corner of this blog to look those topics up if you wish.

    But thanks again for your comments, and I hope you will continue to read and respond as I continue through your original post.

    PS–did you notice that this is the second post I’ve made about your worldview test? The first is here.

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