In the first part of this series I talked about what we are going to be doing, and briefly about why one would want to undergo such an investigation. We saw that every world-view answers the major questions of Origin, Meaning/Purpose, Morality, and Destiny.
The second part dealt with describing how we test each answer given to the questions to see if they are likely to reflect truth or be false. The three criteria, or tests, are as follows:
Logical consistency – Is the answer given logically coherent? Do all the answers as a whole cohere together?
Empirical adequacy – Is the answer given supported by or contradict known evidences and experiences concerning the issue?
Experiential relevance – What does this world-view look like in action? Can one consistently live this world-view in actuality?
WHICH WORLD-VIEWS ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
There are many different world-views: Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Baha’i, Hinduism, New Age views, Atheism, etc. And on top of that, within each of these world-views there are different branches which may have minor or major divergences.
There is a common belief (perhaps in some cases a genuine concern) that says something like this: “Because there are so many different religions and world-views – how do we know which one is true? How can one even begin to scratch the surface of whether they are true or false?”
The answer, quite frankly, is two fold. The first answer being that we can study each of the major world-views and study them. One doesn’t need to go to university to do so, it just takes some committed reading to understand the very basics and core assertions of each world-view. There are many compact sources in which all the essentials of the major world-views are explained in simple and effective methods. One can easily research on Google.com what some of these sources are.
The second answer being that we can take all of these different world-views and group them into a few “basic world-views”. That’s exactly what we will be doing here. We will be grouping the major world-views into three basic types. This way we can get an overview of what their core assertions are, and we can actually make some conclusions without having to go in-depth into each and every specific world-view.
The truth is, really, most religions are really either additions or mutations of previous religions. For example: Buddhism is a derivative of Hinduism. Christianity, Islam, and Baha’i have their source flowing from ancient Judaism. There are some other views, such as Confucianism and Shintoism which have flowed from some form of national traditions. So we aren’t looking at a plethora of completely different views (but that’s not to say that their core beliefs aren’t different – each mutation usually changes some core belief).
THREE DIVISIONS OF WORLD-VIEWS
In order to get some traction, as I said, we will be addressing three basic divisions of world-views. Without further wait, I will present each one of what they basically assert:
Atheism: There is no God of any sort. The term “God” usually refers to a supreme being which created the universe, or which exists outside the universe, or exists independently of the universe. Atheism is synonymous with the terms naturalism and materialism – as nature, or physical reality, is all that exists. There is no supernatural realm.
Monism: Monism really focuses on the concept of oneness. The universe and the ultimate reality are one in essence (as in pantheism). Most forms assert that humans are really, in their essential essence or nature, divine in that we are all really one with the ultimate reality. One may notice that most forms posit that humans are under an illusion of some sort – whether that’s in regards to an individual’s actual existence (as in Buddhism) or the (asserted) fact that we are really one with the ultimate reality (as in Hinduism). The ultimate reality (or entity) is usually referred to as impersonal, undifferentiated, and/or unknowable (although, as in Hinduism, there are sub-gods which reveal wisdom to people). The goal of life to is reach enlightenment (which will be touched on later). The supernatural exists in some form. Polytheistic views can fit under this category as well.
Theism: Theism says that there is a personal God who has created the universe. This being is necessary in it’s existence and is uncaused – that is, eternal or timeless – as it created physical time. This being is one in it’s own essence, and the universe is separate from it. This being, in some way, acts in nature and holds humanity accountable for our moral actions (although the details of that topic do differ from each version of Theism). Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all examples of types of Theism. Of course, the supernatural realm exists in Theism.
There we go! So far, I think this is the easiest post to understand which is part of this series. There isn’t really much more to say about this.
Next time we’ll begin to look at how these world-views answer the questions of Origin, Meaning/Purpose, Morality, and Destiny.