Have you ever watched the news on TV or the Internet and thought that there’s too much evil in the world? What is your opinion on abortion? Do you feel that the government should or should not try to implement more control over civilians owning firearms? Was it wrong for President Kennedy to facilitate the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, or for Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait, or for SEAL Team Six to kill Osama bin Laden? Did life on this planet begin as a failed alien experiment? Is it OK for people to kill animals for food? Is it OK for people to kill animals for fun? Do you believe in reincarnation? Should human trafficking be stopped?
To bring it a little closer to home, should a thief be allowed to steal your paycheck? Should a police officer be allowed to force his way into your home for lodging and food? What would you think if someone dumped gravel in the gas tank of your car? Does your life have meaning? Is your life valuable? If your boss decided not to pay you, would you feel like you’d been wronged? Would you lie in court to protect a friend who was guilty? What about a friend who was innocent? What will happen to you when you die?
If you have an opinion about any of these questions, then you have a worldview. Your worldview is simply your view of the world, how it really is, and how you think it should be.
Merriam-Webster defines worldview as “the way someone thinks about the world.” It can also be defined as “the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world” or “a collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group” (source).
Worldviews are powerful. They are so powerful, in fact, that they govern almost every moment of our lives. Our worldview will determine how we behave toward each other, whether it’s family, friends, co-workers, or strangers in line at the local grocery store. It will also govern how we treat those we consider our enemies. It will even determine how we treat ourselves.
How we see the world will determine how we react to hardships, how we spend our money and time, even how much value we put on self-preservation. Basically, our worldview determines how we act in every situation at every moment of every day. In light of this, the issue of worldview may be the most important issue a person can contemplate in this life.
A person’s worldview develops over time, starting with their first thoughts. Sometimes the worldview that a persons holds is due to the culture in which they were raised. Sometimes it’s because of their religious or political ideology. Sometimes it’s simply narcissism or perceived necessity.
Most worldviews have some basis in reality, meaning they reflect the way the world really is to one degree or another. Some worldviews have very little such basis. But since our worldviews govern so strongly how we think, act, react, and move through life, and since they impact not only ourselves but those around us as well—indeed sometimes they have far-reaching impact—it seems that it may be the one most important thing we should strive to get right.
Obviously, people have different worldviews. I’m sure you’ve noticed that there are people in the world who don’t hold the same opinions about the above questions that you do. There are those who feel that beating your wife is OK under some circumstances. There are those who believe that Osama bin Laden was a hero. There are those who truly believe that if you don’t guard your paycheck well enough, they have a right to take it from you. Those who feel differently than you about these things have a different worldview.
So, whose worldview is right? If I believe something about the world that conflicts with what you believe, we can’t both be right about it. If there is real truth to be known, and I believe there is, then it’s reasonable to conclude that the nature of that truth should shape our worldview and therefore govern our lives. That being said, we can change our worldview. As I mentioned above, no one is correct about everything concerning how the world really is, so we should be flexible enough to adjust our worldview as we become convinced that our previous opinions or thoughts on certain things were incorrect. Our goal should be to adjust and correct our own worldviews to match, as closely as possible, the truth of the way the world really is, and then we should allow that to change our behavior.
In this series I’d like to explore what I believe are the major areas of all worldviews. As we go through these, I’m hoping to learn more about my own worldview and how it corresponds to (or contrasts with) reality. Undoubtedly there will be some things that I write with which you’ll disagree. That’s OK, because undoubtedly there will be some things that I write that will be incorrect. Those things that are incorrect are incorrect because I hold an incorrect view on them. I don’t claim to be right in everything I say or write. I will say or write them because I believe they are correct, but I could be wrong. The whole idea of this lifelong exercise is to try to correct faulty thinking, mine included.
So, let’s dive in….
To use terms made popular by others, a worldview basically defines what one thinks about these five broad questions:
- Origins – Where did everything come from?
- Identity – Who am I essentially, at the core?
- Meaning – What is the meaning of life, if there is meaning at all?
- Morality – Where does our sense of right and wrong come from?
- Destiny – What happens to me when I die?
Not every worldview will admit the importance of all of these areas, but they still have to provide an answer to them. A strictly materialistic worldview, for example, will say that the question of Meaning is a meaningless one. But, even for the materialist, the question remains. He may answer it by saying that there is no meaning, but he still must answer it.
So, over the next few posts, we’ll take a look at each of these five areas and see if we can discover how they govern our lives and how a change in worldview would change the way we see the world and the way we behave in it.