Atheist Worldview?

Here’s a bugaboo – the “atheist worldview”. Does it exist or not? Certainly the religious claim it does, but much like their god claims, when pushed to justify them they usually resort to either tangential arguments or naked assertions. Atheists generally discount its existence, and will take objection to the assertions of the religious that it exists. So what’s the deal? Well the best place to start is probably examining the terms in use.

Atheism

Yes I capitalized it there, but that’s because it’s a header. I don’t capitalize atheism because it’s not a true “ism”. It’s merely a response to a claim that a god or gods exist. There’s no specific philosophy one needs to have this response, nor any specific philosophy one must then have as a result of such a response. For instance, one can reject a god claim because they examined the claim and found it lacked evidence to support it, it didn’t feel right, consulting tea leaves, runes, or crystals indicated the claim is false, or perhaps the dogma they’re currently subscribed to asserts that the claim is false.

Worldview

Definitions vary here. The Free Dictionary gives us:
1. The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world
2. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or group

Merriam-Webster simply points to weltanschauung: a comprehensive conception or apprehension of the world especially from a specific standpoint.

Is the rejection of god claims alone enough to constitute an “overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world?” I would have to say no. One’s overall perspective is what dictates their actions; therefore, it dictates one’s response to a god claim. Saying the response to the god claim dictates action is putting the cart before the horse. That seems very clear to me, yet I think I can see how someone could error here. Let’s consider Sally and her Toyota.

Sally had a Toyota because it ranked highly for safety and fuel economy plus the price was great, but the accelerator got stuck. Luckily for Sally, she only had a minor accident and no one was seriously hurt. She unloaded the Toyota and got a Ford after reading up on them and swore she’ll never buy a Toyota ever again. I think we can agree that the Toyota problem prompted actions and will influence future actions regarding car purchases for Sally, but what about driving in general? The determination that driving is necessary was reached before buying the Toyota and exists despite the Toyota incident. Same for the importance of researching cars prior to purchasing one, and what things are worth researching such as ranking, fuel economy and price for Sally. I would say the importance Sally has for such things would constitute her worldview, whereas her position on Toyotas, although it will influence her future actions, does not constitute a worldview. At best, it might become part of her worldview.

I think if now we look at the so-called atheist worldview, we can see atheism is like Sally’s response to Toyotas. At best part of her worldview, her Toyota position is dictated by her pre-existing worldview. Likewise, one’s atheist position is arrived at due to one’s pre-existing worldview and as part of their worldview now, may dictate future actions, but the atheist position is not itself a worldview. Looking back to how I said one could become an atheist, it’s their pre-existing worldview which drove them to be one. If you subscribe to the scientific method and empirical evidence and make no special pleading for anything which should be exempt from its scrutiny, then you’ll probably be an atheist. If you subscribe to truth via crystals, gut feelings or runes and they tell you to be an atheist, then you’ll probably be an atheist. If you subscribe to beliefs which assert you must be an atheist, then you’ll likely be an atheist.

This is why I don’t consider myself an atheist activist or champion, for what I hold dear and what I advocate for and champion are those things which are independent of atheism and, I feel, prompt one to be an atheist, namely critical thinking, the scientific method and requiring empirical evidence. This is also why I think it’s commonly said that getting atheists together is like herding cats, for aside from having the same response to one claim, we all can be very, very different people with diverse opinions prompted by varying worldviews. This is why when meeting other atheists, I want to know how they became atheists.

Getting back to the error of thinking there is an atheist worldview, certainly being an atheist means you’re probably not going to support things like the National Day of Prayer, “In God We Trust”, or directives dictated by passages in holy books like killing or outlawing gays or refraining from depicting a so-called god or its so-called prophet. At first glance, they may appear to be indicative of an atheist worldview but under closer inspection, they do not for the position itself is not a worldview. To further show it’s not, we can look at what wikipedia, the Oracle of the Intertubes, says about worldviews.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis seems predicated upon a shared language and seems more like a way to categorize people of similar backgrounds and locales, so I don’t see that pointing to the existence of an atheist worldview. A more recent and more complex hypothesis comes from Leo Apostel requiring six elements to be present:
1. An explanation of the world
2. A futurology
3. A set of values or moral code
4. A theory of action
5. An epistemology
6. An etiology

The requirement that it describe the world discounts the existence of an atheist worldview. The counter would naturally be that considering reality as godless would be describing the world, but can rejecting another’s claim as to the existence of something in the world be itself a description of that world? If so, a-fairy-ism is a worldview. So too is adragonism. No, I don’t see atheism as a description of the world for if there were no god claims, there would be no atheism just as there is no adragonic worldview. It goes without saying that the world is dragonless for there is no need to address the issue. In addition, despite atheism prompting certain actions, it doesn’t adequately address where we are heading, what we should do morally, how we should attain our goals (or what such goals might be), what is knowledge or how things came to be.

When pushed, those asserting an atheist worldview (usually the religious) will point to esteeming science, requiring evidence, materialism, and other such things. As I explained earlier, that’s putting the cart before the horse. Those things, as part of one’s worldview, may prompt an atheist position, but they are not indicative of an atheist worldview, for an atheist worldview, as I believe I’ve shown here today, doesn’t exist.

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22 Responses to “Atheist Worldview?”

  1. The fact that atheists who believe in various crackpot theories exist would seem to render the "atheism is a religion" hypothesis invalid.

    (See Ayn Rand)

  2. The fact that atheists who believe in various crackpot theories exist would seem to render the "atheism is a religion" hypothesis invalid.

    (See Ayn Rand)

  3. That would have been helpful for when I addressed atheism being called a religion. I'm admittedly not up on my Ayn Rand.

  4. I've been fighting the capitalization argument for years now. Except at the beginning of a sentence, or in the name of an organization or the title of a book, the word "atheism" should not be capitalized. It's not a proper noun.

    The religious would like to be able to pigeon-hole some capital-I Idea known as capital-A "Atheism." But, even more than its not being a worldview, atheism isn't a specific idea. Rather, it's a rejection of a particularly stupid idea — namely theism.

    That's all atheism is. In fact, atheism isn't even an "it," just as not liking Brussels sprouts isn't an "it," and not being in favor of feudalism isn't an "it," and not being able to stand country music isn't an "it."

  5. I suppose I'd have to agree. That then means atheism isn't a default state, for not believing in a god has no meaning until a "god" is defined. You'd also need someone asserting its existence to prompt a response which then requires a label for that response. Actually, you'd need more than that, wouldn't you? You'd need enough support for the god idea to warrant creating a label for rejecting that idea. That's why adragonic isn't a word, and no one has cooked up a specific word for Brussels sprouts hater. I think at least in the US though, we should have a word for country music hater. Until then, I suppose music lover will have to suffice. :p

  6. I believe that the world can be know through inductive and deductive reasoning, objective measurements, and by the formulation of conclusions from inductive extrapolations through the scientific method. Isn't that sort of what Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism states? Am I missing something?

  7. ^^^Revision….okay, now that I think about it, I think I was missing something there. The reason why Objectivism isn't perfect is that the world can never fully be known due to intrinsic uncertainties in objective measurements, and also due to the intrinsic properties of mathematical chaos. Also, Objectivism fails because in the real world we don't always have all the necessary data to make 100% certain decisions.

  8. Thus is why reason can't be an absolute, correct?

  9. I don't see philosophical realism nor Rand's Objectivism failing due to a lack of absolute certainty for absolute certainty is a myth.

  10. Yes, "atheist" is a term that's necessary only in a world overrun by theists.

    Maybe a country music hater could be called an "antimusorusticalist." That would also work for any "country" art form, so you could use it for Grandma Moses deniers, as well.

  11. IOW, one's worldview is simply the sum total of various ideas, beliefs and experiences that shaped the way you look at the world, with one's atheism (or theism) being only one of them.

    I think the best one can show regarding an atheist worldview is that atheists as a whole might share an overall common worldview, while at the same time disagreeing with other atheists about a wide variety of specifics. To the extent we share a worldview, it's more likely derived from our inherent skepticism and rationalism, than from our views on the existence or non-existence of gods.

    But this could also be said about a so-called theistic worldview, that their view of the world does not necessarily derive from their views regarding the existence or non-existence of gods, but on their anti-rationalistic tendencies, and their ability to embrace faith, rather than reason, to come to their beliefs.

  12. You're making wild assumptions. "We atheists" don't share skepticism or anything else other than having the same response to a claim.

  13. Exactly. I know an atheist who believes in ghosts.

  14. Really? You and I don't share skepticism as an thinking trait? How about you and most (not all) atheists you know?

  15. We do, yes. The people I know do as well because I wouldn't want anything to do with the ones who don't, but whether you like it or not, there are those who don't, which is why I disagree with your comment. That's part of my point in the post as well, that being an atheist doesn't say shit about your worldview because you could be a faith based atheist, a skeptic, or anything else.

  16. Tell him/her I said "boo".

  17. I don't disagree with you. But being an atheist means you DO share a lot of ways of looking at the world with a lot of other atheists. Not all, mind you, but a shitload.

  18. I don't disagree with you. But being an atheist means you DO share a lot of ways of looking at the world with a lot of other atheists. Not all, mind you, but a shitload.

  19. I share some opinions about the world with other atheists simply because we're atheists, but I share more with people who have a worldview more aligned with mine.

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  22. Thus is why reason can't be an absolute

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