“What’s your worldview?”

Posted by on March 7, 2011 in Thoughts | 9 comments

I came across this poster while looking online for the March edition of Outreach Media’s poster campaign (unfortunately the poster is up, but the website hasn’t updated yet). It’s a pretty interesting chart, and worth a closer look. It’s a pretty good representation of how people can be categorised based on their beliefs (or lack thereof). It’s created by FEVA Ministries, who are a sister (brother?) group of Outreach Media. The chart starts with the question, or the assertion rather, that “GOD EXISTS”, and then asks a series of further questions to nut out what it is you believe (or don’t).

Worldview Survey by FEVA Ministries

The red boxes indicate a destination in the path, while the dark grey boxes ask, in a rather dead-ended fashion, leading questions in the hope that you will have to change your “worldview”. I don’t really care about the lack of care used here in the employment of the word “worldview”, because it’s not really of consequence. (Surely a definition of worldview has more weight on it than whether or not there is a god, right? Hmmm…) What is most interesting here is that, while the definitions are quite right, the destinations only point from atheism in it’s many forms on one end, to Christianity on the other end of the spectrum. What does this say about the intention of this poster?

Let’s look at The FEVA Ministries a bit closer and see. This comes from the “ABOUT” page on their website:

“The Fellowship for Evangelism in the Visual Arts (FEVA) is an independent and interdenominational missionary organisation started in 1992 to bring the gospel to the world of the Visual Arts. This ranges from the obvious such as painting, sculpture, printmaking through to such things as film, advertising and even the field of architecture where FEVA runs a ministry to working architects called ‘Christians By Design’ (CBD).”

Okay I have no problem with this. People are allowed to believe what they want right? I’d like to see more art and design in the atheist community too (seriously folks, the AFA logo and website is just plain butt ugly, sorry guys). And like I’ve pointed out previously, some religious art is among the most beautiful and awe inspiring work to have ever been created by man.

The chart is, however, blinkered to all the other possibilities, the different flavours of “worldviews” that being an individual allows us. I look at the chart and end up equally at “ATHEIST”, “RELATIVIST”, “NATURALIST”, and “HUMANIST”,  plus “EXISTENTIALIST” and to some degree I have to tick that old box of “AGNOSTIC”, though I really think that’s just being called out on a technicality. So I wonder, are the “CHRISTIAN THEISTS” also torn between some of the other destination boxes, or do those who believe in Christ all follow down the one path? I’d dare say that there would be both, but I’d like to know what sorts of percentages we’re looking at here.

The other glaring problem with the chart is that it doesn’t allow for any other interpretations than either being Christian or some kind of heathen. I’m sure a Hindu would rather be called a Hindu than be labelled simply a “PANTHEIST”. A Muslim would probably like to be called Muslim also rather than simply a “THEIST”. And of course with each subtle variation in levels of belief for each religion there are flavours, which aren’t accounted for.

But I am really just calling out a technicality here also. This poster was designed to be placed in a university where Christian missions are already in place, so I think I’d be safe to assume that these schools are already quite Christian.

What I don think this chart points out is a relative blindness among people to the massive diversity we see around us in the world. People are not as easy to pigeonhole as this chart may suggest, in fact the only people we ever hear from are those who are extreme in their views, very focused or blinkered, or those who shelter themselves from ideas of others because it challenges what they know. I think a lot of conflict in the world is cause by just this one tendency. It goes like this:

“If you are not A then you must be B. I hate B, so die!

Of course just about every individual you speak to will say it’s much more complex than that about themselves, but they can forget that this also applies to others as well.

Be honest. When you hear the impassioned cries from a Christian group, like Westbro Baptist Church, don’t you then associate all Christians with the extremity of ideas that the group holds? Even on a very small level, it’s difficult not to do so. Westerners still see an Islamic family as in cahoots with terrorism, though chances are they are here not to spread Islam, but to escape the hold of religion and religious fundamentalism gone wrong in their own countries.

I am not being an apologetic for ANY religion, and as you probably already know, I’m not afraid to throw punches at organised religion, but the simple fact is that we are ALL human, and our wants and needs all stem from our basic human and animal interests.

I do call myself an atheist. It’s only natural that I come to that conclusion. But remember, atheism in its purest form is not about belief, it’s about a conclusion reached from thinking about information presented to me through learning about the world around me. It’s as far from a religion as you can be, and I like it that way. I do wear the label of atheist with a certain amount of pride, but it’s only because i associate my actual worldview with those who have also arrived at the same conclusion. It’s not a club, it’s not a group, it’s a way to categorise people who have one thing in common; the lack of a belief in God. I don’t care about the whole argument about the idea of “dictionary atheists”, it’s all too sweeping a statement for me.

So what is your worldview? Where do you fall on this chart, and what are your thoughts on it?

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  1. This may be my favorite thing I’ve read on your site. Funny, insightful, and well-written. Thank you.

    Be honest. When you hear the impassioned cries from a Christian group, like Westbro Baptist Church, don’t you then associate all Christians with the extremity of ideas that the group holds?

    To my great shame, yes. Actually, what I catch myself thinking is that if religious people were honest about the logical implications of their faith they would end up a lot closer to what they call extremism than they would like. Too frequently “I’m not an extremist” seems to mean “I say I believe this, but I don’t practice it”. This is a generality, not specifically Westbro here; I don’t think there’s a possible read of scripture that suggests that the group could be called Christian — by any definition.

    But my intention is not to pick a fight, nor even to get a quick jab in: it’s to set that up as lead-in for my appreciation for your voicing the “we’re all in this together” message — one that too frequently gets lost. For instance, I was listening to the BBC World Service today, and they were interviewing someone from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt who said, basically, that they’re not a bigoted organization, but that Christians and women cannot be allowed to be president of Egypt.

    And I reflected on how many Americans would scream and shout about this, but might have no trouble whatsoever saying “Of course a Muslim should not be President!” Hypocrisy is widespread, and always unfortunate. If it’s bad for the goose here, it’ll surely poison the gander.

    All that being said, you took this poster much more calmly than I did. I found my blood boiling very quickly. It’s either intended as propaganda or it displays such a lack of understanding of the topic that it would be an immense uphill climb to even get to a place where an illuminated discussion could begin. Aargh. But perhaps it would be worth engaging them. We’re all in this together, after all.

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  2. People like to talk about “meaning”.

    I don’t know what they mean when they say ‘What is the meaning of life?’ or as that flow chart states ‘is meaning found in the world?’. Both seem like redundant questions as they are open to interpretation so therefore no real answer can be given.

    To the best of my knowledge we exist only because our existence is possible; is that the meaning everyone talks about?

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    • Well meaning can “mean’ a few different things to different people. I alwasy take it to be referring to the reason to continue living. What gives us joy and a sense of purpose. Not everyone requires this though, some are happy to just exist (which I guess becomes their meaning?)

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  3. Thanks, Martin, for this thought-provoking piece.
    What especially resonated with me was: “I am A; you are
    B. I hate B, so DIE!” What I dislike almost as much, is: “I am A; you are B. I hate B, so I will come to you and all the other B’s and impose MY beliefs on you, so that you will be “saved” from burning in the.everlasting flames of hell after you die.” This, of course refers to that much-admired (at least here in the southern U.S.) group of radicals known as “missionaries.”

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  4. I have followed Martin on twitter for a long time.

    I do believe there is a God… but do not participate in an organized religion.

    My main Grievance with organized religion is that the most vocal and fervent present the overwhelming attitude of:

    “I am A; you are
    B. I hate B, so DIE!”
    “I am A; you are B. I hate B, so I will come to you and all the other B’s and impose MY beliefs on you, so that you will be “saved” from burning in the.everlasting flames of hell after you die.”
    I am A and you are B so you as a male cant marry another male or all of that Garbage.

    But aren’t statements like,

    “there is now no excuse for believing in gods, fairies or any supernatural concept.” (From Atheist Foundation of Austrlia , About Us page)


    Instead, education about all religions, the harm they create and their unevidenced status, is the only ethically correct course of action. (Also From AFA but on FAQ page)

    the exact same type of “I am right and you are wrong” kind of attitudes?

    Please hear me out that I have never pushed my beliefs on anyone… I am as big a supporter of Freedom of … and from Religion (if an individual chooses) as anyone in the world.

    I appreciate Martin’s tweets and blog posts as educated statement’s and intelligent remark’s.

    I am not claiming that any type of persecution happens on this site… I have not been through it all, but have enjoyed reading what i have been through.

    I guess this is my mission, I have long wanted to have the discussion with an intelligent and open-minded Atheist as to whether or not they thought that an Atheist who does push an Atheist agenda on others is in any way similar to organized Religion taking a “I am right and you are wrong” stance?

    sorry for rambling and i hope i have portrayed the point that I am not trying to be confrontational here.

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    • Atheists are people first and non-believers second. That means that there is a range of personality types among atheists that, while differently distributed than for theists, still make for an interesting diversity of belief/non-belief structure.

      Yes, there are atheists with rigid extremist views. I would like to think that they are in the minority, just as Christians like to think that extremists in their camp are also in the minority. In both cases, the extremists damage those with views that are in line with the most compassionate and rational views of humanity. That is unfortunate.

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    • Most people, whether theist or not, try to follow the sub-conscious dictates of their early socialization in the moral mores of their particular culture. This is further shaped by education and the media.

      The expression of these culturally shared mores is substantially modified by the personality and genetics that affect one’s ability to benefit or over-react to socializing influences. In the end, it is a combination of cognitive maturation, personality and economic factors that have the most profound effects on the expression of morality.

      Atheists who wish to follow the bias of their personality, education, maturation and economic status can argue that “anything goes” in an individualistic society like the U.S. They are constrained only by the majority groupthink and legalistic interpretations of the nation’s statutes and codes.

      Theists, on the other hand, are obliged to twist the “wisdom” expressed in their holy books or by their religious leaders to match what their socialization feels to be moral. Because theist religions are based on ancient customs and moral standpoints, this is fraught with difficulty for well-socialized individuals. The average theist does not follow the barbaric practices which his religion actually prescribes.

      The most serious problems arise with poorly socialized theists because it is a very easy matter to find religious and scriptural support for just about any horrific “moral” than man has ever conceived. This is the insidious danger of theism that those who are emotionally dependent on it cannot acknowledge.

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  5. the universe shows neither affect, nor morality, nor intellect

    • A mishmash of middle eastern magical texts of the Big-3 MonsterTheisms makes spurious claims of being god-given. Their nihilistic dualism and androcentric understanding of human nature are too damaging to contribute to a humane planet-wide ethos.

    Neither physical nature nor human nature show anything about a superordinate, supernatural realm populated by creators or law givers. Nature is silent. There is no concept of truth in nature. There are no concepts whatsoever in nature. Nature knows nothing.

    Nature is neither meaningful nor meaningless. Neither a source of comfort (natural theology) nor a source of despair (existentialism). Both are rooted in the same mistaken presupposition that supernatural meaning can be found by searching the heavens for gods or quarrying human inwardness for moral laws.

    • Instead, religions belong to cultures embedded in nature. And cultures are our distinctive human-all-too-human handiwork. Religions are obsolete, unnecessary cultural artifacts.

    Any specific religion reenacts and institutionalizes a cultic myth. It gets spread through custom and imitation, financially supported religious institutional demands and tax law, enforced by intimidation and violence.

    Xian mythology, like related big-4 monotheisms zoroastrianism, post-exilic judaism, and islam, posits a moralized universal order which never existed. No more can be found in that fiction than the ancestors put into it.

    • Some so-called “meaning” derives ultimately from Sargon I’s imperial propaganda when the very first violent yoking together of disparate city-state cultures occurred in what is now Iraq 4,300 years ago.

    Sargon I appears as a god receiving a legal and moral code directly from a greater god enthroned above him. A myth of divine origin of royalty and morality turns out to be ancient political “spin”. (Still works today, doesn’t it?)

    Adjust your understanding, adjust your expectations, and you will have a right relationship with the only total reality there is, nature.

    the anti_supernaturalist

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  6. The chart also fails to distinguish between the different forms of Christianity. The only outcome is U.S. style evangelical Christianity. On the basis of this chart Roman Catholics, Greek, Coptic and Russian Orthodox and even most main stream Protestant versions of Christianity do not end up as “christian theists”.

    There is also a distorted emphasis on “meaning” in life, whatever that means. It fails to acknowledge that for many of us, “meaning” is obtained in a diffuse variety of ways and is subject to environmental conditions, such as illness, the need to earn a living, family and romantic ties, educational goals, social experiences, etc.

    In summary, the chart is a good example of how marketing can blind people to the possibilities and actualities of reality.

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