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.