Note: The original Anatomy of a Worldview provides more background on worldviews and what we’re talking about in this article.
Origin: The Big Bang created the universe and a starter set of living things, and the process of evolution created us.
Meaning: To leave the world a better place than when we came (or perhaps if more self-focused, be happy, succeed, “make it”, etc.)
Morality: Society/intuition determines what right and wrong is
Destination: A hole in the ground
This isn’t the only secular worldview out there by any means, but this set of beliefs should be familiar to many people. It’s one I saw repeatedly when I asked local college students sets of open-ended worldview questions, which is why this is the first worldview I’m covering in this manner. I’m going to touch on all of these four worldview questions above (Origin, meaning, morality, destination) in a different order.
Origin: Secularism tends to be fond of evolution for how humans were created. But macro evolution (evolution of a species into another, as opposed to micro evolution, small changes within species) has to explain a whole lot, such as how humans have the unique traits that they do among all life on Earth, or observed, sudden ‘jumps’ between species in the fossil record. Christians believe we are we do possess unique mental faculties because someone intended us to be this way: God put His own image on all human beings, giving us the power of choice and intellect.
Destination: On the other end of life, a lot of non-religious people make little to no room in their hearts for life after death. Once you’re dead, that’s it. There may be a few reasons for this belief, including: science has no proof for life after death. If there was a God, why would we die? And so on. All of humanity is occupied with the possibility of life after death – a majority worldwide still believe in it. Christians, as well as Jews and Muslims, believe that God will act as judge over us when we die. The alternative is a great loss of meaning in life. Which takes us to…
Meaning: If there is nothing after death, there is no transcendent meaning, just meaning that we make up for ourselves. That meaning may be influenced by others, but ultimately, when we are gone, and society is gone, the created meaning leaves too. In other words, if a new human society was raised in a manner that they had no interaction with our current society, I can pretty much guarantee you that society would act very differently from our own. What good reason would we have for our created meaning to be any more valid than theirs? And, going back to the original statement of leaving the world a better place, that is where Christians acknowledge people are on the right track, but it is divorced from the One who gave humanity that mission. God is the one who gives us meaning, this task to be caretakers of the world (Genesis 1:26-30) and others (Matthew 28:19-20). He has existed before the earth, and will exist after the earth. And importantly, the meaning is not in what an atheist would argue is the human institution of religion – it’s in a person, God. We can point to the proof it produces, the countless individuals who have found lifelong joy in the meaning that God gives them.
Morality: A brief look at history can tell you that both individuals and entire societies can intentionally do bad while believing they are doing good. For individuals, the Bible speaks about this clearly – everyone sins (Psalm 14:1-3). For the matter of entire societies, one need only look at countries like the past Nazi Germany, or the present North Korea. There are people there who honestly and fully believe that they are doing good, even though little of the outside world would agree with them, be they Christian, secular, or otherwise. Which hints at a larger problem – not all societies, even just the ‘good’ ones, do the same things. For example, even among developed countries, the laws differ in significant ways. For example, the U.S. arguably champions the concept of freedom more so than many other countries – free market, free speech, free religion, etc. A European country, in comparison, might lock a few of these freedoms down (health insurance controlled by the government vs. private corporations is a relatively hot topic today), but with the intention of promoting public good – just in a different way. The point here is using either human individuals or societies as a measure of morality ultimately lacks transcendent meaning – societies rise and fall just like people do. Even society’s perception of human rights change over time, which is why we need something greater.
A common secular worldview such as this one tends to trust generally accepted views of science and culture where it speaks on the big issues, but it is ultimately unsatisfying at the quest for transcendent meaning. Christians recognize that in God, who gave us life, meaning that lasts, and the promise of being united with Him after death.