World View Review

Theism Christian Theism advances a world view that there is an omnipotent God who has authored an inspired, authoritative work called the Bible, upon whose precepts mankind should base its society.

Deism Deism advances a world view that accepts the notion that there is an authoritative, inspired source from which mankind should base its society (i.e., the Bible). Likewise the Deist is certain that there was once an omnipotent God. However, once the world was created, that same omnipotent God chose to absent Himself from His creation. The world, then, is like a clock. It was once created by an intelligent process. However, now the creator is absent leaving mankind on its own to figure out how the clock works and go on living.

Romanticism A natural companion to Deism was Rationalism. Rationalism (e.g., John Locke’s philosophy) invited the Deist to see mankind as a “chalkboard” on which was written experience that ultimately created a personality. Thus, Rationalists/Deists were fond of speaking of “unalienable right” or “common sense.” The Romantic (in America the Romantic would be called “the Transcendentalist”) took issue with Deism and Theism. To the Romantic, Nature was God. Nature an undefined indigenous, omnipotent presence ­was very good. ; Original sin was man’s separation from Nature. In fact, the degree to which mankind returned to Nature would determine his goodness and effectiveness. Thus, a man like Henry David Thoreau lived a year on Walden Pond so that he could find his God. In Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper, the protagonist is safe while he is on a lake separated from evil mankind. Only when he participates in human society is he in trouble. The Romantic was naturally suspicious of Theism because Theism appeared to be dogmatic and close minded. The Romantics had confessions, but they had no dogma. Deism also bothered the Romantics. Romanticism emphasized the subjective; Deism emphasized the objective. In the Romantic novel Frankenstein the Deist/Rationalist Dr. Frankenstein creates a monster. Dr. Frankenstein, with disastrous results turns his back on the subjective and tries to use science to create life.

Naturalism Naturalism was inclined to agree with Romanticism’s criticism of Theism and Deism, but did not believe in a benevolent Nature. In fact, Nature, to the Naturalist, was malevolent, mischievous, and unpredictable. Mankind, as it were, lost control of the universe and the person who had control did not really care much for his creation. Theism of course was absurd. How could any sane person who experienced World War I believe in a loving, living God? Deism was equally wrong. God was not absent ­he was present in an unppredictable, at times evil way. Romanticism was on the right track but terribly naive. God and His creation were certainly not “good” in any sense of the word. Nature was evil. Naturalism embraced a concept of fate not dissimilar to that held by the Greeks. In Homer’s Iliad, for instance, the characters were subject to uncontrolled fate and pernicious gods and goddesses who inflicted terrible and good things on mankind with no apparent design or reason. No, to the Naturalist, God was at best absent or wimpish; at worst, he was malevolent.

Realism Realism was philosophically akin to Naturalism. In a sense, Naturalism was a natural companion to Realism. Realism was different from Naturalism in degree, not in substance. Realism argued that it people were honest they would admit that God was not present at all. It there was anything worth embracing, it was reality. Realism advanced an in-your-face view of life. Realists prided themselves in “telling it like it is.” They entered the cosmic arena and let the chips fall where they may. They shared the same criticisms of views that the Naturalists held.

Absurdism Absurdism certainly believed that Realism was on track. Where Realism erred, however, was its propensity to see meaning in life. Mind you, the meaning was tied to things one could see and feel­not in things that were abbstract or immutable­but the Realist still sought some meaning in this life. The Absurdist abandoned all hope of finding meaning in life and embraced a sort of nihilism. The Absurdist was convinced that everything was meaningless and absurd. The subjectivity of a Romantic was appealing to the Absurd. However, even that implied that something was transcendent – a desire ­and the Absurdist would have nothing to do with that. BBilly Pilgrim, a protagonist in one of the Absurdist Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s novels, became “unhinged from time” and “wandered around in the cosmos. Things without meaning happen to him whose life had no meaning. Everything was absurd.
Existentialism Existentialism stepped outside the debate of meaning altogether. Existentialists argued that the quest was futile. The only thing that matters was subjective feeling. “Experience” was a God at whose feet the Existentialist worshiped. Romanticism was on the right track in that it invited mankind to explore subjectivity. Where it erred was when it refused to give up the deity. Naturalism was an anomaly. It was too busy arguing with the cosmos to see that reality was in human desire not in providence. The degree to which mankind was to discover and experience these desires determined the degree to which people participated in the divine.

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