A worldview is effectively a set of beliefs and assumptions through which someone interprets the world around them. Whether or not a philosophy qualifies as a worldview is really a matter of how pervasive that ideology is to them. Since it’s a leap from the mainstream to call yourself an atheist, crossing that threshold means that it’s probably a lens that you lay over other things, too.
In a denotative sense, atheism is a direct refutation of faith in all its fashions, but doesn’t that just sound shitty? We all take it our own way to whatever extent we like, yet there are inherent qualities to atheism that generalize it enough to be considered a worldview.
For example, the atheist and scientific communities are so intertwined that belief in evolution can be considered one of our defaults, too. Religious worldviews tend to resist evolution because it diminishes the ‘special’ place humanity has on the world stage, but talk about being wrong for the right reasons! Once you ditch the idea of humanity as a theistic trust-fund baby, we’re actually a pretty cool rags-to-riches-to-world-supremacy narrative. It’s hard to imagine a species with limited sensory function and almost no defense mechanisms thriving, but we’ve really made the best out of a couple of thumbs and a bit of teamwork.
Overall, atheism’s lack of formal organization conceals how positively we view the world. The most famous atheists often reach that level through highly-exposed confrontations with other groups, but that is one thing that maintains them as peers in lieu of leaders. The media exposure they get sometimes leads to misunderstandings of our demeanor as people, but atheism wouldn’t be a worthy way of life with party politics involved. That’s why people ask us whether or not we’d vote for an openly atheist presidential candidate, and we say, “No, because that doesn’t make them good at everything else.”
Atheism as a worldview presents a paradox. On the one hand, identifying with the idea has definite influence on the way one perceives the world around them. However, free thought is so imperative to who and what we are that it’s difficult to generalize exactly what that means. It means different things to different people, but it’s definitely an important part of those lives.
Travis Vail is a fourth-year communication major.
When one claims that he/she is an atheist, a whole barrage of luggage comes with that label (one which can either be positive or negative, depending on your point of view). To some, it means an unreasonably angry person who has nothing better to do than stand around and hate God. To another, it might mean someone who is intelligent, sensible and good at debating. And still to others, it could simply mean the person sitting next to you on the morning bus.
Atheism, at its core, only means one thing: the lack of belief in a God. “A” means “without,” and “theism” has to do with “God” or “gods.” That is atheism in a nutshell. A few religions, like Buddhism and Jainism, actually do not advocate a belief in a god. Thus, as contradicting as it may seem, it allows an atheist to actually be religious in this sense. Of course, some problems might arise with being spiritual and at the same time not believing in a god, but there is no direct contradiction.
However, this is not the concept of an atheist that many hold. Atheism seems to have evolved to imply many other things, like an appreciation of science, a sense of skepticism toward claims that aren’t supported by evidence, and a criticism of religious institutions. Of course, these aren’t requirements for one to become an atheist. Unlike many religious or political movements, there isn’t any ceremony, no fees to pay and no test to take to become a “card-carrying atheist.” Despite many people’s misconceptions, we don’t gather in dark robes and sacrifice goats to initiate a new member. Simply ask yourself: Do I believe in a god? If your answer is no, bingo! You may now call yourself an atheist; I’ll go get the goats.
So is atheism a worldview? I believe it is more of a product of another worldview, a constant asking of “why?” and a requirement for evidence. Of course, it doesn’t have to be, but more often than not you will probably find that atheists have a well-thought-out, supported case regarding why they hold certain beliefs and disbeliefs. Being at one time a believer in God, I can say that atheism has definitely changed my view of the world, and for the better.
Jay Grafft is a third-year communication major.