In this popular work, James Sire analyzes, dissects, and discusses various worldviews that are held around the world. As Sire wisely points out, the issue of worldview is often overlooked but nevertheless important. In The Universe Next Door, Sire covers eight prominent worldviews- Christian Theism, Deism, Naturalism, Nihilism, Existentialism, Eastern Pantheistic Monism, The New Age, and Postmodernism.
In each chapter, Sire breaks down a worldview by analyzing how it answers some crucial questions. What is prime reality? What happens to a person at death? How do we know right from wrong? These are a few of the critical question asked of every worldview.
In the second chapter Sire discusses Christian theism. I found this chapter to be excellent. His discussion of the basics of Christianity is one of the best I’ve seen anywhere.
The third chapter is about Deism, which is the view that an impersonal God exists. However, Sire maintains that deism has many inconsistencies. For example, deism ends up destroying morality because it implies that “whatever is, is right”. Obviously, this leaves no room for a foundation of morality. It is inconsistencies like these, Sire argues, that resulted in deism having a relatively short life as a prominent worldview. It was replaced quickly by Naturalism.
Naturalism is the topic of the fourth chapter; it is the view that physical reality is all there is- no god, no soul. Naturalism is the primary viewpoint which I try to dismantle in this website. Sire points out that a big problem with naturalism, as a persuasive worldview, is that it fails to answer questions like, “How is life meaningful?” and “How can I trust my own mind?”
Nihilism, Sire supposes, is the inevitable outcome of naturalism, and it is the viewpoint discussed in chapter five. Nihilism is the view that absolutely nothing matters. Life and death, happiness and sorrow, are all meaningless- and so is all of reality. This rather depressing viewpoint, Sire contends, is actually unlivable. Nobody truly acts as though nothing matters at all. Nobody truly acts as though there is no morality. Therefore, nihilism- the direct result of naturalism- is an unlivable and perhaps impossible worldview.
Existentialism’s task is to provide a framework over which naturalism may escape the bleakness of nihilism. However, Sire maintains that atheistic existentialism only fends off nihilism by adopting the position of solipsism- the view that the subjective self is what matters. However, the supposed value which atheistic existentialism wishes to construct is destroyed by the grip of death.
Chapter seven is about Eastern Pantheistic Monism. This worldview supposes that there is no need for a belief to be consistent, or “true”, or “logical”. For such nonsense, all Sire must do to refute the worldview is state what its beliefs are. I, for one, have a hard time considering a logically inconsistent view as pertaining to reality.
Chapter eight discusses the New Age, which is actually a variety of different beliefs and ideas rolled into one “worldview”. But the New Age makes unconvincing promises of future human achievement in order to provide a framework for purpose, and there is little or no reason for anyone to adopt the standpoint of New Age mysticism.
Finally, postmodernism is discussed in chapter nine. Postmodernism is the view that there is no “one truth”, but rather all worldviews are equally valid. It is the worldview of the subjective- a worldview built on jelly. However, it encounters numerous problems- not the least of which is its logical inconsistency.
In chapter ten, Sire returns to Christian theism and finds it to be the most, perhaps only, promising worldview to choose. And, as he says at the end of his book, and I quite agree:
To be a Christian theist is not just to have an intellectual worldview; it is to be personally committed to the infinite-personal Lord of the Universe. And it leads to an examined life well worth living.