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Author Topic: When does "religion" become "mythology"?  (Read 11118 times)
catja6
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« Reply #15: July 09, 2007, 12:35:27 pm »

Recognizing the differences we have and exploring our diversity is a wonderful thing, IMHO, and much more interesting and conducive to understanding each other than trying to pretend we're all the same.  Smiley


Infinite diversity in infinite combinations, dude.   Cheesy  This -- among other things, including not-so-good scholarship -- is what cheeses me off so much about Campbell, etc.:  A multitude of stories, some of which have some interesting similarities, is *so* much more exciting than "it's all the same story, really."  The latter is not just inaccurate, it's *boring*. 
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« Reply #16: July 09, 2007, 02:12:08 pm »

I dunno, I think labels can be very useful for communicating what we're talking about.

And doing away with "labels" would eliminate all adjectives and most nouns from our vocab.
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« Reply #17: July 09, 2007, 08:37:44 pm »

I love the question semperfemme, and I thought that I'd quickly have an answer for it but... not so much!

On one hand religion seems to "become mythology" on an individual basis.  In other words, when a person decides that they don't at all believe that there's any truth to the religion then they may begin to view it as a mythology.  As nothing more than a group of stories.

That's kind of sad, because even then it could have 'truths'; things that have a special meaning for them or to a culture even when it is not taken literally.

That's the way that I look at it.  To me, all religions are mythologies and there are no exceptions.  I see religions as holding ideas that warrant deeper consideration and/or being held closely... be it the way to treat each other, how to treat life on Earth, embracing both the light/dark side of ourselves, or so on.  These ideas shouldn't be taken literally, but should be reflected upon in a deeper-than-every-day sense.

Apparently I'm not using a scholarly definition of the word "myth"... or maybe I am while not intending or realizing it.

Perhaps a religion becomes a "mythology rather than a religion" (collectively, in the popular eye) when the majority of humans stop looking at it as a religion, but I like to think that it is entirely individualistic.  Perhaps a religion even becomes more spiritual when more people begin to view it as a mythology rather than a literal religion*.

~Steph

* in the form of a religion the literal teachings can get in the way of deeper, critical, or even imaginative thinking: "it is what it is and that's what it is".  From a spiritual point of view, however, one is free to consider the subjects more deeply and in a more symbolic sense; what it means to them and what it means to their culture, and how it can have meaning to the modern form of their culture & issues.

During a fun chat with a coworker about religion, he turns to me and says "I just don't see how you can believe in Greek Mythology."  Undecided

I chuckled and didn't respond, really because I didn't know how to (without looking weird at work) and there were tables to be waited on, but it got me to thinking; When does a "religion" become mere "mythology"? Is it when people stop believing in the system and cast it aside? When I think of "myth"  I think of something that EVERYONE knows isn't true- like Santa Claus, but religion bears truth to for the person involved, so it doesn't get the "myth" stamp from me.

I'm sure many Christians would be offended if I said that Jesus is a "myth", yet most of western society has no problems labeling "Zeus" or "Heracles" in such a manner.

What are the differences to you if any? Do you draw a line or is the label of "myth" irrelevant to the worth of anything that could be tied to a religion?

Just tossing around a few thoughts and I hope I'm making sense.


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« Reply #18: July 09, 2007, 08:49:27 pm »



Just tossing around a few thoughts and I hope I'm making sense.



I suppose anything can be called a myth if you don't approve of it.  But most religious mythologies become come accepted mythology when the vast majority of those who had practiced it no longer do so.

There have been small numbers of people continuing to follow Greek, Roman, Celtic as well as small so called primative religions,but they are to few in number or to hidden to be able to keep reminding the world that thier religion is alive.

Was the mythology term is generally accepted it then become extremely difficult to reverse it.
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« Reply #19: July 09, 2007, 08:57:07 pm »

During a fun chat with a coworker about religion, he turns to me and says "I just don't see how you can believe in Greek Mythology."  Undecided

I chuckled and didn't respond, really because I didn't know how to (without looking weird at work) and there were tables to be waited on, but it got me to thinking; When does a "religion" become mere "mythology"? Is it when people stop believing in the system and cast it aside? When I think of "myth"  I think of something that EVERYONE knows isn't true- like Santa Claus, but religion bears truth to for the person involved, so it doesn't get the "myth" stamp from me.

I'm sure many Christians would be offended if I said that Jesus is a "myth", yet most of western society has no problems labeling "Zeus" or "Heracles" in such a manner.

What are the differences to you if any? Do you draw a line or is the label of "myth" irrelevant to the worth of anything that could be tied to a religion?

To echo some of the things that Stephers said, I think many people might simply be shocked to think that anyone might literally interpret the sacred myths or ancient times. As Richard Dawkins says, most people are atheists when it comes to every god except the Christian one. ("Who would ever believe that a bearded man in a white robe sits in the clouds, controlling the skies? Why, the very idea!" Wink ) I don't know whether you're co-worker is Christian, but you might want to point out sometime that believing that all the world's evils came from a box is no less fanciful or absurd than believing a pair from every animal species on the planet could fit on a single man-made boat. (And there are endless comparisons to make here.) That said, I don't think most Neo Pagans literally interpret the myths of their Gods, and that might be worth pointing out to your co-worker as well.
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« Reply #20: July 09, 2007, 09:14:06 pm »

To echo some of the things that Stephers said, I think many people might simply be shocked to think that anyone might literally interpret the sacred myths or ancient times.

I'm shocked when I come across any mythological literalists.  Doesn't matter the mythology.
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« Reply #21: July 09, 2007, 10:48:31 pm »

To echo some of the things that Stephers said, I think many people might simply be shocked to think that anyone might literally interpret the sacred myths or ancient times

Like Darkhawk, I am shocked that anyone literally interprets mythology.  In general, it just does not work without going through incredible mental gyrations -- to the point of sometimes ignoring reality.
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« Reply #22: July 10, 2007, 12:16:47 am »

To echo some of the things that Stephers said, I think many people might simply be shocked to think that anyone might literally interpret the sacred myths or ancient times.

Essay on literal myths when it comes to creation in Kemetic religion: http://www.asetnet.net/essayliteralmyth.html

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« Reply #23: July 10, 2007, 07:41:23 pm »

Like Darkhawk, I am shocked that anyone literally interprets mythology.  In general, it just does not work without going through incredible mental gyrations -- to the point of sometimes ignoring reality.

Me too. But apparently, many Christians do; I recently saw a poll that indicated that over half the US is unconvinced about the theory of evolution. That's nothing short of insane, in my opinion.
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Thessaly: Hmph.
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« Reply #24: July 10, 2007, 09:26:41 pm »

Quote from: catja6
"Myth" has a specific meaning (actually, a number of meanings, but that's the basic one) in a scholarly context, and I really wish more people would learn that meaning, to try and drown out the "false story" nonsense.

Guilty as charged. This is the context I've grown up with and I still use it:D. It is a shame when die hard habits of ignorance are willfully continued despite knowledge to the otherwise. Thanks for bearing with me and sharing your writing.

Quote
BTW, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy aren't really myths, in folklorists' terms -- they're closer to *legends*.  If you're interested in the differences, I posted an essay on "myth/legend/folktale" here:

http://www.ecauldron.net/forum/index.php?topic=1587.0

Your post is fantastic. I hope you don't mind me saving it so I can read it again, just to make sure I can chew and digest it all.

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« Reply #25: July 11, 2007, 07:59:54 am »


Semperfemme - thanks for quoting, but can you please use the quote key in the upper right corner of the post, and not just the bb code?  That preserves the link so we can follow the conversation.

Thanks! Smiley
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« Reply #26: July 11, 2007, 12:18:30 pm »

Guilty as charged. This is the context I've grown up with and I still use it:D. It is a shame when die hard habits of ignorance are willfully continued despite knowledge to the otherwise. Thanks for bearing with me and sharing your writing.

Your post is fantastic. I hope you don't mind me saving it so I can read it again, just to make sure I can chew and digest it all.



Thanks so much for your kind words; folk narrative classification is one of my hobbyhorses, and I do ramble on at the slightest excuse.  *g*  I just think it's so, so important for folks to realize that by sticking to the "false story" definition of myth, and only the "false story" definition, that it simply reinforces the notion that "Christian stories are the only true ones, everything else is FALSE," which is how "myth" acquired that meaning (in English) in the first place.  *Especially* when we're asserting the religious legitimacy of non-Christian narratives!   Cheesy 
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