When does religion become myth?

by whyhideit 17 Replies latest jw friends

  • whyhideit

    In my time in school and college, I always enjoyed the study of ancient Greek, Roman, Chinese, and Native American myth. It was interesting to me to see how these past cultures explained common occurrences in life, with people or places that could not be seen in the physical world. We, as a modern culture, read about such Gods as Zeus, Venus, or other well known names and wonder, "how could those people be so foolish to think gods like that existed?" Yet at the same time we have beliefs in modern religions, such as Christianity, that there is a heaven with Jesus Christ, Jehovah, Angels, The Devil, and Demons. We attach to these heavenly beings, folk lore and legends, that have not been witnessed by anyone living today. We hold to a written document that we claim is inspired, that passes down these legends. Yet we seem to wear blinders to the fact that our adherence to these concepts, is no different in principle to what we study in mythology in history. This is especially true, when you learn that the Romans borrowed their religion from Greece and made minor changes. It shows that as a species, religion evolves. One culture takes over another, and they merge beliefs and ideas. With this in mind, it does not shock me to see that certain characters and events in the Bible, sound a lot like a page out of Greek myth. As an example, Samson and Hercules. Both men with enormous strength, that was given to them from God. Jesus Christ and Hercules and Perseus. All three virgin births, brought about by the head God impregnating a human woman. Even some of the terms from the Bible, refer to Greek gods. Hades for example, used to mean the tomb or death. Hades was the God of the underworld and had a lot in common with the Christian Devil. Hermes was the messenger of God and flew around with similar traits to Christian angels and Holy Ghost (Spirit). Angels and Muses are also very similar, in that the Bible refers to angels inspiring men to do great things, or to write great things. Pandora opened the box that brought pain to mankind. (Notice also, the blame placed on the woman to make her seem less then man). Even the concept of heaven, roots back to the Greeks who saw the Gods living above the clouds (First on Mt. Olympus, and then evolving into the clouds above). Honestly, I can go on and on, as I love this subject. Yet I have to wonder, when does religion become myth? For 1500 years ago, Zeus was real to the people and now he is myth. 1500 years from now, will Jesus Christ be a myth. It seems entirely possible. Even modern Christianity is cleaning out thoughts that relate to mythology. What do I mean? Well recently I was discussing with a Christian friend the story of Adam and Eve, and he mentioned that in their Church they no longer take those stories at face value. Instead they take the principles they taught, and apply that knowledge. Which to me, shows an excellent example of what I mean. Religion evolves and cultures and ideas combine to form new thoughts. Currently, it is the trusting culture of the past and the modern culture of information, trying to form a balance. Because inside, man wants to have some hope that life is not just these 70-80 years we see in front of us. Where does it lead? I don't know, but I am fairly certain that much like today, when we study Greek myth and get appalled at how those people murdered in the name of their God. When we laugh at their explanations for why sin entered the world. We will see future mankind viewing religions from our time period the same way, and I have no doubt religion's like Jehovah's Witnesses, will be used as an example of the extreme. What do you think about this?

    Edited by - whyhideit on 2 February 2003 4:56:46

  • Gopher

    When a belief system (including a religion) wanders away from generally accepted principles (such as the importance of love and charity) and starts to delve into the realm of the unknown, it begins to become mythical and superstitious.

    In Stevie Wonder's old song "Superstition" he defined superstition very simply: When you believe in things you don't understand, superstition is at hand !

  • whyhideit


    Myth seems to separate modern religion. In that, I mean that most religions would agree on this one principle.

    "Do onto others has you would have done onto you ... Love your neighbor as you would love yourself."

    Most major religions would accept the above statement to being something others should do and follow. The conflict arise from Mythology of religion. They add legends, gods, stories and other tools of religion. All of which erode the above principle and give rise to borders and hatred among separate religions. Stevie Wonder was right

    When you believe in things you don't understand, superstition is at hand

    John Lennon was also right

    All you need is love
  • KungFu

    Religion becomes myth as soon as it's called "religion". The only difference is how people see it. Religion and myth are all the same to me. I think it's pretty stupid that people take old myths and call it fact.........and old conversations, and try to apply them to themselves LITERALLY. Dead conversations are exactly that, dead conversations. They applied at the moment. Hmmm, to me taking myth too seriously is rediculous.and reading an ancient conversation AS IF the person talking thousands of years ago was talking directly to you, is just plain crazy. We're talking about people reading dialogue between 2 people thousands of years ago. It isn't like Jesus or whoever is right there chatting with them. Plus religions ignores the burden of proof. Why?? Because there IS no proof. Makes no sense. Honestly, most religion is myth with a little bit of history. That's it. And the harm religion has done has really outweighed the good. Religion has done some good things, but a lot more harm has come from religion than good. Hopefully people will open their eyes one day and stop blindly believing what they're told.

    p.s. I wonder how many similarities a person could find between Egyptian religion and Judaism and Christianity. That would be interesting to find out. Considering that the Israelites, according to legend, had history in Egypt. What does this mean?? Think about it. I don't know history, but let's say I was a Bible thumper. The Bible says the sons of joseph spent a long time (hundreds of years??) in Egypt. If that is true, then Joseph's sons were Egyptians. And they had plenty of time to be exposed to Egyptian religion and culture. Maybe they even borrowed their religious ideas from Egypt and doctored them up a little. Who knows??


  • whyhideit


    I have some information on what you mentioned in the PS, and I will post it at another time. There is a ton of similarities!!! You can go even further back then that though, with the Samaritans. Samaritan myths and concepts are in all modern religions.

  • Guest 77
    Guest 77

    How about sharing some of your Native American myths.

    Guest 77

  • LoneWolf

    Well, I can't say that I can agree with that about the Egyptians. I've read the Egyptian Book of the Dead by E. A. Wallis Budge, Ancient Fragments, by Hyslop, and quite a few others, and see no similarity at all, other than these two exceptions: Those types of things that can be as easily explained as coincidences, and the way the local religions (I speak here primarily of the Egyptian worship of the god Ra) gradually incorporated the worship of Jehovah into and combined it with that of Ra to the point that they eventually became indistinguishable.

    If you will read the description of the god Amen, who stood out as unique in the pantheon of Egyptian gods, there's little doubt that one is looking at a corrupted version of the worship of Jehovah.

    The prime, and to me, irreconcilable division between the two is the fact that the Bible and the ancient legends of the Babylonians are written from a totally different view point. The Bible's viewpoint of the flood is written from the perspective of Jehovah and those that follow him. The flood account found on the Babylonian legends that came down to us on the tablets dug up at Nineveh, tell it from the standpoint of Satan and his demons, right down to and including a diatribe against Jehovah by their head god. (The Oldest Stories in the World, by Theodore Gaster)(If I've made some mistake in the exact titles or author's names, forgive me. I'm just flat pooped tonight and haven't the energy to go get them out of the other room. )

    Let's face it: if two enemies have a fight and both record it, there are going to be similarities in the story. To use those similarities as "proof" that one came from the other just isn't logical or intellectually honest. Nor is it honest if we merely wave our hand in derision and refuse to consider any other possibilities.

    Were there parts of the surrounding religious beliefs and customs that were assimilated into the nation of Israel? Of course, but they were, by and large, the very things the prophets and apostles were raising the roof about, and why they lost their favor with God.

    What bothers me the most, though, is that it is a perfectly normal human tendency to swing either completely to the left or right. If they find something --- anything --- wrong with something, every thing becomes suspect and they throw it all out. Yet I find that it is every bit as difficult to find someone that is entirely wrong, as it is to find someone that is entirely right.

    Dang. I'm so tired I'm going crosseyed. Good night, all.


  • SixofNine

    Just because people currently believe something to be true, does not mean it isn't a myth.

    Even Christianity is largely or wholely myth. It is part and parcel of the earlier myths of the Jews, and Jesus as a real historical figure is something that cannot be established 100%. Likely a man named Jesus is the basis for the Christianity myths, but certainly the stories about him have no basis for people to believe them as reality. And yet, they do.

  • Abaddon

    Religion IS a myth.

    Obviously if anyone has any proof of any god, or of the Universe being teleological, I'll be happy to discuss it.

    However, if I may take the liberty of rephrasing your question slightly, it is interesting to ask;

    "When does a belief structure become outmoded?"

    I would say this is dependant on a few factors. Look at the Roman Empire. For centuries it was accepted that the Emperor was divine. At a certain point, people 'realised' this was rubbish. It strained their credulity.

    The stabilising effect of religion in the Empire was still needed however, as it was a vast construct of many cultures, and thus Christianity comes to the fore... other candidates for an Empire religion were too exclusive - like Mithratism that was open to free men ONLY.

    Now, Christianity has split into a multitude of different beliefs. Many are 'Christianity-lite', as a lot of elements of Christian belief as espoused in the Bible are clearly nonsensical to a person with a modern education, and have been dropped by many Churches. Who really believes the Host becomes real flesh and blood, for example.

    Roll forward a couple of hundred years more, and provided education is not controlled or restricted, the very fact that there's no proof of god and very good explainations that don't involve gods will ensure that belief in any god in many parts of the world will probably be widely acknowledged as fanciful.

    Unless of course god gets back from its extended holiday... just as long as he doesn't speak to us from a Bush again, or any other politician for that matter, that would be interesting.

  • OrbitingTheSun

    Right on, KungFu! And welcome aboard. I agree wholeheartedly.

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