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Sat Feb 11, 2012, 08:09 PM

"One person's myth is another person's religion"

(I do not want this to be viewed as so much a disrespect of peoples view point BUT a way to start a conversation.)


A few years back on an NPR show interviewing a gentleman who had written a book called The Mythology of Jesus-or something like that.

His view point in the view that One person's mythology is another person religion. And often to discredit a person's relgious belief-in the past they start referring the religion as mythology and not treating it with respect.

The phrase that I used in the title is something that has been popping into my head lately especially this past week with the GOP noms trying to get votes from people and the way the Compromise on contraception happened and it just makes me sick the way all politicians play the religious card and how they use it to slash and degrade not only one another BUT various parts of this country. They are using it as a way to in a sense divide and dominate people.

I was raised catholic I would consider myself a sort of wiccan... the phrase from Tori Amos -Talula song "...But I know right now That it's in God's hands But I don't know who the Fahter is".

I know I find the playing to religion just sick and has help to blur the line that seperate church and state.

43 replies, 3204 views

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Reply "One person's myth is another person's religion" (Original post)
Justice wanted Feb 2012 OP
NAO Feb 2012 #1
Justice wanted Feb 2012 #3
NAO Feb 2012 #2
cleanhippie Feb 2012 #4
Justice wanted Feb 2012 #6
cleanhippie Feb 2012 #8
Justice wanted Feb 2012 #9
napoleon_in_rags Feb 2012 #5
AleksS Feb 2012 #7
tama Feb 2012 #29
provis99 Feb 2012 #10
skepticscott Feb 2012 #11
Justice wanted Feb 2012 #12
GliderGuider Feb 2012 #41
edhopper Feb 2012 #13
GliderGuider Feb 2012 #14
skepticscott Feb 2012 #16
GliderGuider Feb 2012 #20
Silent3 Feb 2012 #17
GliderGuider Feb 2012 #21
Silent3 Feb 2012 #23
GliderGuider Feb 2012 #25
tama Feb 2012 #31
Silent3 Feb 2012 #34
tama Feb 2012 #37
Silent3 Feb 2012 #38
tama Feb 2012 #40
Silent3 Feb 2012 #42
edhopper Feb 2012 #18
GliderGuider Feb 2012 #22
Silent3 Feb 2012 #24
GliderGuider Feb 2012 #26
Silent3 Feb 2012 #33
edhopper Feb 2012 #35
GliderGuider Feb 2012 #36
tama Feb 2012 #39
Silent3 Feb 2012 #43
immoderate Feb 2012 #15
rrneck Feb 2012 #19
darkstar3 Feb 2012 #28
rrneck Feb 2012 #30
tama Feb 2012 #32
ZombieHorde Feb 2012 #27

Response to Justice wanted (Original post)

Sat Feb 11, 2012, 08:14 PM

1. I don't like religion, but I feel bad for religious people who get used

and they don't even know it.

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Response to NAO (Reply #1)

Sat Feb 11, 2012, 08:15 PM

3. very true. I do feel the same way.

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Response to Justice wanted (Original post)

Sat Feb 11, 2012, 08:15 PM

2. Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

Voltaire
French author, humanist, rationalist, & satirist (1694 - 1778)

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Response to Justice wanted (Original post)

Sat Feb 11, 2012, 08:37 PM

4. Why should religion get any more or less respect than mythology?

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Response to cleanhippie (Reply #4)

Sat Feb 11, 2012, 08:44 PM

6. It shouldn't but the gentleman who wrote the book was explain how the term Mythology was used

to delegitamize another person's religion in the past Much like some in our country try to make some religions "Evil" today.

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Response to Justice wanted (Reply #6)

Sat Feb 11, 2012, 08:58 PM

8. Is it not a valid comparison?

Religion and Mythology? Are they not comparable?

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Response to cleanhippie (Reply #8)

Sat Feb 11, 2012, 09:00 PM

9. I think they are. If you look at what we refer to as Mythology it is in fact Old religions that

have been either abandoned OR "Forced out".

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Response to Justice wanted (Original post)

Sat Feb 11, 2012, 08:42 PM

5. I personally believe there is a magic to mythology.

I mean good myths, that come from way back and were passed on orally from generation to generation. That's how people used to pass on wisdom, in this coded and compressed form. If one generation didn't get the deep meaning, they still told the story because they liked the action, so the generation after that could think about the deeper meanings.

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Response to Justice wanted (Original post)

Sat Feb 11, 2012, 08:49 PM

7. I try to remember too that what we call mythology today really WAS

I try to remember too that what we call mythology today really WAS religion long days ago.

I mean, just for one example, one of the charges brought against Socrates was a very GOP-esque "inciting youths to atheism." Except, of course it wasn't christianity that he was accused of luring the children from but the Greek religion that we call mythology today.

I find it amusing to imagine the days of the future when our great-great-...great-grandchildren find it absurd that some people were mad because their myths didn't accept gay marriage, or birth control. Of course those great-great-...-grandchildren will probably have a pre-mythology (a nice name for religion) of their own. Ah, irony.

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Response to AleksS (Reply #7)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 03:45 PM

29. Socrates

 

The official charge by Meletus was 'impiety', specified as:
- not recognizing the gods recognized by the city
- inventing new divine things
- corrupting the youth

Aristophanes' play 'Clouds' had a major effect on the charge of 'impiety'. Worth checking out, if you haven't done so.

As for 'mythology', I'm used to think that the word describes a special mode of language.

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Response to Justice wanted (Original post)

Sat Feb 11, 2012, 09:02 PM

10. Mythology is just religion that is interesting.

 

as opposed to what we normally call religion, which is boring and dogmatic.

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Response to Justice wanted (Original post)

Sat Feb 11, 2012, 09:12 PM

11. Well, when you're inside looking out

it's religion, and when you're outside looking in, it's mythology.

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Response to skepticscott (Reply #11)

Sat Feb 11, 2012, 09:14 PM

12. Exactly.

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Response to skepticscott (Reply #11)

Mon Feb 13, 2012, 07:29 AM

41. That's an excellent description!

I suspect it also applies to ways of seeing the world that aren't even considered "religions" by those practicing them.

People who aren't attached to particular mythologies find it much easier to identify them. Unfortunately, identifying them out loud to those who are still "inside" carries a certain risk, as Socrates discovered.

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Response to Justice wanted (Original post)

Sat Feb 11, 2012, 10:45 PM

13. Sorry if it's a myth

then it is not true and did not happen. At least in the way people believe. Why should i give respect to someone's beliefs if the are untrue (notice I did not talk about treating the person with respect, just their beliefs)

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Response to Justice wanted (Original post)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 12:04 AM

14. It helps to remember that a myth isn't always religious.

Even in the secular world we all live within mythologies of one sort or another. According to Wiktionary a myth is:
A traditional story which embodies a belief regarding some fact or phenomenon of experience, and in which often the forces of nature and of the soul are personified;

So for instance we have "the myth of the self-made man", the myth of the Big Bang; the myth of the origin of life in the primordial soup; the myth of human exceptionalism; the myth of human perfectibility; the myth of the desirability and inevitability of progress, etc.

Any of these can form the foundation for a quasi-religious attitude towards the human experience and our place in the cosmos.

So it really shouldn't bother anyone to have their world-view called a mythology. It's just an accurate descriptive term.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #14)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 08:46 AM

16. You're really conflating two meanings of the word "myth"

The examples you give are not traditional stories of the type that make up a mythology. Rather, they are examples of the meaning of a "myth" as a false notion. Not remotely the same.

And one should be careful about relying too heavily on a cookbook definition of "myth" from anywhere. It's a concept that is notoriously difficult of definition, and even lifelong scholars of myth do not agree on one.

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Response to skepticscott (Reply #16)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 01:03 PM

20. Not conflating exactly.

What I'm suggesting is that the word "myth" as we use it in relation to religion is simply a degenerate case of the top-level definition.

Myths don't don't automatically have to be false in the evidentiary sense, nor do they have to deal with the supernatural. The core of the term is that it's "a traditional story embodying a belief". What that belief is can vary all over the map, as can the factual quality of its underpinnings.

Religion is always mythological, but so is any cultural narrative about "What's really going on here" and what our relationship to that reality is. The fact that something might be supported by evidence - like the Big Bang, the origin and evolution of life or the human ability to dominate the food chain and resource base of the world - doesn't prevent stories about it from becoming a myth.

Stories about the origin of the universe or life within it are precisely the material of the "creation myths" that are present in every culture - including our scientific one.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #14)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 08:49 AM

17. The term "story" in that definition doesn't mean "history" or "news report"...

...or well-documented theory.

Given that the second listed definition for "myth" (at least in my dictionary) is "a widely held but false belief", even when "myth" is used in the sense of your first definition, there's a very, very strong connotation that the "story" is a fictional story, at best a story possibly derived from a true account, but embellished and distorted over time.

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Response to Silent3 (Reply #17)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 01:12 PM

21. When you use the term "history" you step straight into the realm of mythology.

No account of history is or even can be "true" in any absolute way. An historical account may refer to an event that actually took place, but any account beyond a simple reference to its occurrence is inevitably coloured by the reporter's world-view (aka belief system). That immediately mythologizes it.

Stories about the D-Day landings during WWII are a great example of how historical facts get mythologized. Beliefs automatically, inevitability colour our understanding of facts, and mythologize them in the process.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #21)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 01:42 PM

23. The fact that history gets slanted and mythologized...

...doesn't change what the idea of what an historical account is supposed to be, and your attempt to muddy the meaning of history doesn't discount my point about the general usage of the terms "myth" and "mythology".

Is there a point to wallowing in vagueness besides demonstrating how evasive and clever you can be? There's a difference between recognizing that there are doubts and uncertainties and gray areas in the world and deliberately trying to increase and expand that the fuzziness, as if doing so is a virtue.

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Response to Silent3 (Reply #23)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 02:52 PM

25. Conversely, the idea of what a historical account is *supposed* to be

...doesn't change the fact that we're all swimming in mythology, all the time - whether we realize it or not.

What you see as fuzzy and evasive, I see as clarification. Ambiguity and shades of grey are a fact of life, and I see little value in creating fallacious certainties where none exist.

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Response to Silent3 (Reply #17)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 04:00 PM

31. The term "story"

 

refers to "narrative", which is also the original meaning of the Greek word "history". History and narrative are Greek and Latin words with basically same original meaning.

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Response to tama (Reply #31)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 06:00 PM

34. I'm sure you know quite well...

...regardless of the etymologies involved, what the current meanings and connotations are, that there are meaningful distinctions to be made between the words "myth", "story", and "history".

I'm sure, however, that you've got quite an arsenal of vagueness to deploy in this tiresome new-agey act of passing off obfuscation as wisdom, just in case it doesn't suit you to acknowledge the useful differences between these words.

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Response to Silent3 (Reply #34)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 07:35 PM

37. Synchronic or contemporary

 

distinctions and connotations of words/concepts are not necessarily more meaningful and true than their diachronic evolution and etymology.

And it's best to be aware of both, in order not to get trapped in any of them. Some find their traps useful, some don't.

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Response to tama (Reply #37)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 07:47 PM

38. Who said any about "more meaningful"?

This is not a contest for the "most meaningful" definition.

Some meanings make more sense in some contexts, however, and making things deliberately confused or blurred when distinctions are clear and useful isn't helpful, it's not a sign of being open-minded or enlightened to inject unnecessary confusion.

When you're trying to hit a baseball, you'd better be clear that "bat" means a wooden stick and not a small furry mammal.

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Response to Silent3 (Reply #38)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 08:20 PM

40. IIRC

 

that was me.

And let's not presuppose an agreement about which distinctions are clear and useful when and where, without rational inquiry. Clear and useful in which relation, to which end?

I consider 'narrative' the most generic term of those mentioned; historical, mythical and scientific narratives being more special cases.

In my language the word for 'narrate' is 'kertoa', which means also to 'repeat' and to mathematically 'multiply'. Etymological dictionary suggests that the original etymological meaning is either 'time' or 'phase'/'variation'.

Distinctions have their time and place, but when making also connections we have the potential to get glimpses beyond time and place.

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Response to tama (Reply #40)

Mon Feb 13, 2012, 04:38 PM

42. The only thing I'm going to presuppose in this context...

...is that you're going to be as slippery and evasive as possible, and that you're going to favor the fuzziest, blurriest whatever-works-for-you meanings of words possible, whatever keeps things as vague as possible, as if doing so is some big-hearted, open-minded, enlightened position, and as if anyone asking anyone else to focus and make sense and try to get a little more concrete in the way they use words The Overbearing Oppressor.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #14)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 09:03 AM

18. How is the Big Bang

a myth?

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Response to edhopper (Reply #18)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 01:25 PM

22. Well, for one thing we have no way of knowing if it's true

We can calculate our way back to within nanoseconds of a presumed origin, but the origin itself is cosmologically inaccessible - the origin remains a presumption. So any statement that the Big Bang "happened" and that it was the origin of this universe contains an element of belief. That and the fact that we base our personal understanding of the cosmos on that story about its origin, automatically make stories about the Big Bang part of our scientific creation mythology.

From a 2004 issue of Scientific American:

The Myth of the Beginning of Time

Was the big bang really the beginning of time? Or did the universe exist before then? Such a question seemed almost blasphemous only a decade ago. Most cosmologists insisted that it simply made no sense--that to contemplate a time before the big bang was like asking for directions to a place north of the North Pole. But developments in theoretical physics, especially the rise of string theory, have changed their perspective. The pre-bang universe has become the latest frontier of cosmology.

The new willingness to consider what might have happened before the bang is the latest swing of an intellectual pendulum that has rocked back and forth for millennia. In one form or another, the issue of the ultimate beginning has engaged philosophers and theologians in nearly every culture. It is entwined with a grand set of concerns, one famously encapsulated in an 1897 painting by Paul Gauguin: D'ou venons-nous? Que sommes-nous? Ou allons-nous? "Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?" The piece depicts the cycle of birth, life and death--origin, identity and destiny for each individual--and these personal concerns connect directly to cosmic ones. We can trace our lineage back through the generations, back through our animal ancestors, to early forms of life and protolife, to the elements synthesized in the primordial universe, to the amorphous energy deposited in space before that. Does our family tree extend forever backward? Or do its roots terminate? Is the cosmos as impermanent as we are?

Here's a question that relates back to the OP. Does my description of such events as "mythological" make it feel like I'm devaluing them?

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #22)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 02:12 PM

24. Perhaps some people misunderstand or distort or mythologize the Big Bang...

...but that doesn't make the theory itself a myth.

That the observable universe likely emerged from a very dense and energetic small point billions of years in the past, a point which rapidly expanded outward to create the universe we see today, is pretty well established by physical evidence, from consistency of patterns of red shift to the temperature and distribution of cosmic background radiation. The Big Bang is much more than just "a story our people tell".

Whether or not there is such a thing as time before the Big Bang, whether there are multiple "universes*", whether or not the universe cyclically contracts and well as expands, etc. -- those unknown details do not turn a solid theory into a mere myth. Good theories lead to good questions. The presence of those good questions is not a failing that turns theory into myth.

*By a weak definition of the word "universe". By a strong definition of "universe" the "uni-" part means that there is only one, and that anything for which there is more than one instance, anything which can be said to be contained within or exist alongside another thing, those things are then parts of a larger universe.

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Response to Silent3 (Reply #24)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 03:03 PM

26. You're right - the theory is not a myth, it's a theory.

Theories are about the scientific aspects of ideas. Myths express the cultural aspects of theories. Theories like the Big Bang or the Primordial Soup become a mythical elements when they are incorporated into our cultural narrative of where we came from and what we're doing here.

Every culture has a creation myth. Ours doesn't have turtles and ravens in it, it has a "Big Bang" and abiogenesis instead. The fact that we have developed scientific evidence for a Big Bang is not surprising - cultures can only come up with support for mythic elements that is consistent with the myth itself. Our myths center around positivism and materialism, so the evidence for our creation myth could only come out of that tradition.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #26)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 05:51 PM

33. This and your other response...

...sound like post-modernism cultural relativism crap, as if the Big Bang theory or the world being plucked out of the ass of Zeus are "equally valid" creation stories, and all the hard word and dedication and careful observation and experimentation it takes to build up a scientific theory are something you're ready to dismiss as little but window dressing on an underlying myth.

Fuck that.

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Response to Silent3 (Reply #33)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 06:02 PM

35. Well said.

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Response to Silent3 (Reply #33)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 06:12 PM

36. The scientific theory isn't "window dressing" on the myth.

The myth builds up around the theory, but the theory remains the core idea. However, because it's a cultural construct, the myth also contains a lot of BS that flows in from other areas of the culture. That happens especially when there is an easily expressed analogy between the theory and some aspect of culture - like what happened when QM was co-opted by the New Agers. The details and significance of the underlying theory get distorted in the cultural imagination, but that's to be expected - culture is not a scientific domain, it's psychological.

FWIW, I'm not on some recruiting drive, I'm just presenting the way I see things. There is no obligation, express or implied, etc.

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Response to Silent3 (Reply #33)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 07:57 PM

39. Speaking from the point of view

 

of a native people conquered and assimilated by European imperialist culture, calling cultural relativism crap sounds like justification for Western imperial universalism and 'might makes right' . Which from the point of evolution is similar to putting all your eggs in a same basket, which is not very adaptive evolutionary strategy in this constantly changing world.

In the Paul Davies book (Goldilocks) I'm reading, there was just talk about quantum cosmologies and how they change the notion of Big Bang. There are also theories with same of wider explanatory scope that are not based on the inflation model. By this I mean that theories are not truths set in stone, but rather, science is a process of dialogue. Which dialogue includes also the view that there is a final theory to be found, if we keep looking hard enough.


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Response to tama (Reply #39)

Mon Feb 13, 2012, 04:42 PM

43. The solution to avoiding "might makes right"...

...is not muddled epistemology, vague word usage, sloppy logic, and an almost complete lack of standards beyond not liking standards.

There are good reasons to reject calling some things "myths", good reasons not to consider the label "myth" complimentary, and you don't have to be a dastardly, evil European Imperialist to realize that.

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Response to Justice wanted (Original post)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 12:19 AM

15. Well, all religions are myths, but not all myths are religions.

It's all fiction.

--imm

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Response to Justice wanted (Original post)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 10:41 AM

19. These days

saying, "It's just s myth" is to religion is about the same as saying, "It's just a theory" is to science.

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Response to rrneck (Reply #19)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 03:43 PM

28. Not true.

"It's just a myth" gets a far bigger reaction.

It also happens to be true.

"It's just a theory" gets an eye-roll from those who know better.

It also happens to be false, since it uses the secondary meaning of theory which really just means "idea", rather than the scientific one which means a working model built from the testing of many hypotheses and used for repeat experiments.

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Response to darkstar3 (Reply #28)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 03:58 PM

30. Good point. nt

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Response to darkstar3 (Reply #28)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 04:04 PM

32. Yup

 

A better equivalent is the retort "It's not even theory".

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Response to Justice wanted (Original post)

Sun Feb 12, 2012, 03:42 PM

27. I got in trouble with my mom when I was a kid because I asked when she thought

Christianity would be considered Christian mythology.

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