A few people have been asking me lately what my position really is with regard to mythology and religion, particularly after this post.
“Why are you being so preachy?” “I come here to learn about religion, not to see it belittled.” “Why would you claim to have an interest in religion when you hate it?” This is the general tone of some of the responses I’ve received.
I suppose in some ways these questions are fair, and you deserve an explanation.
No, obviously, I do not hate mythology. I think that religious myth is the most telling form of cultural and social history that endures from the days of our forebears. In myth we get shining beacons of subjective morality stomping around the mires of period-specific dangers and taboos in an effort to reach (and explain) the origin point of the universe. How cool is that!?
Myth is distilled cultural consensus, bold proto-scientific claims, and political history mashed together! It provides such an intimate glimpse of what a group of people might’ve been thinking thousands of years ago, and provides clues for how the tangible decisions we know they made may have been informed. The study of myth is the study of history, and the study of history is the study of humanity. I love mythology.
Does this mean that I believe in a literal sense that the content of these stories is truthful?
Absolutely not. Since the study of myth is the study of humanity, it’s helpful to keep in mind that these stories come from only one source: humans.
I think that spirituality is a very interesting way of placing oneself within the universe. Any action taken to feel more connected with the world around you is a positive one—as long as you’re not hurting someone else, directly or indirectly, to achieve it.
For this reason, yes, I take issue with many of the things that vocal fundamentalist groups (be they christian, buddhist, hindu, muslim, or jewish) do and say. When these ancient, ancient stories—based not on scientific fact but on a now primitive set of didactic beliefs—become the moral compass for large groups of contemporary people, I think that’s an enormous problem.
Fundamentalism holds scripture as fact, flying in the face of modern science, logic, and common sense. A refusal to face scientific truth is a refusal to be a part of a global, peaceful human society and instead embrace fear and hate, both born of ignorance.
So, to answer those questions, I love studying religion. I find it to be just about the most interesting thing on the planet. But just because I think it’s important to understand does not mean I believe it to be a useful tool for humans to use today. Ritual, community, and tradition can still exist without scripture and dogma, the enforcement of which is dependent on ignorance.
Ignorance is the only enemy worth fighting.