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Myths vs. Religion

Using these generally accepted definitions, why are there hurt feelings and actual offense taken when the word "myth" is substituted for the word "religion" or for a specific religion?  Why is there no similar outcry when we discuss Greek, Roman or Viking mythology - when there are still people who still subscribe to those beliefs today?

Myth:  A traditional, typically ancient story dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in the worldview of a people, as by explaining aspects of the natural world or delineating the psychology, customs, or ideals of society

Religion:  a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

Why is such offense taken when one describes the Bible, for example, as a book of myths?  Is it because there's a perceived insult in the use of the word "myth"?  Must I, an atheist who sees all religions that require the worship of an invisible supernatural being as based on myths, pretend that I believe that the stories in those books might be true?  Is it really insulting for someone like me to describe those books in terms that seem honest?  Look at the definitions again - they're practically interchangeable.

 

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jsbenkert

Asked by jsbenkert at 4:59 PM on Mar. 27, 2013 in Religious Debate

Level 37 (89,140 Credits)
Answers (13)
  • All religions are myths, and those who are offended are simply uneducated (or the ever popular, willfully ignorant)
    NotPanicking

    Answer by NotPanicking at 5:02 PM on Mar. 27, 2013

  • The dictionary definitions, or denotations, of the two words are very similar.

    The connotations, or subtle emotional meanings, are quite different.

    Many people have come to associate the word "myth" with something that people once believed to be true, but which we now know to be wrong, or just plain silly. Wrong or right, theword "myth" has negative connotations when use interchangeably with the word "religion."
    Ballad

    Answer by Ballad at 5:05 PM on Mar. 27, 2013

  • There is more than one common definition to the word Myth. Dictionary.com contains these other versions:

    - any invented story, idea, or concept: His account of the event is pure myth.
    - an imaginary or fictitious thing or person.
    - an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution.

    I personally feel no offense by the term, but some people are sensitive to when others call their gods or holy books imaginary when it is very much real to them.
    anng.atlanta

    Answer by anng.atlanta at 5:08 PM on Mar. 27, 2013

  • I think that it's this part that bugs them " dealing with supernatural being"  at least that's my guess.  


    And you're right. If *I* see them all as myth, why treat one any different than the others? 


     

    charlotsomtimes

    Answer by charlotsomtimes at 5:11 PM on Mar. 27, 2013

  • I think myth has a negative connotation to it.
    I know, when I use it to describe a religious text, I use it in the sense that I believe it to be an invented story.

    I guess some people take offense to my having the opinion that their beliefs are based on a myth. It's just my opinion. If they have faith that their god and his book are true and real, then no offense need be taken.

    Usually it's lack of faith that causes others to take things so personally and become offended.
    sahmamax2

    Answer by sahmamax2 at 5:15 PM on Mar. 27, 2013

  • In that case, Ballad, we should be very careful to call any belief a myth.  As I said in my post, there are people who still subscribe to the beliefs of the Ancient Greeks, Romans and Vikings.  Most often, those are referred to as "mythology", and have been no more proven wrong than Christianity or Islam.  They've been no more proven to be right than those, either. In other words, even though there are a lot of people who believe in Christianity, the basis for the religion and the stories associated with it have not been proven to be true.  Hence, Christianity falls into the category of myth as much as Greek mythology.  The only real difference, it seems, is the number of people who still believe in either.

    jsbenkert

    Comment by jsbenkert (original poster) at 5:20 PM on Mar. 27, 2013

  • Honestly, I don't know. I prefer the term Mythos, but seeing as I believe a lot of the Bible, for example, is narrative, either term works for me. I guess some people can't handle the feeling as though there's an insinuation their beliefs aren't "real" or "true," when the thing about truth is that it isn't bound to the literal, historical factual way people try to read the Bible ;)
    bandgeek521

    Answer by bandgeek521 at 5:46 PM on Mar. 27, 2013

  • In that case, Ballad, we should be very careful to call any belief a myth. As I said in my post, there are people who still subscribe to the beliefs of the Ancient Greeks, Romans and Vikings. Most often, those are referred to as "mythology", and have been no more proven wrong than Christianity or Islam. They've been no more proven to be right than those, either. In other words, even though there are a lot of people who believe in Christianity, the basis for the religion and the stories associated with it have not been proven to be true. Hence, Christianity falls into the category of myth as much as Greek mythology. The only real difference, it seems, is the number of people who still believe in either.

    Those are fair statement.
    Ballad

    Answer by Ballad at 5:47 PM on Mar. 27, 2013

  • eye rollingBecause "their God is the one true God, not just a story like those primitive ancients came up with".


     


    Seriously though, they really think the bible is different.  Even though the majority of the stories in the bible can be traced back to earlier myths. 

    3libras

    Answer by 3libras at 6:17 PM on Mar. 27, 2013

  • Myths are the stories. Religion is the worshipping of said stories. Then again calling the Bible "stories based on myth" is probably offensive to the willful ignorant

    KristiS11384

    Answer by KristiS11384 at 6:42 PM on Mar. 27, 2013

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