Why is it so hard to confront the religious with mythology?

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Discussion by: achromat666

My 'process of deconversion' as it were, took on a lot of different faces and happened over time in my adolescence. One of the things I did when I was younger was read a lot of mythological books, I was especially fond of Norse and Babylonian myth and of course I read the bible as when all this started I was still a Christian.

The questions that I kept asking with no satisfactory answer was: What makes one deity superior to another? Who makes the decision on what myth is more accurate than another? How would one even know? Ultimately the answers were found lacking as all religions are man made but this seems like a natural progression to follow.

But over the years I've had many discussions with people regarding the nature of myth and the histories of most religions and it fascinates me how much everyone agrees until you step on their myth of choice. Everyone wants to assume that their faith is unique and somehow true, but fundamentally ignore that their ideas are just as fictitious as all the rest.

Sacricfice is not rare in myths, either in offering a sacrifice or protecting others and gaining wisdom. Most every religion believes in some primal chaos that the universe springs from, and has some creative force shaping thins either singularly or as a group of creators. Demi gods, prophets, messengers, all the ingredients are there in most every religious culture in some shape or fashion. And yet, despite the fact that every culture has had this as part of their way of thinking back when their were no better answers people still cling fast to this culturally antiquated mindset, even when confronted by other people with the same mindset from another culture.

It simply befuddles me that in this time of advance and technology we can be both so narrow minded and so disturbingly tied to the past. 

31 COMMENTS

  1. I would try a kind of explanation based on the idea of cyclic history, and the not so well known characteristics of civilization (my own words, I hope you reach the idea) .
    The author of such interesting idea, Ibn Khaldun, must have made a significative effort to establish the principles of Sociology.
    Some effort is also necessary, of course, to accomplish this wise idea, and perhaps historical conscienciousness is the main.
    So, without being aware of it, ethnocentrism is a natural characteristic of peoples, although people may not be aware of it, and how more real historical time is not accomplished, moreover mythology becomes important.
    I find it curious that Richard Dawkins mentions about some idea of cyclic history in the book “The Ancestors´s Tale”? (I hope I am not wrong).

  2. I’m a great advocate of teaching comparative religions, myths , legends and areas of belief and disbelief. Apart from the fact that I loved all these stories myself as a child, it puts things in perspective when viewed as a whole. The common themes are evident.

    • In reply to #2 by Nitya:

      I’m a great advocate of teaching comparative religions, myths , legends and areas of belief and disbelief. Apart from the fact that I loved all these stories myself as a child, it puts things in perspective when viewed as a whole. The common themes are evident.

      Be sure to include the dead religions too; the point that there have been so many religions that people have died for and killed for, but are now dead, should become evident–maybe. If achromat666 had an essay about his experience that I could link to, I believe I’d use it in certain contexts. My formal arguments would mean nothing to most people, but his authentic experience might hit home.

      • In reply to #5 by MelM:

        In reply to #2 by Nitya:

        I’m a great advocate of teaching comparative religions, myths , legends and areas of belief and disbelief. Apart from the fact that I loved all these stories myself as a child, it puts things in perspective when viewed as a whole. The common themes are evident.

        Be sure to…

        I’d be happy to recollect some of my experiences of deconversion through comparative myths, though I don’t have much experience writing essays. I could give it a shot.

        But you’re right, the dead religions are just as important, for no other reason that to reveal what many religious people seem to overlook: That no faith is eternal. Such a way of thinking can last for a long time but ultimately it falls into obscurity. It is alarming how often I talk to theists about dead religions and they simply don’t see that their beliefs have no more foundation than others.

  3. Everyone wants to assume that their faith is unique and somehow true, but fundamentally ignore that their ideas are just as fictitious as all the rest.

    It often comes down to inability to reason logically.
    The circular reasoning for the various myths is similar, but the starting prerequisite gods, inculcated in childhood, are different according to geographical cultures.

    Any newly discovered myth, is simply compared with the believers confirmation biases and rejected if it does not match.

  4. Maybe the whole problem is ignorance or even, mainly, ignorance of a specific kind: epistemological.

    Attacking reason to make room for faith. …. Note the misology (distrust or hatred of reason) in the Xn Bible. I’ve seen it many times; there are implicit–and sometimes explicit–epistemological views that are difficult to debunk and have been very useful to the holy men. Religion’s attack on reason has, on the whole, been very effective. A key strategy is to promote the idea that reason and science rest, just like religion, on faith. Once a pious audience accepts this, they can be sure that reason has no way of debunking their religion and they are free to continue believing in it. A more formal variation on this–I believe–is called presuppositional apologetics (Wikipedia) which takes the truth of Christianity as a fundamental axiom. In one version, good thinking presupposes the existence of God. The issue, of course, is whether such conceptually high level views can be a valid axiom or, as the pious like to say, “starting point.” When somebody throws in the term “starting point(s)” while defending religion, you can be pretty sure that presuppositional apologetics is in play; it’s popular among many of the U.S. pious.

    Attacking reason–some details. …. The attack continues. The pious will try to undercut science by claiming that the senses are not reliable. They don’t see that their arguments smuggle in, somewhere, a point that assumes the validity of the senses. One of the big attacks is on the whole atheist idea that they should have evidence for their religious views. It works like this (you may want to take an aspirin right now): they say “The claim that ‘claims need evidence,’ itself has no evidence.” (At this point, I’m thinking that the idea is in the area of Aristotle’s axioms, in that demanding a proof would presuppose it–I think.) Of course, we’ve all heard “evolution is just a theory” many times; a faulty concept of scientific theory is being used–an epistemological error. They claim that faith is a valid reason to believe–another epistemological error. They think that holy books are inspired by God; God has somehow implanted the contents into the writers’ minds thus relieving them of starting with the world they can see–the evidence. They believe that God tells them things; here, I think they’ve lost the ability to distinguish observation from fantasy.

    Proving/disproving God. …. We’ve all heard that “God cannot be rationally proved or disproved,” but I, at least, haven’t heard anyone going into why they think this epistemological claim is so. There are several ways of refuting a claim which would constitute “disproof.” Why can’t any of them be used with the concept of God? (I believe the concept of the “supernatural” can be refuted–but it seems difficult.)

    Some ideas the pious should have but usually don’t. …. I’m not sure how effective it would be against religion, but it’s a helpful idea anyway and most do not have this stated in explicit terms. The idea is that things are what they are independent of a person’s wishes (what one wants to be true) or fears or opinions. Reality isn’t going to change because of self-distorting mental habits. (I was something of an irrationalist as a youth and this single idea helped me a lot.) Another powerful concept the pious usually don’t have is “epistemology” (and the need for it rooted in the facts that the human mind is neither omniscient nor infallible.) It should clue people in to the idea that “how do I know it” is a valid question about any claim. Maybe defining “irrationality” would help. My definition now is “any attempt at cognitive functioning which ignores facts and logic.”

    Disclaimer. …. Enough! I’m no philosopher or expert on this stuff, but I do pay close attention to what I hear in debates between atheists and the pious. The pious have a whole arsenal of anti-reason gimmickry that they’ve perfected over many centuries. Mostly–and, IMO, sadly–the atheists don’t try to counter these gimmicks. I would like to see a real expert write a book on the anti-reason ploys of the pious, but I don’t expect it will happen any time soon–too bad. I rather doubt these views are shared by many atheists. None of this would have an impact on those in a snake-handling church or the mass of people who show up at fundamentalist mega-churches or those who risk their kids’ lives with faith healing.

    A strategy? …. I mention too, that it was your knowledge–not ignorance–of myths that started the questioning that eventually took you out of religion. I would like to see someone go through the letters to Dawkins to see specifically what it was that triggered the end of people’s belief in religion. Maybe this knowledge would be useful, i.e., plant a seed and let it grow.

    I do my best to think things through, and I hope I haven’t confused you too much. Congratulations and best wishes, achromat666.

  5. MelM,

    I do my best to think things through, and I hope I haven’t confused you too much. Congratulations and best wishes, achromat666.

    Please don’t get the impression I’m a new atheist. I’m 44, and became an atheist in my late teens/ early 20′s. I was simply addressing something that continues to befuddle me with the idea of comparative religion and how it demonstrates a fundamental flaw in that sort of reasoning but doesn’t seem to sink into the minds of theists.

    You do raise a lot of fine points on what perpetuates such things and sadly the pious US (my country) does have a lot of unenlightened that fall in most of the categories you mention.

    I do appreciate the congrats, though.

  6. In reply to #7 by achromat666:

    MelM,

    I do my best to think things through, and I hope I haven’t confused you too much. Congratulations and best wishes, achromat666.

    Please don’t get the impression I’m a new atheist. I’m 44, and became an atheist in my late teens/ early 20′s. I was simply addressing something that continues to b…

    I didn’t think you were a freshly minted atheist, although I did think you were younger, so what anyway? (I’m older and in Calif.) I mentioned “confused” because the things I wrote took me years to see and they still need work, as I tried to indicate. One of the things I realized fairly early was that ideas matter, and the more fundamental ideas matter the most–they can set the direction of a whole life. So, when the pious come up with their anti-reason stuff, I go after it like blood in the water.

    Your route out was a good one, but for others, it’s different. Take Dan Barker, for example. He wrote the nice book “godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists.” He was a pure fundamentalist. In his book (chapter two) he wrote:

    “’Okay, I believe Adam and Eve were historical, of course, because the bible does not indicate Genesis is a parable or metaphor, but that should not stop me from fellowshipping with believers who might feel differently about it.’ Those Christians who had a tiny variance from my theology were not bad people. They worshipped God and promoted Christianity. They were not going to hell for a sincere difference of opinion. I could still call them brothers or sisters in Christ. That was a little nudge in the direction of tolerance, but a gargantuan spiritual (and psychological) concession to make. I discovered that I could live with a small amount of gray. Not that I liked it, but I could do it.”

    All it took was one little admission that people were not going to be sent to hell just because they didn’t share his belief in a small matter. Although it didn’t make him an atheist on the spot, the seed had been planted. I’d bet there are a ton of these incidents in the letters to Dawkins; that’s why I think it could be of value to research them. Perhaps the best we can do is plant seeds.

  7. Having accepted I was atheist 10 years ago (I’m now 57) I am still clearing out the loft, so to speak. Recently I’ve become more aware of mental habits of guilt, wishful thinking, excessive fears that, on reflection I think are associated with religious and mythic mental patterns.

    In short, while I think a lot of Freud’s views on psychology and religion often were themselves mythic (ie had little real evidence base), I suspect he was broadly right to link religious ideas to how the mind works, in particular our emotional functioning and, if you like, needs (comfort / assurance, vindication / revenge, etc). Thoughts and memories linked to strong emotions, especially if experienced in childhood, are likely to be very persistent and can crop up in different disguises (again referring to Freudian & other ideas of a subconscious). Given that humans are (I feel) much the same the world over and since we became a species, but live in different places and cultures, it is not surprising that internally or intra-culturally developed myths are both diverse in details yet common in themes.

    (Again, a rooting in emotional need is surely a factor in the irrationality of religious myths and adherence to them in the face of evidence. If you feel you or your loved ones are under real threat, niceties about subatomic particles, fossils, or statistical reliability simply don’t cut it.)

    So I am finding all sorts of odd boxes and dusty memorabilia, or junk, as I gradually clear out my theistic baggage. Some of the stuff I almost forgot I had, and can’t remember how I got it. As I’ve moved house, often the boxes with the old stuff get moved from one attic to the next, without ever sorting it out.

    Maybe the mind has a kind of self protecting forgetfulness or neglect, or at least tends to suppress the various hurts for short term relief, even if that means longer term hang ups and persisting unreason and mental clutter. In other words, I not only bought into externally generated myths from religion, I made up some of my own about my self, and even though ‘officially’ atheist, I haven’t moved on as much as I’d like to think

    Maybe the same thing happens at societal level. Maybe deism seems to work – it certainly persists – because it is a collective myth making that links to common human emotional needs and offers relief, of a kind – though by the costly, sometimes terribly costly means, of both hiding the truth and failing to deal with it. Maybe the mental and emotional effort of facing that one lives in a mess and must do something is too much, so folk carry on with Church, etc, muddling along – as folk have muddled along for thousands of years.

    It’s going to take a long time to clear up, but places like this are a start, and we all here are having a go in our places.

  8. A corollary question is why, confronted with decisive evidence that literal biblical interpretations are often wrong, does a believer move into a pattern of allegorizing greater and greater portions of the texts?

    My opinion for the main cause for both of these patterns is what theology calls sensus divinitatus or the sense of the divine. Consider the Christian resurrection. When confronted with a detailed, thorough argument that the resurrection is highly improbable, the believer will often comment, ‘So you think there’s a possibility?’ If one has an on-going intrapersonal, intuitive “experience” of the presence of Jesus then she will believe that the resurrection took place and will only need flimsy evidence to do so or even as a last ditch effort allegorize even that (apophatic theology). The same is true for rejecting other religions with the exception that, if fully exposed to other belief systems, the use of the same experiential arguments by other religions will begin to erode confidence in this sense of the divine. So, in the long run, broad education in comparative religion should probably have a high priority.

  9. That children should be offered with the imagination of myths from other cultures that´s enriching, but “comparative”? (it instead makes it poorer, and from a methodological point of view, that one of ethnology, it has no value).

    So I suppose that´s why we should be careful with such ideas. Another point is that schooling programmes do not need to focus on “unnecessary” education nor try to make people´s mind, they should instead never try to patronize individuals. Not only is religion different as other aspects of different cultures are in fact, why religion alone?

  10. A research field that should be of value is the Psychology of Religion; “woo woo” isn’t good enough to describe what goes on in a religious mind. It’s a real field of empirical research but I don’t know how far it’s gotten. Here’s a list of 17 books at amazon.com based on the key words “psychology of religion.” (I’ve not read any of them.) As I read some of the descriptions, I’m not so sure all of these books are objective; I have no confidence that a religious person can study religion without trying to protect it. Irrationality (IMO, = any cognitive approach that ignores or distorts facts and ignores logic) is both used and perpetuated by religion. Chris Rodda wrote a great book, Liars for Jesus about fake American history, but I think lying for Jesus has been going on right from the beginning–e.g., the Bible,

    If anyone knows something about these psychology of religion books, please comment.

  11. Some myths are quite innocent when comparing to the whole sophistication that some religions and philosophy brought into the subject in the voice of its philosophers such as Hegel or Kant, in the case of Christianity, that thought the entire historical process with an appearance of sophisticated rational philosophy, when it is perhaps nothing more nothing less than myth, although more elaborate- that´s what I really think-wish I could receive some help here from an intelligent man such as my professor of Sociology, but those times are gone.

    I remember he compared Hegel and Fracis Fukuyama in the “myth of the end of history”, that´s really the field of philosophy of history or sociology in which comparison makes sense I guess.

  12. When I was little, my parents gave me an encyclopedia of myths. It was arranged in about 12 volumes, the early pale green ones aimed at preschoolers and the latest dark blue ones at scholars. I worked my way through them as my childhood progressed. I was particularly drawn to the Greek and Norse myths. The Christian stories other kids were exposed to were lame in comparison. They were sucky and boring. Christianity never got a hold on me. Perhaps it was because I saw it as just a poorly written set of myths.

    • Soon you can make yourself candidate for preaching on Mars´s surface, I hope you don´t miss the opportunity.

      In reply to #15 by ericblake664:

      There is not conflict between God and science. Science is the how, God is the Why. Keep searching for God, you will find him

    • In reply to #15 by ericblake664:

      There is not conflict between God and science. Science is the how, God is the Why. Keep searching for God, you will find him

      I will repeat what I typed at the end of this topic starter:

      “It simply befuddles me that in this time of advance and technology we can be both so narrow minded and so disturbingly tied to the past.”

      Claiming one of a multitude of deities as an answer to science is precisely the problem with your position. You have a belief that satisfies your own curiosities but does not stand up to scrutiny when examined outside of its influence, which is among other believers.

      But if you wish to pose this position then can you answer the questions I posed originally? Which for the record are:

      What makes one deity superior to another? Who makes the decision on what myth is more accurate than another? How would one even know?

      If you cannot then don’t just throw your deity of choice in as an answer to the question. It’s dismissive and disingenuous.

    • In reply to #15 by ericblake664:

      There is not conflict between God and science. Science is the how, God is the Why. Keep searching for God, you will find him

      Ah! But even assuming there are gods, which one? List of deities

      and how would you know it was a “HE”? There are lots of goddesses:- List of Greek gods and goddesses ?

      These like most gods, seem to have magical powers which contradict science!

      All “Why?” questions, eventually lead honest investigators to “We do not know”! – Magical fantacists prefer: “My-god-did-it-by-mysterious-magic-to-assure-me-I-am-the-most-important-feature-at-the-centre-of-the-universe, – But that is just egocentric delusion!

  13. In reply to #15 by ericblake664:

    There is not conflict between God and science. Science is the how, God is the Why. Keep searching for God, you will find him

    Religion claims supernatural causation; science seeks natural causes. Religion sees a haunted universe; science doesn’t. Religion sees miracles; science doesn’t. Religion (see the misology in the Bible) thinks faith is a road to knowledge and a virtue; science sees reason (perception based) as the road to knowledge–a huge epistemological difference. Science sees regularity which comes from the fact that things are what they are–i.e., the law of identity. Religion claims that some god with powerful magic can make things act in contradiction to their identities–thus miracles.

    If a god did it, then god did it and no natural explanation would be possible; any test of a proposed natural explanation would fail.
    Science states it’s conclusions as generalizations which are true in every instance in the appropriate context. If the natural conditions are right, a computer or light-bulb will always turn on; if it doesn’t, a search for the natural cause of the failure is started. (If a repairman tells me that “God did it,” I’ll refuse to pay him.) Science doesn’t put “God willing” as a qualifier to it’s generalizations; if one fails in an instance, science seeks to know why.

    The why of human life is life, which alone permits and necessitates values (such as knowledge, material goods, services, and art) and the corresponding virtues (such as reason, work, medical practice, and artistic creation). In that light, faith is a vice. Obedience to a god is a metaethics disconnected from a base in the requirements of human life; it’s an obstacle to a life bases ethics and thus to life.

    People live according to what’s in their heads, and heads full of junk will result in diminished lives or worse. Using a man-years of suffering metric, I nominate religion as a candidate for being humanity’s greatest evil.

  14. In reply to #15 by ericblake664:

    There is not conflict between God and science. Science is the how, God is the Why.

    ….and there is denied conflict in the minds suffering cognitive dissonance!

    Keep searching for God, you will find him

    The neuroscientists have already done that! – Even though “he” seems to be spread through various areas of the believer’s brain!

    No ‘God Spot’ In Brain, Spirituality Linked To Right Parietal Lobe

    While researchers have been focused on finding a ‘God spot’ in the brain, the new research suggests that it might be better to focus on the neuropsychological questions of self focus vs selfless focus. As Prof. Johnstone explains: “when the brain focuses less on the the self (by decreased activity in the right lobe) it is by definition a moment of self-transcendence and can be understood as being connected to God or Nirvana. It is the sensation of feeling like you are part of a bigger thing.”

    The research does not make claims about spiritual truths but demonstrates the way that the brain allows for different kinds of spiritual experiences that Christians might name God, Buddhists it could be Nirvana, and for atheists it might be the feeling of being connected to the earth.

  15. When I was very young I played a game called “Dungeons and Dragons”. We made up characters to play.. eventually making up more and more powerful versions of the characters until they became gods sitting at the edge of black holes. We were in grade 4 and 5 and it was a lot of fun. The structure of the game is that one person would be designated the controller or author of the game and all of the players would control an imaginary character within that setting. We all had games in which we were the authors.

    I remember a specific instance where another author tried to make the assertion that the character he made up was more powerful than the one I made up. We realized that the power of our imaginary character was defined by whose imaginary world we were playing in. We were able to share imaginary worlds by importing ideas from others, but whoever the author of the game was controlled the relative power of the beings within it. This power did not extend into any other imaginary worlds. In my world my imaginary gods could live as long as I wanted them to. They didn’t need power or reason to be invincible, it was the ability to control or shape the story around them that made them so. They actually didn’t have characteristics, because what happens in the story is real. A characteristic is a prediction that can be disproved by an event.

    I would argue that it is no different for religion. If I take “faith” in an internal story it is unassailable to all else. Once I have made up something it is mine. My imagination gives it birth and shapes it. I can borrow and compare other ideas; but the whole system sits in my imaginary framework. Nothing you say or do can shake my faith; because it belongs to me. If I import your ideas into my story I retain creative control over all of it — thus your arguments of superiority are irrelevant.

    The idea of a shared sandbox is a fallacy. We can come to agreements, strike bargains, and make up rules for how we will treat each others imaginary characters in our games, but it doesn’t work. The whole world exists in my mind. All sense, all ideas, all people are but reflections and perturbations of my own thought.

    We try to create a “community of thought” sandbox called reason and give it rules. We don’t all play by the same rules. We are not all as good at the game. Some people cheat because they aren’t very good at the game. Some people cheat even though they are good at the game. Some people don’t understand the rules. Every time I speak or think, I do so from my own sandbox. If it is similar to your sandbox it might make sense to you. You might even be able to say “I can use that in my sandbox”, or “I can use that in THE sandbox”, but when you say the latter you missed my point. There is no one sandbox in which all the imaginary characters live. They live separate lives in separate sandboxes. We come back to these shared sandboxes because otherwise we get lonely.

    What concerns me is that you seem to take genuine offense to how other people think, or how creatures that are not part of your sandbox get ordered in someone else’s world. You aren’t going to make them part of your world, so why does it matter? I just realized the answer, but I will leave the question so you can follow my response. Sometimes the ordering of these beings creates conflict and violence in our world like two kids in the playground fighting over imaginary characters. In the playground it stayed a verbal argument that got resolved. In our world it sometimes turns into abuse, murder, and oppression.

    I fear my argument has gone in a circle. I don’t want people to be condemned for thought. I don’t want those thoughts to lead to violence. Disagreement is easy. Finding shared things to talk about will make your world bigger. How do you correct a thought that leads to violence without participating in the sandbox that generates the thought?

    I apologize that I have come to the end of my post and had less resolution to offer than I thought at the beginning. I am hoping someone might take something from what I have said and frame it better.

    • In reply to #21 by RichMayo:

      When I was very young I played a game called “Dungeons and Dragons”. We made up characters to play.. eventually making up more and more powerful versions of the characters until they became gods sitting at the edge of black holes. We were in grade 4 and 5 and it was a lot of fun. The structure o…

      In all honesty I’m not certain I completely followed where you’re going with your post. We all have our individual perspective on life, our own personal universes as it were. But does that mean my ideas of how things came to be are more valid than yours simply because it is what I think?

      And the point being made here is that all myths are false. Otherwise they would not be myths. It is one thing to engage in storytelling (oral or written) and pass down aspects of a culture in such a tradition when there’s no other way to relay that information but that hasn’t been the case for a very long time. Mythology and religion represent antiquated mindsets. It is one thing to be fascinated by how other cultures saw the world in ancient times (as I am) but another entirely to believe that the origins of our universe, the nature of man’s purpose on earth (if indeed there is one) and the very meaning of existence are to be found in the writings of cultures who had absolutely no way of knowing any of those things. Who lacked the ability to draw the conclusions that we have in modern world about many of those questions.

      So this isn’t about my being biased against others that don’t think as I do about their own personal matters. This is about losing touch with reality by embracing beliefs that are flat out not true and ignoring all evidence to the contrary.

      I expressed that in the form of how I came about becoming an atheist. That is my viewpoint. This isn’t about creating rules for a fictional world, this is about people distancing themselves from understanding the very real world we live in by embracing myth over reality.

      If you cannot understand that I honestly don’t know what else I could say to explain it.

  16. “But does that mean my ideas of how things came to be are more valid than yours simply because it is what I think?”

    Yes. Because the thinking is happening in my mind. If we put the argument in your universe the outcome would be different. Why does it surprise you that someone who has an imaginary back-story writes their culture and their beliefs as central and pre-eminent?

    I am not reducing the argument to Subjectivism… it was there long before I chimed in. The topic of mythology and belief systems is inherently subjective. You can’t both have a rational argument and a discussion about belief. It is one or the other.

    Belief is the story that is created that is entirely personal. You want to engage those beliefs without entering the metaphorical sandbox in my earlier, rather confusing, post. The only way into that sandbox is by playing by their rules.

    So, I understand you not liking that they make up religious doctrine. Why do you find it confusing or troubling that they are the centre of their own beliefs? That would naturally be the most likely result.

    I think the only clear point I made was that the beliefs don’t hold us back, but what we do with them. If we let science inform science and let religion inform religion then we don’t have trouble.

    • In reply to #23 by RichMayo:

      “But does that mean my ideas of how things came to be are more valid than yours simply because it is what I think?”

      Yes. Because the thinking is happening in my mind. If we put the argument in your universe the outcome would be different. Why does it surprise you that someone who has an imaginar…

      No. I may feel my opinion is more valid than yours, but if neither are true, then our opinions are meaningless.

      And as much as you would love to frame mythology and religion under the subjective umbrella an objective discussion can be had. It happens quite frequently in classes on the subject and on sites like this. Do subjective opinions come into play? Sure, but objectively it doesn’t change what is true about said myth and religion, which is that neither are true.

      And you are further missing the point of my topic with this bit:

      So, I understand you not liking that they make up religious doctrine. Why do you find it confusing or troubling that they are the centre of their own beliefs? That would naturally be the most likely result.

      Being the center of one’s beliefs is not the same as what is true, and none of it has to be religious. It is something that most often isn’t simply stumbled upon through years of searching but is usually the result of indoctrination through family and community. Whether it’s the natural result or not is irrelevant. It’s still drawing the wrong conclusion based on biased data.

      In the given conversations I’ve had with other people, they often see that other myths (Greek, Babylonian, Norse, etc) are clearly false and not to be taken seriously. They don’t see the patterns are identical to their own faith. That is disturbing to me. It represents a disconnect with reality that only seems to come up in theistic endeavor. The circular thinking, the cognitive dissonance, all the things associated with this disconnect are disturbing to me.

      If you have a problem with that fine, but let’s make one thing clear: We can’t just let religion inform religion and science inform science. It’s that very disconnect I’m addressing with this topic. And just embracing those very antiquated and often dangerous beliefs leads to real consequences that could be avoided without it.

  17. “No. I may feel my opinion is more valid than yours, but if neither are true, then our opinions are meaningless.”

    I agree that our opinions [about mythology] are meaningless. It is a belief. You can’t argue rationally against it.

    “objectively it doesn’t change what is true about said myth and religion”

    I agree with you. Truth is independent of belief.

    “They don’t see the patterns are identical to their own faith. That is disturbing to me.”

    Now I understand a bit more clearly what is bothering you. Sorry, I missed the point before. It bothers you that they don’t see that if they have the right to a belief, how it should be no more compelling to others than the beliefs of the ancient Norse. They try to assert that their belief is more true — empirically, not subjectively. They don’t afford others the same right that they demand.

    My point was that nobody can say “My god is more powerful or central” without adding “in my story.” We all have a right to make up stories and put whomever we want at the heart of them.

    “We can’t just let religion inform religion and science inform science. It’s that very disconnect I’m addressing with this topic.”

    Bear with me then because these are the “horns of the dilemma” that I am stuck on. Seriously, I’m stuck here. I want to let everyone be free to have whatever belief they want. It is part of their culture and identity.

    Is it okay for someone to believe something that might not be true?

    • In reply to #25 by RichMayo:

      “No. I may feel my opinion is more valid than yours, but if neither are true, then our opinions are meaningless.”

      I agree that our opinions [about mythology] are meaningless. It is a belief. You can’t argue rationally against it.

      “objectively it doesn’t change what is true about said myth and re…

      So, we’re on the same page it seems until we arrive at…

      Bear with me then because these are the “horns of the dilemma” that I am stuck on. Seriously, I’m stuck here. I want to let everyone be free to have whatever belief they want. It is part of their culture and identity.

      Is it okay for someone to believe something that might not be true?

      I no more have the ability to control what people think than anyone else, nor do I wish it. But if believing whatever you want means embracing ideas that are not only untrue but inherently dangerous to others I don’t think I should simply afford them the right to do so. It doesn’t mean I have the ability to control what others believe but it does mean i do not have to accept it as just being a matter of belief when they do something horrible in the name of that belief.

      I’ll put it this way: I’m an artist. I write, sing and illustrate, and often mythological figures will show up in those works, or language that lends itself to mythical ideas. Part of it is cultural, we still have an appreciation for stories, otherwise most of our modern entertainment wouldn’t exist. Part of it is an interest in how cultures viewed themselves at the times these gods were celebrated and worshiped. A reflection of how people see themselves.

      Now this is a point of interest that at the most works its way into my storytelling. I have no beliefs in any of the deities, so none of the edicts of their doctrines have any bearing on my decisions in life.

      If someone on the other hand not only embraces one of these ancients myths, reads its scripture as literal and decides that stoning, burning at the stake, mutilating and other things that are clearly harmful and prejudicial to others are acceptable, then they are doing harm both to their culture and to others that don’t practice it.

      So having a grounded knowledge about something to me is far more important than an idealized or literal interpretation of something that by itself may not be harmful, but taken the wrong way can clearly be dangerous. So I most certainly stand by not just letting religion inform religion. Any person should be informed about reality and decide on their own about religion. But that knowledge about reality is paramount.

  18. “people distancing themselves from understanding the very real world we live in by embracing myth over reality”

    I think that the distance is between your world and theirs as well as their world and reality. If they think about everything that happens to them as a reference point from God. Cogito ergo sum. Thought is the prime reality. It is the first provable thing. If they are always thinking about God, then they aren’t far from reality. They bring God, even if he is a delusion, into their reality and live with him daily. They can’t talk about reality without Him.

    So I don’t see it as different from fiction. Fiction is part of reality. I am not being a sophist. There are books of fiction on my book-shelf. The problem becomes how I let the books inform my decisions and actions.

  19. The problem becomes how I let the books inform my decisions and actions.

    And therein lies the crux of the issue. How people inform themselves speaks volumes about how they act. If they only inform themselves using holy books instead of informing themselves about how reality works. We have situations like what you see in Middle East countries that are run by religion. Places that ignore what is real in favor of believing what is not.

    How you let books inform your actions is everything, That’s why I am as upset as I am in the situations i mention in my OP. If you only live by the edicts of a single book, you completely exclude yourself about learning a lot of important and necessary things to function in society.

    • “So I most certainly stand by not just letting religion inform religion. Any person should be informed about reality and decide on their own about religion. But that knowledge about reality is paramount.”

      So there is the problem. We are both okay with someone believing that Mohammed took a flying horse to heaven. The problem is that they might kill and hurt others who don’t believe it. I have a problem with what they do, not what they think. But, what they do comes from what they think. I can’t argue with them from my cultural bias, because that is not the sandbox that they are in. It is a real stand-still.

      “But if believing whatever you want means embracing ideas that are not only untrue but inherently dangerous to others I don’t think I should simply afford them the right to do so.”

      Can you clarify? They should not have the right to think dangerous and wrong things? Or do you want to say that they should not be able to do wrong things?

      I didn’t understand your whole post at the beginning; but I think I do now. My point at the beginning was to suggest that their subjective opinion couldn’t be dissuaded by argument, nor should it even be viewed from that point-of-view.

      How do we combat the dangerous thoughts unless we are playing in their irrational sandbox? Doesn’t their change have to come from within… from close in their own communities?

    • If you only live by the edicts of a single book, you completely exclude yourself about learning a lot of important and necessary things to function in society.

      Amen to that. If you pardon the expression. :)

  20. “But if believing whatever you want means embracing ideas that are not only untrue but inherently dangerous to others I don’t think I should simply afford them the right to do so.”

    Can you clarify? They should not have the right to think dangerous and wrong things?

    It isn’t about having the right to think anything, merely that I shouldn’t have to tolerate the actions those thoughts take, if they are in fact enacted.

    I didn’t understand your whole post at the beginning; but I think I do now. My point at the beginning was to suggest that their subjective opinion couldn’t be dissuaded by argument, nor should it even be viewed from that point-of-view.

    It is possible for people to see that their actions do harm to others, and indeed being a former theist myself it is certainly possible for people to think differently. Argument is not the best way to go about it to be certain, but I don’t go into any discussion trying to convert. Indeed what would I be converting to?

    It is possible for people to see the merits of being non religious; this site is full of examples of that from all walks of life, myself included. So the questions in the OP are not without merit.

    How do we combat the dangerous thoughts unless we are playing in their irrational sandbox? Doesn’t their change have to come from within… from close in their own communities?

    In a word…no. This goes back to what I was saying, if these beliefs are demonstrated to be harmful to other people, then we shouldn’t enable it. Anyone can believe what they wish, but if your deity says someone else has to die for some religious reason we don’t have to allow that form of religious freedom obviously. That is a criminal act regardless of the justification.

    In most western countries this is simple enough to demonstrate, but in countries where religion actually has control the change most certainly has to come from within. Culture cannot be used as an excuse to do the bad things done in the name of any faith. So while changes have to be internal if there is no external pressure, or a sanctuary for people wanting to leave the ability to impress these ideas is even more difficult. Not to stomp into other countries and force change, but to demonstrate a world where no such extremes are allowed power.

    There is no simple solution obviously, but the understanding of other cultures (ancient and present) is paramount for me to have some place to start.

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