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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My mythology is better than yours... Or is it?

I was watching some program on History Channel about Norse Myth and started thinking.  I view mythology - all mythology - in the same way.  It's a great mix of history, spiritual stories (by which I mean stories that have been given to humanity from spirit beings through direct contact) and outright fiction.  ALL mythology reads this way in my opinion.  Yes, some of it is historically accurate.  Yes, some of it is divinely (or spiritually) gifted through Otherworldly communications.  And Yes, some of it is completely fictional, man made, in order to fill in the blanks, create explanations or even divide & control the people within the communities which the myths were originally meant for.  Some cultures were heavier on spirit, others on the control aspects and still others on the history...   But in the end, regardless of their exact composition, all mythology is essentially the same. And then of course we have to take in to account that not only is mythology not a pure historical account, but that what we know of any cultural myths has been tainted by time, translation and quite often, propaganda & ignorance.

But that is, of course, my view of mythology, and not one that is shared by all.  Even many within the Pagan community would argue over what mythology truly is.  Of course arguments would also be made by just about every non-Pagan out there too.  And that's fine. No one has to agree with me, no skin off my back.

But as I sit and watched this program, what occurred to me was that if you give credence to one form of mythology, logic dictates that you also give similar honor to other forms.  Now, as an Eclectic Pagan, this is a great part of my religious views.  I find truth in all paths, all myths and all faiths.  I think, for the most part, very few Pagans view ANY form of myth as a literal account and therefore see one cultures myths as different, but ultimately equal, to those of other cultures.

The same can not be said of those outside the Pagan community.  Although I have found those few who will admit that their religious myths are equal to others, it's extremely rare.  What's more common is the idea that, even if their own religious myths are meant to be literal, that myths outside of theirs are simply wrong.  It is this view which I have come across more than once through the years. Although I have found it in non-Christians as well, I've most crossed it when speaking with a Christian.

I want to note that from here on I will be speaking in the context of Christianity, merely because that is where I have encountered this type of thinking most.  I am in no way saying this is something which is limited to Christianity, nor do I mean to single out a single faith.  Instead, I am simplifying for argument sake.  Where Christianity is mentioned it would be equally possible to insert any other faith or religious who's believers (or believer as the case may be) believe their own mythology to be somehow superior to others. 

I am the type of person whom doesn't shy away from religious conversations.  I find the idea of getting to know another persons beliefs as fascinating and have no qualms of standing up for my own faith or the faith of others when the need arises. Because of this, I have often found myself in some rather in depth religious conversations - both on and off line.  I think it's the online conversations which tend to be most telling - simply because people aren't as worried about being nice or hurting someone's feelings on line as they are off.

Conversations on a great number of subjects (from welfare to breastfeeding to hair styles) have landed me in positions where I am hearing religious arguments for the position of the other person.  Personally, I do my best to support my political & lifestyle choices with practical arguments rather than religiously based ones.  Of course in most cases I do my best to support my religious beliefs with practical argument as well, so I guess that already sets me apart. But there are a great many out there who prefer to base their political or lifestyle choices or beliefs on their religious beliefs.  Which to a point is just fine, but when we start attempting to dictate the lives and choices of others based on our religious views, we step out of the realm of "freedom" which - at least on a political front - is not appropriate.

But I've gotten quite a few arguments over the years which clearly come from a religious or mythological point of view.  For example (these are just a few):  Homosexuality is unnatural because God made Adam & Eve (which is usually followed by "Not Adam & Steve.)  Women are not equal to men, God made them lesser. The body is a temple and should not be destroyed by tattoos & piercings.  Yadda Yadda Yadda... Some, as you hopefully saw in the tattoo example, are a little "extreme" in most people's views, but attitudes like that are not uncommon.  I've been given religiously backed arguments against alcohol, piercings & tattoos, makeup, jewelry, medical care, blood transfusions, birthday celebrations, holiday celebrations, horror movies, certain kinds of music, sex, masturbation, abortion, birthcontrol and at least a hundred other subjects.

For the most part, I don't answer these arguments with religiously based arguments. Mostly because I've found that the people who use them tend not to see my "religion" on equal ground with theirs. But once in a while I have done just that. I have used the fact that the Ancient Greeks and Romans often had homosexual encounters and that the Ancient Celts were rather adept at preforming herbal abortion with concoctions it's said were given to them by their Gods.

In the cases where I have provided such arguments I've been met with counters such as "But I follow the REAL God."  Or "but that's just myth."  Or "You do understand those Gods aren't real?"  Again, I could list a hundred more...

So this is what I sit here and ponder...  By it's very nature, mythology is not something which can ever be proven.  So no matter how you spin it, no one can prove that their myths are better or more "correct" than anyone elses.  Yet there is, by some, this idea that because many Pagan myths have been proven to be fake or false simply because the cultures which they tend to belong to are Ancient or now otherwise gone...  replaced by more "modern" cultures.  These same individuals have the audacity to flaunt their own mythology as a way of backing their political and social opinions.

I completely understand that when someone's belief in their mythology and believe in their religious are one and the same, seeing the myths of another religion as equal would essentially destroy any religious conviction or belief which the individual holds.  So as much as I believe that everyone should be able to see other faiths as equal to their own, I understand why most people don't.  If you have a religion which teaches they are the only right way, seeing others as equals would destroy that vision.  But is it really so much to ask that people understand that people of others faiths hold their myths as important just as "you" do.

More than that, stop using your myths to dictate how others should behave or live.  Your myths hold as little sway over their lives as theirs do yours. Myths are not a valid basis for political or social action in a country with religious freedom.  If you want to live in a theocracy, move to Iran, otherwise, give others the same respect you would want from them.

A religions mythology has a great influence on, or is the basis for, it's beliefs and practices.  So it's no wonder that so many cling to it so hard.  But that's not an excuse to put someone elses down, or to assume they are any more real or false than your own.  And since you expect respect from others toward your myths, it's about damn time you had some for others!

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