Myths and Christianity

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Reply Tue 8 Sep, 2009 10:43 am
There are a lot of similarities between ancient myths and Christianity.

Krishna was born of the virgin Devaki Savior Dionysus was born of the virgin Semele. Buddha too was born of a virgin, The old Teutonic goddess Hertha was a virgin impregnated by the heavenly Spirit and bore a son. Scandinavian Frigga was impregnated by the All-Father Odin and bore Balder, the healer and savior of mankind.

Source: Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth > Pagan Origins > virgin birth


Pagan water purification rituals were used in the archaic Near East and are written about in the Old Testament. Homer mentions the washing of hands before prayer, and the purification of an entire army with water [Iliad, 1.313].
The Greeks even has priests, kathartai, who specialized in purification with water. After the conspiracy of Cylon in Athens in 632 BC, a fellow named Epimenides of Crete purified the entire city -- with water [Diogines Laertius 1.10.3].
Mithra's followers celebrated the sacrament of taurobolium -- baptism in the blood of a bull, with the result of "Salvation." Pagans at Gerasa celebrated the Maioumas, rites in which women bathed and were purified in a sacred pool outside town.
New members into the Mysteries of Isis / Osiris began their initiation with a sprinkling of purifying waters brought from the Nile. The result of the baptism and initiation? Salvation


Source: Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth


It wasn't just the mystery religions whose believers ate sacred meals in communion with the God. The notion that worshipers eating together would be joined by their God was widely diffused throughout the ancient world hundreds of years before Jesus. In Rome the rite even had it's own name, "lectisternia." A lectisternia was a sacred meal in which an icon of the God was actually brought to the table with the celebrants. In Rome the whole Senate celebrated a sacred meal, with a statue of Jupiter lying on a cushion, and the two goddess Juno and Minerva in chairs beside him.


Source: Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth > Pagan Origins > sacred meal


I could go on and on and on with these similarities, so is this showing that religion is universal with different frosting on the cake OR is it that Christianity is a farce?


Jamie
 
Lily
 
Reply Tue 8 Sep, 2009 11:11 am
@Twistedgypsychil,
Couldn't that also say that the christians are on to something. Wouldn't it have been weirder if everyone made up completly different religions? We can all see the world and our place in it, so from those facts we make similar assumptions.
But of course, it's quite obvious that christianity have adapted to the people they wanted to make christian...
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Tue 8 Sep, 2009 11:18 am
@Twistedgypsychil,
Twistedgypsychil;89011 wrote:


I could go on and on and on with these similarities, so is this showing that religion is universal with different frosting on the cake OR is it that Christianity is a farce?


Jamie


Yes.

Seriously though, you might want to explore Joseph Campbell's books. I'd recommend starting out with Amazon.com: The Power of Myth (9780385418867): Joseph Campbell, Bill Moyers: Books
 
prothero
 
Reply Tue 8 Sep, 2009 10:22 pm
@Twistedgypsychil,
All cultures have myths.
Most of those myths have common themes or structures.
Joseph Campbell is indeed a good place to start for this concept.
You got something against myths?
Religions which survive for centuries must be meeting some human desire or need?
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 06:31 am
@prothero,
The relation between Christianity and earlier myths demonstrates that religion evolves over time - that is, religion changes as man changes.

To ask if Christianity, or any other faith, is a farce because it has been influenced by earlier spirituality is the same as asking if Aristotle was a farcical philosopher because he was influenced by Plato. Obviously, the work of Aristotle is no farce.

Most religion in the post-Axial Age world has the same central message - love others. The Golden Rule is almost always there. This is something universal to humans, the recognition that we are, in some way or another, all united.

Recall the Buddhist finger and moon saying.
 
prothero
 
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 02:13 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
[QUOTE=Didymos Thomas;89164]The relation between Christianity and earlier myths demonstrates that religion evolves over time - that is, religion changes as man changes. .[/QUOTE]Yes, religion in order to remain viable must evolve over time. Some would argue one of the major problems with religion currently is that it has not evolved to accommodate the dominate worldview created by science. This is particularly a problem for Christianity and Islam.
The earth is not the center of the universe.
Man is not the purpose of creation.
The soul, the afterlife, supernatural notions of deity, heaven and hell, revealed religion, the apocalypse all are concepts at odds with modern or scientific notions of "how the world really works".
The universe does not appear to exist just as the backdrop for the creation, fall and redemption of man.
The evolutionary nature of the cosmos and of biological life all seem to argue against classical notions of supernatural divine action, omnipotence, and omniscience.
There are panentheistic notions of the divine working through natural law and natural process (immanence instead of transcendence) but many of these views are in conflict with traditional supernatural or classical theism. Traditionally such notions were considered heresies of various forms.
Church attendance is down, affiliation with particular traditional faiths is down and the number of agnostics or atheists is up. Religion is not easily making the necessary adjustment. We are living in a new axial age. The common creation theme is the big bang. The common creation of man theme is evolution. The common notion of divine action is through natural and natural law not by supernatural transcendent divine interference.

[QUOTE=Didymos Thomas;89164]To ask if Christianity, or any other faith, is a farce because it has been influenced by earlier spirituality is the same as asking if Aristotle was a farcical philosopher because he was influenced by Plato. Obviously, the work of Aristotle is no farce. .[/QUOTE]Our world view is changing much more rapidly than any time in history. Religion is not changing fast enough. We are suffering from cognitive dissonance.

[QUOTE=Didymos Thomas;89164]Most religion in the post-Axial Age world has the same central message - love others. The Golden Rule is almost always there. This is something universal to humans, the recognition that we are, in some way or another, all united. .[/QUOTE]Although I do not think modern relativistic and quantum science is in conflict with the notion of unity or connectedness, most religions do not stop at unity and love. Religions go on to develop complex creeds, dogmas, doctrines, rituals, entrenched ecclesiastical hierarchies and often material wealth. The notion that man is part of nature, connected to nature, part of the web, tapestry or circle of life and that the "golden rule" is the basis of ethics has few detractors. Jesus taught the primacy of love over law, of inner spirituality over external piety. The modern church has become a temple hierarchy emphasizing doctrine and creed (belief) over action. To feed the hungry, shelter the poor, heal the sick and comfort the afflicted was the call to action not correct belief or doctrine.

One can keep the myths but the interpretation of them must change for religion to remain viable in the modern or postmodern age.
 
Krumple
 
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 05:11 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas;89164 wrote:
Most religion in the post-Axial Age world has the same central message - love others. The Golden Rule is almost always there. This is something universal to humans, the recognition that we are, in some way or another, all united.


So why don't we cut off all the "fat" then? Don't some atheists or agnostics support "love thy neighbor"? My point is that the things you suggest are religions strong points are nothing other than secular reasoning for peaceful societal structure and harmony. Is it necessary for someone to read the bible to get love is the best expression in humanity? No. So I say, cut off all the "fat" that religion causes and lets get down to what is actual necessary for a constructive society.

Since most religions are in conflict with each other, we should immediately address that issue or else you can never move forward. You either have to accept the opposition or completely remove both oppositions, but then what are you left with?
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 05:16 pm
@Krumple,
Krumple;89280 wrote:
My point is that the things you suggest are religions strong points are nothing other than secular reasoning for peaceful societal structure and harmony.


This was Joseph Campbell's key idea of what myths are supposed to do . . . to teach us how to live as decent human beings.
 
Krumple
 
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 05:19 pm
@TickTockMan,
TickTockMan;89281 wrote:
This was Joseph Campbell's key idea of what myths are supposed to do . . . to teach us how to live as decent human beings.


Alright, but I never really learn any moral lesson from a myth or a story. In fact even people making suggestions to me often fail, and it is only when I actually experience it for myself that I learn anything. I imagine I am not alone with this type of learning behavior. So just how effective would myths be in my case?
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 05:53 pm
@Twistedgypsychil,
I would really not go down the 'Christianity is a farce' route. I know that there is a bandwagon with that label on it, and also, note carefully, I am not a Christian in any sense other than the cultural, but this whole movement to try and erase religion from the human psyche is destructive and misplaced. First, because despite all the talk amongst the 'chattering classes', Christianity is growing enormously in the highly-populated regions of the world (there are now more Chinese Christians than members of the Chinese communist party). Second because many of the foundations of western society are based on the Judeo-Christian ethos. And finally because even in modern industrial culture, there are many who manage to be both religious and intelligent, much to the bafflement of your scientific atheists.

It is indeed correct to note that there a similarities between the Christian mythos and those of other cultures and civilizations. But as has been pointed out, this might signify the deep needs of the human psyche in coming to terms with mortality and their place in the cosmos.

Myths are there to be interpreted, not just believed. The idea that myths represent history is itself a myth, and one of very recent origin. The great myths illustrate universal themes in such a way that people can participate in them and feel themselves part of the whole of creation. This is what they meant in the past. I am not suggesting you or anyone else should accept them, believe them or participate in them. But I think it is important to acknowledge their sociological function.
 
Krumple
 
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 06:21 pm
@Twistedgypsychil,
I keep seeing people stating that many religions are similar to Christianity but I just don't see it. Take the Aborigine religion, they do a ritualistic song every year and they feel if they do not sing the sacred song the universe will end. Where is the similarity there with any other religion?
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 08:06 pm
@Twistedgypsychil,
I think there is general consensus that the higher religions - no pejorative intention to tribal and ancient religions - are the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam, Christianity); the Vedic religions (Hinduism) and some of their heterodox developments (Buddhism, Jain) and the Chinese religions (Confucianism, Tao). Within these there is of course a riot of diversity and many conflicts and contradictions. But there are some ethical precepts that are common to all, and common themes that are found in each of them (sacrifice, wisdom, loss, salvation, to mention just a few).

The gulf between us and our ancient forbears is so enormous, I don't think very much understanding of them is possible unless you're really willing to study them very intensively.
 
TheSingingSword
 
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 08:58 pm
@Krumple,
Krumple;89283 wrote:
Alright, but I never really learn any moral lesson from a myth or a story. In fact even people making suggestions to me often fail, and it is only when I actually experience it for myself that I learn anything. I imagine I am not alone with this type of learning behavior. So just how effective would myths be in my case?



I suppose not very effective, but I have found that myths are one of the greatest ways to propound on a topic. A parable, or a koan, for instance, has a way of sneaking in the back door of your mind, and I believe myths do this as well.
 
Krumple
 
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 11:59 pm
@Twistedgypsychil,
Quote:
sacrifice, wisdom, loss, salvation


Yeah, all things you can get in secular society. Cut out the religion and you will still find these things. For instance;

What you call sacrifice, I call compromise. To live in harmony with others you have to expect to be able to do a little give and take to maintain some decent relations.

What you call wisdom, I call understanding. To allow others to be what they are and not hold them to any less of a standard just because you don't agree with their life style or behavior.

What you call loss, I call reality. We all have loss but some take those opportunities to gain something from that loss. What is a blessing is sometimes a curse and what is a curse is sometimes a blessing. Just because something is bad or you lose, doesn't always end with something bad or a loss.

What you call salvation, I call respect. What more do you need than respect? I don't need any promise for some eternal life. In fact I personally would hate such an existence to live for ever seems like the worst type of hell even if you are surrounded with family, friends and all the things that "made" you happy. They all would lose their appeal after, eh the first thousand years or so. Probably less.

There is not a single thing that religion can give to me that secular reasoning can not provide. Why wait for something in which you have absolutely no idea of weather it is true or not? The only thing you know is this moment, so why look for invisible things to make your life have meaning? Why place so much value onto something which you can not experience first hand?
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 03:23 am
@Twistedgypsychil,
And your definition are all better than mine, I suppose? You seem to know exactly what I have in mind.

I have no wish to enter this debate with you or anyone. What I hope to find on this forum is the space to debate religious and spiritual ideas without being told that religion is delusion. Thankyou.

---------- Post added 09-10-2009 at 07:27 PM ----------

I should add, I have sought out religious insight exactly because I didn't find what I wanted in so called 'secular philosophy'. I am very interested in science but I don't think it provides any answers about how my life relates to the universe at large. It is possible to be quite a successful citizen and live an outwardly normal life and yet still feel a sense of meaningless or alienation about the world as whole. For these reasons, I seek out an read a lot of religious and spiritual texts. I find they are rich with meaning, they have enriched my life greatly, and I do believe I am a better judge of my own attitudes and needs than you are.

There are many people around who detest religion. I have no wish to pick fights with them or convert them to anything. But I will never agree with them.
 
xris
 
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 04:00 am
@jeeprs,
When myths become religion they evolve into ways of controlling others. Have your myths but dont put authority with them or dogmatic attitudes.

How can the faithful put credence into progressive myths and claim them as sacred ? I have no problem with the spirituality of man and his quest for answers but to be so certain and then form authoritive structures and hierarchy to support those myths, is for me beyond reason.

I suppose I should not debate abrahamic religions because I have no respect for the concept or its history. So what should I do?
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 04:08 am
@Twistedgypsychil,
Well I don't know. It is a very vexing issue, I understand that. I really don't want to force my views on anyone. I am actually a pretty secular person - I don't belong to a church or 'do anything' religious (apart from formal meditation). I certainly don't believe in the literal truth of scripture. And I really do think there is genuinely such a thing as spiritual awareness, and it is a really good thing to have, if you can get it. Other than that, each to his own.

---------- Post added 09-10-2009 at 08:14 PM ----------

as as far as what you should do, I don't know. I suppose I can recommend things to those with whom I have common interests. One thing I think should be asked, though, is why this hair-trigger reaction? Why this hot-button tendency to attack Christianity? There is plenty of it around at this time. My theory is that there is a very deep pathology in Western thinking, going back centuries, because of their religious conditioning. I have been aware of this for decades. This is why anti-religion is preached with all the passion and conviction of a revival meeting. It gets its whole energy from opposing something, so if it is argued with, it builds. I am really trying to avoid that. It just becomes a flame war.
 
xris
 
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 04:38 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;89352 wrote:
Well I don't know. It is a very vexing issue, I understand that. I really don't want to force my views on anyone. I am actually a pretty secular person - I don't belong to a church or 'do anything' religious (apart from formal meditation). I certainly don't believe in the literal truth of scripture. And I really do think there is genuinely such a thing as spiritual awareness, and it is a really good thing to have, if you can get it. Other than that, each to his own.

---------- Post added 09-10-2009 at 08:14 PM ----------

as as far as what you should do, I don't know. I suppose I can recommend things to those with whom I have common interests. One thing I think should be asked, though, is why this hair-trigger reaction? Why this hot-button tendency to attack Christianity? There is plenty of it around at this time. My theory is that there is a very deep pathology in Western thinking, going back centuries, because of their religious conditioning. I have been aware of this for decades. This is why anti-religion is preached with all the passion and conviction of a revival meeting. It gets its whole energy from opposing something, so if it is argued with, it builds. I am really trying to avoid that. It just becomes a flame war.
Its not just christianity its all the Abrahamic faiths, its so serious. Their history has been one of subjugation and enforced compliance. My little rants about their dogma or their misrepresentaion, is nothing to the damage they haver inflicted on the world.

Hindus dont preach , buddhists dont ram it down your throat, its always this high and mighty attitude and dangerous dogma that emits from the ME faiths. My family in living history have suffered from these bigoted views and in my own small way i wish to protest about the certainty of them. Its a reaction to centuries of control and prohibition that spurs most us into debating with such animosity.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 04:38 am
@Krumple,
Krumple;89336 wrote:
Yeah, all things you can get in secular society. Cut out the religion and you will still find these things.


Actually the question I should ask is, which secular or non-religious philosophers or ways-pf-life do you feel have developed a response to the existential questions of meaning that used to be addressed by religion and spirituality? You have given some equivalents between what you see as secular goods and their religious counterparts. Would you be able to explain how these translate into a code of ethics and a purpose in life? As you are proposing, apparently, that we abandon the traditional source of these kinds of values, where do you think we should start in replacing them, and what with? Shopping? Movies? Work? Fire away.
 
xris
 
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 05:00 am
@jeeprs,
If man invented gods they invented the morality that came with them. The problem is a lot of the faith driven morality is dogmatic and damaging .

We dont need to invent god to understand what is moraly correct. We dont need figures of authority to make these choices. In the modern world we can debate with each other and every citizen has a degree of input. Philosphers only mirror the views held by the society they represent.
 
 

 
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