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Religious stories, myths, and legends

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Writing about myths is much like walking through a mine field. No matter what one writes, it is certain to offend many readers.

Part of the problem is that the word "myth" has two distinct meanings. A Google search produced the following pair of definitions:

  • "A traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events." In the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament) there are many stories that meet this definition: Stories about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the worldwide flood of Noah, the exodus of the ancient Hebrews from Egypt, etc.

  • "A widely held but false belief or idea."

The term "mythology" also has two distinct meanings:

  • A collection of myths, especially one belonging to a particular religious or cultural tradition. An example is Greek mythology.

  • The study of myths.

Contributing to the difficulties associated with myths is that:

  • People readily identify the myths of cultures different from their own as stories about events that never really happened historically, but which may be of very useful in developing a person's worldview.

  • When it comes to the myths of their own culture or religion, people often firmly believe them to be true recollections of actual events. And so, there are followers of Abrahamic religions who:

    • Search for the remnants of the Garden of Eden

    • Search for the remains of Noah's Ark on the mountains of Ararat near the border of Turkey and Iran.

    • Try to prove that the Earth and the rest of the universe is only about 6 millennia old.

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Copyright 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 2014-SEP-26
Last updated 2014-SEP-26
Author: Bruce A Robinson
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