Well, If You Define ‘Myth’ That Way…

That’s slide one of the Creationist Zoo Keeper. You’ll want to read the rest of it here for the kicker :)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Rain

    I love how religious myths are “allegories” instead of someone just making up stories or someone just being plain wrong about the universe, or even the occasional actual allegory and various other story-telling devices. It makes it so much more respectable than literalism when you call myths allegories. Why don’t they just go ahead and call the Bible one big parable. Oh they can’t becuse they think Jesus walked on water and flew up into the sky, lol.

  • Mel

    Wait a second, it’s not the creationists who call stories in Genesis a myth. They are the ones confusing the definition of the term. The “theological” definition of myth used in that comic strip is not one I’ve ever heard, anywhere, even from creationists. Here’s what myth actually means, in the non-colloquial sense:

    a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical
    events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or
    explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/myth

    There is nothing in there that says myths can’t be literally historically true, but if they were, that wouldn’t be the point. Myths from all cultures are often imbued with powerful meaning – how the people who developed the myth saw the world, what they saw as important, etc.

    Perhaps the author of the comic strip was thinking of Christians who say some of the stories in the Bible are myth and yet still seek to find meaning in them. Most Christians of that type are not creationists (although some call themselves “evolutionary creationists” meaning they accept the scientific theory of evolution), and are often quite rational. Christians like that are not your enemy.

    • Art_Vandelay

      They’re enemies of reason. There’s as much magic in the gospels as there is in Genesis so I don’t think it’s fair to call someone less rational because they believe in a historical Genesis. As a matter of fact, if you believe the gospels, I think it’s more reasonable to accept Genesis as true as well. More importantly though, they promote this insidious idea that faith is somehow virtuous…that what you believe is somehow more important than how you behave and actually provides you with a moral edge over those who don’t believe as you. That’s dangerous.

      • Mel

        And there are Christians who are more personal about their faith. There are Christians who are basically humanists and would agree with you on most of your political positions and do not want a Christian society…what beef would you have with them? Why would you care what they believe?

        I would argue that believing in a single miracle-working person 2000 years ago is VASTLY different than believing in a young earth because it doesn’t require you to reject entire fields of science. There is really a lack of evidence one way or the other for miracles, as they are by definition a special one-time thing. You can’t show scientifically that they didn’t happen, but you can show scientifically that the earth is not 6000 years old and evolution happens. The only evidence you have that Jesus DIDN’T work miracles is that people usually don’t. That being said, I also know several Christians who are agnostic about Jesus’ miracles.

        I think atheists would do much more good by partnering with some of the more liberal believers in creating a secular society where both belief and non-belief were respected. I also think there would be more success using this approach, because there are a lot of religious people who would share these goals.

        To be fair, from what I’ve read of this blog, I think the author does a great job of this for the most part. He is promoting secularism and rational thinking, not fighting against religion. Yet, sometimes this sentiment that all religious people are “enemies of reason” creeps in that alienates the very people who could be your allies.

        • Art_Vandelay

          Mel, the people that you speak of are undoubtedly not a direct harm to society. They are mostly good people. They are not my enemies at all…they make up most of my friends and family. The fact remains though that promoting the idea that believing things that aren’t grounded in reality for which there is no evidence is virtuous is a dangerous thing. People that believe in talking snakes aren’t any more apt to be dangerous than people who think a Palestinian carpenter rose from the dead but a lot of really awful shit happens in the name of faith. This is not up for debate. So when you see people oppressing others for the way they were born, or parents watching their children die instead of taking them to doctors, or AIDS spreading like wildfire because people are told condoms are evil, or kids being buried alive because their parents think they’re a witch…that’s all faith. The people who do those things are doing them under good intentions. Having some innocuous belief about a magic carpenter and his dickhead dad breeds an environment where those things are going to happen. If the “rational” Christians applied the same level of skepticism to the Jesus story as they did to the creation story, the nut-jobs wouldn’t have the opportunity to pervade society the way that they do.

          • Mel

            While I can understand your point of view, I strongly disagree. IMO, any religion that is compassionate, accepts the findings of science, respects others’ beliefs and non-beliefs, and fights against the bad things you mention gives religious-minded people a way to believe that is not harmful, and is a good thing. I’m not saying it is better than atheism, but neither is it worse. You think so, from your perspective, but from my perspective, tying up some of the goals common to most atheists (such as secularism and the reduction of harm of certain religious perspectives) with atheism itself and not welcoming theists with similar goals only strengthens the positions of fundamentalists, who see themselves as fighting against an anti-God enemy.

            Again, I don’t really see this blog as doing that. And it’s not like atheists shouldn’t have a place to talk amongst themselves. I do enjoy a lot of what I’ve read here.

            Anyway, I was just trying to point out in my original comment that the cartoon creationist would probably never actually call Genesis a myth, because that is a dirty word among their kind, IME. And that there actually is a real literary meaning of the word myth that doesn’t preclude us finding meaning in the stories OR require us to believe they have to be historically true. :)

            Have a nice day.

            • Glasofruix

              any religion that is compassionate, accepts the findings of science,
              respects others’ beliefs and non-beliefs, and fights against the bad
              things [...] is not harmful, and is a good thing.

              Now, which religion that would be?

      • Anna

        Not to mention, they often say they are more rational, dismissing obvious myths like talking snakes, while still asserting the existence of other supernatural things. They act like that makes them more sophisticated than and superior to the fundamentalists. So believing in a talking snake is ridiculous, but believing in angels is not? What makes them think they can claim the intellectual high ground?

        • Art_Vandelay

          Exactly, Anna.

  • JA

    Speech bubbles that connect directly with the speaker’s mouth are SO distracting.


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