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Distinguished Bibliophile
Peppermill
Posts: 6,768
Registered: ‎04-04-2007

Re: Featured Books for May : Myths

[ Edited ]

If we really want to be as neutral as possible in order to be as inclusive as possible and respectful of all views here, we should probably use such terms as "records" or "reports."

 

 

While I think I hear you, Eman, I do think it appropriate that we grow in our awareness of the broader uses of the words "myth" and "story" and even the distinctions, often contextual, with and from words like "record" or "report," especially since so much evidence exists that storytelling is so integral to our humanity and our relationships to each other and to the universe.  (I myself do not view "stories" as having "an element of implied falsehood," but I do recognize that I might sometimes ask if what I labelled a "story" is "true."  But, I might ask the same of a "report" or "record." )

 

Many of us also recognize the powerful role of a particular type of storytelling used by Jesus himself, that type we label as "parable."

 

If we can all remain open to these nuances and be sensitive as to when their use transmits the discernment we intend and thoughtful and respectful in response when they do not, we may be able to deflect or ponder strong emotional responses, either individually or together.  Or, perhaps strong emotional responses are okay, just often times tougher for others to absorb.

 

I do think this type of consciousness raising and discussion in and of itself, while sometimes seeming pedantic and trivial, can be helpful, especially if we recognize that it itself is a tool that can be used to call "time out."

 

Pepper

Message Edited by Peppermill on 04-15-2009 12:38 PM
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Joseph_F
Posts: 271
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Re: Featured Books for May : Myths

Thanks for all of your input, however myth is a word with a specific connotation that is not covered with words like "story" or "record" (both of which seem to invite far more ambiguity than they resolve). The word myth is less about the content of the story and more about intent and reception. Myths are not like history in the sense that they are not told simply to educate you about what happened nor convince you of anything, but are intended to be models of life and behavior. Myths provide spiritual structures for the universe. This is the difference of intent. The difference of reception is that myths are not simply listened to or studied, but are lived and experienced by believers who take the model provided by the myth and allow it to shape their lives and thoughts. Myths are by nature experiential.

 

In this sense, myth is a word uniquely suited to describing this type of text and is, in fact, the opposite of a pejorative. That's why I will continue to use the word. Feel free to use whatever word you are comfortable with.

 

Incidentally, the entire Bible is not myth. There are also, of course, law, lineages, and non-narrative poetry, to name a few other forms within the book. Genesis is almost entirely myth, Leviticus is almost entirely law, etc.

 

 

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Laurel
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Re: Featured Books for May : Myths

Good explanation, Joseph. I think most of us here are intelligent and experienced enough to know that 'myth' does not mean 'not true.' When I speak of, say, the first three chapters of Genesis, I prefer to use the word 'account,' but I know what you are saying when you say 'myth.'

Joseph_F wrote:

Thanks for all of your input, however myth is a word with a specific connotation that is not covered with words like "story" or "record" (both of which seem to invite far more ambiguity than they resolve). The word myth is less about the content of the story and more about intent and reception. Myths are not like history in the sense that they are not told simply to educate you about what happened nor convince you of anything, but are intended to be models of life and behavior. Myths provide spiritual structures for the universe. This is the difference of intent. The difference of reception is that myths are not simply listened to or studied, but are lived and experienced by believers who take the model provided by the myth and allow it to shape their lives and thoughts. Myths are by nature experiential.

 

In this sense, myth is a word uniquely suited to describing this type of text and is, in fact, the opposite of a pejorative. That's why I will continue to use the word. Feel free to use whatever word you are comfortable with.

 

Incidentally, the entire Bible is not myth. There are also, of course, law, lineages, and non-narrative poetry, to name a few other forms within the book. Genesis is almost entirely myth, Leviticus is almost entirely law, etc.

 

 


 

"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
Inspired Correspondent
utopian
Posts: 103
Registered: ‎04-13-2009

Re: Featured Books for May : Myths


Choisya wrote:

Joseph wrote: 

I am aware that common usage of myth is almost interchangable with "lie" but this is not what "myth" has meant in the study of religion for hundreds of years, and I see no reason to change that to accomodate some initial confusion on the part of those used to the other meaning.

 

I referred to this earlier Joseph but I nevertheless suspect that much of the hostility expressed here will remain and may trouble our reading:smileysad:.  Because most of what we are reading here will be about Religion and Spiruality, using the oft misunderstood word 'myth' to describe stories associated with sincerely held beliefs will probably offend some readers.  Maybe it would be better to use the word 'story' which has less emotional baggage attached to it, at least in the primary definition?

 

On the other hand, if we describe stories like the Iliad and the Odyssey, which are not dealing with religion, as Mythology we may be on safer, less emotional, ground.  

 

This discussion has reminded me of the expression 'Urban Myth' and that definition also has relevance here, not least because of the arguments which discussions of the authenticity of such myths can provoke:smileyhappy:.    

 

 

 

 

 

 


Joseph_F wrote:

Everyman wrote:

A myth in the sense of the study of religion is simply a religious story (see Joseph Campbell's work on mythology) and makes no judgements of veracity.

 

That seems to me a very broad use of the term myth.   It would seem, for example, that under that definition the burning of Joan of Arc at the stake would have to be considered a myth, being a religious story.  As perhaps would a newspaper account of the election of Pope Paul?  

 


A story about religion is not the same thing as a religious story :smileyhappy:

 

To expand on this, I am aware that common usage of myth is almost interchangable with "lie" but this is not what "myth" has meant in the study of religion for hundreds of years, and I see no reason to change that to accomodate some initial confusion on the part of those used to the other meaning. It's the same trouble with people misunderstanding the phrase "theory of evolution" because they don't understand what the word "theory" means in that context.

 

Certainly many (perhaps most) myths are based on history. But that is part of their purpose. They comment on history and give it meaning. That Israelites entered the land of Canaan is undoubtable because the book they wrote describes that land and culture accurately. Did it happen in the way exactly described? Not likely, because the archeological record contradicts most of the timeline of the Israelite invasion and strongly indicates a slow intermarriage between the two tribes rather than a triumphent and sudden conquest. But this is part of what makes it myth. 

 

To speak like Joseph Campbell for a moment (I considered starting with his book length interview The Power of Myth but considering the controversy the extremely mild Armstrong is creating, I'm glad I didn't), myths are not things that happened or didn't happen, myths are things you live. They are active parts of believers lives. This is the difference between a story about religion and a religious story.

 

 
 
 


 
Choisya, I hope that when you speak of "hostility" you're not referring to me because I have absolutely none.   Sometimes it's difficult to read nuance on e-mail.   My interest is solely in getting to the truth and defining terms is part of that.  As I've said I have not been raised to believe in the bible as the literal word of God.  I have only come to it late in life and I've studied it as literature, history and religion.  Now, even as biology.  
 
I think that when we come right down to it, mythology is what we don't believe.  We call the Greek religion "myth" because we don't believe it's true.  I'm sure the Greeks called it "religion".  If we go to an African country and have related to us an "oral history" we call it history because we believe it is true.  If we don't believe what is said, we call it "mythology".  The bible has long lists of "begats" and
my hunch is that they are an accurate recording of the generations.  I can't prove it any more than I can prove the oral history of a pre-literate tribe.  It's all conjecture, of course.  Of course with genetic testing we're now able to use scientific means to provide evidence.
 
Perhaps when one is brought  up as a believer any doubt or contradiction can be disillusioning.  I, OTH, was raised to believe that none of it was true, so I've had the opposite reaction.  When so much turns out to be true, I doubt the doubters!
But isn't that why this is such fun?  Personally, I enjoy the give and take and I haven't sensed any hostility at all.  I do hope that I haven't offended anyone and if I have I apologize, with all of my heart.  Faith is a precious gift that is very close to peoples hearts and I would never want to do any thing that would in any way hurt that. 
 


 

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utopian
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Re: Featured Books for May : Myths


Everyman wrote:

As your reference to Urban Myth makes clear, Choisya, the term "myth" as it is used in general conversation today (perhaps not in the academic world, but this is not an academic site) has a perjorative connotation implying untruth.  Most people who talk of ancient mythologies believe that while they may, as Campbell points out, contain some truths within their metaphorical context, they are not to be taken as literal truth. 

 

Most people, for example do not understand that the Homeric Gods are real beings who actually live on Mount Olympus, but are only visible or tangible to those who believe in them.  Most people will deny their actual, physical, existence.  Which is a shame, but that's the way it is. 

 

Even "stories" has an element of implied falsehood.  While a few stories may understood to be literally true -- a grandparent can tell their grandchildren factual stories of they way he or she remembers things being when they were young, though even then there is a suspicion of some improvement on the facts -- if you get a book of stories out of the library, it is almost always a work of fiction (sometimes historical fiction).

 

If we really want to be as neutral as possible in order to be as inclusive as possible and respectful of all views here, we should probably use such terms as "records" or "reports."  


Choisya wrote:

Joseph wrote: 

I am aware that common usage of myth is almost interchangable with "lie" but this is not what "myth" has meant in the study of religion for hundreds of years, and I see no reason to change that to accomodate some initial confusion on the part of those used to the other meaning.

 

I referred to this earlier Joseph but I nevertheless suspect that much of the hostility expressed here will remain and may trouble our reading:smileysad:.  Because most of what we are reading here will be about Religion and Spiruality, using the oft misunderstood word 'myth' to describe stories associated with sincerely held beliefs will probably offend some readers.  Maybe it would be better to use the word 'story' which has less emotional baggage attached to it, at least in the primary definition?

 

On the other hand, if we describe stories like the Iliad and the Odyssey, which are not dealing with religion, as Mythology we may be on safer, less emotional, ground.  

 

This discussion has reminded me of the expression 'Urban Myth' and that definition also has relevance here, not least because of the arguments which discussions of the authenticity of such myths can provoke:smileyhappy:.    

 

 

 

 

 

 


Joseph_F wrote:

Everyman wrote:

A myth in the sense of the study of religion is simply a religious story (see Joseph Campbell's work on mythology) and makes no judgements of veracity.

 

That seems to me a very broad use of the term myth.   It would seem, for example, that under that definition the burning of Joan of Arc at the stake would have to be considered a myth, being a religious story.  As perhaps would a newspaper account of the election of Pope Paul?  

 


A story about religion is not the same thing as a religious story :smileyhappy:

 

To expand on this, I am aware that common usage of myth is almost interchangable with "lie" but this is not what "myth" has meant in the study of religion for hundreds of years, and I see no reason to change that to accomodate some initial confusion on the part of those used to the other meaning. It's the same trouble with people misunderstanding the phrase "theory of evolution" because they don't understand what the word "theory" means in that context.

 

Certainly many (perhaps most) myths are based on history. But that is part of their purpose. They comment on history and give it meaning. That Israelites entered the land of Canaan is undoubtable because the book they wrote describes that land and culture accurately. Did it happen in the way exactly described? Not likely, because the archeological record contradicts most of the timeline of the Israelite invasion and strongly indicates a slow intermarriage between the two tribes rather than a triumphent and sudden conquest. But this is part of what makes it myth. 

 

To speak like Joseph Campbell for a moment (I considered starting with his book length interview The Power of Myth but considering the controversy the extremely mild Armstrong is creating, I'm glad I didn't), myths are not things that happened or didn't happen, myths are things you live. They are active parts of believers lives. This is the difference between a story about religion and a religious story.

 


 

 


I should have read Everyman's post before replying.    I agree.  

 

Distinguished Bibliophile
Peppermill
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Re: Featured Books for May : Myths

Utopian -- please do also read Joseph and Laurel's further comments on the use of the word "myth."

 

Pepper

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Everyman
Posts: 9,216
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: Featured Books for May : Myths

[ Edited ]

I think most of us here are intelligent and experienced enough to know that 'myth' does not mean 'not true.'

 

It's not experience, it's the meaning of language.  And I do think that most people who use the term "myth" intend to mean by it a story or account that it not literally true.  If it is recognized as literally true, it isn't called a myth but a fact, or history, or some other similar term. 

 

Joseph made this quite clear when he pointed out that the Bible contains not only myths but also genealogies, history, etc.  Clearly separating myth from factual accouts. 

 

If I'm wrong, then somebody should be able to point us to some myths that are widely recognized as also being literally true.  Anybody have any such suggestions?  

 

When the term "myth" is applied to a religious account, I do believe that most people understand that as meaning that the facts of the myth as reported did not actually happen as described, though they may have a form of metaphorical truth for some people. 

 

But I do think it is insensitive, if not perjorative, to use the term in a religious or spiritual context, as we do here, for accounts which  some people accept as literally true.  There seems to me clearly an implication that those who believe the facts of the myth to be literally true are wrong.  

 

Again, as I say, if people can point to some myths which are widely accepted as literally true, then I will  certainly rethink this viewpoint.  But if there are not a number of such, then it would appear that the term myth is indeed effectively synonymous with facially untrue.  

Message Edited by Everyman on 04-15-2009 01:10 PM
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utopian
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Re: Featured Books for May : Myths

I think you're right.  In fact, I've been trying to wrap my mind around the idea of using the term "myth" in the way it has been suggested and I'm having a hard time.  I do not believe that Jesus was the son of God but I cannot imagine discussing him as a "myth".  I do think he existed.  I know that people believe the gospels.  It just feels disrespectful to me to call the gospels "myths".  

 

As Joseph has said, we can use any terms we like.  

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Joseph_F
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Re: Featured Books for May : Myths


Everyman wrote:

Joseph made this quite clear when he pointed out that the Bible contains not only myths but also genealogies, history, etc.  Clearly separating myth from factual accouts. 


That was not the meaning of what I said at all. For one thing, there is nothing inherently factual about genealogies, and for another I never said that the Bible contains history. The separation was not factual from fictive, but myth from non-myth, and what made something a myth was explained in the rest of my post. 

 

I would not have said "history" because the Bible does not contain history, it contains myth. Why myth and not history? Not for reasons of fact versus fiction, but for reasons of intent and reception as I described earlier. 

 

I think at this point I've explained the word as well as I can and I'll let you all come to your own conclusions. But I will continue to use myth because the word describes something for which there is simply no other word in our language to describe.

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Everyman
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Re: Featured Books for May : Myths

I will continue to use myth because the word describes something for which there is simply no other word in our language to describe.

 

As the boss man here, that is of course your absolute prerogative.

 

But in doing so, I trust that you also understand that its use with respect to matters of faith may be highly insensitive to some here.  

 

I have no problem with the use of the term myth in respect to  myths from the classical world, since I recognize that there are very few people today who understand that what scientists believe about the sun is all wrong, and that what we see is actually a real Apollo driving his real chariot across the sky.  Nor do I have any problem with usig the term with respect to, for example, Viking myths which I doubt that many, if any, people believe to be literally true.

 

But the use of the term in the context of accounts which people of faith who are or may want to be participants in discussions here believe to be simple truth is, IMO, insensitive and disrespectful of those beliefs.

 

But I also understand that my thinking this is not welcome, and that if people are indeed offended by such usage they will either have to just tough it out, or leave. 

_______________
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Peppermill
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Re: Featured Books for May : Myths

But I also understand that my thinking this is not welcome, and that if people are indeed offended by such usage they will either have to just tough it out, or leave.

 

 

I am sorry that you consider that just because your "thinking" is not agreed upon, it is "not welcome." 

 

I sincerely hope that people who are offended by things said can find their voices, if they so choose, and articulate them carefully and thoughtfully -- although also with respect, which is sometimes hard to communicate, even if intended, when one is heavily invested in a position.  Certainly, sarcasm or scarcely veiled bitterness or righteousness can catch up any one of us at one time or another.

 


Everyman wrote:

I will continue to use myth because the word describes something for which there is simply no other word in our language to describe.

 

As the boss man here, that is of course your absolute prerogative.

 

But in doing so, I trust that you also understand that its use with respect to matters of faith may be highly insensitive to some here.  

 

I have no problem with the use of the term myth in respect to  myths from the classical world, since I recognize that there are very few people today who understand that what scientists believe about the sun is all wrong, and that what we see is actually a real Apollo driving his real chariot across the sky.  Nor do I have any problem with usig the term with respect to, for example, Viking myths which I doubt that many, if any, people believe to be literally true.

 

But the use of the term in the context of accounts which people of faith who are or may want to be participants in discussions here believe to be simple truth is, IMO, insensitive and disrespectful of those beliefs.

 

But I also understand that my thinking this is not welcome, and that if people are indeed offended by such usage they will either have to just tough it out, or leave. 


"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Joseph_F
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Re: Featured Books for May

Everyman, this is the second time I've had to warn you: Please be less hostile toward those that disagree with you. Religion is a touchy subject, and the use of sarcasm and hostile language will make any sort of polite discussion difficult to maintain.
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Choisya
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Re: Featured Books for May : Myths

utopian wrote:

Choisya, I hope that when you speak of "hostility" you're not referring to me because I have absolutely none.   Sometimes it's difficult to read nuance on e-mail.

 

Not at all utopian.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Choisya
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Re: Featured Books for May : Myths

Thanks for this explanation Joseph.  I will join you in using the word 'myth'.

 

 


Joseph_F wrote:

Thanks for all of your input, however myth is a word with a specific connotation that is not covered with words like "story" or "record" (both of which seem to invite far more ambiguity than they resolve). The word myth is less about the content of the story and more about intent and reception. Myths are not like history in the sense that they are not told simply to educate you about what happened nor convince you of anything, but are intended to be models of life and behavior. Myths provide spiritual structures for the universe. This is the difference of intent. The difference of reception is that myths are not simply listened to or studied, but are lived and experienced by believers who take the model provided by the myth and allow it to shape their lives and thoughts. Myths are by nature experiential.

 

In this sense, myth is a word uniquely suited to describing this type of text and is, in fact, the opposite of a pejorative. That's why I will continue to use the word. Feel free to use whatever word you are comfortable with.

 

Incidentally, the entire Bible is not myth. There are also, of course, law, lineages, and non-narrative poetry, to name a few other forms within the book. Genesis is almost entirely myth, Leviticus is almost entirely law, etc.

 

 


 

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Choisya
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Re: Featured Books for May : Myths

Peppermill wrote:

If we can all remain open to these nuances and be sensitive as to when their use transmits the discernment we intend and thoughtful and respectful in response when they do not, we may be able to deflect or ponder strong emotional responses, either individually or together.  Or, perhaps strong emotional responses are okay, just often times tougher for others to absorb.

 

I do think this type of consciousness raising and discussion in and of itself, while sometimes seeming pedantic and trivial, can be helpful, especially if we recognize that it itself is a tool that can be used to call "time out."

 

 

Well put Pepper (Laurel too).   Thanks.

 


 

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Paul_Hochman
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Re: Featured Books for May

As a group, please let's keep this thread moving forward. Regardless of how we feel, or don't feel, about the word "myth", enough is enough. Let's get back to the topic at hand.
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Peppermill
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Re: Featured Books for May

Let's get back to the topic at hand.

 

Which is??? (And I'm not intending to be sarcastic, so my up-front apologies if I seem to be.)

 


PaulH wrote:
As a group, please let's keep this thread moving forward. Regardless of how we feel, or don't feel, about the word "myth", enough is enough. Let's get back to the topic at hand.
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Joseph_F
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Re: Featured Books for May

Well the topic at hand originally was the stuff we'll be reading in May. We've talked quite a bit about Karen Armstrong, anyone have any opinions or thoughts on The Shack (I basically know nothing about this one except the general set-up and intended audience) and the opening of Genesis (as told by several different translators)?
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Everyman
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Re: Featured Books for May

[ Edited ]

Edit:  I see that between the time I started my response to Pepper's question and the time I finished and submitted it, Joseph addressed the question. 

 

I'm glad you asked, Pepper; I wondered the same thing, but thought my initiating the question would be, uh, unappreciated.

 

Come May 4th, when the BN May discussions officially start, we have two books and one other topic scheduled to start talking about.  Until then, I'm also not sure what the topic at hand is supposed to be.

 

And I'm not being sarcastic, either.

 


Peppermill wrote:

Let's get back to the topic at hand.

 

Which is??? (And I'm not intending to be sarcastic, so my up-front apologies if I seem to be.)

 


PaulH wrote:
As a group, please let's keep this thread moving forward. Regardless of how we feel, or don't feel, about the word "myth", enough is enough. Let's get back to the topic at hand.

 

 

Message Edited by Everyman on 04-15-2009 11:52 PM
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Everyman
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Re: Featured Books for May

Are we supposed to start substantive discussions of those now, or until May 4th are we supposed to only talk about how we're going to discuss them?  


Joseph_F wrote:
Well the topic at hand originally was the stuff we'll be reading in May. We've talked quite a bit about Karen Armstrong, anyone have any opinions or thoughts on The Shack (I basically know nothing about this one except the general set-up and intended audience) and the opening of Genesis (as told by several different translators)?

 

 

_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.