The Mythology of Religion

All religions contain a degree of mythology in them. Thousands of years ago many of the world’s people believed in a Hellenistic type of religion. Polytheism was the common type of religion with many different cultures believing in multiple gods and goddesses. The Greeks and Romans because of their proximity and influence on each other believed in similar gods but with different names. The Egyptians and the Scandinavians had a belief system of multiple gods and goddesses as well.  These beliefs remained a strong and integral part of each civilization’s foundation for hundreds of years.

Along the way new beliefs and religions were found and implemented. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all rose as world religions. These religions were, and still are, a monotheistic religion. It was Dionysius the Areopagite, whose name is ironically derived from Dionysus, the Greek God of Wine (Powell, 243-280), who said that “The only positive attributions that are legitimately ascribed to God are the characteristics derived from the language of Scripture” (Neusner, 253). The three branches of religion adopted a model built from that belief. So the god worshipped is the same God, but each with a different name. This god is known as Allah to the Islam faith, Jehovah or God in the Christian faith, and Yahweh in the Jewish faith. Since each holy book is written with different values and concepts, each variation of God is then viewed differently. Mercenaries were helping convert new believers into one of the respective faiths which had become more inclusive than the previous beliefs (Vollbach, slide 4). The Hellenistic faiths were written off as mythology and stories of fantasy as more and more people abandoned the faiths or were born into Christianity, Judaism, or Islam.

The changeover from one popular belief system to another and the transformation of entire religions into mythology is proof that eventually all religions will become a mythology. So far it looks like the three main religions are following the same direction as the Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and North mythology. At some point, most likely in the far future, new beliefs will be introduced and the current religions will also be shelved under mythology.

There are so many similarities between religion today and the Hellenistic religion of the Old World. The big three of religions currently each have a holy book of scriptures. The Quran for Islam, the Torah for Judaism, and The Bible for Christianity. These three holy books tell the story of their God and his prophets.  They also tell stories of heroic battles and supernatural events that occurred. The Bible tells of story that God flooded the earth for 40 days and 40 nights. (Deffinbough) It even has a story of God’s son Jesus’ death and resurrection. Believers take this information as fact and follow it. The word of the Bible is absolute to many believers. However, the Greeks also had their own version of a holy book called The Iliad. This book also told the stories of the each of the gods and goddesses. It also told the stories of the mortals who came into contact with this deities. There is a story that the Titan Prometheus brought fire to the humans and was punished (Powell, 110-119). This book too, at the time, was irrefutable proof that the gods existed. Both books teach principles from each story. As time went on though the Iliad was disregarded as a collection of mythological stories. When the Bible is compared to the Iliad it is easy to see just how similar they are. They both were written by man, not God(s), and they each tell stories that teach principles to the believer. Much like fables and legend, which also fall under myth, these stories of supernatural behavior and extraordinary people are just a way of teaching a morals and values to its followers (Powell pgs 2-4). The holy books of today are just as absolute as the Iliad once was by its believers. There will be a time when these holy books will be disregarded just like the Iliad to make room for a new religion.

The belief in the similar God also harks back to the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses. The Greeks and Romans believed in the same gods. However each culture gave them different names. The Roman’s gave them Latin names. The Greeks used Greek names. In the current religions Allah, Yahweh, and Jehovah are all the same god but with a different name. Each religion today is also intertwined with one another. All three religions tell the story of Abraham and his descendents along with being a descendent of Mohammad, the prophet of Islam. So even though there are three separate religions, they are more a spin off of one main belief. Islam is actually a religion based of old Greek Hellenistic philosophy or inspired by the Greeks (Neusner, pg 130).  If a new religion is inspired by an old one, even loosely, and that religion is interconnected to two other main religions that leaves room for a change in beliefs in the future. A new belief could be introduced to humanity that maybe God, by all his names, is not real, and the holy books are just false. It would even be feasible to say that evolution and science could become the future’s religion. Perhaps polytheism will become all the rage.

The old and current belief systems also had places of worship for their respective gods. Shrines were built to different mythological gods so that followers could make sacrifices and leave gifts. Churches, synagogues, and mosques today are also used for that very same purpose. Believers go there to show respect and worship to their god.

The only differences between the Hellenistic and religious beliefs today are how inclusive the latter religions are. Anyone can become Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. The staying power of the Judaism, Christianity, and Islam faiths has been so strong due to the inclusiveness that they offer. They will be around for a considerable amount of time before any big changes happen.

History tends to repeat itself. It seems that it is happening again. Since human beings adapt and evolve over time, the way things are done change. Thoughts, beliefs, rituals all become extinct and transform into something new. If humanity did not evolve their thought patterns and way of life then undoubtedly the world would still believe in Zues, Thor, Saturn, or Ra. Evolution is never ending. Just as humans physically adapt and change, thinking patterns and beliefs also evolve or change.

 

Bibliography

Deffinbough, Bob. The Flood (Genesis 6:9-8:22) http://bible.org/seriespage/flood-genesis-69-822 Internet.

Powell, Barry B. Classical Myth: Second Edition. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1998. Print

 

Neusner, Jacob. Religious Foundations of Western Civilization. NashvilleTennessee. Abingdon Press, 2006, Print

 

Vollbach, Michael, Rise of World Religions Powerpoint, Pearson Education Inc, 2010, Powerpoint Presentation

 

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