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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In search of "The religion of today": Part 2/4 - Is religion a myth?

The Religion of Today—a scientific view... Part 2. Click here to view previous and subsequent posts in this series.


What is a myth?


We should now understand what a myth is. Myth is the imaginative fiction of the minds of the ancient natives of a country who believed that there were some kind of nature gods who were involved in the creation, maintenance and destruction of the world, and in some way they also influenced the social life of the people. Thus, they formulated imaginative stories about them and started worshipping them in their own style by offering sacrifices of such animals which they themselves used to eat.

There are thousands of mythologies. Every country in the world has a number of mythologies. Their imaginations about the shape of god also differ from country to country. For example, Greek gods are portrayed in human form, whereas the Egyptian gods are portrayed as having a human body with a human or an animal head and with a peculiar dress. There are all kinds of mythologies: cosmogony or creation myth, myth about the last judgment and death, myth of the destruction of the world, myth of human generation like of Adam and Eve, myth about the period of creation, just like the Zoroastrians of ancient Persia believed in four periods of 3,000 years (12,000 years) only, myth about the soul leaving the body after death, just like the Egyptians believed that the soul flies out from the body like a bird after death, and many more.

Characteristics of the myths of the world.

There are eight main characteristics of the myths:
  • They have no philosophy of any kind.
  • They have no exact time of the births of gods. It means they have no real history of their imagined gods.
  • They have no scientific description of any kind regarding the creation and destruction of the world, or birth of souls and their karmas etc.
  • The number of their gods and goddesses is flexible. It means that during various periods of time new gods and goddesses have been created and added to the mythology.
  • There is no definite place or dimension for their gods to live in. Just some vague imaginations like the Greek gods are supposed to live on Mount Olympus in Greece.
  • There is absolutely no description of the Divineness of gods.
  • Their gods and goddesses are filled with human weaknesses like lust, greed, jealously and anger etc.
  • Their gods and goddesses have never been visualized in actual life because they are just the fiction stories of primitive minds.
These are the common characteristics that are found in all the mythologies of the world. These mythologies assume the shape of the religion of that country and people keep on worshipping these imaginative figures for their whole life, just like Alexander worshipped Heracles and his mother worshipped Dionysus.

The source of mythological imaginations.

If someone studies these mythologies carefully he will find that in spite of great descriptional differences there is some kind of basic similarity among them which makes one think that they might have come through some common source, and it is a fact that they did come from one common source.

All these mythologies describe about the creation of the world from the void or the sky. They also describe about the destruction of the world. They describe about the beginning of human civilization from some original couple like Adam and Eve. They also tell about gods and demons or evil spirits. Some mythologies (like that of Germanic people) tell about a huge ‘world serpent’ holding the earth, and about a certain distant land of happiness where good people go after death. Some mythologies tell about a certain region where all the dead people go, and so on. These are the general descriptions of the mythologies of the world. These descriptions are vague, bear no philosophical details and have no preciseness of the number of gods or goddesses or their living abodes etc., yet they have a general similarity. They also tell about the god of rain and thunder, god of fire, god of water, god of wisdom and god of arts, etc.

The prime source from where these ideas originated was, of course, the stories of the Puranas of Bharatvarsh (India) which traveled through the trade routes from word of mouth and reached the other countries in a broken form because they traveled from mouth to mouth. Then, from there, they traveled to other far-off countries of the world. As a general instinct, the primitive people also thought that certain invisible super forces might exist somewhere in the space which caused or controlled the natural happenings like disastrous rain, hail, strong thundering clouds, stormy wind or brush fire etc., which affected their daily life. When the stories of god of fire or god of rain and thunder etc. reached these people it supported their basic imaginations, and thus, all such stories of gods and goddesses that reached these places were incorporated in their folk tales with their added imaginations. In this way the mythologies started. They prevailed in the society for a long time. Later on, when the writing system started, they were written down in a book form. Thus, among the variations of the descriptions of the mythologies of different countries, there remains a similarity because the basic stories of creation, destruction, and gods and goddesses came from one single source, India (Bharatvarsh).

Western world knew only mythologies.

Before 2,000 years, when the world had a fair amount of population, the communication between the countries was extremely poor. There were only some trade connections between them. Even up to 200 years ago the communication system was very poor. The newspaper industry started in the early 19th century and national telephone communication systems started developing only at the end of the 19th century when the Bell telephone company spread its services to most of the major cities of the USA.

It has been explained earlier how the mythologies developed in the West through the trade connections, and, on that basis, how the religions of the world were formed. Thus, from the very beginning, the western civilization knew only the mythologies and the mythological religions of their country. Because of the lack of communication they could not receive the Divine truth of the Hindu scriptures which was in great detail; and when the communication systems developed, at that time the British were ruling India.

In this situation, when the people of the world know only mythological God and the dogmatic descriptions of their religious books, it takes time and patience to understand the true reality of the supreme Divine God, His Divine abode, His Divine forms, His Divine Saints and Their Divine actions which are described in the scriptures like the Upnishads, the Puranas, the Gita and the Brahm Sutra, etc.

Had the world learned the real truth of Hindu scriptures which is Graciously gifted by God Himself for the good of humankind, there would have been real and true ‘God consciousness’ in the world. The crime rate and the political exploitations in the world would have been much less than they are at present, and the scientific researches and the developments that are related to the evolution or creation of the cosmos (or any part of it) would have been going in the right direction because Hindu scriptures give the true guideline of the creation of the universe, creation of our earth planet and the sun, development of life on the earth planet, and the karmic and devotional destiny of the human beings.

We have seen that the Western world have only known mythological religions and thus many associate religion with mythology. Others associate religion with deception. Is religion simply a deception? Find out in the next post.

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