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Thread: Religion and mythology as metaphor

  1. #1 Religion and mythology as metaphor 
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    Joseph Campbell, author of The Power of Myth, states that

    “Half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.”

    Many analyses of religion and mythology seem to omit acknowledgement of factors such as the alteration of recorded religious beliefs and traditions over the course of history; loss of true meaning through translation; as well as lack of adequate social and cultural context. That is to say, they examine superficially without regard towards the true origins and intent.

    I am not saying the entire bible is metaphor. The bible was (as far as I am aware) selectively compiled and printed by a self-proclaimed authority.

    But we know that Christianity has taken influences from pagan mythology and tradition. In fact comparative analysis reveals significant similarities between many religions, mythologies and pagan traditions.

    I believe this a complex and emotionally-charged topic and that we should be cautious of arriving at judgement without any significant desire to truly understand the nature and origins of religion and mythology.




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  3. #2  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope sculptor's Avatar
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    as joseph campbell said
    there is very little religion in the bible

    i believe, and I see mataphor
    perhaps it is because I see mataphor that i believe?


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    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    It has always been my contention that if Biblical text is attributed to God(s) then there should be no problem understanding it. Metaphors do not get the meaning across as they are subject to interpretation and those could vary. Any text written by God or His chosen scribes should by default be easily translated into whatever language you like without any errors or omissions and be clearly understood, the same meaning for everyone, no inconsistencies at all. God should be able to accomplish this without breaking a sweat.

    Otherwise we have no choice but to accept biblical text as human in origin. Since written text is the basis for a lot of religions then that leaves everyone no choice but to believe the scribe. IOW religious belief for the majority is a belief in another human being.
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos View Post
    It has always been my contention that if Biblical text is attributed to God(s) then there should be no problem understanding it. Metaphors do not get the meaning across as they are subject to interpretation and those could vary. Any text written by God or His chosen scribes should by default be easily translated into whatever language you like without any errors or omissions and be clearly understood, the same meaning for everyone, no inconsistencies at all. God should be able to accomplish this without breaking a sweat.
    But I do not think anyone can seriously claim the Bible is a monolithic scripture directly from God. The components are diverse in origins. Parts are claimed to be dreams, some are claimed to be prophetic message directly from God and others are described as personal recollections of historical events.

    As I said before, some authority has compiled different pieces of text based on some criteria. In this regard, I do not think it is appropriate to evaluate all of the Bible's contents simultaneously. For the most accurate understanding, I believe we must examine each discrete recording/recollection independently.

    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos View Post
    Otherwise we have no choice but to accept biblical text as human in origin. Since written text is the basis for a lot of religions then that leaves everyone no choice but to believe the scribe. IOW religious belief for the majority is a belief in another human being.
    Yes I agree to some extent but there are many factors that may influence how religious traditions and myths are interpreted in current times.

    What I am trying to get at is an importance in attempting to understand the origin and basis of modern religions.

    To do this we must first recognise that all language is metaphor; an attempt to reduce continuous experience into discrete symbolic patterns. I would assert that we must aim to understand the entire historical and cultural context of specific recorded text in order to meaningfully interpret it. Most discussion on religion I see is focused with religion as a political and social framework with no interest in exploring deeply into the basis of and profound human messages that may or may not exist in certain texts or myths that have come to form the basis of certain religious systems.
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by vash31 View Post
    But I do not think anyone can seriously claim the Bible is a monolithic scripture directly from God.
    I agree but people do. We are talking about belief in God here. Believe all you want but belief cannot go any further if the Bible is not the word of God. Unfortunately for those bible believers it means they're trusting that a human being got the Bible right. [/QUOTE]
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by vash31 View Post
    But I do not think anyone can seriously claim the Bible is a monolithic scripture directly from God.
    I agree but people do. We are talking about belief in God here. Believe all you want but belief cannot go any further if the Bible is not the word of God. Unfortunately for those bible believers it means they're trusting that a human being got the Bible right.
    Well my interactions with some religious people have lead me to believe that their explanation sometimes follows experience.

    I believe that in particular cases, enlightenment, moksha, satori and 'feeling the presence of God', are all attempts at a post facto explanation of a distinct type of experience that is essentially the same, but interpreted through differing linguistic constructs.
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    When my endorphins are active I feel elated, but does that make me understand or be closer to god? Rapture is a personal chemical experience and emotion. Why are some people more susceptible to hypnosis than others? I would be willing to bet that most "believers" are also susceptible to hypnosis, i.e. suggestion. I have never heard of a sceptical thinker being hypnotized.
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Write4U View Post
    When my endorphins are active I feel elated, but does that make me understand or be closer to god? Rapture is a personal chemical experience and emotion. Why are some people more susceptible to hypnosis than others? I would be willing to bet that most "believers" are also susceptible to hypnosis, i.e. suggestion. I have never heard of a sceptical thinker being hypnotized.
    Obviously your symbolic representation of this type of experience is through scientific terminology.

    But let's be clear that this kind of experience does not require any scientific or intellectual understanding.

    When someone says they feel the presence of God, maybe that is that an attempt to explain something they are not equipped to accurately encode in symbols/language.

    Yet our own linguistic biases seem to often prevent us from genuinely attempting to understand the personal basis of belief. And what is more real than direct personal experience? It is of course the only thing that any of us can be absolutely sure of. All I really know is that I am experiencing.
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by vash31 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Write4U View Post
    When my endorphins are active I feel elated, but does that make me understand or be closer to god? Rapture is a personal chemical experience and emotion. Why are some people more susceptible to hypnosis than others? I would be willing to bet that most "believers" are also susceptible to hypnosis, i.e. suggestion. I have never heard of a sceptical thinker being hypnotized.
    Obviously your symbolic representation of this type of experience is through scientific terminology.

    But let's be clear that this kind of experience does not require any scientific or intellectual understanding.

    When someone says they feel the presence of God, maybe that is that an attempt to explain something they are not equipped to accurately encode in symbols/language.

    Yet our own linguistic biases seem to often prevent us from genuinely attempting to understand the personal basis of belief. And what is more real than direct personal experience? It is of course the only thing that any of us can be absolutely sure of. All I really know is that I am experiencing.
    I have no argument with that, except that one must understand that this IS a personal (subjective) experience. One can feel close (connected) to nature, does that warrant a God? Regardless of personal experience, one must analyze these feelings in context.
    To base an entire Holy Scripture on the basis of personal experience by sheepherders three thousand years ago was ok then. But with the advance of real science, these personal experiences must be reviewed and accepted as personal subjective experience, which cannot be shared by all. In fact, some Native American tribes recognized this and declared that one's own visions are just that and cannot be shared with others, other than in the most generic terms.

    So what you are saying that if we cannot adequately express our feelings in symbolic terms we use the symbol of God by default?
    Then also, can you be absolutely sure of your experiences being objectively correct? Are optical illusions a good foundation for the science of shapes and colors?
    And lastly, hysteria is also a personal experience. Should we base our perception of the world on the experience of hysteria?
    Last edited by Write4U; October 4th, 2012 at 02:49 AM.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Write4U View Post
    So what you are saying that if we cannot adequately express our feelings in symbolic terms we use the symbol of God by default?
    Then also, can you be absolutely sure of your experiences being objectively correct? Are optical illusions a good foundation for the science of shapes and colors?
    And lastly, hysteria is also a personal experience. Should we base our perception of the world on the experience of hysteria?
    Don't think I said anything at all like that.

    I think we should aim to develop a deeper understanding of all aspects of human culture.

    Direct personal experience is the fundamental channel through which all thought and behaviour is expressed. It is intrinsic to all social change. To me, this makes it imperative for the advancement of our society to deeply explore the nature of experience.

    I seek to understand all perspectives that I encounter. This is not at all about debating beliefs. I might argue that belief is distinctly separate from knowledge or fact. I don't think it needs to be debated, unless it is claimed as fact.

    Coming back to religion, religious tradition, ritual, mythology, etc, I think it is something that warrants much intrique and exploration in terms of its nature, origins and in particular how it has related to the personal experience of other humans through the course of history.
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  12. #11  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    It is refreshing to find a poster who can reject outright some elements of organised religion, recognise the importance of metaphor within Holy texts, remain (apparently) agnostic about any deity, yet still see a potential value within religion for its role in society and personal history. I hope I have read your position accurately.
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by vash31 View Post
    Many analyses of religion and mythology seem to omit acknowledgement of factors such as the alteration of recorded religious beliefs and traditions over the course of history; loss of true meaning through translation; as well as lack of adequate social and cultural context. That is to say, they examine superficially without regard towards the true origins and intent.
    Very refreshing.

    Mermaid sightings and captures are recorded in ship's logs. They have dappled tails, like the porpoise, and long whiskers. A mermaid's flesh tastes like veal. Columbus judged mermaids not so pretty as painted, but conceded they have a human appearance in the face. Sadly the last northern mermaids were hunted to extinction some time around the fur trade.


    We say that we no longer use religion to explain the unknown. But in modern archaeology no one blinks when newly discovered structures are called "temples". Any artifact of unknown utility is assumed religious. Is this just laziness or is it a cheap put-down, maybe indirectly targeting present-day believers? What's the motive?
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  14. #13  
    ***** Participant Write4U's Avatar
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    Yes, I believe there are many common experiences shared by all regardless of race or creed.
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  15. #14  
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    do rite wrights have the right to write rites for all?
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by vash31 View Post
    Many analyses of religion and mythology seem to omit acknowledgement of factors such as the alteration of recorded religious beliefs and traditions over the course of history; loss of true meaning through translation; as well as lack of adequate social and cultural context. That is to say, they examine superficially without regard towards the true origins and intent.
    Very refreshing.

    Mermaid sightings and captures are recorded in ship's logs. They have dappled tails, like the porpoise, and long whiskers. A mermaid's flesh tastes like veal. Columbus judged mermaids not so pretty as painted, but conceded they have a human appearance in the face. Sadly the last northern mermaids were hunted to extinction some time around the fur trade.


    We say that we no longer use religion to explain the unknown. But in modern archaeology no one blinks when newly discovered structures are called "temples". Any artifact of unknown utility is assumed religious. Is this just laziness or is it a cheap put-down, maybe indirectly targeting present-day believers? What's the motive?
    Being that most people except for royalty and religious leaders lived in mud huts, which break down over time, only the remaining artifacts like temples, palaces, and pyramids were strong enough to withstand the ravages of time. The same thing happens with mummies, only very important people were preserved.
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong View Post
    ...
    We say that we no longer use religion to explain the unknown. But in modern archaeology no one blinks when newly discovered structures are called "temples". Any artifact of unknown utility is assumed religious. Is this just laziness or is it a cheap put-down, maybe indirectly targeting present-day believers? What's the motive?
    I think more inculcation into the discipline rather than laziness.
    These biases go back for generations of archaeologists/anthropologists
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  18. #17  
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    more metaphor:

    Great Iapetus and his sons, and maybe a daughter

    Iapetus , great iapetuus, progenitor of mortality and mythology
    Atlas , stout hearted, all strength and power
    Menoetius, glorious menoetius, all rage and violence and rash action
    Prometheus, clever prometheus, forethought
    and the scatter brained Epimetheus, afterthought

    symbolic of the moods of man
    (are we not all of these at one time or another?)

    and
    perhaps Pandora , the first woman, all gifted, all giving and curiousity
    ..........
    what I never understood was why, exactly, he is always referred to as "great" iapetus?
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