Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bierlein on Christians and Mythology

I recently finished J. F. Bierlein's Parallel Myths and found it a fine little introduction to comparative mythology. Of most interest to readers of The Sci Fi Catholic will probably be Bierlein's essay in the final chapter on the relationship between myth and the three major monotheistic religions. Bierlein relates the following:

Some years ago, I attended a Christian conference and had occasion to speak to two women with dramatically different reactions to their experience in the study of myth.

The first woman had nothing whatsoever good to say about myth or mythology. The subject matter, she pointed out, exalted false gods. For her, the study of myth was merely a "tool of the devil" in the hands of "secular humanists" in a wholesale effort to devalue Christianity and excise its influence from society. The study of myth caused her to doubt her own faith. She did not want her children to study mythology in the public schools. She had even gone so far as to throw out her books on the subject in order to make certain that her home, her children's minds, and her own mind would never be contaminated by them.

The second woman drew the opposite conclusion from her studies. Lest you think that she was a "liberal" Christian, a New Age adherent, or anything but orthodox in her beliefs, think again. She was from Alabama, the heart of the American Bible Belt, and described herself as "born again" and "spirit-filled" She could not even remotely be construed as a "secular humanist." She had just completed the third of three classes in comparative religion at her local university and was enthusiastic about the effects on her religious life. The parallels between the myths of distant cultures and the stories of the Bible intrigued her and led her to see her faith as the satisfaction of universal human needs. She was fascinated, not threatened, by parallel virgin births and resurrections. For her, these motifs persisted in myth--and were expressed in Christianity--because they are true. [pp. 308-309]
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