Friday, October 26, 2007

Fact and myth

A comment on my latest posting reflects misunderstandings so common among Christians that I address it here.

That Jesus lived in Palestine two thousand years ago is accepted as history. That God is a male individual, a father who had a son without the involvement of any female, is myth. It is an imaginative story with inspirational power, not factual history.

Facts are right or wrong; religious myths are symbolic. They must not be confused either with facts or with “myth” in the popular understanding of a worthless, mistaken belief.

A careful reading of God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky should help to clarify these distinctions. Please read the book carefully to understand why it is not an insult to say the Christian story is myth. Understanding our own myth as myth will, I hope, facilitate abandonment of our exclusive claims and promote harmony between religions.

With regard to pagan resemblance to and influence on Christian belief, the factual evidence for this is too abundant to summarize in a few paragraphs.
Jeanette

6 comments:

theoguy said...

I have carefully read the book God is not 3 Guys in the Sky and do not misunderstand it. I understand that there is a distinction between fact and myth, but I do not agree with you about what is fact and what is myth. There is a lot more about Jesus that can be accepted as history besides that fact that he lived two thousand years ago. I am not objecting to the idea of calling the Christian story a myth because it is insulting. And if it is not myth, then why should Christians abandon their "exclusive claims"?

We can summarize the connection between paganism and Christianity as far as the mass is concerned. There is abundant evidence that the mass descended from the Last Supper and Jewish Synogogue worship. Any resemblance to pagan ritual is what helped attract Hellenistic pagans to Christianity. So resemblance? Yes. But influence? I don't think so.

Jeanette said...

"There is a lot more about Jesus that can be accepted as history besides that fact that he lived two thousand years ago," says Theoguy. Yes, and my book gives abundant information on the historical Jesus.
"if it is not myth,. . ." Apparently the difficulty comes in distinguishing the Jesus of history from the Christ of faith. The latter is RELIGIOUS myth.
Jeanette

Jeanette said...

Regarding pagan influence, Christian researchers cite a wealth of evidence showing the intermingling of pagan, Jewish, and Christian religious practices, beginning centuries before the time of Jesus.
I refer Theoguy to one Christian reseacher (there are dozens)--Hugo Rahner, Greek Myths and Christian Mystery. New York: Harper and Row, 1963.
Jeanette

theoguy said...

I don't know why I was directed to this book by Hugo Rahner. He says, in the book, "Theories which postulate a genetic relationship or one of historical causality between the Hellenistic mystery cults and the essentials of Christian belief can no longer be taken seriously." (p. 9) And he says, "Christianity, being the truth revealed by God in Christ, is in all but non-essentials a thing wholly unconnected with the mystery cults either in its origins or its development." (p. 27) So it seems Rahner affirmed my original point that the mass did not come from Hellenistic paganism. In fact, he says that no essentially Christian thing came from the Hellenistic mystery cults. And so what if non-essential things came from paganism? Later in the book, Rahner talks about Christianity taking over the pagan holidays of Sunday and Christmas; but that's no secret.

Once again, I say that the mass basically descended to us from the Last Supper and Jewish Synogogue worship. I don't know why you won't admit that. Jewish converts to Catholicism often point out that the mass is very Jewish.

Jeanette said...

I quote myself: “. . . wealth of evidence showing the intermingling of pagan, Jewish, and Christian religious practices . . .” This is hardly a failure to admit the Jewish contribution.
I did make a mistake referring you to Rahner’s book. I might have known you would seize on Rahner’s denial of the implications evinced by his own information. The statement you quote shows his discomfort with the facts he presents.
Writing more than forty years ago, Rahner was still enveloped by the Christian habit of claiming exclusive truth. Fortunately, scholarship has advanced beyond that, but this is a well-kept secret because of media focus on the Christian right. I hastily referenced Rahner, not taking the time to go back to research I did decades ago. And I won’t take the time now. Interested readers can research Hellenism and Mystery religions.
Again I quote myself (p. 147, God Is Not Three Guys): “A legitimate debate concerns to what extent Christianity copied pagan beliefs or whether it merely took form in the same spiritual matrix of the time.”
Jeanette

Marcy said...

Well said.