Religion, the ongoing creations of modern myth
Salt Lake City Catalyst
by Suzanne Wagner
Last December while driving to see my parents in Arizona for the Christmas Holidays I was listening to NPR (National Public Radio). They were speaking about the controversy happening within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints concerning the research of a Mormon Doctrine Researcher, Tom Meeney.
It seemed that he decided to do DNA research about the churches position and belief that the South American Indian culture was genetically related to the lost tribe of Israel that came to America and that the Book of Mormon stories are written about.
What he discovered threw into question the truth of that belief. What fascinated me was that this conflict within the Mormon society was also calling into question the validity of all religious doctrines throughout history. We have the scientific ability now to do such detailed work into the basic principals and beliefs in religions that we have carried as truths or as faiths for thousands of years.
Instead of getting upset at the conversations happening on the air. I found myself becoming excited at the possibility of the expansion of awareness within the consciousness of societies and religious cultures.
We have all looked at the power of Myths in television, films and books. If we look honestly at our selves we must realize that in each telling of the story the stories can change somewhat based on the person telling the story, what they want to highlight and what impacts them personally.
That is the power of good Myth. You read understanding into it based on how much awareness you have at that particular time. Everyone can see the same story somewhat differently. We naturally shade and color aspects based on our own experiences and awareness’s.
It seems natural to apply this human characteristic to the process of religion and faith. Times in history can challenge us to stay motivated in our faith and beliefs. In times of crisis it is imperative to have hope, faith and trust. If you don’t you can die. So our minds search for truth to hold on to so we can have hope and continue on in the face of great adversity.
I have always found it interesting to correlate history with the knowledge of religious proclamations and decrees. Lets go back thousands of years. If you look at the history of the Jewish faith living in the Middle East thousands of years ago we now know and understand that there is a bacteria that thrives there that can attack the meat of pork. When a person eats that infected meat, the bacterium destroys the small intestine of the person and they die.
In the old days, we did not have supermarkets or refrigerators. Eating of a whole pig would have been something a group would do as a celebration, such as a wedding or the birth of a child. So not one person would eat the infected meat, the whole group would. It seems logical that some wise person would put two and two together and see that the people who died all ate the same thing. If it happened more than once it is likely that someone would associate the deaths to the pig. It is not a far step from there to want to find a way to have everyone stop eating pigs. But to do that in a society struggling to survive might create chaos and more hardship. The logical step is for the most powerful, wise, spiritual person to have a vision and tell the people that God had spoken to them and decreed that pork is not to be eaten, and that pork is an unclean animal.
To get a whole society to stop eating something it would take a religious decree. Just think if chocolate was decreed dangerous now. I know it would be really hard for me to stop eating it.
But for the religious leaders, the survival of the people is at stake. They don’t know what exactly is killing the people but they do have good deductive skills and use them. I don’t rule out that it isn’t God speaking to them to help the people survive. But I don’t think God just speaks to us just in moments of divine decree. I believe that messages come in many forms and many ways. After all God is limitless so why can he not tell us in any way possible to get the message across.
Over time people stop dying because they are not eating pork. The people are saved and this decree continues on for centuries as a religious myth.
In truth this religious myth was a miracle. Possibly thousands/millions of people were saved as well as a culture and a religion. Yet now in modern times we know what causes that illness and we know that thoroughly cooking pork kills this bacteria, plus better cold storage stops its growth.
So then the belief comes back into question. But now it is a religious revelation for more than one group and it has worked for thousands of years. Human beings become attached to being right and wanting to do the right thing. It is one of our good qualities when it is in balance with the rest of the soul.
Religions are a reflection of our highest souls potential. They are the models for a functional social order, teach us how to work together as a group, and teach us how to care about others. All good myths do the same thing.
If we look at our society now, religion has been somewhat in decline culturally. But movie mania has increased. Just look at the Star Trek Conventions. This phenomenon is taking the place of religion for some people. There are those who want to be Klingons, Betazoids, and other fictional characters because they somehow relate to the values and beliefs of these characters. There are those attracted to Hobbits and Elves and the mythology of the Lord of the Rings, because they relate to the pain and suffering of those characters.
These characters do have value and do teach good behaviors and have strength of character.
Stories and Myths have been used for centuries to help people seek higher spiritual values, they have helped us get through times of great hardship and suffering by giving us hope and showing us the way through the difficult passageways of life. Stories can anchor our reality and help us believe in ourselves.
Lets take a look at the nature of human sexuality, history, disease and doctrine.
Once again, human history is filled with terrible times of diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhea. These venereal diseases were capable of destroying whole societies. It was a potential crisis in the making. The survival of the human race could be at stake. It is a simple process of deduction that if one person only has one other partner sexually then the diseases cannot spread and cause death and destruction.
Death in ancient cultures was sometimes translated as God passing judgment on someone or on some behavior so it is not a far step to have a religious decree stating the appropriate form of sexual behavior for a cultured society.
Also if you look at history in the ancient world, it was a dangerous place. Women alone without protection were at huge risk. They were not safe from being raped or killed if they did not have a man to protect them. Women in ancient societies did not have the financial freedom that the modern women have. They needed a man to protect them and their children. If the mother was not safe than the children would not survive. Once again the society could perish if there was not some law or rule of marriage.
This is where it gets interesting. Certain cultures adopted standards towards monogamy and others adopted standards towards polygamy. They each had different, valid, reasons.
Marriage provided a form of protection for women and their children. It provided safety so those children could grow up and survive.
Some religions chose polygamy for the survival of the children. Again let us look at history. It has only been in the last one hundred years or so that married women were able to live a long time. What I mean by that is that is that in ancient cultures it was quite common for women to die within the first eleven years of marriage. That is because of death in childbirth, kidney infections, bladder infections, uterine infections, as well as the common problems such as flu and pneumonia.
Eleven years is not enough time to totally raise a child and so now the man is left to raise the children. Men in ancient cultures were in the fields working or out hunting. They could not afford to stay home and raise the child. One of the alternatives was to have more than one wife. Then the children could all be raised and safe, the men could do the job they needed to in order for the family to survive.
Culturally there is a relationship between hardship and polygamy. The harsher the conditions the more likely polygamy would thrive. Look at the harems in the Middle Eastern deserts as well as they hardships of the Mormon pioneers.
The other factor is finances and wealth. The more wealth a man had historically, the more likely he was to have multiple wives and children. On one level, he simply could afford them. On another level it gave the more dominant powerful ma
Both sides of this argument (monogamy/ polygamy) each created their own religious decree and mythology, to validate their particular position and to allow the survival of the children.
Now in the modern society there is the blending between the two. We are presently looking at what happens to the children when there is no father present. It creates hardship and difficulty not only for the child but also for the society that must take over where the father has not been responsible. It creates children that have a harder time blending within the social system. Again, the survival of the society is at stake
The women are at less risk in modern society on a financial level. Which is a good step but the children are the future of our choices and mistakes.
Religion is holding less of a hold on our youngsters and they are seeking to find their own mythology through the movies and television, as well as through science and information.
This is forcing us to look beyond our need to be right in the form of religion and see that children need a mythology to model and relate to. Modern children are so well informed that they also need all the truth. Otherwise they will continue to reject the old religious metaphors and seek out their own truth. But children do need guidance and society is needed to teach and inspire the young.
To do that we need to be able to look honestly at the myths we have created in our life and society to explain our reality and see them as a work in progress. We must be able to bring history to life and see religions as the wisest and brightest thoughts of that time. We must be able to honor our ancestors for doing a great job at a time of great fear and uncertainty. We must take their knowledge and integrate it with the new information coming in during this age of information. We must find the balance between truth and faith.
I believe they can compliment each other. They do not have to be in conflict. We only grow by telling ourselves the truth about our history, where we have been, where we have made mistakes, what we have learned because of those mistakes, and why we needed to believe a particular thing at a particular time in our life.
We are at the edge of a breakthrough of our consciousness and our spiritual evolution. Opening truth does not need to destroy faith. It can strengthen the soul and improve the systems and society we are continuously creating.
The great spiritual truths are all the same. What ever form someone relates to aligns with his or her understanding and awareness at that moment. It is a constantly growing and evolving magical process. I hope you enjoy yours.