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Dana Horton is back with another one of his guest pieces – thanks ever so much! Over to him:

Why Do We Create Myths?

(4-minute read)

Last week we talked about ‘Our Guy’ Heraclitus, and the idea of not being able to step in the same river twice. In the article, we mentioned that Heraclitus lived in the heyday of Greek mythology. But here’s the thing — the ancient Greeks did not think their construct of gods and goddesses was mythology; it was their religion.

But who invented these myths? And why? Our research team could not find any specific origins for the Greek system of mythology. But if we extrapolate backwards a few thousand years, it is not difficult to visualize ‘the gang’ sitting around the campfire at night. One of them (maybe while smoking a legalized ancient herb) likely came up with an explanation for the inexplicable things that were happening around them. Whether it was the river drying up, the unexpected death of a tribal member, or Uncle Silas winning the Athens lotto, the cause must have come from an unseen force.

And religion was born.

The emergence of abstract thinking. Yuval Noah Harari, in his best-selling book Sapiens:  A Brief History of Humankind, argues that myths (and other abstract thoughts) began almost 70,000 years ago. Abstract thinking made it possible for homo sapiens to organize large groups of fellow tribesmen to attack the bothersome Neanderthal tribes across the river. And create Facebook.

Abstract thinking is not necessary to organize 10 hunters with spears to kill a bison for dinner. But abstract thinking is critical to organize hundreds (and eventually millions) of people across large geographic areas into nations, corporations, and … religions. There’s nothing that brings people together like sacrificing a virgin to a god that lives on a proverbial mountaintop … or a good old-fashioned tent rally.

But today traditional church attendance is down (even before the pandemic closures). This indicates a shift in belief systems, and a realization that God is not an old man in the sky. Nevertheless, religious groups continue to attract a high percentage of people who find comfort in the moral and ethical belief systems inherent in religion. This might explain why several churches are getting involved in politics (despite tax rules in the United States prohibiting churches from supporting specific political agendas). It is a way of continuing the myth … and retaining membership.

Myths give us something to embrace. And it is more comforting if we embrace it with other like-minded people. We seek them out to confirm our own set of beliefs when things go awry. It provides simplicity. The Chief Editor himself does it regularly. It is not good or bad, but is (and will continue to be) how we homo sapiens do things.

Dana Horton is from Ohio, United States and has recently retired as Director of Energy Markets a large utility company. In August 2019, he earned his ministerial license through a New Thought religious organization called Centers for Spiritual Living based in Denver, Colorado. He acted as interim minister at the Columbus Center for Spiritual Living for several months afterward, where he learned a lot more about religious and spiritual organizations. At this time has no interest in returning to any formal religious structure. But he enjoys investigating spiritual principles, how they originated, and how they might be applicable to everyday living.

[JP – for those of you interested in mythology, you can do no better than Dave Fletcher’s amazing book (on Onus Books) called Myth Education [UK] – please grab a copy and check out the fantastic reviews.]

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...