Justin Skolnick lives and works in Portland.


Originally posted to justin.revision8.com on in Cary, Illinois

I will agree that such perceptions are silly. But there seems to be a lack of clarity in terms that should be addressed.

Religions are essentially mythologies — collections of sometimes improbable and typically supernatural stories through which a culture explains its origins to itself and its descendents — around which the emotional and intellectual lives of many quite sincere people revolve: myth and ritual.

Currently practiced religions are the reigning mythologies — not necessarily by inherent sophistication, truth, or validity, but by a combination of toleration, promotion, oppression, persistence, and (many believe) the work of a divine will.

[One must also consider the role of upbringing: because I was raised Christian, I am more likely to remain Christian I am to than to leave this tradition for another. As well, for the convert and the departee, the religion of one’s childhood can affect one’s future. Such is true for so-called “recovering Catholics,” with whom the effect of the Roman Church lingers even decades after leaving the church, like alcohol to a recovering alcoholic.]

One cannot reasonably compare a mythology (which presently and primarily exists as text) to a religion (which typically exists as a community of people whose common beliefs take root at least partially around one or more texts).

A religion is more than words because it is surrounded by an active community. It persists because of the people who attach themselves to it, ideally (and more often than headlines tell) as a positive force in the world. Its myths are still being made.