What is myth? For rationalists such as Muller, they provide pre-scientific explanations of natural phenomena. For functionalists such as Malinowski they are a "codification of belief", explaining rites and justifying norms. For Jung, myth provides expressions of a collective unconscious. (i.e. images that are common to all human beings. These images are psychological and represent internal mental processes; typical emotions). Barthes studied the process of mythification, Levi-Strauss' structuralists studied the structure of myths and form. Critics led by Bultmann advocated demythologising.
[...] Yet what the myth fails to explain is the cosmogonic origins of evil. Why did God create the serpent and put it there to tempt Adam and Eve? Ricoeur [Rogerson 1990:481] explains myth as "traditions which hold together in creative tensions the paradoxes of human existence." According to Leach [Rogerson 1990:481] the serpent is not a symbol of the evil tempting Adam and Eve but a device to distract from the incestuous - and therefore already sinful - nature of their relationship. [...]
[...] Yet are these concerns not more rooted in fears of a loss of identity and "Britishness"? Durkheim wrote of how every tribe needs it focal symbol. Has the baby in the crib become a totemic symbol of white middle England? If so, this may explain why many attend church at Christmas if at no other time of the year. Many Christmas services involve the Eucharist, in which the body and blood of Jesus, the same Jesus whose birth is venerated, is shared and eaten by the congregation. [...]
[...] Conclusion As this cartoon (from The Times on 23rd December 2003) demonstrates, myths of origin retain an intrinsic role in British society as in religion. In his 1994 response to secularization The Sea of Faith, Cupitt [1994:8] wrote; " . efforts to demythologize Christianity in order to prevent it from decaying into superstition have so far had little lasting success because most people have instinctively felt that the heart of the matter lies in the myth, understood literally . " Understood literally, both the Genesis cosmogony and the nativity are stories of birth. [...]
[...] Their role in society What role, if any, do the myths of the origin of Jesus Christ play in the post-Christian society of Britain today? Christmas as celebrated by most seemingly owes more to the festival's pagan mid-winter feasting roots than to the Christian story. Muslims of South Asian origin sometimes explain Eid as "our Christmas." This appears to reveal a view of Christmas as a festival of white British people, celebrating culture and family and self before anything "religious". [...]
[...] Glaser, I., and John, N Partners or Prisoners? UK: Solway. Guinness, M A little kosher seasoning. London: Hodder & Stoughton. Jonsson, G The Image of God. Lund: Almqvust & Wiksell. Kwam, K. E., Schearing, S. S., & Ziegler, V. H Eve & Adam: Jewish, Chistian and Muslim readings on Genesis and Gender. USA: Indiana University Press. McCurry, P 'Charity comes clean over appeal.' The Guardian 09/07/03. http://society.guardian.co.uk/societyguardian/story/0,7843,993954,00.html [as viewed 10/01/04] McCutcheon, R. T 'Myth'. Guide to the Study of Religions, eds. [...]
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