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Old 09-26-2012, 01:43 PM   #16
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So a story of a 600 year old man who built a 450' boat to house over 50,000 animals, 2M insects, 7 people and a years worth of food for all (animals and people) is believed to be taken literal?
By the society in which it was written, yes. You must of course make up your own mind about whether or not it's a believable story .
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Old 09-26-2012, 01:44 PM   #17
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By the society in which it was written, yes. You must of course make up your own mind about whether or not it's a believable story .
Fair enough
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Old 09-26-2012, 02:36 PM   #18
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Permit me to point out that mythology and religion are NOT the same thing.

Mythology tells stories which make a point, but are not meant to be taken literally. Religion also tells stories, but they are "historical", and are meant to be taken literally. The Greeks were perfectly aware of this distinction, and had a clear separation between mythology and religion, even though the same characters appeared in both.
I'd certainly be nuts to disagree with Harry on this one.
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Old 09-27-2012, 10:09 PM   #19
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i really loved the all of a kind family books when i was young. haven't thought about them in a while - thanks for mentioning them; think i'll go buy them used and revisit them

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I'd suggest the "All-of-a-Kind Family" series by Sydney Taylor. It's a children's series about an immigrant Jewish family in pre-WWI New York City. It incorporates, in a natural fashion, a lot of information about the religion and its holy days/celebrations.
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Old 09-29-2012, 04:13 PM   #20
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I find this Greek/Christian mythology vs religion comment a little confusing. Help me understand it better.

I have often thought one person's mythology or superstition was another's religion - the key was whether you had faith in it or not.

But Harry T says many of the Greek stories were known to be just stories, not historical, by the Greeks who believed in the Greek gods.

Would it be like this:

Jesus' story of the prodigal son - parable/story - meant to make a point
The story of Jesus turning water into wine - meant to be a historical religious story
Noah's Ark - Historical religious story?

Trojan War - thought to be a myth, but shown to be a real place later on. Historical religious story?
The Golden Apple - myth/parable?

It gets slippery when there are interactions between people and the gods.

Moses and the burning bush
Virgin Mary pregnant with Jesus

Demeter requiring people to build a temple
Zeus getting together with a mortal woman to sire a son, Hercules

These specific interactions between gods and humans would be considered historical religious stories amongst people who believe in that religion, right?
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Old 09-30-2012, 12:38 PM   #21
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Let me explain further.

Most people's idea of religion today is belief in a sacred text. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, for example, all have sacred texts at their core. Greek (and Roman) religion was completely different. There were no sacred texts; worshipping a god consisted of making offerings and carrying out prescribed rituals at certain times. There was no equivalent of the Bible in Greek or Roman religion.

Greek mythology served a completely different purpose. Ancient Greece, as I'm sure you know, was not a single country, but consisted of numerous independent "city states" - Athena, Sparta, Corinth, Thebes, and so on. What Greek mythology (which was the result of centuries of oral story telling and poetry) did was to provide an important element of Greek cultural identity. No matter if you were from Athens or from Thebes, you were brought up at your mother's knee with this body of stories, and that was an important part of what made you "Greek". Many of the stories were about the gods, yes, but they were not a part of "religion" because, as I've explained about, texts played no part in religion.

Does that make it any clearer?
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Old 09-30-2012, 01:42 PM   #22
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Surely having one or more texts isn't a requirement for calling your beliefs a religion? To quote almighty Wikipedia: "[A] Religion is a collection of belief systems, cultural systems, and worldviews that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values". I can't say I've ever heard anyone, including people studying religions, claim that the absence of such means it isn't a proper religion. If you are right, then neither the Native Americans, the Australian Aborigines, many of the pre-Christian Indo-European beliefs, nor today's remnants of primitive animism (to name just a few) can be said to be religions - which I really don't think is correct.

As for the purposes you outline for Ancient Greek religion/myth....it's pretty much the purpose religion still serves today.

Mythology, by the way, is a term only every used in hindsight, long after it has become obvious that the myths concerned are untrue. The average Greek, Roman, Persian, Egyptian, etc, etc certainly didn't consider their myths mythical, but to be true stories. Much, or rather exactly, like religious people of today consider their myths real.
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Old 09-30-2012, 02:14 PM   #23
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No, belief in a sacred text certainly isn't a requirement for religion; as I said, most religions in the ancient world (Judaism bring the notable exception) were based on performing rituals, not on texts. And that's my point: that the body of literature that we call "Greek mythology" are not, and never were, religious texts.
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Old 09-30-2012, 02:35 PM   #24
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I'd suggest the "All-of-a-Kind Family" series by Sydney Taylor. It's a children's series about an immigrant Jewish family in pre-WWI New York City. It incorporates, in a natural fashion, a lot of information about the religion and its holy days/celebrations.
Thank you for posting this! I read & loved this series in the late 60s. Every so often, something would make me think of it, but I could never remember the name, and all my googling produced nothing.
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Old 09-30-2012, 02:40 PM   #25
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No, belief in a sacred text certainly isn't a requirement for religion; as I said, most religions in the ancient world (Judaism bring the notable exception) were based on performing rituals, not on texts. And that's my point: that the body of literature that we call "Greek mythology" are not, and never were, religious texts.
Sorry, my bad. Reading too fast, while absorbing too little.

You're quite right of course, today's Greek myths were certainly never religious texts of any kind, only morality tales and the like.
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Old 10-01-2012, 07:48 PM   #26
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Let me explain further.

Most people's idea of religion today is belief in a sacred text. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, for example, all have sacred texts at their core. Greek (and Roman) religion was completely different. There were no sacred texts; worshipping a god consisted of making offerings and carrying out prescribed rituals at certain times. There was no equivalent of the Bible in Greek or Roman religion.

Greek mythology served a completely different purpose. Ancient Greece, as I'm sure you know, was not a single country, but consisted of numerous independent "city states" - Athena, Sparta, Corinth, Thebes, and so on. What Greek mythology (which was the result of centuries of oral story telling and poetry) did was to provide an important element of Greek cultural identity. No matter if you were from Athens or from Thebes, you were brought up at your mother's knee with this body of stories, and that was an important part of what made you "Greek". Many of the stories were about the gods, yes, but they were not a part of "religion" because, as I've explained about, texts played no part in religion.

Does that make it any clearer?
I understand where you are coming from, but I don't think a physical text makes the difference between "historical" and "mythological" stories.

The bible is just oral stories that were eventually written down, just like the Greeks. So a Greek who believed in the Greek Gods would have believed these stories to be truth, just like Christians believe their stories to be true.

And the Greek ones are also written down, but they just don't have a substantial population of believers at the moment.
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Old 10-01-2012, 08:48 PM   #27
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The difference is that the Greek myths were not venerated in the same way the Bible is. No-one would have stood at a pulpit and read about Prometheus giving the secret of fire to humanity, while expecting the congregation to take heed and follow whatever advice might be contained within the story, except in that many were morality tales containing general advice. In other words: the stories themselves were not considered sacred, nor were they integral to the religious beliefs of the Greeks in the same way that the Bible, Koran or Talmud are integral and fundamental to their respective religions today. They were just stories; stories about their gods, sometimes stories containing advice on how to behave and act, but only stories.
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Old 10-02-2012, 11:19 AM   #28
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I recall reading The First Strawberries by Joseph Bruchac. It's an aboriginal legend. It's not exactly religious in our sense, but their beliefs are based on nature, so I think it'll fit.

I also heard that Joseph Bruchac's other works are also very good for children.
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Old 10-08-2012, 01:23 AM   #29
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The difference is that the Greek myths were not venerated in the same way the Bible is. No-one would have stood at a pulpit and read about Prometheus giving the secret of fire to humanity, while expecting the congregation to take heed and follow whatever advice might be contained within the story, except in that many were morality tales containing general advice. In other words: the stories themselves were not considered sacred, nor were they integral to the religious beliefs of the Greeks in the same way that the Bible, Koran or Talmud are integral and fundamental to their respective religions today. They were just stories; stories about their gods, sometimes stories containing advice on how to behave and act, but only stories.
Ancient Greece had priests and priestesses, the same as other religions do now. They built temples to their gods and I believe the stories involving the gods were venerated and considered true.

I fail to see a significant difference.
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Old 10-08-2012, 04:13 AM   #30
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Ancient Greece had priests and priestesses, the same as other religions do now. They built temples to their gods and I believe the stories involving the gods were venerated and considered true.
No, they were not. To repeat: there were no "sacred texts" in the Greek (or Roman) religion, and hence the very concept of "orthodoxy" was meaningless. There was no correct (or incorrect) way to "believe" about the gods. All that mattered was correct practice in ritual and sacrifice. It was a fundamentally different concept of religion to the Judeo-Christian tradition. That's why, for example, Greek mythology has differing and contradictory stories about the origins of the gods and there was no problem with that. (There were, for example, two different stories about the birth of Aphrodite - in one, she was the daughter of Zeus and the nymph Dione; in the other she was born when Cronus cut of the genitals of his father, Uranus, and threw them into the sea.). Can you imagine Christianity accepting two wildly differing stories about the birth of Jesus?

Greek mythology was "just stories". They had no religious significance. This is clear if you read ancient Greek sources.

Last edited by HarryT; 10-08-2012 at 08:00 AM. Reason: Typo
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