A myth take

Atheism doesn’t necessarily imply skepticism (one could be dogmatically atheist), but they do sort of go together. But skepticism includes much more than merely the question of deities. There are lots of myths that don’t involve gods or ghosts or magic or anything purportedly supernatural.

We humans are natural mythmakers, because of the way stories tend to get exaggerated over time, and because we like to attribute mythical qualities to our heroes (of whatever sort). We like true stories, but we really, really like a good story. Being a skeptic means rejecting myth, favoring the true story over the good story.

When I watch documentaries on rock music, for example, there are certain people that just strike me as exceptionally good mythmakers. John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of the Sex Pistols and Ray Manzarek of the Doors are two great examples. Also Pete Townshend of The Who, and Bob Dylan (just look at “The Kids are Alright” or “Don’t Look Back” to see how they craft their image when the cameras are on them).

History abounds with myths as well, such as the Pony Express, which was a lot less mythic in real life than the way it’s almost always portrayed.

(pic of phony Pony Express ad via Dan the Man Trivia)

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Skepticism is important–especially as an antidote to dogmatism and any other posture that assumes too much certainty. But I question the claim that we can make a distinction between good and true stories, or between myth and true stories. If we’re all, always in story, that is interpreting and making sense of the unknown and complex, then it’s all myth, all the time. Skepticism isn’t a matter of rejecting myth but of acknowledging our inability to get out of it and therefore refusing to get dogmatic. History is a great example of unacknowledged and often unconscious myth-making…. the victor tells the story!

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  2. […] good case can be made that we have an emotional need for ritual and ceremony (like our need for myth), and that performing a ritualized “de-baptism” ceremony helps people overcome some […]

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