The Difference Between Religion And Mythology

The relationship between religion and mythology is one of continuing debate. While some historians stress that religion and mythology have similar origins, others emphasize the theological divide between them. With the many stories, folklores and legends that have been passed down through generations, the difference between religion and mythology can be, at times, hard to distinguish.

Generally speaking, religion is a set of beliefs and practices held by a group of people. The definition can be extended to include beliefs regarding moral codes, the nature and purpose of the universe and a system of worship. In most cases, religion is institutionalized, and the followers of that faith use its associated stories to recruit new worshippers and remind fellow followers of the religion ‘s tenets.

Mythology, on the other hand, is a body of stories belonging to a particular culture or group. These stories, which usually contain supernatural elements, are about a culture ‘s origin, history, ancestors and heroes. They are intended to be instructional or inspirational without necessarily imparting a system of belief or moral codes.

While some scholars insist that myths are religious and sacred, others maintain that this is not always the case. The real discrepancies occur when attempting to determine whether or not a religious story is a myth.

How Religion and Mythology Relate

Religion and mythology are closely linked because they both involve explanations (or stories) of creation, human life and how things came to be. In addition, both often include supernatural elements.

However, this is where the discernible similarities end. Beyond these basic principals, all other creation stories can debatably be classified as either religious or mythological or both.

According to classicist scholar Robert Graves, a religious story is only a myth to those who do not belong to or understand that religion. Alternatively, folklorists (those who study folklore) believe that myths are sacred stories that describe how things came to be. Therefore, any religious story that accomplishes this is a myth.

The Difference between Religion and Mythology

One concrete difference between religion and mythology is that mythology only refers to a collection of stories or myths, while religion encompasses an entire set of beliefs and practices, stories included.

Another difference is that the word “myth ” often connotes that a story is false. Consequently, many are opposed to the categorizing of sacred stories as myths. However, keep in mind that myths aren ‘t necessarily fictional stories. It depends, of course, on how you define a myth.

To further complicate things, individuals ‘ interpretations of religious stories vary. Just as the definition of myth depends on the person, so too does the interpretation of a religious story. As a result, the lines between fact versus fiction in both myths and religious stories are blurred and negotiable, depending on a person ‘s belief system and interpretations.

Ancient Greek and Egyptian Mythology: Myths versus Religion

For many, the subject of mythology tends to bring to mind the stories, legends and practices of the ancient Greeks and ancient Egyptians. In these cultures, the lines between religion and mythology are especially controversial. The religion and mythology of both the ancient Greeks and Egyptians involved stories of gods, heroes and creation that, in many instances, were retold during complementary practices and rituals.

To argue that their beliefs were not religion would be incorrect. For the people of ancient Greece and ancient Egypt, religion and mythology were one in the same.