Mythology vs. Religion | Teen Ink

Mythology vs. Religion

April 19, 2010
By RosyOptimism DIAMOND, Coronado, California
RosyOptimism DIAMOND, Coronado, California
72 articles 31 photos 56 comments

Practicing rituals and having faith relates to mythology and religion, respectively. In The Odyssey, by Homer, there are Greek gods that control the way the action in the epic poem plays out. Mythology involves myths that deal with the multiple gods, heroes, and demigods. In contrast, religion that is focused on a single deity is portrayed in Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe. Religion is defined by practices and beliefs. Many heated debates can be started by asking the question, “Which is better: mythology or religion?” However, when basing one’s decision just on the stories of The Odyssey and Robinson Crusoe, it is obvious, in my opinion, that mythology win, hands down.
In The Odyssey, Odysseus, a man fated to hardship, believes in the gods portrayed in Greek mythology. During the epic poem, it is impossible not to notice the strong and dominant influence the gods have over everything. Odysseus, throughout his journey, pours libations and burns certain foods in order to please the gods. While sometimes his offerings do little to sway the gods, the reader is fascinated to watch the gods’ actions. The epic story seems fast-paced and exciting because the gods are always working their fantastic influences in the characters’ lives. Greek gods can have an effect not only on earth’s elements (i.e., sun, earthquakes, and the sea), but also on humans.

In mythology people often appear as the best they can be. Because of stories like Hercules (a mortal becoming a god), people strove to be great in order to, hopefully, become a god. In The Odyssey, when Odysseus washes upon the shore of the Pheacians, the people there are gracious. They offer him gifts and send him off with a crew and a handsome boat to help him on his voyage home. The reason for their kind actions is because, in their view, Odysseus could’ve been a god. Kindness is not the only good that comes out of Greek mythology.

Reading a book where the characters can be actively involved with the gods’ discussions is a better read than a man praying that something will happen but not having any way of knowing what God is thinking. In Robinson Crusoe, Robinson prays for deliverance and help, but the story is slow and his Christian faith doesn’t add much drama to the story. Crusoe continues to be stuck on an island, and God does not appear to be real because he never speaks or acts overtly in the story. Unlike Robinson Crusoe, The Odyssey allows the reader to understand the gods’ thoughts and to take certain gods’ sides, and this makes the reading more involving. However, Robinson Crusoe has a different take on practices and faith.

While being stranded on an island, Crusoe’s religious beliefs make him think positive thoughts. Religion, in this respect, keeps Robinson Crusoe from going insane. Whenever he witnesses a miracle (i.e., corn growing) he believes it is God’s work. Robinson feels like God wants him alive, and that is why he survived when his crewmates all died. In contrast, mythology only seems to make Odysseus’ life more difficult. There is hardly a moment when the gods are not making his life miserable. In religion, one often feels honored and specially chosen, and believers who are Catholic are not even required to make food offerings to their God.

In order to please the gods, Odysseus constantly gave much of his needed food to the gods. However, Robinson Crusoe was not only saved by God from drowning, but also was landed in a country that had the necessary elements to keep him alive. All this without his having to sacrifice the food he needed in order to sustain himself. In this case, religion wins because it was more practical in helping the characters survive when they lacked much of what they needed for survival, but, overall, mythology offers much more interesting additions to the storyline.

Because mythology is fast-paced, involves the reader more, and is altogether a better read, The Odyssey displays mythology in a better light than does religion as portrayed in Robinson Crusoe. Mythology allows a story to develop many intriguing twists and helps create an excellent and satisfying read.

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