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Lecture 5

ANTHROP 2R03 Lecture 5: Lecture 5 - Myths, Symbolism and Worldview (Jan 15)

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Ellen Badone

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Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft
January 15,208
Myth, Symbolism and Worldview
The Anthropology of Christianity
Opposite to understanding the unfamiliar
De-familiarizing the familiar, at least for North Americans, Western Europeans up to
mid-twentieth century
Anthropologists took a long time to apply ethnographic methods, anthropological theory
to Christianity seen as too close to home
Desire to distance themselves from missionaries
Ideological differences between anthropology (evolution) and Christianity (creationism)
made it difficult for anthropologists to gain rapport with Christian groups
Religious Narratives
Sacred narratives = myths; believed to be true
Key parts of larger philosophical/theological systems
Myths are set outside historical time, at the beginning of time (creation)
o Tell us about creation
Tell how world came into its present form
Characters: gods, semi-divine, culture heroes
Often performed in special ways, at special times, in special places
Accepted on faith, taught to be believed, cited as religious truth
Explanatory function provide answers to questions like how did world begin, where did
humans come from, what are origins of death
Account for characteristics of animals, geographic features, natural phenomena
Myths can explain details of ritual, why taboos or certain customs are observed
Describe social worlds of deities
Popular sense “untrue”
But using term in analytical sense
o Believed to be something that is true
Biblical narrative Genesis meets criteria for myth
o Genesis believed to be true by Christians
Explains origins, accounts for world
Becomes site of contestation vs. evolution and belief becomes a statement of identity
for evangelical Christians
Social role
Could argue that myth provides answers to why, meaning; science provides answers to
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