Here's a little something I had to write up for my Mythology class this semester: The take-home portion of my midterm! Hooray!
Being an Atheist, I often dismiss the fact that faith can be a real and powerful thing to individuals. My “lack of faith” tends to render me blind to the complexities of beliefs and how important they can be to an individual’s life. During the course thus far, I have come to realize that faith in a creator, or creators, is an important and everyday aspect to the lives and cultures of the characters and people in our texts—both the civilizations of the time, and the authors who wrote down their most important words. These belief systems provided them with many answers, helpful, familiar, and important, to bring understanding to the world around them and a sense of unity as a community or group (something that can still be seen within our society today), and, through the fashioning of intricate stories, passed on knowledge from one generation to the next as a source of education about both their faith and their world.
The idea of faith seemed to rule the lives of these people and cultures to an extent that, when they sought out knowledge to answer the unknown, they looked toward their belief systems for an explanation. This supernatural search for an answer can be found most prominently within the texts that we read earlier on in the semester—the Native American creation myths and genesis. Focusing on the answer to a question that describes the origins of not only people but the world itself, could be labeled the most popular unknown both to ancient civilizations and current day religious types and scientists. Each story has a common element: a creator. Be it a god, goddess, supernatural being or creature, or even a seemingly scientific event, each group depended (and still depends) heavily on their belief systems or faith to answer this question.
To begin with the most well-known version of creation, our own Christian views, we are presented with a singular God that “created the heaven and the earth”—night and day, earth, water and sky, plants, creatures of the sea, air and land, and lastly humans (Genesis 1). The Shakti creation myth we read is a good compliment to the Christian view through the use of a single being creating everything, but they choose a woman instead of as “man”. Their creator is “she who holds the Universe in her womb, / source of all creative energies, / Maha Devi who conceives / and bears and nourishes / all that exists” (Shakti 487). Each of these stories also has a strong sense of a reward system. Obeying or pleasing these beings brings about good fortune to the worshipers, which could provide success in both life and death, and help create a strong set of rules and/or morals for the community.
(Skipping ahead a bit so you don't have to read a novel...)
What all of these creation stories have in common is the deep rooted dependence on their faith. They used familiar and comfortable ideas to explain the unknown and help bring order to chaos, their community being the source of inspiration for the familiar. These stories gave them something to bind them together as a community, and provided a way to pass this knowledge on to future generations. The same still holds true today. Personally, my lack of faith is defined by my beliefs. I do not believe in a God, but I do believe in other things such as science and karma.
Post Script: Well, I apparently love appositives. Haha. I'm not surprised. They seem to have a little more creative give when I'm writing. Perhaps a little more creative freedom. Anyway, let me know if I've gotten anything wrong! It's a lot harder for me to spot these things when I'm not writing the sentences right then and there.