In mainstream media and online recently there have been all sorts of disputes about atheists, religion, creationism, evolution and so forth. People are going nuts about what is essentially a simple subject, so I’ll go on record for the sake of future reference.
To begin with, the term “mythological” doesn’t necessarily mean a made up story. It is a kind of story that gives meaning to life. People use these stories to create a kind of framework for the way they understand their world and their place in it. For hundreds of thousands of years human beings lived in groups, including in the Middle East and told stories about their ancestry and place of origin. We still do it today. Everyone has some way of understanding the world they live in. It’s a normal thing for a human. People go through breakdowns and extended periods of depression when their worldview is shaken or changing.
Regarding creationism, it’s really very simple. Ancient cultures had their accepted and recognised traditions for writing, be they histories, stories, wisdom traditions or legal codes. Contemporary researchers are familiar with the different traditions because they’re all quite well documented. We have the archaeological records. We have the texts. None of this is in dispute. Original parchments, papyrus and engraved stones or clay tablets, especially from the Classical period, are all on public record.
People who wrote the parchments and told the stories that became the bible weren’t writing the “scientific account” of creation because that style of writing didn’t exist at that time, in that culture. The idea of scientific thesis or rational thinking and writing didn’t exist until the 16th century.
The idea that the bible is some kind of infallible source of information is a relatively recent development. This way of viewing those books came about after the industrial revolution and the development of scientific writing and research. It is a retrospective application of modern understanding on an ancient collection of documents. This raises the question of how useful that approach could be when it comes to understanding those stories? Imagine reading a newspaper as if it were a novel, or reading a fantasy novel as if it were history. You’d miss the point of the style of writing. We all know examples of books or movies that have “a moral to the story”. In most cases if you were to take that book or movie as a factual account, you’d miss the moral altogether and the story would be pretty useless from the point of view of the writer trying to illustrate it. The bible does not need to be understood as a scientific or factual account of the origins of the world for it to provide meaning for people if they choose to look for meaning in it. Certainly there’s no reason for churchmen to teach people that they have to believe that the bible is a rational document or they’ll go to hell. That kind of teaching is about political agenda, not having a useful, helpful worldview to guide one’s way of life.
This doesn’t mean that those stories, wisdom sayings and histories don’t have their own validity for people connected with those origins. It means you don’t need to read it like it’s a text book to get the point.
It really is that simple.
As I said, rationalism and evidence based writing didn’t exist until the 16th century. The accounts of creation in the bible are stories of origin told by people living in the desert in tribal groups or Roman occupied Palestine, thousands of years before the idea of testing of scientific hypotheses became accepted forms of writing and thinking.
This brings us to another good question: For what reason would people be taught or coerced into misreading the bible deliberately? Whose interest does that serve? If the bible is a collection of stories and legal codes belonging to a desert tribal culture in the Middle East some 3,000 or 4,000 years ago, why on earth would you attempt to interpret it according to modern scientific thinking and claim that it was a factual account of the origin of the Universe or humanity, unless there was something to gain?
If you are being told that you need to believe that God created the world in seven days and that that is a physical fact, you need to ask yourself, “Whose interest does it serve?” because that is a product of this modern style of misreading the bible and it is not necessary to read it like that to “get the moral of the story”.
If you personally have a connection with the god of the bible and that has meaning for you and informs your worldview, that’s fine. By all means make that connection. If someone is attempting to coerce you into believing that the earth was “created” in seven days and that believing that will affect the salvation of your eternal soul, you need to ask yourself, “Whose interest does it serve?”