Myths tell us the rules and laws of the society to which we belong. They guide us as to what is right and what is wrong.
We all want myths, rules and laws, to tell us what to do, how to do it, how to behave. We also want freedom; to rebel, dissent, and decide.
We want the freedom to impose our version of good over evil on the world. It makes us feel more human – part of something bigger. And sometimes, it justifies our inhumanity.
In reality, we have little conscious choice about anything we feel strongly about because so much of who we know ourselves to be is composed of myths and stories – the made up stuff – that we inherited from mommy, daddy, school and religion. We truly believe these fairy stories are right and godly, because inside of us they feel that way.
Our brains think our beliefs are real because we feel so strongly about them – so inside, we know, they must be spiritually ordained messages of truth.
Take the shooting at Fort Hood by Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. It’s a classic example of colliding mythological structures, each fighting for domination and control within the psyche of the Major. One of these competing beliefs must be right, and must be chosen over the other belief which is wrong. It’s a classic struggle of good over evil.
When myths collide – they cause pain points – and both psychological and actual trouble can ensue.
In the Major’s case, there are two clear myths in conflict. The first myth is the one that the army uses to build the psychological sub-structure of a soldier – doing your duty, fighting for freedom, brotherhood, trust, etc. The second myth is Islam, a world religion whose mythological structure is submission, the total surrender of oneself to God. A Muslim is one who submits to god. Hasan is Muslim. His spiritual sub-structure is constructed of made up stuff that has an overwhelming pull on the psyche.
So what is a man to do in a fragile psychology of fear deployment and spiritual conflict? Do I do my duty – go to war and potentially kill fellow Muslims? Or do I dissent? He handles it the same way we all do – through trying to make sense of the conflicted feelings. It’s a reenactment of a mythological battle of good over evil – right and holy versus wrong and bad.
In the case of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan his religious believes won.
When people ask me if myths really have that much power, I direct them to events like this and point out that people are killing one another all around the world everyday because of their belief in Santa Clause of many different names – what we call god.
Clearly, we have a genetic predisposition to believe in the supernatural, and religion is just a symptom of this genetic necessity to believe.
Sometimes, we believe so deeply, that killing seems necessary to defend the honor of one Santa Clause myth over another.