Catholicism and Greek Mythology

My daughter is recently asking many questions about “other gods”. When I ask her to clarify, she states that another girl at school is always talking about gods, such as Isis. That this girl “believes in other gods”. She has told me that at recess they play “demi gods”.
She is asking me if it is okay to play this way.
My question is, what is the Catholic church’s teaching on greek mythology? I have always likened mythology to fables, so in that sense I wouldn’t see a problem with them playing out stories they know. On the other hand, I worry that this subject could open a door to that which is not of God.
I would love any answers you may be able to offer!

Read your daughter the story about Paul’s address to the Greeks about the “unknown god” in Acts 17:18-34 which you can find here. I’m sure it will help you put the whole notion of other “gods” in context as you are discussing it with her. It’s a very beautiful passage.

When I was a child, I was hugely into Egyptian Religion, and my mom never objected when I made her act out the stories with me. I think this is responsible for all of my interest in religion in this life.

It is completely fine if she likes Greek Myths. Maybe you could even buy her books on the subject or “push” her towards sharing this interest in the Bible Stories. But make sure she knows they are just pretend, don’t let her be neopagan or a henotheist at her age.

My only concern is that this other girl actually believes in these “gods.” Where it may be just harmless playtime for your daughter (which is fine), it may be a form homage for this other girl. It’s kinda like when kids act in a Christmas pageant - this is really a form of homage. It is a special honor for the girl who plays Mary. That’s because Mary was special. By recreating the Christmas story, we recognize and honor those who played an intergal part in this dramatic event. A Christmas Pageant is not “just another play.” It is the story of our salvation (although Part Two comes 33 years later).

If it was purely fiction for both girls then I would not have any concerns. But I would not want to promote or encourage the belief of your daughter’s friend.

I am not sure how old your daughter is, but I would start by explaining that there is only One God. If she is in school then she is old enough to go over the Creed with her and point out what we believe. I would also go over reall quickly the Old testement stories of when God showed these other gods to have no power (in other words not be real). I would also tell her that it is ok to play act and make bleive aobut these characters, but if the other girl really belive in them then she should not play those games with here as it is making funny of her.

She should know the difference between real people and pretend like with heros. We have real heros: Firefighters etc… and then we have superheros: superman, batman, wonder woman…

I would also point out that before God made himself know to all through Christ many people knew that there was more that just man, They knew that there was a God. And they invented the stories of the gods to explain what they saw but had no real knowledge of.

I think an interest in mythology is really good and healthy for children. When I was a child, I used to carry books about mythology with me and read them whenever I got the chance. The stories not only help you understand a lot of great literature that references them, they can serve to fire up the imagination.

I doubt very much that children – such as you daughter’s friend – are all that serious about believing in other gods. But even if they are, it couldn’t possibly hurt your daughter to learn about what other people believe.

When I was a child, I loved reading Greek mythology so much that I wore the cover off my D’aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths. It’s one of the reasons why when I became a pagan, the Greek pantheon is what I was most drawn to. That’s not to say that all children who read Greek myths will become pagan. I’m sure that my peers learned quite a bit as well.

I think a little make believe is ok. The important part is to watch for signs that she may have become invested in the subject.

I agree though, that reading at least a book of Bible stories would be a good idea to change the focus.

Learning about the various ancient mythologies, in and of itself, is harmless. And, as AntiTheist pointed out, necessary to understand several references in Western literature.

The danger is seeing our Bible stories on the same level as pagan mythologies. Doing that is one of the things that kept C. S. Lewis believing the Christian “myth” was just another fable. The great difference is that the biblical accounts are true happenings (not necessarily the parables, but any of the historical passages are) while mythologies are man’s way of explaining the world around him and how the supernatural interacts with it. The Bible is revealed by God and mythologies are man’s creations.

Mythologies have their worth–they tell us a great deal about how men have believed and seen the universe. Many closely resemble the biblical stories because they are the fractured remembrances of God’s promises to Adam and Eve, to Noah and other Patriarchs from man’s very earliest time.

I don’t know how children could play at being Isis–an ancient Egyptian deity of motherhood, magic and fertility. It would depend on what this “play” involves. If could be harmless, but it would be best to look into it a bit further to be certain just what your daughter would be getting into.

A good knowledge of the mythologies of ancient cultures will stand her in good stead as she will encounter references to them in literature as she grows up. Make sure she realises the stories of gods and goddesses were from a time when people didn’t know about the one true God, and made up stories to explain things they didn’t understand.
Isis was an Egyptian goddess, by the way.:wink:

GK Chesterton wrote in his “The Everlasting Man” on myths. Christ is the culmination of all the expectations of the myth-makers of those societies who made myths. The Holy Family is the type of the ideal family of Master Kong. The God who gave His Life on a cross, suffering the loss of His Father, is mirrored in the god who gave men fire, and was condemned to suffer the loss of his liver while chained to a rock. Ancestor worship preceded the worship of the Ancestor of Existence Itself.

Far from being dangerous to the Christian faith, myth led men to it. Paul connected as much in Athens and in Lystra.

Greek mythology is essentially, a type of paganism–i.e.–the belief in a multitude of [manufactured] gods (and the manufacture thereof, and the imputation of human characteristics, or ‘anthropomorphism’).

Hence, in addition to some of the above, another great resource is St. Augustine’s City of God. A bit ‘heady’, and long…but, historically, he wrote it in response to the pagans blaming Christianity for the fall of Rome. Through it, he essentially obliterated paganism; it was perhaps, after Constantine’s act of religious tolerance in legitimizing Christianity as a legal practice in the Roman Empire, the next greatest step (arguably, final, or the dagger) for the triumph of Christianity over paganism, in antiquity.

As for your child playing out the Greek myths…I see no harm–as long as you, as her parent, works to keep it in perspective, and keep her properly grounded in distinguishing Truth from myth.

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