Theology, the definitions and descriptions of particular gods, is a subset of mythology. We may define mythology, in its broadest terms, as a collection of legends—fantastic events and superhuman characters—intended to explain why things are as they are.

Creating stories to explain the cosmos accomplishes two things: it provides a comfortable mental handle on complex realities, and it promotes a distorted understanding of reality. I think that the distortion is acceptable, as long as we are aware that our image of the cosmos is not completely accurate. With or without legends and mythology, we know that that reality is not exactly as we perceive it. When we maintain that kind of perspective, we can use legends to illuminate aspects of reality. We can deliberately design them to be useful to our understanding.

We can define “the cosmos” as everything that exists, known and unknown, including other universes in the multiverse, other dimensions that we can’t perceive, and supernatural realms and spiritual beings, should such things exist (see Definitions). We need to stop using the term “God” to personify either the cosmos or some being within it. That usage invites inaccuracy, because not only is “God” burdened with a ton of baggage, but it is impossible to precisely define. That vagueness is used to avoid meaningful dialogue. If we are going to discuss the gods of particular religions, we should use specific terminology—Allah, Heavenly Father, Krishna—to avoid confusion.

Note that there is no being, divine or otherwise, apart from the cosmos. You may say that Elohim or Brahma created the world or the universe, but any gods are still part of the cosmos, by definition.

Let us define “gods” as personifications of large, complex parts of reality that provide a way to conceptualize mysteries of the cosmos. I propose three “gods of the cosmos” that help organize a hugely complex system:

Father Time, spacetime or the ground of being;

Mother Earth, matter/energy, the stuff that occupies and defines spacetime;

Sentient Life, the evolution of consciousness from self-replicating chemicals.

These are concepts that can help us see the bigger picture. They are not individual, conscious, volitional beings, although they may contain sentient beings.

Featured image credit: Eurynome Creates the Cosmos, Elsie Russell.

One thought on “Mythology and the Cosmos

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