Myth in Religion

Robert Alan Segal

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary

2 Citations (Scopus)


Modern theories of myth, most of which hail from the social sciences, can be classified into two main categories. In the nineteenth century theorists saw myth as the ‘primitive,’ outdated counterpart to science, which was considered largely modern. It was assumed that myth arose and functioned to explain the physical world. The personalistic, religious explanation was incompatible with the impersonal explanation given by science. One could not consistently have both myth and science. In the twentieth century theorists saw religion as almost anything but the primitive counterpart to science. Either myth was no longer assumed to be about the physical world, or myth was no longer assumed to serve to explain the physical world, or both. Myth now diverged from science and was therefore compatible with it. Myth was no longer automatically tied to religion. In the twentieth-first century the question is whether myth can be brought back to the physical world as an explanation of it, yet in a way compatible with science.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences
EditorsNeil Smelser, Paul Baltes
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
Number of pages7
ISBN (Print)978-0-08-043076-8
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • myth
  • religion
  • social science
  • theory


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