What we need

Comment is Free’s ‘Belief’ asks whether we should believe in belief and makes a highly debatable assertion on the way.

[S]ocieties do need myths, as indeed do individuals. Take away their organising beliefs about their purpose in the world and both individuals and societies disintegrate: the belief that societies can function without myths, or rather that they should and will in the enlightened future, is itself a myth, and not a very helpful one.

Organizing beliefs are one thing, and myths are another. It is perfectly possible to have organizing beliefs about one’s purpose in the world without believing in myths. It gets rather exasperating sometimes noticing how sloppy and casual and offhanded people can be about mixing up their terminology. Yes organizing beliefs are generally useful (depending on what they are, of course), but that doesn’t just translate straight into ‘societies and individuals need myths.’

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