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Robert Segal

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Are There Modern Myths?

In all his writings Mircea Eliade strives to show that religiosity is innate to human beings and, more, that it is as insatiable a drive as hunger. Rather than arguing the case philosophically, by analyzing the concept of human nature or of religion, Eliade argues it empirically, by amassing evidence of the universality of religion. The two main expressions of religion for him are myths and rituals. Eliade's greatest challenge is to demonstrate the presence of religion among modern Westerners, who for him are almost by definition professed nonbelievers.1 To be able to show that even those who spurn religion still evince it would surely be a strong, whether or not clinching, argument for the ineluctability of it. This essay evaluates Eliade's claim that moderns harbor myths in particular.

Robert Segal

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Robert Segal is reader in Religious Studies at the University of Lancaster, England. He is one of the foremost scholars of mythology in the world and the author of The Poimandres as Myth, Joseph Cambell: An Introduction, and Explaining and Interpreting Religion. He has also edited a six-volume compilation of Theories of Myth for Garland Publications.