I have a very good friend (who shall remain un-named) that I chat with over Skype quite frequently. He and I frequently get into various arguments and debates. He and I have debated everything from the validity of the "Four Directions" in Neo-Pagan thought, to the possibility of sidhe living among us, and the importance/unimportance of having a specific and grounded tradition (I'm sure you can guess my opinion on many of these things. . .) One argument I did not expect to have with him was whether or not the myths were literal.
Now, don't get me wrong, he is a great dude and rather intelligent, but when we began debating the validity of the Perseus myth or the Hycanith myth I couldn't help but feel a bit awe struck. I couldn't help but feel a bit stupified when he told me that yes, it is entirely plausible that Medusa's blood turned into poisonous snakes in the dessert, that the Odyssey totally might have happened and that in the myth of Math, he probably turned his nephews into a stag and doe in a very real sense. I simply was unaware of what to think, and then he told me that he believes in the Bible literally too, and he just thinks certain things may have been exaggerated or tainted.
Ah ha! I began to have suspicions at this point.
So, we began talking further, about the nature of deity and possible plans, when he made a statement that surprised me (yet again). He said, in essence "Well, why does it matter to you if you don't actually believe in the Gods?". At this point, I began to ponder if for him, the belief in deity necessitated believing the myths to be literal to some degree, and it turns out that yes, that was a sort of qualification for him. I also found out that he was raised as a "literalness" Christian. At that point, it hit me, he had transferred the qualification of literal belief in mythos as belief in deity that Conservative Christianity contains to the setting of modern (Eclectic for him) Paganism. You could say that he just expanded his extremeism from the Christian mythos, to the Greek, Celtic, Japanese, Chinese, Hindu, etc mythos (since he told me that he believes *all* myths are literal with some corruption involved).Okay, now to get to where the danger in this lies.
First of all, the danger of literal belief lies most evidently in attempting to act out some of these myths or rituals described in myth, because, let us be honest, many of them are quite brutal. From the rampant rape in the Greek myths, to the brutal killings in the Celtic myths, believing them to be real and valid modes of expression to deity is *dangerous* just as it would be dangerous for Christians to be allowed to stone gays and witches (which I'm sure more than a few would like to do) and despite the act being illegal Pagans and homosexuals are assaulted by Christian extremists on the occasion.
Secondly, this is a clear transfer of belief from a Monotheistic setting to simply a Polytheistic one. By doing this we are allowing our Faith to be a sort of reaction or augmentation to Monotheism which is simply damaging to the movement as a whole. It makes our actions partly contingent upon the actions of the dominant Monotheistic religion in America(or Ireland, or Britain, or Russia etc). If they go Left, then we either go Far Left or go Right, they declare November Christian Blue Month, we end up with a detachment of Pagans declaring October Pagan Red Month. It simply is not a good mode of operation. Now, we obviously do not operate as a cohesive unit, but we do operate as an allied unit by means of a common goal and common interests. Asatru and followers of Hellenismos may associate with Eclectics and Wiccans due to the fact that, whether we like it or not, we are in this movement together, and by allowing this kind of *poison* to enter the movement we are setting everyone back. I mean, let us face it, the hook for many people comes from the Eclectic/Wiccan practices, then when they really start digging into it, that is when they tend to get involved with specific movements such as Asatru or Hellenismos.