Myths are a set of community beliefs. A shared belief system is meant to unite members of the society. It defines socially acceptable behavior and ensures that members follow it. It creates an atmosphere of familiarity and stability, and a sense of shared history and purpose. Myths also explain the inexplicable. The inexplicable is often frightening, and rationalizing the irrational reassures gives people a feeling of security. Shared beliefs also serve as the foundation for building up a society, making its members behave in the ways similar to each other and encouraging cohesiveness. Often, myths act as cautionary tales. A community fosters a shared belief system as an insidious system of control. Society does not like any member to rock the boat. Myths are ingrained so deep in a person’s psyche that they influence his or her actions unconsciously. Therefore, they compromise his or her individuality, originality and ability to think for themselves. Busting a myth could create a rupture in the fabric of the society and potentially lead to a revolutionary change.
A commonly held cultural myth is that children are innocent. This myth could have come about from the society’s wish to protect children, who are usually physically weaker than adults are. However, this belief leads to adults obtaining the right to force their own ideas on children. The idea is that children, being innocent, do not know what is best for them, whereas adults know better and should have the authority to make decisions on their behalf. This ensures that children become dependent on their parents or the society. Also, an adult can justify punishing a child based on the perceived necessity to protect his or her innocence. Presumed innocence also becomes the basis for ‘teaching the child right from wrong’ – but ideas on what constitutes right and wrong are subjective, and vary from society to society. Thus, teaching becomes a means to inculcate cultural myths into the next generation of the society.