All stories, in mythological terms, are metaphors for the things in the universe that we cannot explain whether they are presented as films, books or round a camp fire. Religion does the same except religion is the taking of these ancient stories and presenting them as fact rather than metaphor. Modern stories, modern myths, are rarely presented as fact, but there is no less attempt at explorations of the big questions, and they are not necessarily less viable than the stories chosen by the religions of the world.
In my novel, The Hereafter, I look at questions such as what happens after death? What is the purpose of life and death? What is the relationship between Humans and Nature? Why do natural disasters happen? In the novel I do this by creating an artificial afterlife and planting it in the middle of our society now and see what happens. I am not saying any of my ideas are true, but I am exploring these questions and possible answers.
In my upcoming novel, Age Of Games, I look at the structure and bureaucracy if you like of human evolution by exploring the reason for the different phases of human awareness over time and why this might have changed or been changed. I then use that to hold a mirror to life as we know it and show it in a different perspective than you hold each day as you go about your life.
In Life Of Pi, there is a lot of talk of religion and God but at no point does the writer try to explain what this means to our existence, his point is to just find a story you like and enjoy life in terms of that story, the truth of it doesn't matter. Life can be extremely difficult at times and it is important to have something bigger than ourselves to believe in to get us through. Even when Pi has lost everything he can take time to revel in the magnificence of it all.
In The Hereafter it transpires that our relationship with death drives our need for religion, for our need for something to be true, and when technology offers a guaranteed afterlife, religion loses much of its grip on humankind. This afterlife causes some serious problems with Nature though and the solution to these problems emphasises the importance of these mythological symbols to us as a species.