Wednesday, April 30, 2008

An Analysis of the Religion Segment in the Internet Film "Zeitgeist"

Those folks who enjoy spending their free time browsing Internet sites like YouTube and other video websites may be familiar with the independent Internet documentary “Zeitgeist.” The title comes from a German word meaning “the spirit of the times.” This film, written and directed by Peter Joseph, and based largely on the works of a man named Jordan Maxwell, is broken up into three segments, one on religion, one on 9/11, and one on the Federal Reserve. I have not viewed the last two segments, and do not intend to, but I was asked by an acquaintance to watch the segment on religion and comment on it.

In this segment, entitled “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” the filmmakers discuss ancient religion and astrology and attempt to show how ancient astrological ideas impacted the story of Jesus. For the sake of space, I will discuss only the major themes asserted in the segment, looking at specific claims only when I feel that they are vitally important to the analysis of the film.

In an effort to sum up my thoughts here at the very beginning, as a sort of thesis for this analysis (and so those who do not want to read everything can understand the gist of my opinions), let me say that the entire segment, from the first second to the last second, is utter nonsense. I can think of no kinder way to couch my opinion. The arguments made by the filmmakers are absurd, and are mostly comprised of total fiction and intentional deceptions. Whether their arguments are valid or not, I would like to suppose that the filmmakers were acting in good faith, putting together a series of arguments that they truly believed in, based on in-depth research. But the arguments stray so far from the historical record that one can only make the assumption that they were literally making it up as they went along, in an effort to support a predetermined conclusion that was otherwise unsupported by the actual evidence. There may be a few things they got right, most likely by accident, but by and large, their assertions are baloney. In short, the arguments represent pseudo-scholarship, or, more bluntly and certainly more accurately, “bad” scholarship. There is not a reputable scholar or historian on earth who would give even a second thought to the claims made in this film. The filmmakers themselves do not have a shred of scholarly credibility, and the claims they make are, in a literal sense of the word, laughable.

The segment begins by making the assertion that the well-known stories of Jesus were almost entirely drawn from other ancient religions. These stories include a virgin birth, Son of God status, healings and other miracles, ultimate betrayal by a trusted confidant, execution by crucifixion, and resurrection after three days. The filmmakers assert that Jesus is simply the “most recent” of what they call the “solar messiahs.” They assert that there were literally dozens of these pre-Jesus solar messiahs. Specifically, the filmmakers spend quite a bit of time discussing what they believe are the astounding similarities between Jesus and the ancient Egyptian god Horus. In fact, they state that Jesus’ character is “most explicitly a plagiarization of the Egyptian sun god Horus.” Because of the significance they place on the Horus/Egyptian connection, I will spend quite a bit of time discussing this in detail.

The filmmakers assert that Horus was born on December 25th to the virgin goddess Isis. His birth, so the filmmakers tell us, was said to have been heralded by a star in the east, which three kings followed in order to find him and pay homage. He began teaching people as early as the age of 12. His official ministry began at the age of 30, shortly after he had been baptized. He was accompanied during his ministry by 12 disciples, and he performed many miracles, including healing the sick and walking on water. He was referred to by titles such as “the truth,” “the light,” “God’s anointed son,” “the good shepherd,” and the “lamb of God.” He was ultimately betrayed, crucified on a cross, and then resurrected to new life three days later.

Christians will recognize each one of these attributes as attributes of Jesus. The filmmakers, however, assert that they were originally attributes of Horus, many, many centuries before Jesus was born. But is there any credibility to these claims? Someone unfamiliar with ancient Egyptian history and mythology may not know for certain, but as someone who has had a lifelong interest in ancient Egypt, let me assure you that these claims are nonsense and non-historical. They can only be intentional, outright lies on the part of the filmmakers.

When delving into the mythology of ancient Egypt, it is first important to understand the time frame one is dealing with. We can discuss ancient Greece, or the Roman Empire, or the history of the United States, and we will be dealing with a period of a few centuries. In the case of ancient Egypt, we are dealing with a few millennia. By way of comparison, the relatively “old” society of modern England goes back about a thousand years (one-third the length of the ancient Egyptian civilization). By the time of King Tut, for instance, the pyramids were already over a thousand years old (older than the English monarchy is today). When Cleopatra took Julius Caesar to see the pyramids in about 49 B.C.E., the pyramids, at that time, were already more ancient to Caesar and Cleopatra than Caesar and Cleopatra are to us. Think on that for a few seconds.

So when looking at Egyptian history, we are looking at an extremely long period of time. As such, it is easy to understand that throughout this long period, not only were dozens and dozens of gods worshipped, but the way in which those gods were worshipped changed and morphed based on the era in question, and the area of Egypt in question. Thus, one god may have been worshipped in one way during one era in a specific region, and the same god may have been worshipped differently in a different era and a different region. Look how much religious beliefs have changed even within Christianity over just the last thousand years or so. A thousand years ago, Christians were slaughtering Jews and other “heathens” in the crusades, and later during the Inquisition. Now multiply that by three millennia, and you can see how much change would have taken place in the way the ancient Egyptians defined, understood, and worshipped their gods.

Horus was one of the few Egyptian gods who essentially survived throughout most of ancient Egyptian history. As such, his story is difficult to follow, because it changes depending on the era and region. Sometimes he is the son of Isis. Sometimes he is the husband of Isis. In other places/eras, he is either the son or husband of Hathor. At other times he is called the brother of either Isis or Hathor. Sometimes he is depicted as an adult god, sometimes a child god. Sometimes he is associated with the sun god Ra, other times he is associated with the creator god Amun. In some places, he is associated not with the sun, but with the moon.

Generally speaking, the story of Horus is as follows: Horus was the son of either Ra and Hathor, or Osiris and Isis. His uncle (Osiris’ brother) was the wicked god of chaos and infertility, known as Seth (interestingly, and as another illustration of what I mentioned above, in certain eras of Egyptian history, this “wicked” god was actually highly honored…the father of Ramses the Great, for instance, was named “Seti” in honor of his patron god Seth, and Seti was one of the great and powerful pharaohs of the New Kingdom era). Horus and Seth are routinely depicted in competition with each other, with Horus being said to have cut off one of Seth’s testicles (thus, his status as the god of infertility), and with Seth said to have gouged out one of Horus’ eyes. This latter mythology is what led to the famous Egyptian symbol of the Eye of Horus. Horus’ eye was gouged out, but later was restored (in some places by Isis, in others by Hathor), and thus the Eye of Horus became a symbol of restoration, wholeness, and perfection. It was used as an amulet for good luck, and a famous one was found on the mummy of King Tut.

Having looked at what we can generally know from the historical record about the ways Horus was depicted in ancient Egyptian mythology, we now go back to the claims made in the film. It might be easier to talk about what the filmmakers managed to get right, rather than what they got wrong, because there is very little that was accurate. Horus was, at times, associated with the sun god Ra, as asserted by the film. He was not known, however, as the sun god himself, as is implied by the filmmakers. Horus is, at times, depicted as a child god, which must be the source for the film’s assertion of Horus “teaching at the age of 12,” but that’s a nebulous connection at best, and a simple distortion of the truth at worst. And that about covers what the film managed to get right on this subject.

There is nothing whatsoever in the historical record of Horus about a virgin birth, a star in the east, three kings visiting the baby, baptism, ministry starting at the age of 30, betrayal, crucifixion, or resurrection three days later. The resurrection connection must surely be drawn from the idea of Horus’ restored eye, but that hardly qualifies as a connection to the resurrection story of Jesus! Again, it is a simple, but intentional, deception on the part of the filmmakers, as are all the other connections asserted. There is also certainly no connection to December 25th – to suggest such a thing would be to suggest that the ancient Egyptians had the Julian calendar – something that was not invented until just shortly before the birth of Jesus!

I want to talk briefly about the film’s assertion regarding crucifixion, and regarding the names connected to Horus. First of all, the very idea that crucifixion could have been part of the Horus story is laughable. Crucifixion was probably first performed in ancient Persia, and later became the primary form of criminal execution in the Roman Empire. Outside of those two areas, crucifixion was unknown. I know of no record in ancient Egypt of crucifixions taking place, unless it was after Egypt became a Roman province (about 30 years before Jesus’ birth). It certainly was in no way connected with the stories of Horus.

As for the names of Horus, the film asserts that his name means “light.” In fact, his name means “He Who is Above,” and refers to his typical depiction as a falcon-headed god. Since part of the film’s ongoing argument required Horus to be deeply associated with the sun, the motivation of the filmmakers to change this is clear. In researching Horus, I have drawn on my own accumulated knowledge, based on a lifetime of interest in ancient Egypt, as well as several Internet websites, and a couple of books from my own library. I can find nothing whatsoever to suggest Horus was ever called “the lamb of God,” or “the good shepherd.” Of course, I did not expect to find any such reference, but I wanted to research it in the name of being fair. The very idea that these distinctly Jewish names for Jesus could have predated Jesus in ancient Egyptian mythology is yet another literally laughable suggestion. Without the basis of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, these names would be meaningless. When applied to Jesus, they make sense against the Jewish background of the earliest Christians. To suggest they were names of the ancient Egyptian god Horus is not only untrue, but yet another example of what can only be a blatant, intentional lie, told for the purpose of supporting a conclusion that otherwise has no basis in the historical record.

The final assertions made by the film, in regards to Horus, center around a painting on the wall of the Temple of Luxor, in southern Egypt. This carving appears to have been made around 1500 B.C.E., or about the beginning of what Egyptologists call the “New Kingdom.” It would have been about a thousand years after the building of the pyramids. The film asserts that this image depicts what would later become the Annunciation, Immaculate Conception, birth, and Adoration of Jesus. The filmmakers tell us that the drawing shows the god Thoth (whose name the narrator mispronounces) announcing to the virgin Isis that she will give birth to the god Horus. In the next scene, the god Kneph impregnates the virgin Isis. The film describes Kneph as the “holy ghost.” The following scenes then depict the birth of Horus and his later adoration by the gods.

The only problem is this: like most everything else asserted in the film, it is a pack of lies from start to finish. The drawing actually depicts the birth of Amun-Ra, the creator god. This god was actually a conglomeration of two ancient gods whom the people of the New Kingdom era came to understand as one god. In the drawing, Thoth announces the birth to the god Neith, who was a goddess associated with the primordial waters before creation. Neith is not ever depicted as a perpetual “virgin.” In the next scene, the gods Hathor and Kneph impregnate Neith with an ankh (an ancient Egyptian symbol associated with the pharaohs). Neith then gives birth to Amun-Ra, and all the gods of the pantheon pay homage to him. To suggest this painting involves Horus is a simple lie, and to suggest it forms the basis of later Christian doctrines is nonsense.

One final note on this topic – the goddess Isis, frequently connected to Horus, and mentioned by the filmmakers as his “virgin” mother, associated with Jesus’ mother Mary – was never, in ancient Egypt, understood as a virgin. The stories depicting her as the mother of Horus never involve a virgin birth. Again, this is just pure fiction on the part of the filmmakers. They needed the virgin birth connection, so like everything else, they just made it up.

After discussing the supposed Horus/Jesus connection in depth, the filmmakers then move into the realm of astrology. They argue that the “star in the east” and the “three king” motif associated with Jesus actually comes from a study of the night sky. On December 24th, they argue, the three stars of Orion’s belt (which the filmmakers assert were known in the ancient world as “the three kings”) align with the bright eastern star of Sirius, and all four stars point to the spot on the horizon where the sun (that is, the “son”) will rise (or be born) on December 25th. This, they argue, is the basis for why “three kings” are said to follow a “star in the east” toward the birth of a new son.

The problem with this assertion is manifold. To begin, Christian tradition in no way asserts that Jesus was actually born on December 25th. That is simply the day that the Christian Church named as the celebration of Christ’s mass (hence the name). They chose that day, no doubt, because of it was already a pagan holiday. Furthermore, there is nothing in the Biblical tradition to suggest Jesus was visited by “three kings.” The book of Matthew says that “Magi from the east” came to find the newborn Jesus, following a star. They are not kings, and there are not necessarily three of them. The idea of “three kings” in Christian tradition comes from a Christmas song, not the Bible.

I have already pointed out that the assertion by the filmmakers that Horus was said to have been visited by three kings on December 25th is factually unsupported. But does Orion’s belt line up with Sirius in the eastern sky on December 24th, and were those stars known to the ancients as “the three kings”? Furthermore, were such mythologies ever known to surround other ancient figures, before Jesus?

The answer to this question is yes and no. From what I can find in my research, it does appear that the three stars of Orion’s belt line up, somewhat, with the star Sirius, though it is certainly not a clearly direct line. Furthermore, this is not true only on December 24th, but many days during the year. Thus, there is nothing special about this connection for December 25th. Also, as far as pointing toward the eastern horizon where the sun rises, it depends on what time of the night you are looking at the stars as to whether they actually point to the horizon. Additionally, many stars could be known as a “star in the east,” and while Sirius is generally in the east during certain times of the year, so are many other prominent stars.

As for the assertion that the stars of Orion’s belt were known as the “three kings” in antiquity, this appears, from my research, to be false. I have found a few references from the 19th century, but that is all. I have found nothing to support the idea that the ancients called these stars by this name. Furthermore, since the film makes such a connection between Egyptian astrology and Christian tradition, I know that the Orion constellation was known to the ancient Egyptians as representing the abode of the gods. The pyramids at Giza, in fact, are believed to have been geographically situated to represent the three stars of Orion’s belt, and together with pyramids to the north and south of Giza, they create a star map of the constellation.

Finally, I can find no evidence in my research to suggest that any pre-Jesus figures were said to have been visited by three kings, who were following a star in the east, to find a baby being born. It would appear that these assertions in the film, like so many others, are simply made up.

In the film, the filmmakers take the December 25th connection even one step further. They assert that as the sun makes its slow progression from the summer solstice to the winter solstice, it makes a slow but inexorable slide to the south. The film asserts that on the winter solstice, December 21st, the sun stops its southerly movement. Then it seems to “pause” for three days – December 22nd, 23rd, and 24th – before finally making a 1 degree move northward, thus starting the slow climb toward the summer solstice. The film goes on to say that this is the basis for the mythology of a god being dead for three days before finally “rising” again. Christians celebrate this astrological event on Easter instead of Christmas, the film says, because Easter is around the spring equinox, and it is on that day that the “light finally defeats the darkness” – the spring equinox marks the date when the day becomes longer than the night. Finally, and most significantly, the film suggests that as the sun is making its slow progression toward the winter solstice, it passes directly through the constellation known as the Southern Cross just prior to December 21st. This, the film asserts, is why crucifixion was always the way that the “son” was killed. Of course, since crucifixion was in no way associated with any ancient civilization outside of Persia and Rome, and since I know of no other ancient “gods” prior to Jesus associated with death by crucifixion, this already becomes a moot point. But does the sun go through the Southern Cross before the winter solstice? Furthermore, does the sun pause for three days, before finally moving north again on December 25th?

The answer to the first question is a resounding “no.” The Southern Cross is not even visible in the Northern Hemisphere, at any time. It is called the Southern Cross because it is visible in the Southern Hemisphere. It was a constellation that would have been unknown to those living in the ancient Mediterranean.

As for the question of the sun pausing for three days, the evidence is sketchy. In the first place, the date of the winter solstice shifts each year between December 20th and 22nd, based on how the calendar changes. Thus, the “low point” of the sun’s progress through the sky is not always on December 21st, meaning the assertion about the sun “pausing” on the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th is automatically rendered meaningless. This would have been true with ancient calendars as well as modern calendars.

But does the sun “pause” for three days after the winter solstice, regardless of what day it is on? If Wikipedia can be trusted, the answer to this question, surprisingly, is yes. It is surprising because it is the only major assertion, at this point in my analysis, that has proven to be accurate in the film. However, of six other websites I browsed, I found only one other that mentioned this “pause.” This was an educator reference website, and is presumably trustworthy. It mentions, however, that the sun’s position in the sky seems to stay the same for “several days before and after the solstice.” In other words, no mention of three days specifically, and the sun apparently appears to hover before the solstice as well as after. Wikipedia’s content was so directly in line with the points made by the filmmakers in “Zeitgeist,” that I am extremely suspicious that the article itself has been amended by someone based on the claims made by the “Zeitgeist” creators. Either way, going with the seemingly trustworthy information from the educator site I browsed, it would seem that there is indeed a pause, but it is a stretch to characterize it as “three days after the winter solstice” and ending on December 25th. This appears to simply be more deception on the part of the filmmakers – twisting facts in order to prove a point that cannot otherwise be supported.

The way December 25th came to be associated with the celebration of the birth of Jesus is quite simple. There was a pagan Roman celebration around the winter solstice each year, as there was in most every ancient culture. When Julius Caesar created the Julian calendar, he marked December 25th as the day for this festival. This same festival later came to be associated with the god Mithra. In the middle ages, Christmas began being celebrated officially on this day, simply to replace the pagan holiday. There was nothing more to it than that, and it certainly had no effect on the theology-building of the writers of the New Testament. The three day tradition within Christianity had a completely different genesis, one that was tied directly and solely to the Jewish heritage of the earliest Christians. It had nothing to do with astrology.

As for the origins of the crucifixion of Jesus, this is one aspect of the Jesus story that is almost universally accepted by scholars as historically factual in the Bible – Jesus is said to have been crucified because he was, in fact, crucified. Again, it had nothing to do with astrology.

As the film progresses, it describes how there are 12 constellations in the zodiac, with the sun always pictured in the middle of those twelve constellations. The film argues that this is the reason why Jesus (i.e. “the sun/son”) is “followed around” by 12 disciples. It goes on to point out that the significance of the number 12 in the Bible is astrological, not religious. The problem with this, of course, is glaringly obvious: ancient Jews would not have had access to, or knowledge of, ancient Chinese astrology! Whether the Jews themselves had astrologers can be debated, but they certainly would not have divided the sky up the same way the ancient Chinese did, nor would they have called the constellations by the same names or pictured them the same way. I honestly do not have the background in Jewish history to say with certainly where the Jewish obsession with the number 12 came from, but regardless, the Christian adoption of the number 12 came from Judaism, not astrology.

After making these assertions, the film starts a long exposition on the intricacies of the Chinese zodiac. It asserts that due to the wobble and angle of the earth on its axis, it takes about 26,000 years for a full procession of the zodiac to take place. Since there are twelve phases in the zodiac, an astrological “age” takes about 2150 years. We are currently in the Age of Pisces, which began in 1 C.E. It will end in 2150 and the Age of Aquarius will begin. I have not researched this myself, and do not intend to; I will base my analysis on the assumption that these claims about the nature of the zodiac are accurate.

Using this basis, the film asserts that when the ancient Israelites were worshipping the golden calf during the time of Moses, this calf was actually Taurus – the “bull” constellation of ancient China – and this was because during that time, the world was in the “Age of Taurus.” Again, the very idea that the ancient Jews would have looked at this same constellation and called it a bull is absurd, to say the least. The film also asserts that the Age of Taurus was from 3400 B.C.E. to 2150 B.C.E. This places Moses and the Exodus (and thus, the golden calf story) about 1000 years earlier than most every biblical scholar places the story of Moses. The film goes on to say that the reason Moses was upset about his followers worshipping the bull Taurus is because this represented the “old” age, and Moses was inducting the “new” age – the Age of Aries, which began in 2150 B.C.E. The ancient Jewish custom of blowing a ram’s horn, the film asserts, began because the ancient Jews, after Moses, were living in the Age of Aries (Aries is a ram constellation). Again, would the ancient Jews have imaged this constellation the same way the ancient Chinese did? The entire basis of this argument is speculative, and completely ignores the historical record.

The film goes on to assert that Jesus, being born around 1 C.E., ushered in the new age – the Age of Pisces, which is represented by two fish. This, the film says, is the reason why the fish is a symbol of Christianity, and why many of Jesus’ followers were said to be fishermen.

In making these assertions, the filmmakers are failing to understand that the Jesus story was deeply imbedded in Jewish tradition, not astrology. The myths surrounding Jesus’ life grew up from Jewish history, not from the sky. If some aspects of ancient Judaism had astrological origins (and I am not convinced this is true), that is irrelevant. The film asserts that Jesus, in fact, was a mythical figure who never existed, and that the Christians were simply making this stuff up, based on astrology. There is not a reputable scholar on the planet who would agree with this position.

In discussing astrological ages, the filmmakers reference the New Testament passage of Luke 22:10. In this verse, and in the passage that surrounds it, Jesus and his disciples are preparing for the Passover meal – the meal that will prove to be the Last Supper. Jesus’ disciples ask him where they should go to prepare for the meal. He tells them to go into Jerusalem, and once they are there, they will find a man with a pitcher of water. Jesus tells them to follow this man to his house, and this will be the house where they eat.

When referencing this verse, however, the film says that the disciples asked Jesus where the next Passover will be after Jesus is gone. This, as you can see, is not actually what takes place in that passage. However, twisting it like this is vitally important to the filmmakers’ point, because they use this to springboard into an argument that the man with the pitcher was actually a symbol of the constellation Aquarius – which the ancient Chinese (again, not the ancient Jews) imaged as a water-bearer. Thus, the filmmakers argue, Jesus – who is the embodiment of the Age of Pisces – is simply predicting that the Age of Aquarius will come after him. As I said above, the Age of Aquarius is due to begin in 2150 C.E.

Well, you can see that this is nonsense. The very “evidence” that this assertion is based on is false to begin with. Read the passage for yourself – the disciples do not ask Jesus where to have Passover after he is dead, but rather they are simply discussing where their meal together is going to take place.

As a final point on their arguments about astrological ages, the film references Jesus’ Great Commission in Matthew 28:20, where he promises to be with his followers “until the end of the age.” This, the filmmakers assert, is true – Jesus embodies the Age of Pisces, and this age will last until 2150, and which time a new age will begin. Thus, the film says, those obsessed with the “end of times” are misunderstanding this passage – it was all about astrological ages, not the end of the world. They make the comment that “millions” of Americans believe this way, and while making this assertion, they show people burning books. Nice touch, but completely deceptive. This argument, like the others on astrology, is completely speculative, and ignores the historical record.

I have already mentioned how the filmmakers assert that Jesus was probably not even a real historical figure. For evidence of this, they mention the lack of non-Biblical sources for his life. It is true that there is very little secular corroboration for Jesus. However, from a historical standpoint, why would there be? Jesus was only important to his followers – to everyone else, he was just another messianic prophet in the backwaters of the Roman Empire who got executed. There is no reason to suppose that he, or his followers, would have been noticed by historians writing during that period. We may like to imagine that Christianity was already followed by millions of people by the end of the first century, but the fact is that Christianity was a minor, practically unnoticed little cult until about the 300’s C.E. The filmmakers go on to suggest that Jesus, as a pagan sun god, did not become literalized until Constantine and the subsequent Council of Nicea in the fourth century. Apparently the filmmakers have failed to read the countless writings by early Church fathers (predating Constantine) which make it quite clear that Jesus was understood to be a real person.

As a side note – and just for more evidence of the dishonest methods used in the film – the filmmakers note that the only direct reference in secular sources to Jesus’ life comes from Josephus, and that Josephus’ comments have long been known to have been a later forgery. Whether an intentional lie, or just poor research, this is not true. Josephus’ account of Jesus, while short, is very much original to his writings. Forgery comes into play because several hundred years later, Christian scribes inserted Christian language and images into Josephus’ account. So there was forgery involved, but it was only an addition to the account that already existed. Josephus, a non-Christian historian writing about the same time the first gospel was written, clearly had heard of the Christian religion, and of Jesus, and believed Jesus to have been a real person who was executed some decades earlier. Whether it is convenient to the filmmakers’ arguments or not, this is a fact of history that cannot be ignored. I know of no reputable scholar, liberal or conservative, who asserts that Jesus was not a real historical person.

The conclusion of the religion segment makes the motivations of the filmmakers quite clear. I mentioned earlier that in addition to religion, the film has segments on 9/11 and the U.S. Federal Reserve. Although I have not watched these segments, I know the general gist of their content. They are arguing that 9/11 was perpetrated by the U.S. government and involves what must surely be the greatest cover-up in U.S. history, and they are arguing that U.S. banks, headed by the Federal Reserve, are trying to basically take over the world. It is a lot of conspiracy-fueled nonsense, to be frank. And in watching the conclusion of the religion segment, it became quite clear why this topic was included in a film that otherwise discussed U.S. politics and the U.S. economy. The conclusion talked about how religious leaders use myths – such as the myth of Jesus – to control people and to control society. People are otherwise kept in the dark about the true genesis of their religious beliefs, and they simply blindly follow what they are told. The conclusion goes on to assert that religious myths can serve as a “psychological soil” from which other lies can take root and grow. This final assertion is followed up dramatically by a scene from 9/11, and that is where the first segment ends. Clearly the filmmakers, in asserting lies and cover-ups relating to 9/11 and the Federal Reserve, wished to show how these lies and cover-ups are possible with an otherwise well-educated America – if well-educated Americans can blindly follow a religion that is based on ancient Egyptian astrology, then it is not such a big step to assume they could be duped into believing terrorists were behind 9/11. Their motivations for painting Christianity as a religion of “astrotheological” myths suddenly becomes quite clear.

It is certainly true that some aspects of Christian tradition are taken from pagan sources, such as the celebration of Christmas on December 25th. It is also true that stories of virgin births and resurrections abounded in the ancient world, before Jesus. But the extraordinary claims made in this film require extraordinary evidence, and the filmmakers clearly understood this, so they simply made the evidence up, since the extraordinary evidence did not exist in the historical record otherwise. The fact is that the Jesus story, as we know it, is largely mythological. But those stories had a purpose. They were written not to be literal history, but to be creative interpretations of Jesus’ life, to show others how important this real person had been. And the early Christians drew primarily from their deeply-rooted Jewish heritage to create this composite of the otherwise historical Jesus. Pagan theology may have played a minor role in how the early Christian described Jesus, but by and large, the stories of Jesus came from Jewish tradition. Astrology had absolutely nothing to do with it.

As a post-script, and to give a little more background, this film was based largely on the works of a man named Jordan Maxwell. I was not able to find a whole lot of information on this person, but the brief article about him on Wikipedia was enlightening. This article describes him as a “researcher and independent scholar” who focuses on “the foundations for modern day religion and government.” What this means, of course, is that he is an amateur with no legitimate credentials. “Independent scholar” is just a kinder, gentler way of saying “someone who does not actually have an educational background in the field.” For instance, I would be considered an “independent scholar” of the New Testament. It is something I am interested in and have read about quite a bit, but I do not have a degree in New Testament scholarship, and am not a credentialed Bible scholar. Furthermore, the article discusses a lawsuit brought by the Federal Trade Commission against Maxwell, charging him and ultimately convicting him of illegally selling international driving permits over the Internet. Finally, the article also says that Maxwell believes his research reveals that the government and many major religious institutions are actually being controlled by a secret society that involves organized crime. This secret society, according to Maxwell, practices a modern form of the ancient Canaanite religion, which is revealed by Canaanite symbols which are (he asserts) prevalent in society.

Yes, this is the person whose work was behind the information in “Zeitgeist.”

Oddly enough (and this is evidence of why Wikipedia information should always be taken with a grain of salt), when I looked at this article several weeks ago, there was a statement in it suggesting that Maxwell is frequently accused of making up facts and bending the truth in order to make a point. However, upon returning to the article today, no such statement is there, and, in fact, the opening paragraph sings his praises, saying that “peers and fans alike” consider him a “preeminent scholar” in the field of religious philosophy. Whatever the truth is, I feel confident that no “peers” in the scholarly field consider him in any way a “preeminent scholar.”

The true irony of this film is that the filmmakers assert that their purpose is to reveal the truth, and to show the lies being propounded by the Church and the government. Yet, not only are the filmmakers not revealing the truth, they are, in fact, committing the very sin they accuse their enemies of committing – telling blatant lies in order to intentionally deceive people. All things considered, it is really quite shocking.

Finally, I want to thank my online acquaintance Stu, a.k.a. “Roger Rigid,” for bringing this video to my attention. I had been familiar with the film, but had never viewed it. It was Stu who told me that there was a religion segment, and it was Stu who asked me to comment on it. So thanks go to him for taking an interest in what I have to say. I am sure that what I have written here was far more than he wanted, but, knowing my tendency for long-windedness, I am sure it is not unexpected. Sorry, Stu :)

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