This site is usually devoted to serious academic issues. But I've been hearing a lot lately about the claims made in a recent movie called Zeitgeist (2007) and I feel like I've got to deal with some of the issues here.
You can watch pieces of it on youtube.com, part one starts here. The movie "demonstrates" how Christianity is merely a recycled version of pagan myths about ancient deities such as the Egyptian god Horus. (It goes on to argue in the subsequent part of the film that the events of September 11th, unfolded as part of a massive government conspiracy.) This is not a political blog, so, of course, I'm only going to deal with the section on religion here.
I've been getting emails about this--here's one example:
Below is my response. But for more reading on this topic I want to encourage anyone dealing with this stuff to check out this site which is full of great articles on the topic.
...My friend asked me to look at this video, he stopped practicing Christianity because of it.
It claims that Jesus never existed but rather He was made up for political reasons; to control the population.
It relates the life of Jesus with other "gods", and that the Bible is more astrological than anything else.
What do you think of all the claims in it?
By the way, if it sounds like I'm a little upset, I am! I can't believe how disingenuous people can be. And I'm deeply saddened that people are falling for it.
I don't know where to start: this video is a complete lie.
First off, the video is full of misinformation about Horus. He was baptized? Oh really! I would love to see a source for that!
Most of the supposed parallels are completely untrue!
Actually, Muslim apologists have been trying to do this for centuries--to say that Christianity is really just another form of paganism. But that's a lie.
Most of the information in this video seems to come from Acharya S's book, The Christ Conspiracy (1999), which is a sensationalist book which has zero academic credibility. If you want to learn about Horus you can read the ancient myths about him--
Egyptian Mythology: Horus
Encyclopedia Mythica: Horus
The Eye Of Horus
Tektonics: Horus, Isis, Osiris
Let's go over just some of the data:
1. Horus was not born of a Virgin--that's a lie.
2. Horus was not baptized. That's a complete fabrication. "Anup the Baptizer"?--show me where you find that! That's a lie.
3. Horus never walked on water. He performed miracles, but raising the dead and walking on water were not among them. Nor did he cast out demons.
4. Horus had disciples--but you can't show me a single reference to his having twelve. That's a lie.
5. Horus never taught in the temple at age 12. That's a lie. Read the accounts above--it's not there.
6. Where was ever said that was Horus crucified? That's a lie! He died in a later version of the story and was brought back to life--but Jesus' "resurrection" was more than a mere coming back to life. His body was transformed and changed. Anyways, it was only later added to the Horus legend.
That's just off the top of my head. That should give you some indication though about the reliability of this film. In short, its claims are lies that are told to sell books. But no scholar in the world would accept this stuff--only the ignorant. Anybody can get a book published or a video made and say whatever they want. That doesn't make it true.
Moreover, to think that Jesus didn't exist is absolutely, positively unfounded, unhistorical, and unrealistic.
Those who opposed Chrstianity from the very beginning never asserted that Jesus didn't exist--in fact, they made all kinds of slanderous claims against Jesus. But they never asserted he was a myth.
In fact, there's more evidence Jesus existed than virtually any one else in antiquity.
... and there isn't a single respectable scholar today--Christian or secular--who would make such a claim. Only those who haven't studied the issue seriously could say such a thing.
Hope that helps...
I just want to add a few things here to address some of the comments made below.
One person--who safely posted anonymously--makes the claim that my own sources refute me. They post the supposed parallels from the article [Tektonics: Horus, Isis, Osiris], which first lists the "claims"... then refutes them. The "anonymous" poster didn't finish the article! This of course highlights the kind of ignorance of and/or misrespresentation of sources we're dealing with here.
Secondly, another person explained that the sources for the movie have been posted on-line. Follow the link and--what a shocker!--the primary source for the movie's claims about Jesus and Christianity is said to be Acharya S's book, The Christ Conspiracy (1999). Again, this book is NOT an academic work and has ZERO credibility. According to this very site, one of S's sources is said to be John Allegro--a man whose work has frequently been condemned by scholars.
For example, when John Allegro attempted to publish a translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, fourteen Oxford scholars wrote to the publisher and demanded it be pulled--it was an absolutely inaccurate translation! The book was pulled and the publisher even apologized! A critique was written by John Strugnell, which meticulously revealed in a line-by-line treatment the errors and which was longer than Allegro's book itself! [See "Notes en marge du volume V des 'Discoveries in the Judaean Desert of Jordon'" in Revue de Qumran 7 (1963): 163-76. For more on the debacle see, James VanderKam and Peter Flint, The Meaning of the Dead See Scrolls (San Francisco: HaperCollins, 2002), 381-403.]
The fact is, no scholar takes Allegro's work seriously. You will only see his name mentioned in academic journals such as the Journal for the Historical Jesus (not a particularly conservative journal!) in articles listing the most outrageous examples of poor scholarship.
Of course, you won't find scholars quoting from S's book either.
Again, read the ancient sources themselves and see what they say about Horus--he was not baptized, crucified, etc. It may sell movies and it may appeal to those who already want to dismiss Christianity, but the Jesus-Horus comparison has really no academic value whatsoever.