Zeitgeist - Religion is Slavery

Zeitgeist The Movie
Atheism and Conspiracy Theories

The other day I was walking into our church building and noticed two writings on our church sidewalk. One read - Religion is Slavery. And the other - www.zeitgeist.com. Well, www.zeitgeist.com is some dude's blog (or it was at one point). I believe what the vandal meant to write was www.zeitgeistthemovie.com. To very different sites!

Zeitgeist the Movie is a 2007 web film produced by Peter Joseph that presents a number of conspiracy theories related to Christianity, the attacks of 9/11, and the Federal Reserve Bank.

There are many false claims in the film, but it still worth watching and listening to. I believe this film represents what many people think about Christianity and we need to be ready to give a defense for the hope that is in us - and we need to do this in a compassionate yet truthfully way. The full film is almost 2 hours long. You can watch the movie by clicking here. But there are four shorter clips of the film dealing with the films attack against religion - especially against Christianity.

Here's Clip #1:

Here's Clip #2:

And here's the links to Clip 3 & Clip 4

Here's good responses to the Zeitgeist film from AlwaysBeReady.com:
(It's a collection of scholarly responses to some bogus claims found in the first part of the film.)

Zeitgeist (a German phrase that means "the spirit of the age") is the name of an online movie that is making quite an unfortunate impact on thousands of undiscerning, history-starved young people around the world. This poorly done, historically inaccurate documentary (for lack of a better word to describe an often times blurry, pixelated film) produced by a man named "Peter J" seeks to persuade its viewers that the authors of the New Testament borrowed the idea of Jesus' virgin birth, disciples, miracles, crucifixion, and resurrection from ancient pagan mystery religions that were around long before the time of Christ. The video even goes so far as to claim that Jesus Himself never even existed.

Below are some helpful quotes, articles and books that offer a scholarly refutation of many of the errors in the first part of the movie (The second and third part of the movie deal with areas outside of the scope of this ministry).

RESURRECTION ACCOUNT STOLEN?Charlie Campbell says, "Many of the charges put forth in Zeitgeist are based on outdated, disproved ideas that were in circulation at the beginning of the last century. Here is one example. Zeitgeist states that Attis (a Roman deity) was crucified, dead for three days and then resurrected. This is absolutely not true to the mythological account. In the mythological story, Attis was unfaithful to his goddess lover, and in a jealous rage she made him insane. In that insanity, Attis castrated himself and fled into the forest, where he bled to death. As J. Gresham Machen points out, "The myth contains no account of a resurrection; all that Cybele [the Great Mother goddess] is able to obtain is that the body of Attis should be preserved, that his hair should continue to grow, and that his little finger should move." Zeitgeist's claims that Attis was crucified and resurrected are not only inaccurate but very misleading. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. The alleged resurrection of Attis isn't even mentioned until after 150 A.D., long after the time of Jesus."

Dr. Norman Geisler writes, “The first real parallel of a dying and rising god does not appear until A.D. 150, more than a hundred years after the origin of Christianity. So if there was any influence of one on the other, it was the influence of the historical event of the New Testament [resurrection] on mythology, not the reverse. The only known account of a god surviving death that predates Christianity is the Egyptian cult god Osiris. In this myth, Osiris is cut into fourteen pieces, scattered around Egypt, then reassembled and brought back to life by the goddess Isis. However, Osiris does not actually come back to physical life but becomes a member of a shadowy underworld...This is far different than Jesus’ resurrection account where he was the gloriously risen Prince of life who was seen by others on earth before his ascension into heaven....even if there are myths about dying and rising gods prior to Christianity, that doesn't mean the New Testaments writers copied from them. The fictional TV show Star Trek preceded the U.S. Space Shuttle program, but that doesn’t mean that newspaper reports of space shuttle missions are influenced by Star Trek episodes!” (I Don't Have Enough Faith to be An Atheist, 2004, p. 312).

Dr. Alister McGrath, Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University, says, "Parallels between the pagan myths of dying and rising gods and the New Testament accounts of the resurrection of Jesus are now regarded as remote, to say the least...If anyone borrowed any ideas from anyone, it seems it was the gnostics who took up Christian ideas." (Intellectuals Don't Need God and Other Modern Myths, 1993, p. 121).

Charlie Campbell says, “Zeitgeist claims that Mithra, a mythological Persian deity, was dead for three days and then resurrected. I am no scholar on ancient Mithraism, but nowhere in any of the reading I’ve done on the topic has Mithra’s death even been discussed, let alone Zeitgeist’s story about three days in a grave and a resurrection. Edwin Yamauchi, a historian and author of the 578 page Persia and the Bible concurs. He says, ‘We don’t know anything about the death of Mithras’ (The Case for the Real Jesus, p. 172).”

Dr. Gary Habermas and Dr. J.P. Moreland write, "Not one clear case of any alleged resurrection teaching appears in any pagan text before the late second century A.D., almost one hundred years after the New Testament was written." (Cited by Dan Story in The Christian Combat Manual: Helps for Defending your Faith: A Handbook for Practical Apologetics, 2007, p. 206).

Dr. William Lane Craig, says, "(W)e find almost no trace of cults of dying and rising gods in first century Palestine. Moreover, as Hans Grass observes, it would be "unthinkable" in any case that the original disciples would come sincerely to believe that God had raised Jesus from the dead just because they had heard myths about Osiris!" (Dr. William Lane Craig, "Reply to Evan Fales: On the Empty Tomb of Jesus," 2001).

Dr. Ronald Nash, the author of many books including The Meaning of History and The Gospel and the Greeks: Did the New Testament Borrow from Pagan Thought? writes, "Which mystery gods actually experienced a resurrection from the dead? Certainly no early texts refer to any resurrection of Attis. Attempts to link the worship of Adonis to a resurrection are equally weak. Nor is the case for a resurrection of Osiris any stronger. After Isis gathered together the pieces of Osiris's dismembered body, he became "Lord of the Underworld."....And of course no claim can be made that Mithras was a dying and rising god. French scholar Andre Boulanger concludes: "The conception that the god dies and is resurrected in order to lead his faithful to eternal life is represented in no Hellenistic mystery religion." (The Gospel and the Greeks: DId the New Testament Borrow from Pagan Thought?, p. 161-162)

H. Wayne House writes, "Various mystery religions did exist from early times in Greece; however, it only after the first century A.D. that we begin to have much data on them. It is more likely, therefore, that the mystery religions, observing the success of orthodox Christianity, began to mimic its beliefs and practices, rather than the other way around." (Cited by Dan Story in The Christian Combat Manual: Helps for Defending your Faith: A Handbook for Practical Apologetics, 2007, p. 207).

Charlie Campbell says, "The claim in the movie Zeitgeist that Christianity borrowed the idea of “three kings” for its nativity story from ancient religions is ludicrous. The Bible knows nothing of “three kings” showing up after Jesus’ birth. Three kings is an idea that occasionally appears on some poorly researched Christmas cards, but not in the Bible. Matthew’s gospel simply says, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem” (Matt. 2:1). The magi were known as wise men, not kings. During the Middle Ages legend did develop that the magi were kings and that they were three in number, but this is purely legend, not something taught in the Scriptures. Zeitgeist’s deceptive attack on the credibility of the Gospel accounts only reveals its lack of credibility when it comes to scholarly research."

JESUS NEVER EXISTED?Charlie Campbell says, “To insist that Jesus Christ is a myth—that He never existed—as the Zeitgeist movie does, is foolish. Beside the twenty seven New Testament documents that verify He lived, there are thirty nine sources outside of the Bible, written within 150 years of Jesus life that mention Him. These sources include the Jewish Talmud, the Roman historian Tacitus, the Didache, Flavius Josephus, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, the Gnostic gospels (e.g., the gospel of Thomas), etc. These extrabiblical sources reveal to us more than 100 facts about His life, teaching, death and even resurrection. The Encyclopedia Britannica, fifteenth edition, devotes 20,000 words to the person of Jesus Christ and never once hints that He didn’t exist. Don’t be fooled by the Zeitgeist, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” (2 John 7)."

Charlie Campbell says, “Another pitiful criticism put forth in the movie Zeitgeist is that the authors of the New Testament borrowed the December 25 for Jesus’ birth from ancient pagan sources. This is ridiculous. Have the producers of Zeitgeist even read the New Testament? Where in the New Testament do we read of any date associated with the birth of Jesus? Nowhere! We have no idea when Jesus was born. The December 25 date originated long after the Gospels were written. Edwin Yamauchi, an author, professor, first rate historian and authority on the world of the first Christians, says that it was not until about 336 A.D. that the December 25 date became the official date to celebrate Jesus’ birth. The sheer absence of any date in the New Testament documents is sufficient enough to overturn Zeigeist’s claim, Yamauchi’s word on the matter is another nail in the coffin.”

Daniel B. Wallace writes, "The virgin birth of the pagan god Dionysus is attested only in post-Christian sources...several centuries after Christ." (Reinventing Jesus, p. 242).

Edwin Yamauchi says, "There's no evidence of a virgin birth for Dionysus. As the story goes, Zeus, disguised as a human, fell in love with the princess Semele, the daughter of Cadmus, and she became pregnant. Hera, who was Zeus's queen, arranged to have her burned to a crisp, but Zeus rescued the fetus and sewed him into his own thigh until Dionysus was born. So this is not a virgin birth in any sense." (
The Case for the Real Jesus, p. 180).

Edwin Yamauchi says, "Despite the claims of obvious and profound parallels between Christianity and Mithraism, when one looks at the evidence an entirely different picture emerges. First, Mithra was not thought of as virgin born in the most ancient myths; rather, he arose spontaneously from a rock in a cave." (Cited in
Reinventing Jesus, p. 242). Lee Strobel adds, "Unless the rock is considered a virgin, this parallel with Jesus evaporates." (The Case for the Real Jesus, p. 171).

Charlie Campbell says, "The virgin birth of the Messiah spoken about in Matthew and Luke was not lifted from pagan religions. It was the fulfillment of a prophecy given in the Old Testament book of Isaiah (7:14) six or seven hundred years before Jesus' birth. And many Bible commentators also believe Genesis 3:15 prophesies the virgin birth seeing that the Messiah would be born solely of the woman's seed."

Charlie Campbell says, "The Zeitgeist movie says that Krishna, a supposed incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, was born of a virgin. Edwin Yamauchi says, "That's not accurate. Krishna was born to a mother who already had seven previous sons, as even his folllowers concede." (Quoted by Lee Strobel in
The Case for the Real Jesus, p. 182).

Charlie Campbell writes, “Zeitgeist claims that the events surrounding Mithra’s life were stolen by the New Testament authors. These claims are not credible. Even the Encyclopedia Britannica concedes that Mithraism (the religion associated with Mithra) could not have influenced the Gospel writers. It states, “There is little notice of the Persian god [Mithra] in the Roman world until the beginning of the 2nd century, but, from the year AD 136 onward, there are hundreds of dedicatory inscriptions to Mithra. This renewal of interest is not easily explained. The most plausible hypothesis seems to be that Roman Mithraism was practically a new creation, wrought by a religious genius who may have lived as late as c. AD 100 and who gave the old traditional Persian ceremonies a new Platonic interpretation that enabled Mithraism to become acceptable to the Roman world” (Article entry: Mithraism 2004 edition). The four Gospels were done well before the close of the first century. If Mithraism wasn’t even known in the Roman world in the first century, as the Encyclopedia Britannica says, then it is misguided to suggest that teachings regarding Mithra influenced the Gospel writers.”
The apostle Peter wrote, "We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain" (2 Peter 1:16-18).

Edwin Yamauchi says, "All of these myths are repetitive, symbolic representations of the death and rebirth of vegetation. These are not historical figures, and none of their deaths were intended to provide salvation. In the case of Jesus, even non-Christian authorities, like Josephus and Tacitus, report that he died under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. The reports of his resurrection are quite early and are rooted in eyewitness accounts. They have the ring of reality, not the ethereal qualities of myth." (Quoted by Lee Strobel in The Case for the Real Jesus, p. 178).

A SUMMARY OF SEVEN ARGUMENTS AGAINST CHRISTIAN DEPENDENCE ON MYSTERY RELIGIONS BY RON NASH:(1) Arguments offered to "prove" a Christian dependence on the mysteries illustrate the logical fallacy of false cause. This fallacy is committed whenever someone reasons that just because two things exist side by side, one of them must have caused the other. As we all should know, mere coincidence does not prove causal connection. Nor does similarity prove dependence.

(2) Many alleged similarities between Christianity and the mysteries are either greatly exaggerated or fabricated. Scholars often describe pagan rituals in language they borrow from Christianity. The careless use of language could lead one to speak of a "Last Supper" in Mithraism or a "baptism" in the cult of Isis. It is inexcusable nonsense to take the word "savior" with all of its New Testament connotations and apply it to Osiris or Attis as though they were savior-gods in any similar sense.

(3) The chronology is all wrong. Almost all of our sources of information about the pagan religions alleged to have influenced early Christianity are dated very late. We frequently find writers quoting from documents written 300 years later than Paul in efforts to produce ideas that allegedly influenced Paul. We must reject the assumption that just because a cult had a certain belief or practice in the third or fourth century after Christ, it therefore had the same belief or practice in the first century.

(4) Paul would never have consciously borrowed from the pagan religions. All of our information about him makes it highly unlikely that he was in any sense influenced by pagan sources. He placed great emphasis on his early training in a strict form of Judaism (Phil. 3:5). He warned the Colossians against the very sort of influence that advocates of Christian syncretism have attributed to him, namely, letting their minds be captured by alien speculations (Col. 2:8).

(5) Early Christianity was an exclusivistic faith. As J. Machen explains, the mystery cults were nonexclusive. "A man could become initiated into the mysteries of Isis or Mithras without at all giving up his former beliefs; but if he were to be received into the Church, according to the preaching of Paul, he must forsake all other Saviors for the Lord Jesus Christ....Amid the prevailing syncretism of the Greco-Roman world, the religion of Paul, with the religion of Israel, stands absolutely alone."[21] This Christian exclusivism should be a starting point for all reflection about the possible relations between Christianity and its pagan competitors. Any hint of syncretism in the New Testament would have caused immediate controversy.

(6) Unlike the mysteries, the religion of Paul was grounded on events that actually happened in history. The mysticism of the mystery cults was essentially nonhistorical. Their myths were dramas, or pictures, of what the initiate went through, not real historical events, as Paul regarded Christ's death and resurrection to be. The Christian affirmation that the death and resurrection of Christ happened to a historical person at a particular time and place has absolutely no parallel in any pagan mystery religion.

(7) What few parallels may still remain may reflect a Christian influence on the pagan systems. As Bruce Metzger has argued, "It must not be uncritically assumed that the Mysteries always influenced Christianity, for it is not only possible but probable that in certain cases, the influence moved in the opposite direction."[22] It should not be surprising that leaders of cults that were being successfully challenged by Christianity should do something to counter the challenge. What better way to do this than by offering a pagan substitute? Pagan attempts to counter the growing influence of Christianity by imitating it are clearly apparent in measures instituted by Julian the Apostate, who was the Roman emperor from A.D. 361 to 363. (Excerpted from his article
"Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions" that first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, Winter, 1994).

OTHER MISCELLANEOUS QUOTES:Dr. Ronald Nash says, "It is not until we come to the third century A.D. that we find sufficient source material (i.e., information about the mystery religions from the writings of the time) to permit a relatively complete reconstruction of their content. Far too many writers use this late source material (after A.D. 200) to form reconstructions of the third-century mystery experience and then uncritically reason back to what they think must have been the earlier nature of the cults. This practice is exceptionally bad scholarship and should not be allowed to stand without challenge. Information about a cult that comes several hundred years after the close of the New Testament canon must not be read back into what is presumed to be the status of the cult during the first century A.D. The crucial question is not what possible influence the mysteries may have had on segments of Christendom after A.D. 400, but what effect the emerging mysteries may have had on the New Testament in the first century." (Article "Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions")

Dr. Ronald Nash says, "Many Christian college students have encountered criticisms of Christianity based on claims that early Christianity and the New Testament borrowed important beliefs and practices from a number of pagan mystery religions. Since these claims undermine such central Christian doctrines as Christ's death and resurrection, the charges are serious. But the evidence for such claims, when it even exists, often lies in sources several centuries older than the New Testament. Moreover, the alleged parallels often result from liberal scholars uncritically describing pagan beliefs and practices in Christian language and then marveling at the striking parallels they think they've discovered." (Article "Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions")