Since I came down the the plague recently, I decided that I would spend my last few hours alive watching Zeitgeist. I like saying the word, but I knew approximately nothing about it beside the title and the existence of a show by the same name on Current TV. Turns out, it’s about religion and …other stuff related to religion. Basically, conspiracy theories about religion and that kind of fun stuff. Now, don’t get me wrong. I fucking love conspiracy theories. Ancient Aliens? Yes, please. As cool as some of the stuff this movie points out, it makes the same huge mistake that Religulous makes (which I also enjoyed for the most part): drawing false parallels between Jesus and other ancient religious figures as a means of discounting him.
I am not Christian or religious to any degree for that matter, but I do enjoy mythology to a crazy degree (read: old conspiracy theories). The story of Jesus is awesome, though I must admit that my favorite Biblical story was denounced as heresy by the Vatican – The Book of Judas. Basically, he’s this awesome guy who is just born smart, but kind of mischievous, becomes a teacher at 12, because apparently, it didn’t take much to beat the pants off of scholars back then, did magic tricks, pissed off the Romans, and was nailed to a cross-ways slab of wood because fuck him.
Jesus is frequently compared to Horus of Ancient Egypt, Dionysus of Ancient Greece, Buddha of freaking all of Asia, and a bunch of other figures. All of these comparisons are completely ridiculous on their face. Both Zeitgeist and Bill Maher in his movie claim that there are major similarities between these myths, but it just simply isn’t true. If you know anything about Horus, you know that all of the myths involving him are crazy and also totally awesome. Horus was not born of a virgin, but rather was a product of incest. I guess if you’re using a very narrow definition of virginity, that might count?
Horus is not the Sun god, he’s not the light, or a lamb or anything like that. He’s a damn falcon. Technically, he’s the God of Kings. Zeitgeist explains some weird myth of Horus being the Sun and Set being the moon and them doing battle or whatever. I’m sure someone had a myth about that somewhere, but that isn’t the story of Horus. Horus was the God of Upper Egypt and Set was the God of the Desert.
His mother was either Isis or Hathor, depending on who you ask, and he definitely had a father. If Isis was his mother, his father was Osiris. If his mother was Hathor, he might be his own father, hell if I know. The tale about the Sun and Moon is actually that he and Set engaged in epic battle, Set gauged out one of Horus’s eyes, which is why the moon isn’t as bright as the Sun, and Horus tore off Set’s testicle, which is why the Desert is infertile. Also, there’s this weird part about Horus and Set having sex to try to dominate the other, so unless Jesus had sex and a fight to the death with his brother, the two have exactly nothing in common. Horus was not crucified. Actually, crucifixion wasn’t used by Ancient Egyptians.
The comparison between Jesus and Dionysus is even more bizarre to me. I think he is a better known figure, frequently appearing in cartoons as a very happy and very drunk fellow. He was not born of a virgin, but rather was born the same way all of the other gods were born: Zeus fucked someone, got them pregnant, and out came a new god. Dionysus probably has the most normal origin story in that Zeus regular-fucked her instead of turning into a goose, gold coins, or a cow and raping her in the weirdest possible way. The only thing these movies get right about Dionysus is that he was equated with rebirth. He himself was not killed or crucified (not a thing in Ancient Greece), but rather, he was able to go down to the underworld and snatch a person out whenever he wanted, most notably, his own mother.
And of course, Buddha. I think it is really ballsy to compare Buddha to Jesus since the two have exactly nothing in common other than being teachers. Buddha didn’t become a teacher until much later in his life, though, and Jesus got his start when he was twelve years old. Buddha was not born of a virgin, but rather of his mother after she had hopefully plenty of sex with his father. While pregnant and not virginal, his mother dreamt of a white elephant carrying a lotus flower. Since she hadn’t been drinking and I’m guessing wasn’t particularly high at the time, she figured it meant that her unborn child was going to be kind of a big deal.
Since the palace scholars or whoever they were predicted that the young son would grow up to either be a great emperor or a great spiritual leader, the King basically panicked and sheltered Buddha to a crazy degree so that he wouldn’t run off to become a weird monk. He gave his son absolutely everything and sheltered him from death, disease, unhappiness, and not seeing flowers all of the time. This, ironically, is what led Buddha to shirk his destiny to become an emperor and to instead run away to become a spiritual leader. By the way, he was in his thirties when he did this and did not start as a teacher. He realized that he knew absolutely nothing about real life and was so upset that he jumped headfirst into anything and everything his teachers offered to him, going so far as to starve himself to the form of a skeleton wrapped in clingy plastic. Only after torturing himself while following all of these fad paths to enlightenment did Buddha attain enlightenment by realizing that all of those fads were totally unnecessary. Then, he became a teacher. Buddha died many years later by the super boringly normal cause of “old age”.
I could go on and on to explain how Jesus is not a carbon copy of every other religious figure and that, in fact, each religious figure bears many unique qualities in their stories. That does not mean that all of these stories are true or that you should believe in some religious figure just because the story is unique. What I am saying here is that if you’re going to say that you don’t believe in Jesus, you don’t have to stoop to the level of making false claims that his story is super unoriginal, therefore no one should believe it. Many parts of Buddha’s story are super unoriginal, what with the being born by parents who totally had sex, being shocked after finding out that his father completely lied to him, rebelling against his father, and then dying of old age. That doesn’t automatically mean that the story should be discounted out of hand.
I don’t worship Jesus or anything for that matter. I think that the story of Jesus is interesting, just like these other religious figures, and that there are some parts of his story worth sharing – namely that he didn’t believe in the church and felt that people should be able to pray to God wherever the hell they wanted. It’s that kind of anti-establishment attitude that I think makes Jesus’s story interesting but is often ignored entirely in its telling.
Blind faith is dangerous, but what people who so vociferously denounce all religious and magical thinking tend to miss is that they are falling into the same exact trap. They are blindly denouncing all religious thinking without bothering to learn much about what it is they’re denouncing. Believing that you have the answers to anything is really just setting yourself up for failure. That is what the Buddha taught his students. Rather than trying to tell everyone that you have the answers (whether that be that there is definitely a God or that there is definitely not a God), try shutting the hell up and listening to what you don’t understand for once. You might accidentally learn something that way.