My atheism, like everything else, was a slow process. There was never a day when I woke up and realized that I was an atheist, or even that I didn’t believe in God. I have a story, however, that I tell people when they ask for my “deconversion story,” which I could tell in my sleep. It goes like this:
“I was raised in a conservative Lutheran household. When I was around ten, I learned about the big bang in science class, and I began to doubt religion. From then until I was around twenty, I didn’t really believe in God, but I didn’t worry about it a lot, and I planned never to tell anyone. Since I was so used to religion, I didn’t think it would be so bad to go to a Christian college, even though I didn’t really believe. Once I was at Grove City College, the Christian religion started to bother me more and more, as it permeated every part of my life. That was when I started to really get into studying atheism and related topics, when I started calling myself an atheist, and when I started writing for this blog.”
This is, for the most part, accurate, if deeply oversimplified. I tell it this way because I truly can’t remember most of the details of this time. There was a lot going on relating to my beliefs, but I wasn’t focused on committing everything to memory, because I didn’t know it would be a story I would be telling in some form for the rest of my life.
For example, I know that I saw a video in my sixth grade science class, and I’ve always remembered that as being the moment when the first link in the religious chain in my brain broke. But I didn’t just stop believing in God right then and there. Throughout high school, I would invite friends to come to church with me. Due to the way I was raised, I just thought that inviting friends to church was an objectively good thing that friends should do. I even got my best friend in high school to take communion classes at my church and eventually join as a member.
I know that I was definitely an atheist by the time that I started this blog in November 2016 (duh). I also know that the moment when the very last link in that Christian chain in my brain shattered was when I wrote the paper “Does Naturalism Inevitably Lead to Nihilism?” for a class in April 2016. But those links were breaking one by one for years leading up to that point, but that was just when it all came to a peak and I first blurted out, “I am an atheist!”
I remember sitting in a different class in the fall of 2015 and disagreeing with every single Christian point that the professor made. I didn’t really know about the word “atheist” then, and I didn’t exactly know what I was, but I knew I wasn’t a Christian. It was probably around this time when the events of this post took place, and when I first tried watching the famous Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham debate. It was also around this time that I first saw Zeitgeist: The Movie.
Along with many other factors, Zeitgeist rocked my world when I was trying to figure out my beliefs in college. It is a three-part movie, the first part of which essentially is trying to completely disprove Christianity.
If you want to watch what I watched, the content on Christianity is from 13 minutes in to 39 minutes in. So your first clue that this might be a little wonky is that Peter Joseph, the filmmaker, tries to debunk Christianity in only 26 minutes (before going on to argue that 9/11 was an inside job).
As someone who was extremely skeptical of Christianity but had done absolutely no prior research about its origins, you could imagine that I was intrigued by this movie. I can only describe it now as what must have seemed the most “woke” thing I’d ever seen. Its most salient points are as follows:
- The sun was personified as a god. It was known as “God’s Sun,” the light of the world, the savior of humankind. Likewise, the 12 constellations represented places of travel for God’s Sun.
- Jesus has essentially the same story as Attis of Phyrigia, Krishna of India, Dionysus of Greece, Mithra of Persia, and especially Horus of Egypt.
- Jesus’ birth is entirely astrological, in that the star in the east is Sirius, which aligns with three stars known as The Three Kings on December 24th. When they line up, they point to the sunrise (or son’s birth) on December 25th.
- The Virgin Mary is the constellation Virgo, which in Latin means virgin. Virgo is also referred to as the House of Bread. This House of Bread and its symbol of wheat represents August and September, the time of harvest. In turn, Bethlehem literally translates to “house of bread”. Bethlehem is thus a reference to the constellation Virgo, a place in the sky, not on Earth.
- Between the summer solstice and the winter solstice, the days get shorter, which is personified as Darkness and Death overtaking Light and Life. On December 22nd, the Sun is (perceptibly) at its lowest point (death) for three days, until it begins to get higher in the sky (resurrection) on December 25th. During these three days, the Sun is in the vicinity of a constellation called the Southern Cross. Only during the spring equinox, when the Sun actually gets more time of day than darkness, do we celebrate the resurrection at Easter.
- The twelve disciples were the twelve signs of the Zodiac. The cross is actually a pagan Zodiac symbol. Also, Moses is a representative or the Zodiac Age of Aries the Ram, replacing the Age of Taurus the Bull. Jesus represents the Age of Pisces the Fish, which is still happening. When he spoke of the “end of the age,” he actually meant the Age of Pisces the Fish, and he even alluded to the next age, that of Aquarius the Water-Bearer.
- Also, the stories of Noah and Moses were plagiarized. So was Jesus. So was the entire bible.
- Jesus didn’t exist.
Of course, watching this movie now, after having seen so many dozens of videos on conspiracies and cults, it’s clear as day that this video is a string of conspiracies. I’ve already touched on why Jesus is not merely a rehashing of the story of Horus (which I won’t tell you here, because I shared it in my last post on this and I have no desire to show it again because it’s disgusting). I’ve also talked briefly on why I do, at least at the time being, believe that there was a historical Jesus. My main source for this is Bart Ehrman’s book Did Jesus Exist? which also covered the embarrassment that was Acharya S’s outlandishly conspiratorial 1999 book The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold. The Christ Conspiracy is noted as the main source that Peter Joseph used for Zeitgeist, even though neither make any particularly viable claims.
Luckily, I do not have to go through Zeitgeist point-by-point, debunking these ideas that seem too convenient to be true, because it has already been done. Skeptic Project’s Edward L. Winston created this guide over a decade ago in an article with nearly ninety sources, addressing every point I listed above and more. I highly recommend it.
I’m glad that when I first saw this movie, I took notes which I can still look at today, unlike some of my class notes from the time that are unfortunately long gone. I was noticeably shocked by some of the claims made in the film, which is made obvious by my reactions of:
“They made the christmas story because the winter solstice and the brightest star lines up with the 3 kings on december 25th so they made it up to remember the stars” and “The 3 KINGS follow the STAR to find the SUNRISE, the BIRTH OF THE SON”.
As shocked as I was, I’m proud to read on and see that even then, I was feeling a bit skeptical about Zeitgeist’s conclusions, saying:
“I knowwwwwwwwwwwww that some of this is definitely related to one another like the christmas thing and how all of the gods are the same but we can’t be sure that the bible verses that relate god to the son are not just a coincidence, if I really will be as skeptical of this movie as possible which hurts but is necessary / Confused about the time periods and the things associated with them and how we know that moses was from the time of the bull and why people particularly liked bulls at that time” and “The bible doesn’t actually even say that christmas happened on december 25th”.
Clearly, I was on the right path here, considering that even more than the various religious stories being coincidences, most of the elements that make them similar to the story of Jesus were just fabricated. Furthermore, if you read the Skeptic Project piece refuting Zeitgeist, you’ll find that Moses was in fact from the age of Taurus the Bull, but the event with the Ten Commandments was from the middle of the age and not the beginning, like the film says.
Finally, it’s true that it is never mentioned in the bible that Jesus was born on December 25th. And it’s worth noting that while the Synoptic Gospels do refer to Jesus as God’s Son, it wouldn’t have been a reference to The Sun, as “son” and “sun” sound similar only in English, not in Aramaic, Hebrew, or Greek.
Even though I stayed as skeptical and level-headed as I could, Zeitgeist felt eye-opening for me when I first saw it years ago. It was a contributing factor to my becoming a more passionate atheist, so I find it a great irony that my own atheistic interests and that same skepticism of Christianity are what lead me to eventually study Christian history in greater detail and reject nearly everything in this apocalyptic-cult film.