Better Atheist Fact-Checking

Tom Verenna shared a short image reflecting common mythicist misinformation, and (quite justifiably) complained about it. It appears that someone also went through it and illustrated point by point how fact-checking should be done. Here is the result:

  • Rich Rodriguez

    About time someone is setting the record straight…kudos.

  • Bretton Garcia

    No doubt popular atheism will be nearly as silly as popular Christianity in many examples. Sill, cross-referencing your own facts as stated above, I notice some problems.
    For example, the first thing I notice is that in the course of rejecting the idea that Horus is born of a virgin, it is said that the dead Osiris was revived long enough to have sex, and conceive Horus. But 1) this is not true of another version of the myth, by Diodorus, where the dead Osiris is assembled and revived .. but specifically without his sexual organ.
    Then too, doesn’t this mean in any case, that there was therefore another dead god coming to life, in Egyptian legend, before Jesus? Signifiantly, Osiris was pictured wrapped up like a mummy, or like the dead Jesus. “Out of Egypt I will call my son”?
    Associated with death or burial, and rebirth, Osiris was thought to be god of the underworld, and of resurrection. But also, strangely, of the rise of vegetation in the spring. What is the link between resurrection, and agronomy? As in the similar Greco-Roman myth of Persephone, many scholars suggest that probably the idea behind resurrection, came from observing seeds, roots, that remained dead underground in the winter … but then came up in the spring. Around easter time or earlier. These common ANE legends of “vegetative rebirth,” are thought therefore to be the myths behind the legend of Jesus; the new element of the godhead, wrapped in burial clothing, coming back to life precisely, in the spring; in Easter.
    Are the parallels between Jesus and Osiris exact? No they are not. It might be hypothesized here that the Jesus legend is actally a confused conflation of dozen of different Jewish and ANE myths. But because of many key points of resemblance between Osiris and Jesus in these matters, many today hypothesize that these specific local myths were in the minds of the writers of the gospels; particularly when they wrote their (often problematic and conflicting) accounts of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
    Conservative scholars today reject the idea of any influence of any other cultural than Jewish culture, on Christianity. Probably because conservative Judaism often spoke against the worshiping of other gods than Jehovah. But Jews often lived in foreign countries like Babylonia, and picked up ideas there: the “Daniel” tales seem to come from that source, say many scholars. While earlier, while in bondage, no doubt Judaism picked up many Egyptian elements too; the very name “Moses” is actually a common Egyptian suffix, in effect.
    And much later, c. 60 AD? More liberal Jews seems to have allowed, some say, an expansion of the old ideas of Jehovah; allowing a new adjunct to their old God; a “son of” God. And though the original (and more historical?) account of Jesus, in Mark, had no resurrection in it? Another verision of Mark, and then later gospels, soon incorporated into the legend of Jesus, legends of a “god” or “lord” that dies, but is then resurrected. Especially in the spring; around the time of … Easter.
    In the chaos and confusion and anguish, the psychological trauma after the death of Jesus and the “empty tomb” of Mark, could confused rumors in the multi-cultural environment of 30 AD, Roman-occupied Jerusalem, and the extreme psychological need of Christians to see their Jesus return, have lead to half-understood accounts of a more properly Egyptian tradition or god or “lord,” to be incorporated into the legend of the new godhead, of the new lord, Jesus? Particularly in the conflicted and problematic accounts of the resurrection?

  • Sixth Sense

    Bretton, the “original” Mark DOES have the resurrection of Jesus within the gospel story. The disputed verses may contain the actual stories of Jesus’ appearances to others, but the original ending of the Gospel of Mark does include the message, “He has been raised, he is not here….But go, tell the disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” That the appearance stories were (possibly) added to the Gospel of Mark at a later date does not make the stories untrue.

    • Bretton Garcia

      You are partially right: according to conventional accounts, the brief ending in Mark includes some cursory account of Jesus behing raised and being found elsewhere in the tomb (cf. being lifted up/carried away); in an account by an angel or white-garbed person.
      But? There is next, almost a half page of text or so, that appears or disappears from our Bibles, next, according to the whims of our editors: many Bibles end with Mark 15.8; others insert an entire ten verses more or so, detailing the reality of the resurrection of Jesus.
      So just how reliable are our Bibles? And how immune are they to insertion of foreign text, especially in their accounts of dead persons like Jesus coming back to life? 1) Any such very considerable variability of our primary texts as described above – like the omission or inclusion in different BIbles, of the complete ending of our reputedly earliest Mark, 16.9-19 – demonstrates a very, very considerable instability in the canon. Which does in fact, suggest unreliability. 2) Especially when this instability is corroborated by other findings: as scholars note instability/inconsistency, in accounts in the various gospels, of what happens immediately after Jesus is dead; his resurrection.
      Then too, the 3) magical/miraculous (and therefore some would say, unreliable) nature of this 40-day resurrection, combined with 4) obvious trauma and confusion among believers, provided very, very considerable opportunity for invention, conflation; for the narration of confused rumors, as fact.
      Within just this single, very, very considerable moment of confusion and unreliability, was plenty of opportunity for the insertion of many confused rumors, into our holy texts. Especially when 5) the confusion of this particular moment was added to dozens of later theological crises, and opportunities for the redaction/editing of text. Redactions and editings whose existence are rather well accepted by scholars.
      For that matter, the Bible is still being changed, edited, to this very day: in current editions of the Bible, some editors choose to add the longer ending of Mark; others do not.
      The alternating appearances and disappearances of major parts of our Biblical texts, the obvious partiality of editors, do not in themselves prove our Bibles are entirely untrue; but they definitely demonstrate instability and variability even in our most holy texts. Enough that unreliable or foreign material might well have found its way into them.

  • beau_quilter

    Really, James? Tom?

    Sure, Jesus does not equal Osiris.

    And, atheists do not equal mythicists.

    Can I dispel one more myth for you? Most atheists are not mythicists. Most atheists could care less.

    • glennsbuttbuddy

      Most atheists could NOT care less.

    • beau_quilter

      Yeah … what he said …

  • C.J. O’Brien

    Yes, that original list is silly in conception and quite misinformed in execution. However, this particular debunking isn’t entirely correct either.
    On Horus, there are at least four dimensions to consider, whereas both the original list here and the debunker are really only considering two, his role in the Isis-Osiris myth and the Greco-Roman identification of the infant Horus as the deity Harpokrates. Also to consider are the ancient role of Horus as solar and creator deity, sky god, and idealized king, and the Greek identification of the adult Horus with Apollo. On three of the four, it might be allowed that Horus has some association with healing. And the Eye of Horus was worn as a protective amulet.
    On Mithra, the debunker makes several references to “Mithraic literature” “texts” and “stories” but no such texts survive. We have several vague and contradictory notices in the classical authors and a late treatment by Jerome (and possibly earlier patristic writers?), but nothing beyond inscriptions and graffiti that can be identified with adherents of the Roman mysteries of Mithra. Too much discussion of Mithraism, from all positions, goes on without acknowledging these facts. There is a great deal we do not know, that various scholars have inferred from sculpture and associated inscriptions, but that must remain hypothetical. However, Mithra was identified with the sun, and along with Sol Invictus the adherents of the mysteries probably did celebrate the solstice. That the Saturnalia and Sol Invictus and possibly Mithraism revered the date may well have influenced the eventual adoption of it for Christmas, but so what? It would seem to have little to do with the creation of the foundational Christian beliefs, and the nativity stories do not appear to partake of any of the later syncretism with solar deities.
    On Dionysus, he was “the twice born god.” This concept finds expression in the narrative myth, where as the debunker says, Zeus impregnated Semele, but he or she is wrong about the lightning bolt part. Semele was already pregnant with D. when Zeus’s jealous wife Hera tricked her into demanding a theophany, so Zeus manifested as lightning and killed Semele but was able to save the fetus and stitched the prenatal Dionysus into his thigh from which he was later also “born”. But the myth is not the origin of the idea of Dionysus as “twice born” but an etiological narrative incorporating it. Dionysus as the personification of wine, is “twice born” because grapes are harvested and newly fermented wine is produced at different times of the year.
    The Attic Greek festival of the grape harvest was the Oschophoria, celebrated in the month of Pyanepsion, roughly our October. The so-called Rural or Rustic Dionysia was held at various places in Attica on various dates and so cannot be difinitively tied to January 6, December 25, or any specific date. It celebrated Dionysius’s rebirth in the new wine; his second birth. The Urban Dionysia, the famous Athenian theater competition, was held later, in the Spring. Two other Dionysian festivals were also held in late Winter/early Spring, the Anthesteria and the Lenaea, and while these probably had local origins in parts of Attica, they were folded into the Urban Dionysia at Athens.
    tl;dr: The bullet list format is a lousy way to communicate complex and often obscure ancient religious concepts, whatever the motivation.

    • Earl Lee

      A better solution is that the religions of Greece, Egypt, and Palestine were all derived forms of the prehistoric “cult of the dead”–as I show in my book, From the Bodies of the Gods.

  • Alice Linsley

    The claim that Christianity is a copy-cat religion, based on the Horus Myth is false because Christianity emerges from the Faith of Abraham’s Horite ruler-priest caste. This is demonstrated in analysis of the marriage and ascendancy structure of the Horites as it is detailed in the Bible. Jesus is a direct descendant of the Horite ruler-priests, and the fulfillment of their Messianic expectation. Horite beliefs must be distinguished from the syncretism of later Egyptian religion. Tom Verenna has failed to do this.

  • Alice C. Linsley
    • James F. McGrath

      Engaging in the sort of pseudolinguistic treatment which treata similarly-spelled names as evidence of a linguistic connection and then on that basis positing a historical connection is not something that ought to pass for scholarship in our day and age.

      • Alice C. Linsley

        Sorry about the duplication.

        You apparently didn’t read the article which traces Jesus’ Horite lineage. There is nothing here that isn’t found in the Biblical text. Should you be interested in knowing more you will find 30+ years of research. Use the INDEX.

  • Ringo

    10/10 Well said… showed the ignorant people the truth…

  • glennsbuttbuddy

    Note it was an atheist who did the fact-checking for this image.

    As an atheist, I couldn’t care less, but I do wonder if a Christian has fact-checked the bible. Any version of it.

    • James F. McGrath

      You ought to look into the history of liberal Protestantism and its role in pioneering and promoting the historical critical study of the Bible.