Many memes about Christ, specifically linking him to ancient myths such as Horus, is as close to The Walking Dead as we’ll get in this life; it’s a dead thought, empty, that keeps coming at you no matter how many facts you use to shoot it down, feasting on the weak and unprepared, and leaving the survivors confused as to how such a thing can continue to persist on this earth. Eventually it’s nothing more than an annoyance to be dealt with, causing the occasional panic among the hopeless and lazy, but posing no threat to those who know what to expect in such a world.
Let me back up.
The greatest intellectual challenge to my faith ever (and currently) is found in a work of fiction by Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Anyone familiar with theodicy or with his work knows where I’m pointing to; the conversation between Alexei and Ivan where Ivan names all the evils that have occurred without reason and Alexei is left without response. It paints a horrific picture of existence, one in where we commit the worst evils against each other, one where we have just cause to question if God is just, or even exists. Of course, Dostoevsky was a devout Christian and even based the character of Alexei off his friend Vladimir Solovyov. Yet, to me this poses a great challenge to my faith.
All that is to say that it’s okay to have challenges to the faith. It’s even okay to not believe. I have friends who are atheists (or agnostics) and have intellectually valid reasons for doubting the existence of God. They are challenging issues, ones without an easy answer, and worthy of inspection. There are others who realize that if God doesn’t exist we have quite a bit to account for (such as, since something exists, we need an ought for that something). They attempt to form epistemological theories, ethical theories, political theories, and so on sans God. While I think there are flaws, it’s a worthy attempt.
Sadly, what I described above does not seem to be the case for most self-acclaimed atheists out there. Most of them see a few youtube videos, see things on Facebook, read some stuff on Reddit, and if they’re really bold will read a book or two by Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins, and conclude from such extensive and scholarly study that God doesn’t exist. Oh, and if you do believe in God? Well you’re an idiot and stupid and have nothing worthy to say. Some “historian” says that Jesus didn’t exist and everyone concludes, “Well duh, of course he didn’t!” Never mind that there’s almost a complete consensus among historians of the time period that Jesus existed (they debate over the details), in this case expertise is dismissed for the words of…Michael Paulvokich. His book and main arguments are almost immediately dismissed by the majority of historians (from various religious beliefs or lack thereof), but it didn’t stop many “Reddit Atheists” from exerting how much smarter they are than Christians.
Let’s be honest, this new type of atheism isn’t so much about being an actual atheist as it is just about hating Christianity, or more, about feeling smarter than everyone else. I’m always perplexed that when I speak to people about philosophy, science, political theories, and so on, most people guess I’m an atheist. They either start to smile and go, “You’re an atheist, aren’t you? You’re really intelligent.” Or they frown and begin to witness to me (apparently Christians think people who are educated are atheists). It shocks people to learn that I’m not an atheist. It’s an outright scandal when I go further to say that I believe Jesus was born of a virgin, performed miracles, died, and rose from the grave. A lot of atheists I run into who discover this will just stop talking to me, saying that I’m not as smart as they thought I was. This new-found atheism is more about trying to say, “I’m smarter than you” than it is about discovering any actual truth.
Consider the following image I pulled from Facebook:
Oh man you Christians, I got you good! How stupid could you be to even believe in Jesus when it’s so obvious he’s based on Horus? Except that a quick, 15 second search on Google turns up that almost none of the “facts” on the right are true; they’re completely made up. Yet it didn’t stop it from being shared 89 times in just a few hours and atheists commenting, bemoaning the idiocy of Christians. All the while they couldn’t even do a basic search to investigate this picture. Let me explain:
The part where it says he raised “El-Azur-us” from the dead (I mean…c’mon guys…I’ll hold off on this point for a moment) is actually based on a transliteration of Osiris into Greek, ασαρ (Asar). The “similarity” is that Horus raised Osiris from the dead. Except that’s not what the ancient Egyptians believed. They believed that after Osiris was killed by Seth, Isis temporarily brought Osiris back to life and then took his limbs, put them inside herself, formed Horus, and then gave birth to Horus (and in forming Horus killed Osiris finally). It’s safe to say that ISIL and the Peace Corp have more in common than these two stories.
Also, the idea that he was called “El-Azur-us” is pretty funny to me. I’m a nerd when it comes to languages, and they’re mixing Arabic/Hebrew/Semitic (“El”) with Greek (Azur/Asar), and something to make it sound like “Lazarus” (“us”). See, Egyptian is Afro-Asiatic, which includes a wide swath of smaller language families (Berber, Semitic, Cushuer, Egyptian, and so on), much like the Indo-European tree. “El” isn’t used in ancient Egyptian as it’s Semitic and belongs to the Canaanites (and Phoenicians and other northwest Semitic languages) and was used by the Hebrews and later Arabic (which made it “al,” hence the use of “al” in modern Arabic). Even then, “El” means “God,” so the name would translate to “God God us.” The name – and story – is completely made up in order to make the name sound similar to Lazarus; but this is somewhat idiotic (sorry, no other way to put it) as Egyptian and Semitic languages are different classes, further apart than English and Latin (both Indo-European). “El-Azur-us” isn’t even Egyptian and Lazaraus isn’t based on Egyptian, but on Hebrew (Eleazar). Semitic languages didn’t become predominate in Egypt until the Arab conquests in the 7th century AD, or about 3,000 years after the origins of the Horus myth, or about 700 years after Christ. In other words, whoever created this meme or name made it up; to put it in a less civil term, this is pure, unadulterated, 100% organic and GMO free Horus sh!t.
That is probably the most egregious of everything listed in the picture. But the fact is a quick search shows that every single “fact” is actually made up.
- Horus wasn’t born a virgin, but composed of the parts of Osiris via Osiris’ wife (read: not a virgin) Isis.
- There’s simply no character in ancient history called “Anup the Baptizer” and the first time he’s mentioned in history is by Gerald Massey, who carries less weight in Egyptology than Giorgio Tsoukalos (the “Aliens!” guy), not to mention that the closest the Egyptians came to the ritual of baptism was via the gods washing Pharaohs in death and Horus wasn’t a Pharaoh (nor dead).
- Seth never tempted Horus in the desert as Satan tempted Jesus, rather Seth tried to kill Horus, but the two made nice later on and became friends (no joke, that’s how the mythology goes).
- Massey is the first person to ever say that Horus had twelve disciples; prior to Massey no one ever made this claim.
- The idea that Horus was crucified first is that he’s often depicted with his arms spread, which makes since considering he has the head of a bird as well as wings between his body and arm. It allows the pictures to show these wings. That image alone is why people say people believed he was crucified; it doesn’t come up in any mythological writings.
- Horus, it was believed, “died” and was “resurrected” into each and every Pharaoh; however Horus never actually died, but simply moved from one Pharaoh to the next. For those keeping score at home, that’s completely different from Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The point of bringing this up is to show one very simple truth that seemingly escapes people: Being an atheist doesn’t make you an intellectual, just like being a Christian doesn’t make you ignorant. If you want to deny God, go ahead, but don’t deny basic scholarship or, at the very least, a quick perusal through Google. That is not to say all atheists are stupid or all Christians are brilliant, far from it, rather that believing in one or not believing in the other says nothing to a person’s intellectual status. Such atheistic greats as….Bill Maher?….are the only proponents of the Horus myth, or many other myths surrounding Christ. Even Dawkins won’t touch it, and that’s saying something.
Yes, I get it, you’re an atheist and you hate Christianity (but are relatively silent about other religions, which is another issue entirely), but please understand that such a belief doesn’t make you intelligent by default, nor does it mean Christians are stupid. Better men and women than you and I have believed in Christ and others have denied him. Just because you’ve read a few articles on the internet and maybe, maybe, read a few books doesn’t make you an expert on the issue. In most cases, such atheists have read at most two or three books supporting their side; I can look through my library and find Lucretius, books by Stoics and Epicureans (atheists), Hume, Nietzsche, Russell, Sartre, Camus, Marx, Singer, Searle, Zizek, and yes, even Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and Krauss. And I’m not alone, a lot of Christians have taken a lot of time reading a lot of atheists.
I value intelligent conversations with my atheists friends. It’s fun, it’s challenging, and I always walk away trying to ponder a view. But more often than not, I find that I can make a better case against God and a better case for an atheistic worldview than most atheists. Aside from this annoying me (when I see bad atheistic arguments I get upset because it’s an insult to philosophy), it’s disappointing because it doesn’t present a challenge. I’m a philosopher by trade and a debater by nature of being an ass, so I enjoy a challenging conversation where I can’t come up with an answer right away. I love coming to the point where I say, “I don’t know” because it forces me to go and search out the answer. This happens quite a bit with spiritual agnostics, with Muslims, with Hindus, and so on; it doesn’t happen that much with atheists, at least not any more. More and more I have to create the arguments for atheism in order to just challenge myself (though, admittedly, I do think Zizek poses the greatest argument for atheism, which is basically “co-opt Christianity’s core ethical message, just not its metaphysics”). I think some of the atheistic arguments on theodicy are wonderful and very challenging. But more and more, it’s not challenging.
If nothing else, I’m challenging atheists to do better. Actually study Christian philosophy, take time to understand it, and then read the philosopher’s responses to your arguments. Consider them and think them through. Challenge yourself to become a better thinker, to become a better investigator of the truth. And if nothing else, if you want to be taken seriously, try not to make historical claims based on something that is completely made up and fabricated.