I have made my feelings about the Bill Maher documentary clear in my one line review from last week but there was a deeper point that I felt I had to blog, at least to verbally process for myself. I would hope that everyone would see through the dubious, even dishonest editing techniques that were used to underline punchlines or destroy counter-arguments in this movie. That’s cool, as long as we remember it is predominantly a laughumentary, not a documentary. Hollywood movies on “religion” made by stand up comedians are just about as reliable a source of information as the side of buses.
Less cool is the use of Christian participants. The only Christian of any stature at all featured is Francis Collins, he who mapped the human genome. But he is asked not about the relationship between faith and reason but the text of the New Testament! What? Was Richard Bauckham unavailable? The people that Maher encounters prove his point for him. This makes the movie funny and it is also fair enough game. Maher may well have had to shoot 600 hours of film to get what he got, but when religions go about believing stuff like this or this, then make fun all you like.
But sometimes he is just outright stupid in his claims and the argument he makes about Horus, the Egyptian pagan god is one such example. Maher shares a long list of “similarities” between the Jesus story and the Horus story. If it were true, it would make a compelling case. Since movies don’t have footnotes, he is able to get away with this. The claims begin with the assertion that Horus was born on December 25th. Leaving aside that a 3200 year old Egyptian myth probably wasn’t using our calendar, no Christian thinks Jesus was born on December 25th. We don’t know what day he was born on. We merely celebrate it on December 25th and the reason for that has a whole lot more to do with mid-winter and Saturnalia than some historical sense of Jesus being Aquarius.
In Egyptian texts, Horus didn’t die, never mind rise again. Horus is a catch all name referencing different mythic story strands. Horus didn’t raise a friend called Lazarus, he raised his father called El Asis. Every single citation that Maher shares is bogus. It is as preposterous as his attempt to conflate the myth of Mithras, a Persian god from about 5-600BC who was adopted widely in Rome after undergoing modification in the 3rd Century. Why did he become popular in Rome? Because as a pagan god he wasn’t grounded in a historical person and so the myth absorbed the story of Jesus and adapted it to fit inside the Mithras mystery cult! It’s the opposite of what Maher is claiming!
Even leaving all the issues of bogus claims aside, the idea that Christianity could have its roots in some pagan myth is historically preposterous. How can I make such a strong claim? Because the early Christians were Jews. The Jews followed the one true God. They recited the Shema prayer every morning, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One”. The Jews had an understanding of the world that was profoundly monotheist and historical. To adopt and adapt a Persian or Egyptian pagan myth and expect it to spread in the synagogues of the Mediterranean is far more crazy an idea than anything the New Testament offers.
Your Correspondent, Will be equally hard on Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed