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Zeitgeist – The Response
August 24, 2007, Wausau, Wi — This week I thought I would address some of the responses to Zeitgeist, The Movie and my review. Perhaps the one of the most absurd attempts to defend the movie was the claim that you cannot invalidate the claims in Zeitgeist, without first validating the claims made in the New Testament.
The irrationally of
this statement is easily seen by simply turning it around. One could just as easily, and in fact given
the actual evidence, more easily, claim that one could not invalidate of the
historical claims made in the NT without first validating the claims in
Zeitgeist, which given the errors shown in my review of the movie, would be impossible. While I believe the
claims in the NT are historically accurate, I would never make such an
argument, because is it irrational on its face.
Some messages took objection to my claim that the December 25th date was not biblical but a later tradition and therefore those parts of the movie based on this date were invalid. These objections took two main forms. One was to claim that there is no proof December 25th was a later tradition. This of course ignores the statements in Luke that points to the spring as the time for Jesus birth. But it also reveals a common line of argument with such claims which is to point to anything that can be seen as supporting them as valid evidence, while everything that conflicts is simply ignored.
The other approach was to claim that the Church did set the December 25th date, even if it was later, and that this shows the claims in the movie are correct. There are two problems with this argument either one of which would be fatal. The first is that the movie claims that the beliefs of Christianity derived from date. But how could this be true if the connection was only made hundreds of years later? The other problem is that when the connection was made, it was not to commemorate the date, but to use the celebration of Christmas, to replace the pagan celebrations that occurred on this date. So no matter how you look at it the movie’s claim that Christian belief derived from the winter solstice simply wrong.
A more general defense was found in a number of messages, which was even if some of the details of the movie were incorrect, the main message of the movie that religion basically is just a means of control, was correct. In fact it was commonly called the most powerful form of control that exists.
arguments have a number of problems. If
the purpose of religion is to control, then how, by whom and for what purpose?
This might make sense when dealing with a religion that has a clear
hierarchical power structure, but not all religions have such a structure. In
fact, one of the problems with Islam is that it lacks any formal power
structure that could control its radical extremes.
Many Protestants churches have a very democratic power structure (which was historically an important factor in the emergence of democracy in Europe and the US.) How does “control” fit as a purpose for these groups? Applied to specific groups and individuals, “control” might be an explanation, but as a blanket explanation, it fails miserably.
But even if true, religion is hardly the main
means of control. Government is far more powerful and invasive. More
importantly, while religion is often, and should always be, voluntary,
government, by its nature is not. Just look at the massive amount of control
Government has over our lives in the US, and we are classified as a “free”
society. Consider the amounts of control totalitarian governments have over the
day to day lives of their citizens. So government is much more a source of
In fact one of the benefits of religion is that it can provide a check and balance on government, sort of like the separation of powers set up in the Constitution. In fact this was why the founding fathers viewed religion as so important, yet independent of government, for it could provide a check on government.
The real danger occurs when government becomes completely dominated by any single group so as to use it power to suppress and restrict competing groups for then the ability for checks and balances disappears. In European history, Christianity was at times too closely allied with, and in some cases was, the government. That was a problem. Today the danger lies with secularism, which has come to dominate government, and is using its power to restricting the influence of religion. Completely remove the influence of religion and you remove any ability it has to check the control of government.
To see this just look at the last century where you had a declining influence of religion in America you had a corresponding increase in the growth of government, and a corresponding decrease in freedom. Sure we now have much more freedom to use certain words formally considered vulgar, but in exchange we now have speech codes on what opinions and thoughts are acceptable. Express a politically incorrect opinion, however true it may be, and you can be sent to sensitive training, or even lose your job. (In Europe, which even more secular, you can go to jail). So in 21st century America, I fear Big Government much more than Big Religion. And it is not coincidence that those who seek to limit religion the most, also seek to expand government the most.
This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.
See www.consider.org for additional information.
The book and press materials are available upon request.
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