I ran across Tim O’Neill’s History for Atheists site one day by chance while looking for a succinct analysis of the oft-repeated and inaccurate claim made by some atheists that Easter is a pagan tradition, derived from the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre.
O’Neill had written an essay about this myth, Easter, Ishtar, Eostre and Eggs. O’Neill did an excellent job of debunking this claim, but what I really appreciate was how he traced back the origins of this myth, ironically to a 19th century anti-Catholic minister.
Alexander Hislop (1807-1865) was a minister in the Free Church of Scotland and parish schoolmaster in Caithness. He was a vehement critic of anything to do with Catholicism and became convinced that while good Protestants like him followed the true faith of Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church was actually the ancient Babylonian mystery cult of Nimrod, an obscure pagan figure mentioned a few times in the Old Testament. According to Hislop, Satan allowed the Emperor Constantine (him again) to hijack the true Christian faith and lead it into idol-worship and Papist errors and that it was only by recognising this and throwing off any pre-Reformation vestiges that people could return to true Christianity.
. . .
Hislop seems to be the ultimate point of origin for the claims that Ishtar and Eostre were the original source of Easter, thanks to the wickedness of Catholics and, of course, Satan. He devotes a whole section [of his book The Two Babylons] to the pagan origins of Easter in his chapter on the wicked Satanic festivals of the Catholic Church . . .
As O’Neill mentions earlier in that post, too many atheist online will “pontificate about evidence reason, scholarship and fact-checking, but then merrily post any old crap if it has a suitably anti-Christian slant.”
History for Atheists is a nice antidote for that sort of credulous antitheism.