I posted a series of comments about the movie as I watched it, but I'll summarize those here and add a bit more.
The first part argues that Christianity is derived from Egyptian myth, primarily by pointing out parallels between them. The arguments are apparently derived from the self-published "The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold" by Acharya S (Dorothy M. Murdock) and perhaps also from Tom Harpur's The Pagan Christ, both works of pseudoscholarship based on the work of other pseudoscholars like 18th century archaeologist Godfrey Higgins, 19th century amateur Egyptologist and poet Gerald Massey, and Alvin Boyd Kuhn, a high school language teacher and promoter of Theosophy) and entirely ignores actual work in Egyptology. For example, the film draws a list of comparisons between Horus and Jesus that is just fabricated--Horus wasn't born of a virgin, he was the child of Isis and Osiris, though Isis was impregnated by Osiris through some magic after he was dead. There have been parallels drawn between Isis and Mary that are more plausible (especially in iconography), but the movie exaggerates them, too, and fails to note the considerable areas of dissimilarity. A quick look at the Wikipedia entries on Horus and Isis is sufficient to show that the comparison is strained. The significance of a December 25 birthdate is nonexistent--Christianity did acquire attributes of pagan religions later in its history, and it has clearly been a syncretistic religion, but while this is evidence of falsehood in Christian traditions, it is not a clue to its origin.
For accurate information about Christianity and the formation of the Christian tradition, virtually any mainstream academic work will be more reliable. There has been a lot discovered since the work of 19th century Theosophists, both in the form of document manuscripts and archaeology, that sheds light on the early history of Christianity. In discussions at the James Randi Educational Foundation Forums, poster GreNME wrote:
Oh, those people were mostly made of of the beginnings of the Theosophist movements (Blavatsky and the like) or people with similar stated motivations but not the same organizational structure (like Graves). Yeah, Dorothy [Murdock] cites regularly enough from these people (especially Graves and Massey), but the thrust or crux of her writing tends to be more similar to those like Allegro-- taking the message into a realm of New-Age-y attempts to center on mid-20th-century discoveries about the mystery schools.So read some Bart Ehrman for a more accurate picture. The best case I've read for Jesus being a myth is in the books of G.A. Wells, though I'm not inclined to buy it. (Earl Doherty's The Jesus Puzzle has also been recommended as a strong case for Jesus being mythical, but I've not read it.) I think the Arabic text of Josephus' reference to Jesus in Antiquities of the Jews provides strong evidence that Josephus did refer to a historical Jesus and that his text was altered by later Christian interpolation rather than an insertion completely made up out of whole cloth.
That's why I mentioned Ehrman, by the way. I had the opportunity to send him a question on the topic of the "out of Egypt" mystery school centric literature coming out about by those like Dorothy, and his response was essentially that people who stick to that thin and shallow an interpretation of the mystery schools really don't understand the materials they're trying to work with in the first place.
I've read a few very well-worded academic arguments against a historical Jesus, but none of them rely on the mystery schools, Egyptian mythology, Krishna, or Mithras. They tend to focus on the culture of the region at the time and the unreliability of the few Roman authors who are used by apologists today. For me, all said and done, I don't much care because I'm not a Christian anyway. It's only reliably traceable back to Paul anyway, in my opinion.
Some of the same kind of errors (via dependence on sources like Harpur and Kersey Graves) that are in "Zeitgeist" are also in Brian Flemming's "The God Who Wasn't There," for which you an find a nice fair-minded critique, along with responses from Flemming and Richard Carrier, in "God Who Wasn't There: an Analysis."
The second part is standard 9/11 conspiracy theory that has been refuted in previous posts at this blog. It completely ignores radical Islam and the actual events that led up to September 11, 2001, and like all such conspiracy theories, completely fails to provide a coherent explanation that incorporates the level of detail in the 9/11 Commission Report. That report is a flawed document, to be sure, but it is still far, far more comprehensive, detailed, and accurately sourced than anything the 9/11 truthers put out. The right way to investigate 9/11 is to start with the 9/11 Commission Report, with accounts of the movements and actions of the 19 terrorists, and going back farther to the 1993 WTC bombing, Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman and the Alkifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn, the murder of Emir Shalabi, the assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane by El-Sayyid Nosair, the killing of Rashad Khalifa in Tucson in 1990 and the role of James Williams and Wadih el-Hage (secretary for Osama bin Laden in Sudan), and so on.
The U.S. government's connection is that it funded the mujahideen insurgents in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union, and then walked away after the Soviets were defeated, allowing rich Saudis to step in. There's no question that "blowback" has played a major role, and I'll also agree that the Bush Administration has hugely exploited the 9/11 attacks to its advantage and to expand presidential power (as the PBS Frontline on "Cheney's Law" documents, which I highly recommend watching and you can see online).
The right way to investigate 9/11 is to stick to reliable sources and accounts that attempt to be as comprehensive as possible, not bullshit stories made by collecting a few bits of data from unreliable sources and constructing elaborate fantasies of speculation. Some reliable sources I recommend are Gerald Posner's Why America Slept, James Bamford's A Pretext for War, and James Mann's Rise of the Vulcans. Specifically on 9/11 conspiracy theory, read the book of critiques published by Popular Mechanics and visit websites like 911myths.com and Debunking 9/11 Conspiracy Theories.
Instead, Zeitgeist relies on crackpots like Michael Ruppert and Ted Gunderson, both former police officers who have a long history of promoting nonsensical conspiracy theories. Ruppert is best known for his claims to have found that the CIA was peddling drugs (itself a plausible claim, even if not well substantiated by him) while he was a narcotics detective for the LAPD; after being removed from the force in 1978, he has gone on to argue for Peak Oil and 9/11 conspiracy theory. In 2006, after facing charges of sexual harassment from a former employee whom he admits he paraded around the office in his underwear in front of, he fled to Venezuela, then moved to Canada, and then to New York and Los Angeles. Gunderson spouted nonsense about satanic ritual abuse in the 1980s and has endorsed the accuracy of phony psychic Sylvia Browne, as well as promoting wild claims of child sexual abuse by "some of America's leading politicians" including George W. Bush, which makes him sound like the crazy mind-control sex slave claimants, "Brice Taylor" (Susan Ford), Cathy O'Brien, and Kola Boof (the last of whom makes the sex slave claims without the mind control claims).
The film provides no good sources for any of its claims, and seems to contradict itself. It claims there's no evidence connecting Osama bin Laden to the attacks (despite the fact that we have people like al Qaeda member Ramzi Binalshibh, who attempted to enter the U.S. to enter a flight school but was denied a visa, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, head of al Qaeda's media committee and main plotter of the attacks, in custody), yet turns around and suggests that there's something suspicious about the Bush family connections to the bin Laden family and that two members of the bin Laden family lived in Falls Church, Virginia "right next to CIA Headquarters." Why would that connection be relevant or suspicious if Osama bin Laden had nothing to do with it?
Osama bin Laden's father had 55 children and 22 wives, and there are currently about 600 bin Laden family members--most appear to be law-abiding citizens who have disowned Osama. The two Falls Church residents, however, were two of Osama's sons, Abdallah and Omar, the latter of whom was a member of al Qaeda.
The charge of the FBI being told to "back off" from bin Laden investigations from the White House is now known to have been approved by counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, not exactly a fan of George W. Bush, whose testimony on the issue has been somewhat inconsistent. While Clarke originally claimed the plan came from top officials in the White House and was approved in consultation with the FBI, he subsequently said that he took personal responsibility for the decision to allow the bin Laden family members to leave the U.S., and that he didn't think it was a mistake, and that he'd do it again.
The third section of the movie is about the U.S. Federal Reserve, which appears to be derived from John Birch Society propaganda, with a bonus argument that the 16th Amendment to the Constitution and thus federal income tax is invalid. It argues that the Panic of 1907 was caused by (rather than, as was actually the case, ended by) J.P. Morgan, and makes no mention of the Knickerbocker Trust. It argues that the Federal Reserve Act was put into effect by a conspiracy of international bankers and the Rockefellers through Sen. Nelson Aldrich, and claims that the Federal Reserve is entirely private. But the Fed's head and board of governors is appointed by the president, which isn't mentioned by the film. Wikipedia gets theFed's legal status right, it's part of the federal government but with a fair degree of independence so that politicians can't directly manipulate monetary policy. Its status is accurately described in Bill Woolsey's October 2004 article in Liberty magazine, "Who Owns the Fed?". A number of other Federal Reserve conspiracy claims are debunked here.
It then goes off into tax evader craziness, claiming that the 16th Amendment wasn't properly ratified, but without actually discussing the evidence. That argument is made in William J. Benson and Martin J. Beckman's book The Law That Never Was, which documents errors in the ratification documents, such as typos, alternate capitalization, alternate pluralization, etc. Courts have ruled that Benson's argument doesn't work and that his selling his book as part of a tax evasion defense package constitutes fraud, and he's served time in jail for tax evasion.
As an aside, while reviewing the above I came across an even more interesting argument against income tax (not in Zeitgeist) discussed by Cecil Adams in his "Straight Dope" column. The argument states that the 16th Amendment is invalid because Ohio was not a state at the time of ratification, and William H. Taft, who was president, was therefore not legally president since he was not a U.S. Citizen. Everybody thought Ohio was made a state in 1803, but in 1953 when Ohio was preparing for its 150th anniversary of statehood, they found that Congress had defined its boundaries and approved its constitution, but failed to admit it to statehood. Ohio made an appeal for statehood (delivering it to Congress by horseback) and Congress passed a resolution granting it retroactively. Cecil Adams' description and commentary about it is worth reading.
Tax protestor claims more generally are refuted at this GWU law professor's website, and a nice case study refutation is Sheldon Richman's three-part "Beware Income-Tax Casuistry."
There is a movie at Google Video titled "Zeitgeist Refuted" that appears to be itself filled with bad arguments promoting Christianity. Though I've only watched a small part of it, it doesn't seem to actually respond to the claims of "Zeitgeist: The Movie."
Other responses to "Zeitgeist: The Movie" include:
The criticism section of the Wikipedia article on "Zeitgeist: The Movie"
The Web Skeptic wiki entry on "Zeitgeist: The Movie"
The site "Zeitgeist, the movie Debunked"
Jay Kinney's review of "Zeitgeist" at boingboing
Tim Callahan's, "The Greatest Story Ever Garbled," a debunking of part I of "Zeitgeist" for Skeptic magazine's e-skeptic newsletter
Henry Makow's site, which amusingly takes issue with part one but swallows whole the nonsense in parts two and three and concludes that Zeitgeist is itself the product of a conspiracy, is worth a laugh.
UPDATE (August 6, 2009): I decided to add to the main post the text of my comment from October 30, 2008 below, about "Zeitgeist Addendum":
I watched a little bit (the first 30 minutes) of the "Zeitgeist Addendum," which looks to be largely derived from "Money is Debt," another video floating around the Internet. I skimmed through much of the rest.
It's somewhat more accurate than the previous parts, but has the same flaws as "Money is Debt," most seriously in its discussion of interest. The creators of both films do not seem to understand the time-value of money, or that the expansion of the money supply doesn't create problems so long as non-monetary wealth is also expanding. No matter what you use as money, there will always be a system of credit that rides on top of it, of the sort that has been contracting rapidly in the current financial crisis. (This contraction has been *increasing* the value of the U.S. dollar this year.)
The idea that money creates slavery and that if we just got rid of fractional reserve banking, nobody would be forced to work for a living is a bit ridiculous.
Looks like part 2 of the film is based on John Perkins' Confessions of an Economic Hitman, which is a book I've read. His book was entertaining, but mostly unbelievable, and he's not a credible source. Note that he claims that we all have the shamanic ability to shapeshift and become invisible, for example.
Some of the stuff he talks about is correct, such as U.S. intervention using the CIA in the Middle East and South America, the history of which is told in Tim Weiner's book Legacy of Ashes.
In part III, the film suggests that we only need money because of scarcity, and that scarcity is a fiction. But scarcity isn't a fiction, scarcity exists because there is no limit to what people can want and desire--there can be scarcity even when a resource is abundant.
My impression is that the "Addendum" is just as bogus as the first three parts--it's largely lifted from other sources, and those sources are unreliable.
UPDATE (January 5, 2010): Better speculation by salvorhardin at Democratic Underground says that "Peter Joseph" is Peter J. Merola. This appears to be a correct identification if the Animation World Network's announcement of a multimedia event from May 29-June 3, 2007 is accurate:
ZEITGIEST is a unique and ambitious multimedia, musical event by P.J. Merola. This event is free and not for profit. It runs from May 29 - June 3, 2007 at 8:00-9:30 pm.
ZEITGEIST is an abstract, aesthetic exploration of personal belief and social myth -- told through a multimedia work of live solo percussion, stereo video displays and electronic music. Using animation, live performance, drama, humor, and narrative, ZEITGEIST attempts to bring its audience to a place that most likely counters what they believe as true.
Please visit http://www.zeitgeistnyc.com for a video preview and to make reservations.
The "GMP" is then "Gentle Machine Productions," as reported here. Gentle Machine Productions released a CD GMP001 titled "J.S. Bach on the Marimba," arranged by P.J. Merola, with P.J. Merola playing the marimba.
The Village Voice ran a story in 2004 about P.J. Merola and his brother Eric.