“This is the goddess Ishtar, pronounced ‘Easter.'” In the social media age, odds are you’ve encountered (or will encounter) claims of this kind coming out of the New Atheist camp right around Easter time. The general argument is that the Easter that Christians know and celebrate was actually derived from a pagan holiday celebrating a goddess of fertility whose name – Ishtar, Eostre, etc. – looks suspiciously close to “Easter.” Another popular meme puts it this way: “Eostre is a pagan goddess of light and fertility. And bunnies and eggs are pagan symbols of fertility… There is about as much evidence for her myth as there is for the myth of Jesus’ resurrection.”

But here’s the problem: while the folks peddling this stuff claim to champion facts and reason, there’s actually no evidence to back them up. Overeager, it seems, to criticize Christianity and its traditions, they forgot to fact-check themselves. When The Guardian published a piece on “The Pagan Roots of Easter,” ancient historian Tom Holland called it “the most historically illiterate article I’ve ever read in a major newspaper – and that’s saying something.”

So where is all this Ishtar = Easter = Eostre pseudo-history nonsense coming from? Tim O’Neill takes a thorough dive into the trend and its surprising roots on his site, History for Atheists: New Atheists Getting History Wrong. (Notably, O’Neill is an atheist himself, but he writes to expose historical distortions made by the New Atheists, or, in his words, “anti-theistic activists, who often use arguments based on flawed, over-simplified, outdated, misinterpreted or plain erroneous ideas about history in their critiques of religion.”)

Read O’Neill’s full piece on the phenomenon here: “Easter, Ishtar, Eostre, and Eggs.”