How To Best Attack Ancient Religious Mythological Beliefs

More and more I'm finding that atheist intellectuals and philosophers of religion are granting too much when dealing with the coherence of such mythological nonsense as the existence of Yahweh, Satan, hell, the virgin birth, incarnation and resurrection of Jesus. It's like we skip a very important step, even a crucial one in my opinion, when we grant ancient beliefs that don't deserve any respect at all. Anyone who looks into the historical evidence for Yahweh, Satan, hell, virgin births, incarnations and resurrections will see these beliefs come from the ancient mythological past. The best way to kill such barbaric and utterly ignorant beliefs is to look at their mythological origins, and no appeal to the genetic fallacy can help the honest believer here.

When we take seriously an idea we give it some sort of respectability just by doing so. For instance, I doubt very much that philosophers would try to show why Mohammad could not have ridden a horse around the solar system by offering a detailed analysis of physics and horses.

There is a two pronged attack we shouldn't neglect. When we're dealing with an ancient religious belief we should first attack it by linking it to the mythological past where it belongs, and then we can attack its philosophical coherence. If I were to do just one and not both, I would link the belief to the mythological past. If my focus was on the philosophical coherence of the concept I would still write a paragraph or two about its mythological origins and footnote a few books on it (seen below).

Jaco Gericke, who has Ph.D's in Philosophy of Religion and in the Old Testament, wrote an example of what I mean in my book The End of Christianity.His chapter is titled, "Can God Exist if Yahweh Doesn't?" I would regard that as the best response. He didn't even need to get to the philosophical coherence of that God, although what he wrote could form the basis for such a discussion. So before dealing with the philosophical issues we should place these mythological beliefs where they belong, in the ancient past.

Consider the following books on these mythological beliefs.


John Day, Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan.

Mark S. Smith, The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts.

Satan or the Devil:

T.J. Wray and Gregory Mobley, The Birth of Satan: Tracing the Devil's Biblical Roots.

Walter Wink, Unmasking the Powers.

Elaine Pagels, The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics.


Alice K. Turner, The History of Hell.

Alan E. Bernstein, The Formation of Hell: Death and Retribution in the Ancient and Early Christian Worlds.

Virgin Births:

Robert J. Miller, Born Divine.

Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan, The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus's Birth.

John Shelby Spong, Born of a Woman: A Bishop Rethinks the Virgin Birth and the Treatment of Women by a Male-Dominated Church.

On Christs:

Gregory J. Riley, One Jesus, Many Christs: The Truth About Christian Origins.

On resurrections and the afterlife:

Gregory J. Riley, Resurrection Reconsidered: Thomas and John in Controversy.

A general account of the origins of Christianity:

Gregory J. Riley, The River of God: A New History of Christian Origins.


See also the many books written by Bart Ehrman.