An honest man

Mark Shea came across some atheistic nonsense in his comboxes , including the following:

[N]one of the Gospels in their earliest form recorded a virgin birth of Mary: ‘The remark has long ago and often been made that, like Paul, even the earliest Gospels knew nothing of the miraculous birth of our Saviour.’ … [T]he church admitted that Virgin Mary was created at the third Council of the church at Ephesus in 431 when Bishop Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444) embraced the cause of Isis and anthropomorphized her into Mary, who then became the ‘new’ mother-of-God. The church added to the fabricated nature of Virgin Mary saying that other passages narrating a miraculous birth ‘were later additions to the original body of the apostolic catechesis’ with further aspects of the conception narratives ‘derived from extraneous sources’.

After carefully unpicking and correcting all this, Shea points out that this sort of stuff is lifted from Fundamentalist tracts (hence the title "Scratch and Atheist, Find a Fundamentalist." He then links to the author of one of these tracts, Ralph Woodrow who revised his views and published a book denouncing this sort of thing. In an essay on his site, Woodrow points out the flaws in the method of seeing (supposed) similarities between the religion of ancient Babylon and typically Catholic practices, and concluding that the the latter derives from the former.

By this method, one could take virtually anything and do the same—even the “golden arches” at McDonald’s! The Encyclopedia Americana (article: “Arch") says the use of arches was known in Babylon as early as 2020 B.C. Since Babylon was called “the golden city” (Isa. 14:4), can there be any doubt about the origin of the golden arches? … By this method, one could condemn Protestant and evangelical denominations like the Assemblies of God, Baptist, Church of Christ, Lutheran, Methodist, Nazarene, etc. Basic things like prayer, and kneeling in prayer, would have to be rejected, because pagans knelt and prayed to their gods. Water baptism would have to be rejected, for pagans had numerous rites involving water, etc. By this method, the BIBLE itself would need to be rejected as pagan. All of the following practices or beliefs mentioned in the Bible, were also known among pagans—raising hands in worship, taking off shoes on holy ground, a holy mountain, a holy place in a temple, offering sacrifices without blemish, a sacred ark, city of refuge, bringing forth water from a rock, laws written on stone, fire appearing on a person’s head, horses of fire, the offering of first fruits, tithes, etc. By this method, the LORD himself would be pagan. The woman called Mystery Babylon had a cup in her hand; the Lord has a cup in his hand (Psa. 75:8). Pagan kings sat on thrones and wore crowns; the Lord sits on a throne and wears a crown (Rev. 1:4; 14:14). Pagans worshipped the sun; the Lord is the “Sun of righteousness” (Mal. 4:2). Pagan gods were likened to stars; the Lord is called “the bright and morning star” (Rev. 22:16). Pagan gods had temples dedicated to them; the Lord has a temple (Rev. 7:15). Pagan gods were pictured with wings; the Lord is pictured with wings (Psa. 91:4).

Woodrow was accused of making his retraction for financial reasons, but, as he pointed out, his Babylon Mystery Religion: Ancient and Modern was a huge seller and his ministry took a loss by withdrawing it.