Isn't that the truth about many religious stories? The details of Atwill's claims may be wrong, but the I believe the Jesus story as written in the bible, is definitely a myth.
Biblical Scholar Claims The Story Of Jesus Christ Was A HOAX Designed To Control The People
" I believe the Jesus story as written in the bible, is definitely a myth. "
So do I, I also feel that the various writers about him have different reasons for what they write.
After recognizing the above, the "Did he exist" debate is pointless, we have nothing of note outside of the N.T and the other writings, non-Canonical gospels etc, most of which are a little later than the N.T.
Personally I do think that a charismatic preacher like the one mythologized later as Jesus of Nazareth did exist, or there would be no need for Luke's convoluted and fictional explanations that became necessary to get Jesus seemingly born in Bethlehem.
I think that using the Jesus Myth to control/unite the people came much later, with Constantine, I doubt that was the agenda of the Gospel writers.
Robert Price and Bart Ehrman are debating the 'did he exist?' question in a week or so's time. Sure it'll end up on Youtube. Personally, I lean towards a historical Yeshua Ben Yosef - who may or may not have had much in common with the Jesus of the Gospels. Regardless of that though, Atwill writes absolute tosh. It's about as useful as using von Daniken to understand pre-Columbian South American civilisations. It's not even wrong.
I believe there may have been some real people that became characters in the writings that became the passion of Christ or better known as the gospels. But one thing to consider when thinking weather or not jesus was real. Part of his famous sermon on the mount was found in old writings from or near Babylon. So why would the son of god be quoting from an old religious saying???
If the gospels aren't historically accurate documents then everything which Jesus is recorded as saying needs to be seen more as which words each writer wanted him to say. Think you have to split the biblical Jesus from a historical Jesus. The biblical Jesus may or may not bear some or any relationship to the historical Jesus. The biblical Jesus is, very arguably, a construction of decades later - which is where mythicist ideas tend to mesh with the scholarly consensus. eg the development of ideas about the nature of divinity.
So not sure a biblical Jesus sounding eerily similar to a Jewish Rabbi writing in Babylon either proves or disproves a historical Jesus. Where it gets interesting is whether the person writing down the sermon on the mount knew of that Rabbi's thoughts. There's a similar argument around the writer of Luke/Acts and Josephus. Atwill gets it backwards. The argument runs that it's not Josephus writing Luke/Acts but that portions of Luke/Acts seem to indicate its writer had read Josephus - and was in fact copying parts of Josephus and making factual errors based on Josephus' works. It's all interesting for the origins of Christianity and of the writings of early Christianities. But not so much useful for saying whether there was a bloke who did walk around first century Palestine claiming to be a messiah (or not?) and ended up having followers who, after he had been executed/died, thought he was God.
Well, it certainly worked....Thank God!
All religions are a hoax