Creating God

The birth and growth of major religions

By Robin Derricourt

Creating God


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-5617-4
  • Pages: 304
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £25.00
  • Published Date: May 2021
  • BIC Category: History of religion, RELIGION / Theism, RELIGION / Antiquities & Archaeology, RELIGION / History, Modern History, History, Humanities / General & world history, Humanities / Archaeology, Humanities / History of religion


What do we really know about how and where religions began, and how they spread?

In this bold new book, award-winning author Robin Derricourt takes us on a journey through the birth and growth of several major religions, using history and archaeology to recreate the times, places and societies that witnessed the rise of significant monotheistic faiths. Beginning with Mormonism and working backwards through Islam, Christianity and Judaism to Zoroastrianism, Creating God opens up the conditions that allowed religious movements to emerge, attract their first followers and grow.

Throughout history there have been many prophets: individuals who believed they were in direct contact with the divine, with instructions to spread a religious message. While many disappeared without trace, some gained millions of followers and established a lasting religion. In Creating God, Robin Derricourt has produced a brilliant, panoramic book that offers new insights on the origins of major religions and raises essential questions about why some succeeded where others failed.


'Religions are among the most potent inventions of the human imagination. This magisterial study will help us understand them not as divine, but as human constructs.'
Richard Holloway, author of Stories We Tell Ourselves

'An intriguing and sensitively presented survey of the often surprising links and continuities between some of the world's great religions over three millennia.'
Diarmaid MacCulloch, author of A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years

'Creating God is an attempt to recreate the worlds in which the founders of several major religions lived and laboured. The result is a book rich in detail, consummate in its scholarship, and revelatory in exposing for modern eyes the conditions that allowed religious movements to flourish. Derricourt's approach is to work backwards chronologically through Mormonism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism to Zoroastrianism. The outcome of all this work is one of the most exciting books of modern times.'
Queensland Reviewers Collective

'If you are a student of Theology, History or simply someone who enjoys discovering much about the history of humanity, the good, the bad and the indifferent and where the fundamental beliefs that form a part of our society and bloody history were formed, Creating God is a very good place to begin. Fascinating, well researched and very readable Creating God is not a light read but one that is very worthwhile.'
BlueWolf Reviews, Janet Mawdesley

'The book is comprehensively annotated, and, in addition, contains a very useful 'select' bibliography for further reading. It provides an excellent entry point for those seeking secular perspectives on the origins of the five religions that are its focus, and for those seeking secular perspectives on the origins of religions more broadly'
Journal of Religious History


1 Introduction: religions' origins in context
2 Frontiers of place and belief: Mormon origins and journeys
3 Vision, faith and conquest: the source and power of Islam
4 Rural Galilee to imperial cities: the beginnings and spread of Christianity
5 Scribes, priests and exiles under foreign rule: the emergence of monotheistic Judaism
6 Ahura Mazda and the enigmas of Zoroastrian origins
7 Prophets, texts, religions and history: some conclusions


Robin Derricourt is an Honorary Professor of History in the School of Humanities at the University of New South Wales and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. He holds a PhD in archaeology from the University of Cambridge. His previous books include Inventing Africa: History, Archaeology and Ideas (2011), Antiquity Imagined: The Remarkable Legacy of Egypt and the Ancient Near East (2015) and Unearthing Childhood: Young Lives in Prehistory (2018), which received the PROSE Award for Archaeology and Ancient History.

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