After reading When The Gods Came Down a few years ago, it took me quite a while to get over the belief that myth HAD to have some element of truth in it. Turns out, it usually has nothing of the sort.
Alford's contention is that symbolism has ruled religious archetypes for millenia but many of us were/are stuck in literalist interpretations of events (great flood/Noah, Moses going up the mount, Jesus, et. al.).
Anyway, I thought his quote was quite revealing.