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Christ was persecuted, but what about Christians?
Roman persecution of Christians was depicted in paintings such as "The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer" by Jean-Leon Gerome.
March 30th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

Christ was persecuted, but what about Christians?

CNN examines the tumultuous early years of Christianity in a special narrated by Liam Neeson. Watch “After Jesus: The First Christians,” Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) She walked into the Roman arena where the wild beasts awaited her. She trembled not from fear but from joy.

Her name was Vibia Perpetua. She was just 22, a young mother singing hymns as the crowd jeered and a lion, leopard and wild cow encircled her.

One of the beasts attacked, hurling her to the ground. She covered an exposed thigh with her bloody robe to preserve her modesty and groped in the dust for her hair pin so she could fix her disheveled hair.

And when a Roman executioner approached Perpetua with a sword, her last words before collapsing were aimed at her Christian companions: “Stand fast in the faith, and love you all one another and do not let our sufferings be a stumbling block to you.”

Millions of Christians worldwide will celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus on this Easter Sunday. But the story of how the church rose to prominence after Jesus’ death is being turned upside down.

According to a belief passed down through the centuries, the church grew because of Roman persecution. The blood of Christian martyrs such as Perpetua became “the seed of the church,” said third-century church leader Tertullian. It’s the Hollywood version of Christianity reflected in epic biblical films such as “Ben-Hur” and “The Robe.” Vicious Romans relentlessly targeted early Christians, so the story goes, but the faith of people like Perpetua proved so inspiring that Christianity became the official religion of Rome, and eventually the largest religion in the world.

But that script is getting a rewrite. The first Christians were never systematically persecuted by the Romans, and most martyrdom stories with the exception of a handful such as Perpetua's were exaggerated and invented, several scholars and historians say. It wasn’t just how the early Christians died that inspired so many people in the ancient world; it was how they lived.

“You had much better odds of winning the lottery than you would have becoming a martyr,” says Joyce E. Salisbury, author of “The Blood of Martyrs: Unintended Consequences of Ancient Violence.”

“The odds were pretty slim. More people read about martyrs than ever saw one.”

Do Christians have a martyr complex today?

The debate over exactly how many Christians were persecuted and martyred may seem irrelevant centuries later. A scholarly consensus has indeed emerged that Roman persecution of Christians was sporadic, and that at least some Christian martyrdom stories are theological tall tales.

But a new book by Candida Moss, a New Testament professor at the University of Notre Dame, is bringing that message to the masses.

Moss says ancient stories of church persecution have created a contemporary cult of bogus Christian martyrs. She says too many American Christians are acting like they’re members of a persecuted minority, being thrown to the lions by people who simply disagree with them.

Professor Candida Moss, author of "The Myth of Persecution," says most stories of Christian martyrs were fabricated.

She cited former Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Romney claimed last year that President Barack Obama was waging a “war against religion,” and Santorum said the gay community “had gone out on a jihad” against him. Other Christians invoke images of persecution when someone disagrees with them on controversial issues such as abortion or birth control, says Moss, whose "The Myth of Persecution" was recently released.

The problem with invoking persecution is it implies your opponents are evil and no common ground can be found with evil,  Moss says.

“When someone is persecuting you" she says, "there is no room for dialogue."

Others say Moss’ claim is dangerous.

People such as Perpetua did die because of their beliefs. The first Christians were tortured, reviled and held in contempt by Romans and their example helped the church grow, they say.

The Rev. Robert Morgan, author of  "On This Day in Christian History: 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories about Saints, Martyrs and Heroes, " says it’s true that some of the accounts of martyrdom were “undoubtedly embellished” and that many of the persecution stories were “handed down in an atmosphere of confusion and pressure.”

Still, being a Christian in the first century was a risky move persecution was significant. Jesus and most of his apostles were executed, he says.

“To deny the history of the movement is a way of attacking the movement,” Morgan says.

Some opposition to contemporary Christians is indeed evil, Morgan says. Christians are being killed today in places such as Nigeria and North Africa.

“Christians do not have a victim’s mentality,” Morgan says. “They take their stands, they know what they believe and they do good in this world. They are the ones who have established orphanages, hospitals and charitable institutions. For some reason, there’s this animosity against them.”

Hatred of Christians is woven into much of the New Testament. Jesus constantly warned his followers to expect persecution. The Apostle Paul wrote many of his epistles from jail. And the death of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, is dramatically recorded in the New Testament book the Acts of  the Apostles.

The Easter message itself is a story of martyrdom Jesus, unjustly executed by the Romans. The idea that Christians are at war with demonic forces in the world is reflected throughout the New Testament, says Bryan Litfin, a theology professor at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

“If Jesus was just a soft moral teacher who taught us to love one another and petted little babies, the Romans wouldn’t have crucified him,”  Litfin says. “Jesus is a polarizing figure, then and today. The early Christians weren’t foisting a narrative out of the blue about being martyrs. ”

'Like the action heroes of the ancient world'

If the first Christians pictured themselves as waging war against the world, the martyrs were their version of the Navy SEALs. They were the elite Christians who inspired and united others of their faith.

There was a purpose behind spreading stories of persecution: Nothing brings a new group closer together than a common enemy, Moss says.

“The idea that you are persecuted forges a concrete identity,” Moss says. “It really solidifies your sense of group identity.”

The stories of Christian persecution were so popular that they spawned a market during the first centuries after the crucifixion. The places where martyrs were born and died became early tourist stops. Towns competed with one another to draw rich pilgrims seeking martyr memorabilia, Moss says.

“People would go and buy the equivalent of a T-shirt,” Moss says. “You’d have all these little combs with saints on them that people would buy, and lamps with saints on them. People would also buy fruit from trees that grew in the vicinity of martyrs’ graves. Of course, the prices were completely jacked up.”

Church leaders began to embellish and invent stories of martyrdom to inspire the faithful but also to settle theological feuds, Moss says. If, say, a bishop wanted to denounce a rivals’ theology, he spun a story in which a martyr denounced the same doctrine with his last breath, Moss says.

“Martyrs were like the action heroes of the ancient world,” Moss says. “It was like getting your favorite athlete endorsing your favorite brand of soda.”

But how often did Romans force Christians to endure torture or die for their faith? Christianity took roughly 300 years to conquer Rome. The emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in 312 and gave Christians religious freedom.  Christianity became the official religion of Rome by the end of the fourth century,  scholars say.

For the first 300 years of the church, Christians were often ridiculed and viewed with contempt. But Roman leaders spent about "less than 10 years" out of the first 300 actually persecuting Christians, Moss says. There are only six reliable cases of Christian martyrdom before A.D. 250 out of “hundreds of stories,” including Perpetua’s, she says.

Many scholars have greeted Moss’ contention that Roman persecution of Christians was exaggerated with a shrug. They say it was common knowledge in the academic world.

“There weren’t that many Christians who were persecuted,” says Gail O’Day, dean of the Wake Forest University School of Divinity in North Carolina. “When you actually read the Roman historical records, the Christians just weren’t that important to them. Most Christians just got along with empire.”

When Roman persecution did occur, though, it was vicious. The Emperor Nero covered fully conscious Christians with wax and used them as human torches. Other Christians were skinned alive and covered with salt, while others were slowly roasted above a pit until they died.

Perpetua’s passion

One of the most famous martyrs was Perpetua.

She lived in Carthage in North Africa (modern-day Tunisia) and was arrested in March 203 with four others as they prepared for baptism. The Roman Emperor Septimius Severus had decreed that any new conversion to Christianity would result in death.

History remembers Perpetua because she kept a diary during her imprisonment. It’s called "The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity" (Felicity was a slave girl arrested with Perpetua). It’s the oldest-surviving document from a Christian woman. The emotion in the diary is almost unbearable. Perpetua describes the pain of leaving her infant son, who she was still nursing. She describes a prison visit from her weeping father, who kissed her hands while trying to get her to renounce her faith.

Perpetua's father visited her in prison, begging her to think of him and renounce her faith.

A narrator picks up the story in the diary after Perpetua was sent to her death. He says in the diary that Perpetua’s faith was so inspiring it caused the prison’s warden, a man called Pudens, to convert. The narrator also describes Perpetua's death.

While she was imprisoned, Perpetua says God gave her visions to reassure her. After one, she wrote:

“I understood that I should fight, not with beasts but against the devil. But I knew that mine was the victory.”

You can’t discount the power of such stories, even if persecution “wasn’t extremely common,” says Litfin, the Moody Bible Institute professor.

Persecution was central to the rise of the early church, he says.

“How many people in your church would have to be pulled out and executed and tormented for it not to have a tremendous effect for many years on your memory and self-perception,” Litfin says. “The early Christians are not foisting a narrative out of the blue about being matyrs.”

The early Christians' secret weapon

Other scholars say it wasn't simply persecution that helped the church grow. Instead, they say, Christians had a secret weapon.

The martyrs may have gotten all the press, but it was ordinary Christians who got it done by the way they treated friends and strangers.

Life in ancient Rome was brutal and nasty, says Rodney Stark, author of "The Triumph of Christianity." Stark’s well-regarded book gives one of the most detailed descriptions of the early church and ancient Rome.

Forget those antiseptic portraits of Roman cities you see in biblical moves such as “The Robe.” Roman cities were overcrowded, raw sewage ran in the streets, people locked their doors at night for fear of being robbed and plagues were rampant. Soap had not yet been invented, Stark says.

“The stink of the cities in the summertime must have been astounding,” Stark says. “You would have smelled a city miles before you got to it.”

Christians stood out because they created a “miniature welfare state" to help the less fortunate, Stark says. They took in infant girls routinely left for dead by their parents. They risked their lives to tend the sick when plagues hit and others fled in terror. They gave positions of leadership to women when many women had no rights, and girls as young as 12 were often married off to middle-aged men, he says.

Ordinary Romans might have thought Christians were odd but liked having them for neighbors, Stark says.

“If people had really been against them, I don’t think they would have grown like they did,” Stark says.

Christianity became so popular that when Rome did unleash one of its sporadic waves of persecutions, the empire couldn’t stop the church’s momentum, Stark says.

“If you knocked off a bishop, there were 20 guys waiting to be bishop,” Stark says

Christian belonging, not blood, is what drew many people, another scholar says.

The Easter story of a risen savior wasn’t distinctive in Rome’s competitive religious marketplace. Dying for one’s beliefs wasn’t considered heroic; it was expected in the Roman world, says Selina O' Grady, author of "And Man Created God: A History of the World at the Time of Jesus."

The early church, though, was radically inclusive. First-century Rome was undergoing globalization. The peace of Rome had made travel easier. People left homes and tribal ties for Rome. The empire was filled with rootless and excluded people: immigrants, traders, slaves.

The Christian message offered guidelines for living in this strange new world, she says.

“Its universal message, its proclamation of equality, unconditional love, offered everyone in the Roman Empire a new family, a new community, and a way to live,” O’Grady says.

Roman rulers eventually found reasons to support the church, she says.

The Christian message of obeying earthly masters “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's" reduced the potential for social unrest, O’Grady says.

“Christianity told the poor and lowly that their status was noble and that there would be recompense in the afterlife,” O’Grady says. “It was a wonderful recipe for creating good, obedient Roman subjects.”

A turning point for the early church was the conversion of Constantine. Scholars still debate Constantine’s motive. By that time the empire was rife with division, and Christians had become a major political bloc with members in the highest reaches of Roman society, says Stark, the sociologist.

“Constantine was interested so much in church affairs for the rest of his life, but I don’t think there’s a reason to not think he was a sincere Christian,” Stark says. “But he was also an egomaniac and an emperor.”

The growth of Christianity was too complex to be attributed to any one factor whether it be Constantine, persecution or Christianity's message of compassion and inclusion, Stark says.

“I don’t think there was a primary reason,” he says. “It was a collection of things. It was all part of a package.”

Wrapped in that package, though, were the persecution stories of people such as Perpetua.

Today, churches have been named after Perpetua; films and graphic novels have been made about her life. She is considered a saint.

Her words still inspire. People still read her diary. There’s probably a Christian somewhere in the world now facing danger who is taking courage from Perpetua’s ordeal.

One passage in Perpetua’s diary is particularly luminous.

Perpetua stopped keeping her diary just before she was sent into the arena. No one knows for sure what she felt when she faced her moment of death, but she did write what she expected to see afterward.

She wrote that God gave her a reassuring vision while in prison. In the vision, she saw a great bronze ladder ascending to heaven. At the foot of the ladder was a great serpent surrounded by swords and knives.

Perpetua said she ignored the serpent and climbed the ladder. When she arrived at the top, she saw a great garden and a white-haired man in shepherd’s clothing milking a sheep. He was flanked by thousands of others Christians dressed in white.

“And he raised his head and beheld me and said to me: Welcome child.”

The man gave Perpetua curds from the milk of the sheep, and she said it tasted sweet.

She then wrote:

“And I took it with joined hands and ate it up: and all that stood around said, Amen.”

Centuries later, millions of people who look to Perpetua are still saying amen.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Christianity • Easter • Faith • History • Jesus

soundoff (6,965 Responses)
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    November 28, 2013 at 2:23 am |
  2. HUMILITY

    HUMILITY

    What the response stated by KINDNESS is the TRUTH! Anyone who accepts our Lord Jesus Christ as the Mesiah who died for ALL our Sins, will receive the HOLY SPIRIT (the Baptism of the Holy Spirit). If the Holy Spirit lives in ones HEART, he becomes the TEMPLE of GOD, the HOLY GROUND, CHRIST'S LIVING CHURCH, the REAL BODY OF CHRIST, proclaiming the TRUTH, the GOSPEL of HIS SALVATION! Not by man's works but by the GRACE OF GOD, the Loving Faithfulness of our Father in Heaven, so that we can all go back to HIS LOVE from where our first parents ADAM and EVE fell from GRACE... READ the BIBLE and KNOW our LORD and HIS offered SALVATION for all those who FOLLOWS JESUS!
    The HOLY SPIRIT of our GOD the Father in HEAVEN given to ALL who believes in HIS SON, our Lord Jesus Christ that was clothing the Christians to pass through the narrow path! For with man it is impossible but WITH GOD (the HOLY SPIRIT) anything is possible.

    September 2, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Youtube - The Origin of Religion

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88GTUXvp-50&w=640&h=390]

      October 2, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
      • Mary White

        This is one of the latest attacks. Yes, early Christians were persecuted and martyred by the millions. To call this is myth is to be in complete denial of the facts. Worse, there is a conspiracy to hide the truth. Yes, I said 'conspiracy.' Further, Christians are still persecuted in much of the world up until today, and this last century has produced more martyrs than all the past 2000 years combined. Source: Foxe's Book of Martyrs, John Foxe, Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors Int., etc.
        And furthermore, it aint over yet... another round is on the way-worldwide. Stand firm in the faith!

        November 8, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • Mary White

      Preach on!
      Amen, this is true, it happened to me and I was baptized in the Holy Spirit over 25 years ago! Follow Jesus and He will lead you into all truth and you will see through the lies.

      November 8, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
      • HotAirAce

        Mary, you don't have a single bit of actual evidence for any of your beliefs. It is quite likely you are mentally ill – delusional – seek medical help.

        November 8, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
  3. Rick

    Will CNN have the balls to print this story now after the latest attacks on coptic christians,
    (even Amnesty Int. weighed in on this)?????
    Doubt it....
    We Christians must call these organizations out for what they truly are.. mouthpieces of Babylon

    August 21, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
  4. harleybird

    A couple issues here: 1. Yes it were Roman soldiers that nailed Jesus to the torture stake but it was the Jewish leaders that had him killed. 2. So yes the Romans had no reason to kill him but it was the Jewish leaders that had him killed for blasphemy and saying he was a king. Remember Pilate washing his hands? He knew there was no reason to kill him but the majority of Jews rejected him as prophesied in the Hebrew scriptures. (Btw some of the same Jewish leaders that killed Jesus also wanted to kill Paul and had him brought up on false charges.) With all due respect this is basic bible knowledge 101. Someone writing an article as this really should do some factual research. It makes it hard to get you point when the facts are no right. As far as the main point of martyrs it has never been a big part of my religion.

    July 31, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • DonC

      Professor? I guess REAL CHRISTIANS no longer become Professors these days, cause the foolishness that some of these people teach ...

      They must be Catholics.

      August 7, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
      • harleybird

        I don't understand what you mean. I didn't say anything about real Christians or that you couldn't be a professor.

        August 7, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
  5. Kindness

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    The key is be present and transcend our own desire to physically see evidence. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.

    Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle. Were all sinners. Knowing that we are is often an issue. But both christians and non are sinners. Even once we are saved by christs merciful grace we will still experience adversity to mold us to adhering to the truth.
    We will slip... But not fall of the ship ...carrying us onward to perfection in christs grace.

    We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Follow me".
    It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .

    Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
    See the truth...
    do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from some other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancsend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find any truth you can take with you ....in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life..... You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf.... the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed..... your good deeds will be forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated..... your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over . This is truth .

    Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent.... Repent means knowing (to change) The Holy spirit (within) will convict you beyond what you think you can do by yourself. Grace is given to those who renounce the world. That are" in" the world but not "of " the world.

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith ....above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible . Ask Jesus in faith for dicernment and start reading the new testament... You will be shocked when you lay down your preconceived notions and ....see and hear truth ... see how christ sets an example ... feel the truth....

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read romans or corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth in Christ.

    Sell all your cleverness and purchase true bewilderment. You don't get what you want ....you get what you are by faith above reason in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
    You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it

    You're all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
    I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime . Don't wait till you are about to die.. START PUTTING YOUR TREASURES WHERE THEY REALLY MATTER >
    Its awsome and It's just between you and Jesus

    my testimony

    Romans 10:9

    "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved

    Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith’s door,
    And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
    The, looking in, I saw upon the floor
    Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.
    “How many anvils have you had,” said I,
    “To wear and batter all these hammers so?”
    “Just one,” said he, and then with twinkling eye,
    “The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.”
    And so, thought I, the anvil of God’s Word,
    For ages skeptic blows have beat upon;
    Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
    The anvil is unharmed – the hammers gone.

    Truth is..exclusive

    July 18, 2013 at 12:35 am |
    • Smithsonian

      "Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale."

      It is a fairytale. The Bible is primarily a book of religion, a guide to faith. it was not a book of history, poetry, economics, or science. It contains all sorts of literary genre, which are used to teach about the relationship between God and mankind. Even biblical history is edited history: events were chosen to illustrate the central theme of the Bible. The Biblical writers did not pretend they were giving a complete history; instead they constantly refer us to other sources for full historical details, sources such as "The Annals of the Kings of Judah" (or Israel).

      It is therefore not possible to try to "prove" the Bible by means of checking its historical or scientific accuracy. The only "proof" to which it can be subjected is this: Does it correctly portray the God-human relationship? In the best analysis, the Bible is a religious book, not an historical document.

      July 18, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
      • Voisinat

        For the most part, I agree: The Bible is not meant to be read historically. However, don't base every individual book on that premise. The New Testament (except Revelations for a different reason) is to be trusted as events that happened, since Christian faith relies on the premise that Christ's ministry did occur. The book of Acts is also to be taken as a legitimate depiction of events.

        October 18, 2013 at 9:40 am |
  6. Scott

    The Fact of the matter is that under Roman Rule before Christianity took over, you could worship as you wished as long as you paid Temple Tax to sustain the Roman Gods. Some Christians did not do this and were persecuted. Some got into issues condemning those that followed the Ancient Gods.

    When Christianity took over, you could not hold an office, hold land, or be involved in Politics unless you professed Christianity. Christians destroyed the old Roman Gods Temples, destoyed the Library at Alexandria, destroyed all non Christian books they could find. Christians then hunted down and killed non Christians exicuting non Christians for 200 years in the Coloseum and simular venues throughout the Christian Empire. Christianity was definitely spred by the sword in the Americas, Africa and Europe, not to mention the Crusades.

    So lets tell history like it is, not like someone wants it to be!

    July 7, 2013 at 7:44 am |
  7. DWN

    How about some acknowledgement of the tens of millions of Christians and Jews brutally slaughtered by the Vatican over the centuries, or would that be too embarrassing for CNN?

    July 5, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
  8. All of a sudden we have 3000 experts

    I've posted civil logical critique of the article twice and it is not showing. Oh well, so much for productive criticism. I'm amazed at how many scientists and Christian historical scholars we have here. Wow

    June 29, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
  9. Skorpio

    Arab Christian churches should unite to convert millions of brainless Muslims to Christianity. The Qu'ran is the root of all evil and prophet Mohammed's immoral, cruel, merciless, irrational and violent conduct is the role model for millions of brainless Muslims.

    June 23, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • Lawrence

      A member of one religion calling members of another religion brainless... funny!

      June 28, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • Scott

      So you advocate another Inquesition. What makes you think that a Christian Ologarchy would be anymore peaceful or just than one under Shira Law? Thank God we do not have a Christian country but a Secular one that recognizes each persons right to their own personal religion. You might also be surprised on how many people are muslims thoughout the world that do not live in the Middle East.

      As an American your idea is one of the most Un-American and Un-Democratic ideas around. Christians are still killing Christions on over who is right. This idea has no merit. Muslims in general are as moral as Christians, it only the ignorant, uneducated ones that are poisoned by evil men that act like the Westboro Baptist Church!

      July 7, 2013 at 7:51 am |
  10. faith

    a major reason nazi god-hating fascists pretend not to believe in christ is their fear of persecution. they r yellow bellied sap suckers.

    cancer
    demon possession
    secksual preevert atheist in jail or deserving of it posting

    June 22, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
  11. faith

    Atrocities Committed in the Name of Christ

    You write, "And why are these men attacking me . . . over . . . an ideology that has been responsible for the torture and slaughter of millions of people worldwide? How can any honest person with any integrity defend this ideology, with its bloody past, or its supposed founder, on whose omnipotent shoulders ultimately rests the responsibility for the management of the world and, thus, its endless atrocities?"(28)

    You cannot judge a philosophy by its abuse. Jesus would not have condoned the crusades and the numerous inquisitions initiated by the Catholic Church. Jesus would not have said to kill people in his name. Indeed, He told Peter to put his sword away(29) and that Christians should love their enemies.(30) It was only later that the Catholic Church, motivated by its political ambitions, used religious rhetoric to sanctify its goals of domination as well as provide an aggressive defense against an even crueler and conquering Islam. You cannot judge a philosophy by its abuse.

    Have you forgotten the evils committed by atheists? In the 20th century alone, more than 17 million people were killed as a result of atheistic movements (Stalin: 7 million; Hitler: 9 million; Khmer rouge: 1.2 million). By contrast, about 500,000 people or less were killed as a result of the crusades between the very end of the 11th and 16th centuries (about 400 years), although most consider the crusades to have ended by the beginning of the 14th century.(31) Even if you add those tortured and killed by numerous inquisitions conducted by the Catholic Church, it is not even close to the tens of millions you claim.(32) Now of course we did not have the weapons of mass destruction in the Middle Ages that we have today, so the comparison only goes so far. A more accurate comparison might be with regards to consciously religious states such as Iran, Iraq, and Israel verses nationalistic states such as Germany, Russia, and Cambodia. Even considering the Islamic states of Iran and Iraq as well as the deaths caused by Islamic terrorists in the 20th century, including the recent attacks on our country, these hardly compare with the deaths caused by nationalism during the same period, even though a great many national causes dress themselves up in religious jargon just as they have used terms like freedom (e.g., Vietnam and Lenin). Do these atrocities committed by atheists invalidate atheism? I think not, because you can not judge a philosophy by its abuse.

    June 22, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
    • Voisinat

      Agreed, but don't understand the entirety of the Crusades as a means of domination. They were meant to be a recapture of Isreal from the Islamic nation that conquered it. Europe was already losing ground to them, In Greece and Spain. The crusades were done in order to fight back. Many aspects were blown up, though many Crusaders did commit abuses that, in no way, were backed by the Church.

      October 18, 2013 at 9:44 am |
  12. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things'

    June 22, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  13. faith

    Seyedibar
    Let's address this. First off, Tacitus never mentioned Jesus' life or works: only that there were a group of people named christians. He himself doubted Christ's existence.
    As for why they invented the character of the messiah: The original gospels employ the cadence of mystery plays (an early form of theater). Also the legend of the virgin born messiah son of god had been around since the days of antique Egypt, and even before then in Mesopotamia. The idea of this god's covenant with Israel is a straight copy of Ptah's covenant with Memphis. The hebrews, including jesus, were only ever fringe members of the egyptian state and religion. The gods they worship are nothing more than pharoahs. And Moses? His real names were Pharoah Thutmoses II and III. The entire religion is based on mistakes from people too illiterate to remember the origin of their religion... and even today we see the church evolving on that same path, rewriting and reinterpreting it's rulebook to try and fit a modern society it can never catch up to.

    lol

    June 22, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • faith

      "However, as we observed with your comparisons of Krishna and Buddha with Jesus, not only are you certainly incorrect, but we are left asking the question as does skeptic Robert Price, "Is there any basis to these claims, which Murdock just drops like a ton of bricks? Again she does not explain where they come from . . ."

      licona on ridiculous attempts by atheists to come off as "scholars"

      June 22, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • faith

      The Roman historian and senator Tacitus referred to Christ, his execution by Pontius Pilate and the existence of early Christians in Rome in his final work, Annals (written ca. AD 116), book 15, chapter 44.[1]

      Tacitus on Christ
      From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

      June 22, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • faith

      gave it a shot

      June 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
  14. cmaenergy

    Please go back and ask God to forgive you for what you wrote

    We could only read a short amount realising you do not fully understand the bible is some context
    When you speak of Easter
    You do not have your facts correct
    The bible does not speak of Easter in any way shape or form!

    The bible speaks only of the crucifiction of Christ and the Passover season

    The only place you will find the term spoken of such as Easter is from the one who is carrying the number 666
    Learn a lesson that this power is trying to deceive everyone into believing they represent god
    When the bible plainly says call no man on earth father

    Does that mean including the Pope?
    You better believe it is strictly pointing the finger at the papacy!
    Come out of her my people the bible says!

    If you believe what your saying you really haven't been converted and never will
    It will also be to late for the people you have deceived
    Unless you actually repent and be properly baptized and do as he says If you love me keep my commandments
    That does mean including the real Sabbath the 7TH day of the week and not the first day (Sunday) The mark of the beast!

    OH crap did we say a lot!

    June 14, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
  15. faith

    sam stone
    faithy.....go fvck yourself

    June 4, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Science

      Just the destiny of US.................faithy..............the more you know might help you ?

      Destiny & DNA......................World Science Festival

      http://new.livestream.com/accounts/4044190/events/2110223

      June 7, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
  16. Science

    Hey all creationists ...........chadie too....the truth below !

    The fairy in the sky DID NOT create US !

    Ancient life...............3.5 billion years ago.............NO god(s) or horn-y red devil (666 the beast) never has been

    Disappearance of Stromatolites, Earliest Visible Manifestation of Life: Ancient Enigma Solved?

    May 28, 2013 — The widespread disappearance of stromatolites, the earliest visible manifestation of life on Earth, may have been driven by single-celled organisms called foraminifera.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130528143756.htm

    June 1, 2013 at 7:08 am |
    • Science

      You to the peachy one...................No red horn-y devil !

      Earth’s timeline ................chad remember this long ago..........L4H but me on the list for this.

      Trace our planet's geological and biological ages............better than the bibles timeline.

      http://www.nbcnews.com/id/33184839/ns/technology_and_science/

      Church Refuses to Host Troops Over Scouts' New Gay Policy
      NBC News·16 hours ago

      See also: More stories ·
      Top stories

      Big circle here chadie...................

      look what shows up on Bing 16 hours ago

      AND

      By the way HAR/chadie..........your header on post was ............see below........so do not go deleting comments !

      Your request was successfully submitted.

      Bing Webmaster Tools

      June 2, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
    • WhatifYouRwrong

      Explain to me how the great pyramids were built, the crop circles, stone hedge, the Bermuda triangle, consciousness, life, why planet Venus spins the wrong way. Why there are more stars in heaven then the grains of sand... if there is no life after death, why is there fear of death... if the world is evolving, why the laws of the universe are not evolving with it... then I will say that there is no Creator. Until then I am convinced that there is a Being that watches over everything.

      June 6, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
  17. Ashley H.

    In my congregation we often reflect on the lives of the early Christians in ways that we can imitate their steadfastness in the face of such persecution in our day.

    It hurts my heart to read about the sufferings that many like Perpetua and those mentioned in the scriptures faced.
    However, knowing that they DID NOT renounce their faith and they imitated the Master, Christ Jesus brings my heart joy.

    Jesus said here regarding the congregation in Pergamum
    (Revelation 2:13) 13 ‘I know where you are dwelling, that is, where the throne of Satan is; and yet you keep on holding fast my name, and you did not deny your faith in me even in the days of An′ti·pas, my witness, the faithful one, who was killed by YOUR side, where Satan is dwelling. . .

    This reassures me that true he saw the sufferings they endured, it made him proud, but combining that thought with
    this promise
    (1 John 3:8) . . .For this purpose the Son of God was made manifest, namely, to break up the works of the Devil.

    lets me know that at God's Appointed time he will undo all the suffering caused by Satan.
    T
    hose of early Christian times are no doubt with Christ as as we speak, awaiting the time that they too will aid Jesus is breaking up the works of the Devil at Armageddon and in the coming Millennial Reign.

    We should keep these examples in mind as we still have the same struggles as they do....and always remember to imitate the Christ as they did.

    June 1, 2013 at 1:00 am |
    • cmnsns

      Christ wasn't persecuted. He didn't really exist. It's just a mythological story.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Robin

      Ashley – I assume you live in America, where the vast majority of citizens claim to be Christians. What persecution is it that you are experiencing? Do you know the definition of persecution? Do you think it more likely that minority religions experience religious intolerance instead of majority religions?

      June 3, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
    • Observer

      Exactly what "persecutions" are you facing as a Christian? In my 15 minute drive home from work, I pass by dozens of Christian churches, all open for business. We have had 44 out of 44 presidents in this country who profess to be Christians. There are several Christian holidays that all of our government agencies, schools, post offices, etc shut down for so you can observe the holiday. The churches all are granted tax exempt status. The airwaves are full of religious programming. Could somebody PLEASE tell me how you are being persecuted? Not getting what you want (prayer in school, abortion being made illegal, etc.) doesn't count as persecution. Perhaps you would like to speak to some Jews who lived in Germany in the 1930s if you would like to find out what persecution is. To be honest, it is insulting to hear Christians claim persecution in this country. Grow up!!

      June 10, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • Ashley H.

      Hello Robin and Observer I was glad to see someone actually read what I wrote :)

      You both inquired about what persecutions I have experienced, well as a Jehovah's Witness for 30 years I have experienced alot of persecution. Even my 7 year old daughter has experienced persecution at school for her biblical beliefs. When we go out in our ministry we frequently have the police called on us. People are always slamming doors in our face and saying very rude things. Some of my friends and family have been physically beaten by persons we try to preach to.

      However, that does not compare with the extreme persecution that my spiritual brothers and sisters experience as we speak in SEVERAL countries...physical torture...unfair treatment by other religions to point where there are imprisoned falsely and accused of so many untrue acts its a shame.

      As an organization we feel that. It hurts but we know that Jesus said those desiring to live with Godly Devotion will be persecuted.
      True we are an organization made up of imperfect people who make mistakes but we really do try to live and teach others what God's Word the Bible says.
      For that stand we receive much persecution.

      if you get a chance to check out our official website http://www.jw.org under News you can see alot of the things we are enduring as far as persecution is concerned.

      It is not a secret that no matter what country you go in...when the word Jehovah's Witnesses comes up...there is a hatred.
      That's the persecution we have to endure.
      I am sure you both have experienced persecution of your own.

      Just remember what Jesus said
      (Matthew 5:10-12) 10 “Happy are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them. 11 “Happy are YOU when people reproach YOU and persecute YOU and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against YOU for my sake. 12 Rejoice and leap for joy, since YOUR reward is great in the heavens; for in that way they persecuted the prophets prior to YOU. . .

      So when we are persecuted for trying to do what Jesus asked us...we ....I am happy :)
      Thanks for inquiring.
      I am sure there many rumors and what not you have heard. If you want to have any of them clarified I don't mind...as long as its respectful. Its always better to get facts from the horse's mouth so to speak :)

      Take care and hope to hear from you both.

      June 17, 2013 at 1:07 am |
    • Lawrence

      Ashley H. – It sounds like the "persecution" you've been experiencing is your own fault. In case you haven't noticed, people don't like having someone come to their door telling them their religious beliefs are wrong. You're inviting trouble for yourself. Get a clue–leave people to their own beliefs and they will be more willing to do the same for you.

      Incidentally, I would bet that most people who are slamming the door in you face are Christians.

      June 21, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Robin

      Ashley

      Lawrence said it as well as I could. Whenever people start pushing their beliefs on others they need to expect pushback. It's that simple.

      June 22, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • Ashley H.

      @ Mr. Lawrence and Mr/Miss Robin,

      First of all, I didn't ask for the disrespect...I assume we are all adults.

      Also, it seems as though you are speaking without facts.

      At no time do I "push" my beliefs on anyone. I am just trying to follow Jesus' patttern and commandment to go preach from house to house.
      So according to your feelings...his persecution was his own fault.

      I don't want to assume like you all did with me...but it seems that you are not Christian because a true Christian would not speak about something that is just in imitation of Christ himself.

      If you have had a negative experience with someone coming to you door, I am sorry that happened. However, to accuse and condemn what I do without knowing facts....that's not kind or Christlike.

      I really wish the best for you both. If you have questions about JW as an organization or some of our beliefs I would be happy to answer them in an atmosphere of respect though.

      June 25, 2013 at 12:01 am |
    • Robin

      Ashley – Despite your idea that you just do what your religion tells you to do, most people (especially those with different beliefs) consider going door to door telling people their beliefs are wrong as pushing religion. Most people also consider it rude. That's just reality, and I don't think it's disrespectful to point out that the treatment you receive is a fairly natural result of your rude actions.

      June 28, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
  18. Shakingmyhead

    Satan is a liar. "oh, they werent persecuted..." . Really, next time you are fed to hungry lions, burning at a stake, seeing your whole family butchered in front of you in a church let me know how REFRESHING it is to you, okay? Talk to those hiding in China, those who hid in USSR, those who are slaughtered in any Islamic country or region..tell THEM they are not really being persecuted. We arent victims we are believers..we STAND for our God. Death is not feared by the Christian as it is by others. We want to enjoy life, we want to be a blessing. Yes some of us are real narcissitic jerks, some misinterpret what we read to our and others detriment. Some of us lose hope and end our life or self medicate when we lose our connection. But that does NOT diminish what Jesus did for us or what the Father created for us. I am a proud member of the body of Christ...put me down, make fun, scoff, spit on me, diminish what I believe, tell me I am wrong, or persecute me verbally, physically, or mentally–I will forgive you as He forgives me, I will pray for your as He instructs, and I will do my human best to love you because He loved you first. God Bless

    May 30, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • Science

      Hey all creationists ...........chadie too....the truth below !

      The fairy in the sky DID NOT create US !

      Ancient life...............3.5 billion years ago.............NO god(s) or horn-y red devil (666 the beast) never has been

      Disappearance of Stromatolites, Earliest Visible Manifestation of Life: Ancient Enigma Solved?

      May 28, 2013 — The widespread disappearance of stromatolites, the earliest visible manifestation of life on Earth, may have been driven by single-celled organisms called foraminifera.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130528143756.htm

      +

      The University of Sydney.........................geology..............the dirt guys.

      Precious opal veinlets in a sandstone from central Australia.

      News

      Answer to opal mystery shows Red Centre's links to Red Planet

      31 May 2013

      The dramatic geological events that created opal, Australia's national gemstone, have been described for the first time by a University of Sydney researcher.

      http://sydney.edu.au/news/84.html?newsstoryid=11678

      + the damn fossils ..............works better than the BIBLE !

      Scientists Recover Wooly Mammoth Blood ..................cloning could happen maybe

      Posted by Soulskill on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @01:52PM
      from the wooly-mammoth-vampires-very-excited dept.

      http://science.slashdot.org/story/13/05/29/1712242/scientists-recover-wooly-mammoth-blood

      New study restores famed fossil to "bird" branch

      Wednesday May 29, 2013 | Alicia Chang for The Associated Press

      http://www.newsdaily.com/article/04243837283ffd8f533a0cf41d35cd27/new-study-restores-famed-fossil-to-bird-branch

      AND chadie has a link on Bing

      Quarterback's next play: Going long with the Bible – CNN Belief ...

      religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/02/01/quarterbacks-next-play-going...

      Feb 01, 2013 · Since we've got Chad buybull ... Jurassic Park came out. Now that it has been found, ... You have nothing but a 2000 year old stone age book written ...

      AND

      All creationists...............a turtle.............but is it to old to have come from the ark ?

      Or chad crawled into his shell on the ark and finally found his way out .............you know chad ?

      The mystery of how the turtle got its shell has finally been solved by scientists studying a 260-million-year-old fossil.

      Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/scientists-have-figured-out-how-the-turtle-got-its-unique-hard-shell-2013-5#ixzz2UspYoTOm

      Prehistoric Park : T-Rex Returns – Episode 1

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFcoGAMsQfE&w=640&h=390]

      Remember chad........... the talking donkey you like so much might of chewed on that BONE.............that created eve.

      Chomp Chomp.............make sure to look up creationists for the next big chondrite !!!

      June 1, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  19. Ann Tucker

    As a Christian I've never been aware that martyrs were the most important ones in our history , the love and total saving grace of our Lord is the most import thing . Total lack of understanding of true Christian faith brings these words "...'Like the action heroes of the ancient world'..." and ..."If the first Christians pictured themselves as waging war against the world, the martyrs were their version of the Navy SEALs" ....I think you are talking about the Catholic Church when they had the corrupt Popes , and their desire for relics and such , and the need for "objects" and praying to others than Jesus. Someone led the Church astray for a while , but all along there devout Christians who loved the Lord, and weren't led astray, and yes they were fighting the world , the spiritual world just like now..read Romans chapter 7 and 8 for yourself <3...we don't take our Christianity lightly , our souls depend on it .

    May 28, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • Humility

      Hi Ann,

      May the Grace and Peace of our LORD JESUS Christ be with you. Keep firm with your Faith and continue to proclaim the Good News of our LORD, the TRUTH about his HOLY SPIRIT given to all who believe in GOD's SAVING GRACE.

      Your Brother in Faith,

      Marlon

      December 9, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
  20. Science

    Better than Comedy GOLD................it is THE PEARLY GATES !.............what a JOKE !

    Heaven for atheists? Pope sparks debate

    By Dan Merica, CNN

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/23/heaven-for-atheists-pope-sparks-debate/comment-page-18/#respond

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/05/when-christians-become-a-hated-minority/

    Discovery Channel Mega Beasts – Great American Predator

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UHQZVQvBkU&w=640&h=390]

    https://www.zotero.org/colleengreene/items/5XRFKX8N

    May 24, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.