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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)
  1. Edweird69

    I make sure I sin every day, that way he didn't die for nothing!

    March 31, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • cjeddie

      People all over the world were sinning before during and after he died. "Sin" is a very tough word to define with a lot of grey area. For instance today we are allowed to kill during war and morally justify it. Is Jesus cool with that? lol.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:33 am |
  2. spanglish

    If notice they are persecuted by the so called liberals, they crushing their faith ,believes and morals. They are converting the country into an atheist godless society were the corruption, populist ideologies, manipulation of the media, and abnormal psychology is taken over the logical norms of a society.

    March 31, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • David

      Not all "liburls" are non-believers. Remember our duty of bring about social justice.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Edweird69

      If you want a Theocracy, please go to the middle east. There is nothing moral about Christianity!

      March 31, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Abnormal psychology like believing in a delusion of gods?

      March 31, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • cjeddie

      start stockpiling your guns we're coming for ya spanglish! lol.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:35 am |
  3. barfly

    Kill anyone who refuses to listen to a priest. Deuteronomy 17:12-13

    March 31, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • David

      "Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." 13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away."

      Keep quoting the Old Testament buddy.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • Edweird69

      @David – is that scripture before or after Leviticus states bats are birds?

      March 31, 2013 at 10:09 am |
  4. B

    I think we can give Romney a pass if he gives off the impression of feeling persecuted for his religion. Not only was the "can a Mormon ever be a president" debate completely unfair, the Mormon Church's early history includes much suffering at the hands of mobs that drove early LDS familes from their homes, tar and featherings etc. Eventually the Governor of Missouri signed an extermination order making it legal to kill Mormons in his state. Joseph Smith, the first Mormon Prophet, and several other early Mormons were shot by a mob in Carthage Illinois and the Mormons were driven out of Nauvoo IL across the plains to Utah. So I give Mormons a pass on feeling a little persecuted by Americans.

    March 31, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • snowboarder

      @B, you mean by christians.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  5. rad666

    Maybe a new religion will be centered around the "God" particle?

    March 31, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • rabidatheist

      The term "god particle" was invented by the media, the actual scientists don't use it. The name started as a joke because the scientists couldn't find the "god damned particle". The media just dropped the "damned", and it became the "god particle".

      March 31, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • rad666

      rabidatheist

      It is as real as their "god."

      March 31, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • rabidatheist

      No, the Higgs boson has actually been observed, god......not so much.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Science

      Hey David ....................it gives us mass !

      Please share today at easter Mass.............. thanks....................... a public service for education !

      Scientists say they've found a "God particle"

      http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-205_162-57574247/scientists-say-theyve-found-a-god-particle

      March 31, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Atheism is a form of Autism, more specifically Asperger Syndrome--Fact

      rad666,

      you continue to prove my handle, thank you.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  6. Elliott Carlin

    ATTENTION ALL ATHEISTS: Today is our day. Yours is tomorrow (April Fools Day)

    Thanks

    March 31, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • snowboarder

      cute

      March 31, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Edweird69

      Attention Elliott – Every day is OUR day. Tomorrow is when Christians wake up, feeling like fools, after thinking about the mindless rituals they participated in the day before.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • David

      Atheist read CNN book reviews for sensationalistic piles of "you know" while Christians celebrate Easter. Stop being bitter, go out and get yourself a family or spend some time with the one you have.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Yeah...today is your day....after it was stolen from "pagans".

      March 31, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  7. History Channel's "The Bible" Parts 3 & 4 - In Under 11 Minutes!

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTRn28iZD_g&w=640&h=390]

    March 31, 2013 at 10:00 am |
  8. barfly

    You must kill those who worship another god. Exodus 22:20

    March 31, 2013 at 9:59 am |
  9. Antiatheist

    Got to love the atheist trolls on this site. Whether you like it or not religion isn't going anywhere. Deal with it.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Edweird69

      Oh, your religion is on its death throes. It will soon be looked upon as the "stupid ages".

      March 31, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Magnificent New Channel - MUST SEE!

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pW3PBK6GOv0&w=640&h=390]

      March 31, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • rabidatheist

      Oh yes it is, Faux News even did a story about how quickly religion is dying, and will be extinct in 9 countries in the very near future.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • FreeFromTheism

      atheism is on the rise in every developed country, the US is just behind, as usual

      March 31, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • Helena Troy

      Christian thug...

      March 31, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Neither is the growing interest in atheism. Deal with it.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  10. barfly

    Kill any friends or family that worship a god that is different than your own. Deuteronomy 13:6-10

    March 31, 2013 at 9:59 am |
  11. darte

    Christianity is for followers, kind of like Hitler and his followers.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  12. fedupwithla

    She's cute, and she's telling her university what they want to hear. Onward to tenure! Good job! Who cares what other people think, or their feelings? This is a nice Easter story. Thanks again, CNN!

    March 31, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • Helena Troy

      It was a well-balanced feature article that presented a favorable view of Christians, while your comment presented a narrow-minded, unfavorable view of Christians...

      March 31, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  13. David

    I'm a little displeased about the timing of this article. Pure shock value and I bet no value to a serious historian either.

    Happy Easter and remember the words of St. Perpetua: "Stand fast in the Faith!"

    March 31, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  14. Valhalla_gurl

    How is this different from being a Holocaust denier?

    March 31, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • rabidatheist

      Because we have actual evidence for the Holocaust, not manufactured history at the hands of Christian writers like Eusebius. Eusebius had no trouble using "deception as medicine for the faith".

      March 31, 2013 at 10:00 am |
  15. snowboarder

    the entire christian doctrine is a tale grown taller with the retelling. then again, so are all the other religions.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • Thank God Today

      I wouldn't trade belief in God for anything

      March 31, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • snowboarder

      @today, you will likely find a similar sentiment in the adherents of every religion.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Thank God Today

      They get nothing for all their wasted belief in nothing. We get the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and his son Jesus that died for our sins and raised again the third day!

      March 31, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • cjeddie

      im glad you're imaginary friend give you peace love hope and comfort. That's what it's all about. Still an imaginary friend though.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • snowboarder

      @today, lol! sure you do. more like a fantastical tale.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:09 am |
  16. barfly

    Kill all the inhabitants of any city where you find people that worship differently than you. Deuteronomy 13:12-16

    March 31, 2013 at 9:54 am |
  17. Laurie

    I see the liberal media has its traditional attack on Christian truth on a holy day with historical revision and truth distortion to suit the needs of those who wish to kill the moral message of the faith.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • Terry

      " Christian truth"

      There is not Christian truth, your religion is cult stolen from other pagan religions it's time for people to recognize it as the myth it is.

      All hail Mithra the true son of God!

      March 31, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • julibear

      Wow, can you just absorb some new knowledge with out claiming that it is an attack on "Christian truth?" We are always continuing to learn about our past and the actual historical record. There were actually some martyrs, but not as many as initially thought. This article says some wonderful things about early Christians, behaviors which many more modern Christians would do well to adapt. Nothing in this article should be shaking the foundations of anyone's faith. Go eat a hardboiled egg and figure out why that weighs so heavily in this "Christian" holiday.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • cjeddie

      I like the morals that Christianity teaches. Society teaches them anyway religion is not really that necessary. But to think it all came from a God is really silly. Trillions of stars, planets, species make up our universe and it all comes down to whether or not I lie or not or gossip or cheat on my wife. Yeah right.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Don

      Amen, Laurie. CNN will do anything for readership. But, you'd think it would be more focused on reporting truth, facts, and news.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  18. David

    Hey brother and sisters, forget the peanut gallery, but:

    Have you heard the Good News?

    March 31, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • snowboarder

      about the post-easter peep sales?

      March 31, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • Terry

      Yes we have Christianity is a dying religion because people are realizing it's based on other pagan myths!

      All hail Mithra the real son of God!

      March 31, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • David

      I don't eat peeps, I prefer the richer, fuller, taste of marshmallow bunnies.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • David

      Hey Terry, I don't care what you say as long as my faith is solid. You might be fortunate to have something like that someday.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Thank God Today

      Yes! Jesus died for our sins and raised again! Thank you Jesus! Thank you God!

      March 31, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • LOLWOG

      The "Good News"? Did Christians and all religious people just wake up and realize their religions are pure BS, and decided to embrace reality and science instead? Or they admitted that their faith is just antiquated mythology based on a book of really scary fairy tales? Because that WOULD be GOOD NEWS!

      March 31, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • cjeddie

      why did God just send his son to "save the people" ONLY to the Middle East? There were MILLIONS of people all over the Earth at the time from the Chinese, Aboriginis, Incas, Inuits etc. Relying on missionaries is a poor marketing plan as according to Christians MILLIONS of people are burning in hell simply because they hadn't been saved by living so far from the middle east. So God can create the Universe but chooses not to give everyone a fair shot at getting in?

      March 31, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  19. jenny dillartile

    Lol silly jesus and his fairy tales!

    March 31, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • McLovin

      And the persecution continues. I feel nothing but sorrow for you. Billions of people, including renowned scholars believe, and yet you still feel the need to tear the religion down. Is it fear of the truth?

      March 31, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Crazyis

      David, McLovin and all you faithful sheep out there drinking the cool aid today, with all due respect YOU'RE IDIOTS, or just completely INSANE! Just stop for a moment and THINK about your beliefs. How in the world do you make any sense of it? You're all nuts IMHO!

      March 31, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  20. Mike

    What is the point of all this? Evolving as a society does not mean that people can not have faith. Why must people argue and criticize others faith? I grew up in a religious family, and to a large extent am still a faithful person. Have I questioned the teaching and my own faith at times? Certainly! But I do not believe that it is my place to tear down others beliefs. The notion that everybody must believe as I do, goes against the very root of the oath I took when I served in the military and what I learned growing up as a Christian. Atheists, Muslims, Jews or Christians, they all have their rights to believe and practice their beliefs so long as they do not deprive others of their rights.

    I think that to stir the pot on what most Christians believe is one of their most holiest of days is irresponsible and poor judgment on behalf of CNN. The article could be interpreted in many different ways, but because of this networks track record, we all know the timing was an attempt to ruffle feathers.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • SixDegrees

      What goes around, comes around. Please exhort christians to stop their rabid proselytizing, and maybe their opponents will dial down their own rhetoric in return.

      Although this is a message christians haven't gotten for 2000 years now, so don't hold your breath.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • LOLWOG

      That's great Mike, but it's just a little scary when grown men and women believe in fairy tales. Religions are fairy tales for grown ups. If you need that to get you through your day that's fine, but don't go around flaunting your believes and imposing your will on the rest of us. I wish you and your loved ones a happy Easter or what was originally the pagan festival of fertility/spring. Live long and prosper.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • katmoondaddy

      Well put!

      March 31, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • SuZieCoyote

      Yes, well it has been the historical policy of y our religion to not only tear down others' beliefs, but murder them if they did not adopt those beliefs.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • cjeddie

      Mike, people really want TRUTHS in life. Science provides us with some truths. Religion provides us with nothing but questions. I used to believe in God until I really studied up on it and decided not to just believe it blindly. I couldn't lie to myself anymore.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:25 am |
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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.