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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. Conrad

    Ref Joesph Atwill's "Caesar's Messiah." Christianity is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on the world, and it is fascinating to see generation after generation twist themselves in to knots trying to explain/justify/understand it.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:17 am |
  2. Bob

    If there was a god, Christians wouldn't exist. They are proof that no intelligent super being designed us.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • JC

      Hateful statements by a faithless man?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • tony

      Bless us, o holy collection plate.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • Me

      You are living proof of that

      March 31, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • Christian7

      The impression I get from your statement is that you would be for the extermination of Christians. Is that a correct theory?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • The real Tom

      You really have difficulty with reading comprehension, don't you, 7? By the way, is that your mental age or your IQ?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • G to the T

      Not christians 7, Christianity. Hate the sin, not the sinner right?

      April 5, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
  3. TMac

    Me being a man and believer in all faiths b/c all core values of faith are the same I do have to say that this article is an absolute lie. Christians were absolutely persecuted, Jesus place of worship was torn down stone by stone by the romans and jews. After some time that happened Jesus followers had enough and rose up and fought the romans and they were all slaughtered. They were persecuted no doubt about it, jesus followers decided to rise up for there beliefs (not impose there beliefs on people, they werent allowed to have beliefs at that time) and were slaughtered for it. Them being slaughtered in masses actually spread christianity bc then people heard there message b/c people had risen up and the romans wanted to know why. Jesus had the message and when they found out why, christianity spread like a wild fire. This is fact. And im a believer in all faiths. They didnt persecute everyone by hanging on them with a cross, which is why this writer doesnt understand to much of anything. She thinks persecution means they hung everyone on crosses. Jesus beliefs against the rich empires started b/c they severed the head of John the Baptist. They definetly persecuted people who let there beliefs be known. Dont pay any mind to people like this they are trying to make money off of religion. People that deny the unjust actions of the past and present will feell the wrath of god, no worries! Believe me b/c I believe in the cores of all religions, Christianity, Judiasm, Islam, Buddism etc.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:14 am |
    • tony

      Film at eleven.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • JC

      This article fits the atheist narrative and that is exactly why it headlines CNN on Easter Sunday.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • Saraswati

      You might want to read the article before commenting. It never said Christians weren't persecuted.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • TMac

      Ummmm tony you are a couple of pieces short of a pie brother....they actually have historical evidence and facts that jesus place of worship was torn down stone by stone after he was killed. You know how, the stones are still in the ground from where jesus was known to worship. Take a trip and you can actually see for youself, you need to educate yourself instead of speaking a bunch of dog shat lol. You are the person that would see a murdered man dead on the ground with gunshots and stabwounds and say he died from natural causes, b/c thats what you wanna believe. You need to read a book, even a childrens book if thats your intelligence level so you can expand your mind b/c you have the mind of a nomad.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:28 am |
  4. PerceivedReality

    John 16:33

    King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
    These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

    Thank you Ya for our redeemer Jesus-Emmanuel-Yaheshua-Wonderful! Because of your sacrifice, love, patience and grace I am able to overcome this corrupted existence and experience your love, peace and wonder. You have made what is impossible to man possible with you, our Father in heaven. I bear living witness to your power that changed a degenerated sinner into a loving, faithfull husband and father. Thank you almighty Ya for sending my redeemer and inbueing my twisted spirit with you perfect Holy Spirit. I am yours forever to do with as you will. I lay my will and life at your feet with no wish for them but what you will, forever and ever amen!

    March 31, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • tony

      That's why the Ten Commandments are written in the reverse order. Piety before Goodness very time.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • Luis Wu

      How utterly stupid.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • PerceivedReality

      What is stupid Luis? I will not simply regard you as stupid, so please ellaborate your thoughts.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • Crazyis

      Simply put, you're NUTS!

      March 31, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • PerceivedReality

      Actually I would say that before the Holy Spirit awakened me, I was going insane. Now I have peace and though this world burdens me with its evil every day, Ifind happiness in the simple things of Ya's creation. In a way, I could say that the state you are in as a non-believer is insanity, because you cannot discern the truth of this existence, but I was once where you are so I would not disparage you. We all seek to find our own truth, I hope that you are finding yours.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:43 am |
  5. Joseph S.

    Christians are NOT being persecuted that is complete nonsense. It is Christians doing the persecuting! People need to fight back. Take our children back, fight for future generations. Christianity is a man created mythology. Anyone educated in Christianity and the making of the Bible already knows this. It's time for Christians ( Muslims as well ) to wake up and join us in the 21st century. We need to do this so future generations don't fall victim to fiction being taught as fact. Mythology being taught as truth.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • JC

      No persecution here????

      March 31, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      They have a persecution complex. (People that suffer from persecution complex tend to believe that others are out to get or hurt them in some way. Their fears are utterly unfounded in reality and at times exaggerated paranoia and it reflects a belief that everyone has it in for them.Symptoms of persecution complex may be seen when the person interacts in normal ways and then over-reacts to perceived wrongs.)

      March 31, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • Christian7

      Hell is real. If you die without Jesus Christ, you will be persecuted forever.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      C7: Not too worried about hell. When it is proven to exist, I might have reason to worry until then it is only your and your ilks absurd opinion based on absolutely no substantial evidence. So without using your buybull provide the evidence...give us reason to accept your claim!

      March 31, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • Science

      Christian7

      Hell is real.................... been there..................................Hell MI USA.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • ..and for the good news;there is no Satan either !

      @christian7..and if you don't believe the Koran is the true word of god,YOU will go to the same hot-place.Prove me wrong.You cannot.Therefore,your belief is just pretending to know what you do not know..as is the beliefs of all religions.THIS is FACT.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • Joseph S.

      Christian7: Like I said. Please join us in the 21st century. Hell is an invention of man. There is no such place. You would know this if you studied the making of Christianity. I'm not an atheist by the way but I am a former Christian.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • sqeptiq

      So, C7 according to you jesus is the ultimate persecutor.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
  6. JC

    It is not the job of the faithful to convince the faithless that God exists. It is the job of the faithful to live their lives in a way that honors God!

    March 31, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • tony

      Not "be and do good"?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:14 am |
  7. tony

    I want to know why all the "Birthers" aren't demanding to see Jesus's birth certficate, before dropping their hard earned money in the collection plate.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • JC

      Obama is a Christian.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:14 am |
    • Christian7

      JC, Maybe you are correct. But why do you think Obama is a Christian?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • JC

      He attended Christian Church and proclaims to be a Christian.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • Doug

      That's what faith is. Do you have faith in anything?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • Saraswati

      Sure, Obamas parents sent him to Catholic school while he was living in a predominantly Muslim country because they were radical Muslims. If his stepfather even really was a Muslim (hard to know in Indonesia, because atheism wasn't an option for registration) he sure as heck didn't take it seriously enough to prevent Obama's mother from placing the kid in Catholic school. Add that history to his self proclaimed Christianity (all we have from any politician) and I'd say he has far greater odds of being a Christian than, say, rand followe Paul Ryan.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:30 am |
  8. Jason

    christians did not get popular by being subject of torturous deaths, what if you witnessed jesus's death and had no idea about wht christanity was? would you go all like " I wanna be like him!" these things were to frighten people and discourage them from being christians

    March 31, 2013 at 11:12 am |
  9. Pete

    Yes, the early Christians hid in the catacombs, not because they were afraid of torture, but rather to play a good game of canasta.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:11 am |
  10. matt

    So thousands of years later Moss knows more than the ones who were actually there. Amazing, like the quote from P.T. Barnum "There is a sucker born every Minute." Those of you who want to buy into Mosses story are trying to lessen your own guilt. We are all quilty before God. Some hearts are so hard they no longer sense the guilt. To destroy and mock God helps relief the guilt. Be honest with your own self. Ask yourself what do you fill your God emptiness with? Only God will fit in this place.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • tony

      The whole concept of Preaching and Priesthood relies on the "one born every minute" premise. If used cars had been invented before religion, there would never have been any preachers or priests.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:14 am |
    • Science

      To matt

      Origin of Life: Natural Cause no god(s) required.

      Hypothesis Traces First Protocells Back to Emergence of Cell Membrane Bioenergetics

      December 20, 2012 — A coherent pathway – which starts from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide and leads to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells – has been traced for the ...

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/fossils_ruins/origin_of_life/

      March 31, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • PerceivedReality

      Science,
      So you are saying that matter just programs itself into "life" strictly by happenstance? DNA is coded to contruct an organism in 3-D space. All other things known to man that are encoded were made by an intelligent being, namely man. Is it not reasonable then to assume that if life is encoded matter, that an intelligent agent must have encoded it?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • sqeptiq

      PR, who encoded the intelligent agent?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
  11. Me

    This article is a not so thinly veiled attack on Christianity. CNN loves to attack Christianity but never Islam. The cowards at CNN know Christianity is an easy target and can attack it without fearing for their lives, but that if they attack Islam – which is responsible for much much more violence in the world today – they will have to go into hiding.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • SixDegrees

      I'm not seeing any "attack" here. Just a presentation of historical fact.

      Although it's hilarious that, when you wrongly perceive an attack, the very first thing you do is claim you're being persecuted. Big win for the author's points, there.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • Me

      Because you don't see it doesn't mean it isn't there.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • Kenman

      Exactly! Why would anyone look for an honest account of Christianity from CNN, even on it's holiest day; it's clearly one of the most hostile toward Christianity, not Islam, not Scientology, or any other.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      @Me: Just because you see it doesn't mean it's there.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
  12. Ziggy2003

    Finding God is one of lifes's greatest moments at leas it was for me. To describe it is like the attainement of puberty or having your first child. Your whole outlook on life changes at that very moment. You are a new creature Born Again. Some people never reach that stage(spiritual puberty)so they complain, or attack the people who have achieved this experience, it's unfortunate.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • Agnes of Dog

      I tried to tell people how good this new laxative I've been using is, but more often than not, they just look at me funny.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • Bob

      Is it like finding Waldo? Because I get a great thrill when I find him.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • sqeptiq

      Sort of like the onset of bipolar disorder, Zig.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Bible believer to Koran believer: Get into the same brain patterns as me or you'll be in pain forever and ever!
      Koran believer to Bible believer: Get into the same brain patterns as me or you'll be in pain forever and ever!

      April 5, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
  13. Bob

    Jesus was a cult leader. Nothing more.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:09 am |
  14. Christian7

    Do not worry about Christian persecutions, worry about spending eternity in hell.

    Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

    March 31, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • The real Tom

      It's your hell. You burn in it.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      The fear mongering of christianity. "Believe or else", how very loving of you-NOT!

      March 31, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • Christian7

      Truth Prevails :-), Your idea is incorrect. You are already condemned for your decision to sin. You deserve hell and the only way to avoid it, is to accept Jesus Christ. If you don't you might actually be in hell at anytime, even hour from now. There is not a single drop of water in hell.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • G to the T

      No – somebody decades after the fact attributed that to him. It is your "faith" that he actually said any of this.

      April 5, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  15. Unintelligent Designer

    Interesting article, makes me want to read the book. No doubt some people today look to play on emotions by playing the persecution card; and unfortunately, some sheep blindly follow. However, history has shown that true martyrdom has been a successful catalyst for promoting ideologies. Perhaps the story of Vibia Perpetua is one such example. Happy Easter to my Christian brothers and sisters. As to everyone else, Happy ZJD.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:09 am |
  16. Austin

    Paris Hilton's Disco Apocalypse and Zombie Day Fashion Show
    "At the last supper, Jesus ordered the disciples to arm themselves. Sounds like he was going to go Baader-Meinhof. That's probably why Judas turned him in: he saw Jesus was turning violent. That's all lost now, of course, but demanding his followers arm themselves is quite damning of his supposed reputation."

    Provide a citation for what you are talking about please and I will provide plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise. This is garbage.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:08 am |
  17. Jason

    It doesn't surprise me they are running a story like this one. Last Easter it was a story about whether the historical Jesus ever existed.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • Unintelligent Designer

      Sounds like you are a bit disappointed. To me, it seems like those who oppose such stories feel their beliefs are being persecuted themselves. Sorry, but when it comes to critiquing and evaluation, religion doesn't get a special pass. I applaud CNN for posting such articles.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Is your faith feeling a little weak and shaken? Sounds like.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • Ted

      You're right that religion shouldn't get a pass from criticism. But the point is that this criticism is often lopsided toward Christianity in the media. You're not likely to see CNN do a piece written criticizing and questioning Islam on Ramadan. Maybe I'm wrong. Ramadan starts on July 8. Let's see what CNN posts, if anything, of a critical or questioning nature about Islam.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:39 am |
  18. PaxUs

    I too would be interested in what Moss has to say concerning Pliny the Younger's correspondence with Trajan regarding the persecution of Christians. Moss is behaving in a manner not unlike that of a Holocaust denier. The evidence for early Christian persecution is direct and far more credible than many other well known historical events, yet we appear to have deniers in our midst. What will Moss' next book be about, denying that the Spanish Inquisition took place? That should sell a few copies, which is obviously her first priority, not credible historical research. Controversy does sell books unfortunately. For more recent evidence of Christian persecution, one need only look at the present day persecution of Christians by Islam.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • Pall

      Here are 23 pages of Muslim martyrs:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Muslim_martyrs

      And I'm sure they are working on more, as we speak. Same type of misguided, irrational zealotry as the Christian ones in fact or fiction.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • tom Doss

      Also, there's Fox's Book of Martyrs .

      April 12, 2013 at 5:03 am |
  19. truviz

    Professor Candida Moss, please learn to understand the difference between fabrication and in inspiration. There's an enormous line between the two. Some stories were simply meant to inspire the faithful, to continue their walk in Christ, in the face of certain death.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:05 am |
    • Unintelligent Designer

      I agree. Although I'm no longer a believer, when I was, I struggled to find reason as to why people felt that the stories had to be true in order to have meaning. We take meaning from things every day that do not claim to be of divine origin: music, poetry, movies, ...

      March 31, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • SixDegrees

      So, in other words, those stories were lies.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:14 am |
    • sqeptiq

      Fabrication= lies. inspirational story=holy lies. not that much difference.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
  20. muezzathecat

    "Not an original thought...ever...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hilaria even this one is stolen from the Greeks and Roman's too.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:04 am |
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About this blog

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.