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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. Antiatheist

    An atheist can't disprove the existence of a god anymore than a believer can physically prove it.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:20 am |
    • SixDegrees

      A specious argument. It is a classic demand for a negative proof, recognized for hundreds of years as a major fallacy (and recognized as such by the Church, in fact). It is such an egregious overturning of logic that no court allows its use.

      It is the responsibility of those making extraordinary claims to provide the proof for those claims. It is NOT the responsibility of the skeptic to prove the non-existence of that which has never been proven to exist.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:22 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      You are absolutely correct – is is impossible to disprove the existence of god. As it is impossible to disprove the existence of a giant invisible, immaterial space squirrel named Cedric who rides a pink cosmic skateboard.

      However, the onus is on those who claim there IS a god (or a space Cedric) to provide evidence to support their claim.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:23 am |
    • JJ

      *groan*...please grow a brain.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:37 am |
    • Sane Person

      I actually have lunch with Cedric every Sunday. (We call it Cedricday tho, its our holy day of rememberance, celebrating when Cedric created the first invisible pink skateboard, and said it was good)

      March 31, 2013 at 7:37 am |
    • Science

      To ..........Antiatheist

      Please sharet today at easter Mass.............. thanks....................... a public service foe 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 7:45 am |
    • Science

      Oops danggggg thumb...................share...........................for

      March 31, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • shane

      Another day, another holy day, and another day for people to feel the need to demean other's beliefs here on the CNN message boards. More of the same.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • Ziggy2003

      "As it is impossible to disprove the existence of a giant invisible, immaterial space squirrel named Cedric who rides a pink cosmic skateboard."

      Two hundred years ago people would have scoffed at things like atoms, protons and electrons, electricity, radio and television frequencies that we cannot even see. Yet these things are a reality today as your kitchen sink. I doubt that we will ever see a physical God though since he is in everything and anything he is the entire Universe.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • Br

      That is true. You cannot prove evolution. You wish for an example, heres one. To build your house took a team of contractor, architects, and surveyors. Your house is a relatively simple and ordinary structure. So from a purely logical stantpoint, you mean to tell me that it took intelligence to build your house (a shoddy single function not self sustaining structure) but blind chance to build the intricacies of a planet let alone the universe?

      How about another: The Big Bang Theory states that from an infintesimal (I know I spelled that wrong) and dense central location comes forth an expansion of energy which then forms the galaxies and within those galaxies stars which form the planets that we know today. I have two questions, and answer them with logic: What caused this mass to expand? And when this expanse occured what was the net force that acted upon certain areas of this expansion that caused those areas to congeal so to speak and create nebulas that would become stars? You see, Newtons first law is simple fact: an object in motion stays in motion and an object out of motion stays out of motion unless acted upon by a net force.

      Here's another: Recent study into Einsteins' theory of relativity has given rise to a new field of research- Dark energy and Dark matter. Dark energy is energy that we cannot see, it is intangible, yet it comprises of 75% of the universe. Dark matter (matter that cannot be seen or measured by any of our instruments) comprises of 23%. For all of our observable forces to work something has to be holding them together, something more powerful than all of them combined. Thus we have Dark energy and Dark matter. Question: You can sit there and believe in Dark energy (with backers of the likes of Stephen Hawking) but cannot believe in God?

      The idea that faith must have proof goes both ways. Interestingly, it was the Bible that first backed this idea. Read it for yourself at Hebrews 11:1 and Romans 1:20 and 25.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
  2. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    Christianity is a con game used to rob society's most vulnerable.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:17 am |
    • shane

      Get a life and leave other people's beliefs alone. Are you so angry that you can't?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • shane

      And why is it always just Christianity? Why not Jews? Indians? Islam? You just want to see your name here and to see who responds.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • Ziggy2003

      Speak for yourself Atheist...

      March 31, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • Bill S.

      Silly Joey, Open your eyes and see the truth.

      April 1, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Rob?

      http://www.cbn.com/tv/1403094459001

      April 1, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
  3. Antiatheist

    Love how atheists act like they are so smart and superior. That they are above religion. Yet atheism is a religion. You people worship science and yourselves. The atheists on these blogs are as fanatical about their beliefs as the most devout baptist or Muslim.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • SixDegrees

      It's more of an evidentiary thing, actually.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:18 am |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

      Idiot, atheism is not a religion.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:20 am |
    • saggyroy

      Okay here it goes (yawn). "If not believing is a religion, then not collecting stamps is a hobby".

      March 31, 2013 at 7:24 am |
    • Tim Brown

      So stupid. Atheism is the lack of religion. If you don't believe in Zeus, does that mean you have a non-belief in Zeus religion?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:26 am |
    • Zeke2112

      Atheism is a religion as much as not collecting stamps is a hobby.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:27 am |
    • Lanier

      Why are any atheist, agnostic etc even reading a Christian blog? They are pawns led by the devil, there is no other reason to be here. None at all.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:27 am |
    • Mirosal

      Lanier, this is called a BELIEF blog, not a Christian blog. See how narrow-minded you really are? You see "belief" and you as'sume is it ONLY for xtians. FAIL. There is more than one religion in the world, and this blog is open to all regardless of belief or lack of belief. Shouldn't you be etting ready to go praise your dead zombie guy for crawling out of a cave tomb 2000 years ago?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:31 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Lanier: Once again , it is not a christian blog. It is a belief blog. Belief covers a huge array of things.
      You use the term agnostic...do you have the slightest idea as to what the word means? If you say that you believe in god but yet can't be 100% certain that it exists, then you too are agnostic. Stop being ignorant and educate yourself.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • Tim Brown

      This isn't a Christian blog, and for the last time you are not being persecuted.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • Katie

      In my experience it's not atheists who act superior. Atheists don't come to my door and shove pamphlets in my face and tell me I need to find Jesus. Atheists don't insist that I am a sinner in need of salvation. Atheists don't tell promote each other for their atheism. They don't have doctrines that they use to justify their behavior or to condemn other people. Atheists don't have doctrines at all, in fact, and don't have a belief system that they need to rely on in order to do the right thing. Atheists scare the crap out of Christians for one reason: what if their way of thinking is true? For it IS true that most Christians have such a shaky faith that they are constantly worried that there is no God. Many of them have their kids baptized "just in case". Many of them go to church only if it's convenient, or only on Christmas or Easter (happy Easter btw) and a lot of them wouldn't go at all but for that nagging "just in case" feeling, but a lot of them are very quick to rant and rail at people who are content and secure in their acceptance that there is no God. It's threatening. It's frightening. Because WHAT IF IT'S TRUE?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:35 am |
    • Joe Giardina

      CNN Hits A 20-Year Primetime Ratings Low
      Posted: 05/22/2012

      CNN's ratings problems just keep getting worse.
      The network had its lowest-rated month in over a decade in April. That prompted stern warnings from the top that CNN has to improve its numbers.

      Yet Tuesday brought the dispiriting news that CNN had its lowest-rated week in primetime in a staggering 20 years last week. Just 395,000 people tuned in to watch Anderson Cooper and Piers Morgan. The total day numbers were not much better: CNN had its third-worst week since 1997.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      That logic is such an epic fail. May you get the opportunity to try in a court of law and watch the judges expression just before the judge laughs you out of court.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • Ziggy2003

      "In my experience it's not atheists who act superior. Atheists don't come to my door and shove pamphlets in my face and tell me I need to find Jesus. Atheists don't insist that I am a sinner in need of salvation. Atheists don't tell promote each other for their atheism. They don't have doctrines that they use to justify their behavior or to condemn other people. "

      SUPRISE, SUPRISE churches do it advertisers do it and isn't this what the US and the West are doing promoting their brand of Democracy throughout the world ? They are just trying to help you.. Just thank your father the Devil that Jehovah Witness's are not pointing guns and missiles toward your head, instead they are just handing out pamphlets some which are very good by the way . In the Christian religion ou are blessed by the number of people you have converted, so these people are trying to get blessed.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
  4. Joe Giardina

    A Catholic church and convent in Benghazi, Libya, were plundered and burned just days after anti-Italian protests in Libya turned violent.

    The Feb. 20 attacks against the two religious properties forced the apostolic vicar of Benghazi, the rest of his Franciscan community, and the religious men and women who lived and worked in the diocese to be evacuated to the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

    Bishop Sylvester Magro of Benghazi told Vatican Radio Feb. 23 that "everything has gone up in smoke."

    Everything inside the church and friary was destroyed; "everything that could be set on fire was set on fire," he said.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:15 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Meanwhile, christians in the United States continued their efforts to fund campaigns in Africa that make gay behavior a criminal offense punishable by death.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:19 am |
    • Tim Brown

      Wow that makes you so unique.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:31 am |
    • Doug

      @Joe Giardina. I am an atheist, and I believe the attacks on the church and Christians like in Libya are inexcusable. It is clear that Christians in some parts of the world are oppressed on the basis of their beliefs. However, it also seems clear to me that from a historical and sociopolitical perspective that they are oppressed due to their minority status rather than because the world has it in for Christians, or because Jesus said that Christians would be persecuted. The upshot of all of this is that all of us should fight oppression and repression when it exists in the world regardless of whether or not we have the same beliefs as those being oppressed.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:11 am |
  5. JJ

    All this time I've always thought when I heard the words "Christian persecution" it was of Christians persecuting others. That's all I've ever experienced.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:14 am |
  6. Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

    Hey, here's an Easter challenge: are there any believers out there who can post credible, reliable, sufficient independently verifiable evidence that a god (and I don't care which god) actually exists? And remember – the bible is simply a book, so quoting it will lose you marks! Okay, and post .......

    March 31, 2013 at 7:10 am |
    • Lanier

      Why are you here? This is a Christian blog, please take the unbelief elsewhere. It speaks volumes about you as a person to comment on something to argue.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:15 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Lanier: It is a belief blog, not a christian blog. You chirstians seem to like stealing things from everyone...christmas, easter, equal rights and now a belief blog that pertains to all blogs.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:18 am |
    • Tim Brown

      This is a blog about beliefs, stupid or otherwise, not just Christians genius.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:19 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      It's a Christian blog? Aren't Christians supposed to be open and welcoming?
      Oh, by the way, Lanier – fail. Yours is a typical response: go away with your logic, and let me bask in my fairy tales.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:20 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      All beliefs nor blogs

      March 31, 2013 at 7:22 am |
    • saggyroy

      Looks like you win Attack!

      March 31, 2013 at 7:27 am |
    • mark

      Why do atheist spend so much time on something they don't believe? Prove love exist!

      March 31, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • Neen

      You want proof? Uhh it's called a belief for a reason dummy. Happy Easter.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • mark

      Christ is risen today and he loves every atheist on the blog and to the ends of the earth. He loves you folks so much, and his love prevails. He really loves you, and his grace is sufficient. His love covers our sins and sinners, of which I am one.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Well, the evidence continues to pile up to prove that god exists ..... cricket, cricket, cricket

      March 31, 2013 at 7:46 am |
    • digitalgarlic

      God is not linear. Stop depending only on your left brain.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • mark

      Attack Jesus loves you so much. Accept can you prove love exist?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • mark

      Whoops "except."

      March 31, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • mark

      Do you deny Jesus ever existed? Just curious if you are just denying everything that had to do with Christianity for denial sake.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:55 am |
    • mark

      Oh, also that would be chirp chirp chirp. Crickets don't cricket they chirp:} Jesus loves you though.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:57 am |
    • mark

      Attack? Did you go to church?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • Richard

      The air you breath, the ground you walk on. If even something as simple as a paper clip had a creator then so does the amazing universe. Have you ever seen a house build itself? Yet, this spaceship called Earth that we live on is so much more sophisticated. Proves to me intelligent design by a Creator we call GOD.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:05 am |
    • Peace

      If you don't believe in God, why do you even bother to read articles like this? Why do you have to challenge something that you don't believe in? I think because deep down inside of you, something is telling you otherwise. God works in mysterious ways and He doesn't have to prove anything to you. On the other hand, the devil would do anything to be heard. Now it's up to you which side you take. It's your choice not to believe and it's ours to have faith. But I'm sure One day, the proof you wanna see will come to you unexpectedly...

      March 31, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • JUst sayin

      Unbeliever maybe, but surely at the brink of danger and death will be praying so hard so he could survive. God bless your soul!

      March 31, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • 1Setfree

      http://www.cbn.com/tv/1403094459001

      April 1, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
  7. Antiatheist

    Can't you angry bitter atheists shut up for one day?

    March 31, 2013 at 7:10 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Bitter? Why would you use that label?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:11 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Sure.

      The day evangelical christians stop trying to force a theocracy on the nation.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:12 am |
    • JJ

      We will when you Christians stop persecuting us.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:15 am |
    • Tim Brown

      We're fighting for our rights. How many atheists are in Congress, SCOTUS, or POTUS cabinet?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • Lanier

      I agree but the devil uses them to attempt to cause confusion. The atheist are just pawns they know no better just pray for them.

      Also please do not argue with them, the devil is the author of confusion.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:21 am |
    • Phillip

      Why is it Christians assume that the moment someone attempts to bring reality to some of the myths in Christianity, you assume they are atheists? I am a Jew – I certainly believe in G-d. Actually the same G-d Jesus believed in. Now what? You going to bash me as well – as you did the most famous Jew to the Gentiles? Your comment is proof there is no change of heart in one claiming to be "Christian".

      March 31, 2013 at 7:24 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      The devil? Okay, who made the devil? God? Who allows the devil to exist? God? Who has the power to get rid of the devil/?God? Who chooses NOT to get rid of the devil? God?

      So the devil is apparently part of God's plan, then? Designed to further fkkk with his creations? Your god has issues.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:25 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Lanier: Oops, wrong again...the devil is only in your fairy tale and thus does not exist in the lives of non-believers. Shouldn't you be getting ready for your weekly dose of delusions, I mean church? Why do you use a computer and the internet if you hate Atheists so much? Without an Atheist you'd have neither. Oh and while you're praying for us, we'll be thinking for you.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:26 am |
    • Katie

      Nice label you chose for yourself, and nice attack. How typical of a Christian.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:37 am |
    • Science

      To ..........Antiatheist

      Please share at easter Mass on Sunday thanks

      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 7:37 am |
    • Science

      Oops today thanks .............................................a public service.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:39 am |
    • Grace

      As an atheist, the folks posting attacking comments sicken me. I can accept that I don't need to argue with or make fun of everyone who believes in a different philosophy. The onslaught of judgmental rhetoric makes these folks seem no better than the people they criticize.

      I am sorry that some commenters on here cannot show empathy and compassion; maybe they NEED a little religion.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  8. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    Fewer USA citizens attend church every year.
    Eventually, most of us will see through the lie or choose a less toxic opiate.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:07 am |
  9. Joe Giardina

    April 23, 2012|8:56 am
    Hundreds of Muslims incinerated a Catholic church complex in the capital Khartoum amid growing hostilities between the Arab-dominated Muslim government of Sudan and the newly independent, predominantly Christian nation of South Sudan.

    A mob of several hundred shouting insults at southerners torched the church in Khartoum's Al-Jiraif district Saturday, The Associated Press reported. The church complex, which included a school and dormitories, was mostly used by southerners.

    Fire fighters could not put out the fire, according to witnesses.

    South Sudan seceded from the predominantly Sunni Muslim north in 2011 after decades of civil war. However, tens of thousands of Christian and animist southerners remained in Sudan.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:06 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Meanwhile, christians in the United States continued their campaign to deny legal rights to gays, while continuing to pour funds into efforts to make gay behavior a criminal offense, punishable by death, in several African countries.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:08 am |
  10. Confutatis

    I think it's funny how this article describes the martyr Felicity as a slave girl, but leaves out the fact that her owner was her fellow martyr Perpetua! I guess that goes to show you that being a Christian didn't automatically make one a moral person. Perpetua was willing to give up her life for her religion, but apparently had no problem owning another human being as a slave. Good thing we've evolved from such biblical "morality."

    March 31, 2013 at 7:05 am |
  11. Dawkins is an idiot

    North Korea- atheist state

    March 31, 2013 at 7:02 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Kim Jon Un – portrays himself as a god

      March 31, 2013 at 7:06 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Not at all. In fact, they take theism to an extreme and portray Kim Jong Un as a living god who demands obedience and worship because of his divine nature.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:10 am |
    • Tim Brown

      North Korea – communist state. Atheists don't like ideologies.

      Dawkins is a nice guy. I have met him a couple times. You should have a chat with him.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:12 am |
    • Science

      To ...............is an idiot

      Please share at easter Mass on Sunday thanks

      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 7:19 am |
    • Mirosal

      The North Koreans worship Kim Jong Un as their god. Just like the Ja'panese worshipped their emperor before WW2. They started their little war, and were nuked into submission. Do you think North Korea is headed down that same road?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:24 am |
  12. John Sharp

    Geez, another day in which people openly talk about their personal relationship with their imaginary friend.

    Please, the emperor has no clothes. This is obviously made up by man and not true, anyone with a rational mind can determine that.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:01 am |
    • martin

      maybe. but any mind that is rational will understand that human existence is a very, very mysterious proposition.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:12 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      The fact that human life may be mysterious does not provide the logical pathway to "therefore there must be a god. In fact, this specific, personal god, with these attributes"

      No, all that can be concluded from the statement that life is mysterious is that life is mysterious.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:18 am |
    • Sane Person

      Sort of like how ancient greeks would be mystified by an Iphone. Its only mysterious until you become educated enough to realize its not a magic god box that cant understand your voice and is likely to direct you off the nearest cliff rather than 7-11, but a rather complicated device, created by man, for man.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:32 am |
  13. Tim Brown

    The Christian Persecution Complex is alive and well...and sickening.

    They are the most bigoted and discriminatory group in the USA.

    Happy fake resurrection.

    March 31, 2013 at 6:59 am |
    • SantaAna

      Oh Oh !!

      March 31, 2013 at 7:02 am |
  14. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    I am not a Christian. I was raised as a Christian. I gave it up so I could be a better human being.

    March 31, 2013 at 6:56 am |
    • SantaAna

      You bragging or just plain dumb ???

      March 31, 2013 at 7:00 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Well, not plain dumb. He said he gave up Christianity.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:05 am |
  15. Joe Giardina

    He is Risen ! Alleluia !

    The Destruction of the Temple and Signs of the End Times

    13 As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”

    2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

    3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”

    5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

    9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

    12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

    March 31, 2013 at 6:53 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      He is coming! Oh, crap!

      Gospel of Vinz Clortho, 17:12 – Gozer the Traveller, he will come in one of the pre-chosen forms. During the rectification of the Vuldronaii, the Traveller came as a large and moving Torb! Then, during the third reconciliation of the last of the Meketrex Supplicants they chose a new form for him... that of a Giant Sloar! many Shubs and Zulls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Sloar that day I can tell you."

      March 31, 2013 at 6:59 am |
    • End Religion

      Please learn to walk in the many footsteps of Bilbo. In His name I pray...

      "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty wet hole, filled with the ends of earth worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole, with nothing to sit down on or to eat; it was a hobbit hole, and that means comfort."

      From the book of Bilbo, 1:1

      March 31, 2013 at 6:59 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Gozer would so kick Bilbo's hairy little hobbit butt!

      March 31, 2013 at 7:01 am |
    • John Sharp

      You are seriously pathetic for quoting that piece of crap literature.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:02 am |
    • Judith

      @John Sharp

      Now be nice and apologise to Joe Giardina.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:11 am |
    • Epic Forest

      Satan, disquised as god, has fooled everybody with that dangerous book he wrote.
      The pope is the anti christ, and you are all going to hell for praying to the wrong deity.
      Burn baby burn.

      April 1, 2013 at 6:58 am |
  16. Sane Person

    "For some reason, there’s this animosity against them."

    Yea, I can't for the life of me think of a single reason. *rolls eyes*

    March 31, 2013 at 6:52 am |
    • .

      you should for your life hangs in the balance

      March 31, 2013 at 6:54 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Your life hangs in the balance? Is that it? Is that all you got? Empty, idle threats? What are you – in grade 2?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:00 am |
    • Tim Brown

      Yeah why would anyone dislike these people. Come to South Carolina and see how these crimninals operate.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:01 am |
    • .

      no threat, simple honest truth beyond the comprehension of idiots and hate filled bigots.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:02 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Of course it's a threat. Labeling it as the truth? OOOOHHHH! now I'm really frightened. i take back the Grade 2 comment – more like junior kindergarten.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:04 am |
    • Sane Person

      Yes, yes, I know, god is gonna smite me and all that because I believe in equality. Your god really is quite the bigot.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:16 am |
  17. End Religion

    This "Christ" never existed. This religious fighting over who gets persecuted the most is pathetic. I don't see the proud and majestic Scientologists screaming 'persecution' at every turn like Christians. Now that religion has its act together!

    March 31, 2013 at 6:50 am |
    • .

      no credible scholar of antiquities denies the existence of Jesus. your prejudice and hatred is your loss

      March 31, 2013 at 6:55 am |
    • SixDegrees

      "no credible scholar of antiquities denies the existence of Jesus. "

      Uh – they all do, as a matter of fact.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:57 am |
    • Tim Brown

      Even if there was a "Jesus" the stories about him were written generations later and are complete BS. It's not like there was someone standing there recording things as they happened, saving it on a disk (or a scroll) drive for later generations.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:06 am |
    • .

      Name them, bear in mind the credible stipulation. i am aware of one atheist who claims scholarship holding that view but he was readily exposed by fellow professors who actually knew scholars of antiquity and the atheist recanted his error publicly. There are still a few lemmings about that try to make that false assertion but in so doing only expose their own ignorance to historical fact.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:08 am |
    • dman

      Even Dawkins has abandoned this discredited view.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:15 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Hey, dot-name, you made the initial claim (albeit in a negative form). The onus is on YOU to prove that ALL scholars of antiquities affirm the existence of Jesus. Let's hear your evidence. And remember – credible. So lot's of qualifications. And go .....

      March 31, 2013 at 7:15 am |
    • Sane Person

      By "credible scholar" he means : No scholar that agrees with me, disagrees with me.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:19 am |
    • End Religion

      Yes, they must always apend "credible" and then they get to decide who is credible, just like they point fingers at each other and claim "he's not a True Christian." Simpletons, the lot of them.

      The majority claiming Jesus actually existed are religious scholars who have a wee bit of bias. In any case, whether some dude named Jesus existed, or whether he was a mythical conglomeration, there is zero evidence of any miracles or god-like qualities. ZERO. And so, your Christ never existed.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • Epic Forest

      no credible scholar of antiquities denies the existence of Jesus. your prejudice and hatred is your loss

      Yeah, and back in the old days, every three of ten men where named Jesus.
      Try again.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:01 am |
  18. DEGREATTRUTH

    If a man can merry a man and a woman can merry a woman then why the hell can't I merry 2 wome
    n. I'm a streight male and I feel that if you will allow this kind of behavior then why the hell a streight man can't merry as many streight woman as he can afford. Two will be enough for me.

    March 31, 2013 at 6:48 am |
    • Judith

      You might do better to learn English before you consider marriage to any person.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:50 am |
    • End Religion

      Learn to spell, then come back and we'll work on improving your wealth of ignorance.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:51 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      You can't because you can't spell! Marry, nor merry. Straight, not streight.

      Oh, hang on – become a Mormon, have as many wives as you want.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:53 am |
    • No one

      You may be merry with as many people as you want, just don't marry them all.
      But if you really want to go down that path, why do so many people ignore "till death do you part"?

      March 31, 2013 at 6:54 am |
    • Epic Forest

      Go Merry your toaster.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:02 am |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things,

    March 31, 2013 at 6:48 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Like the prayers of the 9/11 hijackers changed the Manhattan skyline? Their prayers were answered.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:54 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Yes. It makes you weak and dependent.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:55 am |
    • .

      muslims do not pray to God you have no concept of what prayer is thus you expose you infantile ignorance.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:58 am |
    • .

      six...
      your hatred and bigotry is to your eternal loss. a closed mind is a terrible thing to waste

      March 31, 2013 at 7:00 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Hey, dot – name – Muslims pray to the same Abrahamic God as Christians. D'uh!!!!!

      March 31, 2013 at 7:02 am |
    • SixDegrees

      "your hatred and bigotry is to your eternal loss. a closed mind is a terrible thing to waste"

      Dude, read what you just wrote. And try to make actual sense next time, as hard as that seems to be for you.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:07 am |
    • Mirosal

      Name one, JUST ONE, event in which it is agreed upon that prayer and prayer ALONE caused something to change. Please, cite your sources. If your source is "religious", it is already biased. I'm looking for an unbiased, preferably 3rd party source or eyewitness.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:20 am |
    • dman

      Hey dot, 6 may very well be a bigot, but your an idiot, who do you think muslims pray to, do you thinkz Allah is the name of a different God? FTR it is nothing but the Arabic word for God, the same God you pray to numbnuts.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:20 am |
  20. conrad

    oh well between Biill Mather and CNN members comments
    { see all hateful comments about the old Pope and the New Pope in your web)
    I will say than the Christians have all right to feel being persecute

    oh I forgot to mention the gay people
    there alot hate come from them to against Christians

    March 31, 2013 at 6:40 am |
    • End Religion

      I don't see any hate at all coming from gays toward Christians but I don't see how you could blame gays if they did hate Christians - the Christian book of rules says to kill gays. That's pretty much declaring war on the gays first, idiot.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:53 am |
    • Epic Forest

      Get back to me when Gay people start passing laws against Christians.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:03 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.