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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. Todd

    CNN do you guys always needs to be party poopers. I am actually OK with these articles, however you put them on Easter, one of the largest celebrated christian holy days. When you do these type of articles on Easter you are just saying "Your Religion is Wrong and we want to point out how wrong you guys are." Or perhaps you are just trying keep you vocal Atheist population happy while everyone else is celebrating. Just go to the party, have some fun. Save being a stick in the mud for an other day.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • Saraswati

      Anyone who's so devout this article would bother them would be celebrating Easter with their family and not reading CNN stories right now.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • The real Tom

      What I wonder is why people who are celebrating Easter are on here at all. Why aren't you in church, having dinner with your families, reading the bible, out for a walk, getting together with friends, visiting the shut-ins who aren't able to attend services, or any number of other activities? Since you're well aware of the nature of the comments you'll read here and the kind of articles you'll find, why would you look at all? One would think, reading complaints like yours, that CNN is the one and only venue for news and that there isn't a single other source on the web. One would also think that this is the ONLY POSSIBLE WAY you could spend Easter Sunday.

      There's always an "OFF" button, dear. Use it.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • Christopher Urbanek

      The fact in the matter is many Christians were persecuted by the Romans throughout the first couple hundred years of Christianity. I have no problem with atheists or any other group of people but this is an offensive headline on Easter. I think that with CNN's rating the way it it and the cable industry dying the way it is and its refusal to adapt to the demands of today, CNN is just throwing it the towel. It no longer cares about anything including good journalism.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • The real Tom

      AGAIN, for the umpteenth time, why are you HERE, then? If CNN is such a blasphemous site, why come here? Is this the only channel you can access? Leave if it's so offensive.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      Todd, Wouldn't Monday be the holy day? If you believe that Jesus was resurrected surely that would be the day to celebrate.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:58 am |
  2. J Robinson

    @SixDegree
    "It is these responsibility of those making extraordinary claims to provide the proof for those claims." You are simply stepping back from the issue. Perhaps it is you who are making the "extraordinary" claim. Since you believe in a god of "chance" "randomness" or some other small lettered god, your belief is no less extraordinary than those who identify and define a specific First cause that they take on faith. And your demand for proof leads to an infinite regression of arguments until you have to name a "something" as the beginning of everything. Even if you say you "don't know", your unknowing becomes a god similar to other unknowable gods.

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

      Quite bad logic! "Don't know" does not mean I assume anything. It is in fact much better than assuming a God with a lot of specific features (all loving, all knowing, etc). The "I don't know" allows future observations to shape one's knowledge whatever that might, god or natural causes. But the irrational claim that "I know" it's God is not logical and certainly arrogant especially when it is being forced upon everyone else.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  3. Apotropoxy

    Jesus wan't persecuted. He was killed by a government that abhorred anyone who sought to destabilize the prevailing order. Rome did that to anyone whom they caught doing it and Jesus would surely have known it.
    The man so many people now worship as a god was, if the gospel stories are true, an apocalypticist. He, John the Baptist and later Paul, were convinced that Roman rule would be imminently overthrown and that death was a triviality compared to what was to follow. Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey at Passover with a gaggle of followers and/or his money changer incident in the Temple were more than enough to seal his fate.
    Jews were persecuted by the Romans because they were a particularly difficult group to control. Christians had a few brief phases when they were targeted but that all ended when Constantine made Christianism a state religion.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:40 am |
  4. Eric

    Why so much rudeness against Christianity? Fools mock, but they shall mourn.

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

      Because it's a socially-incompatible backward bronze-age religion that spreads bigotry, divisiveness, and has zero basis in fact. That's a pretty good reason.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:50 am |
  5. One Day

    Ahhh...one day this people will laugh that Christianity, Islam, and Judaism even existed. I dont think I will see those in my lifetime but it is good to know that somewhere down the line humanity will give up fairy tales and egoism. Its funny how supposedly intelligent people can still believe in this sort of thing...May all being have piece and happiness...

    March 31, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • shane

      Get a life and stop demeaning what other's believe.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • Seyedibar

      Demean away. Show people how preposterous their animal-talking, mud-man-walking 6000 yr old world is, and rub their nose in it. Stupidity should always be called out.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  6. shane

    Can we just shut this message board down CNN? People keep calling it a "blog" when it is not. It is a comments section for people to, not read the article, but to demean others for their beliefs. If they want to spit negatives, let them do it on their own – you just give them a free forum.

    It is Easter and I love my God and I am forever thankful for his love and his sacrifice for me.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Billy

      cool, bro. just keep that crazy shit to yourself

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

      isn't your god the one who set up the entrapment in the first place? cannot god not forgive without a sacrifice?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      hahahaha...not much of a sacrifice when jesus never died to begin with....more like a good drunk where he slept for 3 days.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Science

      to shane.................................. if you read the transcripts you might learn somethimg ?

      Dover Trial Transcripts............................................. FACTS.

      Below are the complete transcripts from the Dover Trial. Thanks to our friends at the National Center for Science Education for helping us fill in the missing transcripts.

      http://www.aclupa.org/legal/legaldocket/intelligentdesigncase/dovertrialtranscripts.htm

      March 31, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • Leo

      Is your faith so weak that you can't handle a little bit of dialogue? Do you consider yourself "persecuted" if someone happens to disagree with you?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Crazyis

      You're all nutcases and should be called out for it every single time. This is just the beginning, I personally will call you out in public or anywhere you flaunt your ridiculous 'beliefs' which are just nonsense to say the very least. If you choose to be that stupid you're going to hear it from us and be ridiculed for it every chance I get, because ignorance is dangerous and religious ignorance has cost and continues to cost human life.

      March 31, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • PerceivedReality

      Athiests,
      You think believing in the God of Abraham is crazy and foolish. You believe everything came from nothing, which in itself breaks the laws of science. You believe all the energy to make all the matter in the universe came from nothing. You believe matter just appears along with space and just starts programing itself into life. The Bible says "The fool says in his heart, there is no God" I think the Bible got it right YOU are fools and bat*hit crazy.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
  7. homer jones

    Atheist try to fight their guilt by either finding and maginifying mistakes that Chritsians make or by trying to make a case in heir minds that God is not real. Does anyone dedicate heir lives to preaching that santa claus is not real? But their empty, shamed hearts are consantly torured by their guilt. The only way to relieve it is to accept and enjoy the peace you will feel.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • rick

      no one is invoking the name of santa claus as justification for denying others their civil rights

      March 31, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • MalcomR

      Thank you for that. I was a atheist until I read that. Now I am a devout xian.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • dave z

      agree... this is just another trash article by CNN... obvious hatred towards the truth of the BIBLE and Chrstian church history.

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

      Santa Claus is as real as god. Why would you dismiss Santa when there is equal evidence of both existing.

      Why do Adam and Eve have belly buttons?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      I'm at peace without god. I see no evidence to support your god or any gods existence and until I do see said evidence, there is no reason to accept it as anything more than fiction.
      The difference between Santa and gods is that by the time people reach the age of 14, they usually have dropped the belief in Santa.
      You too are an Atheist when it comes down to it...you reject all other gods just as we reject all gods...when you are able to comprehend that, you might comprehend why yours is no different to us.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  8. Hunter

    Bogus Christian martyrs? Like Rep. Sally Kern, who attacked gays and then wrote a book called 'The Stoning of Sally Kern.'

    March 31, 2013 at 11:37 am |
  9. Timmy

    The lion seems to saying, "Hmmmm, what's for dinner? Oh, Christians again!"

    March 31, 2013 at 11:36 am |
  10. Brampt

    The bible says that God will put in to the heart of the world leaders the desire to exterminate what the bible call as, False Religion. Why? Because of the blood shed False Religion has cause in the name of God. The bible also mentions that, after False Religion is exterminated, the world leaders will focus there attention to Gods true worshipers, but when that happens, God will protect his people and will exterminate the world political poweres and the wicked people. Then a new era will start for humanity under Gods Rulership.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • Melissa

      The bible was written by a bunch of bronze age sheepherders who thought the earth was flat and talked about how to get the best price when you sell your daughter.

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

      Except that everything you just said isn't real

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

      Crack is whack.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Brampt,

      Prove your claims are true, the bible is not the proof, it is the claim.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • JJ

      Seek help.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • myway

      One small problem, God did not write the OT. So, anything said about god has been channeled by "prophets", re-told by temple priests or village story tellers who probably passed it on for centuries before a scribe captured it on a media that no longer exists. We're reading copies of copies that eventually were assembled and re-composed by the jewish elite during exile in Babylon when they decided the reason for their unfortunate fate was the lack of monotheism mandated by the 10 Commandments. Or was it a Library of Alexandria project paid for by the greek pharaos? No one knows for sure. In any case, if someone walked into our lives claiming god told them this or that today, what would we think about such a person?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • Melissa

      God did not write the NT either. It was mostly written by people long after the events were supposed to have taken place. Nice try, but its all fiction. You can't even prove the ten commandments are real because Moses went up there all by his lonesome. For all you knew, he carved it into rock then brought it down himself to dupe the stu pid masses into being his willing slaves.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
  11. Bob

    If there is a perfect being that created the universe and believes in interfering with our world (through Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha...whatever you believe), then why are all religious texts so flawed and flimsy? Why do all religious texts promote hate a bigotry? Why is there zero proof of anything supernatural ever occurring on earth?

    March 31, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • Christian7

      The Bible is not flimsy. It is amazingly accurate.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • The real Tom

      Then why doesn't the bible tell YOU when Easter is?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Billy

      @C7. No, I mean AT C7: LOLOLOLOL.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Bob

      So Christian7, we are all decedents of Adam and Eve? We are all inbred decedents of just two people?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Hunter

      Accurate? So which is true?

      PSA 145:9 The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.

      JER 13:14 And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together, saith the LORD: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them.

      EXO 15:3 The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.

      ROM 15:33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

      MAT 1:16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

      LUK 3:23 And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli.

      JOH 10:30 I and my Father are one.

      JOH 14:28 Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.

      GEN 1:25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
      GEN 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

      GEN 2:18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
      GEN 2:19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • Christian7

      Bob, How is it possible that we could not all have a common ancestor regardless of how life formed on earth? Please give your logic.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • rick

      christian7: one breeding pair resulted in all of us?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • Hmmm....

      You must get your facts straight before you jump to beliefs....Buddha (Siddharta Gautama) was a man. Never claimed to be god, son of god, the devil; in fact, is not even in the same league as the ones you mentioned before. Buddhism (in its true form) provides a guide to the elimination of suffering, not deity worship; in fact never talks about God or gods in the sense the west does....FYI Buddha was born 630 years before Jesus, and it is proven that Buddhism traveled from eastern India all the way to Syria and the Middle East via the Silk Road....i am quite sure Jesus had heard some of his teachings...some of the things that Jesus says are a direct reflection of the eightfold path from buddhism....Jesus was the greatest salesman of all time....sold the most books in history....he really honestly doesnt deserve worship but an Academy Award

      March 31, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • Bob

      C7, we can have a common ancestry and still not come from a single pair. You should take a biology class.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • Christian7

      Hunter, To be good and compassionate to all means you will not allow bullies to hurt some while being willing to forgive the bullies if they decide to repent and change their ways. No?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Christian7

      The real Tom, I would like to discuss your logic. You wrote "Then why doesn't the bible tell YOU when Easter is?" IF I fail to understand the Bible and do not get the Easter date right because I am stupid, how does that mean the Bible is wrong? I will wait for your more intelligent explanation from your all knowing powerful brain.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • The real Tom

      You're the troll that wants to claim the bible is inerrant. If that's the case, why not look up the date of Easter in it?

      Not my problem that you're too dumb to figure out how to troll effectively, moron.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • The real Tom

      Why do you keep changing your name, little troll? Are you ashamed of your posts? Why not keep the same name?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:58 am |
  12. Christopher Urbanek

    For this to be CNN's headline on Easter Sunday demonstrates CNN's extreme hatred for Christians. I'm glad that I stopped watching CNN a long time ago. I'm a progressive Christian and liberal on 90% of political issues including marriage equality and women's rights; however, I think that this should be seen as a tipping point for Christians everywhere. This is like denying the holocaust. CNN is a thing of the past as is Cable news service. CNN has more in common with the president of Iran and his extreme bigotries toward Jews than American values and democracy.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • Melissa

      Why? Because they say that there wasn't as much persecution as the christians like to claim? That's not a lie, its a fact. You not liking it is your own problem.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • Billy

      Well that was a big bowl of stupid.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • dave z

      I agree. CNN is anti-CHRIST.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • rick

      yet you took the time to comment, thereby increasing CNNs revenue

      March 31, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • gajfreeman

      “To deny the history of the movement is a way of attacking the movement,” Morgan says. She's not attacking it...so stop being so paranoid. The job of a historian is to inquire, to search for the truth. Your response is one who wants to keep the truth at bay so you may further your own martyrdom.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Hunter

      Oh poor thing. Are you feeling persecuted? Are you our comment section martyr?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • visitor

      It's talking about martyrs. There is nothing disrespectful in the article. Happy Easter.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
  13. Doug

    Regardless of your beliefs and views, is it not tasteless for CNN to run this as their lead story on Easter morning??? Americans are appalled by anything done to insult Islam believers, so why is this felt to be appropriate???
    There is nothing wrong with the article, but its timing makes it a poor and inflammatory choice of journalism, and would be taken as "persecution" if was directed toward any other belief system.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • Austin

      Look at the sado masochistic marketing that is broadcasted every day. how many murders are there per day, and why are amanda knox, Jodi Arias, and blade runner a smash hit?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • The real Tom

      "Blade Runner" is a "smash hit"?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Hunter

      Cry me a river.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:46 am |
  14. woody

    Religion as we know it today is only 2000 years old as the human has been on the planet for around a million years or so . The Christian bible is a book of combined stories written by people as they perceived the world some 2000 years ago . Today we look at the world a little differently as you can not use a bible to fix things we use in the 21 century . What is Easter ? What is the history of Easter . Begin by looking up THE SPRING EQUINOX . It is how it all began !

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

      God knew what it would be like today 2,000 years ago. And he know what will happen 2,000 years into the future. In the Bible it says that the whole world would see two witness dead in the streets. How 2,000 years ago could the whole world see something without TV?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • The real Tom

      How did you get a computer?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • Agnes of Dog

      Look c7, you already bruised your brain on trying to figure out when Easter is next; I would suggest not attempting anything beyond the next decade.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • DoctorKnow

      Agnes of Dog, When you die if you ended up in place with people talking to one another as you are writing to Christian7, would that heaven or hell? You don't seem very nice to me. It seems like hell would be a good fit for you. Isn't Christian7 trying to save your soul from eternal torment? Why do you find this repulsive?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
  15. liyas

    I think they were converted.

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

    Were the Nazarites, or the priesthood, the group Sampson was in........ how they weren't allowed to go near a vineyard.......
    I was wondering, did Christ as the high priest from the order of Melchizedek, did He fulfill the priestly duties to a T?

    When people say He drank wine, "He came eating and drinking" how does this mean He drank wine?

    John the baptist did not, he had his own style. But I head wine refers in the Hebrew and New testament language it has like 8 different definitions, and some are "jam" "jelly" and they would take a jam paste and put it into their wine skins full of water because the water had microbes in it that needed to be treated with the alcohol to keep it drinkable. And also the term wine referred to a watered down wine that was 1/10 as potent as modern wine.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Oatwillie

      Jesus was a social drinker (as the term would be understood at that time. The Roman world drank wine mixed with water-only barbarians (not part of the Roman world) drank wine neat.

      April 12, 2013 at 5:49 am |
  17. Me

    Crusades were Catholics the worst of any religion they killed and forced religion not Pentecostal or baptist and much of the catholic church was remnants of the roman papacy which were pagan religion.u can't lump together all people of a faith to determain it's truth

    March 31, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • JC

      The Atheist movements of Stalin and Hitler killed quite a few more?

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

      Sorry JC, but Hitler had Jewish heritage and was raised a Christian.

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

      Hitler was a devout Christian. He killed the Jews because he believed he was commanded by god. “My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a
      fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded
      by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and
      summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest
      not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian
      and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord
      at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the
      Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight
      against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with
      deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact
      that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross. As
      a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have
      the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice… And if there is
      anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly, it is
      the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty
      to my own people. And when I look on my people I see them work and
      work and toil and labor, and at the end of the week they have only
      for their wages wretchedness and misery. When I go out in the morning
      and see these men standing in their queues and look into their
      pinched faces, then I believe I would be no Christian.

      Adolf Hitler

      March 31, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Akira

      JC, how many times soes it have to be pointed out that it wasn’t atheism that killed these people, it was totalitarianism? Nothing was done "in the name of Atheism."

      March 31, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Austin

      2 John 1:7.
      For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.

      Answer: Jesus warned us that “false Christs and false prophets” will come and will attempt to deceive even God’s elect (Matthew 24:23-27; see also 2 Peter 3:3 and Jude 17-18). The best way to guard yourself against falsehood and false teachers is to know the truth. To spot a counterfeit, study the real thing. Any believer who “correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) and who makes a careful study of the Bible can identify false doctrine. For example, a believer who has read the activities of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Matthew 3:16-17 will immediately question any doctrine that denies the Trinity. Therefore, step one is to study the Bible and judge all teaching by what the Scripture says.

      Jesus said “a tree is recognized by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33). When looking for “fruit,” here are three specific tests to apply to any teacher to determine the accuracy of his or her teaching:

      March 31, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • Hunter

      JC, not likely. Besides no one has ever slew people in the name of No God. Just because there may be a rare event where the atheist killed, doesn't mean atheism was the reason. Now when you paint a red cross on your chest and start slaying people in God's name, then you have another story.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Austin

      Revelation 21:8 ►

      But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the s.exually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."

      March 31, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • The real Tom

      Back up the bus, Austin. Explain what "Blade Runner" has to do with anything.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:51 am |
    • Austin

      .....21Contentions, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      JC. Hitler was a christian and Stalin did not primarily kill because of religion

      March 31, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • Austin

      his woman was a model and they flash all kinds of pictures and photo shoots all over trying to increase interest in a murder. selling s.ex on a murder article is sado massachistic. Do we need pictures or are words enough?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • visitor

      JC I am sure you have heard this a thousand times but Hitler WAS a Christian. Maybe he was a bad one, or "flawed" as some of you put it. But a Christian.

      Which means by Christian rules, he gets to go to Heaven.

      The Jews he murdered get to go to H-ll.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Austin, you are babbling AGAIN. None of what you've posted here makes any sense at all.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  18. DanZ

    They should post an article about the fallacies of The Quaran during Ramadan and compare the comments section. Particularly of the people who post on here and do not believe in any god. I'm a Christian but have a lot more respect for anyone who follows A faith as opposed to those who believe nothing.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Saraswati

      This story isn't about fallacies of the bible.

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

      I suppose they might is 70 plus percent were Muslim in this country, if CNN were truly as anti-religion as you seem to think.
      Can one "catch" persecution?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • Akira

      ...not to mention that the comments from atheists would be the same, as they do not believe any gods are real, but you can bet that the Christian commenters would be all over it decrying Muslims, as, I've noticed, they are want to do.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Austin

      Good morning to my sensible friends. Resurrection Power is beyond comprehension. May it be delivered to your spiritual kingdom. Love and Peace be with you.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Shout-Out: TheBibleReloaded

      Or the fairy in the sky reloaded ?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • Austin

      Phillipians 4
      4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and pet.ition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

      8Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • DanZ

      My point is that it's socially acceptable to post this garbage because you are criticizing the majority. However, it is just as wrong to criticize any religion no matter who you might offend or how many followers they have. You can bet they would never most something like this on Islam. Hypocrite

      March 31, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
  19. Dale Little

    A politician had to apologize for offending some people for using the term "Trail of Tears" in a sentence that referred to a basketball game. Some have had to apologize for denying the holocaust, but fabricating lies and belittling Christianity is fair game for anyone. Some of the posts here show that many would willingly participate in persecuting Christians right now, or at least give their approval to those who would. Were there some embellishments made of the accounts of persecution? Out of millions who have suffered such persecution, I would be surprised if there were not any. After all, fish tend to get larger each time the story of the catch is retold from one person to the other. God confronted Job because he and his friends seemed to want to impress one another with their knowledge. '"Then the LORD answered Job ... and said: "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? ...I will question you, and you make it known to me. "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding."'
    I would ask Candida Moss, Joyce Salisbury and Selina O' Grady, "where were you when all these Christians were persecuted?"

    March 31, 2013 at 11:30 am |
  20. Al

    This is wrong, early Christians was really persecuted after the Lord Jesus and Apostles died. There is APOSTASY happened during the first century Church and Rome is the main player on this and that's why no more original members of the true CHURCH OF CHRIST built by Christ existed and the world saw Roman Catholicism as one big religion due to their power, conquering and INQUISITION that happened. Perpetua is probably on of the millions of victims. History attest on this fact and we can all read it. Bible is complete most of all and it was stated there and prophesied that Apostasy will happen or occur after the death of the Apostle.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Austin

      Good post. Many versions of this persecution are derived from disdain and rejection. It is simply the beloved Son of God that people still hate with lies.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:42 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.