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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. Troglodytes Entertaining All

    Christianity wasn't spread as a result of persecution... It was spread through the brainwashing of weak-minded people.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • End Atheism

      Sorry, only weak-minded people think as you do.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • Troglodytes Entertaining All

      "Sorry, only weak-minded people think as you do."

      LOL... You're the one who believes in talking snakes and men walking on water... Most six-year-olds dismiss these things as ridiculous.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • Edweird69

      @End Atheism – No, Christians just eat shrimp, wear mixed fabrics, and get in line at Chick-Fil-A, to persecute those with whom they dislike. disgusting

      March 31, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • End Atheism

      What a lot of weak-minded individuals you are, falling hook, line, and sinker for dishonest or ignorant atheistic tripe that has absolutely zero understanding of theology.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • Troglodytes Entertaining All

      "...falling hook, line, and sinker for dishonest or ignorant atheistic tripe that has absolutely zero understanding of theology."

      So, you're saying that there are no talkin g snakes or men walking on water in the bible?? Wrong... And it gets better. What about pregnant virgins?? And of course all the people who Christians slaughtered in the Crusades... Religion is the single biggest problem with humanity right now, but fortunately, we're growing out of it.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • MalcomR

      Zero understanding of theology. Despite that being completely false (atheists generally have a better understanding of theology than most god people), how does a "better understanding" of theology do anything other than convince one that it is a load of delusional crap?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • morgan

      that is the beauty of faith! those who stubbornly reject things that don't make sense to them lact something in their life, something called faith. whether it is faith in God, faith in one's self, or faith in others, it is an important part of one's life! somethings may seem in-logical at first, but once one put's their faith in something, their eyes are opened and they can then see the logical side of these"in-logical" principles. the only way to understand faith is to experience it!

      March 31, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Troglodytes Entertaining All

      Morgan – Faith is nothing more than lying to yourself in order to escape reality...

      “The difference between faith and insanity is that faith is the ability to hold firmly to a conclusion that is incompatible with the evidence, whereas insanity is the ability to hold firmly to a conclusion that is incompatible with the evidence.”

      William Harwood

      March 31, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • End Atheism

      Funny, if atheists had any confidence in what they say, they wouldn't have to crawl out of the rotten woodwork to support each other.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • Troglodytes Entertaining All

      "Funny, if atheists had any confidence in what they say, they wouldn't have to crawl out of the rotten woodwork to support each other."

      Of course, the truth is that people who exude confidence don't constantly need to reaffirm their beliefs... Atheists know we're right not because it's been proven that there's no god, but because the bible, and every other religious book in history, have been proven to be pure nonsense.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      "...faith is the ability to hold firmly to a conclusion that is incompatible with the evidence"

      This is not the definition of faith. (Why would you expect to get an accurate definition from someone who doesn't have faith?) Faith is the ability to firmly hold to s conclusion that is supported by the evidence when that conclusion is not absolutely proved.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
  2. John P. Tarver, MS/PE

    Let us review Roman persecution of Christians Jews and Ba'alzebub worshipers:
    1. The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 69 AD and 100 Princes of Israel were enslaved to build the Colleseum
    2. Jerusalem was burned to the ground in 135 AD to persecute Christians
    3. Carthidge was similarly burned to the ground in 136 AD to end the worship of Ba'al there

    March 31, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • Agnes of Dog

      Did you even read the article, Tarvball?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      I perfer tar baby or tarheel, as it has historical reference to when Tarver owned NC.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  3. gooflett

    I think one thing to consider is what was the root cause of Perpetua and the other martyrs faith, hope, and conviction and all of the Christians since. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 it says "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born."

    The belief that Jesus is who he said he was and did what he came to do is what caused the spread of Christianity. Not the Martyrs. The martyrs only testify to the Truth that Jesus rose again on the third day and the martyrs believed all the way to death.

    May we all read and consider the life and teachings of Jesus. This "amazing grace" is worth spreading from generation to generation, country to country, and man to man until He comes again.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • Edweird69

      Your handle fits your mentality. "until he comes again"? He never existed in the first place.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
  4. biggles

    Yo Santa, what was proven incorrect about creation?

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

      Still confused by the reply thingie, huh? You're a real genius, all right.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
  5. useless

    Organized religion is a big lie. Capitalism is the truth. Perform or perish.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • End Atheism

      Well, I guess atheists lose, then, as they all lazily sit back, drink alcohol, smoke weed, and bully people of religion, calling them hypocrites while not showing their own moral standards so that their own hypocrisy can be judged.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      Alcohol??? Didn't Jesus supposedly turn water into wine?

      So Jesus doesn't live up to your moral standards?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • End Atheism

      Boy did you ever miss the point, underwear.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • morgan

      say what you wan't about religion, but no country has outlasted the jewish faith, the muslim faith, or the christian faith. religion is something that gives people real hope, real pride, and real courage.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
  6. Vince

    Of course, when it comes to persecution, nobody does it better than the Christians what with their inquisitions, holocausts, crusades and innumerable religious wars. How many hundreds of millions of innocent people have been murdered in the name of Jesus?

    March 31, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • deep blue

      In the name of Jesus, but the motivation was mostly wealth or power.
      I'm an atheist, but organized religion isn't the problem.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • Duke

      Hundreds of millions? Really? Do you even know what the world population was back in the days of the inquisition and holy wars? And the holocaust was on account of fascist socialism, not from Christianity. Hitler had all but revoked his early years as a Catholic.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  7. deep blue

    I'm scandalized that CNN would write such a blatantly pro-Catholic article. Christianity spread through the good works of good Christians? Early Christians spread their message by helping those who could not help themselves? Soon they'll be saying that Jesus washed the feet of convicted criminals or some nonsense.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • visitor

      Indeed, it persecutes the "true" Christians, Protestants.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
  8. Attack of the 50 Foot Magic 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 12:11 pm |
    • Kid Zoloft

      Perhaps you should look up the word "Faith".

      March 31, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • Mike

      Meanwhile Magic Undies can't prove his/her positions either. But thanks for pontificating more Sharia-atheism.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Relativity and quantum mechanics require a sentient being outside the universe to make the universe real.

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

      Its called faith

      March 31, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      Let's see – scoreboard time:

      Fail.
      Fail.
      Fail.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      And fail.
      Faith is the reason given for believing something where there is no good evidence or reason to believe it.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  9. Mike

    Is Easter Sunday really the best day for this to be the lead story on CNN? Normally I take conservative rants about the liberal press hating religion with a grain of salt but I have to wonder here.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • Edweird69

      Since Christians show no respect for others, why should we show any respect for their (stolen from pagans) holiday? Their religion deserves ridicule daily.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • morgan

      this is true!

      March 31, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
  10. Mg

    It's all very funny. Have a sense of humor people. Your gonna need one.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • Edweird69

      Why will I NEED a sense of humor?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  11. DoctorKnow

    There are many Christian persecution world wide everyday.

    "Islamic hard-liners stormed a mosque in suburban Cairo, turning it into torture chamber for Christians who had been demonstrating against the ruling Muslim Brotherhood in the latest case of violent persecution that experts fear will only get worse." - FoxNews

    March 31, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      And Islamic dick-wad fundamentalists are among the worst and most dangerous religitards going. Give me a good Christian fundamentalist nutbar ANY day of the week over a fundamentalist Muslim.

      There, how's that for showing some solidarity with Christians?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
  12. David Richardson

    CNN... Poor taste on one of Christianities most important days of the year. Just another indication of your organizations bias against Christians.Unfortunately nothing new for CNN and nothing new for liberal theologians. It is always easy to present alternate ideas causing confusion regardless of the true facts. Yeah... lets take slap Christians on Easter for ratings. Nice!

    March 31, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
  13. Brampt

    Just heared that in Cyprus, the biggest money makes and land owner the Orthodox Church, is asking for the Finance minister to resign. Why? Because the government wants %60 or the money in deposits over $100 thousand... I predict sooner or later the Churches are gonna get sacked!

    March 31, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
  14. Ray Briggs

    It bothers me how many of the news articles related to religion pick someone who teaches somewhere and has a crazy view of something. "Jesus may have been married!" "Jesus was really a woman!" "Early Christian persecution overrated!" Look this one up: Mikhail Gorbachev promised he would do what no Soviet leader had done before; "eliminate Christianity in Russia." Ask Solzhenitsyn if anyone was persecuted for being a Christian.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Ed

      The gospel accounts are pretty crazy.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • Tabitha Black

      While Solzenitsyn certainly converted while he was already IN the gulag, his oppression had very little to do with his faith. I think Jews got the worse end of the Soviet era but I don't hear them crying if there's no singing of Hannukah songs in the public schools.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Tabitha Black

      You realize the crazy "person who teaches somewhere"?? is teaching at a major Catholic university and has actually researched the issue, right?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • visitor

      yeah that "teaches somewhere is" Notre Dame.

      LOL

      March 31, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
  15. NERO!!!!

    You guys better chill before I come back!!!!!!!!!!!! l

    March 31, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
  16. Edweird69

    Since he arose from the grave, as did Lazarus...how come people aren't being raised from the dead today? Can this "miracle" not be done again, or is their god fresh out of magic?

    March 31, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
  17. Colin

    The Bible is probably the most internally inconsistent book in history. Here are some contradictions about the nature of God. If I were to add morality and history to the list, they would number in the hundreds.

    1. God is satisfied with his works
    Gen 1:31
    God is dissatisfied with his works.
    Gen 6:6

    2. God dwells in chosen temples
    2 Chron 7:12,16
    God dwells not in temples
    Acts 7:48

    3. God dwells in light
    Tim 6:16
    God dwells in darkness
    1 Kings 8:12/ Ps 18:11/ Ps 97:2

    4. God is seen and heard
    Ex 33:23/ Ex 33:11/ Gen 3:9,10/ Gen 32:30/ Is 6:1/
    Ex 24:9-11
    God is invisible and cannot be heard
    John 1:18/ John 5:37/ Ex 33:20/ 1 Tim 6:16

    5. God is tired and rests
    Ex 31:17
    God is never tired and never rests
    Is 40:28

    6. God is everywhere present, sees and knows all things
    Prov 15:3/ Ps 139:7-10/ Job 34:22,21
    God is not everywhere present, neither sees nor knows all
    things
    Gen 11:5/ Gen 18:20,21/ Gen 3:8

    7. God knows the hearts of men
    Acts 1:24/ Ps 139:2,3
    God tries men to find out what is in their heart
    Deut 13:3/ Deut 8:2/ Gen 22:12

    8. God is all powerful
    Jer 32:27/ Matt 19:26
    God is not all powerful
    Judg 1:19

    9. God is unchangeable
    James 1:17/ Mal 3:6/ Ezek 24:14/ Num 23:19
    God is changeable
    Gen 6:6/ Jonah 3:10/ 1 Sam 2:30,31/ 2 Kings 20:1,4,5,6/
    Ex 33:1,3,17,14

    10. God is just and impartial
    Ps 92:15/ Gen 18:25/ Deut 32:4/ Rom 2:11/ Ezek 18:25
    God is unjust and partial
    Gen 9:25/ Ex 20:5/ Rom 9:11-13/ Matt 13:12

    11. God is the author of evil
    Lam 3:38/ Jer 18:11/ Is 45:7/ Amos 3:6/ Ezek 20:25
    God is not the author of evil
    1 Cor 14:33/ Deut 32:4/ James 1:13

    12. God gives freely to those who ask
    James 1:5/ Luke 11:10
    God withholds his blessings and prevents men from receiving
    them
    John 12:40/ Josh 11:20/ Is 63:17

    13. God is to be found by those who seek him
    Matt 7:8/ Prov 8:17
    God is not to be found by those who seek him
    Prov 1:28

    14. God is warlike
    Ex 15:3/ Is 51:15
    God is peaceful
    Rom 15:33/ 1 Cor 14:33

    15. God is cruel, unmerciful, destructive, and ferocious
    Jer 13:14/ Deut 7:16/ 1 Sam 15:2,3/ 1 Sam 6:19
    God is kind, merciful, and good
    James 5:11/ Lam 3:33/ 1 Chron 16:34/ Ezek 18:32/ Ps 145:9/
    1 Tim 2:4/ 1 John 4:16/ Ps 25:8

    16. God's anger is fierce and endures long
    Num 32:13/ Num 25:4/ Jer 17:4
    God's anger is slow and endures but for a minute
    Ps 103:8/ Ps 30:5

    17. God commands, approves of, and delights in burnt offerings,
    sacrifices ,and holy days
    Ex 29:36/ Lev 23:27/ Ex 29:18/ Lev 1:9
    God disapproves of and has no pleasure in burnt offerings,
    sacrifices, and holy days.
    Jer 7:22/ Jer 6:20/ Ps 50:13,4/ Is 1:13,11,12

    18. God accepts human sacrifices
    2 Sam 21:8,9,14/ Gen 22:2/ Judg 11:30-32,34,38,39
    God forbids human sacrifice
    Deut 12:30,31

    19. God tempts men
    Gen 22:1/ 2 Sam 24:1/ Jer 20:7/ Matt 6:13
    God tempts no man
    James 1:13

    20. God cannot lie
    Heb 6:18
    God lies by proxy; he sends forth lying spirits t deceive
    2 Thes 2:11/ 1 Kings 22:23/ Ezek 14:9

    21. Because of man's wickedness God destroys him
    Gen 6:5,7
    Because of man's wickedness God will not destroy him
    Gen 8:21

    22. God's attributes are revealed in his works.
    Rom 1:20
    God's attributes cannot be discovered
    Job 11:7/ Is 40:28

    23. There is but one God
    Deut 6:4
    There is a plurality of gods
    Gen 1:26/ Gen 3:22/ Gen 18:1-3/ 1 John 5:7

    March 31, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • DoctorKnow

      It is not inconsistent, you are just misunderstanding it.

      "I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily."– Issac Newton

      You really think Newton would not be able to see inconsistency better than you?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • Kid Zoloft

      Take anything out of context and you can make any case you want. Sorry it's not valad though.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
  18. Mercury

    I can't be sure about what, precisely, occurred twenty centuries ago, but, in our times, it is not Christianity that is persecuted so much as self-righteous, hypocritical egomania.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • morgan

      How can you say christians are not pursecuted today? there is almost no country in the wold where christians are not pursecuted mentally or physically. just last week several hundreds were injured whena bomb was exploded outside a christian church. christian pursecution IS happening, and there is no logical explanatio otherwise. it is a fact,and you can ignore the truth just to ease your mind from reality, or you can stand up to truth and put a stop to it.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
  19. McDonie

    Because the article is written to project these outrageous lies as factual I find the entire article to be offensive. On Easter to proclaim that Christians were never really persecuted and didn't really die for their faith is beyond shameful. Yet another indication of where we are in our culture right now that someone would actually push this garbage as fact.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • deep blue

      Did you read the part of the article about “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”?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • Christopher Urbanek

      Yes. I'm a progressive Christian and I have to tell you that this does nothing to open up dialogue between people of various beliefs. This only alienates fundamentalist Christians and pushes them further toward the right, maybe even the extreme right.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • morgan

      amen! mass media ignores any facts that may "offend people".

      March 31, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
  20. Skeptimist

    Let's not overlook the history of Christians being persecuted by... other Christians. Consider how the dominant Christian churches were scandalized by the Mennonites and Quakers who had the effrontery to actually behave like Christians.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Agnes of Dog

      Yep

      March 31, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Christopher Urbanek

      I agree that some Christians have persecuted people throughout the ages. I think that it's all about power structure and it's disgraceful.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
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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.