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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. JOAN HUHN

    iT IS VERY HARD TO SEE HOW THE CHURCH IN ROME GOT TO WHERE IT IS TODAY. THEY MUST HAVE HAD SOME GOOD PHYSCOLOGISTS TO CHANGE IT AROUND. WHEN DID THEY DECIDE TO HAVE A POPE? i KNOW THEY SAY THAT jESUS SAID TO PETER "UPON THIS ROCK i BUILD MY CHURCH' WHICH INTERPRETATED 400 YEARS LATER TO MEAN THAT HE WAS HEAD OF THE CHURCH AND A GOD ON EARTH. i DON'T UNDERSTAND MOST OF IT.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • MalcomR

      NOR DO i. i DO KNOW, HOWEVER, THAT YOU HAVE LEFT YOUR CAPS-LOCK ON. YOU MUST BE AN EXPERT TYPIST SINCE YOU CLEARLY TYPED YOUR POST WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE SCREEN. i ENVY YOU.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • Alec The Smart

      THE INTERWEB HAS BEEN AROUND A WHILE NOW. WHEN WILL PEOPLE LEARN NOT TO SHOUT IN ALL CAPS?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
  2. whoblackmailspeople

    there have very few christians. there are losts of imposters, though.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • JJ

      Oh, you must be that ever so rare True Christian® I've heard about only in folk lore.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
  3. frank

    Here Bro, hit this... pfffffff..... And then a unmarried Jewish girl got knocked-up by a ghost and delivered a man god who was crucified, died, then came back 3 days later as a mellowed out zombie with words of love and encouragement? Hollywood screenwriters on mushrooms and acid couldn't think this stuff up!

    March 31, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • McLovin

      And yet there are billions of followers, scholars, scientists, and the poor alike.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • frank

      @McLovin – just goes to show you that if you get them indoctrinated young enough, they'll believe just about anything for LIFE!

      March 31, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • Frank

      as opposed to what? We're living on an orb out in a distant galaxy that will end up dead and destroyed by the Sun in a billion years? Sounds too fantastic to me, lol.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  4. ThinkAgain

    What with the Crusades, the Inquisition and forced conversion of native peoples, Christianity grew in large part because of violent conquest.

    Not exactly what Christ taught, was it?

    March 31, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • .

      sure was. the nazis knew the deal. they were devout believers trying to carry out the great commission. just ask murdoick, the queen of knowledge

      March 31, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • End Atheism

      Sorry, the Nazis were Godless socialist fools just like the Russians.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
  5. Easter bunny

    This article and some comments posted are a living proof that Christians are still being persecuted. What's happening to Christians in Egypt, Pakistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Lebanon, Iran, Syria, etc are other examples (that u don't always hear about) about Christians being persecuted.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • deep blue

      Did you miss the part of the article that said Christianity spread through good works?
      Is that persecution?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Melissa

      Why is that? Because people won't kiss christian butt? No one cares if you're christian, they just want you to leave them out of it. If christians would leave everyone else alone, it wouldn't be an issue anymore.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Akira

      I agree; Christian persecution exists to this day. It just doesn't exist in America...and those trying to equate their American Christian experience with those actually being persecuted in those locations you named are really disingenuous.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • .

      atheists know the definition of persecution.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • End Atheism

      Atheists know the definition of persecution because they bully and hatefully persecute Christians.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
  6. Austin

    Leviticus 23 (New International Version)

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    Show resourcesAdd parallel
    Leviticus 23
    New International Version (NIV)
    The Appointed Festivals

    23 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed festivals, the appointed festivals of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.

    The Sabbath

    3 “‘There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the Lord.

    The Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread

    4 “‘These are the Lord’s appointed festivals, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times: 5 The Lord’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. 6 On the fifteenth day of that month the Lord’s Festival of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. 7 On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. 8 For seven days present a food offering to the Lord. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.’”

    Offering the Firstfruits

    9 The Lord said to Moses, 10 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. 11 He is to wave the sheaf before the Lord so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath. 12 On the day you wave the sheaf, you must sacrifice as a burnt offering to the Lord a lamb a year old without defect, 13 together with its grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah[a] of the finest flour mixed with olive oil—a food offering presented to the Lord, a pleasing aroma—and its drink offering of a quarter of a hin[b] of wine. 14 You must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain, until the very day you bring this offering to your God. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Austin

      Offering the Firstfruits

      9 The Lord said to Moses, 10 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. 11 He is to wave the sheaf before the Lord so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath. 12 On the day you wave the sheaf, you must sacrifice as a burnt offering to the Lord a lamb a year old without defect, 13 together with its grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah[a] of the finest flour mixed with olive oil—a food offering presented to the Lord, a pleasing aroma—and its drink offering of a quarter of a hin[b] of wine. 14 You must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain, until the very day you bring this offering to your God. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Austin

      this first fruits festival was pointed to by God 1400 years ago to foreshadow today, the resurrection sunday.

      He is risen.
      John 1
      New International Version (NIV)
      The Word Became Flesh

      1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.

      Revelation 19:13 ►

      New International Version (©2011)
      He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
  7. Dan

    I'm not really sure why this is news. I was in a fairly conservative evangelical seminary 10 years ago, and my professors made it clear that Roman persecution of Christians wasn't universal, and only happened in certain places at certain times.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Killing Christians was a form oe entertainment for Romans. The Roman coloseum was paid for by money looted from the Temple in Jerusalem and designed by Christ's prince of Israel peers. Any slave was subject to the same treatment.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • .

      i was in the texas nuthouse 10 years ago.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • End Atheism

      If you're not still in the nuthouse, then just make sure you're taking your meds.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  8. Jared

    The Mormon religion believes in a falling away of the church and global apostasy. Then Joseph Smith restored the same gospel that Christ originally setup. The LDS church's doctrine on the Godhead is similar to early Christians before the Nicean creed, which changed the nature of God.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Melissa

      I have known alot of Mormons in my day. And they are a cult that should be eliminated.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
  9. Sheila

    I think the point of this story is that, no matter the reason, Christianity grew and flourished. Let's take it as a positive on today, our most Holy Day. Sometimes those who seek to undermine or question only succeed in strenthening evidence of our faith.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Agnes of Dog

      In other words, it was all about the money all along.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      Sheila,

      Over 2,000 years now and still 2/3rds of the world does not believe the Jesus legend. It took probably less than 50 years for the theory of gravity to be accepted world-wide... and it is the same for any other proven ideas, eg., mathematics, the telephone, radio, engines, penicillin, etc., etc., etc.

      The population of the world at present is a bit over 7 billion.
      There are approximately 2.1 billion Christians, which is around 33 per cent.

      http://chartsbin.com/view/3nr
      http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0904108.html

      March 31, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
  10. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    If they don't feel persecuted they don't feel holier than thou.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Not so sure

      Ever wonder why the Egyptians and Indians had/have animal Gods?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • .

      nah. we feel holier than thou regardless. compared to you, king cobras are holier than thou. lol

      March 31, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  11. reldra

    The author is correct. The Romans conquered many peoples and vast stretches of land. They weren't interested in being missionaries or converters. They only cared about someone else's religion when it interfered with their commerce or local politics.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • McLovin

      And Constantine?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Melissa

      Quite true. Actually, the Romans were known for absorbing religions into their own.

      As for Constantine, do you really think he actually believed in christianity? Or do you think that he saw an opportunity to gain himself power. I'm betting the second one.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  12. frank

    Have a happy walking dead day all you zombie worshiping freaks!

    March 31, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
  13. ThinkAgain

    @Rick Goss: " I would love for a guy like Billy Maher to disrespect my religion on the street. He would eat soup for a loooooooooong time."

    Wow, turn the cheek, bro, and start learning Christ's teachings of tolerance, love, compassion and forgiveness.

    My bad, you're just looking for a get-out-of-jail-free religion, not an actual faith that requires you getting beyond your egocentricity.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • frank

      Have a happy walking dead day you zombie worshiping freak! Lol!!

      March 31, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • derp

      "I would love for a guy like Billy Maher to disrespect my religion on the street. He would eat soup for a loooooooooong time."

      Nothing says I love Jesus like beating the crap out of someone for voicing their opinion.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
  14. peterz

    Belief was to comfort ourselves. But the teaching went to the other ways of guilty, scare of evil, hell, persecution,, which becoming anti-belief for different interest of different groups in society from time to time. We could view it as a social movement and live within in. However there was a line drawing in it. if we stepped over the line the comfort turned to be uncomfortable and a shadow of belief where it go, I thought.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Frank

      That just sounds like you're trying to "comfort yourself."

      March 31, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
  15. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:

    Saving Christians from the Infamous Resurrection Con/

    From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15: 14, Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

    Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

    To wit;

    From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

    "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
    Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

    Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

    Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

    The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

    Only Luke records it. (Luke mentions it in his gospel and Acts, i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically untenable). The Ascension ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers.

    The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

    "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."
    http://eternal-word.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2HEAVN.HTM

    The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

    With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

    An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,

    p.4

    "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

    p.168. by Ted Peters:

    Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

    So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Frank

      To (nit) wit:

      You believe what you want and we'll believe what we want. Relax and stop trying to control what other people do.
      Its the reason you're so unhappy.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • ThinkAgain

      I admit, I didn't read your whole post, but in a nutshell, understanding Christ metaphorically and as a cultural phenomenon is the way to go. Live your life filled with compassion, tolerance, forgiveness and love and you will know God here in this life. It doesn't matter the name of your god or the rituals you observe; those are all cultural manifestations. God is bigger than these details.

      People who profess their faith in Christ as a means of securing "life after death" are self-centered and missing the point.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • Huh, wha?

      I love it when people just make stuff up about God. Why should anyone believe what you say about God? At least religions have books about their Gods and morality that have been claimed for thousands of years to have come from their Gods.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  16. rskiredj

    WATCH THE ANSWER "www.deen-ul-islam.org/christ-crucified-2/" .

    March 31, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
  17. Roger

    Persecution is a myth. Christianity was invented by the Romans. They used the idea of love your neighbor and turn the other cheek to pacify their subjects.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Dan

      ...and then the crucified the guy they attributed it to?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Frank

      Not much on history, eh?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • Alec The Smart

      Roger is a myth. It's fun to make grand proclamations.

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

    I have a question: Why are Christians credited with/take credit for creationism?

    Did the same author of genesis write the new testament?

    How did the people in Christ's time who stood for genesis receive Christ?

    March 31, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • no answer?

      All these people spouting proof and opinion can't take a crack at my question? anyone?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • Frank

      Why are Christians credited with/take credit for creationism?

      Most people throughout history thought the world was created by God, some god, or gods. Its only the people of the book(s) who still believe this, i.e. Jews, Muslims and Christians. Everyone else, without knowing who or what created the universe, have turned away from God.

      Did the same author of genesis write the new testament?

      So God can create the Heaven's and the Earth and the spinning planets in perfect mathematical alignment but he can't create a book by influencing the very people he created to write a book? The Bible says "in the beginning was the word (Jesus) and the word was with God." Jesus is the creator of the old and new testaments thru his influence on the various writers.

      How did the people in Christ's time who stood for genesis receive Christ?
      As Jesus said, the people before Christ's time had the prophets to know Christ was coming, just like we know Christ is coming again, soon. If you study the sacrifices the jews made in the temple, you see the symbolism of the lamb of God being slain and his blood covering the sins of the people. Do yourself a favor and read the Bible from beginning to end. It doesn't take that long, maybe a month or two if you just read a bit each night. The Bible is a key to opening the doors of your spirit to the Holy Spirit.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      The god that Christ worships is not the god of the book of Genesis. (In mythology) Christ worshiped Yahweh, and Yahweh was the son of El, who created the garden and was the first man. So you have this silly lineage of demigod-god-grandgod. Or maybe that's kind of neat, in a comic-book sort of way.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  19. Rick Goss

    I'm always amazed at the fact that an atheist has never attacked my religion to my face. I mean, with the growing numbers of outraged atheists who despise christianity, I've never been approached. I wonder if the fact that I'm built like a tank and look like I can lift a house has anything to do with it. I would love for a guy like Billy Maher to disrespect my religion on the street. He would eat soup for a loooooooooong time.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • ThinkAgain

      Wow, turn the cheek, bro, and start learning Christ's teachings of tolerance, love, compassion and forgiveness.

      My bad, you're just looking for a get-out-of-jail-free religion, not an actual faith that requires you getting beyond your egocentricity.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • Dan

      I'm sure that's what Jesus would want – for you to break the face of someone who attacked your religion. After all, that's what he and his disciples did when people said and did terrible things to them, right?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • frank

      And have a happy walking dead day all you zombie worshiping freak!

      March 31, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • deep blue

      Because, even though the number of atheists is rising, the percentage of in your face obnoxious atheists that believe you are stupid if you don't agree with them is still fairly low. The percentage of atheists that choose to troll on blogs that are obnoxious is still fairly high, so I can understand your confusion.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Akira

      I see the concept of free speech escapes you.
      And I doubt that anyone cares enough about you to talk to you about anything at all...you sound rather like a bully.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • MalcomR

      Rick: You are an a.s.s.h.o.l.e. It's really that simple. Repent. Study your bible... Oh wait. Don't read the Old Testament please. And only read the nice parts of the new one. And don't look at most of xian history. In fact, nevermind. Just stay the simple AH that you are.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • mydadspants

      Rick Goss, this sounds like dude...

      Man accused of raping woman met on ChristianMingle dating site
      http://www.bing.com/videos/browse?mkt=en-us&vid=ffd193d8-b471-db90-efa7-ee01496cd982&from=email&src=v5:share:email:&from=dest_en-us

      March 31, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • JJ

      Lol...a red neck thug for Christ. Aren't you late for another steroid injection?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • mydadspants

      Rick Goss, this sounds like you dude...

      Man accused of raping woman met on ChristianMingle dating site

      http://www.bing.com/videos/browse?mkt=en-us&vid=ffd193d8-b471-db90-efa7-ee01496cd982&from=email&src=v5:share:email:&from=dest_en-us

      March 31, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • derp

      Well, I'm built like two tanks and look like I could lift two houses and if I ever run into you I will tell how much of a dick I think you are.

      Your silly faith has nothing to do with it.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • Melissa

      I'd attack it right to your face, but I'll also tell you why most atheists don't. Because you religious people are nuts and they probably think they will get punched.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
  20. ThinkAgain

    Some Christians seem to enjoy feeling persecuted, because it makes them feel special and part of an exclusive club.

    It's sad how many people miss the point of Christ's teachings and instead turn them into a justification for their own bad behavior.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Frank

      You sound kind of smug yourself.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.