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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. bendrawvegan

    Loney Tunes God people....WOW, do you really think there was a guy named Jesus? Do some research about Egypt and you will probably still keep reading the bible like a blind retard

    March 31, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • .

      it was casper

      March 31, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • .

      murdock knows

      he was an amalgem

      March 31, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • BoogerFree

      A man named Jesus lived. That is undeniable. Whether or not you want to believe he is the son of God, is personal choice.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • DoctorKnow

      “God existed before there were human beings on Earth, He holds the entire world, believers and non-believers, in His omnipotent hand for eternity." - Max Planck (Founder of Quantum Mechanics)

      "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

      March 31, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • The real Tom

      I can quote Groucho Marx. Doesn't mean what he said was fact.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • DoctorKnow

      The real Tom, I never said it proved it was a fact. But one does not think of Newton as a blind retard, do they?

      March 31, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Nope. Doesn't make him infallible, either, dick.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • The real Tom

      You and Chad persist in posting quotes from famous men who believed in a god and fine-tuning. Doesn't matter how many of them you quote, you are still posting nothing but the opinions of fallible people. There is no more evidence that they're right than there is that they're wrong.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      Isaac Newton was also heavily into numerology, the occult and alchemy – making gold from the Philosopher's Stone. Was he correct there too?

      March 31, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • DoctorKnow

      The real Tom, It is likely you will not get the proof you want about God before you die. If God does not exist, then you will not exist; If He does exist, you will go to hell. I see no upside your position, and I see no downside to the Christian position under those possibilities.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • The real Tom

      You really are stupid. Pascal's wager is unimpressive. If you can't answer the question, just say so. At least it would be honest instead of a lie.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • DoctorKnow

      The real Tom, You might be right about me being stupid. I do not even see a question on any of your comments above.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • The real Tom

      I'm sure you can't. You and your little alter ego Geesh are quite ham-handed at this. I suggest you find another hobby.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • DoctorKnow

      Geesh is a different person.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
    • Hello

      Newton also live during a time in the UK that if you dissed the Roman myth or its god you would get an opportunity to be take back any anti-god statements under extreme torture or find yourself tied to pole in the town square with a nice roaring fire surrounding you. Like so many did...
      Newton like Galileo was not stupid.. they knew not to pizz off the church... or you will get fried.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Says you.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
    • Ziggy2003

      How about we wipe out 2000 years of history and forget all about this religion stuff just like the russians and the chinese, they are doing OK. Lets tear down all the cathedrals and churches and burn the bible. Lets' start fresh and brand new, as a logical and sensible people with science as our guide. Yeah !

      March 31, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
  2. YoMiracle

    Lived with Jesus all my life, but can't recognize his face at all. But if he got holes in his hands, it must be Jesus. Nobody can put holes in their hands.

    March 31, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Hello

      read Caesar's Messiah.. by Joseph Atwill.. there never was a jesus with holes in his hands or feet. that is a lie..

      gory but still a lie....

      March 31, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
  3. isolate

    Put yourself back in the pagan Roman era. Paganism was inclusive. If Roman traders or soldiers came across a society that worshipped different gods, they simply included them in the Roman pantheon. No big deal. Different parts of Roman society were dedicated to particular deities without excluding all the others– Roman soldiers went in for Mithraism, for example.

    Christians after the first 50-100 years were exclusionists. Monotheism does that to people, and they had inherited the concept from Judaism. Once you claim to worship the One True God, supplementary gods become idols, not to be respected. Jehovah wanted to the first among all the gods, the exclusive deity of the Jews and later the Christians. The Hebrew Bible is filled with tales of backsliding as the Israelites drifted off to worship Ashtoreth, Baal and Moloch and all the other gods in the Middle East. Jeremiah even rails against child sacrifices to other gods by the Jews as a reason for the Babylonian Captivity.

    If the stories told about the era are true, the Christians' greatest shortcoming was that they thought their strict monotheism prevented them from making the token offering to the emperor, who at the time was viewed as a deity. This is at the heart of most of the persecution stories that have come down to us. Christians refused the token act even though Jesus is said to have understood and permitted it when he referred to the rendering unto Caesar the things that were Caesar's. A pinch of incense once a year at a Roman temple and they were free to practice their religion.

    But martyr types will be martyr types, and many of them refused even this simple way around the problem. We see similar behavior with extremist Muslims these days, who are perfectly happy to blow themselves up if the act gets them a ticket to Paradise.

    March 31, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Hello

      Read Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill... he found the answer key to the Roman myth

      March 31, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
    • Hello

      any myth, story , religion that requires a promise of punishment or reward for it to be believed is a lie..

      the truth does not require either to be believed.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
  4. bendrawvegan

    Nobody in the history of humanity has ANYBODY EVER died...and "rose from the dead"....you guys are consumed by a fairy tale

    March 31, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • .

      that is incorrect babe

      March 31, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      It is? Do tell......

      March 31, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • .

      already did

      March 31, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Epic

      Photo or it didn't happen

      March 31, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      No you didn't. Please tell me about the dead coming back to life, this should be good.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • Freebird

      One can only hope that one day you see the truth.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      @ Freebird What is this "truth" you speak of?

      March 31, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • Hello

      to learn how that "rise from the dead" concept came to be... read Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill.

      oh... and that second coming of Christ thing... well the Romans were very dirty minded .. that Coming again.. is just what we think of "c0ming" is today.... in a p0rn0 kind of way.... One of the many jokes in the bible by the way.
      Not only is Joe's book a good history of Roman culture.. but it is full of Roman Joke reveals.

      So why is the name Mary a joke?.. No Jew would even THINK about naming a daughter Mary....and there are a LOT of Jewish Mary's in the NT part of the bible ... look up the name Mary.. No father who lives in a strict patriarchal culture would want a daughter or wife. to be labeled or named a mary... females were suppose to be anything but a mary..they were born slaves .. their fathers' could not sell or even give away a mary .... and we all know women were sold just like there are now in the muzzy myth.
      Naming a daughter mary would be like naming a daughter b_tch... now days... not a good idea if you plan on making a profit from your useless female children...
      Read Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill for the details.. It is the best book ever written since the biggest lie book was ever written.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
  5. YoMiracle

    Cool Miracles, Jesus. Kinda impressive. Almost good as David Blaine.

    March 31, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • .

      seriously?

      March 31, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Epic

      Well it makes sense Blaine must have had a mentor. At some point the student must surpass the teacher. I think the only way for jebus to save it is a return to life a second time.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • Epic

      Well third time i guess

      March 31, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  6. Jerry Hoefen

    Reality check there is truth in evil man hearts, dont underestimate the past events history repeats its self . Man is constantly being given choice to choose between good an evil . I see more evil in man is more dangerous then devil has ever posed to man .God exist in all of man women in child or we be alive . God is very fabric of life essance which by way we are eternal creatures on this earth because life we have unbroken chain dating back to eve an adam

    March 31, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • MalcomR

      *sigh*

      March 31, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Jerry Hoefen", but "God" is an element of mythology, therefore your assertions are unfounded.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      God apparently didn't bother to get you to learn english though.

      And mankind goes back farther than the adam and eve story, which science has proven incorrect.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      So then you are saying that unless something is proven then it does not exist.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      RD
      Who is your reply directed to?

      March 31, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • The real Tom

      No, dear. Try to improve your ability to understand what is written. I didn't say a god doesn't exist until you prove it does. I simply said that I see no evidence that would cause me to conclude there is a god. Do you have some? Present it.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
  7. Richard Dawkins

    Atheism, like Christianity, is a matter of faith.

    March 31, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • MalcomR

      Moron.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      Insults are the refuge of those with no counter argument

      March 31, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      Or a lack thereof.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Tim Brown

      The real Richard Dawkins would take the time to tell you that atheism is a lack of belief, and isn't faith in anything.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • isolate

      "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." ~ Epistle to the Hebrews, 11:1

      Atheism is the opposite, dealing only with reality. Science is its highest expression. No belief necessary or desired.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      Atheism is a belief that god does not exist.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Nope. For me, it's a lack of belief that any such being exists.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • Geesh

      Semantics.....still an idea that informs your beliefs

      March 31, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      No atheist will say that, or believes that phony Dawwkins. It's a lack of evidence for a god, and until you provide some evidence that there is a god, I will say I don't believe in him. Like vampires, leprechauns, or unicorns, many stories.....just no evidence for them.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • The real Tom

      No, it isn't. I simply have no belief in an invisible being. I don't deny that one may exist. It may. I just don't see any evidence that one does. Got any?

      March 31, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      RD
      Atheism does not require faith...it requires skepticism. You are a fool to believe anything at face value, even bigger fool to believe it because you were told to believe from the start of your life.

      Of course the biggest fools are the ones who believe because of Pascals Wager.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • Geesh

      Still saying you point of a lack of evidence informs your response....

      March 31, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • The real Tom

      That doesn't make it faith. A lack of belief does not equal faith, honey, no matter how many times you stomp your feet and insist that it does.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • Geesh

      I think you are trying to prove your point on a negative. So you make your point just don't pretend that you are above being pigeon holed or committed to a belief due to lack of evidence. Lack of evidence can prove a belief system

      March 31, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • Geesh

      Correction I did not use the word faith, I used ideas, that inform your actions

      March 31, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • The real Tom

      I wonder, though, why you bozos seem to be fixated on proving something about atheism and what it is or isn't. Why is it such a big deal to you to "prove" that what you think about atheism is correct? Do you imagine you're going to change someone's mind about the existence of a god by convincing an atheist that his/her lack of belief is a form of belief?

      Silly.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Doesn't matter what you try to call them, G. What is it you hope to prove? Do you think you're going to pull some rabbit out of a hat and yell, "THERE! I TOLD you it was a belief"?

      March 31, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • Geesh

      No I am just curious why you are so defensive about the semantics of the argument. Ok so you have stated no evidence. Then based on that premise you don't believe

      March 31, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • Geesh

      I am not sure why the word belief is so volatile to you. I believe that Wichita will win the finally four, based on evidence of their track record thus far. Seems like you are very defensive

      March 31, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • The real Tom

      I'm not defensive about semantics. Your use of the term "belief" is simply not accurate as far as my views are concerned. Believers seem consumed with claiming that all atheists have "faith that there is no god." That is not accurate. Why do you engage in such nonsense?

      March 31, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • The real Tom

      I don't care what it "seems like" to you, honey. You're a nameless, faceless bunch of letters. I'm simply telling you that you are incorrect in your use of the word "belief" as it applies in this case. If you're going to make the stupid argument that the term "belief" means the same thing whether it's applied to a god or the sun coming up, then argue with someone else. I don't have time for idiots.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Geesh

      Back at ya my friend, I could ask the same of you. You are just some angry boorish faceless set of words on a screen. I was just asking clarifying questions and you go to hubris insults, not much of a dialogue. But that is not what you are here for – is it?

      March 31, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • Geesh

      You keep your angry condescending replies up by focusing on semantics and syntax, to avoid answering the question, so if the word belief is wrong then give me a proper defended understanding

      March 31, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • Pseudo Fallacy Spotting 101

      Root post is an example of the Fallacy of Equivocation.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • The real Tom

      I'm not here to argue semantics with some ass who thinks the word "belief" is the same in meaning when applied to faith as when it's applied to basketball. As I said, if you are interested in something approaching intelligent discussion, then let me know when you're ready to start having one.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Why do believers like you think it's crucial to attempt to "trap" atheists into "admitting" that they have a belief system? What is it you think you're going to do if you succeed?

      Seems to me that the label of "defensive" is on you, Geesh-you're the one that's all put out because I won't simply kowtow to you.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "if the word belief is wrong then give me a proper defended understanding"

      No. I have no obligation to give you anything. Get some understanding of the myriad meanings of the word "belief" and figure out why you're so hot under the collar when you don't get your own way.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Apparently, Geesh has never heard of the terms "soft atheism" and "hard atheism" and can't grasp the fact that they are different.

      Too bad.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • Geesh

      Predictable, your avoidance and rudeness proves your lack of interest and paranoia. To evade a respect inquiry instead of sharing your view only prove your lack of being able to articulate your view without insults. You supposedly come to this site to engage only to then do your little drive bys, when pressed to articulate your view. How sad for you

      March 31, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • Geesh

      So enlighten me then, you launch a statement in condescension as if to presume the other person is inferior So I am asking please explain.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • The real Tom

      You are the one avoiding an answer. Thanks for playing. I knew you wouldn't be able to respond with anything but another round of ineffectual twaddle. Now answer me. I command you, little fishy. You know you can't resist.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "So enlighten me then".

      Sorry. I can't perform miracles.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "To evade a respect inquiry"

      Is English a second language for you, troll?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • Geesh

      Answer what? You said I don't know anything about hard or soft atheism , an assumption on you're part so tell me what is it to you? I am not angry if our beliefs differ. Remember you and I are both faceless words

      March 31, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • Geesh

      Ah yes the other predictable evasion...just because my arthritic hands and auto spell ck mess up a few words, means you are unable to answer a simple clarifying question?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "you're" = "you are."

      Get a clue. I've already made it quite clear that I'm not going to answer your questions because you have not answered mine. If you can't figure out what my question is, it's not my problem. Go pound sand.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • An Awesome Message from P.W. Swivel

      An Awesome Message from P.W. Swivel

      Thanks for watching.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
    • Hello

      ok.. so RD.. How about putting a supernatural twist on not believing in something that does not exist.

      Atheism is about not believing in the supernatural....

      March 31, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
  8. Alex

    Jewish persicution was worse...

    March 31, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • isolate

      Amen! The Jews have been persecuted throughout history, not just in the Roman era.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
  9. us_1776

    Happy Jesus Became A Zombie Day.

    .

    March 31, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • Gorsh

      Happy "You're still a smug self congratulatory buttmunch" day

      March 31, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • .

      Regarding Mithras dying and being raised, Günter Wagner wrote: “Mithras does not belong to the dying and rising gods, and no death and resurrection ritual has ever been associated with this cult. Moreover, on account of the lateness of its spread, there is no question of the Mithras cult influencing primitive Christianity.”[3] clay

      March 31, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • Hello

      now thats cute.... may your sacrificed bunny body to god gets you your wish to come true.
      May the smell of his burning flesh... make your god happy.. and his tummy full..

      March 31, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
  10. .

    clay jones

    the notion that Jesus wasn’t an historical person, but just a rehash of earlier myths, commits the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of it). Just because something chronologically follows something else doesn’t necessarily mean that what preceded it was its cause. For example, if someone said, every time we take Mary to the park it rains, so let’s not take Mary to the park anymore,” he would be committing the post hoc fallacy. Similarly, even if there were close parallels that predated Jesus’ life (which there aren’t), that doesn’t necessarily mean that those other myths were the cause of belief about Jesus. Instead, the evidence for Jesus’ life must be examined on its own historical merits.

    March 31, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • .

      Second, this idea is historically wrong from the start. Tryggve N. D. Mettinger in The Riddle of the Resurrection: “Dying and Rising Gods” in the Ancient Near East wrote: “There is, as far as I am aware, no prima facie evidence that the death and resurrection of Jesus is a mythological construct, drawing on the myths and rites of the dying and rising gods of the surrounding world.” clay jones

      March 31, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      Except the early church father Justin Martyr admitted these pre-Jesus resurrection stories were known, but just sent ahead of Jesus, by Satan just to confuse Christians. Early spin, on the recycled resurrection myth used by Christians.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • .

      talk to clay. he wipes the floor with dm murdock

      March 31, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • Hello

      ok.. been done.. and the results are in.. Read Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill for the thesis..

      March 31, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
  11. Epic

    Sooo who will you forward your complaint to when nothing happens. Oh right you will just be dead in the ground. Nothing is going to happen so just enjoy life.

    March 31, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
  12. Frank

    Maybe they were and maybe not. Does it truly matter? The message of Christ doesn't change. The Holy Spirt will encourage the poor, the hopeless and the marginalized and this sectarian lifestyle will implode someday.

    March 31, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • You are Right

      We are OK, now that we have a KING!

      March 31, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • Geesh

      Wow this Eddie long thing is theater at its finest!

      March 31, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
  13. .

    the atheist take on the development of christian theology

    Some old dudes adapted it from previous myth-stories, between sessions of sheep-shagging?

    frank
    The NT? You mean that plagiarized retelling of Joseph from the Old Testament, which along with the story of Moses and creation and just about everything else in both books were lifted directly from Egyptian and Sumerian mythology, that New Testament?

    Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear
    It was compiled over hundreds of years after the supposed death and resurrection of Jesus by various religious authorities, translated, retranslated, revised and modified thereafter on an ongoing basis.

    Being a human-written compilation of stories, this is not in the least surprising.

    March 31, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • .

      The NT is a complilation of early Christian writings.
      Period.
      It was not authored by one person, and the implication that it is smacks of stupidity.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
  14. Exit 36-B

    Books like these don't pass the laugh test. Someone coming along nearly 2,000 years after the fact and from the comfort of a modern office writing that the people who lived through these times were liars is disgraceful. We rise up, and rightfully so, in shouting down Holocaust deniers yet respond to this tripe by buying the book. 1 Timothy 6:10

    March 31, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • Little Joey

      1 Timothy 6:10 – that doesn't pass the laugh test anymore either

      March 31, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
  15. derekreidy

    Wow.. what a lovely article to post on Easter. No surprise that the Jewish owned Time Warner would post something like this. I sure hope to see a similar article discrediting the entire Jewish religion on one of their most holy holidays.

    March 31, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • visitor

      Maybe the Jews would have the sense to actually read it, which you didn't, clearly. Unless you have comprehension issues.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Akira

      Ah, a lovely anti-semitic remark thrown in for flavor...
      The article came out yesterday.
      You READ it today.
      See the difference?

      March 31, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • derekreidy

      Hey Akira... thats because it is plastered big and clear on the home page on EASTER SUNDAY. But of course a dumb idiot like you would claim it "anti-semetic"... It is in extremely poor taste to even question a religion on one of its most holy days. And I am not even a religious person. And I did read the article. Would you accept an article like this about Judaism? Or would a Muslim accept CNN posting something like this about their religion? Of course not. CNN should have some tact. But they certainly aren't known for that are they... just spewing more garbage for a reaction.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "It is in extremely poor taste to even question a religion on one of its most holy days."

      Oh, blah, blah, blah. If you're offended, then why post here? All you're doing is putting more money in CNN's pockets by doing so. Get off. Leave. Blow. Nobody said you have a right to be pandered to. You don't get to demand that you not be offended. If you're such a big baby, find a playpen where nobody can bother you.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
  16. DoctorKnow

    "I am not an Atheist. I do not know if I can define myself as a Pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds." - Albert Einstein

    March 31, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • MalcomR

      Albert was woefully wrong in his assessment of quantum mechanics. He also incorrectly believed in a static (non expanding) universe. So what?

      March 31, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
  17. Voob

    "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."

    If, during the course of a few months, thousands of Christians were killed, only to be followed by years of calm, I promise you those Christians would remember. And if, over the course of a century, you have enough of those sporadic upswings in persecution sprinkled through the years, people are going to remember that century as one of persecution.

    March 31, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • isolate

      As the article points out, the deeper into Christian hagiography you go, the less evidence of massive persecutions you find. Given the limitations on communication during the late Roman era, and the widespread illiteracy, it's not surprising that stories were exaggerated, embellished, or made up of the whole cloth by Christian enthusiasts.

      For comparison, look at a medieval bestiary, filled with hundreds of animals that did not, and could not exist, but whose existence had been sworn to by otherwise reputable men over centuries. For an example closer in time, look at UFO enthusiasts: the slightest suggestion of a pie pan in the sky immediately becomes proven fact witnessed by dozens of people. Humans want to believe that their fondest beliefs are fact, and are not above distorting reality to achieve a hope. End-of-the-world predictions are another example. People have given away all they owned and ruined their lives because they wanted what they believed in so strongly to be real.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
  18. roike

    I think Faux News is the best place for Christians. We are far more intelligent than those people.

    March 31, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Jay

      I feel sorry for you son, I got 99 problems but religion aint one

      March 31, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • Ziggy2003

      Actually your times are short lived and you will be made to pay for each and every persecutions ever committed against a Christian begining with the crucifixtion, beleive you will pay for every single one.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
  19. roike

    It's good that CNN gives us all a place to come together and make fun of Christianity. What's especially delightful is that it's referred to as a "Belief" blog. It's so good that so many of us can share our disdain for Christians, as one voice.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
  20. Scott Petersen

    Reading the comments to this article, it's clear that Christianity provokes a lot of mocking and hostility, even in the supposedly tolerant west.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • MalcomR

      It deserves to be mocked into oblivion.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • .

      Regarding this comment section, it's apparent that Christians do a fair bit of condemning themselves.
      How's your wife and kid?

      March 31, 2013 at 1:06 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.