home
RSS
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. woody

    Easter like christmas are days borrowed from other events by christianity . I was an Altar boy by the way . No one even knows the true date of Jesus birth ! Most christians do not even know what continent he was born on or that Syria is real close !

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

      1 Corinthians 5:6-8

      6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
      7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
      8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. KJV

      Amen.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
  2. StatesvilleChristian

    Noone can be emphatic about numbers. Many things occurred that were not written down. Revelations does talk of martyrs, not sensationalized as the author is implying: "And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long O Lord, holy and true, do you not judge them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a season, until their fellow sservants also should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled."

    March 31, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
  3. isolate

    Let us take a moment to remember what happened after the Christians got the whip hand: pagan temples were destroyed and their worshippers exterminated, alternative religions were violently suppressed, and for the next 1,900 years persecution of nonbelievers and heretics was paramount. The money and lives wasted during the Crusades alone staggers the imagination.

    March 31, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • Steven B

      Precisely – hypocrites of the first order.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • Semi

      just one of the reasons that christianity is a vile mythology despite the christians viewpoint that its all about love.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
  4. Mr Mark

    More fairy tales that single out Xians as martyrs and Romans as the bad guys.

    The fact is that Romans were tolerant of any and all religions as long as people paid homage to Caesar/the State. Xians weren't persecuted for being Xians. They were PROSECUTED for acting in defiance of Roman law. It's that simple. The same prosecution occurred if you held any other religious beliefs.

    Roman tolerance of the religious practices of the peoples they conquered was one of the reasons the Romans were able to build such a huge empire. Let them worship as they will, build them roads and aqueducts and give people their first encounter with indoor plumbing and the pittance you pay Rome as tribute looks more an more like a good deal.

    BTW – the whole victim/martyrdom BS isn't limited to the NT. It's writ large over the entire OT as well, where the Jews are portrayed as being slaves in Egypt. That's just a fantasy. The Jews never were much of a presence in Egypt. The pyramids were built by Egyptians as public works projects, and not with slave labor. But, no, we've got to have our childish "mouse who roared" fable to imagine that the humble slave took down the mightiest empire of the day, and all by simply praying! Infantile crap.

    The Exodus is a myth. Never happened. In fact, if you believe the Biblical account of the Exodus, there were more Jews living in Egypt at the time than Egyptians!

    Hogwash and fantasy for the unwashed masses.

    March 31, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
  5. poseidon

    Bigoted: Obstinately convinced of the superiority or correctness of one's own opinions and prejudiced against those who hold different opinions.

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

      Look in the mirror to see a perfect example, Poseidon.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • poseidon

      I am not showing an opinion at all, other than the fact that the atheists on this forum who feel so threatened that they must ridicule and demean those who believe are bigots themselves.

      I do not profess the superiority or correctness of my opinions. I do not feel the need to ridicule or demean those who think differently than I do.

      I don't believe that mankind is causing global warming, but I do not ridicule those who do. I don't believe in Bigfoot or aliens either but I let those who do enjoy their beliefs without having to put up with scorn and ridicule from me.

      Atheists are bigots too....

      March 31, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      poseidon. You are entitled to different opinions, you are not entitled to different facts. The creation myths of all religions have been proven untrue, the majority of the rest of the bible is unverifiable but most likely exaggerated. So to base your faith in a god based upon the bible is foolish. Would you buy property or investments on trust?

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

      I'm not the one telling others they're going to burn in hell if they don't believe as I do. I'm not the one trying to prevent people who love one another from enjoying the same right to marry that I have. I'm not the one trying to tell women they have no rights once they're pregnant.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      poseidon, Climate change is real, and the vast majority of scientists working in that field believe that the evidence points to a human cause even one hired by the denial funders, the Koch brothers. The deniers use the same techniques and staff that the tobacco industry used to deny the link between smoking tobacco and health problems. Remember who was proved right on that?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
    • poseidon

      Santa. The irony of your comment.... You are a bigot – too bad you can't see that. You also feel threatened by Christians. I am NOT a Christian, yet I feel no pressure from them to conform nor do I feel them infringing on any of my rights. Live and let live and that includes the snake handlers, the gibberish speakers, the faith healers, and the atheists.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • The real Tom

      If you're bothered, poseidon, all you need do is scram.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      "I don't believe that mankind is causing global warming, but I do not ridicule those who do."

      The only one who deserves ridicule is you.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
    • poseidon

      Too funny. The atheist, much like the liberal, simply cannot condone opinion that differs from their own and are the most bigoted folks on the forums. If anybody strays from their position that person must be driven away – like a fire ant defense of their mound.

      So threatened and insecure you guys are....

      March 31, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      poseidon, Atheists do not believe there is a god. In the USA christians want their belief to be the basis of law, to be displayed on public buildings, to be celebrated at public events and meetings, to be taught as science in schools, to ring bells to announce their meetings. How are those not infringing on the rights of others?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Poseidon, you're the one who's all bent out of shape. I think it's you who cannot stand to have others disagree with you. That you continue to protest just undermines your claim to be even-handed. I've already pointed out to you that believers do indeed affect the way we live our lives, but conveniently, you've chosen to ignore that.

      Good going, there, buddy.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      poseidon. Exactly what have I said that is bigoted?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
    • poseidon

      Poor threatened atheists and liberals. I understand that nothing I say will keep you from protecting your hive here. Like I said, I am not a Christian and I walk through life every day without feeling persecuted by Christianity. Nothing the Christians are doing is infringing on my rights, just as nothing I am doing is infringing on their rights. I have kids in public school and when I walk the halls or visit the classrooms I see no evidence of brainwashing going on. Our schools teach evolution and do not push Christianity – or any religion.

      Keep feeling victimized. Once you are successful in eradicating Christianity from American culture you can move on to your next cause with the same fervor.

      March 31, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
    • The real Tom

      So thanks for playing, poseidon. You were unable to answer the question as to what any of us has said that is "bigoted." Good going, there, bub.

      March 31, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • The real Tom

      You apparently are unaware that in a number of public schools, there are concerted attempts to push the teaching of creationism and intelligent design as science. You are also seemingly unaware that the religious right has managed to enact the most restrictive laws preventing abortion since R v W was enacted. I suggest you educate yourself. Your ignorance is astounding.

      March 31, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
    • poseidon

      "Real" Tom. It amuses me greatly that you are so threatened that I don't agree with your opinion. I have defined bigotry three times already. If you cannot see bigotry in your mirror it is only because you are too blinded by rage to understand.

      As I have also said repeatedly, I am not a Christian. I do, however, oppose abortion in most case but not on any religious platform. While it is true that Christians typically, not always, oppose abortion there are plenty of agnostics and I sure some atheists as well that believe in the rights of the unborn.

      Although there is no push in my state to teach creationism as a science, I would not feel threatened in the least if they taught the theory of creationism right along side the theory that our ancestors slithered out of the ocean and became man. Both of these theories seem far fetched and lacking in any evidence of true science.

      You will note that I have not resorted to ridicule or name calling as you have, for that is a clear indication of bigotry.

      March 31, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "Although there is no push in my state to teach creationism as a science, I would not feel threatened in the least if they taught the theory of creationism right along side the theory that our ancestors slithered out of the ocean and became man. Both of these theories seem far fetched and lacking in any evidence of true science."

      Then I rest my case. You ARE an idiot.

      March 31, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "Real" Tom. It amuses me greatly"

      Oh, and you're a liar, too. You're not amused in the slightest–you're p!ssed off as all get-out and it shows in every post you write. If you weren't annoyed, you'd have left here hours ago.

      March 31, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      poseidon
      There are huge volumes of evidence for evolution, gathered through scientific method, which is why evolution is taught, and not creationism.
      It is not accepted yet as fact, but is treated as fact due to the overwhelming evidence that we have. We see it every day, and even use what we know to tinker with life.

      March 31, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • poseidon

      Oh the angry and bigoted liberal atheists here. So much fun to be had. If you weren't so threatened by my dissenting opinion you too would have been gone long ago. I'm having too much fun to walk away.... It's kind of like throwing rocks at a beehive.

      There is no clear scientific thread that connects mankind to a single celled organism originating from the world's oceans. Yes, we have all seen the humanoid to current man exhibits at the museums but those do not make a credible thread. Just because YOU are convinced, doesn't mean that we all must be.

      "It is not accepted yet as fact" – Exactly, because if the evidence was as "overwhelming" as you say it would be fact. It is not fact, just theory.

      Idiot, liar, ignorant, bigot. Can you think of any more names you'd like to call me to replace your inability to make me be as narrow-minded as you?

      March 31, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • UncleBenny

      @poseidon "It is not fact, just theory."

      You know, even the creationist Web sites have been quietly advising their adherents to STOP using arguments such as this. Why? Because it shows for all the world to see your total ignorance of science and the SCIENTIFIC meaning of the word "theory." Theories are the bedrock of modern science. Electromagnetism? Just a theory (but try using a computer and the Internet without electromagnetism). Germs as the cause of disease? Just a theory. Gravitation? Relativity? Quantum mechanics? All just theories. Perhaps you should stop now before you dig yourself any deeper.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • poseidon

      Benny, despite what your liberal textbooks and professors taught you, even the most ardent scientific supporters of the theory of evolution do not preclude the possibility of the existence of God. It could be that God does exist, that evolution was His plan, and that the Bible is simply a flawed attempt by man to connect the dots.

      You don't know. I don't know . We don't know. The difference is that I don't feel the need to convince you that my opinion is superior to your's or to that of the fundamentalist. I am not a bigot – unlike most of my friend here today.

      Your teammates here were touting evolution as a fact earlier today. I am simply pointing out that is is not a fact, it is a theory. There exists Biblical theory as well.

      Now get back to those books young man.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
  6. woody

    Easter is just the SPRING EQUINOX ! Do a web search and see for yourself the bible a book of compiled stories written by people was not even written until 300 years after Jesus was said to have been born . And Oh by the way Jesus was not a white European as he was born on the continent of Asia at Asia Minor . Same area as Syria where all of those people have been being killed lately !

    March 31, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Uh – the spring equinox occurs around March 21, more than a month ago. There's a connection between Easter and the equinox, but they are not the same thing.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • woody

      March 21 is not a month ago ! They just moved the date a little . Just like they really dont know what day Jesus was born on .

      March 31, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      six degrees

      Since when does 10 days make over a month?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
    • Mr Mark

      I'm convinced that Jesus wouldn't be as popular with the masses if he was depicted to look more Semitic – as he really was – than do the actors they pick for all the movie versions of Jesus.

      Think Jerry Stiller instead of Jeffrey Hunter.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      "They just moved the date a little . Just like they really dont know what day Jesus was born on ."

      No, they didn't. There's this thing called the Internet – go look up the definition of when Easter falls. Again, it's related to the vernal equinox, but can never be identical to it, by definition.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      "Since when does 10 days make over a month?"

      My bad, I misspoke. I started to explain how Easter can fall over a month following the vernal equinox, or just a few days following it, but reexamined my audience and thought better of it.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
  7. Steven B

    Of course, like most of the works that comprise The Bible, other 'holy' books, and 'accounts of the times' what is contained therein is nonsense.

    Granted, while they might not have been persecuted then, they should be now for centuries of oppression, violence and the spreading of ignorance in the name of their nonsense religion. Yes, I mean it.

    March 31, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • Semina

      This is an interesting though that should be looked at more. They have traveled the globe spreading their filthy ways

      March 31, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      So why should someone be persecuted just because you have the opinion that what they believe is nonsense?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • Steven B

      Because, Bob, they have done or allowed to have done harm to countless millions in the name of their religion.

      March 31, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      You can't persecute people in the past. What have those you would persecute today done to cause harm?

      March 31, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
  8. Duke

    Sad commentary on the state of CNN that they would choose to run a story like this on the day remembered and celebrated by Christians as Christ's resurrection. Very disrespectful and wouldn't have occurred if it was about any other religion or group of people.

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

      It actually came out yesterday, the date is at the top of the page.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • Larry Jewis

      It's a sad commentary on your literacy level.

      Apparently you feel CNN must be your propaganda ministry.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • woody

      Do a web search of THE SPRING EQUINOX .

      March 31, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Please explain how it is disrespectful. Why are facts threatening?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • Jake

      witness! the persecution complex! The christ mythology is so riddled with ignorance and stupidity its hard to know where to begin. It seems to be all just ego (save MY "eternal" soul) The Norse and Roman mythologies were more enlightened. sighs, oh well, you can't fix stupid

      March 31, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Sad day when christians steal a holiday from other cultures and then get mad that "their" holiday is getting besmirched by someone using their first amendment rights.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Sad that christians can't count to 3. If it were a true story, resurrection would be tomorrow.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • Duke

      I never said they shouldn't run the story. But on the most sacred day for Christians?

      Would they run a controversial story about Islam during Ramadan? Would they run a story depicting MLK Jr. in a somewhat questionable light on his birthday? Why is it that Christianity is the only faith, ideal, and group that no one else as to be respectful of and tolerant?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
  9. Neen

    Do not judge my fellow Christians, just pray.

    I love you all, but remember that one must acknowledge our King of Kings & Lord of Lords as our Savior to be accepted.

    And he will always love you, no matter what.

    March 31, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
    • JPH

      maybe its a tumor

      March 31, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • The Lord God Squish-Kitty, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Purveyor of Fine Incontinence Products

      Thank you for being accepting me and kowtowing into being a sniveling toady. All real gods only accept sniveling toadies. I learned that from Jesus.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Thats what the story book says ...

      Meanwhile, back in reality....

      March 31, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      The Lord God. . . .: You did not learn that from Jesus. He never said anythig to indicate he wants anyone to be a "sniveling todie."

      March 31, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
  10. Jane G

    "The gods of man were dead, and we were old enough now to not need new ones" – Childhood's End A.C. Clarke.

    March 31, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
  11. Semmal Cabal

    ahh christianity, the tainted milk that suckles the weak and foolish. the next gods we create will be much grander and doubtfully will promise real estate to any one group of humans. A good test to see if you are 'dumb' is to ask yourself "Do you really believe that YOU will live after you die?" If you answer yes, ask yourself why and ask for proof. Scared little humans we are! The dark is coming..

    March 31, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • Neen

      Yeah, lets go wake up a dead guy & ask him what he's been doing while he's been dead so this guy can get his proof lol...

      March 31, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
  12. Geesh

    Your inability to respectfully reply purports you are not as secure in your view as you make one believe. You don't see that your habitual insults clearly show who you really are

    March 31, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • Geesh

      I'm talking to myself, by the way.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
    • Inigo Montoya's mother

      "purport" does not mean what you think it means.

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

      Yes it is the correct word, meaning intentions. If it was the wrong word I am sure she would have told me so ( sarcasm)

      March 31, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
    • Inigo Montoya's mother

      No, it isn't.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
    • Geesh

      Purport as a verb not a noun..... Geesh

      March 31, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • Inigo Montoya's mother

      You're using it as a verb doesn't make it correct. Replace it with your supposed definition of "intentions". Not correct. No matter how much you wish it were.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • Inigo Montoya's mother

      Verb
      Appear or claim to be or do something, esp. falsely; profess.
      Noun
      The meaning or substance of something, typically a doc ument or speech.
      Synonyms
      verb. mean – signify – claim – imply – intend
      noun. meaning – import – sense – tenor – significance

      I suggest you try using another word. "Purports you to be" is simply poor writing. It is meaningless.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
  13. Semmal

    ahh christianity, the tainted milk that suckles the weak and foolish. the next gods we create will be much grander and doubtfully will promise real estate to any one group of humans. A good test to see if you are 'dumb' is to ask yourself "Do you really believe that YOU will live after you die?" If you answer yes, ask yourself why and ask for proof. Scared little humans we are! The dark is coming

    March 31, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • One one

      Evidence that heaven and hell exist = zero.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • Neen

      Yeah, lets go wake up a dead guy & ask him what he's been doing while he's been dead so this guy can get his proof lol...

      March 31, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • Neen

      Evidence that Heaven/Hell DON'T exist = 0

      We're tied buddy

      March 31, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      @ Neen how are we tied? If you are going to claim hell is real you are going to have to provide some evidence that it is. I don't have to do anything to disprove your claim that has no evidence in the first place.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Neen,
      Evidence that unicorns DON'T exist = 0

      March 31, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      sorry neen...not even
      The total and complete lack of evidence of somethings existance is in itself a form of evidence.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
    • Frank N. Furter

      The total lack of evidence very strongly supports the side that states that something doesn't exists. It does not in any way support the side that claims something does exist, despite the total lack of evidence.

      You are effectively saying that God exists, and the total lack of evidence proves it every bit as much as the total lack of evidence disproves it. Silly.

      Logic isn't your strong suit, is it?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • Neen

      In Santa we Trust = was there a 1,500+ year old book written about Unicorns existing?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      The Chinese Unicorn first appeared in literature in the 5th Century BC. This is evidence that unicorns exist, and that their supreme leader, the Invisible Pink Unicorn, is the True God of All Creation.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Neen, OK as a theoretical example eludes you. Presumably you're not a Hindu. Evidence that Krishna DOES NOT exist = 0. Why aren't you a Hindu?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
    • Science

      How about this neen........................................

      Origin of Life: Natural Cause no god(s) required !

      Hypothesis Traces First Protocells Back to Emergence of Cell Membrane Bioenergetics

      December 20, 2012 — A coherent pathway – which starts from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide and leads to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells – has been traced for the ...

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/fossils_ruins/origin_of_life/

      March 31, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      Frank N. Furter: There are many people that believe in God because they have found evidence of Him. Thus, the supposed total lack of evidence" is not a fact, but an opinion. Your belief that there is no evidence for God indicates nothing more than does the belief that there is evidence for God,

      March 31, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Bob Bales
      Incorrect. No one has found evidence of god. There is evidence they BELIEVE is evidence of god, that bolsters through flawed logic that belief in god, but no actual evidence exists.

      March 31, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      "No one has found evidence of god." You do not and can not know this. You believe that it is not evidence. You have every right to that belief, but no matter how strong or sincere, it does not show the evidence to be false. You cannot determine, based on your opinion, what it and is not, actual evidence.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
  14. poseidon

    Happy Easter atheists! Enjoy revealing your threatened bigotry toward those who are believers.

    March 31, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      so, everyone that does not believe that deities exist is a bigot
      ... I'd like to know how to make sense out of that; could you please explain?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
    • poseidon

      I just so want to be persecuted too! Will someone please persecute me so I can join the "we're so persecuted" Christian club?

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

      that's exactly the point... it's mostly imaginary

      March 31, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • One one

      Lets see, we have Christians and atheists. One group preaches the other will burn in hell for not agreeing with the other. Who is the intolerant bigot ?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • poseidon

      Bigoted: Obstinately convinced of the superiority or correctness of one's own opinions and prejudiced against those who hold different opinions.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Hmm. Let's see. Have those who don't believe attempted to prevent others from having the same legal rights they do? Nope. Have unbelievers tried to force the public schools to foster their lack of belief by having students say a prayer of unbelief? Nope. Have unbelievers tried to teach creationism and intelligent design as science? Nope.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • poseidon

      The real Poseidon is not a Christian. The real Poseidon is simply pointing out that the threatened atheists on this forum who insist on calling the Christians "bigots" are revealing their own form of bigotry. It's quite amusing.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
    • Frank N. Furter

      The "threatened atheists"? Who threatened us? I mean, aside from the endless silly threat of burning in hell lake-of-fire Jesus' Auschwitz of Love.

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

      Nobody is threatening atheists. Some of them just feel naturally threatened, in a superior than thou fashion, by those who see the world differently than they do.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      poseidon. Read what Tom said.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • poseidon

      Santa. I am not a Christian and I don't feel threatened by Christians. Of course, I don't have that "victim gene" that the typical liberal has that makes me lash out against everything I don't believe and find need to feel victimized by it. Interestingly, it's mainly the white atheists who feel so threatened – or feel that they have a radical ax to grind.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
  15. The Bottom Line

    When Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for Jesus' body, Pilate was shocked Jesus was already dead (hint hint hint). Joseph then "buried" Jesus with another devotee, Nicodermus. So nobody but these two even saw Jesus buried (hint hint hint).

    And we have four accounts which cannot agree on how many went, what they found or didn't find, what they did next, what they said or didn't say, to who they said it, and what then happened. Four wildly different accounts, so far apart that any cop, judge or jury would know that at least three and probably all four are lying.

    So it must be true.

    March 31, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      If you're trying to show something from the Bible accounts, they show that Jesus was indeed dead. The Romans used to break the legs of those being crucified - it made it harder for the condemned to breath. When they were going to do this to Jesus, they found he was already dead. The soldier thrust a spear into his side to make sure.

      The Resurrection accounts show different people saying different things because different people came to the tomb at different times. So would the legal system judge the accounts to be bogus? It turns out that at least one legal expert has studied this. Simon Greenleaf was a professor in the 1800s who wrote what was the standard reference at the time on the legal rules of evidence. He was a non-Christian, but was challenged by his students to approach the Gospel accounts as evidence. He did so, and found them to be exactly what would be expected from eyewitness accounts and that they were most probably true.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • UncleBenny

      And as any attorney or law enforcement officer now knows, eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  16. Elliott Carlin

    Today is Easter, a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Tomorrow is National Atheist Day=April Fools Day.
    thank you.

    March 31, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • Jonah

      Why are there three Christs? The fat one balances the two skinny ones!

      March 31, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • Michelangelo

      So you don't like the kangaroo?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
  17. rabidatheist

    I have a question, and maybe one of you believers can answer this.

    If the death of Jesus on the cross was a human death, then why didn't he die a human death when he was in the desert for 40 days. That surely would have killed you, or I, why didn't Jesus die?

    March 31, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • Elliott Carlin

      Rabid-isn't this about your 300th post this morning on this blog?
      Go get some lunch.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      So you don't have an answer then?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      I'm not following. People live in the desert, after all; going there isn't a death sentence.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      They bring provisions.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • Bob

      His faith kept him alive. He was tempted by Satan many times but he had faith in the Lord, and the Lord kept him alive. He sent Jesus to be our teacher, and he died on the cross for our sins. Jesus could have destroyed all of us and gave us what we deserved, but he loved us too much, so he took the punishment. You may still be atheist, but God has proven himself to me many times in my life. And my faith has made me a much more content, grateful, and happy person.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • rabidatheist

      His faith kept him alive? So having faith allows a human being to go out into the desert, fast for 40 days, and not die? Someone should have told Evan Tanner all he needed was faith, because he was a MMA fighter in good shape, with water, and he died in 2 days. As for god "keeping him alive" that would then mean he already knew god (himself) would save him, and his CRUCI-FICTION on the cross was no real sacrifice.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
  18. crazyjerry

    Gov. Jerry Brown, who has been criticized for granting parole to more
    murderers than his predecessors, announces he has granted Easter Weekend
    pardons to 65 people, including one convicted killer. 7

    March 31, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  19. Chad

    HE IS RISEN!!!!!!!!!

    March 31, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Leviticus 23:1-8

      1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
      2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.
      3 Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.
      4 These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.
      5 In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD's passover.
      6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread.
      7 In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.
      8 But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. KJV

      Amen.

      Jesus Christ is our passover.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Me, too, after seeing a picture of the luscious Dr. Moss.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
  20. Sharp

    There was still plenty of persecution. Early Christians worshiped in the catacombs with other proscribed religions for good reason. The point is taken that you had to be underground if you didn't subscribe to the official state emperor worship religion. It is probably true that if you didn't go around flaunting your faith the Roman Government left you alone. Romans looked back to the time of the Republic as a nobler & purer age. Emperor Worship was stained by the excesses of empire. No wonder the thing took off. Early Christians were a breath of fresh air. We exchanged DNA with some of those other proscribed religions. Many of the chapels served more than one outlaw religion. The Dionysians were definitely there & definitely persecuted. They allowed everybody from slaves to nobles. Dionysus traveled between the lands of both dead & living. He was killed & returned from the dead. The government didn't like them. One big thing the Christian Church did was to marry soldiers. Seems like a small thing but the Roman Army forbid that. Soldiers & their girls want marriage & family just like everybody else.

    March 31, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68
Advertisement
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.