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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. mason

    After Constantine Christians became the persecutors. Religion poisons everything. Christians kill Christians. Muslims kill Muslims. It all sucks and needs to evaporate in the Age of Reason.

    March 31, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
  2. woody

    You say God and your bible will protect you and your God is real and he will save you . But at the same time your Pope rides in a bullet proof automobile ! A 550,000.00 automobile byn the way and he has a fleet !

    March 31, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • Duke

      Actually the current Pope refused to ride in that automobile. And that type of thinking makes as much sense as saying why should I go to the store to buy food. My God will take care of me by surprising me with a pizza delivered to my home. God gave us a mind to use. Try it sometime.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Actually the new one has dispensed with that. But I was surprised that an omniscient god didn't know that the previous pope would resign.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
    • woody

      If you trust that God will protect you than why do you need airbags in your car ? Why do you go to a hospital ? Try taking a Christian bible to some parts of the middle east and see how well your God will protect you . There are places even the Pope will not go ! So how protected do you think you would be ? The Pope even has body guards ! So why is God not even good enough to protect the pope ? People,guns, and a bullet proof car protect the Pope . Not any God !

      March 31, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      "God gave us a mind to use."

      And yet religious kooks frequently shun the use of their minds when it comes to matters concerning their gods.

      March 31, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
  3. Green1955

    Jesus this and Jesus that. It’s all speculation. The fact of the matter is that there is simply no evidence, outside of the decidedly partisan and unreliable gospels, that Jesus ever existed. There is no eyewitness testimony, no archeological evidence, nothing to even suggest that he may have existed. A book with bunch of ancient desert scribblings written by many different authors well after Jesus supposedly existed is weak evidence at best. If Jesus did exist he wasn't the son of god, he didn't perform miracles, and he wasn't resurrected. These are all embellishments added by various authors of the Bible to make the Bible more exciting and salient. In reality…if Jesus did exit…he probably was an average Joe with a psychiatric illness ( grounded in religious delusion) that starting speaking in public…attracting large gullible crowds and was eventually killed by the Jewish and Roman authorities because of his nonsense. On the contrary, lets assume Jesus is all that he is supposed to be and that he indeed has a divine connection to a universal creator. Of all the times in the history of mankind…why would the creator of the universe decide to try and make contact with man at such a barbaric and ancient time. Incidentally, a time that was replete with fables, monsters and various gods. In fact the entire concept of a master creator sending a part of himself to a little speck of matter in the middle of cosmic nowhere becomes frighteningly insane. There are non-secular posters here asking for secularists to shut up and let them believe what they wish. Frankly, I could care less if you choose to believe in Christianity, Islam, Hinduism or any of the other 10,000 religious sects. Until you relent on propagating your theistic dogma via political and governmental means ..I will never relent on pushing back against your hypocritical fictional nonsense.

    March 31, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
  4. barbarianofgor

    Ok, how about de-bunking the "Holocaust" then?
    Whoops that'd get you blacklisted from the media – but it's OK to debunk everything from the massacre of American Indians to the burning times and in between joking about Catholic Priests and Little Boys sure de-bunk anything about Christianity.

    OF course Rome persecuted Christians. To them it was an "Obscure Jewish Sect" and they stomped on Jews (like about everyone in history) now and again.

    March 31, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • Hmmmmmmmmmm

      Debunking the holocaust?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
      • barbarianofgor

        Actually, no. I believe it happened.

        Just why is it OK to insult other atrocities but not the Jew's one?

        March 31, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
  5. Brad

    If modern Christians feel persecuted because people disagree with them, perhaps early Christians were persecuted in the same way, but their story grew in the re-telling. So, perhaps in 2000 years, Obama and the Gay community will morph into lions and tigers in the arena.

    March 31, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
  6. Billy The Christian

    We persecuted Christians persecute gays and atheists and all other faiths and any political viewpoint other than ours, because we are the ones who are persecuted.

    That's what my pastor said. Then he asked for money to alleviate his financial persecution.

    March 31, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • Duke

      Christianity is full of people just like any other group. People are not perfect. The same imperfect people run our schools, our universities, our government. Yet none of you Christian haters ever seem to remember that.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
  7. Kenrick Benjamin

    Happy Easter everyone God bless.

    March 31, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • Hmmmmmmmmmm

      The word "Easter" and many of the traditions like eggs and bunnies are from Celtic pagan celebrations that Christianity usurped.

      So happy pagan-day to you, too!

      March 31, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
    • Duke

      Wrong. Eggs were served with the Seder. Hunting yeast in the house and removing it was a game played by Hebrew children during the Seder week. Bunnies is a mix of fertility mythology and the idea of the passover week being a time of new hope...a new birth for the Jewish people leaving Egypt, then Christians finding salvation.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • Kenrick Benjamin

      Hmmmmmmmmmm !

      March 31, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
  8. rabidatheist

    The universe is evidence that the Flying Spaghetti Monster exists, and to prove his existence he shaped all the planets like meatballs. My god has more evidence than yours ;)

    March 31, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
  9. woody

    Rising from the dead is no different than a tree falling and a new one starts growing from the decaying tree ! If we died on top of the ground in time things would start growing out of us too as we would decay ! We are going from the dead of winter into spring when everything rises from the dead . Trees, flowers . How simple can it be but people love a good story and oz over reality ! And by the way if Jesus was he was born on the continent of Asia at Asia Minor . Happy Spring Equinox !

    March 31, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
  10. cbass

    NOT TRUE!!!! Jesus was crucified by the established "church" not the Romans. His views and beliefs were a threat to the established "church" at the time and they conspired to kill him. Jesus gives people freedom not only from sin but from the rituals and bondage of man-made religion. His message is that Salvation is through him and him alone and not through any work or works that man can think of. Otherwise man would think they are somehow better suited or more worthy of Salvation than someone who has not performed those rituals.

    March 31, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Uh, that whole "the Jews killed Jesue" meme just won't die, will it?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • cbass

      Read a book. Namely The Bible.

      March 31, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
  11. Duke

    The point of the story is that Christians never have been nor are they still persecuted for their faith. That any growth in Christianity has been based partially on embellished stories and fraud. How is that supposed to be taken?

    History cannot be rewritten and facts cannot be changed. Christians have been persecuted since Christ's crucifixion and it still continues today. When was the last time CNN ran a story about Christians killed in a foreign land or a pastor imprisoned in a foreign nation?

    March 31, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      "The point of the story is that Christians never have been nor are they still persecuted for their faith."

      Neither the article nor the book it explores say anything even remotely like this.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • Raoul

      What a stupid comment. Everyone is persecuted somewhere.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • HemantKumar

      Yeah, and there is a war on X'mas. Just ask Bill O'Reilly.

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

      Crusades, Spanish inquisition, the Protestant reformation.... Christians have done their own fair share of brutal persecution.

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

      That meaning was strongly implied. I never said it expressly stated it or I would've quoted to it. But that is the intention. It's clear to Christians what the meaning is.

      When was the last time CNN discussed the American pastor jailed in Iran?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      "a pastor imprisoned in a foreign nation?"

      ON THIS VERY PAGE there is a link to an article about a pastor imprisoned in Iran. ON THIS VERY PAGE! Is your persecution complex that strong that you don't even bother looking for any evidence to support or refute your allegations of persecution?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • Hmmmmmmmmmm

      Duke doesn't actually read, or he would have known the imprisoned pastor gets heavy coverage here. But it's more fun to feel PERSECUTED, so he just makes it up.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • Duke

      Oh, you're right the story clearly discusses how this pastor is imprisoned and how Christians all over the world are still hunted, imprisoned and executed. NOT!!

      A link to a story doesn't highlight the obvious fact of persecution because it runs against the implied intent of the story.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
  12. Aji Joe

    This is a part of continuing effort from the anti Christians in CNN... This is another effort from Satan trying to push his agenda through its people in CNN and the author like this one. But CNN was not the one to do these things first- we have seen these kinds of efforts throughout the history from Devil... Beware of the anti Christians in CNN folks...

    March 31, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • Theseus

      What, two posts in a row? Well now I'm convinced!

      March 31, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Posting it a second time does not make it true.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
  13. Aji Joe

    This is a part of continuing effort from the anti Christians in CNN... This is another effort from Satan trying to push his agenda through its people in CNN and the author like this one. But CNN was not the one to do these things first- we have seen these kinds of efforts throughout the history from Devil... Beware of the anti Christians in CNN folks...

    Christians, lets worship our God and share what we have with our friends like the first century Christian communities did. This way let the God give his experience in our lives so that the non believers may repent and believe

    March 31, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • Qwerty Elemeno

      Another excellent post revealing the inherent insanity of religion.

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

      Yeah, yeah. *yawn*

      Do you really think copying and pasting the same crap is going to achieve something?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • midwest rail

      " This is a part of continuing effort from the anti Christians in CNN..."
      Nonsense.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Didn't get the response you wanted the first time, so you had to spew it again and this time make us aware of how horrible you think we are? Shouldn't you be getting off that Atheist invented machine and that Atheist invented internet and getting on your knees?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
  14. Theseus

    Tell me again, where in the Bible does Jesus look for eggs that were laid by a rabbit? Christians try to make EVERYTHING there own. Easter is a pagan festival celebrating the coming of spring, and Christians, without changing its pagan practices, call it a celebration of the resurrection of Christ. The same goes for Christmas as well. Pagan rituals given Christian themes, then Christians get mad when we point out that they don't even know their own faith. They tout persecution for their beliefs, but most of them are hypocrites and uneducated religious zealots, told WHAT to think, not HOW. Most of the practices of Christianity today weren't even the practices of Christ. Happy Easter egg hunting Jesus.

    March 31, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
    • Badda Bing

      I always thought it was a really bad idea to teach little children to eat the "chocolate eggs" that bunnies leave behind.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • Shawn Irwin

      "They tout persecution for their beliefs, but most of them are hypocrites and uneducated religious zealots, told WHAT to think, not HOW. " Thanks Theseus, that one made my day . . .

      March 31, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • HemantKumar

      Ditto for Christmas. It was a Nordic seasonal celebration and the Christians adopted as its own. That's why it is called the Yuletide. And that's why Christians have no clue as to exactly when Jesus was born. But hey, lack of facts and logic never stopped a good Christian from carrying on.....

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

      That was John 2:7:14. "Tho shall color the offspring of thy big eared creature"

      March 31, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
  15. HemantKumar

    And don't forget a few hundred years before Jesus, people were worshiping Zeus, Athena, Minerva etc. Today even th Christians laugh at them. A few hundred years from now, people will be laughing at the notion of Jesus being the lord.

    March 31, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
  16. Duke

    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?

    Why run this story now? I'm not saying don't run it, but why today or even this week?

    March 31, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • Qwerty Elemeno

      You would hate it no matter what day it was published. Stop your persecution complex!

      March 31, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      How are the simple facts presented in this story in any way controversial?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • HemantKumar

      Because Christianity is the only religion that has systematically tried to mix with the state powers and shove their warped morality down everyone's throat. They are not happy just to pray to their God. They have to convert others. They are not happy to follow the tenets of their book. They want to legislate their morality for everyone else. That's why..Christianity is an imperialistic religion.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • Duke

      The point of the story is that Christians never have been nor are they still persecuted for their faith. That any growth in Christianity has been based partially on embellished stories and fraud. How is that supposed to be taken?

      History cannot be rewritten and facts cannot be changed. Christians have been persecuted since Christ's crucifixion and it still continues today. When was the last time CNN ran a story about Christians killed in a foreign land or a pastor imprisoned in a foreign nation?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
  17. StatesvilleChristian

    Jesus stated to his followers:"If the world hate you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love his own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."

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

      thus began the vaunted christian persecution complex

      March 31, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • StatesvilleChristian

      According to the gospel of Rick...

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

      A perfect indoctrination for saying, "hey, if everyone tells you you're wrong, that must mean you're right". Ya, the Bible is really rational.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • rick

      no, statesville. christians get wood thinking they are being persecuted. makes them feel like they are jeebus

      March 31, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • StatesvilleChristian

      Thesus, I just love your generalizing. It really adds a lot to the conversation. Who is everybody?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
  18. Shawn Irwin

    If these "christians" want to know what persecution is, let them tell their "christian" brothers and sisters that they have turned athiest . . . . that will show them real fast what persecution really is. This is the real failure of "christianity" . . . it is really but a cult of prejudice against those who think or act differently than they do . . .

    March 31, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • Frank N. Furter

      In my city you can find literally hundreds of Christian signs. None are vandalized.

      In my city, there is one and only one small sign of an atheists club. It is always vandalized with Christian words.

      Christians are really hate-filled.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
    • Akira

      Ah, if we could really do the time-warp again.

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

    What I'm confused about is that Athiests want cold hard facts about a BELIEF (oxymoron)

    Ahhhh if only evidence/proof existed in every aspect of life...

    Maybe then there we wouldn't need to be court systems...man, wouldn't life be sweet with no jury-duty??

    March 31, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Not as far as I'm concerned. What I would appreciate would be believers acknowledging that they don't HAVE facts, only faith and belief.

      I'd have far more respect for them if they'd stop pretending they "know" something exists when they don't.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
    • Akira

      I do not think you actually know what an atheist is.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
    • Qwerty Elemeno

      Simply put, there are many things competing for our time and attention, and a total lack of evidence is a very good place to start in weeding out the ones to ignore. There just isn't enough time to explore the validity of all the various religions and beliefs, so the ones without any evidence, be they leprechauns, gods, ghosts, messiahs, talking horses, whatever, they are the ones to ignore.

      It's about not wasting your precious life on bullshit.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
  20. Aji Joe

    This is a part of continuing effort from the anti Christians in CNN.. This is another effort from Satan trying to push his agenda through its people in CNN and the author like this one. But CNN was not the one to do these things first- we have seen these kinds of efforts throughout the history from Devil... Beware of the anti Christians in CNN folks....

    March 31, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
    • The real Tom

      If you believers spent as much time actually worshipping god and helping those less fortunate as you do bemoaning CNN's supposed anti-Christian agenda, this world would be a far better place.

      Get right on that, why don't you?

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

      Please provide evidence that this Joh Blake, who wrote the article, and CNN are doing anything of the sort. Thanks.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
    • Theseus

      You sound like a crazy person.

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

      You have some evidence that this satan character exists?...or there is some evidence that satan has done anything you attribute to him? Of course not.

      I am not anti christian, I am anti ignorance, and all religions are based in ignorance. I am an atheist, and simply require some form of evidence to back up the theory of god. Since there is none, anywhere, and people have been looking for as long as recorded history and likely farther back than that, one can conclude that the claims are unjustified, and should be discarded for lack of evidence.

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

      ooooh.....satan......

      March 31, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      Richard Cranium: When you state there is no evidence of God, you are not stating an objective fact, but only your opinion. Millions of people are Christians because they have found evidence of God. You don't believe in God because of their evidence, so why should anyone dismiss God because of your lack of evidence?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
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About this blog

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