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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. woody

    The Pope has armed guards . And a bullet proof car ! Why if God will protect him ? A few of you said he does not drive in it . I have been to Rome and yes he does !

    March 31, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • Aji Joe

      Woody, I was also an alter boy and now an MS. It doesnt matter whi you are, any leyman can read and understand Bible and follw it. Now, about going to doc- God has given you the freedom to go to doc or stay home, You choose. Are there diseases which a doc cant heal and Christ has healed? Yes- if you seek so that you may repent and may believe

      March 31, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • One one

      He obviously doesn't believe god will protect him. I would bet if he gets sick, he will see a doctor because he does not believe god will heal him.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • woody

      I guess you have never had a kidney stone ? Shingles? Tell me about your choices after you experience it !

      March 31, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
    • woody

      If the Pope needs a bullet proof car than he too does not believe God will protect him .

      March 31, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • woody

      If the pope needs guards he too does not believe God will protect him

      March 31, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • woody

      A true man of God does not fear death because he knows heaven is a better place ?

      March 31, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
  2. Duke Wins By 20

    DON'T DIE A VIRGIN !!!!! THERE'S MUSLIM TERRORISTS WAITING FOR YOU IN HEAVEN !!!!!!! ACT NOW !!!!!!!!

    March 31, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
  3. Duke Wins By 20

    How come the jewish media is attacking christianity on Easter ?

    March 31, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • Answer

      The OLD Testament was Jewish.. yet you had no complaints with it. Even your NEW testament still is a rip off of the OLD.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      1 John 2:22-23

      March 31, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
  4. One one

    Christians are celebrating their god lifting the curse HE put upon all mankind because in the beginning two people wanted knowledge. Although god could accomplish this peacefully, instead he requires a human sacrifice, which turns out to be himself. But the sacrifice was not real because he got to rise from the dead and sit at the side of himself in heaven. The twisted lesson we learn from this is that the "sins" of the "guilty" can be absolved by punishing the innocent.

    March 31, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
  5. Duke Wins By 20

    How come liberals never make fun of jews ? It's passover right now. Is it only safe to attack christians ?

    March 31, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Dutch Jews founded New Amsterdam and they are not to be messed with. Obama felt the sting of touching that rail and no one should try it.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • One one

      Because Jews generally keep their religion to themselves and don't constantly try to push their religion into the public domain.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • Geoff

      Dutch Jews? NICE ONE!!

      Don't be messing with those Dutch Jews!

      The Dutch West Indies Company was not Jewish, you half-wit! New Amsterdam allowed a wide range of diversity for that era, because it was purely interested in economics, unlike many of the British colonies.

      Just when I think you cannot get any dumber . . .

      March 31, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      When the English invaded New York they were horrified to find Jews going about their business unmolested. This was a huge scandal in the London newspapers. Did you not know where the Jews in New York came from? Did you beleive they all came here in poverty, or as refuges?

      March 31, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • Geoff

      Oh my, what a moron you are. You claimed Jews FOUNDED New Amsterdam. I correctly stated they did not, and that the place was DIVERSE.

      The attitude of the British Christians is quite revealing of the centuries of blind bigotry that characterizes Christianity.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Dutch Jews founded New Amsterdam, imported 1/3 of the black slaves to America and owned the Turkish opium crop. These Jews also are founding families of the Republic.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • Rollo Tomasi

      So America is a Jewish nation. Okay.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
  6. Bigquestion

    and if your eye was plucked out in this life,

    would it be waiting for you...up in heaven...with your wife?

    March 31, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      No marriage in heaven.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • Zingo

      No fun in heaven either. Just endless butt-kissing the egomaniac boss.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Zingo, if you want to leave Heaven, Jesus will oblige you.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
  7. Robbi

    Mark, your statement about "all the persecution that Jews received at the hands of Christians" reveals your own persecution complex. An in-depth study of history and Jewish religious writings show that Jews (past and present) view Christianity as heresy, idolatrous, and punishable by death. That study of history also reveals the part Jews have played in the enslavement of MILLIONS of Christians into Islamic hands. So I think that there has been enough mutual animosity to go around and that the world's many problems require both religions to lower the volume

    March 31, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Romans 11:25-27

      Amen.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
  8. Duke Wins By 20

    Is ' hot liberal girl ' and oxymoron ? I only ask because their hair is always greasy and they're almost always overweight. How is that ? Most liberals are vegetarians, yet amazingly, fat.

    March 31, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • rick

      most liberals are vegetarians? you are a stupid troll cvnt

      March 31, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Is Duke Wins By 20 retarded?

      Yes.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • Really Now

      Scarlett Johansson.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
  9. Aji Joe

    Christians, lets worship our God and share what we have with our friends like the first century Christian communities. This way let God give his experience in our lives so that the the devil's agents like CNN and many on this forum may repent and believe. No need to hate them, because they are the seeds fallen on the road, an easy target of the dark side

    March 31, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • woody

      If you become ill do you call a doctor or stay at home and read your bible ? If God protects you why do you get ill in the first place . By the way I was an altar boy .

      March 31, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Like first century christian communities...that is hilarious...by all means, lets go and kill those who do not worship our god, just like the bible tells us to.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Do not hate the seekers, teach them of hope faith and love.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • Aji Joe

      Woody, I was also an alter boy and now an MS. It doesnt matter whi you are, any leyman can read and understand Bible and follw it. Now, about going to doc- God has given you the freedom to go to doc or stay home, You choose. Are there diseases which a doc cant heal and Christ has healed? Yes- if you seek so that you may repent and may believe

      March 31, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
  10. edmundburkeson

    Martyrdom – overstated by Christians perhaps, understated by non-Christians especially with loyalties to those who perpetuated the violence. It is not the tradition which should put Christians on high alert, it is the dynamic at work in the universe which calls for loyalty to God or to Caesar. Its the tendency of those in power, and not, to discredit God as the one to whom we give our ultimate allegiance. They are the ones who believe that humans owe their ultimate allegiance to government and pose the biggest threat to Christians – that is no myth.

    March 31, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      Atheism definitely fits the definition of faith. Why does that bother atheists so much?

      March 31, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • The real Tom

      It doesn't "bother" me because it's not a fact. You'd like it to be, but that won't make it so. Why don't you explain why YOU'RE so bothered that atheists don't accept your definition? What is your motive in making this argument, you lying little jerk?

      March 31, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  11. Richard Dawkins

    Answer. I have confidence you won't answer my question. how's that

    March 31, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      I did answer your question, and showed it to be moot.

      You are the one who can't seem to use the reply button, so you appear to be running from responses.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      I'm not running. And it wasn't addressed to you. For some reason the rly button stopped working. It was addressed to answer. The question was why do you not think atheism falls under the definition of faith.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Richard D – and what was your question? Given this just popped up as a standalone comment.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Answer

      So you can't employ Miriam and go about getting the definition. So hilarious.

      What a rich delight.. you jeebus tards don't like having to give up on your little tactic that everything is "faith".

      "No you atheists – you don't have confidence it's the same as our faith!" "You have a religion also.. you see."
      "I'm telling you that you are [this and this]. I have proof that you are [this and this]"

      try your hardest everyday and pin a label onto the "atheism". Use any of the pigeonhole tactics. It's the same day in and day out.

      Have you given up? Going to try again? Continue please. I'll waste some time on you.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Ah – you're psychic. Faith is a belief is something without evidence. Atheism is a lack of belief in a god. The believer believes, based on faith. The atheist does not believe. Very simple and straightforward.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      This iPad loses it for some reason. The reply button will stop working at some point. I post and it never appears so I have to go to a new thread.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • Answer

      Christards...

      Don't try to define what others are – for them. You'll be better off not doing that.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      It's not pigeonholing. Atheism is not a lack of a belief in something. It is a belief in am godless universe.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      It's an attempt to set up a false equivalency. Why can the atheist rely on faith, but the believer can't? Not the same; not by a long shot.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      RD
      and I answered it rendering your question moot.
      The answer is you are trying to define atheism by use of the term faith. In one way, it could be thought of that way, but since this a topic where religion is a subject, faith has a different meaning when used in religious terms. So the "faith" that atheists display, is not the same kind of faith as believers have, so the term faith cannot be used equally across both groups, and is therefore moot as to its specific definition.

      Next question ( and try to put a little thought into this one.)

      March 31, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • Answer

      "Atheism is not a lack of a belief in something." <<<– funny.

      The tool just keeps on wanting the "atheism" label to be something else. Some other word that suits the christard's definition.

      "Have I got a new definition for YOU. Accept it."

      March 31, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • The real Tom

      " Atheism is not a lack of a belief in something."

      Yes, it is. No matter how many times you attempt to make up another definition, this is one that is accurate and reflects what many atheists think.

      My word, but you're stupid.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
  12. woody

    In God we trust ? But the Pope needs a bullet proof car. We need police with guns and firemen with fire trucks. We need a military with tanks ,bombs and guns . Well if in God we truly trust then lets send the Pope over to tell That North Korean Leader that we are protected by God and because of that we don't need an army . We will just bomb North Korea with bibles . That will show them !

    March 31, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      They already did that in the Korean war. Bombing them with bibles didn't seem to help.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • .

      The Pope doesn't use that car. Keep up, spanky.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      We trust God. It's man that becomes a problem.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
  13. Theresa

    That CNN would post this on Easter, tells us all we need to know about CNN! Man did not create God; God created man. And because God loved men and women so much, despite their sinfulness, God sent His only Son to pay the price for our sins, so that we might go to Heaven. I can't help but think of how much Jesus was willing to suffer, because He loved us. And how much it must have hurt Mary to see her Son suffer so. And our Father. But they loved us with a love that is so deep and complete, they gave it all so that we might one day join them in Heaven. As for the early Christians, they suffered much. Not just in the hands of the Romans, and not just in the Roman Coliseums, but many were imprisoned, tortured, and some crucified. And today, millions are being persecuted in the Middle East, and in other countries. Once again, Christians are being imprisoned, tortured and murdered for their faith in Jesus. And as the suffering of Christians begins to come full circle, we hold on to the fact that Jesus will be coming back, and sooner than many realize. Be Ready.

    March 31, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • rick

      man created god, theresa

      March 31, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Why are you so opposed to simple historical facts?

      Thin skinned, much?

      March 31, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • woody

      Nature created man ! Look up the human mammal because that is what we are !

      March 31, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Why does your god only have one son? Pretty pathetic if you ask me. Not very powerful at all.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • rick

      god created us knowing we would sin

      god is a manipulative pr1ck

      god can forgive people without the sacrifice

      god chose not to

      god is a vindictive pr1ck

      March 31, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • rick

      you sure seem to have an issue confusing opinion with fact, theresa

      March 31, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      We know today from the global geological record that species occur rapidly following a mass extinction, the opposite of evolution. Our Christian God chooses to use mass extinction as a means to species.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • woody

      Man created every religion out there ! No one but the human can even write a book . The only thing that makes us unique in the animal kingdom is our thumb . Why do you think we have doctors and hospitals ? Do you really want the Pope to do open heart surgery on you ? Oh wait better yet get God to do it !

      March 31, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Therese

      Your god makes your rules and your punishment, hence you believe that your god created millions of humans in places and times on this planet who did not 'hear his word' and thus DESERVE to go to hell and will writhe in agony for trillions of years. CREEPY!

      March 31, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      The natural place for man to go after this life is Sheol, also called "paradise" by Islam and Christ. Daunte's hell does however have a certain hook to it.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • rick

      there is no "natural" place to go to after we die. we die and we rot on the spot naturally unless someone picks up our bodies and does something with them

      March 31, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • Rollo Tomasi

      Daunte?

      March 31, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
  14. strikeit

    Same tired lame, God hatter lib trolls

    March 31, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
    • rick

      Same old thing, trolls who cannot spell

      March 31, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Only in the United States would people use the term "lib" or "liberal" in a pejorative sense.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • Rollo Tomasi

      God hatter? Haberdasher to the Lord?

      March 31, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
  15. objecttothis

    While I wholeheartedly disagree that most stories of martyrdom are fabricated (but some I'm sure were), I do agree that the way early Christians were treating those who were not Christians had a profound impact. This is something that Western Christians have mostly lost and I wish that they (we) would begin to treat others the way we did at first.

    March 31, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Much of Christendom in America as become oblivious to what is around them, as they are only self aware. (original sin) Christ commanded Christians to be aware, but aware Christians are a threat to clergy. So we are mostly blind sheep following a Judas goat to the silence of the lambs; unaware that Ba'al has replaced Jesus at the altar.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
  16. Jacob Neal Barton

    Whether you are a Christian, Atheist, Muslim, Jew, or any other religion, I believe most people can agree on peace. Do not let someone you don't even know create hatred and intolerance in your heart against someone with different beliefs. This Country was founded on the idea of tolerance to all.

    March 31, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
    • Answer

      Not mentioning the christard's little motto of "this is a christian nation"? They want you to.. better do as they want you to do. Make them feel better.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
    • End Religion

      The only way to achieve and keep peace is to get rid of Christianity, which has a mandate to kill gays and other absurdities. Talk about intolerance. It's a part of their belief system. We don't need to be tolerant of intolerance.

      Bye bye Christianity, I see your churches and membership shrinking!

      March 31, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Unfortunately, Jacob, some religions preach hate, bigotry and intolerance. For example, many Christians believe that gays are evil, or abominations. The Muslim faith talks about killing unbelievers. How do you propose one would deal with such belief systems, which clearly conflict with your vision of tolerance? Which takes priority – the concept of tolerance, or the religious dogma and doctrine?

      March 31, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Geoff

      You do realize that history proves the opposite, that religious people rarely go for peace. Indeed, they are all-too-often the driver for war and oppression.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • Answer

      @End Religion

      You know you can't say that right?

      ==quote==
      "The only way to achieve and keep peace is to get rid of Christianity,"
      ==end==

      The jeebus tards who protest with the question "then what will you replace it with?"

      That is their way of thinking.. that it must be replaced with something. Bet you 1 million dollars. XD

      March 31, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • Mark From Middle River

      Right now folks are fighting and killing each other over oil, gold, diamonds and even access to clean drinking water. Peace is nothing that can be found when a person who believes, looks or loves differently than you is eliminated. As a Christian, I see enough fighting within the Faith to wonder why Atheist are so scared that a great monolithic united Christian group can come after them.

      To hope to eliminate Christians will bring peace is as crazy as hoping to eliminate Jews or Tamil tigers, or Palestinians. After a while, it is all that you have is seeking peace by destruction.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
  17. John

    This is so profoundly silly. Every day somewhere in the world a little girl is treated much worse than Jesus was treated by being nailed to a cross and beaten.

    March 31, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      The torture and murder of Jesus is an allegory for the Irish experiance and I doubt it will be getting any less brutal in future portrayals. Our best hope of moving away from such awfulness is for the Chicanos to take over the Irish church in America.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • .

      How many times was Jesus raped? Somewhere, right now, a little girl is. Your analogy is what is profoundly silly.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      And why isn't there a commandment, "Thou Shalt Not R-ape" in the Bible?

      March 31, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Under old testament law you have to pay off dad for the crime. Although nearly all the tribe of Benjamin was slaughtered for that crime and more.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Akira

      Dot, read the root post again.

      Tarver, you are just an equal-opportunity insult meister, aren't you?

      March 31, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Akira- Mel Gibson grossed me out with his movie and I don't want to see another like it.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
  18. 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 4:03 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Run scared little one...right back to your cave. Come out when you can live in the 21st century.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Also, beware flying squirrels. Such abominations are clear proof that the end times are upon us. And also platypus. Freaks sent from the very bowels of Hell to confuse and disgust the devout. These ARE dangerous times indeed.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • Mark From Middle River

      Run scared.... like when some Atheist see a Nativity scene during Christmas time :)

      March 31, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • Akira

      How many times are you going to post this without answering what I asked you for: evidence that either John Blake or Cnn is doing any such thing?
      Your persecution complex runs deep.
      Switch to Fox. They accommodate persecution complexes such as yours.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      We don't run from nativity scene's...we just don't want them on land paid for with tax payer dollars.
      Nice to see you're still as hateful as ever Mark.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
    • Mark

      Considering all the persecution that Jews received at the hands of Christians I'd say that if Satan helped start Christianity as a way of hurting God's chosen people he did a fine job of it. He could have been that voice that Paul heard at the roadside. Paul was the point where it stopped being a Jewish sect and became a new gentile religion, one with a particularly good reason to hate Jews. Was Satan clever enough to do this?

      March 31, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
    • Akira

      I have never personally witnessed that, Mark. Have a you-tube video that shows any person running away from statues?

      March 31, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • Mark

      Mark From Middle River
      I don't care about nativity scenes on private property; it's just the ones on public property that goes against the first amendment.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • Answer

      @Mark

      "see a Nativity" <<– oh and those atheists stand that you want out of your face when you're whining about your display. Rich laughs.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Why does aji joe get to post the same thing over and over editor?

      March 31, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • yikesboy

      Ali Joe, you sound like exactly the scary kind of person that continues to push many thinking people away from supernatural belief systems such as Christianity. They all tend to serve up a dangerous stew of certainty and righteousness along with heaping helpings of ignorance. I think it's wise to pay attention to the canny words of Richard Dawkins, "...religion can make good people do wicked things.".

      March 31, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • Mark From Middle River

      Hi Mark :)

      And I do not feel that a public property is place for questionable art. If I am to turn away from a artist floating a cross in a jar of urine than you should be ok with a nativity display for a single month of the year.

      Also, is the state declaring that you must follow and covert to Christianity? We know that they are not, so your argument crumbles.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • John

      You better be good or Santa won't bring you heaven on dec 25th.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • One one

      According to your belief, god created the two most horrible things in the world, Satan and hell.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      @ Mark from Middle River – and which part of the Consti-tution are you relying on in your complaint against questionable art in a public place?

      March 31, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
    • .

      What part of "separation of church and state" escapes you, MFMR? :)

      March 31, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
    • Mark From Middle River

      50. That is the point. The first amendment only states that you have the freedom to worship or not to worship.

      “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to as'semble, and to pet'ition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

      This is where Mark is basing his compliant. I am stating that since it is not the government knocking on Mark's door and questioning why he was or was not in church today, then his complaint crumbles and fails. The public place is paid by the taxpayers,you, me and Mark. If a church choose to place a nativity then that might be another issue but if a artist can us taxpayer space for a work of anti-Christian art than the same should be for the Christian, Muslim, Jew or Buddist to do the same.

      We all pay taxes and the 1st amendment does not establish a "state" faith.

      Period, The separation of Church and State does not appear in the Consti'tution. In fact it only appeared in a letter years later from a slave holder.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Mark, you have gotten no smarter. The right to a fair trial by a jury of one's peers isn't in the Const itution, either, but it's still a right. The fact is that separation of church and state is a FACT. You can whine all you want, but that won't change a thing. We do, indeed, have a separation of church and state in this nation.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • The real Tom

      You really are shockingly ignorant, Mark. A public display of art is not the same as the appearance in a public space such as a courtroom or a schoolroom. No one is required to visit an art display. But children are required to attend school and people are required to appear in court.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • Mark From Middle River

      Wow, still double posting. Still have not been able to get the thoughts from your head to your keyboard in one post. :) Tom, you still are weak and very beatable.

      >>>”The right to a fair trial by a jury of one's peers isn't in the Const itution, either, but it's still a right. “

      7Th : “In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and nofact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”

      ju·ry  /ˈjo͝orē/ Noun
      A body of people (typically twelve in number) sworn to give a verdict in a legal case on the basis of evidence submitted to them in court

      Peers: pi(ə)r/ Noun
      A person of the same age, status, or ability as another specified person

      Sorry TomTom, but until you can show where the Government is establishment of a national Faith then all you are quoting are the words from a letter from slave holding adulterer.

      >>> TomTom. Last semester I went to a building on campus to pay my tuition and right across from the Bursars office were examples of current student's art work. When I go to the Motor vehicle's, the same. Art work is not limited to one location, the United States government is one of the largest collectors on the planet.

      So, the next time you go to court or take your kid to school, I want you to look around the walls and ask yourself are they ever lacking of some form of art.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
  19. John P. Tarver, MS/PE

    Burning man in Arizona simulates the religion at Carthidge, where at least once a year the most popular person in the community was sacrificed. This is symbolized by the KKK burning a cross and is identical to the hippy religion. (aka the dead and in hell)

    March 31, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Facts seem to escape you rather easily. Burning Man, for instance, is held in Nevada. Not Arizona.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • Akira

      Tarver, you will never be ken m. I suggest you stop trying.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      What exactly is the 'hippy religion'?

      March 31, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Worshipping the devil in Nevada then, is a bunch of hippies. Just like the KKK, only on a larger scale.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      JPT
      The KKK is a christian organization.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • Akira

      A fact that has been pointed out to Tarver before, but that never stopped a poe from repeating it, RC.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      The Celts converted to the worship of Ba'al between the first and second century BCE, coincident with the publication of Enoch. The KKK burns crosses to Ba'al and worships a devil. KKK members also tend to be evolutionists, as it supporrts their racist beliefs.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Care to point to evidence of this? The prisoner population of the USA is 75% christian, so before bashing 'hippies' you might want to look at your own group of people. (http://current.com/community/92831935_atheists-supply-less-than-1-of-prison-populations-while-christians-make-up-75.htm)

      March 31, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      The children of the Klansman here in the KKK enclave of Kern County are hippy like and claim to be Christians. In prison it is best to claim you are a Christian, or Moslem, if you want out.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      "Worshipping the devil in Nevada then, is a bunch of hippies. Just like the KKK, only on a larger scale."

      Too late. Your utter lack of facts and outright mistake in the very first clause of your very first sentence renders everything that comes after worthless.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Geoff

      Burning Man is more fun in a couple of days that a whole lifetime of Christianity or Islam is.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      My point still stands, even though I do not know where you worship the devil six.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Gave Them Up

      KKK=democratic political org, favored by mobs

      March 31, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Geoff

      Kern County? Well doesn't that just explain everything! Such a bastion of culture and enlightenment!

      Kern County is rightfully part of flyover country.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • End Religion

      John, the KKK is Christian terrorism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ku_Klux_Klan
      And if you wanna drag out weird religious simulations, how about Christian cannibalism, eating the blood and body of Christ?

      March 31, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      How can worshipping BA'al be a Christian organization? Stop spewing nonsense. The KKK is in church every Sunday, but it only gets them to the lake of fire.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  20. Haven help me twice

    Thomas Jefferson, POTUS #3 (from Notes on the State of Virginia):

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    March 31, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Mark From Middle River

      "I am a real Christian – that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ." –The Writings of Thomas Jefferson,

      But, it is interesting that you wish to quote a slave holder who cheated on his wife with her slave sister. I guess he was many things.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • Duke

      Jefferson acknowledged the importance of religion and of the teachings of Christ. He endorsed using federal money to evangelize the native american tribes and using the Bible in schools. That being said, he considered himself to be a Christian of his own sect. Meaning he did not subscribe to any organized religion or any other particular theology other than his own.

      As far as being a slave owner and the rest. For many years it was 'illegal" to even emancipate your own slaves, something Jefferson fought to change. Secondly, where would you have Jefferson to have sent his slaves. Could they buy property, obtain employment find peace on their own. That was the great question plagued by many abolitionist even up to the Civil War. Jefferson like Washington refused to sell the family members of his slaves, instead they kept them together even beyond the point of usefulness for the size of farms and lands they possessed.

      And their are many questions about the Hemmings controversy and no settled facts. Try to besmirch someone else.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:33 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.