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. Wallace

    “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. ”

    ― Joseph Goebbels

    The Christians simply won by habituation or what is called as "conditioning". The gays are doing the same today.

    March 31, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • Wallace

      I think its' ironical! :-)

      March 31, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • woody

      What is the gays ? I did not think Christians tagged people !

      March 31, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • Wallace

      Woody – the other, proper word for them doesn't make it through.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • One one

      The Christian religion succeeds by using the oldest pitch in the world, the carrot and the stick.

      Join our program and you get to live forever in paradise. If you don't, you will suffer eternal damnation.

      It's an effective pitch for many people. Of course, none of it can be verified or proven.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
    • Correction

      Wallace, that was Lenin. Goebbels was the "big lie", but he got that from Hitler.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      I don't need to go on. I've made my point clear. There are a certain number of damaged people in this world. You're one of them. All you have to offer are insults. Nothing constructive.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • Answer

      Can't even make a reply in the correct place, 'Richard'.

      Poor you.

      What do you christards have against Richard Dawkins?

      March 31, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      Answer. Every so often this iPad posts to the comment above the one I'm posting to...or every so often I'm screwing up. Bfd. You're finding the posts

      March 31, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
    • Answer

      So dodging the question. That's a christard for you.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • Agnes of Dog

      Yes Answer – true sign of a fundy Christian:

      1. Never answers direct questions.
      2. Steals monikers.
      3. Uses monikers that belie their position.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
  2. Bob1god

    Religion what is it good for, absolutely nothing!

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

      War ?

      March 31, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      I've told no lies. Only truths you can't accept. People like you and Tom are just damaged people who are intolerant of other people's beliefs

      March 31, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • Answer

      Can't even find the right place for a reply. Nice. Christard.

      What I like to see is you the christard take on Chad... go on "Richard".

      March 31, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • The real Tom

      The only "belief" I won't tolerate Dick-sh!t, is your belief that you get to define what I think. You can stick it up your fundament and choke on it. But keep right on lying through your rotten teeth. It just reinforces my opinion of ass wipes like you and the Piddler.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      Tom. I'm not defining what you think. I'm simply pointing out that it fits the definition of faith. And it does whether you like it or not. And that seems to make you very angry. You are the one who hag had nothing but insults to post all day.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • Answer

      "just fits" <<- like christards.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
    • The real Tom

      No, Dickie-poo, it does not. I have already told you more than once that you are wrong. If you're too stupid to figure it out, I can't help you. I do not profess that there is no god. I don't see evidence for one, but I do not claim there isn't any. That is not a belief system. That is not faith. It is a lack thereof. You can attempt to pretend that you know what I think and can make it fit your definition, but it just makes you look stupid.

      Edit: Even more stupid than you already are.

      And I notice you have continued to fail to explain why it is so crucial to you to have anyone agree with you on this point. Why are you such a coward?

      March 31, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • The real Tom

      What a fvcktard you are, Dick.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Really, it's just so telling that the Dickwad can't post a truth to save his life. He wants to make something fit his favored definition, regardless of the facts. What he can't find the balls to do is explain why he thinks his definition is more valid than any other and why it so concerns him what atheists think.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      I am not asking anybody to agree. I'm asking for a reasonable counter argument. You just saying I'm wrong is not a counter argument. I have had one reasonable counter argument but it did not come from you or answer. Tell me why I'm wrong. Rationally, logically, if you are capable.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
    • Answer

      A christard will do the same thing over and over again. It will continue on this routine the very next day under a new alias.

      What a christard wants is just a win. The longest awaited win – any kind of validation it can get that says "well it took a while but I finally can win at something."

      Christards never win.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
    • The real Tom

      You're wrong because that is not my belief. I have never contended that I "know" there is no god. I don't have any "belief system." I simply don't see any evidence that there's a god, and lacking that evidence, I simply wait to see if any evidence can be produced by those who claim to have it. Thus far, you have failed to produce anything convincing, DICK.

      Now, grow a fvcking pair and answer: why do you find it necessary to define atheism YOUR way?

      March 31, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Really, Answer. You can just see this azzhole licking his chops and thinking, "I'll get them to agree. I'll make them say they have faith. Then I'll be RIGHT."

      What an idiot.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
    • Agnes of Dog

      Let me guess. The idiot who hides under the name of a famous atheist probably spends the other half of their time stealing other people's monikers. Sounds like your average conflicted neighborhood Christian to me.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
    • The real Tom

      " I'm asking for a reasonable counter argument."

      What would you consider a "reasonable counter argument", DIcky? Go ahead, spill it, sweetie. Then tell me why it's SO IMPORTANT TO YOUR FAITH.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Yep, Agnes, it's the same little sh!t-azzed troll who's on here with the same crap every day and a different name. Too embarrassed to use the same one more than once-he's been handed his butt and it's embarrassing to keep showing up and being humiliated repeatedly.

      It's so funny.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
    • Answer

      @Tom

      "but it did not come from you or answer. "

      -In this little one bit is the key to a christard's way of life. You see, by examining the line. An answer was given. Just not by you nor myself. The thing about christards is that they function in the exact way – each and every one of them.

      If you personally haven't answered the question – if you have the same response as others – you will have a hilarious time poking fun at these christards when you keep playing with them. Like when I do it – constantly.

      They can never figure out, that just maybe – just maybe that my response is the exact same as one that was accpeted by the very christard who keeps on asking it. LOL

      March 31, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      It's not my way it's a valid definition of the word faith. If you say you are not a atheist then fine. But you can't argue that atheism fits a definition of the word.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • Answer

      " just maybe that my response is the exact same" << Note it: christards.

      Note it well.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
    • Answer

      Oh hey Agnes.. you haven't answered this christard's question either. Don't. XD

      I want to see how grand this gets.. like when will this christard blow his lid.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "But you can't argue that atheism fits a definition of the word."

      Do you even know what the fvck you're typing, you moron? I can argue whatever I choose; if you don't like it you can lump it. I don't give a ripe fvck whether you agree or not. It's your issue, dearie, not mine. I'm fine with my lack of faith in the existence of some sky fairy. If you need everyone to agree to your way of thinking, I suggest you grow up and figure out that life doesn't work that way. Otherwise, people are going to snicker at you, just as I've been doing all day.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
  3. Richard Dawkins

    If there is no god, a religious person will never know he was wrong after he dies, but if there is a god, an atheist will.

    March 31, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • Answer

      Bent out of shape already?

      Going back to meaningless bs, good for you.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      I don't get bent out of shape. Just an observation.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • woody

      If a pope needs an armed guard does the pope and Vatican really believe in a God that will protect them ? Why did God not protect all the priest that ended up in court , jail ?

      March 31, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • Colin

      Wow, you have just convinced me to believe in the Hindu God Brahma.....

      March 31, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • Answer

      You find yourself being stupid as others have noticed of you.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      Another lazy, truncated version of Pascal's Wager. *Sigh.*

      March 31, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      Seriously answer I would throw the "stupid" stone from that glass house of yours.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
    • Answer

      Your glass house is a finer place than mine to throw from? I think you may be right.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      At least you didn't deny living in a glass house. Good for you.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      I don't understand why aethists are so sensitive to their belief that there is no god being called a faith.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
    • Answer

      It's the house you couldn't maintain the lie on. So yes.

      It's really comfy too.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • Answer

      Why are all christards hung on wanting a god? That's the other question.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      What lie have I maintained? Atheism is a form of faith. Just because you can't come to grips with that doesn't make it a lie.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • Answer

      Like all good little christards.. keep on repeating what you failed to do.

      Such a child, wanting his remarks to be valid. Poor baby. You need a hug?

      March 31, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • Answer

      Do you need a babble quote to go along with that butt hurt? I'm sure HS will provide you with one to sooth your pain.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Still lying? Wow, you and Mark the Piddler should get together.

      Why is it you can't explain why you want so very badly for atheists to have a faith?

      March 31, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Fake Dawkins,
      Because is not faith, it is not believing in a god. btw for your original post Pascal's Wager was discredited as soon as he announced it; look it up.
      Science plays an important role in modern life – how can you trust the science that brings you the internet, atomic clocks, satellites, aircraft, vaccination, etc but not the science that proves that the bible is not literally true – evolution, astronomy, geology, paleontology, etc.
      So the bible has no evidence to support it. Would you buy property or investments purely on trust?

      March 31, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      Christianity is a belief system. It brings ,any people comfort in difficult, whether god is real or not is irrelevant. The comfort is real. And I. The end that's all that matters. If you find comfort in other beliefs, fine. But why do you feel the need to ridicule others for their beliefs. And you didn't like the fact that I was trying to"define" you. Yet you call Christians Christturds. Hypocritical.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • Answer

      "Richard"

      You're a christard, just accept it.

      I learn from the very best at ridicule from you folks. You should be glad that my education at slander derives from my study of you freaks.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      Actually if I had to define myself I would say I'm an agnostic. I just don't feel the need to ridicule Christians for their beliefs as you and Tom seem to have a need to do.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • Answer

      Sure thing "Richard".. go over the details with your priest on that.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      Answer. Face it. You're just a dick who can't carry on a civil conversation with somebody who disagrees with your world view.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • Answer

      You can keep on your lying face. I really don't mind.

      Entertain me christard.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "their belief that there is no god"

      I don't have that belief.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • Agnes of Dog

      So not only is the person with the handle RD full of shit, they have to be a coward and hide under a moniker that belies their position. Sounds like a Christian to me.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
  4. woody

    How christian is it to say no to women that want to become priest ? How Christian is it we have never had a black pope ?

    March 31, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
  5. woody

    Why does the vatican need armed guards if the Vatican believes God will protect them ? Why does the Vatican need lawyers ?

    March 31, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
  6. Richard Dawkins

    The problem I have with many

    March 31, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
    • Thad

      Words with more than one syllable?

      March 31, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      Lol. That wasn't supposed to post.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
  7. woody

    How good was God to the young girls of the Magdalene Laundries ?

    March 31, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
  8. Aji Joe

    Repent, and believe in Gospel

    March 31, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
  9. Aji Joe

    "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

    March 31, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
  10. Wallace

    Christianians must have felt like the gays of today, slowly winning by habituation until they became a part of the culture. They took a lot longer to do that, though, the gayss are winning the fight in less than 70 years.

    March 31, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • DoctorKnow

      Leviticus 18:22
      "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination."

      March 31, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • Wallace

      So what? Most people today are already converted (if you repeat a lie long enough, it will become the truth). The religious right seems to have lost the war already, just like the Romans.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • FSM

      The Loose Canon, 1st Ed.
      Pastalm 110, Verse 11-14

      11I get weak and cry but HE lifts me up
      12and says HE will not be found in the custom kitchens of the rich and famous,
      13but on the carboard box dinner table of a crack addict
      14and her p.imps il-ligitamate sons and daughters.

      I pray that you will be touched by his Noodly Appendage.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

      Mark 7:9

      Amen.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • Answer

      Mark 1:140

      Do your self.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • bob

      How bout all of the scripture that allows for the right to own slaves? Do you really believe a god would allow such an atrocity? Cmon people, stop believing in 2000 year old fables that are mostly taken from pagan tales.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
  11. Nissim Levy

    The heaven's gate cult leader must have been telling the truth because why else would all his followers commit suicide in the belief that they were going to be resurrected on that alien space ship? Such belief that will drive a person to to give up their life can only come be motivated by the truth

    March 31, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • Christian Logic

      And since you cannot prove it didn't happen, then it must be true.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      You may have a pont Levy, kill yourself and contact us from the other side.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • Nissim Levy

      So using the same argument that christians use to prove the resurrection we can also prove the truth of the heaven's gate cult and also Jim Jones by the way. Nice!

      March 31, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • Chad

      A lot of people believe a lot of crazy things to be true.

      Of course, that doesnt mean that nothing is true.

      What needs to be done is to look at the origin of the belief, the nature of the belief and the evidence for the belief.

      In the case of the disciples, they were all predisposed AGAINST believing in a Jesus being resurrected, and they did initially believe the accounts from others.
      It was only after meeting the risen Christ themselves, that they became convinced of the actual truth of the resurrection.

      predisposed against it
      sudden radical change in belief
      belief based on meeting a physically resurrected Christ, not some abstract notion.

      That is what separates Christianity and Judaism from all other religions. It, and it alone, is firmly anchored in the supernatural in history.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • Funniest Line All Day!

      "firmly anchored in the supernatural in history"

      March 31, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • Nissim Levy

      Chad, these so called proofs are no proofs at all as I have demonstrated using the heaven's gate and Jim Jones example. The apostes were not predisposed to not believe in Jesus. The opposite is true. They were his apostles after all. Also, much of modern Christian dogma was formed centuries after the apostles were dead.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • Science

      Hey Chad POOF goes the FAIRY IN THE SKY ..............................the illusion.

      Engineering 'Ghost' Objects: Breakthrough in Scattering Illusion
      Feb. 19, 2013 — A team at the NUS Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering led by Dr Qiu Cheng-Wei has come out with an optical device to "engineer" ghosts.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130219090643.htm

      March 31, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • Chad

      @Nissim Levy "these so called proofs are no proofs at all as I have demonstrated using the heaven's gate and Jim Jones example. The apostes were not predisposed to not believe in Jesus. The opposite is true. They were his apostles after all."
      @Chat "100% not true.
      A. there was absolutely no notion of a physical resurrection in advance of the resurrection at the end of days.
      B. The crucifixion proved to the disciples that Jesus was literally cursed by God. (cursed is anyone who is hung on a tree).
      C. The disciples disbanded following the crucifixion, each returning to their previous livelihoods.

      Provably, not a single disciple anticipated a resurrected Christ.

      =====
      @Nissim Levy "Also, much of modern Christian dogma was formed centuries after the apostles were dead."
      @Chad "cant imagine how you would hope to demonstrate that. Christian doctrine is based on the NT, which has been unchanged for 2000 years.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • Answer

      @Chad

      Where is the 'atheist' version of your Rachel persona? You did create an atheist for yourself to defeat, right?

      March 31, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

      Hebrews 3:6

      Amen.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • Science

      Hey Chad/rachel do you have a Y

      Was the bible around back then ?

      Human Y Chromosome Much Older

      Than Previously Thought

      Mar. 4, 2013 — The discovery and analysis of an extremely rare African American Y chromosome pushes back the time of the most recent common ancestor for the Y chromosome lineage tree to 338,000 years ago. This time predates the age of the oldest known anatomically modern human fossils.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130305145821.htm

      Maybe they should not have created the wedge !!!
      The wedge strategy is a political and social action plan authored by the Discovery Insti-tute, the hub of the intelligent design movement. The strategy was put forth in a Discovery Insti-tute manifesto known as the Wedge Docu-ment,[1] which describes a broad social, political, and academic agenda who

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedge_strategy

      March 31, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • Answer

      Mark 4:99

      Take thy christard meds.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • Chad

      @science "http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130305145821.htm"

      =>I agree! More evidence for theistic evolution.

      thanks for the post :-)

      March 31, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • Answer

      So where is the atheist version of Rachel, Chad?

      March 31, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • Science

      Chad/rachael BS

      Maybe they should not have created the wedge !!!
      The wedge strategy is a political and social action plan authored by the Discovery Insti-tute, the hub of the intelligent design movement. The strategy was put forth in a Discovery Insti-tute manifesto known as the Wedge Docu-ment,[1] which describes a broad social, political, and academic agenda who

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedge_strategy

      March 31, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • Science

      And IT LOST CHAD !

      Dover Trial Transcripts............................................. FACTS.

      Below are the complete transcripts from the Dover Trial. Thanks to our friends at the National Center for Science Education for helping us fill in the missing transcripts.

      http://www.aclupa.org/legal/legaldocket/intelligentdesigncase/dovertrialtranscripts.htm

      March 31, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
    • Magnificent New Channel - MUST SEE!

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pW3PBK6GOv0&w=640&h=390]

      March 31, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • Agnes of Dog

      Ah yes – video by the dude whose father is in jail for tax fraud. Of course what they teach is fraud as well – Creationism.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • Prehistoric shark captured on film

      Fishy Fishy Chomp Chomp

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mneDhOtVEQw&w=640&h=390]

      March 31, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • Science

      Remember Chad/rachael the candy the Bunny left ..........................is bad for the teeth !

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/03/28/my-faith-why-im-going-back-to-church-for-good-friday/comment-page-2/#comments

      Chad you lost in SPACE ?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
    • Science

      Chad is the black hole sucking you in ?

      April 1, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  12. Buster

    God is real. I disagree with the ND prof. Plus, what's the deal with the all of the jelly rolls on her neck. That's gross.

    March 31, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
  13. John P. Tarver, MS/PE

    If we take the story in Genesis and have each day be an era, the story pretty well matches the global geological record; unlike the false notional hypothesis that species are an outcome of evolution.

    March 31, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • Nissim Levy

      it's great that you are such an authority on evolution that you know that modern biological sciences which all support evolution are wrong. Why haven't you received the nobel prize yet?

      March 31, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • One one

      It also means the whole world was populated by incest.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Biology calls "Origin of Species" the ant study today. Public schools are the main supporters of Darwin's notional hypothesis today and the NEA is in the way of science.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      John P, weren't you going to provide us with a pointer to your scholarly, peer-reviewed and published article successfully debunking evolution?

      March 31, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Abraham married his half sister.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • One one

      I believe there is more evidence supporting evolution than there is supporting women was made from a man's rib.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • Hmmmmmmmmmmmm

      So there were plants for a geological era before the sun was created day and night separated and the stars appeared? You want to go with that?

      March 31, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Dr. Jay Gould wrote a 1400 page tretise on the subject of the problems with Darwin's notional hypothesis; that a slow change over time leads to species, He has been dead for 10 years now, but his work debunks evolution as a means to species entirely; using hard physical evidence from the global geological record. The layer of iridium 24 with old species on one side and new species on the other is not refutable. Consider for a moment that less than 1% of species exist from the last mass extinction. Is it not a logical paradox to believe evolution is a means to species then?

      March 31, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • Science

      Education might work for you Johnie

      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/

      It would be NICE......... but

      Maybe they should not have created the wedge !!!
      The wedge strategy is a political and social action plan authored by the Discovery Insti-tute, the hub of the intelligent design movement. The strategy was put forth in a Discovery Insti-tute manifesto known as the Wedge Docu-ment,[1] which describes a broad social, political, and academic agenda who

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedge_strategy

      Peace

      Please watch

      The African Rift

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okWkmgkS00w&w=640&h=390]

      Dover Trial Transcripts............................................. FACTS.

      Below are the complete transcripts from the Dover Trial. Thanks to our friends at the National Center for Science Education for helping us fill in the missing transcripts.

      http://www.aclupa.org/legal/legaldocket/intelligentdesigncase/dovertrialtranscripts.htm

      And the missing link !

      Looks like that funky talking snake ?........................is the fairy in the fossil bed ?

      Strange Spaghetti-Shaped Creature Is Missing Link: Discovery Pushes Fossil Record Back 200 Million Years

      Mar. 13, 2013 — Canada's 505 million year-old Burgess Shale fossil beds, located in Yoho National Park, have yielded yet another major scientific discovery – this time with the unearthing of a strange spaghetti-shaped creature.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130313142526.htm

      Looks like that funky talking snake ?........................is the fairy in the fossil bed ?

      Strange Spaghetti-Shaped Creature Is Missing Link: Discovery Pushes Fossil Record Back 200 Million Years

      Mar. 13, 2013 — Canada's 505 million year-old Burgess Shale fossil beds, located in Yoho National Park, have yielded yet another major scientific discovery - this time with the unearthing of a strange spaghetti-shaped creature.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130313142526.htm

      March 31, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      "Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists - whether through design or stupidity, I do not know - as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. The punctuations occur at the level of species; directional trends (on the staircase model) are rife at the higher level of transitions within major groups."

      -Stephen Jay Gould.

      Dishonest creationist is dishonest.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
    • Thad

      Jay Gould vehemently attacked Christians for quote mining and massively misrepresenting what he actually found.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
    • Opposition

      Sir, it doesn't even come CLOSE to matching.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      It appears John P is unable to show that evolution has been debunked.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
  14. Aji Joe

    Repent and believe in Gospel.

    March 31, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • Mark From Middle River

      Which one and whose interpretation?

      March 31, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
  15. Joyce Ann Edmondson

    If you did a count, there are as many Christians persecuted today as in the beginning of Christianity. Many are abused and murdered in many countries around the world.

    March 31, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
  16. Aji Joe

    "Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

    March 31, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."

      The favorite line of all cult leaders before jeebus, and more so afterward.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • Say Wha?

      All authority has been given to me . . . by who? How can the first being be given anything?

      March 31, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
  17. Aji Joe

    Now the time has come. Repent, weep and believe in Gospel

    March 31, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • Aji Joe

      Now the time is a little past. Now a bit more. Now is the, uh, then was the time, uh, now is then was is the repent . . .

      All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
  18. Ex-believer

    This is one reason why Christianity is such garbage. Everything you are taught as a child turns out to be a pack of lies.

    The Christian story of creation – bullsh.it
    The Christian story of Moses, the Passover and Exodus – bullsh.it
    The story of Jesus birth on December 25 – bullsh.it
    The Christian story of who wrote the Gospels- bulls.hit
    7 of the 13 Letters we were taught Saint Paul wrote – bullsh.it
    The story of Jesus and the Adultress- bulls.hit
    The “miracle” used to put Mother Theresa on the path to sainthood – bullsh.it
    The Shroud of Turin – bulls.hit.

    And now, the tradition of the early Christian martyrs – bullsh.it

    You get to the point where you realize that the whole thing is totally unreliable and made up. I’m out.

    March 31, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • Rollo Tomasi

      I have no idea how people get through the first couple pages of Genesis without having their bullshit detectors rendering further suspension of disbelief impossible.

      Oh right. 90% of Christians have never read the Bible.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • Mark From Middle River

      Please show the 90% poll results.

      Thanks.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • Colin

      Mark, I bet if you asked any 10 Christians the follwoing questions, closer to 100% would get them wrong.

      1. Which books of the Bible describe what Jesus did on Earth?
      2. Who wrote these books?
      3. In what language?
      4. Approximately when?

      March 31, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • Nissim Levy

      The first two are Jewish stories, not Christian.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • Mark From Middle River

      Hi Colin. There are Christians that can quote the Bible up one wall and down another. There are also ones that just go forth with their interpretation of what they interpret the text means. But the statement was that 90% of Christians have never read the Bible. Knowing that every church service has a bit of reading of Scripture that would invalidate the 90% claim. I will also say that a great many Atheist have also read the Bible.

      What is it that folks come to the search for and concerning their Faith, is what is more interesting.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.

      Revelation 22:14

      Amen.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
  19. Aji Joe

    Jesus said. "The kingdom of God has come near". "Repent and believe in the Gospel”

    March 31, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • Colin

      Yes, he said so 2,000 year ago. Odd that the "Son of God" would be so spectacularly wrong.

      March 31, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
  20. Jordan

    I am an agnostic, but is the persecution of Christians in Islamic countries and in China today a myth as well? Were the Christian missionaries in the Philippines, beheaded by extremists in the 1990's part of the cleverly constructed fairy tales? There are so many powerful Evangelicals running media organizations after all...

    March 31, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • Ex-believer

      She never said either

      March 31, 2013 at 5:12 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

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

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.