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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. Robbin

    For all you athiests our there, tomorrow April 1, is your special day. As Mark Twain said, "Only a fool does not believe in God"

    March 31, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • woody

      Do you wear a seat belt or have air bags ? Then you really do not believe God will protect you ! Do you wear a coat in the winter to keep from freezing ? Then you really do not believe God can protect you from the cold !

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

      wow... Twain said it, so it must be true.
      Care to explain why it is so?

      March 31, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      I thought jebus had claimed the fools for himself.

      1 Corinthians 1:27

      March 31, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      The Jebusite treaty with Abraham is why Jerusalem is still divided today.

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

      Where exactly did Mark Twain say that? A search on Google turns up nothing.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
    • Religion

      "In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing."
      – Autobiography of Mark Twain

      March 31, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Wow, Robbin, you must be desperate to lie about something so easily disproven.

      Why do you find it necessary to tell lies to support your belief?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Robbin pulled that one from his an*l sphincter.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Uncle Benny,

      "Where exactly did Mark Twain say that?"

      Mark Twain is the grandfather of many misattributed quotes – perhaps more than anyone (though I can't say that for sure ;) )

      Fundies are so used to chapter and verse that they have a bad habit of believing any quote served up by their pastors as being genuine.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
  2. Tina

    I was an atheist and converted to Christianity 10 years ago.. Now I'm healthy and feel much better :)

    March 31, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • woody

      So you are saying you might even feel better if you went to heaven today ? Just a question !

      March 31, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      so, did you just choose to convert or did you have good reasons to do so?
      also, does it matter to you whether your current beliefs are right?

      March 31, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      I used to drink only 7 glasses of water a day. Then I started drinking 8 glasses a day 10 years ago. Now I feel much healthier.

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

      Tank... Tina was referring to the spiritual world, your example is to the physical. Try a little harder, but don't hurt yourself. Tina good for you I did the same thing. I was an atheist and converted, and would never go back to my selfish ways.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
    • End Religion

      Tina, if you moved away from a life based on fact and reason, then it seems perfectly rational that you'd choose the irrational.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • mark

      Tina if they have never felt the empirical feeling one gets from the conversion they will never trust it. You and i were two of the lucky ones, See you in heaven one day.

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

      I used to be Christian until I realized that it was all a bunch of made up fairytales designed to control weak minded and gullible people.

      Now that I don't live by that shame/hate-based belief system, I feel much better.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
    • mark

      God Bless Religion. Hope you come back!

      March 31, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      "Tank... Tina was referring to the spiritual world, your example is to the physical."

      And that affects my point how?

      "I was an atheist and converted, and would never go back to my selfish ways."

      Atheism means selfishness? What dictionary have you been reading?

      "if they have never felt the empirical feeling"

      What do you mean?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
    • mark

      Accepting Christ has an empirical component the non believer can't know. If they did they would not be so vehement about their attack on believers and would convert. It is an undeniable feeling of moments of bliss when the spirit moves in the believer.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I thought I was a christian 10 years ago, then I realized that there is no rational reason to believe in a being for which there is no evidence. I feel a lot better.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Tina, that truly sounds like bipolar disorder. See a doctor.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
  3. Aji Joe

    " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself."

    I think many of us have forgotten about the first part

    March 31, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • End Religion

      There is very little distinction between cult and religion. Generally, a cult worships a person as a god, whereas a religion worships a supernatural god. However it is then argued from one god-belief to another why one's brand of belief is not a cult. As it is used today, generally, 'cult' is used to disparage while 'religion' is applied out of consideration. But it is all the same fraud – a religion is just a cult that has survived long enough.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
  4. Terrible_Ted

    Christ has risen!! Hallelujah

    March 31, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • End Religion

      Religion is a manmade club like any other, with rules by which to segregate and perks to make the club feel special from other clubs. The club gets together periodically to reinforce the delusions of members. Many branches of this club have dues which most call a tîthe. Each club redefines words so its intolerance seems righteous.

      You've chosen, or were likely born into a family who joined, the club that aligns best with your own fantasy concerning how to minimize your fears in life. You and others in the club are afraid so you've made up a god that soothes you by making decisions for you, helping you feel less alone in the universe, and promising you life everlasting. The various club gods offer perks to induce membership such as seeing dead relatives, virginal séx partners, planets to rule or even one's own god status.

      The Jesus you believe in never existed, was and is king of nothing. The bible is a collection of stolen, modified, pre-fabricated myth and forgeries about a non-existent deity. You don't have to be afraid. You do not need religion.

      Deal with the lack of afterlife by celebrating life and family in the here and now. Be responsible for your own decisions. Be kind to the earth and others on it. Forge a path with determination, or "go with the flow" and let life determine the course if you're the lazy type. Either way, you don't need a god or a club for any of that.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • DoctorKnow

      Amen. Christ has risen.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
  5. Islam sux

    Muhammed: "Kill those who insult Allah. Kill non-Muslims"

    Jesus: "Love your enemies, love your neighbor"

    March 31, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
  6. t2vodka

    There are good Christians then and now, but good neighbors they were not always. I don't think the pagans liked them to much. The Christians delt out much more persecution then they ever received and were far more brutal with their torture chambers. Even the martyr in this story was in prison with her slave girl, how nice. Christians were fighting violently against each other just recently in Ireland. In Ireland, look how they treated unwed mothers and so on.

    March 31, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      That small Dutch colony in Ireland has led to a lot of termoil over the centuries.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • The real Tom

      It's "turmoil," you stupid cluck.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
  7. Aji Joe

    Spend time to seek Jesus. He will reveal himself to you. Love him, he will love you back.

    Speak to him and he will reply to you back.

    Repent and believe in Gospel

    Do all things that the Lord commanded you to do and keep away from what he has forbidden you to do

    March 31, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • Austin

      Apparently the ones who are here every day mocking and spitting on the cross, find today a perfect day to wax in perversion and filth. This is the manifestation of demonic evil controlling peoples souls and consuming them with bitterness.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      you sound like you are ready for a straitjacket

      March 31, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • End Religion

      James Randi Challenge

      http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/1m-challenge.html

      March 31, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I believe what the original poster is trying to say is that he really, really wants to believe in god, so he does.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
    • Austin

      Sign me up for James Randi. Lets do it.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
  8. In God We Trust

    Atheists are bored people who will sit and attack God... Feel bad for them on judgement day

    March 31, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • t2vodka

      Hmmm, doesn't your bible say not to judge? Typical small minded Christian.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • End Religion

      Religious Delusion: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_delusion

      March 31, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
    • tallulah13

      You may trust in god, but I trust reality.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      And number two on the list of the most irritatingly stupid arguments religionists make here:

      2. Proselytizing, particularly of the hit and run kind:
      eg: “Believe or burn”
      eg: ”You’ll find out when you die!”
      A special case of this is copy/paste of trite, meaningless aphorisms
      eg: “Prayer changes things” – Ummm, we all know it doesn’t.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
  9. Religion

    If Christians acted like Jesus, everyone would be Christian.

    But they don't act anything like Jesus, so most people aren't.

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

      what happened to Jesus? Didn't they kill him there bro? Your agenda is what here with this comment?

      March 31, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • In God We Trust

      Why don't you become Christian and act like Christ then rather than caring what few bad individuals do?

      What about mother Theresa and other great Christians?

      March 31, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • Chad

      A. Even though we are conformed into His image, it's impossible to emulate Jesus, He is divine, one of a kind
      B. Christianity isnt about behavior, it's about salvation.
      C. God doesnt want us to "do better", He wants us to realize our need for Jesus and accept His atoning sacrifice.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • Shout-Out: TheBibleReloaded

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSKAGA7AwLQ&w=640&h=390]

      March 31, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      The most people are Christian.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • Magnificent New Channel - MUST SEE!

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

      March 31, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
    • DoctorKnow

      If everyone was like Jesus no one would need Jesus. We are imperfect sinners and that is the only reason Christianity exists to begin with.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • End Religion

      A. Empirical evidence Jeebus was divine please?
      B. Christianity isn't about salvation, it's about capricious violence and murdering those who don't believe as you do.
      C. God doesn't want us to realize our need for Jesus and accept His atoning sacrifice, he wants us to party like it's 1999, as His messenger Prince testifies.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
    • Agnes of Dog

      "Maginificent New Channel" is Creationism junk – from the son of convicted tax evader now in prison.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "The most people are Christian."

      Brilliant. Wow, did it take you all day to come up with that little gem, Tard?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
    • Chad

      @End Religion "Empirical evidence Jeebus was divine please?"

      =>have you ever figured out how you're going to design a science experiment (empirical evidence) to prove the existence of ANY ancient person or event??

      regarding the rest.. what world do you live in?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      It appears that Chad believes the existence of jesus cannot be proven, and he completely ignored the alleged divinity of jesus. If you can't establish existence, proving divinity would seem to be impossible.

      But regardless, we all should believe the christian dead jew zombie myth.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • Chad

      actually, what I pointed out is that a science experiment is not the right tool to establish the reality of an ancient person or event.

      that's what history is for.

      @End Religion knows this, he just likes the way "empirical evidence" sounds :-)

      March 31, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Regardless of who (scientist, historian, etc.) investigates the divinity of jesus, or what methods they use, none has successfully made the case. It's as myth.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Actualy, Mr. Tarver, the majority of humanity couldn't care less about Christ. But thanks for the lie.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Christians, there is this that sets your religion apart from Judaism: Your God required a human sacrifice. Jesus, the son of Mary, was the entirely human sacrifice and that sacrifice was actually made, you believe. Christianity depends on a human sacrifice. With that in mind, it would be best to stop speaking of the Judeo-Christian God or of the God of Israel as the Christian God. You worship something uniquely your own. Don't spread the stain.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
  10. Happy Easter

    Watch the bible on history channel tonight..... You will love it

    March 31, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • End Religion

      Don't forget the Walking Dead season finale is on tonight and is much more entertaining than that other fiction, the Bible.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • History Channel's "The Bible" Parts 3 & 4 - In Under 11 Minutes!

      Watch Now !

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTRn28iZD_g&w=640&h=390]

      March 31, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • woody

      I am not into violence but I guess some people are ! Christians seem to love watching a man being tortured over and over again !

      March 31, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • woody

      Another white man playing Jesus ! Jesus if he was was born on the continent of Asia . Why always a white lie ?

      March 31, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • mark

      End I see why you might fixate on the walking dead since it is what you are. We migrate to our own. God still loves you though.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • t2vodka

      Funny how much Christians love the good guys to be white, but all the bad people they actually make them ethnicly accurate. lol can't have a brown man saving ya, no sir.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • End Religion

      That video was hilarious! The Bible... no thanks.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
  11. Happy Easter

    Christianity is the world's largest and only truly religion

    March 31, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • woody

      Muslims would tell you the same thing of theirs !

      March 31, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Why do Christians kill each other?

      March 31, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • End Religion

      Christianity is an immoral and false religion based on myth and perpetuated by rubes.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
  12. woody

    I hear a lot about this great heaven but know very few christians ready to go there at this very moment ! Especially rich ministers !

    March 31, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
  13. Happy Easter

    Atheists are like animals with no faith and morality

    March 31, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • woody

      The human is in fact a mammal you are correct ! What does the Spring Equinox have in common with Easter and the Sphinx in Cairo Egypt . And what continent was Jesus born on ?

      March 31, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Does your god condone making broad sweeping indictments about a whole group of people you have not even met?

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

      you are partly correct
      by definition, an atheist doesn't have faith in the existence of deities
      I just don't get the morality part... it's nonsense

      March 31, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • t2vodka

      The only difference between a good Athiest and a good Christian is you don't have to force the Athiest to be good with eternal torment.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • Austin

      atheists substantiate a broad and sweeping spiritual indictment upon their own request. They reject atonement.

      Its like not having insurance . you dont have salvation. God is a judge. funny you should use the words "broad sweeping indictment" relating to THE Judge.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      Austin, what I think that you don't get is that atheists don't believe that a god even exists, so this atonement business is bullocks to them...
      Everything you just said seems rather silly to me.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
  14. Aji Joe

    Spend time to seek Jesus. He will reveal himself to you. Love him, he will love you back. Speak to him and he will reply to you back. Repent and believe in Gospel

    March 31, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      schizophrenia is a mental illness

      March 31, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • Religion

      What do the voices tell you to do?

      March 31, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • MUST SEE Creatard Pwnage Par Excellence

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QIrfxj02pQ&w=640&h=390]

      March 31, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • End Religion

      The universe is 13.772 ± 0.059 billion years old. The earth is 4.54 billion years old.
      No gods required...

      March 31, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
  15. Bostontola

    I am an atheist, and it may surprise you that I love and respect Jesus. His teachings were a revolutionary step forward. As I read the comments though, I resonate with Ghandi:

    "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

    March 31, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • Happy Easter

      God bless you

      March 31, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
  16. Aji Joe

    "Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. 21 They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me. 22 They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin."

    March 31, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • End Religion

      Proof Every Christian Goes to Hell by End Religion
      1) The only irredeemable sin against your Lord thy God is denying him, the Holy Spirit
      2) To deny is to refuse to admit truth of or to refuse to give that which is requested
      3) Any sin is to deny god of his commandments
      4) Therefore, even one sin results in a soul that cannot be forgiven. Sin once, and you're going to hell whether you repent or not. Since Christians are "born into sin" they're automagically damned to hell and cannot be forgiven.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
  17. Salero21

    Atheist are like ravenous wolves. Atheism is like a barrel full of monkeys because atheism is monkey business.

    March 31, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • End Religion

      Perfect Christian logic. Parents, keep your kids away from these lunatics.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
  18. DoctorKnow

    Proverbs 14:12
    "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."

    March 31, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • End Religion

      there are "infallible words of god" supporting not only the gay lifestyle, but also that one should have lots of sex, paid and otherwise.

      2 Corinthians 9:6 - The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

      Ecclesiastes 11:6 - In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.

      Luke 8:11 - Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.

      Galatians - For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

      2 Corinthians 9:12 - For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

      Acts 20:35 - In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

      1 Corinthians 9:11 - If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?
      (the above supports prostitution)

      March 31, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
    • DoctorKnow

      I feel bad for you. If you can see that in scripture you are beyond hope.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
    • End Religion

      DrKnowNothing: It's just interpretation, and mine is as "right" as yours. This is why you should be following the bible literally instead of interpreting and cherry picking which bible verses suit you, but you're an atheist who isn't brave enough to admit it yet so I don't expect any different.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
  19. Aji Joe

    Spend time to seek Jesus. He will reveal himself to you. Love him, he will love you back. Repent and believe in Gospel

    March 31, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • End Religion

      Does god reveal himself the same way Catholic priests reveal themselves to altar boys? I'll pass, thanks....

      March 31, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
  20. Fields

    The shabby scholarship and blatant anti-Chistian agenda of the author proove that we're still being persecuted to this day. Jesus didn't tell his followers to suffer per se. He told us to bear witness to his suffering and the truth of his message, and as a result we would suffer for it. Nothing about that has changed in over two thousand years.

    March 31, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • Bostontola

      You consider a person voicing an opinion different than yours persecution? This is why many people have disdain for Christians. You diminish people who were truly persecuted with systematic death and torture. That is a profound form of disrespect and also makes you is serious wuss.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • Fields

      Jesus said "cast not pearls before swine." Too many swine on this blog. See ya.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      1 John 2:18-19

      March 31, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      "The shabby scholarship and blatant anti-Chistian agenda"

      And then provides no quotes or refutations. Shabby scholarship indeed. Have fun stewing in your persecution complex.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • Austin

      there are only two paths in life. Salvation, or not.

      There is one truth. Rejection of Christ is persecution of God. An extension of the crucifixion. This sin is evil, and the truth that Christians carry is by nature subject to evil criticism and rejection.
      ’[b] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’[c]

      March 31, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • Austin

      Hate without reason is persecution. God's definition. Gods law.

      Man is nothing.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • End Religion

      I'd say god is dead but he never existed. Long live mankind: we're pretty groovy.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • myway

      No religion has killed more people in the name of God than any other religion. Christians didn't just attack non-believers such as muslims during the crusades, they also fought each other, such as roman catholics vs protestants. Then there was the inquisition, the forced conversion of countless tribes in colonial territories (sometimes using brutal methods), and the squashing of unwanted sects such as the gnostics to name a few. I don't know where you get your history from, it's pretty clear after the roman empire collapsed christians became more effective persecutors than the romans ever were.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
    • Mark From Middle River

      >>> Long live mankind: we're pretty groovy."

      Until we find out that you have oil, gold or diamonds under your land then we start putting grooves into folks skulls. :(

      March 31, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • t2vodka

      Waaaaa, someone has a different opinion then me. Waaaaa, someone is telling the truth, waaaaaa.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • End Religion

      Mark from drivel river said: ">>> Long live mankind: we're pretty groovy." Until we find out that you have oil, gold or diamonds under your land then we start putting grooves into folks skulls.""

      You have a long, long way to go if you think there's any point to your post. People kill one another for all kinds of reasons, chief among them religion. Help me end religion and there will be one less reason for the killing.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
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About this blog

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