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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. Aji Joe

    Remember what I told you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.

    They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.

    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.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
    • Agnes of Dog

      "A servant is not greater than his master"

      Yeah – man has been batting that one back and forth longer than any other idea truly outside of themselves.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
    • Answer

      What a beautiful concept of begging and groveling... it suits you christards.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      You are really good at cult logic Aji Joe.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      Tom. The point is not whether you personally do or do not believe that there is no god. The point is whether or not atheism fits the definition of faith. You haven't picked up on that already?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
    • Answer

      Christards ..

      Make your life easier next time.

      Why play around with the dictionary?

      When all you want is to do is, yet again, try that old plea of claiming that "your atheism is a religion?" Just go and type that line out so we can just get right to the laughs.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • The real Tom

      My word, Dick, but you're an ass. I don't care what YOUR view of the definition is or isn't. If you care that much, then you'll explain why.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Really, Dickwad, I thought believers were supposed to be forthright. Why don't you just come out and say what it is you want atheists to tell you? Or are you too much of a dick-less cowardly ball-less wonder?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      Answer. Please read my posts. I never claimed that Athiesm is a religion. I claimed it is a form of faith.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
    • The real Tom

      It's "atheism", you derp. And again, why?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
    • Answer

      "Richard"

      You can try and fail all you like. You're as clear as that house of glass imagery you wanted to peddle off and project onto someone. Always – it's a shame that you christards do this routine, but funny at the same time.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      "I never claimed that Athiesm is a religion. I claimed it is a form of faith.

      It's neither.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Thank you, Not a GOPer. This mope has carried on about this the whole fvcking day. First it's a "faith" then it's a "belief" then it's a "belief system". He's just so desperate.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Tom,

      yup, there's a reason it's number one on the list:

      1. Conflating atheism with belief
      eg: “Atheism is a religion” – Ummm, no, really, it’s not!
      Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby,
      Atheism is a religion like health is a disease,
      Atheism is a religion like not smoking is a habit,
      Atheism is a religion like bald is a hair color,
      Atheism is a religion like off is a television channel,
      Atheism is a religion like abstinence is a sex act.
      Atheism has no sacred text, no orthodoxy, no rites or rituals, no houses of worship … it is neither a religion nor a faith. It is the absence of faith in God. Sure there are militant atheists, some of whom act as zealously as believers, but it is not a belief system. Atheism does not require a positive belief in the non-existence of God.

      Disbelief is not belief, it is the absence of belief. According to the OED, ‘atheism’ means: “Disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of a God.”

      Believers cannot conceive of life without belief – something like "imagination ahhors a vacuum".

      March 31, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
  2. Richard Dawkins

    Faith is a belief in something that cannot be proven

    March 31, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
    • The real Tom

      I don't have faith in something. I lack faith.

      Anything else, loser?

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

      One thing I have faith in in the Popes bullet proof car that he has because even he knows God can not protect him so why should I ?

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

      Could something include an athiest ?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      Then you have no opinion on gods existence one way or the other?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
    • End Times

      That's not what God says. He says that (Hebrews 11:1) – "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen."...

      March 31, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      Woody – Athiesm. It's been an ongoing argument all day.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • Answer

      The christards ...

      Same routine, same failures.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      End tims- I'm going with Miriam Webster definition. I never claimed to be a believer. I'm just arguing that atheism fits the definition of the word...which seems to cause some atheists discomfort.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
    • An Awesome Message from P.W. Swivel

      Thanks for watching.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Come on, loser, when are you going to post your definition of a valid counter argument? Or did you get distracted by the chocolate bunny your mommy gave you?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
    • Answer

      Still the christards do not like the word "confidence"... nor can they even touch it.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
    • The real Tom

      What will it gain you, Dickh ead, if an atheist says what you'd like to hear with all your little soul? Will it give you a stiffy? Make you stand up and salute?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      Tom. I've already posted it. One that states that atheism, a belief that there is no god, and which cannot be proven, does not fit the accepted definition of faith.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      Tom. No it will not give me a stiffly. But it might make me understand atheists beliefs better.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
    • Answer

      "One that states that atheism, a belief that there is no god, and which cannot be proven, does not fit the accepted definition of faith."

      ===Translating the christard plea/slang for you...

      "Come on and accept that atheism is a religion." <<–I have to get you to say it.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
    • Answer

      The christards are so easy to spot. Comic gold they are...

      March 31, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Well, then, your little hard-on will just have to go unfulfilled honey, because I don't claim that I believe there is no god. How much clearer can I possibly make it? Maybe you should sound out the words? Or move your lips while you read, slowly.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Oooh, oooh, is that what you're looking for, Dickie DOO? You want someone to tell you that atheism is a religion? Well, honey, that's a shame. It isn't one. Never was.

      I guess that erection will have to wait. Try viagra.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • The real Tom

      By the way, Dickiepoo, why would you wish to "understand atheists' beliefs better", when they don't HAVE any? What will that do for you? Make you all smug and self-satisfied? Give you that hard-on you're looking for?

      Get an inflatable date, dear. It's likely to work faster and better.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      Tom. It s not whether you do or don't personally believe in god. The point is whether or not atheism fits the definition of faith. And faith and religion are two distinct things. Faith is a belief in something that can't be proven. Religion is a man made construct that is a vehicle for a belief in god. All religious people have faith, but faith is not restricted to religious people.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
    • Richard Dawkins

      Tom. And what is with the incessant need for insults. Only insecure people feel the need to do that.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
    • Answer

      The christard wants this badly to be the definition that will stick...

      March 31, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "Tom. It s not whether you do or don't personally believe in god. The point is whether or not atheism fits the definition of faith. "

      Why?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "The christard wants this badly to be the definition that will stick..."

      It must be painful to want something so badly and not be honest enough to say why it's SO CRUCIAL.

      What a dipsh!t.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "Tom. And what is with the incessant need for insults. Only insecure people feel the need to do that."

      Oh, it's not a need. It's a pleasure. I LOVE insulting azzholes like you. It's fun and cheap.

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

      "The point is whether or not atheism fits the definition of faith. " <<– this is the core of the christard's rant.

      ==="If I get this my way then you have to admit that I have indeed defined that atheism is a religion."

      March 31, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Usually, for your sort RD, faith is a belief that cannot be justified but that you use to justify all sorts of useless things – all too often things that are unpleasant to the rest of us.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Well, Dickie might as well throw in the towel. I have never said there is no god. I have only ever said that I don't see any compelling evidence that one exists.

      Too bad for Dickblower.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
    • Answer

      A hard core christard has no meaning other than faith.

      Can not accept that evidence can supply a reasonable amount of confidence to let life just go it's course, thus denying the need for a god.

      The foundation of a christard has to imply that everything is faith because to them reality is nothing if better if you include a god.

      "How can you accept that there is no evidence for MY god?" <<- You christards do not like it when others laugh you off.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
    • Answer

      "The point is whether or not atheism fits the definition of faith. "

      ==The whole premise of that sentence is to tie in everything to faith. To make faith "the only option" that is possible.
      ==That is why the christards love it when they see everything they can twist into a subject as a god mechanism.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
    • Melissa

      I have faith in my husbands love. He proves it every day by how he behaves toward me. Faith is not in something that cannot be proven. There's just a difference between reality and fiction. And there is no proof of any god.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
    • Paul

      Atheists have a non belief in something due to the fact that there is no evidence for the something. That is not the same as Christians who have a belief in something for which there is no evidence. Why is this so hard to grasp?

      April 1, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
  3. Kevin Bingaman

    Persecution of Christians is a reality around the world. This is an undeniable fact, and has a consistent history around the world for over 2000 years. The 20th century was one of the most violent against Christians, and the 21st century doesn't look any better. Persecution is much more than Martyrdom. Even in the USA, persecution of various forms is palpable–even (or, better yet, especially) in the media–which consistently publishes opinion pieces hostile to people of faith on their most holy days, as one of many examples. Don´t forget Christians beoing hacked to death in Africa on a consistent basis, as well as gov't oppression such as can be found to consistently occur in places such as many countries of the Middle East, Iran, China, North Korea, Pakistan, India, etc., etc., etc.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Nobody said Christians weren't persecuted, they were and the author says so. There is a problem that Christians have persecuted even more, including Christians of the "wrong" persuasion.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      And don't forget the christians dangling aid in the faces of the poor natives of West Africa, and then withholding it until they accept the jeebus myth. Or the torture used in christian schools in Africa to convert children. Or christian teachers telling school pupils that their parents are demons for holding on to their traditional religions. Or the directives from the Vatican against condom use, leading to mass death from AIDS.

      Let's come closer to home. How about the attempts by christian cultists to subvert our Consti-tution and replace it with laws from their book of myths? Or their efforts to ruin our already bad education system by having myths taught in science cla-s.srooms?

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

    Speak to Jesus and he will reply to you back

    Spend time in seeking him. Love him and he will love you back

    "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
    See how he gives his sufferings to his most beloved- So that you may repent and believe in Gospel-

    March 31, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
    • Agnes of Dog

      If you do this too much, then your fingernails always have to be some non-red color when all the red ones have been used up.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
    • woody

      You should see all that you can do these days with fake blood and things from costume stores . I can pour fake blood over my head and scare just about anybody ! Only a fool would fall for this kind of thing ! Kids love to do it too !

      March 31, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
    • Melissa

      That would be called "crazy people believe in something so hard that the body thinks its real". It happens when women who desperately want babies start lactating. That doesn't make them actually pregnant.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
  5. The real Tom

    It strikes me as really hypocritical that there's a certain Christian poster here who says he gave up posting for Lent. And now, on Easter Sunday, he can finally come here and spew his asinine "middle ground" drivel while lying up one side and down the other about what a loving soul he is and how much he believes in god.

    Only a nut-job fundy would think that making a sacrifice within an arbitrary time limit on one's sh!ttiness will get him into heaven.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      It is like Lieberman traveling on the Sabath, when he ran with Al Gore.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
    • The real Tom

      You idiot, it's SABBATH. Do you ever get anything right, you tard?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
    • Mark From Middle River

      TomTom..... I know you missed me. The absence of Truth in your world had yah sufferin' but daddy is home :)

      I am back ma'am. Actually, I was here off and on... I just held from posting for Lent. It was one of the most difficult observances of Lent I have ever had. :)

      March 31, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Yep. I knew you were here. Good job making SUCH a sacrifice for Jeebus.

      You know, Piddler, you do more to undermine the value of Christianity than I ever could. Keep up the good work.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
    • The real Tom

      I wonder, Piddles the Pee Dog, do you think Jeebus was fooled by your fake sacrifice?

      I guess he must be pretty stupid. He'd have to be.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
  6. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    I really had to beat the sh!t out of my parrot before he picked up few hymns from Qur'an, listen to him.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
    • Agnes of Dog

      Well finally you post something I can understand. It's about time.

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

      Filthy poo hands, feed, poor bird. Filth islam filth, equals shame.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
  7. Bostontola

    If tomorrow is atheists day how come Easter Sunday was on April 1 in the years:

    1725, 1804, 1866, 1877, 1923, 1934, 1945, and 1956?

    March 31, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Easter changes dates, while fools are always the same.

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

      John, I couldn't have said that better myself. Religion never changes, science changes as it makes new discoveries. Imagine the Christian fools that arrested Galileo because he showed we are in a heliocentric system not geocentric.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
    • End Religion

      Tarver, you're referring to religious folks as fools, right? Agreed!

      March 31, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
    • RomanHistorian

      *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*
      *
      That writter is on drugs. Christianity was first popular with SLAVES. It's the slave + christian combo that was quite toxic and encouraged romans to persecute chrisian.
      -
      The romans had not forgoten spartacus and had no intention of facing a replay of that. So they hit christian hard for a long time
      -
      Of course the writter is illeterate and doesn't know history. He doesn't realize roman history is only over 1500 years long and that christian were not persecuted BEFORE CHRISTIANITY WAS INVENTED ... OMG what a discovery ...
      -
      Also christian were not persecuted after ROME OFFICIALLY CONVERTED... who would have guessed
      -
      This writter should go to university, learn something, or stay silent

      March 31, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Science has changed and the atheist belief system must be removed from our public schools, just as other outdated science once was removed from Christianity..

      March 31, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
  8. edmundburkeson

    This article is proof that Christians are persecuted even on the day when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ. CNN is the source of the persecution. their love affair with what they consider the ultimate God – government, leaves no room for belief in a God who is greater than any earthly power. Persecution is not a myth but an ongoing reality. It does not always result in martyrdom but it is persecution nonetheless. Bigotry is never very becoming. But on the day that Christians consider the most sacred day of the Christian calender ... this behavior is in very poor taste.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
    • tony

      Teaching religion to impressionable children is an unspeakable crime.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      "their love affair with what they consider the ultimate God – government,"

      Quoted for comedic effect.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
    • End Religion

      I'll not coddle your childish behaviour any longer. There are no sacred days of the year. Your religion is a farce. Grow up.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
    • Loubies

      I thought December 25th was the most sacred day? You're confusing persecution with not getting everything you want.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
    • .

      This article came out yesterday, which is proof you cannot read dates.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
  9. tony

    The collection plate. Man's greatest invention.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
  10. Aji Joe

    Speak to Jesus and he will reply to you back

    Spend time in seeking him. Love him and he will love you back

    "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
    See how he gives his own sufferings to his own most beloved-

    March 31, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • Agnes of Dog

      Just call him "Benny Hinn" Kim

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

      I have some fake blood here too and have actually seen how this is done !

      March 31, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
    • woody

      I have to say this is a neet trick to fill the money bin !

      March 31, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
    • Magnificent New Channel - MUST SEE

      March 31, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
    • Agnes of Dog

      "Magnificent . . ." video reply – creationism junk from son of tax fraud convict now in jail.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
  11. Adrian

    There was no christ total fairy tail

    March 31, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • woody

      I have some fake blood too and have seen how this is done in the back room !

      March 31, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • woody

      Sorry wrong spot !

      March 31, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
    • Kevin Bingaman

      The phrase you have previously posted, "fairy tail", ought to be written "fairy tale". Consult a dictionary before posting if you have trouble spelling big words. When one posts inane comments, and can't even spell simple words correctly, one exposes one's ignorance to the world!

      March 31, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
  12. woody

    What did christians do to poor christian girls ? Read their stories under Magdalene Laundries ! What did Christian priest do to alter boys ?

    March 31, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
    • Mark From Middle River

      “On October 19, 2003, the Ohio-based newspaper the Toledo Blade launched a four-day series of investigative reports exposing a string of atrocities by an elite, volunteer, 45-man "Tiger Force" unit of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division over the course of seven months in 1967. The Blade goes on to state that in 1971 the Army began a four and a half year investigation of the alleged torture of prisoners, ra'pes of civilian women, the mutilation of bodies and killing of anywhere from nine to well over one hundred unarmed civilians, among other acts. The articles further report that the Army's inquiry concluded that eighteen U.S. soldiers committed war crimes ranging from murder and assault to dereliction of duty. However, not one of the soldiers, even of those still on active duty at the time of the investigation, was ever court martialed in connection with the heinous crimes. Moreover, six suspected war criminals were allowed to resign from military service during the criminal investigations specifically to avoid prosecution.”

      Woody, are you ready to disband the entire Army? You know I have met Feminist who state that the problem is not the Catholic church but after looking through history and even with recent incidents such as Penn State, the problem is males in general. Even when you present news articles of female teachers sleeping with their students. If you are ready to attack Christians then get ready to tag many , many folks.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "I have met Feminist"

      No, you haven't. At least, not if the feminists can avoid it.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
    • Kevin Bingaman

      Not all who claim the name of "Christian" are truly so, but only those who obey the will of God. And the Will of God is that we love one another with kindness and compassion. So those who commit grievous crimes against other ipsofacto cannot be truly Christian. God makes it plain that those who mistreat children (or other people, for that matter) ought not expect to receive the mercy of God.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
  13. Richard Dawkins

    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 does not fit a definition of

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

      Well well, the stupid makes his post without even looking for the reply button.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
    • The real Tom

      And repeats the exact same idiocy. Good move, there, Einstein.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Not only that-he didn't even think to correct his cruddy grammar. "A atheist." What a maroon!

      March 31, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
  14. DoctorKnow

    You are condemned right now; you do not judge yourself but by the judgement of God. You have only one single hope of avoiding hell, accepting Jesus Christ before you die. Now is the time, not tomorrow an hour after you possibly die in a car crash. Mocking me does not avoid the consequences.

    "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." John 3:18
    .

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

      Yup. All would be murderers get struck by lightning by god, just before they pull the trigger. Happens so often, the press stopped reporting it just about the time newspapers were being invented.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • Loubies

      So, is every person who lived before Jesus burning in hell right now?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
    • End Religion

      The world didn't get any worse when Vikings stopped believing in Helheim, nor when Romans stopped believing in an Underworld run by Pluto, or when Zoroastrians stopped believing in Drûgâskan. Pick your cult. It likely has an imaginary place of punishment. Such is your faith.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
    • End Times

      To "Doctor Know"... Actually, they have to do more than just "accept Jesus Christ" to be saved. Even Jesus himself stated – "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. But he that believeth not shall be damned". Therefore, if they don't repent and be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost before they die (see Acts 2:38) they are bound for hell and the lake. You can't wait until you are on your deathbed and then pray a prayer and accept Jesus Christ and expect to be saved. It doesn't work that way. If you're not already saved before that moment, you're history and bound for the lake...

      March 31, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
  15. End Times

    The Rapture Will Happen Soon…

    2 Peter 3:4 – Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation…

    When God first created the earth, rain had never fallen from the sky as it does today. Instead, God caused springs of water to rise up from the ground and that is how he watered the whole earth. Bye and bye, sin rose up on the earth. God told Noah to build an ark and to preach to the people that it would rain (that water would fall from the sky). The people laughed at Noah and called him a fool. They said he was looney for thinking water was going to fall from the sky. When Noah completed the ark and the animals were on board, God shut Noah in and suddenly rain began to fall from the sky for the first time in history. The rain continued until the waters had covered the whole earth and destroyed everyone. Every living soul upon the earth died and went to hell that day, except the eight souls God saved in the ark…

    Now notice in the following scriptures what Jesus says about it. He says it will be the same way when the rapture occurs – that men will be laughing and making fun of the rapture and saying "where is the promise of his coming." But bye and bye, the rapture will occur. And that it will occur suddenly when they least expect it…

    Luke 17:26 – (Jesus speaking) And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man (meaning, when the Rapture occurs). 27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all…

    Luke 17:28 – (Jesus still speaking) Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot (referring to when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah); they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; 29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all…

    Just like in the days of Noah, all those who were not in the ark died and went to hell. So also shall it be with the rapture. When the rapture occurs, if you don't make it out of here, you're bound for hell…

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

      Can't you get a truss for a rapture?

      March 31, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • Diane jackson

      . . . to know the love of Christ , which passeth knowledge Ephesians 3:19. IQ and intellect, although both gifts from God, are not the same as God revealing himself to us within our hearts. Human knowledge is inferior to the Holy Spirits showing each of us the truth!

      March 31, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
    • Loubies

      Ancient Aliens

      March 31, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
    • End Religion

      Please rapture already and be done with it so we don't have to listen to your inane zealotry any longer.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      According to Jesus it should have happened 1900 years ago. Still waiting....

      March 31, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
    • End Times

      Blessed... Just because your math and understanding of the scriptures is flawed don't try to lie on Jesus...

      March 31, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      If scripture has to be "understood" and cannot be read at face value (i.e. it means what it says and vice versa) it is not of divine origin.

      You are so arrogant you think you understand it. The reason your scripture is so convoluted is because man wrote it and claimed it came from a god.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Kirk: Mr. Scott, 80 million evangelicals to beam up.

      Scotty: I'm sorry Cap'n the transporters cannae handle 80 million people.

      Kirk: Well beam them up in groups of seven.

      Spock: Illogical Captain. At a rate of seven people in a normal transporter cycle of 2.5 seconds, it will take approximately 47 weeks to transport 80 million people and the Enterprise is not large enough to hold them all.

      Kirk: Can't we just maroon them somewhere?

      Spock: Jim, I think that might be interfering with the Prime Directive.

      Kirk: Mr Scott, standby while we come up with a better plan.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
    • End Times

      Blessed… You stated… "If scripture has to be "understood" and cannot be read at face value (i.e. it means what it says and vice versa) it is not of divine origin."…

      And where exactly did you get such nonsense from? And by what authority have you made such a determination? And how would you even know that which is of divine origin from that which is not of divine origin? Please tell us as we'd certainly like to know…

      March 31, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • End Times

      Blessed… The scriptures are not convoluted. There is nothing wrong with the scriptures. The problem lies with you...

      March 31, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      If the bible were the inerrant word of God, surely he would have taken the time to make sure it was clear and didn't require interpretation by a priestly class.

      If it were clear, and not subject to different interpretations, how can so many denominations exist that have enjoyed killing each other over centuries?

      Oh yeah, the devil made them do it, it's got to be that right, because the word of God is so clear after all.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
    • End Times

      GOPer… I'll ask you the very same question. Where did you get that nonsense from? And by what authority do you feel your nonsense applies? Who came up with the crazy idea that God was subject to your expectations and was required to write the bible in a way that you could personally understand it? God is not subject to your expectations. He does what he wants and he did what he wants. And your opinion about what he did matters not. You don't even know God. And frankly, nor does God know you. You're bound for hell and the lake and it is you who need God's help. God don't need you. And he'll still be God and reigning as God long after you've been in the lake for a millennium…

      1 Corinthians 3:19 – For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God…
      1 Corinthians 3:27 – But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise;
      1 Corinthains 3:20 – The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain...

      March 31, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      "I'll ask you the very same question. Where did you get that nonsense from?

      Oh, I don't know. History. The empirical evidence of my own eyes, ears and observations.

      Put two different Christians in a room and you'll get three different interpretations of "Biblical truth" depending on what day of the week it is and whether there is an "R" in the month.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      End Times, how soon is soon? My favorite end times forecaster Marilyn Agee has the rapture happening in 2015. Only problem is that she has picked many dates and has been wrong every time. The end times prediction crowd does not have a good record – I estimate they are about 2,000 and 0. But if thy stick to their craft, they might get it right – at about the time an asteroid hits the earth of the sun becomes a red giant. In case I haven't been clear, you are barking-at-the-moon mad, delusional, crazy, mentally ill.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
    • Melissa

      lol. Crazy people have been saying the rapture is going to happen for a good century. Then the time it was supposed to happen passes and they change the date. Grow up.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • End Times

      Melissa… At least I'm smart enough to know there will always be false prophets with false predictions in the world – predictions that mislead people. But the word of God is still true and the bible is on schedule. It is you who needs to grow up…

      March 31, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      End Times, If the bible is not intended to be understood, why do you claim to understand it? If you're a protestant, isn't that one of Luther's insights?

      March 31, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      End Times, you claim The Babble is on schedule. Please provide us with this schedule. I'm betting you can't or won't because you are a delusional liar.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:03 am |
  16. Watch the Bible on history channel

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    March 31, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
    • Agnes of Dog

      Is it quite amusing if there is nothing on Comedy Central.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
  17. Mike

    CNN denies Christian Persecution like Ahmedinejad denies the Jewish Holocaust.

    March 31, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
    • Watch the Bible on history channel

      CNN is ruled by Jews... What do you expect?

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

      Nonsense.

      March 31, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
  18. Aji Joe

    Speak to Jesus and he will reply to you back

    Spend time in seeking him. Love him and he will love you back

    "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

    Watch how his body became flesh in the bread and his drink became blood in thw wine out of his love for humans-

    March 31, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • Agnes of Dog

      It is helpful to take some Pop Rocks to church if you're trying to impress.

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

      What a priest does !

      March 31, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
    • Shout-Out: TheBibleReloaded

      March 31, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
  19. Ziggy2003

    Wow i just finished watching the movie The Passion, boy are human beings extreme in their folly...

    March 31, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
  20. Watch the Bible on history channel

    Get educated

    March 31, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I didn't realize there was anything educational on the History Channel.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      At least since it stopped being the 24×7 'Last days of the Third Reich' channel.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
    • History Channel's "The Bible" Parts 3 & 4 - In Under 11 Minutes!

      March 31, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
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About this blog

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