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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. 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 an entirely human sacrifice and you believe that sacrifice was actually made. 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 9:14 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      interesting point, but as far as I know, the Christian god did not "require" a blood sacrifice. Jesus did it to reinstate faith in humanity...
      By the way, I am not defending any god, I'm just trying to respond to your argument.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      TTTOO has it right.

      The "God of Israel" is not the Christian God. The Christian God is something entirely different from Yahweh.

      This whole "Judeo-Christian" concept is a contrivance of Christians. Jews don't buy into a trinitarian view of God.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • Elena

      are you Jewish? LOL, you count me more wrong, Jesus offered himself not only to reconcile GOD with the world but also to end he need for animal sacrifices by the Jews! educate yourself before uttering nonsenses!

      March 31, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Elena,

      No, I'm not Jewish, but I would consider your response offensive if I were.

      So you posit that a human sacrifice was required to end animal sacrifice? Are humans not animals?

      March 31, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Hebrews chapter 9 draws on Leviticus when the author says: "In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these."

      Jesus was, in this myth, a willing sacrifice, but subject to God's will: “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

      March 31, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
    • .

      Your God required a human sacrifice. Jesus,

      how do you know?

      March 31, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • .

      Jesus, the son of Mary, was an entirely human sacrifice and you believe that sacrifice was actually made.

      where do you get these things?

      March 31, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
    • .

      Jesus was, in this myth, a willing sacrifice

      huh? who said?

      March 31, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • .

      Tom, Tom, the Other One
      Hebrews chapter 9 draws on Leviticus

      What?

      March 31, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
    • cacique

      I think I am one of those who have been stained by the belief in Jesus. I want to have him as my best friend even if he does not even know me. The way he interpreted life and the world that surrounded him was a philosophy to be followed, and an example to be copied. He came to the Jews, but the Jews did not recognize them, they lost their chance and their privilege of being the chosen ones. Instead, they made everything in their power to have him crucified. Jesus knew that would come to pass, He suffered it on his own human flesh and He died as a human. His example and his resurrection will follow all people forever. Even those like you who have not been stained.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
  2. .

    After watching these videos, I realized that I'm basically watching the Zeitgeist movie all over again. This was a film that tried to discredit Christianity by claiming that everything the Bible says about the Divinity and existence of Jesus Christ was ripped off from other religious deities such as Horus, Mithras, etc. and the symbols of Christianity and the Bible were stolen from the astrological signs. None of the claims of this movie could be farther from the truth and hold no historical basis whatsoever. In fact, Tim Callahan of Skeptic's Magazine admitted that most of the movie was bogus and historian Chris Forbes (whose video response can be found on YouTube) was quoted as saying, "It is extraordinary how many claims it makes which are simply not true." "In short, this is a movie purposely distorting facts in attempt to prove a false agenda." deserve hell

    this is the best the atheist-wackos have come up with to try to disprove jesus shed his blood for their sins

    March 31, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @menses, aka period,

      what videos?

      March 31, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      yes... that's it, exactly
      nice shifting of the burden of proof, by the way

      March 31, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      dotty, What movie? Christianity and the existence of Jesus Christ is very similar to earlier myths such as Horus, Mithras, etc. so that part has plenty of historical basis.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
  3. Protinga

    Hey, how about after the persecution after Christianity (after 390), when Christian bishops had prominent pagans, including woman like the astronomer Hippolyte, skinned alive.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Truth is, the Xians really don't care for history.

      Facts are too inconvenient.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
  4. Protinga

    test

    March 31, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
  5. futuradellnazione

    Hey! Christian reader! Read this story and the comments under it. How's America looking these days? Christ's enemies are the same now as they were 2000 years ago. Read "Toiletnation, USA."

    March 31, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      isn't it supposed to be "futurodellanazione", as in "future of the nation"?

      March 31, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
    • SAAB

      @future... if the story calls USA Toiletnation...ufck the mf auther, has to be an anti-American author, not anti-christ, nothing more; enemies of Christ are worldwide, over billion just in middle east, so up his ass.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
  6. SAAB

    artist of the portrait wasn't very imaginative, he missed nude sky people over the stadium.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • Archie

      lol??, Gave them up, blah blah blah by any other name – is still a troll

      March 31, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
  7. R.M. Goodswell

    Christians embellishing persecution accounts? No they wouldn't do that....would they? after all lying is a infraction punishable by roasting in a fiery pit for all eternity....as is murder...Christians have NEVER killed anyone....the Inquisitions, Crusades, witch-hunts supposedly perpetrated directly in the name of Christ .... all that unpleasantness is all atheist propaganda as part of a huge smear campaign.

    the Bible is actually an Atheist plot to make Christians look bad..... More cruel persecution.....

    anyway...when in doubt... look to the wisdom of a desert tribe that got their start 3500 years ago.... atheists and particularly modern science are out to destroy you...all they do is lie.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
    • fact checker

      Some Christians embellish, some are hypocrites, some lie, some cheat, some steal, and on and on and on

      They do this b/c they are human. Humans err and they are inherently evil.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      people are innately self serving.... we can be altruistic but it takes continuous conscious effort to override our hardwired programing. it does not make us inherently evil.

      Intentionally misleading the gullible, the ignorant, and the uneducated is an evil act however.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
  8. FreeFromTheism

    that might depend what you are referring to when you say 'Jesus'. Are you referring to the dude with super powers or are you referring to a at-best mediocre philosopher?

    March 31, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      the above post was meant as a reply to @Honestly people

      March 31, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
  9. logan5

    If Jesus truly was of divine "supernatural" origin and capable of performing feats of magic and supernatural prowess, then WHY was he executed? Why would the Romans have executed a man capable of such wonders?? Had Jesus possessed such powers he would never had been executed rather the opposite would have occurred. He would have been allowed to live. Why would anyone execute a person with direct ties to a supernatural power?? Let's face it folks, the Christian deity does not exist.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
    • .

      what do you think?

      March 31, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
    • sylversyl

      You need to read the Bible to understand. Regardless of all the powers he had, when it was time to save the world, the Spirit of God withdrew from Jesus so he could feel the same pain a normal human would feel. No point in being crucified without actually suffering. Before you disprove the Bible, read it first.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @sylversyl

      and having read it (or at least big chunks of it) and rejected it, what then?

      There is more than enough 'evidence' inside the bible to point to the idea of the non-existence of God than anyone needs.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
  10. .

    you don't know who christ was, either

    March 31, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @menses, aka period,

      Nope, not a clue. Just a Judean wabble wowser I expect.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
  11. *Sigh*

    All this proves is that the 'war against religion' for Christians is a parallel (similar but not exact) to the same war on muslims. People don't revile Christians as a whole, but the 'Christians' who get the most air time are a terrible mouth piece (like Santorum, Pat Robertson, etc) and naturally draw such awful attention. The cordial, neighborly types are out there in plentiful amounts, but they are quiet and 'boring'. The loudmouth fundies are the ones that are hijacking all the attention.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Isn't this always true?

      As you point out, it is equally true for Muslims after all.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
  12. .

    why was the new testament written?

    March 31, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • Agnes of Dog

      Political reasons, Marie.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Same reason the book of mormon was.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Because Paul started getting the story mixed up?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • .

      nope

      March 31, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Oh do tell dot

      March 31, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      again, who cares and why should anyone do so?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • Agnes of Dog

      It was written to give meaning to certain people's dreams.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
    • DoctorKnow

      To teach people how to follow God and have eternal life in heaven so they could avoid eternal damnation. Hell is real.

      Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
      “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

      March 31, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Doctor Know, I'll stick with my original answer "Same reason the book of mormon was." Influence and living large at the expense of the gullible.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
    • .

      For shits and giggles, idiot.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
  13. DoctorKnow

    "The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God" – John F Kennedy

    “God existed before there were human beings on Earth, He holds the entire world, believers and non-believers, in His omnipotent hand for eternity." - Max Planck (Founder of Quantum Mechanics)

    "I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily."– Issac Newton

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

      Are you just trying to say that there are some smart people that believe(d) in a god, or are you trying to make a stronger claim than that?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      So intelligent people can be deluded. It doesn't prove a god.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • DoctorKnow

      In Santa we trust, You are certainly correct that it does not prove God. You will very likely not have the proof you want until after you die, and then the judgement. You are guilty and are already condemned. You will go to hell. There is only a single way you can avoid this, that is to accept Jesus Christ into your heart before you die. Otherwise, you will burn in hell. It will be worse than you think FOREVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Accept Jesus right now.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      Pascal's wager, it seems
      also, I don't respond well to threats, especially if they're as ridiculous as you're presenting them
      anyhow, you do realize that atheists simply don't believe any of the things you just said? You're speaking as if you actually knew what you are talking about, but you don't. You make appeals to "authority", and appeals to emotion and fear, and you expect a reasonable person to agree with you?
      Silly, stop it.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Doctor Know. Pascal's Wager was dismissed almost as soon as he made it. It is predicated on the idea that there is a god and it is your god and it would be as petty as you describe so being a christian is good insurance. However it overlooks several other scenarios: there is a god but it's not yours and it sends christians to hell; there is a god and it is yours but it knows you're faking and it sends you to hell; there is a god but it's not as petty as you think and permits anyone who lead a good life into heaven.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
    • sensible

      @DoctorKnow, your point is what exactly?? We know intelligent people can believe the unbelievable. History is rife with them. Some were just products of their time and place in history. Some folks choose comfort over reality no matter what.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
  14. Elena

    The roman persecuted the relay Christians pushed to do so by the jewish pharisees!

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

      Why? Did they beat them in the 4 X 100?

      March 31, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
  15. Honestly people

    Honestly people. What kind of sick people celebrate the torture and death of a mythical being. Religion is the most destructive force ever conceived of by man.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
    • DoctorKnow

      Really. I would have bet the thermonuclear weapon would have been at the top of the list.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
    • fact checker

      Jesus wasn't mythical. Look to other historic Roman and Jewish writings for evidence and also to archaeology. 1) Jesus lived on this earth. Fact. 2) He died. Fact. 3) His tomb is empty. Fact.

      Now all the other stuff is up to you.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      fact checker. Jesus may have been a real person , but there's no evidence that he was divine or that he was placed in a tomb or that that tomb was empty because of a miracle.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
    • Elena

      Excuse me! where did you get Jesus was a mythical being? do you know who Tacitus was? if you don't as i assumed by your ignorant comment, then better go read his chronicles.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
    • fact checker

      Santa, I never even mentioned any of that. The statement was...'Jesus was mythical'. Historically that is inaccurate.

      That is all.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      doctor know, But nuclear weapons have only been used twice in anger, whereas religion has been around for millenia and we know of much damage done in its name both intentionally and unintentionally.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      fact checker. That's true you didn't but surely the point of the article relates to his significance to christianity and it's that part which is a myth.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
    • fact checker

      Whoa, Jesus wasn't significant to Christianity?

      Jesus' preached to his disciples. Through them and eventually Paul, they spread Christianity. You don't have to believe in Jesus' miracles to know this.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      fact checker. I meant he is significant to christianity because of his divinity, his miracles, his teachings, and his resurrection – none of which are proven. That is the myth.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • OTOH

      Elena
      "Excuse me! where did you get Jesus was a mythical being? do you know who Tacitus was?"

      There is exactly ONE mention of a Chrestus in the annals of Tacitus; and it simply relates what the early Christians were claiming about their hero.

      Tacitus also mentions Hercules in his "Germania, 3", telling about Hercules visiting those people and helping them in battle. Does that mean the Hercules was real?

      March 31, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
  16. Watch the Bible on history channel

    ...

    March 31, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
  17. .

    who wrote the new testament?

    March 31, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Oh wait – I'll bet you're going to tell me "God did"!

      March 31, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
    • .

      Are you dim? Every time you ask this, the answer is the same: they are a collection of early Christian writings, NO ONE PERSON AUTHORED THE NT! Now quit asking such a disingenuous question already!

      March 31, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • Agnes of Dog

      More importantly, much of the authorship is unknown.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
    • Quest ion

      Not me!

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

      that's what i said. not one atheist knows

      March 31, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
    • Billy

      you seem to be painting yourself into the dunce corner, so please continue dottie and give us your take...

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

      who cares and why should anyone care?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      dotty. Atheists in general tend to know more about religion and the bible than most christians.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
    • .

      I'm not an atheist, but you certainly are uneducated. You don't even know your own NT.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
    • .

      moronic atheists are the dumbest idiots on earth. they know nothing except how to repeat what dorothy taught them, the only thing she knows. "prove there ain't no santa claus." that's it.

      is there a forum where the participants have to provide at least a h.s. diploma?

      April 1, 2013 at 10:00 am |
  18. Joseph B. Malki

    Has any one here heard of the Assyrian, Aramean, Armenian, Chaldean, Malachite Catholics, and Coptic Christians? These people are descendents from the ancient people of Mesopotamia and when they encountered Christ in his own age – many converted. Today the Syrian Orthodox Church is the oldest living Christian church. We are still alive! While my father immigrated to the US to avoid Jewish and Muslim persecution in Palestine (that's the name of the country on his baptism papers in Jerusalem) many Christians who survived the Ottoman Genocide (1864-1934) stayed. As the original ethnic Christians it is sad that the Christian late comers of Europe, Asia and Africa are ignorant of our existence. Today in Syria we are really being persecuted. In Turkey and Iraq too. The Turkish government has been working hard for decades to shut down the oldest Christian monastery in the world and interfering with the teaching of our mother tongue – Aramaic. If you are interested in learning more about these original ethnic Christian cultures – please google any of these ethnic groups with the key word "Christian". In America, Europe, Australia there are churches and communities of Assyrian, Aramean, Chaldean, Malachite Catholics, and Coptic Christians. These groups are persecuted regularly. Perhaps instead of speculation around distant and past martyrs we can focus on the present situation with the Christian refugees in Syria who need help. Feel free to get in touch be emailing me at joseph at twingravity dot com

    March 31, 2013 at 8:21 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Joseph,

      yes, the 'original' Christians of the Levant have been persecuted more than any other.

      It is one of the liabilities of living in an area that is the crossroads of history.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
  19. woody

    We have to remember Christianity killed off thousands upon thousands of people from their native lands right here in the good old USA . No, Christians never hurt people ! At least no priest ever hurt any altar boy and no nun ever hurt any of the girls at the Magdalene Laundries !

    March 31, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
    • .

      Those priests and nuns are Christians, also.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:25 pm |
    • .

      name them

      March 31, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      dot, Are you asking for the names of the perpetrators or victims? The RCC should answer about the altar boys and the Magdalene Laundries but of course they conveniently ignored those at the time. Intentionally or not the christian missionaries infected native americans and native pacific islanders with diseases against which they had no defences and died in large numbers.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
  20. Austin

    He is Risen. His Holy Spirit bears the truth.

    .
    all of the dreams I had, that I discern were visioins, were because I was having dreams that were LEADING what my reality and awake life was about to actually present to me. Did I know when i wrote them down, or expect, for these dreams to be doing such a thing? there were a few where I knew that I could expect something. and they did hit .

    two nights in a row, and a little space between the third dream,

    #1I dreamt about the tile patio , a huge and beautiful rock tile with wide grout and a beautiful pattern and color, ater i had entered a stone arch entrance. There was an arm reaching into a whole, a whole chizzeled out of the ground. and the arm pulled out a leather bag full of gems. wrote these down in the middle or the night half asleep. The next day....I kept reading my bible.......

    Jeremiah 43:8-13
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    8 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah in Tahpanhes, saying, 9 “Take some large stones in your [a]hands and hide them in the mortar in the brick terrace which is at the entrance of Pharaoh’s [c]palace in Tahpanhes, in the sight of [d]some of the J.ews; 10 and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Behold, I am going to send and get Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and I am going to set his throne right over these stones that I have hidden; and he will spread his canopy over them.

    #2 the next night I dreamed that i was being attacked by a motorcycle gang and that the leader of the gang had a huge animal horn, att.atched to his seat. he could not even sit on his bike. he was trying to run me over. they were a rebel gang.
    the next day, i had finished reading Jeremiah and gotten into Lament.ations

    ◄ Lament.ations 2:3 ►

    New International Version (©2011)
    In fierce anger he has cut off every horn of Israel. He has withdrawn his right hand at the approach of the enemy. He has burned in Jacob like a flaming fire that consumes everything around it.
    ◄ Lament.ations 2:17 ►

    New International Version (©2011)
    The LORD has done what he planned; he has fulfilled his word, which he decreed long ago. He has overthrown you without pity, he has let the enemy gloat over you, he has exalted the horn of your foes.

    I DID NOT KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH AND THE STONES, AND I HAD NO RECOLLECTION OF LAMENTA.TIONS. i COULD NOT HAVE TOLD YOU WHAT ONE MAIN POINT WAS OTHER THAN I KNEW JEREMIAH WAS A PROPHET.

    #3 a few days later I had a dream that there was a huge pile of feathers underneath a bed. that day, I was reading in the book of daniel, ◄ Daniel 4:33 ►

    New International Version (©2011)
    Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.

    the kid who i had the dream about, got into trouble that day, which i had suspected the feather was a sign that he would be humiliated. he had his work pass suspended which was a major blow.

    #4 dreamed I was poisoned by mercury in alcohol. the next dream, didnt have a single dream for two weeks, this next dream I had just let two snakes out of a cage. one was a viper, the other was a rattler. but I had not thought even thought the word viper for a long time. when i woke up, i said to the kid next to me................."something is going to happen today, this one is a sign" i knew the snakes were a sign..

    two hours later i went down to bible study, the leader, on the second passage, said turn to proverbs 23:32

    29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
    Who has strife? Who has complaints?
    Who has needless bruises? Who has blo.odshot eyes?
    30 Those who linger over wine,
    who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.
    31 Do not gaze at wine when it is red,
    when it sparkles in the cup,
    when it goes down smoothly!
    32 In the end it bites like a snake
    and poisons like a viper.

    #5 Dreamed i was in a wh.ore house and I flooded it because i turned on a water spitot upstairs and just let it go and left it on. I had been praying about lust. I didnt catch this dream, until a few week later i did a study on water. I had no clue about this dream. i seemed like a random joke. but i got kicked out for letting the water run and flood.

    15 Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. 16 Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? 17 Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. 18 May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 A loving doe, a graceful deer– may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love. 20 Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man's wife? Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman? 21 For your ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all your paths. 22 The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast.

    # 6 dreamed i was touring a house and went out back and there was an ABOVE ground pool with an flush deck and a privacy fence right around the deck.

    two days later the kid sleeping next to me pulled out a piece of paper , sheldon clay was his name, and he showed me his blue print he drew, of a new house, with an above ground swimming pool , with a flush deck around the pool, and a privacy fence on the deck.

    #7 this kid on night threw a roll a tp and racked me. I was furious and said to myself, I wonder if he has the light in his eye. and then i rebuked my judgment of his spiritual condition. THE NEXT MORNING he woke up and came up to me and said, "i had a dream last night that i was going around to see who had a special light in their eye to see if they were possessed or not"
    this kid was not a bible verse type of guy.

    #8 had a dream that the kid who was ripping on me lost his money
    a month later i over heard him talking about how he lost his money, and i said watch this, and pulled out the dream i had that he had lost it.

    #9 the cat dream. I had a cat at my house, that night i dreamed that a demonic voice sang to me which inverted my body and then presented the same cat, covered in blood.

    I woke up and the cat was dead in the highway, 550 feet from my house.

    #10 I had a dream i was inside the st. louis arch and I was in there with my cousin, and she was pointing at a glass case , with a bust of someone. she said "look, its thomas Jefferson" and the place was very nice. very expensive and ritzy.

    I had no idea what the st. louis arch was about. but what i had been doing, was getting heavily into the rumors about masons, and this dream just came to me. and when I googled this and I started trembling . this is called "a word of knowledge" which is a type of spiritual gift.

    There have been numerous other ones that I believe were spiritual words of knowledge that i wont get in to .

    None of this stuff, is me trying to fit things together. everything i dreamed, and then experienced in real life as i have stated. Some of these, are totally obvious. others, I have complete faith that they were also spiritual revelations, because I know %100 that some were, so I can have faith that others probably were too. and 8 of the first ten there, all happened in jail.

    This is organized, and relevant information that is a dream, relating to reality that i was about to live.

    That is spiritual revelation.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
    • The real Tom

      You're a delusional nut-case.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
    • Agnes of Dog

      You know someone is lonely when they start quoting Lamentations.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Doesn't it make you wonder that Austin claims the cat was hit "550 feet from" his house? Did the sh!twit go measure the distance?

      Somehow, I can believe the idiot did just that.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Some people need delusions to give their life meaning. It's rather sad.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
    • Agnes of Dog

      He probably measured it in his dream. But that's OK – he's solid on it because it is "journaled".

      March 31, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
    • woody

      Bet your a minister just back from cashing in ! Are you going to buy a 550,000.00 pope mobile too ?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
    • edmundburkeson

      Forget about Christians ... these responders are still persecuting Christ.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Horrible, horrible "reporters".

      Owww, owww, "the facts" they burn, I can't listen to them anymore.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
    • Austin

      i made 3 8 foot by 8 foot signs on wood posts, and I ran poly pi.pe with a vi.bratory plow as conduit and snaked low voltage wire out there to light the signs up with about 12 lights. these verses are lit up....
      Romans 5:8 ►

      But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
      Romans 10:9 ►

      If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
      Isaiah 53:5 700BC
      But he was pierced for our transgressions,
      he was crushed for our iniquities;
      the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
      and by his wounds we are healed.

      john 15
      26“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
    • Austin

      In other words, I measured out there to know how much wire i needed because they come in different sized rolls and i didnt want to spend extra. I put about 2 thousand dollars in to the signs.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Meanwhile, you live with your parents. Good thinking, there, dude.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
    • Agnes of Dog

      Oh, were those the signs to let the aliens know that you are open to them visiting?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • Austin

      Acts 2:17 ►

      "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
      4For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you.

      5Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? 6And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. 7Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. 8For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. 9We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is that you may be fully restored. 10This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
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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.