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.
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.
Get behind me Satan. You only serve yourself and not those of God.
"Get behind me, Satan"?!?!?
You want Satan to pack your fudge for you?
Yeah, dude, be reasonable. You don't want Satan behind you with that big barbed prîck of his. You wanna keep him in front so you can keep an eye on him.
if Jesus was a urban legend, why would a group of Jews create such a legend and with what end? and why would Tacitus talked about the thirst and the crucifixion?
u r cookin
atheists can't take heat
they will not debate
they wont debate because their arrogance blinds them so badly!
You haven't even clearly stated your case. What do you mean Jesus was an urban legend? He never existed or he existed but his miracles were made up...or grew in by rumor?
no. not arrogant. afraid. they are students of murdock.
Oh, we can take heat. That's nothing. It's you fucking religious wackos that have trouble taking heat. How can anybody with half a brain actually believe such nonsense is beyond me. But yet you do and just can't seem to think any other way. And you get upset when anybody questions your beliefs.
Let's address this. First off, Tacitus never mentioned Jesus' life or works: only that there were a group of people named christians. He himself doubted Christ's existence.
As for why they invented the character of the messiah: The original gospels employ the cadence of mystery plays (an early form of theater). Also the legend of the virgin born messiah son of god had been around since the days of antique Egypt, and even before then in Mesopotamia. The idea of this god's covenant with Israel is a straight copy of Ptah's covenant with Memphis. The hebrews, including jesus, were only ever fringe members of the egyptian state and religion. The gods they worship are nothing more than pharoahs. And Moses? His real names were Pharoah Thutmoses II and III. The entire religion is based on mistakes from people too illiterate to remember the origin of their religion... and even today we see the church evolving on that same path, rewriting and reinterpreting it's rulebook to try and fit a modern society it can never catch up to.
Elena, if you want to debate then slap down a claim that you consider powerful and clever. Stop whining and do something.
shut up dorothy
I have to say this has been the most spiritually enlightening Easter ever. Earlier a Christian sincerely told us that God is like a fart, and that has to be the best revelation of Christianity a Christian has even shared with me.
I have to assume that means the silent, but deadly type.
Yes, back on page 33 Neen told us that God is like a fart that atheists would deny because we couldn't see it.
Truly a glorious Easter present.
I am still waiting to find a humble atheist willing to debate me on science and god!!
You are boring, Elena.
Go for it. Pick a topic.
Provide your claim.
I'm still waiting for you to give anyone a good reason to pay any attention to your nonsensical ranting.
are you sure? ok here we go!
tell me, if particles exist only as waves till they are measured or observed, what actually does exist then?
Hurry it up, Elena. You've been invited to choose a topic and present an argument. Get on it and knock off your stall tactics.
I don't know, you don't either; irrelevant. See, three ways, cubed, and boring as fvck.
The real Tom;
shut up and pay attention, may be you will learn to check if the rooter lies eggs!! lol
That isn't a claim, Elena. It's a question. If you want to debate, you need to take a position, not just throw out a question and expect someone else to provide an answer.
they are all dorothy and she's been discredited
Damn – just in time, Elena; my delay of game finger was just about to put up a new video.
"the rooter lies eggs!!"
Do tell us all what a "rooter" is. Then figure out that the correct verb is "lays", not "lies", you moronic dolt. I'm guessing you meant to type "rooster", and that you imagine you are clever.
Let me assure you that you're not anything of the sort.
stop uttering nonsense, if finding the truth was cubed boring science wouldn't be science! no wonder American don't even know what the act of philosophizing is
Now move your ass, Elena, and stop pretending you have a clue what you're blathering about.
I hope you don't seriously think this is how one starts a conversation.
OK, this chick is just illiterate.
Well that's simple. Particles are not waves, and they do not rely on an observer to exist. The presence of an observer does not cause them to change state from a wave to a particle. You are wrong just in the way you asked the question.
Or, in other words, you obviously do not have the slightest idea what you are talking about, you have no degree in anything even remotely related to the subject, and you got your information from a fundie creationist website that also loves to talk about the Laws of Thermodynamics, which they REALLY don't understand.
Boring, ignorant, and arrogant. Please, stay a christian, we don't want you.
Still no claim.
I made no claims about "finding the truth" lol.
For all the bluster, Elena burst apart and vanished like the Christian fart god.
WOW! I can't believe how many responders even care about the persecutions or the atrocities committed by this leader or that Ruler. There are two simple thoughts to take away from all of this proven or speculative history. One, the people of AD were still primative Barbarians unlike anyone or any group (ok, there are modern day exceptions) that we know. And two, there remains over two thousands years of murders, abuse, torture and extreme neglect for so many innocent believers in faith and in the belief that He (whoever that is) will come again.
Face it, no one is coming. It's one hell of a Story just to keep those in line. It is a simple case of 2000+ years of Abandonment. We are on our own and as soon as we accept this , the sooner we will stop looking for help from above (just like early man) and look to ourselves for the answers. Perhaps there is one really good lesson to take away from this unbelievably long fairly tale called the Bible or Bibles (depends on which business of religion you want to read) and that is "God helps those who help themsevles".
No one is coming?!?!?! Are you sure?
But the pizza guy always came before!
I'm a Christian but I don't believe that Christ is coming back. Instead, I believe in what I refer to as mythological truth. I believe that there is great value is storytelling as well as fairy tales. I go to church each week but I must say I grow just as much spiritually from watching a one hour episode of Once Upon a Time as I do any church service that I attend. I love church but I grow from other spiritual experiences that I have as well.
I will pray for you Ira. I am sorry you have not researched both sides of the History you believe in. The Bible is not a fable and incredible miracles continue to occur today. Study the evidence within the Church, search the Internet and visit the holy sites of Christianity before reaching a conclusion. May God and his son, Messiah of Israel, bless you deeply.
Why should we believe the Bible is a fairy tale?
IE, you have a number of days left. Finding God and believing him would be the best thing you could do. Putting on the Jesus Christ of Nazareth life support is critical at this time. If you reject those suggestions, I promoise you I will not care that you didn't listen. There are so many that don't listen, I don't know them all so I can't possibly care, but God will care that you did, or didn't, believe him and do what he said to do.
The language spoken by Jesus looks and sounds like Arabic yet the history channel decided to put Latin letters for the sign on the cross "Jesus of Nazareth king of the Jews" although the narrative said it's Aramaic. Apparently the producers don't want to offend the Christian bigots who will hate to see Arabic like letters on the cross.
What a pearl of ignorance my friend. Ponticus Pilate wrote the saying "Jesus the Nazarene King of the Jews" in 3languages: Greek, Hebrew and Latin. You an see the plate in a Church in Rome today. May God have mercy on your soul and may your heart turn to Him.
@Tom, Tom, the Other One "Christians, there is this that sets your religion apart from Judaism: Your God required a human sacrifice. Jesus, the son of Mary, was the entirely human sacrifice and that sacrifice was actually made, you believe. Christianity depends on a human sacrifice. With that in mind, it would be best to stop speaking of the Judeo-Christian God or of the God of Israel as the Christian God. You worship something uniquely your own. Don't spread the stain."
=>this is an excellent example of how a lack of investigation can lead to completely erroneous conclusions. Atheism is, for the most part, just a result of failing to exercise due diligence with respect to the bible. I simply can never understand how atheists such as this person continually expose their egregious lack of biblical understanding, yet never once think to invest some time to correct it.
So, your statement that somehow Christian sacrifice is different than Jewish sacrifice is 100% incorrect, here is why:
A. Blood sacrifice as atonement for sin began in the Old Testament
For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” Leviticus
B. These sacrifices were temporary, and needed to be repeated every year by the priesthood.
C. The object being sacrificed was to be without blemish.
You shall not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep which has a blemish or any defect, for that is a detestable thing to the Lord your God Deuteronomy
D. Just as God provided a sacrifice in place of Isaac, God promised to provide Himself a sacrifice for our sin.
Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes[c] his life an offering for sin, Isaiah
In summary, the entirety of the OT points to the need for God to Himself provide a perfect, permanent atonement. That is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ
"Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood" - Rev. 1
That is why there is no further need for sacrifice for the atonement of sin. As Jesus said on the cross ““It is finished” John
It is no coincidence that Jesus was crucified on the same exact spot where Abraham offered his son Isaac thousands of years earlier. In both cases, God Himself provided the sacrificial offering.
It is also no surprise that the early Christians continued to worship in the Jewish temple/synagogues and considered themselves, and were perceived as, a Jewish sect.
Thank you Chad for bringing things to light. It helps remind me of what I have missed.
D. Just as God provided a sacrifice in place of Isaac, God promised to provide Himself a sacrifice for our sin.
Could he just forgive sins without the sacrifice part? If so, it is rather useless and immoral....if not god is not omnipotent.
Your religion is immoral, your god non-existent, and your devotion to these is pathetic and reprehensible.
Christians consider those points to be incredible, when if examined under the power of logic they are incredibly ridiculous. End Religion has got your number.
These are pretty basic things from the teachings of mainstream Christians, Chad. But perhaps you need to reassure yourself that you know them well enough to claim you believe them. In general, I would say most Jews who have not converted to Christianity disagree with most of what you've said. You've appropriated their God, the God of Israel, and tacked onto it an abhorrent story of human sacrifice. I'm glad you understand that, though it sounds like you will continue to proclaim that you know this God better than the ones who believed in it back when your ancestors were worshiping trees.
"The Other Part"? What is this new-fangled moniker I see before me?
No, just my mind wandering – something Freudian, I'm sure.
Blessed are the Cheesemakers: Suppose someone were to burn down your house. The perpetrator is caught and brought before the court, where he says, "Judge, I suppose I shouldn't have done it." The judge says, "That's OK. Case dismissed. Go on your way." Do you think that would be appropriate?
The sacrifice is necessary because sin is a serious matter and can't just be waved away.
Whew! Thank goodness, TTTOO. I was starting to think the center cannot hold, what with the resurfacing of the Piddler after his tremendous Lenten sacrifices and the babbling of Elena the Russian judge...
Chad...I mean Bob Bales,
Suppose my great great grandfather burned down a house and the judge condemned every decendent of the man for the crime to death. Would that be appropriate? Now what if the judge gave every descendent a get out of death free card but only if they believed the judge's son killed himself as a sacrifice. Would that be justice? Would it even be moral? Would such a judge be worthy of veneration?
No one is condemned to hell for something someone else did. Those who go to hell will do so because of their own sin. In this case, it is impossible for anyone to pay the penalty and be restored to a correct relationship to God. Therefore Jesus paid it for us. This is mercy.
The reason for the existence of sin has nothing to do with me, it was either created or a cause of something that happened long ago according to your beliefs. As such I would rather not have been born at all if I had a choice in the matter, which I didn't.
Also witholding punishement based on belief is also part of the immorality I charge you religion with.....and you of course ignored that part because it is an uncomfortable logical conclusion.
Another thing. Belief in Jesus is not a get-out-of-jail-free card that we give back to God when we get caught so that we can go on our merry way. Rather, it involves repentance - a realization that we have been on the path of sin (which is rebellion against God, as distinct from sins, or acts) and a desire to change paths. When we repent, God enables to follow his ways and removes the penalty for our past sin, since that has already been paid.
Bob, I prefer to be responsible for my own actions. You know, like an adult.
And frankly, I've never done anything so bad that penance would require a person be tortured to death. I think your god is a complete jerk if that's what he requires to forgive humans for acting like humans.
"This is mercy." No, that's strange. The system whereby there is a need for atonement and someone, preferably someone guiltless, can stand in for the ones that owe the debt is foreign – to me, at least. It comes from an ancient system whereby the blood of a particularly valuable animal could serve the same purpose. Something entirely unrelated to the debt is destroyed to repay the debt. This is futile. The kind of debts in question here, sin, if you like, are often things that cannot be set right by any action by the debtor. And certainly not by sacrifice. What is mercy? To write off debts that can't be paid and to require no useless acts like sacrifice.
The original existence of sin may have had nothing to do with you. However, God will judge you based on what you have done and how you chose to live your life - things that have everything to do with you. It can be hard to understand why God forgives us. Do we deserve it? No. And as I said, it's not that we just say "I believe" and with the magic words, *poof*, our penalty is gone. Rather, we must come to God with the desire to do things His way and the realization that we cannot do that by ourselves. He does it, makes us what the Bible calls a "new creation" and forgives us for what we did before, since that penalty has been paid.
I am still not responsible for sin existing in the first place.
Second in order to repent to a god I have to believe that god exists, I also have to believe sin exists....I also have to believe in the gift of Jesus' sacrifice.....so that still doesn't get your flawed logic out of the conundrum of rewards and punishments being based on belief. Also as tallulah correctly pointed out the punishment doesn't fit the "crime", not that unbelief is a crime except in the immoral dogma of christianity.
"The original existence of sin may have had nothing to do with you. "
Exactly, so I am put in a position of being guilty of a situation the judge created ....in legal terms that is called entrapment. Your religious morality is sick.
Now if god sacrificed himself and required nothing in return....THAT would be mercy....THAT would be UNCONDITIONAL love. What Jesus did was full of conditions...What god wants is payment (repentance), Worship, belief, .....payments. Your god is a Mob Boss that wants his vig.
tallulah13: Have you done nothing worthy of God's punishment? Have you consistently done everything God's way? You say it's OK for humans to act like humans. But God created the earth and its inhabitants to live in a certain way. How well the system functions depends on how humans act according to how the system was designed, not on how "natural" their actions feel to them. It is God, not humans, who designed the system and determined what makes it work. God's standard is perfection.
God's justice and mercy go together. You get an unbalanced view if you look at one without the other It is God's justice that demands perfection, for the system will not work without it. It is His mercy that realizes that no one can achieve perfection and provides a way, without which everyone would be doomed, to come into the correct relationship with Him.
"Have you done nothing worthy of God's punishment?"
Blessed are the Cheesemakers: "Exactly, so I am put in a position of being guilty of a situation the judge created." Not at all. You are put in a position of being guilty of the situation you created by your own actions.
God is very pissy, Cheesey. He's that boss who demands you suck up, only promotes toadies, and resents people of merit who don't kiss his ass. In that lopsided paradigm, anyone can be guilty of his capricious, arbitrary opinion.
Under Christianity, everyone is born guilty, which in no way is of your own doing.
"God's justice that demands perfection,"
That is not justice, that is the completely unreasonable expectation of a dictator.
Now you are just spewing phrases that have been feed to you through indoctrination that don't even make sense.
My actions didn't create the situation for sin to exist....not my fault.
Being born into an imperfect world and expecting me to be perfect is the flawed thinking of a deranged sociopath. I wouldn't worship an asshat that would do such a thing. If I did believe that monster existed I would have never had children, I wouldn't subject someone I love to be judged by such a god. The idea that such a fvckwad is considered moral and loving makes me sick.....literally turns my stomach.
The only requirement for heaven is accepting Jesus. Based on that, there really is no sin that isn't basically auto-forgiven other than not believing. So god set an impossible standard, but he doesn't enforce any part as long as you accept Jesus.
The only sin is to not suck up. Everything else gets forgiven, including child molestation and mass murder.
Doesn't make a damn bit of sense, but that's not a surprise.
Not so: "Under Christianity, everyone is born guilty, which in no way is of your own doing." Some Christians and churches believe this. I don't. Both the Old and New Testaments state that everyone will be judged for their own sin.
So bob, what you are saying is that if I don't obey your gods arbitrary and sometimes conflicting rules (the ones that the different sects of christians can't even agree on), that even if I live a good, quiet life, paying my debts and hurting no others, I still deserve to suffer for eternity unless I accept that an innocent person was tortured to death? All because I did something innocuous like eat shellfish or wear a poly-cotton blend shirt?
Does that actually make sense to you? How can you worship such a petty, evil god? Why in the world would anyone worship such a monster?
I won't send you to hell for the shirt thing, but you will find pure cotton far more comfortable and less sweaty.
Blessed are the Cheesemakers: ""God's justice that demands perfection," That is not justice, that is the completely unreasonable expectation of a dictator."
Not when that is what is required for the system to work as designed. You may say that God should have designed a system to accommodate imperfection. But why? A system with imperfection is never as good with one without. And how much imperfection should He allow? Imperfection tends to spread. There are many possible examples. Consider a population with no resistance to a disease. The introduction of just one individual with the disease can decimate the population.
The whole thing falls apart, Bob, because God designed the imperfection.
An omniscient god who knows the future by definition must have fabricated everything that will ever happen right back at the beginning. Anything else changes the outcome. You therefore only have the illusion of free will, and cannot truly be held responsible for what God put into you and you cannot change.
"The introduction of just one individual with the disease can decimate the population."
Your (Chrsitinan) god belief is the disease we have to be saved from. It is the moral imperfection. It is poison.
But....the good news....the REAL good news.....is.....it is fiction.....he doesn't even exist.
tallulah13: I am not saying that. God's rules are neither arbitrary or conflicting (although people's interpretation of them can be). Have you kept every one of God's commandments at all times? If not, then you are under the punishment of breaking them. And, no, you will not be sent to hell for eating shellfish or wearing a poly-cotton blend shirt.
Because we are not God, we cannot completely understand His ways. But here is what he has said, "I designed the earth (and really the universe) to be a place of perfection and harmony between people and between people and Myself. To maintain that harmony, everyone must live by certain rules. Since the result of not living by the rules can be disastrous for the entire system, there are penalties for deciding that you don't want to live within the constraints of the system. In fact, the penalty is so great that no one can pay it. However, for those that that realize they have been wrong and turn from their rebellion, the penalty has been paid, and I will forgive." There is nothing evil or monstrous about such a God.
Thanks YHWH Jr. And I agree about the cotton.
You never said Ten Commandments, Bob. You said ALL of gods laws. Make up your mind. Or make up god's mind, since you seem to be in charge of what he thinks.
And your god is a monster. He demands that I believe in him or burn in hell for eternity, but he doesn't provide a single shred of evidence for his existence, and in fact seems to have gone out of his way to hide himself from humanity.
Zingo: "The whole thing falls apart, Bob, because God designed the imperfection." God did not design the imperfection. He gave man the ability to choose, but did not determine the choice.
tallulah13: What God are you talking about? The God described in the Bible or some other? The God of the Bible did not hide from us, but sent His son to live among us as one of us. Of course, you may reject what the Bible says about God. Nonetheless, a God who would be a monster by hiding himself from us is NOT God as described in the Bible.
Tom: "No, that's strange. The system whereby there is a need for atonement and someone, preferably someone guiltless, can stand in for the ones that owe the debt is foreign – to me, at least." It is strange in a way - the idea that someone without guilt would have to die for me and through that I can be forgiven. We are not God, and cannot completely understand His ways. But we can at least understand His principles.
"The kind of debts in question here, sin, if you like, are often things that cannot be set right by any action by the debtor.' Very true.
As I see it, it is necessary for the penalty to be paid because, but also to establish, a serious transgression occurred. If someone commits a crime, is sentenced, and the sentence is immediately abolished, then what the sentence is doesn't matter. A $1 fine, a $1,000,000 fine, five minutes in jail, or death - all would be just words on a piece of paper. Is a crime with a paper fine of $1,000,000 (that is never paid) any more serious than one with a paper fine of $1?
God has said that sin is serious, with serious consequences. Were he then to say. "You sinned. That's OK. Go your way," there would be no consequences. I think that it is a principle of child rearing that you never say to a child you will do something that you really will not do. The same thing applies here. Who would believe that sin is serious? The whole exercise would really be nothing more than a charade.
But sin is a transgression against God's design. Justice demands that the transgression must be made right. The transgressor cannot do it. Another human, who is also a transgressor cannot do it. The only one who can possibly pay the penalty for someone else is one who does not own a penalty himself. In this case, that is God himself.
@Tom, Tom "These are pretty basic things from the teachings of mainstream Christians, I would say most Jews who have not converted to Christianity disagree with most of what you've said."
@Chad "your wildly inaccurate view is really unfortunate in one sense, but also an opportunity in another sense.
The only difference between Judaism and Christianity is that Christians believe the Messiah has come, Jews are still awaiting His coming.
Christianity and Judaism share historical roots in the Second Temple period, sometimes referred to as Judeo-Christian roots, but the two religions diverged in the first centuries of the Christian Era. Since the Ecu menical Councils, with the first held in 325, Christendom places emphasis on correct belief (or orthodoxy), focusing on the New Covenant that the Christian Triune God made through Jesus Christ, as recorded in the New Testament. Judaism places emphasis on the right conduct (or orthopraxy), focusing on the Mosaic Covenant that the God of Israel made with the Israelites, as recorded in the Torah and Talmud.
I think you'll be shocked to find out that Jesus is Jewish, the disciples were Jewish, Jesus and His disciples kept the law and worshiped in the temple. Early Christianity focused on convincing their fellow Jews that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah.
Here's hoping this stimulates some investigation on your part...
"My actions didn't create the situation for sin to exist....not my fault." The existence of sin is not your fault. But your actions are the results of what you - and you alone - decided to do. Neither God nor anyone else caused you to do it. Since you are the one who chose your actions, you are the one who bears the responsibility for them.
"Being born into an imperfect world and expecting me to be perfect is the flawed thinking of a deranged sociopath." God designed an ideal, perfect, eternal system. It is in no sense sociopathic for God to require that those who are part of the system to have the characteristics needed for the system to function. It is, I contend , completely necessary and logical. By analogy, suppose you had a disease-free population of 100,000. So you say,"We can let 1 person with smallpox in; 100,000 disease-free out of 100,001 is completely acceptable. But it will be only 99,999 disease-free, then 99,990 and soon ony 10,000 (or less) out of 100,001.
God know that it is impossible for you to meet the requirement by yourself. So if He he stopped there, irrevokably condemning all of humanity, He would be, at the least, uncaring and unfeeling. But He didn't stop there. He created a way whereby the necessary penalty for sin and rebellion was paid, and whereby He would change people to enable them to meet His requirements.
You may not understand why God did things this way, You may not believe it or accept it. You may even ridicule it. But I don't see how you can say that a God who will change anyone who desires to meet His requirements so that they can do so, is evil or imoral for having those requirements.
Atheist claim to be atheist because of science yet THEY DON'T EVEN UNDERSTAND WHAT THE DUAL NATURE OF A PARTICLE IS!!!!!!
OK, sunshine – what is the dual nature of a particle?
I hate to break it to you Elena but "John P. Tarver" is not an atheist.
tipycal way of saying i don't know, answering a question with another question!!
Answer it, doofus. And the word is "typical."
You're not doing very well here, Elena.
I'm just dying to hear Elena get all sciencey and tell us about particle duality. I bet it's going to be a riot!
No doubt. It's been a hoot watching her try to write a coherent sentence.
Your initial question did strike me as odd, Elena. But leave it to Tarvball to confuse – he is still stuck with old science and can't seem to move forward.
But please enlighten us, Elena.
Here are the two parts. There is the Jesus part of the particle, and there is the satanic demon squishkittydream part of the particle, one particle that's two particles, a trinity of one and two, in a locked-in triangle of days that only angels can figure out after they drove naked through a few churches. And hair on the sun.
Actually, I do understand as much as anybody can claim to understand. But I'm not atheist because of thoughts I might have about elementary particles. It has a lot more to do with what I understand about things similar to viruses that seem to crop up wherever information of any kind is transmitted, used, altered or stored. You have something running on you, Elena.
Atheist's arrognce knows no boundaries. i actually feel bad you are slaves of your own ignorance!!
wink @pseudo; lol.
Yet when given the opportunity to enlighten all of us poor atheists, Elena, you can't seem to manage to rise to the occasion.
Why is it that most christians make me glad I'm no longer one?
Oh, bushwa. You can't manage an argument, honey. Stop blustering about and looking silly.
I could debate you and win every point three ways cubed, but I'm afraid it would just be to boring.
Elena is nearly as impotent as God.
all i see is just arrogant atheist lacking the ability to debate!!
"I am still waiting to find a humble atheist willing to debate me on science and god!!"
There is nothing more humble than saying, "We don't know it all (yet, if ever)"
You, Elena, on the other hand.... you are the diametric opposite of "humble".
I agree: Christians now aren't persecuted or even 'oppressed'. But we are despised. All the liberal bloggers point out that Christians are still in the majority; and yeah there are places where atheism isn't healthy, e.g. in a Mississippi trailer park. But among the urban-coastal elites, the people with money, prestige and power Christianity is regarded with contempt. The issue isn't whether the majority are Christian but who is Christian and currently Christianity has become a class marker: to be a Christian is to be lower class. We may still be a majority, but we are despised by the educated, elite minority–the people who have power and are admired.
I'm sick of being stereotyped and trashed because I'm a Christian. I'm pro-choice, support gay marriage, don't believe the world was creatd 6000 years ago, yada yada. I'm sick of the assumption that I'm ignorant, bigoted, poor white trash because I happen to believe the articles of the Nicene Creed (sans Filioque).
@#$%^&*( you damn bigot and snobs!!!
Translation: "We Christians are stupid, and the smart people don't respect us like I want them too."
Your spite, bitterness, and resentfulness are a testament to the goodness Jesus brings.
I'll guarantee you that there are more Christians with advanced degrees than atheists.
If you want to make obnoxious generalities about who has the money on Wall St. or in Hollywood, ask Mel Gibson. I bet he won't say atheists.
Not that it matters. It is your persecution complex is showing – which is the point of the article.
It is the religious right who have painted Christians into a corner where they are mocked for the imbecilic things they say and do.
Thanks for your reasonable practice of your faith. If you can respect non belief and treat atheists the way you would want to be treated, then I'm only against some of your ideas, not you. But you should reconsider what ideas you hold beyond your reasoning. Only you can be honest, here, and the bible does say, "Come, let us reason together." Shall we??
I'm an atheist and sincerely appreciate your comment. However, you are stereotyped because Christians have built that image. Here in Texas its Christians doing the oppression. Our Governor "Oops" Perry said "the Bible is the only book school kids really need." The push for charter schools is a thinly-veiled attempt to direct public monies towards church schools. An atheist politician could never win an election – regardless of other attributes. I study religion appreciate the core values of most. Still, I find little resemblence between the teachings of Christ and the behavior of the politicians we've elected to Congress. The GOP does not remember the Sermon on the Mount...
The liberal press won't quit until they've rewritten all of Christian History. The sad thing is, kids come here thinking this is "news." The Lord will not be mocked.
Christians rewrite their own history every day. It's why we now have ~40,000 denominations of Christianity.
Christians have been re-writing their own history since the beginning.
Liars for Jesus.
Please die in a fire, painfully.
As a Christian, I too am angry that they want to tell the truth. Our propaganda should be accepted, no matter how stupid it is.
Wimpy, your Jeebus godling is an impotent retard who couldn't buckle his own sandals without the help of 12 others.
Did P, M, M, L and J simply make Jesus into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with this magic-man conclusion with J's gospel being mostly fiction.
Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!
So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher/magic man would do or say?
Added details are available upon written request.
did you take your meds yet?
Did you, Elena? You're the one who keeps bringing up the subject of meds, so it seems pretty obvious you have some first-hand experience with them.
i see the meds word offend you, are you on meds? if you are, not my fault!!
Idiot, the words "meds" doesn't "offend" me. What is wrong with you?
Since Paul, et al,. did not have a "magic man," there are no followers of the same.
people choose their death, when their choose how they life –> http://youtu.be/RZXCXPtdAQQ
There are only two choices in this life. You can either accept Jesus, or not. If not, you spend eternity burning in hell. If you do, you get the joy of spending every moment for the rest of time doing noting but praising God. 24/7/365/eternity. No family or friends, just the bliss of telling God over and over how great he is. No sports or golf, no movies, just constantly on your knees keeping God's ego super stroked. Yes, there is nothing but that, and who wouldn't want to do that forever and ever and even, nothing else, not even loved ones (who are probably burning in hell anyway.
You know, it sounded better when I didn't think about it, but now that I actually listened to what it is, uh, well, the atheist "you just stop" thing sounds far better than either of Jesus' options.
Hell isn't eternal. Hell meant the grave in greek. Hell is just like before you were born, no where does it say you will burn for eternity. You just are dead and that's eternity. It also isn't praising God forever, you get mansions in heaven. Amazing fruits too. There will be a new earth when we go to heaven, one without poverty c: If you reject God and the holy spirit you loose that life and just die. But if you never got the chance to know the spirit and hear it's testimony than you can still be forgiven at death. Blasphemy against the spirit is unforgivable because it isn't accepting the spirit and forgiveness. Children still go to heaven. People who havn't heard of Christ and the true gospel can still get to heaven. But once Christ knocks at the door and you don't open it your forgiveness is gone. but he keeps knocking on it, waiting to finally see you and when he does he'll be sooo happy c:
Pride is ugly. So is your fictitious deity and his hell.
You go to heaven for the amazing fruits? That sounds like every gay man's dream!
Douglas will be so excited!
And the message from David is, whatever you do don't open the damn door. And the most evil people on earth are those who spread the word of god opening up the risk of hell to people who otherwise has a free ticket to heaven for their ignorance. Missionaries are truly evil.
Actually Billy, there are lots of choices. For instance, you could choose to examine the facts and realize that there isn't any proof that your god, your satan, your heaven or your hell actually exist.
Could I just play the devil's advocate here? What type of persecution are Christians heaping on liberals and gays? The worst of it is they stand outside and protest and maybe call people who disagree with them some awful names, but few Christians have actually killed people who disagree with them. The law protects gays and liberals, so even if they do actually kill someone who disagrees with them it is not like they are never punished.
I actually think that liberals and gays are becoming an elite class. They want to make it illegal for people to disagree with them. They will get you fired from your job just for saying that you disagree with the gay lifestyle, which you have every right to do. They will sue you for even perceived racism. They boycott businesses for the slightest offenses that normal people would brush off. Even though they claim to be tolerant, they are really no different than the Nazis or the KKK or even the Romans who persecuted Christians. This intolerance is clothed differently.
For the last 25 years Christian groups have been fighting for the right to make hiring and firing decisions based on se.xuality. They have passed laws in several states that actively forbid providing benefits for same se.x couples. These are real people affected by every one of these backwards bigoted actions, real people who struggle for medical care or lose a job. If you're too stupid to have figured this out already I don't imagine any explanation you read in a blog comment is going to get through the wall of willful ignorance you've built around yourself.
How many atheist will have the courage to face a hungry lion to defend his or hr beliefs! as those early Christians did!
Sorry, that is not the test for the veracity of facts. People die and have died all throughout history for mistaken beliefs.
Here are 23 pages of famous Muslim Martyrs, and of course doesn't include the many, many others who have given their lives for that belief:
courage my friend, courage! you will poop big time if you knew you had to face a lion, stupidity has no place here as survival instinct will make any one do whatever to survive
and you have no moral right to call those who had the courage to face such a horrible death stupid!!
"survival instinct will make any one do whatever to survive"
Apply the survival instinct to the following scenario:
Roman soldier: If you profess Christianity I will throw you to the lions? Do you believe in the Christ?
Applying the survival instinct, you say what?
Might I point out the painfully obvious? The article, which you didn't read, say s most of those encounters didn't happen. And even if they did, they didn't choose to be thrown to the lions, so there's no courage or standing for your beliefs. That's like saying Ted Bundy courageously faced execution in defense of his lifestyle choices.
Plenty of religious zealots kill themselves or others (or both) for their faith. It is a badge of honor. Claiming that makes their beliefs true means you are delusional, or stupid (or both)
Jesus was an urban legend. He never actually existed.
did you take your meds already?
That rebuttal is hilarious coming from you Elena.
Very ironic I think.
if Jesus was a urban legend, why would a group of Jews create such a legend and with what end? and why would Tacitus talked about the thirst and the crucifixion?
do you even know who Tacitus was???
What is WITH you? "A urban legend"? Really, do you not get what's wrong here?
How would Tacitus even know when he was born over 20 years after Jesus supposedly died, and who wrote that 80 years after Jesus' zombie gig?
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?
Legend once indicated that there was once a city called TROY. And that was all it was for a long time. A legend.
But then they found the city about a hundred year ago. Point being most legends are based on some fact.
In the case of Jesus, a few billion people believe in 'your' legend.
If Jesus never existed, how is it that people in the place and time that He is said to have lived, who would certainly have known if He didn't, became his followers at the potential cost of their lives?
They're persecuted in the Muslim world. That's for sure.
i wish i could but i'm constrained, Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw pearls before swine
Some people warm up throwing pearls before they move on to swine. Or didn't you know that?
So true. No one wants to pull a muscle.
I had a book of Mormon many years ago and my dog pulled it off the shelf and chewed it up. On a whim I looked in the index and found it contained the "do not give unto the dogs" and thought that was a pretty funny story. So I went to ask some Mormon missionary neighbors for a new copy (I keep most major religious texts around) and told them the story assuming they would get it as funny. I hadn't GIVEN the book to the dog after all – she took it. The total lack of humor in those kids really drove home how far gone some of these people are. And they wouldn't give me a new copy either...I had to get one at a festival later. If you can't laugh at ironic dog behavior you aren't living.
Sara, this is obviously a sign from FSM that you are giving to much of your time to other gods/religions. Let's stay focused on the pasta. I think it's important to note that my family's Easter dinner today included macaroni and cheese.
@ER, I don't believe I have any texts for the FSM in my collection. Well, one called Vegetarian Pasta...not sure if that's got the core ideology?
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