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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. Syman

    You cannot erase Christianity from the history books, trying to do so only makes it grow. Ironically it's bigots like CNN that help enforce our beliefs. Hate it all you want, you can't change it. By the way, the calendar you use.. it starts with the birth of Christ, now try to change that!

    April 1, 2013 at 3:42 am |
    • sam stone

      Paranoid much?

      April 1, 2013 at 3:45 am |
    • sam stone

      About the calendar.....so what?

      April 1, 2013 at 3:47 am |
    • SixDegrees

      "Waaa! I'm being persecuted!"

      April 1, 2013 at 3:49 am |
    • SixDegrees

      "By the way, the calendar you use.. it starts with the birth of Christ, now try to change that!"

      Er, no, it doesn't. No one knows when or where Christ was born (if he ever was) and there certainly isn't any tradition of him being born on January 1. Or in March, the original starting date of the Julian calendar.

      The name itself ought to be a clue. That would be Julius Caesar, the guy who originated the calendar and put it in place.

      Although we don't use the Julian calendar anymore. We switched to the Gregorian calendar back in the 1500s, due to inaccuracies that were piling up in the Julian system.

      Sorry, you lose. But thanks for playing.

      April 1, 2013 at 3:53 am |
    • skytag

      Meaningless claptrap. Nothing in history can be erased — not Christianity, not the Crusades, not the Spanish Inquisition, not Islam, not Buddhism, not Judaism, not Nazism and its extermination of six million Jews. So what? And as for our calendar system being based on the date of birth of a myth, so what? It's as good a date as any.

      April 1, 2013 at 4:02 am |
    • Righteo

      Calendar? The one that honors the Norse god Tiw on Tuesday, Wodan on Wednesday, Thor on Thursday, Freya on Friday, and the Roman God Saturn on Saturday?

      April 1, 2013 at 4:32 am |
    • Hear This

      Righteo,

      Yes, and the same calendar that each year has:

      January = in honor of Janus (Roman god)
      February = Roman purification rite, februa
      March = in honor of Mars (Roman god)
      April = in honor of Aphrodite (Greek goddess)
      May = in honor of Maia (Roman goddess)
      June = in honor of Juno (Roman goddess)
      July & August = the Roman Caesars

      April 1, 2013 at 4:41 am |
    • Righteo

      Right you are. But Jesus is honored most in the fact that the dating starts on the wrong day and year of his birth, and his followers didn't know enough about math to start at zero where any numeric system starts. Stupid and wrong: Christianity in a nutshell.

      April 1, 2013 at 4:44 am |
    • Hear This

      The B.C./A.D. dating system was the brainchild of a monk named Dionysius in the 6th century. The Church was very powerful in those days and controlled many aspects of society, including politics, economics, literature and history-writing... still, his dating system took hundreds of years (nearly 1000) to be inst-ituted world-wide. Many cultures still keep their ancient calendars going on the side.

      April 1, 2013 at 4:50 am |
    • Zingo

      I always get a giggle out of that Christian monk who was named after the Greek god of debauchery.

      April 1, 2013 at 4:57 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      You have to love when the christians get all worried about their sect being lost and try to defend it.

      April 1, 2013 at 5:04 am |
  2. Syman

    CNN will cease to exist one day, it will be forgotten. All these filthy comments will disappear, as will those sad people who wrote them. Christianity will still grow, it will not go away. CNN, you are just confirming how real and relevant this noble faith is by trying to discredit it day after day. If you truly feel this is all a lie please start reporting on how the tooth fairy and santa claus are not real. I feel pity for you, such callous people.

    April 1, 2013 at 3:22 am |
    • Get over it

      blah, blah, blah.

      April 1, 2013 at 3:31 am |
    • tallulah13

      I bet all the followers of Zeus thought the same thing.

      April 1, 2013 at 3:33 am |
    • sam stone

      Syman: No one is trying to deny others civil rights based on their belief in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny

      April 1, 2013 at 3:37 am |
    • sam stone

      Please point out where the article said god was not real.

      April 1, 2013 at 3:40 am |
    • skytag

      Islam will still be here, Buddhism will still be here, Judaism will still be here, hundreds of other religions will still be here. what's your point? People have chosen to embrace one set of myths about a God or gods and they always will. It doesn't prove any of them are right.

      April 1, 2013 at 3:43 am |
    • skytag

      When believers in Santa Claus start a movement to pass laws forcing everyone to have a chimney in his home CNN can start doing stories about Santa Claus. You people are so pathetic. I pity you. You've devoted your entire life to a set of beliefs you can't begin to support with evidence. You hate atheists because they confront you with that reality. You're much more comfortable around people who share your beliefs because they validate them in your mind.

      April 1, 2013 at 4:17 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      You'll probably cease to exist before CNN will. Reality is so frightening.

      April 1, 2013 at 5:05 am |
  3. Syman

    Leave it to CNN to try and rewrite history. You liberals are the true bigots!

    April 1, 2013 at 3:07 am |
    • Google Translator

      Translation: "Syman can't handle the truth."

      April 1, 2013 at 3:09 am |
    • skytag

      Reality is not your happy place. This is typical of Christians.

      April 1, 2013 at 4:03 am |
  4. End Times

    What God Is Really Like…

    Atheists and unbelievers judge God in their minds like he's a man. Many aren't afraid to speak evil of him (that's generally out of ignorance). They're the biggest of fools. In fact, they are beyond foolish and have no idea what God is even like. If they did, they'd be afraid out of their skulls to speak evil of him. To give you and idea of what God is like, the following is a scripture in the bible that describes God on Judgment Day…

    Daniel 7:9 – I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. 10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.

    In the above scripture, the "Ancient of Days" the scripture is referring to is talking about Jesus. It is describing him as he sits on the throne on Judgment Day. It states his garment was as white as snow, that his hair was like pure wool, and that he was sitting on a throne of fire (note the fire and the flames wasn't even burning him). It states that a fiery stream issued forth before him, and that "thousands thousands" (that's millions) ministered unto him. Imagine that, Jesus is sitting on a throne made of fire and flames and has more than a million angels administering unto him, angels who are his own personal entourage to take care of his every whim and need. It also states that "ten thousand times ten thousand" stood before him (that's 100,000,000 or 100 million people). The judgment was set, and the books were opened.

    So that's the god you're dealing with. A god with unimaginable power and who's eternal. A god the atheists and the unbelievers are going to have to face someday. I'd be afraid out of my skull to get a bad thought against such a god, especially if I knew I'd have to meet him someday. And the atheists who do speak evil of him are beyond foolish. In fact, they're so foolish, there isn't even a word for it. To further underscore this point, some atheists have the nerve to think that God somehow needs them, that he needs us to serve him. What makes you think God needs you? He's a holy and a perfect God with all power and with a unlimited number of angels who is already serving him. So what makes you think God needs an evil minded and stinky butt person like you? He does not. If you end up in hell and the lake, God could care less. It is you who need God…

    April 1, 2013 at 2:40 am |
    • Muslims are saying the same thing about your scoffing of their pi$$y god.

      Of course, if you die and find yourself in front of Allah, you are in deep ca-ca yourself.

      The only sensible way to deal with such a terroristic god is to join all religion, become and IslamoBuddhistHinduChristoZoroastrianJewAnimistPanteistPolytheist Thor and Zeus worshiper. Gotta cover all your bases if you are wallowing in fear like that.

      Or you can realize that no real god would act as you claim, that it all sounds like the ancient peasant superstition that it is, and just get on with your life.

      April 1, 2013 at 2:49 am |
    • Zingo

      Your God sure is a dickhead.

      April 1, 2013 at 2:53 am |
    • tallulah13

      Actually, I base my atheism on the fact that there isn't a single shred of evidence that any god actually exists. I don't fear religious bogeymen. I'm not afraid of ghosts, either.

      April 1, 2013 at 2:57 am |
    • Muslims are saying the same thing about your scoffing of their pi$$y god.

      Sure you don't want to become a IslamoBuddhistHinduChristoZoroastrianJewAnimistPanteistPolytheist Thor and Zeus worshiper? We get lots of holidays!

      April 1, 2013 at 3:00 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Why would you worship a god who rules by fear?

      April 1, 2013 at 3:05 am |
    • sam stone

      End Times: Your empty proxy threats are bullspit. How do expect that people can fear beings in which they do not believe? Get back on your knees, b1tch

      April 1, 2013 at 3:42 am |
    • skytag

      "Atheists and unbelievers judge God in their minds like he's a man."

      I stopped reading at this point, since you couldn't get one sentence out that made sense. Atheists don't judge God at all because they believe he doesn't exist. I don't judge God, Santa Claus, or leprechauns like anything. I dismiss all of them as mythical beings for which there is no evidence whatsoever.

      April 1, 2013 at 4:07 am |
    • End Times

      tallulah13… That's because people like you are too stupid to recognize the evidence that does exist. It never has been an issue that evidence does not exist. But it always has been the issue that people like you have refused to recognize it. So whose fault is that? Answer: Yours.

      And before you ask me what evidence exists, as though you don't already know (and this goes to any other dumb and stupid atheist who want to ask me that same dumb question even though you already know the answer to it but deny it) let me say that if I have to spell out to you in plain english the plethora of evidence that exists, then you're dumber than you look. And you much too dumb for me to even be wasting my time with…

      April 1, 2013 at 4:12 am |
    • End Times

      "Skytag"… You said… "I stopped reading at this point, since you couldn't get one sentence out that made sense."

      That's because it takes "brains" to understand common sense and reasoning. And sadly, that's something you're lacking. Grow up and learn some truth. Then get back to me...

      April 1, 2013 at 4:15 am |
    • Google Translator Translates "End Times" last Post!

      Translation: "No, I don't have any evidence, so I will just become abusive and call you stupid so I can have a reason to act self righteous as I flee a real debate."

      April 1, 2013 at 4:17 am |
    • skytag

      Thank you. Your comments are condescending and insulting, and reek of desperation. In being such a jerk you have inadvertently offered yourself up as proof that Christianity is a fraud. You have no proof, no evidence and you know it. Telling people that if you have to say what it is they're stupid is beyond lame. You're just another hateful Christian fraud. Thanks for playing.

      April 1, 2013 at 4:21 am |
    • End Times

      Proverbs 10:18 – He that uttereth a slander, is a fool.

      Matthew 12:26 – But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

      2 Peter 2:12 – But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;

      As the above scripture confirms, some people are not even human. They may have flesh on and look human, but they're not even human. They're "natural brute beasts" made to be taken and destroyed, and shall utterly perish in their own corruption. Many many atheists fall into this category, as we have witnessed on this forum...

      April 1, 2013 at 4:22 am |
    • End Times

      "Skytag"... It's not desperation at all. It just means I don't have time for your nonsense...

      April 1, 2013 at 4:25 am |
    • Righteo

      Oooooooooooooooh. Spooky. Vewy scawy.

      April 1, 2013 at 4:25 am |
    • Righteo

      You've been posting for two hours now, but you don't have time to explain anything. Yeah, we're buying that Christian honesty.

      April 1, 2013 at 4:26 am |
    • skytag

      "Skytag"... It's not desperation at all. It just means I don't have time for your nonsense...

      No one makes excuses better than a Christian. LOL Sorry, but the word "desperation" fits to a tee. All you have are insults and condescension. No proof, no evidence, just a lot of insecurity apparently.

      April 1, 2013 at 4:29 am |
    • skytag

      You keep insulting people, despite the fact that the Bible tells you to love your enemies, forgive all men, and pray for those who spitefully use you. Why is your behavior here so inconsistent with Christian teachings? If your comments are offering any proof related to Christianity is that Christianity is a fraud.

      April 1, 2013 at 4:32 am |
    • Hear This

      End Times (HS, you just cannot hide)

      Nobody with a working brain would "get back to you" for so much as the time of day. If you were to give road directions to the nearest Wal-Mart, we would even double/triple check. You've got nuthin'.

      April 1, 2013 at 4:36 am |
    • Righteo

      He's busy pretending he's busy so he doesn't look like the liar he is.

      He's a mean one all right. Christianity sure doesn't make anyone nicer.

      April 1, 2013 at 4:37 am |
    • End Times

      The problem with many atheists is they've been playing too many video games and watching too many science-fiction movies. They've become so caught up in all that nonsense that they're no longer able to distinguish fantasy from reality, or separate the real world from a game. Just because in some game or movie people can say anything they want and do anything they want and walk away from it, many atheists feel like they can be the same way with God. Not so. This is the real world you're in, and not some game or fantasy. And you'll be held accountable for every single thing you do. in fact, God is recording even your thoughts. And you'll be held accountable. And not even death itself will keep you from facing judgment before the eternal God…

      Some atheists act like they're so tough. They act like they're not afraid of anything. But it's all just bluster and an illusion in their minds. On Judgment Day, they'll be one of the very ones peeing in their pants while standing before God. And those same atheists who act like they're so tough, if you throw them into a jail cell today with a 300 pound inmate who's murdered and killed people and who would kill you for a look, that same atheist would be cowering in the corner like a little baby and wouldn't be talking tough at all. When even a million of those same 300 inmates couldn't even come close to the wrath that could be delivered by the eternal God. Which only proves that all that tough talk atheists are doing is nothing but bluster, nothing but hot air, nothing more. Nonetheless, whether it's just bluster or not, rest assured, they will still have to give an account for it. And on Judgment Day, it'll be payback time. Let's see how tough they'll be talking when they are cast in the lake. Let's see if they'll be screaming on the way down…

      April 1, 2013 at 4:58 am |
    • skytag

      End Times, no amount of rambling diatribes about atheists will change the fact that you don't have on shred of evidence to support anything you believe. Attacking atheists to support Christianity is an ad hominem argument and not in keeping with the teachings of Christianity. You sound like you're trying to convince yourself of something more than anything.

      April 1, 2013 at 5:14 am |
  5. .

    thanks girls, dorothy, demons, wormwood.

    that was too easy.

    good luck becoming a god, murdock.

    lots of pearls for those who can tell us something about your lord and savior

    u? = 0 lol

    April 1, 2013 at 2:33 am |
  6. .

    "Without an opposing theory to account for these facts... Through these facts we can conclude that the historical Jesus of Nazareth in first-century Palestine, died by roman crucifixion. The tomb he was buried in was empty a short time later. Myth making cannot account for the empty tomb because it can be established by several arguments, even from texts outside the New Testament accounts that Jesus tomb was empty. His disciples believed that Jesus had a bodily resurrection and appeared to them. They claimed this through Judea and throughout the Middle East and were later martyred for their faith. Liars make poor martyrs." deserve hell

    idiot atheists got nothin

    April 1, 2013 at 1:55 am |
    • .

      NOTHIN

      April 1, 2013 at 1:57 am |
    • Answer

      That's your level of understanding? Glad to you state that you have no understanding.

      Your parents are so proud of you.

      April 1, 2013 at 2:00 am |
    • Inigo Montoya

      Facts. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

      April 1, 2013 at 2:01 am |
    • Zingo

      Hi Elena! Humiliating yourself under yet another handle now?

      April 1, 2013 at 2:02 am |
    • Answer

      I love the word "facts."

      These idiot christards use it like I use their sister. As a matter of fact.

      April 1, 2013 at 2:03 am |
    • Bob1god

      U got nothing idiot!

      April 1, 2013 at 2:10 am |
    • skytag

      That was almost coherent. You got nothin' but myths and legends.

      April 1, 2013 at 4:09 am |
    • skytag

      Christians who go around insulting people who don't share their beliefs don't have much. If you're going to embrace a set of myths, at least live in a manner consistent with what they teach, and Christianity doesn't teach you to call people idiots.

      April 1, 2013 at 4:23 am |
  7. Sp0rtbilly77

    I'm a Christian an I actually agree with her. The "Christian" political rhetoric has been overused and abused to justify un founded traditions and ideals of the church.

    That being said, roman persecution is different then catholic roman church persecution which, lasted several centuries. Even after the Roman Empire was no longer in existence well in to the dark ages. Even post-dark ages and into the reformation ending with the 30year war against the Germanic lands. Too many to list and not my place to do so, but folks should take the time to investigate.

    April 1, 2013 at 1:41 am |
  8. .

    "I don't have to prove that vampires don't exist in order not to be afraid of them" let me give you a hint. it is not something dorothy has memorized.

    jimmy. u r out.

    one word at a time heathen. try one last time.

    "our idiots will post about everything under the sun except jesus christ and his shed blood.

    satan gets all shook up upon seeing and hearing his name.

    just his very name is powerful. it is like no other.

    his blood cleanses our sin

    his blood washes our sins away

    without his shed blood, no one can be forgiven

    they have never discussed him or his blood

    u watch

    come on heathen, tell us all u no."

    right now the score is:

    Stephen Jay Gould on Creationist quote mining 0

    little jimmy 000 out

    skydog 0

    whimpy 0

    answer 0

    big bang 0

    jummy 0

    talula bankhead 0

    April 1, 2013 at 1:33 am |
    • Answer

      Still no " . = +1"

      So the god approved scorecard idiot is a self professed loser.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:35 am |
    • tallulah13

      I love it when people make meaningless scorecards to claim imaginary victories in non-existent contests.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:40 am |
    • skytag

      This is pathetic. All I can say about my name being on your list is "thank you."

      April 1, 2013 at 4:25 am |
    • skytag

      Are you saying this stuff or chanting it to some kind of music?

      April 1, 2013 at 4:27 am |
  9. Zingo

    Elena sure went bye-bye in a hurry. Or changed names.

    April 1, 2013 at 1:27 am |
    • The real Tom

      Zingo, maybe you should discuss her points with Mark. He seems to think she posed some really good challenges to non-believers! I'm sure he'd be happy to tell you all about it.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:31 am |
  10. .

    Stephen Jay Gould on Creationist quote mining 0

    little jimmy 00

    skydog 0

    whimpy 0

    answer 0

    big bang 0

    jummy 0

    talula bankhead 0

    is your mommy here tommy? ask her to read the challenge to u honey. u have 1 more chance

    April 1, 2013 at 1:24 am |
    • Answer

      . = +1 ?

      No?

      That's so hilarious even after I have corrected you. Didn't want that win after all.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:25 am |
    • Zingo

      Oh, there's Elena now. Speak of the devil . . .

      April 1, 2013 at 1:28 am |
    • Platypus Rex

      Tomorrow Dotty will learn a new number: 1. But she as done ever so well with her zero.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:30 am |
    • The real Tom

      One more chance? To do what? Laugh at you? Oh, thanks, but I've already guffawed at your nonsense more than once tonight.

      Thanks, though. I guess I must have gotten under your skin.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:33 am |
    • Jimmy

      Oooh... I've got two digits of 0s now! I guess old . must think adding zeros makes the score even less. Oy!

      April 1, 2013 at 1:41 am |
    • tallulah13

      Yawn.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:41 am |
    • skytag

      More proof Christianity is a fraud. Thanks.

      April 1, 2013 at 4:34 am |
  11. nc1965

    According to the bible Jesus had dark skin (like bronze) and hair like wool (nappy). He was a "brotha". And according to the discovery channel, he was about 5' 5".

    Jesus was not an Italian, 6' tall, long haired hippie that looks like his strong out on drugs like portrayed by Michael Angelo.

    Once we get past the phony interpretations of Christianity, maybe it will be a credible religion.

    April 1, 2013 at 1:19 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      A brotha? Could he have been Indian then? I have met a few with darker skin than my own and with curly hair.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:25 am |
  12. .

    skydog 0

    whimpy 0

    answer 0

    big bang 0

    jummy 0

    talula bankhead 0

    April 1, 2013 at 1:18 am |
    • .

      skydog 0

      whimpy 0

      answer 0

      big bang 0

      jummy 0

      talula bankhead 0

      little tommy 0

      April 1, 2013 at 1:19 am |
    • Answer

      Here's a correction for you:

      . = +1

      You didn't give yourself a point. You must feel absolutely pathetic to not include a self win. It's fixed now.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:21 am |
    • Jimmy

      Hey, thanks for counting the number of poor arguments we've made. :-)

      April 1, 2013 at 1:36 am |
  13. .

    Evangeline adams knew the future, ain't, dorothy?

    April 1, 2013 at 1:14 am |
  14. albie

    I have less respect for someone when I find out they are Christian

    April 1, 2013 at 1:12 am |
    • .

      you should. they are awful

      April 1, 2013 at 1:14 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      That is a shame. I used to feel the same way about Atheist. Used to feel the same about Gays. Then you meet one or two and you can change your view. We still have folks that hold on to that hatred but we can only hope that they lay down such burdens of life.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:18 am |
    • Answer

      Those burdens of life that piddler has.. aren't they sweet?

      What Mark really wants to say is::

      "You must have a heavy burden, please let me help you establish to you, that you, indeed have a burden, and that you must come to my god. Not that Zeus or Spaghetti Monster. Oh please no.. they don't exist like mine does."

      April 1, 2013 at 1:24 am |
    • The real Tom

      Aren't they, though. He's as transparent as Saran Wrap and just as deep. He's now yapping on about how he's 'reaching out to the other side' and gibbering about how he has "pages" of my posts that show just what a terrible person I am.

      Such a fvcktard.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:28 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>“What Mark really wants to say is::”

      Have you proof of me saying such? That you “must” come to my God? In fact, I am a bit of the Belief that it is one God known by many names. So, to me, if you choose to believe then I do not have a problem with your beliefs or even lack of beliefs.

      Yes, hatred is one heck of a burden and part of the way to peace and understanding is to let it fall from you. All I want to do is just say Hi :)

      April 1, 2013 at 1:31 am |
    • Jimmy

      For me, the more I find that someone identifies themselves as "fundamentalist" and "Conservative" the less I feel that we can share points of view. It's a range on a continuum, with people only mildly disagreeable on the more liberal end all the way to real Christian Nazis on the far end. Those people I consider dangerous, mostly because they're as set against lots of other Christians as they are me.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:32 am |
    • Answer

      All I want is "Hi" and a smiley face.

      Hilarious.

      Look at the piddler showing his exposed "internet throat" to say "I'm friendly."

      April 1, 2013 at 1:34 am |
    • The real Tom

      Answer, just keep reading his posts. It gets better and better.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:37 am |
    • Answer

      "Can I sit on your comfy lap there Marky?"

      "Oh what is that big – risen, mound – under your pants?"

      ====Are you going to give it to someone Marky?

      April 1, 2013 at 1:38 am |
    • Answer

      @Tom

      I'm gonna enjoy reading them. That is for sure.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:39 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>”For me, the more I find that someone identifies themselves as "fundamentalist" and "Conservative" the less I feel that we can share points of view.”

      That is understandable totally. There are varying degrees within society and its almost like a loop with those at the extreme ends echoing themselves. This is also why I have had much more productive conversations with a few Atheist, on the Belief Blog than with a few of my fellow Christians. When Hitchens died and it was discovered that he considered a Evangelical a good friend, we had Atheist who started to attack Hitchins. That I used to hate Atheist is something that I found within myself after my first year here on this blog and I was able to let it go. Folks like TomTom and Answer... if they are not the same person, chooses to believe otherwise.

      Either way, time to head out for a bit. TomTom....come on ..say yah' missed me ….you know you wanna say it ma'am :) Seriously though, why the name change from Tom Tom the Pipers son?

      April 1, 2013 at 1:55 am |
    • Answer

      Oh the christard good night message.. how refreshing.

      I'm a guy.

      "Tom Tom" is definitely a woman.

      Christards love to make an insignificant sign off.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:58 am |
    • Jimmy

      Mark from Middle River
      Right and Left Wings curve overhead and, when they are spread out, the tips actually almost meet. That's why folks living under Soviet control were as oppressed as those living under Nazi control. Best to aim for the middle, smack dab in "Liberal" country, eh?

      Good night folks.

      April 1, 2013 at 2:02 am |
    • skytag

      "Then you meet one or two and you can change your view."

      Mark, do you really believe there is anyone in America who hasn't met a Christian? I spent 40 years of my life as a practicing Christian. I've met plenty. Some of the finest people I've ever known are Christians as are some of the most worst. Christians are not even close to all being a like. For that matter, they don't even come close to all believing the same things. Some of them hate other Christians or claim other Christians aren't really Christians.

      All this is to be expected from my perspective, since there is no spiritual or divine power at work in these people. They're just people who have found churches that tell them what they want to hear trying to be the best people they can be, but there is no supernatural power helping them overcome their innate human frailties.

      April 1, 2013 at 4:42 am |
  15. moas786

    in Islam which believesin jesus but only as a prophet and messenger to mankind from Illa or Allah, aka God. he was never crucified on the cross, God almighty had replaced him with a person of jesus likeness and he went to the heavens to avoid the toucher that awaited him by the hands of nonbelievers. islam also states in the quran that jesus will return to save the believers from non.....we are all responsible for our own sins, no one died for our sins no matter how convenient this thought process is..their is only One God and he is the God of the universe and not just the white,blacks,asians or arabs..and adam,abrahim,noah,moses,jesus and muhammed (peace be upon them) are all his messengers sent as a mercy to m,mankind.

    April 1, 2013 at 1:11 am |
  16. .

    isn't that something? i am right, again!

    April 1, 2013 at 1:10 am |
    • Answer

      You certainly are. Tell us what you have won.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:14 am |
    • tallulah13

      Right about what? That you're a period?

      April 1, 2013 at 1:14 am |
    • skytag

      You're apparently having another delusional episode. Isn't that something?

      April 1, 2013 at 4:45 am |
  17. .

    our idiots will post about everything under the sun except jesus christ and his shed blood.

    satan gets all shook up upon seeing and hearing his name.

    just his very name is powerful. it is like no other.

    his blood cleanses our sin

    his blood washes our sins away

    without his shed blood, no one can be forgiven

    they have never discussed him or his blood

    u watch

    come on heathen, tell us all u no.

    April 1, 2013 at 1:02 am |
    • skytag

      I know you don't have a shred of evidence to support anything you just said.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:03 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Your fascination (and christians in general) with "shed blood" is really kinda creepy....

      April 1, 2013 at 1:05 am |
    • .

      see? happens every time

      jesus christ and his shed blood

      go ahead tom tom the moron

      take ur time.

      fill us in

      skydog, u had ur chance. u r out

      April 1, 2013 at 1:06 am |
    • .

      skydog 0

      whimpy 0

      April 1, 2013 at 1:07 am |
    • Jimmy

      "satan gets all shook up upon seeing and hearing his name."

      Thanks, now I've got that Elvis song running through my mind.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:08 am |
    • Answer

      Oh hey a bonafide, god approved, self righteous scorecard keeper.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:13 am |
    • The real Tom

      Who has the Idiot Translator Ring?

      April 1, 2013 at 1:15 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      "Who has the Idiot Translator Ring?"

      I never had one, that is why I had to leave the cult.

      April 1, 2013 at 2:04 am |
    • skytag

      The guy whose name is "." seems to be stoned. Why else would he ramble in stilted half-sentences.

      April 1, 2013 at 4:11 am |
  18. DoctorKnow

    "The fossil record with its abrupt transitions offers no support for gradual
    change... All paleontologists know that the fossil record contains precious little
    in the way of intermediate forms; transitions between major groups are
    characteristically abrupt."-Stephen Jay Gould

    That is very understandable given that it extremely improbable that many changes could happened to a very complex quantized genetic code that creates intermediate processes. Macro-evolution is a child like theory that is now completely dependent on group think to continue.

    April 1, 2013 at 12:55 am |
    • Jimmy

      Barking up the wrong tree with Gould, I'm afraid.

      Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts don't go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's in this century, but apples didn't suspend themselves in midair, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from ape- like ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered.
      [Stephen Jay Gould, Evolution as Fact and Theory Science and Creationism, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), p. 118.]

      Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists - whether through design or stupidity, I do not know - as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. The punctuations occur at the level of species; directional trends (on the staircase model) are rife at the higher level of transitions within major groups.
      [Stephen Jay Gould, Evolution as Fact and Theory Science and Creationism, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), p. 124.]

      April 1, 2013 at 1:04 am |
    • Stephen Jay Gould on Creationist quote mining

      "Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists - whether through design or stupidity, I do not know - as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms."

      "Creation science has not entered the curriculum for a reason so simple and so basic that we often forget to mention it: because it is false, and because good teachers understand exactly why it is false. What could be more destructive of that most fragile yet most precious commodity in our entire intellectual heritage - good teaching - than a bill forcing honorable teachers to sully their sacred trust by granting equal treatment to a doctrine not only known to be false, but calculated to undermine any general understanding of science as an enterprise?"

      "Our creationist detractors charge that evolution is an unproved and unprovable charade– a secular religion masquerading as science. They claim, above all, that evolution generates no predictions, never exposes itself to test, and therefore stands as dogma rather than disprovable science. This claim is nonsense. We make and test risky predictions all the time; our success is not dogma, but a highly probable indication of evolution's basic truth."

      Gould had a lot more to say about the Jesustanis, but you get the idea.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:08 am |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Dr. Gould meticulessly eliminated the notional hypothesis of evolution as a means to species, then attempted to replace it with the baseless assertion of punctuated evolution; an oxymoron.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:15 am |
    • Lisa

      John P. Tarver, MS/PE
      No, he just proposes that evolution sometimes takes place over a relatively short period of time, say only a few million years, as opposed to the tens of millions of years where there isn't as strong a motivation to change.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:22 am |
    • John P. Tarver, MS/PE

      Dr. Gould attempted to reconsile Darwin's notional hypothesais with the global geological record and about 800 myears is the longest time that anyone had proposed to replace that slow change over time. Geologists still claim the evidence is that the change occurs in a single generation, at the longest. You piut in milloins of years to to and cloud the issue, but that is not in accordance with the evidence.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:37 am |
    • Zingo

      Tarver and Chad frequent the same fundie websites.

      Tarver is like a Chad who can't spell or write for sh!t.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:39 am |
    • Larry of Nazareth

      Geologists? Geologists are making claims about evolution?

      If you are going to lie, then at least get the field of study right.

      Nobody claims it happens in a generation.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:42 am |
    • Jimmy

      John
      The Cambrian Explosion was a period of about 20 million years, and not "overnight" like Creationist literature implies. On the surface, this appears to be a relatively quick period for change to occur, but we're still learning about that period and know far too little about what life was actually present before that period began to draw any drastic conclusions yet.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:56 am |
  19. .

    Seyedibar
    Let's look at it this way. According to the book of Revelations:

    there is no such book

    April 1, 2013 at 12:54 am |
    • DoctorKnow

      It is called the Book of Revelation.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:58 am |
  20. Big Bang

    That's really all you need to know to disprove Christianity.

    April 1, 2013 at 12:50 am |
    • .

      big idiot

      tell us about jesus christ. tell us all u no.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:55 am |
    • skytag

      I feel no need to disprove Christianity. Christianity needs to prove its validity to me.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:58 am |
    • .

      skydog, u no nothing

      at least b honest

      April 1, 2013 at 1:04 am |
    • Jimmy

      .
      skytag's right. I don't have to prove that vampires don't exist in order not to be afraid of them, so why would I have to prove that God isn't real either? If you say that I should be afraid of God, just in case he does turn out to be real, then I really should be afraid of vampires and every other monster ever used to frighten children, including God.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:17 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      SkyTag. If is always the one one making the claim then what happens when it is the Atheist making the claim of the non-existence of God? Should you then be required to validate your belief to me if I request the same?

      April 1, 2013 at 1:23 am |
    • skytag

      I no more need to prove to you that God doesn't exist than you need to prove to me Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and leprechauns don't exist. I'm 58 years old. I spent four decades of my life as a practicing Christian, until I got to a point I couldn't keep rationalizing and making excuses to justify why nothing in the real world supported anything I believed.

      If I told you a leprechaun buried a pot of gold in your yard, would you dig up your yard to find it just on my word? Because that's what Christians do, they make all kinds of claims for which they offer absolutely no evidence and then expect people to devote their lives to those claims. Sorry, but if there were a God there would be some kind of evidence of his existence. If what Christians claim about him were true there would be some kind of evidence, but there isn't a shred. I'm sorry that reality is so hard for you to accept.

      April 1, 2013 at 3:50 am |
    • skytag

      Something I find particularly arrogant about most believers, and something we see in spades in Christians, is that even though they have no evidence to support anything they believe, not only are they adamant that God exists, they are adamant that their beliefs about him are more correct that the beliefs of others who believe in a god. The Muslims are wrong, the Buddhists are wrong, the Hindus are wrong, the Shinto are wrong. If you're a Baptist the Catholics and the Mormons are wrong.

      Absolutely none of them have even a shred of proof to support their beliefs but they're all convinced everyone is wrong but them. Religion is a form of mass insanity.

      April 1, 2013 at 3:56 am |
    • skytag

      Jmmy, vampires aren't real? You mean all that stuff on Buffy the Vampire Slayer was fake? *sigh*

      April 1, 2013 at 3:57 am |
    • Jimmy

      skytag
      Back when Buffy was on the air it was widely recognized as being the show with the most religious content, even more than 7th Heaven, the one about a preacher and his family. It had the best role models for young women that it should be required watching for all adolescents.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
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About this blog

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