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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. JD

    I love this blog. I'd like to see a pie graph on here showing the amount of articles negatively portraying Christianity versus the rest of the articles. This isn't news; this doesn't even portray both sides. They don't even show a poll or reasonable comparison of historians viewpoints at large; how confident they about this conclusion? The author mentions Nero once in passing, as if it were a small deal. THis is not sound research CNN.

    April 1, 2013 at 7:18 am |
    • sh!tiswati

      The ancient civilization imported is the best cure of modern maladies facing the western civilization. Studies confirm that it is a positive role model and western countries need to adapt to the ancient principles. I have read the Quran and the bible cover to cover and it is boring and has no meaning.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:24 am |
    • JD

      what??

      April 1, 2013 at 7:27 am |
  2. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:

    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.

    April 1, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • JD

      What are you even saying? Words of cynicism don't just form arguments by themselves if you rattle them in a bag. Most scholars ACCEPT NT gospels for their historical efficacy. People argue the deity of Christ undoubtedly but to argue the coinciding historical events recorded by separate eye witnesses (Jewish, Greek and Roman; Christian and non-Christian) is pretty foolish.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:26 am |
    • Shi!tiswati

      Good point reality. The only educated masses are from Asia. That is why there are studies that reveal that eastern mysticism has an impact on human Sanford bonnet scale averaging upto -144

      April 1, 2013 at 7:28 am |
    • sam Dennis

      Reality ... when one understands that the true purpose of religion – from the very beginnings of mankind's belief in gods, was simply for a select few to exercise power and control over the masses, then it becomes clear that the truth is irrelevant ... through propaganda and deceit just make 'em believe whatever it takes to maintain the power and control .... Aesop's Fables could just as well serve the same purpose if used accordingly.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • JD

      I'm sorry, but you have to be a pretty big idiot to think that Christianity is sociological device invented by a "select few." People don't believe in something they will be killed for (most scholars agree that Christian persecution was real, CNN's Blake is cherry picking sources for this article) unless its a pretty convincing argument. Neither atheist or Christian would believe that Jesus or his disciples "modeled" a religion to move the masses–there were easier ways to get themselves killed.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:42 am |
    • Reality

      Christian Economics and Greed 101:

      The Baptizer drew crowds and charged for the "dunking". The historical Jesus saw a good thing and continued dunking and preaching the good word but added "healing" as an added charge to include free room and board. Sure was better than being a poor peasant but he got a bit too zealous and they nailed him to a tree. But still no greed there.

      Paul picked up the money scent on the road to Damascus. He added some letters and a prophecy of the imminent second coming for a fee for salvation and "Gentilized" the good word to the "big buck" world. i.e. Paul was the first media evangelist!!! And he and the other Apostles forgot to pay their Roman taxes and the legendary actions by the Romans made them martyrs for future greed. Paul was guilty of minor greed?

      Along comes Constantine. He saw the growing rich Christian community and recognized a new tax base so he set them "free". Major greed on his part!!

      The Holy Roman "Empirers"/Popes/Kings/Queens/Evangelicals et al continued the money grab selling access to JC and heaven resulting in some of today's richest organizations on the globe i.e. the Christian churches (including the Mormon Church) and related aristocracies. Obvious greed!!!

      An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue, ( Professors Crossan and Wright are On Faith panelists).

      "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."
      Some of Paul's money gathering activities some of which resulted in buying the Gentile entry into the then mostly Jewish version of Christianity:
      Paul claimed almost total independence from the "mother church" in Jerusalem.[12] and yet was eager and diligent to bring material support from the various budding Gentile churches that he planted to the mother church at Jerusalem.

      When a famine occurred in Judea, around 45–46,[24] Paul and Barnabas journeyed to Jerusalem to deliver financial support from the Antioch community.[25] According to Acts, Antioch had become an alternative center for Christians following the dispersion of the believers after the death of Stephen. It was in Antioch that the followers of Jesus were first called "Christians."[Ac. 11:26]. This act basically "greased" the entry of non-circu-mcised Gentiles into Christianity.

      "Paul collected the money from his four provinces, Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia and Asia but, for obvious reasons, of propriety, had representatives take each province's own contribution".

      April 1, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  3. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 1, 2013 at 7:04 am |
    • SixDegrees

      It makes you weak and dependent while you wait for something that will never come, that you should have done for yourself instead.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • sh!tiswati

      do yoga, while prayer does not produce any results and likely superficial, the results from APART overwhelmingly confirm that yoga superficially boosts the chlorpromazine level. Also the Vedic properties of this lifestyle increases the lifestyle.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:17 am |
    • sam Dennis

      that is just a dumb comment. It simply cannot be better for anyone to believe that a human like being is living suspended in space, with the power to create or destroy everything ... and to assert that this supernatural being needed to impregnate Jesus' mother to create a son simply flies in the face of the biblical story of Adam and Eve and the creation of mankind. How does one's belief in some or all of the silliness, make it healthier than rejecting fact-less fables?

      April 1, 2013 at 7:39 am |
  4. coolhead

    Would love to have a follow up report on how many around the world have been persecuted by those of the Christian faith since its inception. Plenty of true stories of burnings and beheadings to tell.

    April 1, 2013 at 6:56 am |
    • .

      By true Christians ? easy NONE

      April 1, 2013 at 7:05 am |
    • ..

      by atheists posing as Christians ? BILLIONS tortured and murdered throughout history – most in the last century.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:08 am |
    • SixDegrees

      "By true Christians ? easy NONE"

      ...and the No True Scotsman fallacy makes an unsurprising appearance.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:18 am |
    • JMEF

      . & ..
      Please define "true Christians" for us. I like Harold Camping, has he ascended yet?

      April 1, 2013 at 7:27 am |
    • Shi!tiswati

      hat is why I repeatedly tell you, the only tale to tell would be that of eastern mysticism on the modern mind, it transcends the psyche of modern mind into the realms of superficial intelligence with a penchant for mathematical accuracy of the co-relative powers as studies have revealed the SD's points.I have read the Quran and the bible cover to cover and there is nothing mathematically proven and bores me.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • JUDAH's Lion

      The Christians were the atheist, how can they believe in a man whom is not of them. The Christians were Romans & Greeks, not Jews...The ones who dwell in Israel to this day are not the real Jews. Does it say in Deuteronomy 28 that the Jews will be enslaved, bonded in chains, and sold then brought to the new land upon large vessels.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      dotty, your paranoia is astounding

      April 1, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
  5. tokestyle

    If I made up a story hundreds or thousands of years ago, people today would call it 'History' without even knowing the truth.

    April 1, 2013 at 6:47 am |
    • Colin

      It's called the Bible

      April 1, 2013 at 6:54 am |
    • Saraswati

      What's amazing is that it doesn't even have to be very good. While books like the bible or Mahabarata are a pretty good read entertainment-wise at least, you can write something as boring as the Quran or as big a rip-off as the Book of Mormon and still have followes. You can even be a total con in the late 20th century and pass off Falun DaFa while lying about your birthday as long as you tell people they get to be lazy, think themselves suprior, and hate the people they already hate.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:01 am |
    • NASA: Mars could have supported life

      History........................................... star dust we are.

      NASA: Mars could have supported life

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWdU_px9ApE&w=640&h=390]

      April 1, 2013 at 7:02 am |
    • Science

      Brand New history in the making below

      Scientists say they've found a "God particle".

      http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-205_162-57574247/scientists-say-theyve-found-a-god-particle/

      April 1, 2013 at 7:08 am |
    • sh!tiswati

      there are studies and research confirmed that 98% of the population deal with the ancient mysticism that has proven to have a psychological impact on the ancient civilizations . In other words, the eastern mysticism provides a good lifestyle. I have read the Quran and it is boring.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:21 am |
    • Science

      True history................................

      Science

      Origin of Life: Natural Cause no god(s) required.

      Hypothesis Traces First Protocells Back to Emergence of Cell Membrane Bioenergetics

      December 20, 2012 — A coherent pathway – which starts from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide and leads to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells – has been traced for the ...

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/fossils_ruins/origin_of_life/

      April 1, 2013 at 8:26 am |
  6. sybaris

    "Persecution" is still very much alive and well in the Christian playbook. It's how they received their imaginary Brownie Points from their God.

    Religion, a filthy perverted disease of the mind

    April 1, 2013 at 6:36 am |
  7. End Times

    "Skytag"… In response to your statement about love, you have to know God to even know what love is. The world has a definition of love but their definition is of the devil. For example, the world feels that if someone loves you, they're not suppose to say anything that makes you feel bad. Where is that in the bible? Jesus said, "I chastise those I love." God's definition of love is telling you the truth, even if it hurts, and even if we have to rebuke you and say things that hurt your feelings. Even more, love is not defined by a person's "actions". Love is defined by the intents of the heart. A person could give you a flower but hate you. A person could give you a Christmas gift but not even like you. Therefore, love is not defined by a person's actions, and you shouldn't go by that. Love is defined by the intents of the heart. If a person is trying to help you by what they say or do, then that is love, even if it hurts. For example, if I tell you you're going to hell and the lake, and if I think saying that might affect you in a way where you might eventually get saved, then believe it or not – that's love….

    April 1, 2013 at 6:31 am |
    • skytag

      You can view love anyway you want, but it won't change the fact that calling atheists stupid and insulting them in other ways is consistent with Christian teachings. You're just another Christian hypocrite, regurgitating all the canned diatribes you've been taught, while acting like a jerk. Thanks for playing.

      April 1, 2013 at 6:35 am |
    • skytag

      Sorry, I meant to say inconsistent with Christian teachings.

      April 1, 2013 at 6:36 am |
    • END TIME EQUALS

      END OF RELIGION

      April 1, 2013 at 6:40 am |
    • sam stone

      " For example, the world feels that if someone loves you, they're not suppose to say anything that makes you feel bad."

      Who says that?

      Silly strawman argument to prop up your delusion

      April 1, 2013 at 6:50 am |
    • sam stone

      Interesting that you wish to spend eternity with a being from whom you have to be "saved". I suppose some people just desire subserviency

      April 1, 2013 at 6:56 am |
    • Saraswati

      Who the heck thinks of love the way you say people of the "world" do? Everyone I know in China loves they kids and believes strongly they have to be chastised and corrected when necessary. You're just making up imaginary distinctions to set yourself and your beliefs apart as special when they are not.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:04 am |
    • Shi!tiswati

      Who the heck says has the moral right to define love? I have been to Asia where the principle of moral love is not only preached but practiced seriously, in the studies revealed by the Wzy.org in the spring of 2011 there was LQ of a whopping 900 points. You can't beat that! Can you?

      April 1, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • End Times

      "Skytag"… It's not how I view love. But it's all about how God views love. All other viewpoints doesn't mean a thing. And the explanation I gave you is how God views love. Therefore, your ignorant ramblings and opinions to the contrary don't mean a thing…

      April 1, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
  8. JUDAH's Lion

    Wow, many comments!! But Christianity according to the BIBLE has nothing to do with Jesus Christ (Yashua). Christianity was formed hundreds of years after the death of Christ. But, those are the books the Romans and Greeks chose to leave out of our present day Bible. Alot of christianity traditions come from pagan traditions, and if ye shall not believe go search for ye-self and ye shall find!! They even aired a show about this on the History channel, coincidentally right before they aired the series the Bible. Bet nobody paid any attention to that????!!!

    April 1, 2013 at 6:23 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      Why is it called CHRISTianity?

      April 1, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
  9. GonzoG

    My familiarity with ancient history is probably more than most, but certainly not enough to speak about ancient Christian persecution.
    However, I can say MODERN CHRISTIANS, specifically the Charismatic Evangelical Protestant (a.k.a. Holy Rollers) decry their persecution when they are not allowed to run things. Don't get me wrong, they're nice people. BUT, I have listened to their message and CHOOSE to DISOBEY their wishes. I am NOT a Christian. I respect Christian's for their beliefs and certainly wouldn't deny one a job or housing or whatever, but they SEEM to think that not voting their way or not agreeing with 100% of what they and their ministers pronounce is PERSECUTING THEM.

    NO, Sirs. It's just IGNORING YOU!

    April 1, 2013 at 6:19 am |
    • Saraswati

      Their playbook does seem to read "Let us dominate, or we declare persecution". It's hard to know how many actually are dumb enough to believe this and how many are manipulative liars looking to control the conversation.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:15 am |
  10. Gene Venable

    Claims of persecution can be dangerous; an unfortunate cliche is the clinically diagnosed paranoid who suddenly starts killing people because he is convinced they are all against him, so he might as well strike back before they get him. Many radical political groups seem to have that very kind of paranoia - for example, anti- gun control groups that won't give up their guns or register them because the UN is getting ready to take over the US. But the fact is that practically all groups have been subject to persecution at one time or another, though I would guess that Jews have been persecuted more than most and more than Christians. I was once denied a holiday because I am an atheist and only religious people got an annual religious holiday - I guess that was a form of persecution.

    April 1, 2013 at 6:15 am |
    • Science

      Good Morning Mirosal

      Just want to say thanks for your service ! By the way JOHN can you read a map ? No god required to read map .

      Best Map Ever Made of Universe's Oldest Light: Planck Mission Brings Universe Into Sharp Focus

      Mar. 21, 2013 — The Planck space mission has released the most accurate and detailed map ever made of the oldest light in the universe, revealing new information about its age, contents and origins.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130321084221.htm

      April 1, 2013 at 6:30 am |
    • Science

      oops no wings yet wrong place.

      April 1, 2013 at 6:31 am |
  11. skytag

    Why hasn't anyone pointed out that Candida Moss is totally hot?

    April 1, 2013 at 6:04 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Several have. I completely agree.

      April 1, 2013 at 6:11 am |
    • GonzoG

      I would not run her off my back porch if she showed up for some sugar.

      April 1, 2013 at 6:21 am |
  12. Larry Lindsay

    It is so unbelievable that as a society, so many have decided that history has been written incorrectly and we can now correct it. We consider ourselves so much smarter than the preceding generations that what we think must be right. It is apparent that we are much smarter in so many ways than ever before, but maybe dumber in others, especially when it comes to social beliefs. Many are teaching that things considered taboo for 2000 or more years is suddenly ok. Things such as accepting being gay as natural, approving of gay marriage, approving of interracial marriage, allowing ideologies to rule over individual beliefs, letting minorities control majorities, etc;. These things are happening now, but will end up being just a flicker in history as the natural and age old beliefs will again take root and restore the old ways as they should be. Humanity will soon wake up and wonder what we were thinking to allow all that has happened, just as it did at the end of the Roman era and many times in between.

    April 1, 2013 at 5:40 am |
    • skytag

      History is written by people, and they often have an agenda. As they say, history is written by the victors. There is no rational reason to believe history is always accurate. As our knowledge and study of historical evidence increases it is to be expected that our understanding of events will change.

      April 1, 2013 at 5:55 am |
    • sam stone

      Gay marriage is about equal rights, Larry. It is coming. You can either deal with it or eat the barrel of your shotgun.

      Do you expect that belief and culture should be beholdin' to what Iron Age man felt was appropriate? Sort of stagnation, isn't it?

      April 1, 2013 at 6:27 am |
    • sam stone

      i see, larry, you are a bigot

      natural and age old?

      get back in your time machine and go back to 1955

      April 1, 2013 at 6:30 am |
    • Fearless Freep

      ***
      natural and age old beliefs will again take root and restore the old ways as they should be. ,,,,,

      Sounds like a Republican senator running for re-election.
      FAIL !

      April 1, 2013 at 6:30 am |
    • GonzoG

      History is malleable when there is evidence to the contrary. Much of what we were taught in grade school as “history” is little more than fairy stories when examined scientifically.

      The PRESENT is OURS to CHANGE if we choose. Tradition is wonderful to guide the present, but should not be used as a cudgel to control others simply because “it has always been”.

      I note you decry not only "gay marriage" but interracial marriage? Are we not past that? Misogyny laws belong on the pyre of past sins against common humanity.

      "Minorities control Majorities?" Good God! There are lines which the Majority CANNOT be permitted to cross! They have in the past and minorities, real or perceived found themselves on the wrong end of the gun.

      Some things ARE and shall EVER BE SACROSANCT.
      The RIGHTS of the INDIVIDUAL are INVIOLATE so long as he RESPECTS the RIGHTS of OTHERS.
      The MAJORITY'S RIGHT of CONTROL ENDS at the INDIVIDUAL'S DOORSTEP.
      If the MAJORITY grants a right to itself, it cannot in good conscience DENY that right to OTHERS.
      The ALMIGHTY, Whose Existence has not been proven, and a DIVINE CODEX of MORALITY may GOVERN THE INDIVIDUAL'S LIFE, but may NOT be used as a TOOL or an EXCUSE for OTHERS to CONTROL the INDIVIDUAL.
      The SOUL is ONE'S OWN and its FATE is ITS OWN. Neither the MAJORITY nor SELF-APPOINTED Religious Authorities can claim the RIGHT to Govern the Individual or Judge the Purity of the HIS SOUL.

      THIS is the LINE in the SAND. This is the BRIDGE that SHALL NOT BE CROSSED.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:07 am |
    • Saraswati

      Wow, I hope this was just an attempt at caricature. I may be overly optimistic, but I don't think even the backwards fundamentalists are that dumb.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:17 am |
  13. skytag

    It's interesting to watch the Christians attack and insult the atheists, often with very condescending comments. Seems to me that more often than not they sound as if they're trying to convince themselves of something more than anything. In any case, insulting atheists or anyone else with a different belief system seems decidedly contrary to what the Bible teaches its followers.

    The Bible teaches them to be humble, kind, patient, love their enemies, to pray for those who spitefully use them. Before they try to convince me Christianity is real maybe they should learn to act like they believe it themselves.

    April 1, 2013 at 5:38 am |
    • John

      I will tell you without any hesitation that God exists and he sent his son Jesus to die for the sins of others. I don't just believe it, I know it, as in knowing it, it's real. And I know it from many different ways: what God said, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I care that people would read the bible and believe God, but if they decide to reject him, it's to me, much like telling people before they go outside of a shuttle on Mars, to put on their life support, or they will die once they go outside the ship. Or telling someone to put on a life jacket on a ship out in dangerous waters where you might drown. But if you're like the ones that say you don't need it, or you think I'm being silly in saying it... you're on your own... enjoy your stay where you end up. I tried to tell you, you didn't listen... that was your choice to reject someone telling you what they KNOW is the truth. I don't just believe it, I know it, and I will hold fast to believing God until the day I die... because I know he's there.

      April 1, 2013 at 5:45 am |
    • Mirosal

      JOhn, your ana'logies suck. I'm retired Navy, and have been at sea through several hurricanes. I know all about the life jackets and lifelines needed on board a ship. Getting thrown about is concrete evidence that seas can get rough. However, just because YOU say that you KNOW there is a "god" does not make it a fact by any means. It is only your opinion that a "god" exists. No matter what your little book says, your jesus guy must not have said anything important at the time, because not a single person thought to write anything he said down at the time he was allegedly saying it. Your stories had over a generation (befoer finally being written down) to become embellished and fine-tuned to make people THINK that there is a god. However, not one god of the 10,000 plus gods ever worshipped by man have been shown to exist. Why would yours be any different? Since it's safe to say that you don't believe in ANY other gods other than yours, start to realize why you don't believe in those, and you'll know just how esay it is to dismiss yours as well.

      April 1, 2013 at 6:08 am |
    • skytag

      John, you sound ridiculous. Listen any length of time and you'll hear wildly conflicting claims from people who say they "know" what they're telling you is true. Do you think Muslims only kind of believe what they believe? Or Buddhists?

      Mormons will tell you they know what they believe is true, while more mainstream Christians will often tell you they know the Mormon church is false. People used to "know" the earth was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth. In point of fact a lot of what people "know" isn't true.

      April 1, 2013 at 6:10 am |
    • sam stone

      "I will tell you without any hesitation that God exists and he sent his son Jesus to die for the sins of others."

      Good for you, John. Stick to your delusions

      April 1, 2013 at 6:32 am |
    • Science

      Science

      Good Morning Mirosal

      Just want to say thanks for your service ! By the way JOHN can you read a map ? No god required to read map .

      Best Map Ever Made of Universe's Oldest Light: Planck Mission Brings Universe Into Sharp Focus

      Mar. 21, 2013 — The Planck space mission has released the most accurate and detailed map ever made of the oldest light in the universe, revealing new information about its age, contents and origins.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130321084221.htm

      April 1, 2013 at 6:32 am |
    • Rev Foistus Uponyou

      ***will tell you without any hesitation that God exists and he sent his son Jesus to die for the sins of others.

      We got this one right where we want him.
      Brainwashing works.
      Hand him a rifle and tell him to die for Jeebus.

      April 1, 2013 at 6:33 am |
  14. Slav

    To every Christian who wants to protest on this forum; do not throw pearls before swine. Seriously, let the fools stay as they are.

    April 1, 2013 at 5:24 am |
    • skytag

      Typical Christian hypocrite, calling people fools.

      Matthew 5:22 – But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

      April 1, 2013 at 5:40 am |
    • sam stone

      Same could be said of the atheists trying to use reason to convince True Believers (TM). Regarding the swine comment, fvck off

      April 1, 2013 at 6:35 am |
  15. GO_GOP

    Atheism is a disease. Every scientific study conducted has proved beyond doubt that the Christian God exists. And yet atheists claim there is no GOD. Me and my pastor( a man with a deep relationship with our Lord in heaven) were discussing militant atheism and we both agreed that atheism is a mental disorder. Otherwise how could one explain the fact that atheists cling to absurd facts and theories like Quantum Theory and Evolution theory to explain their atheist? For example Quantum theory refers to everything as being both a wave and a particle. It appears that quantum theorists cannot make up their mind and so they sit on the fence of the wave or particle debate!!. How absurd and two faced is that? And yet atheists refer to it as a holy grail. And yet mentally deficient atheists claim these very theories as their proof of there being no God. Me and my pastor had a good laugh at them and am laughing now too.

    April 1, 2013 at 5:20 am |
    • Mirosal

      golly gee what a great "christian" atti'tude you and your pastor have. It looks like bigotry really knows no bounds. Tell us just what you mean by "every sccientific study conducted". What tests? What studies? Be specific, and list your sources. As far as mental illness, we aren't the ones who believe in imaginary friends. Even children outgrow their imaginary friends usually before they enter school. Don't you think it's about time you outgrow yours as well? Or are you not as smart as a 5th grader?

      April 1, 2013 at 5:31 am |
    • skytag

      "Every scientific study conducted has proved beyond doubt that the Christian God exists."

      More proof religion makes people stupid.

      April 1, 2013 at 5:41 am |
    • skytag

      Such a condescending, not-at-all-Christlike diatribe only makes it clear you're just trying to convince yourself of something.

      Imagining that you understand quantum theory enough to pass judgement on it only demonstrates how arrogant you are, and ridiculing physics theories you clearly don't understand only makes you look like a fool.

      Finally, when I think of the question, "What would Jesus do?" I have to say that I can't imagine him posting such an acrimonious comment. You are just more proof that Christianity is a fraud.

      April 1, 2013 at 5:47 am |
    • John

      Do a search on 'Reverse Evolution and dust mites', then tell your pastor. Basically they've proven that evolution is a worthless theory because it goes forwards and backwards... going nowhere. They've all but admitted nothing doesn't do anything, at all... but they just can't get up the courage to admit it yet. Meanwhile, God created everything and he said he did what he did. He is God and he made whatever he wanted, when ever he wanted to. That's all there is to it.

      April 1, 2013 at 5:55 am |
    • skytag

      John, that's a ridiculous argument. No one has disproved evolution, and even if the current understanding of it is found to have flaws that isn't proof of a God. The fundamental flaw in your thinking is the idea that we have to have an answer for everything, so if science doesn't have the answer then the answer must be God.

      Throughout history believers have offered explanations for things based on God, spirits, and demons. This is a natural consequence of the fact that humans seem to need to have an explanation for everything. If they don't have one they often just make one up.

      Over time many of those supernatural explanations have been debunked by science. For example, we no longer believe disease is caused by evil spirits. You're free to believe in God, but we both know you have no evidence that any divine power is exerting any influence on the events that take place in this world.

      April 1, 2013 at 6:20 am |
    • Rev Foistus Uponyou

      *** Atheism is a disease. Every scientific study conducted has proved beyond doubt that the Christian God exists

      Hhahahahahahahahahahahahahah....................Nut case.

      April 1, 2013 at 6:35 am |
    • Saraswati

      Did you actually finish that high school physics class?

      April 1, 2013 at 7:19 am |
  16. Syman

    If all religions are false why do you repeatedly single out Christians? Why not write a piece tearing into the muslim faith? Oh, sorry.. because they will rebel. cnn doesn't want to hurt THEIR feelings or cause unrest. Shameful.

    April 1, 2013 at 5:19 am |
    • skytag

      Christianity is the only religion that exerts a noticeable influence on our way of life, public policy, and legislation here in America. This would be obvious to you if religion hadn't made you so stupid and full of hatred.

      April 1, 2013 at 5:49 am |
    • Saraswati

      Maybe because its more interesting to write about a belief that involves almost 80% of the US citizenry than less than 1%? Why don't they fill up space with articles on the tax system in Nepal while they're at it. The advertisers will love a bunch of articles irrelevant to the readers.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:10 am |
  17. Once upon a Jesus . . .

    Did everybody have a nice Zombie Resurrection Day?

    Can you imagine the disciples after Jesus got himself whacked?

    John: "He died! He was a god, and gods can't die!"

    Peter: "Uh, let's say he did it for some reason. He did it to rid the world of bedbugs."

    Matthew: "Bedbugs? No, let's make it, what, sin! He did it to rid us of sin."

    John: "But he died! God's don't die. This is embarrassing!"

    Luke: "Why don't you send the apostles Rocco and Vinny down to grab the body tonight, then tomorrow we'll send Mary Magdalene to go splash oil on the corpse, and, uh, have someone tell her Jesus got up to go walkies, and we can then say Jesus came back to life like a god would, and we get to live on the free stuff the yokels give us for the rest of our lives."

    Peter: "It beats working. Okay."

    April 1, 2013 at 4:54 am |
    • Right on

      Peter knew how to get a good scam up and running.

      April 1, 2013 at 5:31 am |
    • John

      God is a spirit, the flesh died, but the spirit did not. You'll need good reading comprehention if you read the bible, or maybe have others explain it to you. Which ever works best for you. The New Testament is an easier read, and you need that the most anyway... assuming you actually want to know about God and salvation through Jesus's sacrifice for others sins.

      April 1, 2013 at 6:09 am |
    • SixDegrees

      "God is a spirit, the flesh died, but the spirit did not. You'll need good reading comprehention if you read the bible"

      I guess so, given that the bible is pretty damn clear that Jesus was lifted bodily into heaven, but that wording utterly escaped your grasp. Not that I believe this, but it's a a pretty straightforward statement.

      April 1, 2013 at 6:15 am |
    • skytag

      John, why should someone invest time in reading the Bible when there is absolutely no evidence that there is a God, or that if there is a God the Bible is the best source to understand him? Because you say so? Why shouldn't I read the Koran, or the Torah, or some other work that's fundamental to another religion? Are you a Christian because you read all of the sacred works of other religions or are you a Christian because you were raised by Christians or grew up in a country where Christianity is the dominant religion?

      April 1, 2013 at 6:27 am |
  18. larry

    ‘Jesus Stomping’ FAU Professor is Democrat Party Vice-Chairman in Palm Beach County, FL
    Just in time for Holy Week are many reports about this controversial incident involving a local college professor at Florida Atlantic University in Davie, Florida making his students literally stomp on paper after they were instructed to write the name Jesus on it.
    However national media, while reporting on this incident, neglected to include the fact that the professor is also vice-chairman of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party as reported today by a popular and influential local business/political web site called Biz Pac Review.

    April 1, 2013 at 4:52 am |
    • skytag

      What was the point of the exercise, and why should I care if he's a Democrat?

      April 1, 2013 at 4:53 am |
    • Zingo

      Isn't it great that people like larry can turn on FOX and Rush and find out what their opinions ae? If it wasn't for them, larry wouldn't have a clue what his opinions are.

      April 1, 2013 at 4:56 am |
    • Rev Foistus Uponyou

      There are 350 MILLION people living in The United States,
      and you pick out "ONE" Democrat to prove there is Christian bashing ?
      Poor widdle Warry.

      If you realy cared about your bible and Jesus, you would be
      upset with all the Repubs trying to make second class citizens out of Gay people.

      Your religion sucks, and your politicians are sick.

      April 1, 2013 at 6:45 am |
  19. Octav

    If martyrs are the cause of the succes of Christianity, the Holocauts should cause all the world to become jewish... so stop the nonsense. All religions are based on illusion and delusion.

    April 1, 2013 at 4:28 am |
    • Righteo

      The thing of it is, the martyrs did it to get a special place in heaven. They were angling for personal gain and glory. Their motives were selfish.

      Not something to be respected.

      April 1, 2013 at 4:34 am |
  20. seidan1

    "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."

    That might just be the worst analogy ever....

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

      What did you expect from a Christian?

      April 1, 2013 at 4:21 am |
    • Rev Foistus Uponyou

      Starring Chuck Norris as Jesus.

      April 1, 2013 at 6:46 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.