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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. Arial

    Hypothetical material as we see a Guesstimation of Historical Data that the Author has No Real Knowledge of Unless they Traveled all the way through the Past to verify Their Findings!!! Anyone can make a Reference to anything in the past and rewrite a New Truth or Lie; which then Falls to Those Who want to Believe the Truth or LIE!!!

    April 1, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • .

      You are Capitalizing random Words, and John Blake Wrote the article Featuring many Authors.
      Look, when even religious scholars agree that these stories are exaggerated...c'mon.

      April 1, 2013 at 9:19 am |
  2. seabeau

    Christians are still being killed for their religion! In Indonesia hundreds of Christians are murdered each year in a country President Obama called an example of enlightened and tolerance! What a farce! Please visit, "The Voice of the Martyrs". for the Truth!

    April 1, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • skytag

      Sometimes you pay compliments to encourage better behavior. Some people haven't gotten around to reading The Power of Negative Thinking yet.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:43 am |
  3. Rainer Braendlein

    I guess that a Christian will not be happy when he faces persecution or suffering for the faith's sake. Yet, a Christian knows that the sufferings of the hell are much more terrible, and never-ending, than temporal sufferings. It is better to suffer some hours or days or years instead of suffering the whole eternity in the Lake of Fire.

    Jesus said that he will deny everybody who denied him during his life on earth. The teaching of the Anabaptist that our salvation would be independent from our behaviour is a nonsense. The truth is that we have to keep the faith through correct behaviour, and that also means to confess Jesus as Son of God even on the cost of once life.

    Gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen.

    http://confessingchurch.wordpress.com

    April 1, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • sam stone

      "Yet, a Christian knows that the sufferings of the hell are much more terrible, and never-ending"

      No, a christian BELIEVES that the sufferings of the hell are much more terrible, etc

      I think the thought that they are suffering like Jeebus gives christians wood

      April 1, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Vic

      Romans 3:28
      "28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law."

      Romans 8:1,2
      "8 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death."

      Romans 10:4
      "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."

      Galatians 2:16
      "16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified."

      Ephesians 1:7
      "7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace"

      Ephesians 2:8,9
      "8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."

      Acts 13:39
      "39 and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses."

      John 3:16,17
      "16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him."

      [All above Scripture is from the New American Standard Bible (NASB)]
      http://www.biblegateway.com

      April 1, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • biggles

      R u a slimie, fvcktard sleezebag big mouth sambo? U betcha. How do we know? Gee, beats me. HELL b urs. We know

      April 1, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • sam stone

      Wow, biggles. Thanks for the precise response

      April 1, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • sam stone

      Biggles: If you are so sure that heaven awaits your arrival, why put it off? Eat the end of your shotgun, and you can have Jeebus spraying his savior goodness in your mouth within the fortnight

      April 1, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      @Vic

      Sorry, your are not saved. Your faith is pure delusion because you only believe by reason, and not metaphysically.

      The metaphysical faith is always connected with obedience.

      How can you get the Real Faith?

      Get sacaramentally baptized. or refer to your infant baptism, and start to confess Jesus in the power of his death and resurrection. Through sacral baptism you get connected with the releaising power of Jesus death and resurrection.

      April 1, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Vic

      @Rainer

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/03/30/christ-was-persecuted-but-what-about-christians/comment-page-22/#comment-2254490

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/03/25/who-is-on-gods-side-of-the-marriage-debate/comment-page-24/#comment-2247267

      April 1, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • sam stone

      Rainy has the authority to say who is saved and who is not?

      Pompous fvck

      April 1, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • skytag

      You don't have any evidence that anything you just said is true, do you?

      April 1, 2013 at 10:44 am |
  4. Ray Rubi

    Gee, maybe it's only the modern Christians who are being persecuted in places like China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Our mistake.

    April 1, 2013 at 8:51 am |
  5. sybaris

    The intellectual superficiality of Christians in the U.S. can easily be illustrated by asking them one question, "Why are you a Christian?"

    Most of them cannot give you any other answer other than, "Cause the Bible is the word of God"

    April 1, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • Ray Rubi

      Whoa! Good one!

      April 1, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • Gorsh

      The intellectual superficiality of most atheists is equally impressive. When asked why they are atheist, they frequently declare that they believe nothing without proof, then admit to accepting specific cosmological or ambiogenesis theories which have zero experimental support. Further, they frequently repeat the demonstrably false narrative of religion being the most common force behind violence and wars.
      A whole lot of ignorance on both sides.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • Phyllis Romero

      You are wrong in your assumption. Why am I a Christian? No, it's not just because the Bible says so. It's because this man, Jesus, came and led a life by example and as all of us should strive for. He was humble and meek. He loved with a great love, beyond human comprehension. At a time when women were treated as property, he treated them with respect and dignity. He loved his fellow man with great love and fellowship. He was the model we all should strive to be. If I am to follow another, Jesus is all there is.

      April 1, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • .

      Gorsh, athiests don't believe in any gods.
      You may as well ask them why don't they believe in Santa. Same freaking thing.
      Christians will inevitable ask why. "Cause I don't" isn't a good enough answer for these people who demand to know why...look, I respect people's rights to believe in Santa; can't they respect mine not to believe?

      April 1, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • sam stone

      "No, it's not just because the Bible says so. It's because this man, Jesus, came and led a life by example and as all of us should strive for. He was humble and meek. He loved with a great love, beyond human comprehension. At a time when women were treated as property, he treated them with respect and dignity. He loved his fellow man with great love and fellowship. He was the model we all should strive to be"

      and where did you get this knowledge?

      April 1, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • sam stone

      "He loved with a great love, beyond human comprehension"

      Then how do you comprehend it?

      April 1, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • Gorsh

      .
      I am very confused by your response. Sybaris commented on the response Christians give when asked why they believe what they believe.
      I simply made a comment on the most common reasons I hear from atheists for why they believe what they believe.

      Essentially the original comment was in relation to an atheist's inability to accept a Christian' answer of "Cause I do." which you seem to take offense to when applied in reverse to your own belief system.

      Your thinking seems extremely muddled and confused. You should perhaps reflect on your beliefs and their sources. As Socrates said "The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being."

      April 1, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • skytag

      Sorry Gorsh, but you just don't get it. Religious claims are entirely different than cosmological theories because cosmological theories don't demand that people devote their lives to them, adjust their lifestyles and life choices, or contribute money to them. What I believe about dinosaurs, the Big Bang, blah, blah, blah has no impact on my life. Beliefs about religion dictate life choices.

      Before I let a set of religious beliefs dictate my life choices you have to come up with some evidence, and you don't have any.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  6. Rainer Braendlein

    RB is back once again.

    It is true that the early Christians were not persecuted always. The intensity of the persecution alternated, and depended on the current emperor, and on local officers of the Roman Empire. However, it is certain that many Christians had to die during the first three centuries after Christ until Constantine the Great legalized the Christian faith, and the pagan Roman Empire changed to the Christian Eastern Roman Empire with its capital Constantinople (today Istanbule).

    Yet, there are different levels of persecution. The ordinary man will not only be distressed when he faces death but also when he faces dismissal. Yet at Jesus' lifetime the Jews had decided to put under banishment everybody who would confess Jesus as Messiah or Christ. Somebody under banishment would certainly lose his job, and acknowledgement of his neighbours.

    Today we live in a world which becomes more and more secular, and the main idol of today is Mammon, the God of Capitalism. Of course, companies want to maximize their profit, and that is even okay as long as they don't affect their employees and their customers. Of course, a Christian is supposed to practice love towards everybody, no matter if workmate or customer.

    Not seldomly it can happen that a boss requires his Christian employee to affect a customer or a workmate for the sake of more profit. This a Christian has to refuse for the sake of love because love is more important than profit. For example, a Christian bank clerk has to tell the customer everything about the security which he wants to sell also the risks. If his boss wants him to conceal the risks he has to refuse.

    The ordinary persecution is certainly a subtle one. It is not about death but about excluding from the ordinary society, and this will surely happen when you lose your job. This makes it necessary that Christians suppoprt eachother when they lose a job because of faith-reasons.

    http://confessingchurch.wordpress.com

    April 1, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      You were writing on what we recognize as simple ethics. Christianity is not the only source of ethics, and not even a particularly reliable one.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • Ronald B

      "Yet at Jesus' lifetime the Jews had decided to put under banishment everybody who would confess Jesus as Messiah or Christ."

      You, Sir, need extensive retraining on the Bible. You are clueless!

      April 1, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • dumbasfock

      Whats wrong with that statement Ronald? He made a biblically accurate statement that is supported by secular texts and Jewish texts. Why dont you educate us if you hvae a fourth source that you'd like to use to claim he is mistaken.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  7. Jon

    The only thing we can do, my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, is pierce the hearts of unbelievers with a double-edged sword. Thats how Christ did it. Thats how my father did it. And its worked pretty well so far.

    April 1, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • JJ

      Sounds painful. You say it worked well for your daddy? Is he in prison?

      April 1, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • Mirosal

      So, you advocate violence? Typical "peace loving" chrstian hypocrisy in action I see.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • cedarbranchnikon

      It is always amazing to see how some people respond to
      Christianity" and Christian beliefs in general when except for weddings and funerals never see the inside of a church or have any clue about "what makes Christians tick". The "sword" referred to is the Bible, the only "offensive weapon" Christians are allowed to use. When I encounter something I may not agree with, I try to "research" to see what is really "all about". Try to read and understand Christians before your "knee jerks" and you "blindly believe" anything someone tries to tell you based on "imagined" facts.

      April 1, 2013 at 9:12 am |
  8. Gorsh

    Next up: Jews we actually treated pretty well under Hitler.

    April 1, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  9. TiredODaCrap

    Love it.....Putting down and persecuting Christians in a story built on the premise that they were NOT put down and persecuted throughout history.... HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!
    Nice comments as well from those who choose hate over belief. Sure there are a bunch of Christians that fail every single day at showing Christ's love, but there are just as many who try not to.....Of course, it doesn't prove the point of their being a hate-filled religion if we admit that not ALL are horrible. That might make Christians just seem human.

    April 1, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • humanbean

      So, that's the only two choices in your world of black and white? Hate or belief? Once again, typical Christians who 1) don't understand anything different from them, 2) don't even know the first thing about what it is to be Christ like and what Christ taught them. I'd rather be a hater than to align myself with people like you, and it's sad because if the story were actually true, you'd be in big trouble on judgment day.

      April 1, 2013 at 9:16 am |
  10. Believe & See

    Were there a men named Julias Caeser , Socrates, Plato, George Washington, Christopher Columbus,Magellan, Ponce de Leon, Napolean Bonaparte, Ghengis Khan, Gallileo and how do we believe there were such people or that they even existed. Did anybody living today see these people. It was written !!! To those who believe, they will see . To those who don't believe they will not see.

    April 1, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • HotAirAce

      The factual, independent, verifiable and objective evidence for the existence of the men you listed is overwhelming compared to evidence for any god or a divine jesus. Well ok, it is hard to estimate because dividing something (evidence for the men listed) by zero (evidence for any god or a divine jesus) is not defined.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • sybaris

      Regurgitating Lee Strobel drivel makes you look stupid and ignorant.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • JMEF

      B&S
      Which of those you listed have had claims of supernatural powers or did you leave out Superman and Zeus on purpose?

      April 1, 2013 at 8:43 am |
  11. joep222

    Those who reject the truth of history are what you call liars.
    ----------
    "The problem with invoking persecution is it implies your opponents are evil – and no common ground can be found with evil, Moss says."

    This woman author claims to be a New Testament Professor, yet she denies a fundamental teaching of the New Testament, we are all evil:

    Romans 3:10-12 as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; (11) no one understands; no one seeks for God. (12) All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."

    Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

    April 1, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • Mirosal

      Let's ssee if i have this straight ... according to your beliefs and doctrines, your "god" created us. Yet we are imperfect beings. And your "god", in his omniscience, knows all that will happen to us in our life, and even in an "afterlife". Your "god" knows if we end up in what you call hell, yet allows us to live and eventually go there for eternal torture and lakes of fire and damnation, because we are judged on the imperfections "he" gave us. But he loves us. Tell me, what part of that sounds sane to you?

      April 1, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • DalcassiabKnight

      All are sinners, yes. It's true, we are all wrongdoers and fall short of the glory of God. But to call us all evil, you're way off base. Stop twisting the scriptures.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • Lee

      No Mirasol, You don't have most of it correct. Ones free will is at play. God loves enough to provide each a choice. In perfect fairness, justice, one gets what he has coming. God provided a way for all to be innocent in the eyes of their maker. It has nothing to do with being good. Seek and you will find love an forgiveness.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • Mirosal

      You talk about "free will" ... if your god is omniscient, as your doctrine says it is, then there cannot be free will. You cannot have both. If you can't see the simple grade-school logic in that, might I suggest finishing that 3rd year of your 6th grade?

      April 1, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • The Cranky Saint

      So you have to be a believer in order to be an expert on the Bible? Or does studying the bible automatically make you a believer? I was a minister. Still am, technically, though I no longer have a congregation. It was the bible that convinced me Christianity was wrong. The concept of original sin is especially foul.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • sam stone

      they are only liars if they know it is "the truth", but continue to deny it

      April 1, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • sam stone

      also, your quotations are only valid to those who accept the authority of the bible

      April 1, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      To be fair, omniscience, including foreknowledge, does not rule out freewill. You need to dip into modal logic to see that what is known cannot compel what happens. Not 3rd grade stuff, to be sure.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • Mirosal

      If the outcome is known, then the outcome is known. Free will can't change that, because since the outcome is known, whether you change your mind or not, that has already been factored into the final result.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • MJ

      joep222 is a PRIME example of how people (Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and all others whether claiming a religion or not) interpret words wrong. The bible, nor any other holy book is difficult to understand. When one realizes that one's spiritual path is SOLELY between them and The Creator, we will ALL cease the ridiculous back and forth and at that point we will truly find TRUTH. NO ONE man or woman can say they fully know the ways of this world, let alone attepting to say they truly know the ways of beyond this world.

      To imply that we are all evil is to take on a very arrogant position of "knowing" The Creator's view of his/her/their creations. I will not profess to know much (as none of us should because we really know about as much as 2 grains of rice in a 10 lbs. bag), but I do know that All holy books were written and continue to be re-written by humans and we ALL have flaws...

      April 1, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Again, what is known does not compel what happens. Here's a treatment of Maimonides's argument with some background information:

      http://www.iep.utm.edu/foreknow/

      April 1, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • humanbean

      Oh please, Lee. Love me or go to hell. There's absolutely NO free will in that.

      April 1, 2013 at 9:20 am |
  12. Jerry

    It's sad that so many keep referring to things done in the "Name of God", but don't really focus on what God teaches in his word. I challenge anybody to study the merits of how Christ lived and instructs us to live. Many heinous things have been done "In The Name", but are surely not of God.

    April 1, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • Mirosal

      "god" didn't teach anything. Your book was written, edited, compiled, and corrupted solely by man, and man alone. No deities required.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • Whatsouthere

      I'm no Christian but I after reading much of the New Testament this past year, I'll say the teachings are directed towards selflessness. Fair enough, not encouraging hatred, but this does not prove deity.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • Jessica

      As an aethiest myself, roommate a Christian, I'll agree the religion gets some of a rap over hypocritical nature of those who claim Christianity. Assuming a Christ, or whomever, my roommate has effecitively shown me a book that encourages loving others. Those who have murdered in "the name" as you stated, have skewed things for many.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Whatsouthere – It's true that the core story of Jesus the would-be reformer of Judaism is inspiring. But a lot of embellishment of the story took place to show that Jesus was a descendant of David and the fulfillment of prophecies, and the entire crucifixion / Resurrection story was added to make him the sacrifice to end all sacrifice. In fact he was killed for his convictions, not to atone for anyone's sins. He should be remembered as one of a long line of people fighting valiantly against the worst excesses of religion, but instead he was made part of the Godhead and a new religion formed around him. Not a fitting end for a courageous fellow.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:42 am |
  13. Curious

    A woman of those times able to write???? and keep a diary????

    April 1, 2013 at 7:57 am |
    • Shi!tiswati

      Read about how Sita wrote on the scientific blog and posted it 600000 years ago.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:01 am |
  14. Colin

    It is a pity that the author chose to introduce an article that debunks some Christian mythology by repeating a nauseating piece of Christian mythology. A terrified little girl about to be horribly murdered by being torn to pieces by wild animals "trembling with joy, not fear" and "singing hymns".

    What ignorant garbage.

    April 1, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • Shi!tiswati

      Powerful dear, powerful, you should post here, all this positive energy is why you need to become the Guru

      April 1, 2013 at 7:56 am |
  15. Rainer Braendlein

    It is true that the early Christians were not persecuted always. The intensity of the persecution alternated, and depended on the current emperor, and on local officers of the Roman Empire. However, it is certain that many Christians had to die during the first three centuries after Christ until Constantine the Great legalized the Christian faith, and the pagan Roman Empire changed to the Christian Eastern Roman Empire with its capital Constantinople (today Istanbule).

    Yet, there are different levels of persecution. The ordinary man will not only be distressed when he faces death but also when he faces dismissal. Yet at Jesus' lifetime the Jews had decided to put under banishment everybody who would confess Jesus as Messiah or Christ. Somebody under banishment would certainly lose his job, and acknowledgement of his neighbours.

    Today we live in a world which becomes more and more secular, and the main idol of today is Mammon, the God of Capitalism. Of course, companies want to maximize their profit, and that is even okay as long as they don't affect their employees and their customers. Of course, a Christian is supposed to practice love towards everybody, no matter if workmate or customer.

    Not seldomly it can happen that a boss requires his Christian employee to affect a customer or a workmate for the sake of more profit. This a Christian has to refuse for the sake of love because love is more important than profit. For example, a Christian bank clerk has to tell the customer everything about the security which he wants to sell also the risks. If his boss wants him to conceal the risks he has to refuse.

    The ordinary persecution is certainly a subtle one. It is not about death but about excluding from the ordinary society, and this will surely happen when you lose your job. This makes it necessary that Christians suppoprt eachother when they lose a job because of faith-reasons.

    http://confessingchurch.wordpress.com

    April 1, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • Shi!tiswati

      I have read these books cover to cover, get lost and read the yogic powers of eastern mythology , you may learn some mathematical inferences for the superficially intelligence.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:58 am |
  16. dudester4

    Wow. 2 new books, and all the history of Christianity is now at question. Funny how Christianphobes seem to forget that millions have died at the hands of atheist regimes, yet it's the Christians who hate. You insist on scientific peer reviewed studies, yet apparently no scholarly reviews of new books that deny, by various estimates, upwards of 70 million people who have been martyred for their faith. How many are needed to remove the pejorative label "persecution cult"?

    April 1, 2013 at 7:47 am |
    • Saraswati

      What you need to prove is that Christians are persecuted more than any other group, and Christians have never provided any evidence for that. They just like to claim it over and over. All minorities are persecuted at some point. The Muslims, Hindus, atheists, everyone. Prove that you are somehow special or stop whining.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • Mirosal

      It seems you need a poli-sci clas or two. You confuse dictatorships and political power with Atheism. Those regimes did not kill millions in the name of Atheism. Those ringleaders killed to maintain fear and absolute contorl over their lands, people, and government. It's what the church was doing just a scant 500 years ago, but they did it "in the name of the lord".

      April 1, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • Saraswati

      I think he needs a demographic class too. The fact a country like the Soviet Union was bigger than, say, Uganda doesn't make it more evil.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:56 am |
    • sam stone

      thye were totalitarian regimes. the atheism was not the driving force

      April 1, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • Shi!tiswati

      Hindus were the most persecuted, CNN should write an article on the studies and the research, Our Buddha taught non-violence as a path to self righteousness . I love your but not your christians

      April 1, 2013 at 8:03 am |
    • JMEF

      Most genocide is not based on religious grounds but on tribal and ethnic conflicts anywhere in the world.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • HotAirAce

      I think the jews could claim the "All Time Most Persecuted Award" . . .

      April 1, 2013 at 8:17 am |
    • HotAirAce

      How convenient to ignore that religious beliefs help define tribes and that there is a high correlation between ethnicity and beliefs. And while religious beliefs may not be the underlying cause of conflict, it does make it easier to wage war when you believe you have an imaginary friend on your side.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • JMEF

      HAA
      Perhaps my point was not well made. I should have added greed and power. The Kosovo War is just one example of Christians at war with their fellow Christians based on ethnic differences. My response to the original comment that atheists were the main source of Christian victims when in most wars each side thinks that the Christian god is on their side.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:37 am |
  17. Colin

    Did you know that there is not one articulation anywhere in the original Bible of either the Christian god -God the Father, God the Son and god the Holy Spirit combined in the Holy Trinity, nor of people being rewarded for a good life by "going to heaven."

    Both doctrines were made up by early Christians well after Jesus died.

    April 1, 2013 at 7:47 am |
    • Shi!tiswati

      You are very intelligent and I admire a few here, your iq surpasses -144 on the SB scale. There are many inconsistencies in the and this comes from someone who has read these books cover to cover and carries the golden rules followed by our gurus in eastern mythologies. Join our moment iskon

      April 1, 2013 at 7:54 am |
    • joe

      correction, everything was made up long after the fact–including Jesus himself. There is zero historical record of any Jesus. It's just bad myth written by people who weren't there generations after the alleged events occurred.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:12 am |
  18. beth

    I love CNN's annual nod to Holy Week with articles about Christianity that bring out the hate-filled comments.

    April 1, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • topconservative

      Nothing is more hateful than torturing someone with fire because they don't love you. What do you think?

      April 1, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • Shi!tiswati

      This not the place for Christians, I have read the Quran and the bible cover to cover and they are meaningless abstracts to the western civilization

      April 1, 2013 at 7:47 am |
    • Saraswati

      You don't think three solid weeks of pope stories pretty much tied up the pro-church side of things for a while?

      April 1, 2013 at 7:47 am |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 1, 2013 at 7:28 am |
    • Mirosal

      No, it does not, nor can it change anything. Your own doctrines and beliefs confirm this.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:30 am |
    • .

      mirosal ignorance fits you like a glove why do you struggle so to prove it.

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

      Prove him wrong wise guy

      April 1, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • topconservative

      Science has proven you wrong so many times. But keep on lying. it's all christians have.

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

      Just like anyone who enjoys the thrill of science, I'd love to be proved wrong. That way we both learn something new and more accurate. Go ahead, I'm waiting .. prove me wrong, teach me. Oh, and your religious texts are by no means evidence, let alone accurate.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • Shi!tiswati

      You have no proof to back your claim, the studies conducted by the mesointeligentia.org in fall of 2007 has revealed a more positive impact that transcendental medication of the yogi powers. I have read the Quran and the bible cover to cover and they do have the Lordy powers like the eastern mystic

      April 1, 2013 at 7:44 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      April 1, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Really?

      "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things"

      That's why the data, has shown that atheists have happier and healthier lives than conservative Christians. Your post is built on a lie!

      April 1, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • JD

      @ Really?

      Reveal you're source, otherwise you're full of it haha. No way do I buy the premise that a group of people who logically must reject goodness, purpose, love–even morality–lead happier lives than those who do. Regardless you miss the point: it's not about who's leading a happier life, it's about if there's God who hears your prayers.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:25 am |
  20. Carl

    Christianity is the most hate filled religion on earth. "So called" christians prove it every day and these idiots here defending their delusions prove it by calling everybody else stupid for not believing in their imaginary friend. One step shy of retarded. Grow up and face life on your own. Your god has NEVER been proved to exist and never will.

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

      I don't know about the most "hate filled". It seems that Muslims are killing or imprisoning those who speak out against them or their ped-o-phile prophet Mohammed (may he rot in the ground). I don't see to many christians blowing up buildings or killing others after a "religious" trial. But, christianity did that about 600 years ago, and Islam is 600 years younger than chrsitianity, so islam is right on track of where the christian church was 600 years ago.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:29 am |
    • .

      You must be very bitter being so very wrong in everything.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:29 am |
    • .

      When closely examined you find atheists posing as Christians causing harm no true Christian has ever been involved in such things no matter when in history. Wrong minded mirosal strikes again as an impotent serpent.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • Mirosal

      So the Crusades and the Inquisition were carried out by Atheists?? Try again.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:41 am |
    • Shi!tiswati

      Carl I agree with every word you say, as I begin my weekly devotional and will doing this for one entire day and the rest of a this week, it is a very powerful feeling on the mind to start the week here, for those who are willing to debate with the superficial knowledge that one possesses , it builds your self esteem when you start out angry in the morning.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:51 am |
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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.