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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. WT

    It's ironic that CNN ran this story the day before Easter, then on Easter night on the CNN television station it ran a 2-hour show about the early Christians, how Christianity began and even detailed some of the early persecution of Christians.

    http://www.cnn.com/services/presents.opk/after.jesus/additional.htm

    This article also contradicts itself. In one paragraph it says "There are only six reliable cases of Christian martyrdom..." then later in the article it says "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."

    The thing I like about the article is that it does point out the persecution isn't the only reason Christianity became popular. It also because popular because of the way Christians treated others and lived their everyday lives. When you look at how Christianity became popular, it wasn't just one thing, but rather many things working together at the same time.

    April 1, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • sam

      Then now I suppose the way they treat others and live their lives today will eventually have the opposite effect, and they'll dwindle off.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Akira

      One person is saying something, another is saying another.
      I watched that special. I would say that there was nothing in it that this article didn't say...

      April 1, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Akira, I am appalled by the lack of reading comprehension skills of some of the posters here. I can't get over how incensed they are about something the article didn't even say. Unbelievable.

      April 1, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
  2. Bhawk

    If there is a persecution is the psuedochristians persecution of the rest of us How Obama is persecuting christians is beyond me. See any trials, or arrest or is the person a paranoid schzoid. Where and how is the persecuting taking place. Any one of you been arrested, know of any churches shut down and the members hauled off. Have you seen one law created by the Legislature or the President. Frankly sausage is a liar, you just hate the man–sinful act on your part.

    April 1, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
  3. Steve Smith

    Christianity did triumph because it was "true" or better than the other religious options out there. It was made the state religion for political purposes and elimininated the competing religions with the oppressive power of the Roman Empire. Sometimes the truth hurts.

    April 1, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Steve Smith

      Correction.....Did NOT triumph

      April 1, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Russ

      @ your theory doesn't account for the first 300 years of Christianity, when it went from being a marginal, obscure group to being 40% of all Roman urban centers.

      Read Rodney Stark's "Rise of Christianity" on this.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • Truth.

      Christianity seems to be more honest when it opposes the status quo.

      Not when it is manipulated and changed to support the status quo.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
  4. Striker

    Stick with reality then, enjoy what little life you have on the ground, because when your flesh dies, your soul will burn for eternity.

    April 1, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • ME II

      Believe or Burn?
      That not really very convincing.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      And you would worship an immoral being that mets out infinite punishment for capricious "crimes"?

      Threats of eternal punishment betray a weak argument.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • sam

      Ok, congrats, you're either a troll, or some mentally deficient weirdo loose on the net with a day pass. Bug off.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      striker
      That is not goinig to happen. That comes out of a story book, that has been shown to be extremely flawed, and is not reality.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Bad Boys

      Striker,

      Odin, Zeus, Ra, Vishnu
      Whatcha' gonna do when they come for you!

      April 1, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Jim Oliver

      Guess I am burning. Not sure how anyone knows that but it sounds logical. I don't believe in something my brain tells me is impossible so I get to burn in hell. Great plan.
      I wonder if I will pay extra for my habit of yelling "Praise Ulhr" when it snows? Oh well, sh-t happens.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  5. palintwit

    Here's what they say about Sarah Palin in Europe.

    " ... If anything is a threat to the national security of the United States of America, it is this screaming, unrefined oaf with as much class as a searing release of flatulence followed by hysterical giggling at a state banquet. Is this what the people of the USA deserve?

    To attack the President of the country at a time when the USA needs to close ranks and stand together to consolidate the enormous strides his intelligent and respectful approach has achieved in building bridges, when her party's period in government bombed them, Sarah Palin comes across as a pitifully inadequate anachronism from the times of the Far West.

    The United States of America has evolved. She has not. "

    April 1, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
  6. Jeff

    Leave it to an enlightened "intellectual" from the halls of the faithful University of Notre Dame to posit that Christian persecution has been overstated for generations.... My secular state-funded college is more in line with the Magisterium than Notre Dame...

    April 1, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • ME II

      Is this anti-Catholic? or anti-intellectual? or what?

      April 1, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  7. Barry Menefee

    This should be followed up with the history of suffering and death carried out by the Christians for the last 2 millennia.I find this story offensive and not a news worth report for CNN.

    April 1, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
  8. netanyahu

    and the holocuast never happened either.

    April 1, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • Akira

      Apples to oranges; she is also not claiming it never happened. Did you read this article?

      April 1, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
  9. conrad

    God was an alien who visit our planet long time ago
    and he change your monkey DNA to what you are now

    April 1, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Funny how people who don't believe that aren't persecuting you isn't it?

      April 1, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
  10. AJ

    Historians and theologians can debate the level of persecution that occurred. I think a good discussion is on the topic of what defines "persecution". The American version of persecution might be public disagreement with our point of view. However, when I think of people in parts of Africa, South America, and Asia where laws may prohibit open Christianity, and our brothers and sisters are thrown in jail and many losing their life for the faith – then dealing with a few dirty looks or nasty comments isn't so bad. Christans in America do not know true persecution as our brothers and sisters are experiencing in other parts of the world. We should be thankful that we live in a nation where we can openly live our faith without fearing for our lives, no matter how unpopular it may be. And we should be praying daily for our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world that truly do risk their lives for the faith.

    April 1, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      AJ. Do you know anything about South America? Typically those countries are 90+% christian (generally catholic).

      April 1, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • Jim Oliver

      Christians, don't allow the dullest among you to speak of things they do not know. Perhaps they should just be allowed to nod in agreement and say Amen on occasion.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
  11. rtr

    The only people ever persecuted were the non believers, and it is still happening today.
    We can't even have any kind of peace with the world because of them, their book tells us the peace maker is the beast so they doomed us all.

    April 1, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  12. db

    This was a good read. I like things that are pretend.

    April 1, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Is that why you like the bible?

      April 1, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
  13. Striker

    Stop, Drop, and Role will not work in Hell guys. Just look around yourself, sure man have come a long way in life, but where did everything come from? Please don't say we evolved from Monkeys, if that were case why do they exist still and not fully evolved, lol.

    April 1, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      you have a limited understanding of evolution.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • rtr

      If god created all of us why are there different colored people? Please don't say they were cursed by god.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • ME II

      @Striker
      "Stop, Drop, and Role will not work in Hell guys."
      ...because it is unlikely to exist.

      " Just look around yourself, sure man have come a long way in life, but where did everything come from? "
      Ignorance is no reason to believe in anything.

      "Please don't say we evolved from Monkeys, if that were case why do they exist still and not fully evolved, lol."
      You shouldn't be laughing at your own lack of education. We didn't evolve from monkeys but do have a common ancestor with them.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      We didn't evolve from monkeys...we evolved from apes (h0m0 sapiens means wise ape), with a common ancestor to monkeys.

      While evolution cannot be confirmed as hard fact...yet, we treat it as fact due to the overwhelming evidence to support evolution. That is why it is taught in school and the religios story is not.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Krangle

      Seriously? You have access to all kinds of information from Universities, Museums, science magazines, online. Yet you have absolutely no clue about evolution, that kind of ignorance is amazing! Humans didnt evolve from monkies, do some research.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • the AnViL™

      "...evolution cannot be confirmed as hard fact..."

      says who?

      scientific theories are predicate on stacks of facts. it's not some wild guess.

      the theory of evolution is factual, based on facts, comprised of facts on top of facts.

      and that's a fact, jack – er... richard.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • tallulah13

      More like stop, drop and troll.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
  14. jaana

    shocked she's a professor at Notre Dame #1... “When someone is persecuting you" she says, "there is no room for dialogue." – has she listened to the rhetoric coming out of the current administration? #2
    She's trying to "unsensationalize the issue but her arguements and rhetorical analysis are lacking.

    April 1, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • sam

      Didn't take long for the pseudo-intellectuals to comment on this article, I see....

      April 1, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • jaana

      how do you figure it's psuedo? i have a degree in rhetoric, her arguments are not solid.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • sam

      Yeah, I'm sure you have a degree in rhetoric. And hyperbole.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Jeff

      Try to stay on track, Donna. As a Catholic, I will say that the prof is spot on about the modern day persecution-complex onto which many Christians in the U.S. have latched. To them, persecution means that someone fails to take into account religious dogma when enacting policies, or that they simply have the gal to challenge the basis of your relgious dogma through intellectual debate. This persecution complex reflects the insecurity of a group that is either too hateful, insecure or lazy to conduct any critical self-examination.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • tallulah13

      A degree in rhetoric? And you still can't string together a compelling argument? Did you spend your college years doing keg stands and beer bongs?

      April 1, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • jaana

      it's a real degree, some of the top schools that offer it are the University of Iowa, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Pittsburgh, and a good number of others..
      so i guess you are anti education.. all the libs push for everyone having a college degree then when you actually use it or mention it you get bashed and basically told you're a moron..
      guess what.. you're the moron

      April 1, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • jaana

      tallulah13
      what are you talking about? you obviously can't even read

      April 1, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
  15. sausage

    Rome is like today's America under Obama. It's crumbling, and Christians are being persecuted. I hope it does not fall like Rome too.

    April 1, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      In what way is America "crumbling"?

      April 1, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      The Roman Empire fell, Rome didn't. The US influence will likely diminish as the BRICS countries grow; nothing to do with Obama.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • palintwit

      Idiot.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • Akira

      Please illustrate how Obama is persecuting anyone at all. Thanks.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • sam

      Best dumbass comment of the day, proving Moss' point.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Bhawk

      If there is a persecution is the psuedochristians persecution of the rest of us How Obama is persecuting christians is beyond me. See any trials, or arrest or is the person a paranoid schzoid. Where and how is the persecuting taking place. Any one of you been arrested, know of any churches shut down and the members hauled off. Have you seen one law created by the Legislature or the President. Frankly sausage is a liar, you just hate the man–sinful act on your part.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • rtr

      Christians aren't persecuted, they are the ones persecuting, gays, womens rights, musIums, non believers and so on. They have been persecuting people for almost 2000 years.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • Striker

      Romans 1:18 says "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness’ of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness’". This verse depicts the wrath of God being poured out for one primary reason: His truth is being suppressed throughout the land. When People tamper with Gods truth, God takes personal Offense.

      Romans 1:19 goes on to say, "because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shows it to them.
      So, how has God shown His truth to the nation? Verse 20 says, "For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen...."

      For since the creation (not evolution). The invisible is clearly seen? How dies that happens? Verse 20 explains, "Being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and the Godhead, so that they are without excuse.

      This verse refutes evolution; through creation we see a refection of the power and attributes of God. A casual observation of the vastness of the oceans, the majesty of the mountains, or the beauty of a sunrise or sunset should cause any person to conclude, "There must be a God." This scripture says that it is clearly seen and clearly understood. There are no naturally born atheists. A person does not grow up with the natural tendency of denying the existence of God. There is a design to the universe there fore; there must be a Designer behind it. (Steven Hale)

      When a nation chooses to smother the truth of God and then rejects the God of the truth, notice what happens, in verses 24, 26, and 28 we see three identical phrases: "God also gave them up," God gave them up, and God gave them over." This is an example of God abandoning a nation. In these verses, God is backing away and removing His protective hand from the Nation. There comes a time when the collective mindset of the nation embraces the "Do your own thing." or "If it feels good do it" philosophy. God respond by saying, "You want to do your own thing? Fine, then go ahead and do it, thus result is that God gives up on the nation over to its own desires, which results in corrupt leadership, corrupt education, corrupt legislation, and gradually each person begins to do what is right in his or her own eyes.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Original post translated: I voted for Mitt Romney. He didn't win. Therefore I am being persecuted.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
  16. Jess

    Christians also killed many in the crusades and in the name of religion

    April 1, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Atheist, me?

      That is not something a lot of Christians are proud of but if not for those Christian warriors like Charles Martel and King Richard you will be living in the United Emirates of America and I hear Sharia is not so nice so shut up!

      April 1, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • anon

      they weren't true Christians, they were religious imposters representing religion....not Christ. They were the Pharisees of their age.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      pretend atheist. That's not entirely true. The Crusades were to "liberate the holy lands from the infidel".

      April 1, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • anon

      religion did rid itself of their enemy via murder ......and they chose these methods because they did not know Christ, His word, nor were they filled with His Holy Spirit.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      and there goes anon...christians persecuting christians for not being "true christians". How do you know, did you talk to any of them. Likely they would consider you the not true one, and convert you or kill you.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • anon

      Matthew 7:15-20
      Galatians 5:10-25

      April 1, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
  17. Mike

    Wait! this means maybe some of the other things Christians believe may not be true!

    April 1, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • Atheist, me?

      When someone conjectures years after an event they usually do not have much evidence, do you?

      April 1, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      pretend atheist. Oh you mean like the bible?

      April 1, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Atheist?
      You mean like when the wrote the bible, and none of the people that supposedly "witnessed "the sories were long dead?....you mean like that?

      April 1, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      strike none from above, and replace with most.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  18. Brandon

    This is trash. I can't believe CNN would even publish an outright lie such as this. Have fun in Hell John Blake. You are spitting on the Christian religion. Christians were tortured and killed for believing in God, and now you say it is mostly a myth? Nero, Aurelius and the other princes and Kings of the times, killed millions of Christians. This is a fact found everywhere. I spit on you, John Blake and I spit on CNN for pushing this lie. John Blake and CNN are nothing but anti-God, atheists. Enjoy Hell, I hear it is hot.

    April 1, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Atheists are not anti-god...we simply do not believe gods exist.

      Do you believe in Zeus, Odin, Ra?..Why not?

      April 1, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Ever heard of the Crusades, Inquisition, missionaries?

      April 1, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      No one said that Christians weren't tortured and killed. All that is being pointed out is that it likely wasn't as widespread as the stories of early Christianity make it seem.

      Human beings have difficulty telling a story over and over without embellishment, without growing the hero. This is how legends are born. It isn't inherently bad, or good...it just is. It only becomes a problem when the legend becomes so much larger than life that it actually causes harm. Such as the persecution of others.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • VAisGreen

      Does presence of persecution somehow make your Christian faith stronger? or more righteous? Let's not forget the persecutions crafted by Christians (or those claiming to be Christian). The Romans tolerated and even welcomed almost all other religions and deities. It was the Christians who claimed exclusive right to the single true god and his prophet son, thereby setting a remarkable standard of intolerance.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • sam

      Hey look – a persecuted christian. Gosh.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Pottymouth

      Somebody has a spitting fetish...

      April 1, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Did you even read the article? Honestly, some of you Christians come on here just looking for a fight and when you can't find anything to be angry about, you make up sh!t. The author didn't say that Christians weren't persecuted. Read. Learn.

      No wonder the stats show that believers are not as well-educated as atheists.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
  19. Jess

    There is no such thing as a creator in evolution, who are gods father and grandfather, do they have names?

    April 1, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
  20. Striker

    We are indeed in the last few days. I do fear God! Nothing scares me more then the day of judment. I was saved April of 2011 and have been at piece with myself since then. North Korea can fire a nuke at us and that wouldn't be nothing compared to the rath GOD himself will one day put over the earth for all the unbelievers and sinners of this day. It just baffles me how people don't believe. Even when Christ walked the earth and performed miracles people could see what he was doing and still people didnt believe. If Jesus comes back during my life time and I see his awsomeness from the sky I will bow down and worship him and at the same time will weap because so many people will die because of there ignorence.

    April 1, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Your god wants to torture people simply because they don't believe the stories?
      What a vindictive angry god you have.
      And he makes you feel so terrible.How sad for you....no, I'll stick with reality.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Akira

      You certainly don't sound at peace. You sound terrified.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Striker

      Our God, was the one who created the heavens and the earth. He has every right to be worshiped, other then the Ten Commandment we follow his two most important commandments are, you shall love your Lord your God with all your heart, with all your sould, and with all your mind and the last you shall love your neighbour as yourself. He is not asking you to sacrifice yourself, kill anyone, be bitter, lie. Just looking for Love, is that really to much to ask. If you think about it, if this were the case for the entirety of the world, it wouldnt be so bad to live in.

      April 1, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • JMEF

      Striker
      You are one of the mainstream Christians that believes jesus will do a return gig, beam up his true Christians and leave the wretched remainder to suffer unbearable torment. You think that has anything to do with his love for humanity?

      April 1, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Christians have been predicting the "end days" for about 2000 years now.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Grr. I meant predicting that the "end days" were upon us for about 2000 years now.

      April 1, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
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About this blog

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