CNN examines the tumultuous early years of Christianity in a special narrated by Liam Neeson. Watch “After Jesus: The First Christians,” Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) – She walked into the Roman arena where the wild beasts awaited her. She trembled not from fear but from joy.
Her name was Vibia Perpetua. She was just 22, a young mother singing hymns as the crowd jeered and a lion, leopard and wild cow encircled her.
One of the beasts attacked, hurling her to the ground. She covered an exposed thigh with her bloody robe to preserve her modesty and groped in the dust for her hair pin so she could fix her disheveled hair.
And when a Roman executioner approached Perpetua with a sword, her last words before collapsing were aimed at her Christian companions: “Stand fast in the faith, and love you all one another and do not let our sufferings be a stumbling block to you.”
Millions of Christians worldwide will celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus on this Easter Sunday. But the story of how the church rose to prominence after Jesus’ death is being turned upside down.
According to a belief passed down through the centuries, the church grew because of Roman persecution. The blood of Christian martyrs such as Perpetua became “the seed of the church,” said third-century church leader Tertullian. It’s the Hollywood version of Christianity reflected in epic biblical films such as “Ben-Hur” and “The Robe.” Vicious Romans relentlessly targeted early Christians, so the story goes, but the faith of people like Perpetua proved so inspiring that Christianity became the official religion of Rome, and eventually the largest religion in the world.
But that script is getting a rewrite. The first Christians were never systematically persecuted by the Romans, and most martyrdom stories – with the exception of a handful such as Perpetua's – were exaggerated and invented, several scholars and historians say. It wasn’t just how the early Christians died that inspired so many people in the ancient world; it was how they lived.
“You had much better odds of winning the lottery than you would have becoming a martyr,” says Joyce E. Salisbury, author of “The Blood of Martyrs: Unintended Consequences of Ancient Violence.”
“The odds were pretty slim. More people read about martyrs than ever saw one.”
Do Christians have a martyr complex today?
The debate over exactly how many Christians were persecuted and martyred may seem irrelevant centuries later. A scholarly consensus has indeed emerged that Roman persecution of Christians was sporadic, and that at least some Christian martyrdom stories are theological tall tales.
But a new book by Candida Moss, a New Testament professor at the University of Notre Dame, is bringing that message to the masses.
Moss says ancient stories of church persecution have created a contemporary cult of bogus Christian martyrs. She says too many American Christians are acting like they’re members of a persecuted minority, being thrown to the lions by people who simply disagree with them.
Professor Candida Moss, author of "The Myth of Persecution," says most stories of Christian martyrs were fabricated.
She cited former Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Romney claimed last year that President Barack Obama was waging a “war against religion,” and Santorum said the gay community “had gone out on a jihad” against him. Other Christians invoke images of persecution when someone disagrees with them on controversial issues such as abortion or birth control, says Moss, whose "The Myth of Persecution" was recently released.
The problem with invoking persecution is it implies your opponents are evil – and no common ground can be found with evil, Moss says.
“When someone is persecuting you" she says, "there is no room for dialogue."
Others say Moss’ claim is dangerous.
People such as Perpetua did die because of their beliefs. The first Christians were tortured, reviled and held in contempt by Romans – and their example helped the church grow, they say.
The Rev. Robert Morgan, author of "On This Day in Christian History: 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories about Saints, Martyrs and Heroes, " says it’s true that some of the accounts of martyrdom were “undoubtedly embellished” and that many of the persecution stories were “handed down in an atmosphere of confusion and pressure.”
Still, being a Christian in the first century was a risky move – persecution was significant. Jesus and most of his apostles were executed, he says.
“To deny the history of the movement is a way of attacking the movement,” Morgan says.
Some opposition to contemporary Christians is indeed evil, Morgan says. Christians are being killed today in places such as Nigeria and North Africa.
“Christians do not have a victim’s mentality,” Morgan says. “They take their stands, they know what they believe and they do good in this world. They are the ones who have established orphanages, hospitals and charitable institutions. For some reason, there’s this animosity against them.”
Hatred of Christians is woven into much of the New Testament. Jesus constantly warned his followers to expect persecution. The Apostle Paul wrote many of his epistles from jail. And the death of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, is dramatically recorded in the New Testament book the Acts of the Apostles.
The Easter message itself is a story of martyrdom – Jesus, unjustly executed by the Romans. The idea that Christians are at war with demonic forces in the world is reflected throughout the New Testament, says Bryan Litfin, a theology professor at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.
“If Jesus was just a soft moral teacher who taught us to love one another and petted little babies, the Romans wouldn’t have crucified him,” Litfin says. “Jesus is a polarizing figure, then and today. The early Christians weren’t foisting a narrative out of the blue about being martyrs. ”
'Like the action heroes of the ancient world'
If the first Christians pictured themselves as waging war against the world, the martyrs were their version of the Navy SEALs. They were the elite Christians who inspired and united others of their faith.
There was a purpose behind spreading stories of persecution: Nothing brings a new group closer together than a common enemy, Moss says.
“The idea that you are persecuted forges a concrete identity,” Moss says. “It really solidifies your sense of group identity.”
The stories of Christian persecution were so popular that they spawned a market during the first centuries after the crucifixion. The places where martyrs were born and died became early tourist stops. Towns competed with one another to draw rich pilgrims seeking martyr memorabilia, Moss says.
“People would go and buy the equivalent of a T-shirt,” Moss says. “You’d have all these little combs with saints on them that people would buy, and lamps with saints on them. People would also buy fruit from trees that grew in the vicinity of martyrs’ graves. Of course, the prices were completely jacked up.”
Church leaders began to embellish and invent stories of martyrdom to inspire the faithful but also to settle theological feuds, Moss says. If, say, a bishop wanted to denounce a rivals’ theology, he spun a story in which a martyr denounced the same doctrine with his last breath, Moss says.
“Martyrs were like the action heroes of the ancient world,” Moss says. “It was like getting your favorite athlete endorsing your favorite brand of soda.”
But how often did Romans force Christians to endure torture or die for their faith? Christianity took roughly 300 years to conquer Rome. The emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in 312 and gave Christians religious freedom. Christianity became the official religion of Rome by the end of the fourth century, scholars say.
For the first 300 years of the church, Christians were often ridiculed and viewed with contempt. But Roman leaders spent about "less than 10 years" out of the first 300 actually persecuting Christians, Moss says. There are only six reliable cases of Christian martyrdom before A.D. 250 out of “hundreds of stories,” including Perpetua’s, she says.
Many scholars have greeted Moss’ contention that Roman persecution of Christians was exaggerated with a shrug. They say it was common knowledge in the academic world.
“There weren’t that many Christians who were persecuted,” says Gail O’Day, dean of the Wake Forest University School of Divinity in North Carolina. “When you actually read the Roman historical records, the Christians just weren’t that important to them. Most Christians just got along with empire.”
When Roman persecution did occur, though, it was vicious. The Emperor Nero covered fully conscious Christians with wax and used them as human torches. Other Christians were skinned alive and covered with salt, while others were slowly roasted above a pit until they died.
One of the most famous martyrs was Perpetua.
She lived in Carthage in North Africa (modern-day Tunisia) and was arrested in March 203 with four others as they prepared for baptism. The Roman Emperor Septimius Severus had decreed that any new conversion to Christianity would result in death.
History remembers Perpetua because she kept a diary during her imprisonment. It’s called "The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity" (Felicity was a slave girl arrested with Perpetua). It’s the oldest-surviving document from a Christian woman. The emotion in the diary is almost unbearable. Perpetua describes the pain of leaving her infant son, who she was still nursing. She describes a prison visit from her weeping father, who kissed her hands while trying to get her to renounce her faith.
Perpetua's father visited her in prison, begging her to think of him and renounce her faith.
A narrator picks up the story in the diary after Perpetua was sent to her death. He says in the diary that Perpetua’s faith was so inspiring it caused the prison’s warden, a man called Pudens, to convert. The narrator also describes Perpetua's death.
While she was imprisoned, Perpetua says God gave her visions to reassure her. After one, she wrote:
“I understood that I should fight, not with beasts but against the devil. But I knew that mine was the victory.”
You can’t discount the power of such stories, even if persecution “wasn’t extremely common,” says Litfin, the Moody Bible Institute professor.
Persecution was central to the rise of the early church, he says.
“How many people in your church would have to be pulled out and executed and tormented for it not to have a tremendous effect for many years on your memory and self-perception,” Litfin says. “The early Christians are not foisting a narrative out of the blue about being matyrs.”
The early Christians' secret weapon
Other scholars say it wasn't simply persecution that helped the church grow. Instead, they say, Christians had a secret weapon.
The martyrs may have gotten all the press, but it was ordinary Christians who got it done by the way they treated friends and strangers.
Life in ancient Rome was brutal and nasty, says Rodney Stark, author of "The Triumph of Christianity." Stark’s well-regarded book gives one of the most detailed descriptions of the early church and ancient Rome.
Forget those antiseptic portraits of Roman cities you see in biblical moves such as “The Robe.” Roman cities were overcrowded, raw sewage ran in the streets, people locked their doors at night for fear of being robbed and plagues were rampant. Soap had not yet been invented, Stark says.
“The stink of the cities in the summertime must have been astounding,” Stark says. “You would have smelled a city miles before you got to it.”
Christians stood out because they created a “miniature welfare state" to help the less fortunate, Stark says. They took in infant girls routinely left for dead by their parents. They risked their lives to tend the sick when plagues hit and others fled in terror. They gave positions of leadership to women when many women had no rights, and girls as young as 12 were often married off to middle-aged men, he says.
Ordinary Romans might have thought Christians were odd but liked having them for neighbors, Stark says.
“If people had really been against them, I don’t think they would have grown like they did,” Stark says.
Christianity became so popular that when Rome did unleash one of its sporadic waves of persecutions, the empire couldn’t stop the church’s momentum, Stark says.
“If you knocked off a bishop, there were 20 guys waiting to be bishop,” Stark says
Christian belonging, not blood, is what drew many people, another scholar says.
The Easter story of a risen savior wasn’t distinctive in Rome’s competitive religious marketplace. Dying for one’s beliefs wasn’t considered heroic; it was expected in the Roman world, says Selina O' Grady, author of "And Man Created God: A History of the World at the Time of Jesus."
The early church, though, was radically inclusive. First-century Rome was undergoing globalization. The peace of Rome had made travel easier. People left homes and tribal ties for Rome. The empire was filled with rootless and excluded people: immigrants, traders, slaves.
The Christian message offered guidelines for living in this strange new world, she says.
“Its universal message, its proclamation of equality, unconditional love, offered everyone in the Roman Empire a new family, a new community, and a way to live,” O’Grady says.
Roman rulers eventually found reasons to support the church, she says.
The Christian message of obeying earthly masters – “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's" – reduced the potential for social unrest, O’Grady says.
“Christianity told the poor and lowly that their status was noble and that there would be recompense in the afterlife,” O’Grady says. “It was a wonderful recipe for creating good, obedient Roman subjects.”
A turning point for the early church was the conversion of Constantine. Scholars still debate Constantine’s motive. By that time the empire was rife with division, and Christians had become a major political bloc with members in the highest reaches of Roman society, says Stark, the sociologist.
“Constantine was interested so much in church affairs for the rest of his life, but I don’t think there’s a reason to not think he was a sincere Christian,” Stark says. “But he was also an egomaniac and an emperor.”
The growth of Christianity was too complex to be attributed to any one factor – whether it be Constantine, persecution or Christianity's message of compassion and inclusion, Stark says.
“I don’t think there was a primary reason,” he says. “It was a collection of things. It was all part of a package.”
Wrapped in that package, though, were the persecution stories of people such as Perpetua.
Today, churches have been named after Perpetua; films and graphic novels have been made about her life. She is considered a saint.
Her words still inspire. People still read her diary. There’s probably a Christian somewhere in the world now facing danger who is taking courage from Perpetua’s ordeal.
One passage in Perpetua’s diary is particularly luminous.
Perpetua stopped keeping her diary just before she was sent into the arena. No one knows for sure what she felt when she faced her moment of death, but she did write what she expected to see afterward.
She wrote that God gave her a reassuring vision while in prison. In the vision, she saw a great bronze ladder ascending to heaven. At the foot of the ladder was a great serpent surrounded by swords and knives.
Perpetua said she ignored the serpent and climbed the ladder. When she arrived at the top, she saw a great garden and a white-haired man in shepherd’s clothing milking a sheep. He was flanked by thousands of others Christians dressed in white.
“And he raised his head and beheld me and said to me: Welcome child.”
The man gave Perpetua curds from the milk of the sheep, and she said it tasted sweet.
She then wrote:
“And I took it with joined hands and ate it up: and all that stood around said, Amen.”
Centuries later, millions of people who look to Perpetua are still saying amen.
Reality. It's delicious!
I made it about half way through. It's fascinating but very disturbing. The sort of blind faith being advocated by these religious leaders (and followers) is appalling. And, as Mr. Dawkins said, dangerous.
There are 200 million Christians across the world that are currently suffering persecution. Visit http://www.persecution.org to know more.
I was not aware of the current persecution until pseudo article on christian persecution led me to read the real news on Christian persecution.
Please pray the persecuted.
Okay. I pray you will be persecuted.
Being follower of hindu Mithra ism, racist savior ism, called Christianity is self confessed prosecution. invented to impose hinduism racism on humanity. Live with it hindus stupids, to be a hindu gentile filthy slave of hindu Jew, filthy secular is your own doing.
There a re a lot of people being persecuted around the world, and some of them are Christians.
persecuted – past participle, past tense of per·se·cute (Verb) Verb:
1.Subject (someone) to hostility and ill-treatment, esp. because of their race or political or religious beliefs.
2.Harass or annoy (someone) persistently.
So I guess that means anyone who has ever unveiled their opinion and been repeatedly berated for how flawed their premise, spelling, grammar or ideology appeared to be has been persecuted.
Persecution is a very low bar, everyone has been persecuted at one time or another and will likely be again at some point in their lives. If you want persecution try growing up the gay son of an Alabama pastor who's just decided to come out to their congregation...
I guess the christians here in the US should try and gain a little perspective, then.
And how many of the 200 million are in the USA? It's like you want me to feel sorry for American christiains because Egyptian christians are persecuted.
When christians are tell you about how many of them are persecuted, you have to remember that
They're including things like "removing mandatory christian prayer from public schools" as MAJOR persecution
After thinking about it for a few minutes, it would be a good idea to teach religion in school.
Let's require all christians to learn all about their religion, and what the bible really says.
Next, to be fair, we need to discuss what the other major religions believe and where all these different faiths came from.
Finally, we can tell them why so many people don't believe in any of it – unless they figure that out for themselves 3 weeks into the semester.
Inspired by Nathan
"After thinking about it for a few minutes, it would be a good idea to teach religion in school."
I'd disagree ... and I'm a Christian. I wouldn't want my children being taught their faith by someone who likely doesn't believe/understand it themself.
"Let's require all christians to learn all about their religion, and what the bible really says."
I'd agree with this. There's no excuse not to know your Bible.
Comparative religion classes are taught quite competently by non-believers, Gopher. It happens in lots of real universities, as opposed to the babble colleges you're used to. The fact is that high school kids benefit from learning the tenets of all religions, not to attempt to make them believers but to understand the cultures around them.
You seem to think that someone who doesn't believe in god can't teach others about religion. You are wrong. They just aren't going to attempt to brainwash your kids the way you will.
Of course you want to shield your children from the truth, Topher. That's why so many Christian parents home school.
What are you talking about? I said I AGREE with Christians knowing about Christianity and what the Bible says.
It's a worthy idea, but mention it to a christian fundy and he will call down hellfire upon you. They do NOT want their bizarre interpretation of christianity held up next to anyone elses. Period.
I wish there was a comparative religion class when I was in High School. I would've probably been an atheist much sooner.
As usual Topher, you are shallow and lack reading comprehension.
The point was to teach about all major religions. No one teacher could believe in all of them – multiple personalities and other neurosis not withstanding.
The idea was that if you Christians knew what you were really worshipping, you wouldn't worship it anymore.
Topher has his reality-proof aluminum foil outfit on. Blocks 100% of all intelligent thought. Keeps the Ark afloat in his mind.
It is the preacher's job to teach you about God and religion – not schools. That is the problem in the world today, too much religion is being discussed in schools and in colleges and in seminars. And those places are misleading you because the people doing the teaching is not qualified to even teach on the subject. To be qualified, you must be saved and authorized by God. And those people aren't even saved. If you want to learn about brain surgery, you go a qualified doctor and brain surgeon, and not to your next door neighbor. If you want to learn about auto mechanics, you go to a mechanic and not to the karate teacher down the street or your friend's babysitter. It is the same thing with learning about God. God put preachers on the earth specifically for that purpose – to teach you about God. Therefore, if you want to know the truth about God and about religion, you get it from a true sent preacher. And not by talking about it at school or in some college class. Countless students have gone to school and college believing in God, but then came out disbelieving and believing in some Big Bang theory. And it was all because of the nonsense and garbage they were told in some theology class. Lucifer is in full control of those classes. His goal is to deceive you and to send your soul to hell. And if you allow yourself to be deceived by those things being taught in unqualified places by unqualified people, you'll end up in hell...
Hey, dumbass, your religion isn't the only one out there. We're talking about a comparative religion class. Your arrogance and selective reading comprehension is pathetic.
" The point was to teach about all major religions. No one teacher could believe in all of them – multiple personalities and other neurosis not withstanding."
That's fine. And I think teaching religion in school is a bad idea.
"The idea was that if you Christians knew what you were really worshipping, you wouldn't worship it anymore."
I know exactly whom I worship ... and I still worship Him. Delightfully.
"know exactly whom I worship ... and I still worship Him. Delightfully."
I feel so sorry for you for this statement.
Who gets to positively identify a "true sent preacher"? You?
Oh our angry End Times is back in a froth-mouth rage! And what great thinking he shared! If you want to learn about medicine, go to a doctor. If you want to learn about changing base metals into gold, go to an alchemist. If you want to learn about having your daughter throw herself into the volcano, visit a Hawaiian witch doctor.
It helps to know what is real and what is a fraud, don't you think? Visiting the "expert" on the bogus information is really stupid.
Critical thought is crucial on this earth, and any group that has to resort to trickery like "The Bible says mockers will prove you right." is clearly a scam.
Topher knows exactly who he is worshiping. He worships his own imagination. For his imaginary Jesus is different from Chads imaginary Jesus, and indeed, there are 2 billion versions of Jesus on the planet, most of whom look at all the others and say "you are not a real Christian!"
It's just your imagination. You are worshiping imagination.
Good idea, Gopher, keep kids as myopic as you
"It is the preacher's job to teach you about God and religion – not schools"
Exactly, keep "god" out of the schools
"I know exactly whom I worship ... and I still worship Him. Delightfully."
"And if you allow yourself to be deceived by those things being taught in unqualified places by unqualified people, you'll end up in hell..."
Oh, stuff it, you dull-witted dweeble. Comparative religion classes are taught in colleges and universities and by people far better qualified than you'll ever be. You and Gopher are so myopic that you equate learning ABOUT religious beliefs of all kinds is the same as learning to believe. That's because you're both dumber than a bag of hammers. And that's an insult to hammers.
Topher picks the parts of the bible that sound good, i.e. fit the 'truth' as she sees it.
The actual truth, i.e. what any objective person would see, is very different.
Her defense is that we don't understand. I feel sorry for her, but I do hope that someday she tries to be more open minded and looks at her god from a broader point of view. Or at least tries.
"That's fine. And I think teaching religion in school is a bad idea."
Of course you do, because it would mean your spawn (and why is it you don't have any yet, Gopher?) would be exposed to all kinds of ideas and beliefs that are different from your own. They'd actually learn about the reasons people develop belief systems and how those beliefs systems affect the culture and society. They might come to understand others better and not dismiss their beliefs automatically, as you do. They might come to see just how similar the belief systems of many cultures are to each other and realize that other systems are valid and valuable instead of false and wrong.
Goodness, can't have that, can we?
Name some "sent preachers" so I can know who god is talking through.
"the people doing the teaching is not qualified"
Is our children learning?
You aren't qualified to decide who's qualified, you dink.
To "hawaiiguest" and to any other fools who want to add themselves to the list…
It matters not whether it's a "comparative" religion class or not. Don't you understand plain english. If it even "concerns religion at all" then it should only be taught by a true sent preacher. Period. Based on your crazy way of thinking and looking at things, you'd feel it's okay to sit down and discuss "comparative" brain surgery with your next door neighbor and to discuss the best way to operate on a brain – a neighbor who doesn't even know the first thing about brain surgery – just so long as it's "comparative". That's lunacy and total nonsense, and it's no wonder you're so confused. I can see now why you're an atheist. Your next door neighbor told you God doesn't exist and you believed it…
To "The real Tom"… Try telling all that nonsense to Lucifer when you see him (and if you keep believing what you do, you surely will.) Once you're through telling him, I have no doubt he'll only laugh in your face at your ignorance, because in actuality, all that stuff you believe was his idea…
Well that's a false analogy if I've ever seen one. Brain surgery is based on science, and evidence. Religion is based on faith and each individuals interpretation of what they want.
Did you really think that analogy was sound, or are you just a poe trying to be as stupid as possible?
WHAT and WHO is a "True Sent Preacher"? If you can't or won't answer that basic question no one should listen to a word you say.
End, you are so stupid it sits on you like a second skin. What kind of bumpkin are you that doesn't even know what a comparative religion class is? It's obvious you never got closer to a university than the sidewalk outside the gates, you muttonhead. There is NO requirement that a comparative religion class be taught by some foolish dolt like you just because he/she believes.
No wonder everyone laughs at people like you. You deserve scorn and ridicule in spades. Glad I could be there to watch you devolve into a spitting mess.
But why would I expect anything but complete manure from some bozo who doesn't understand what the Big Bang theory is and thinks college is for sinners.
You're stupid and proud of it.
Stats I was referring
Actually what is really impressive is that Judiasm has as much power as it does and only .2% of the population
Nuclear weapons will do that for you.
Isreal being supported by the richest most influencial nation will do that too.
Did everyone have a nice Zombie-On-A-Stick Day?
Don't be silly.
I love my rabbit eggs.
And THIS year, I will keep them under the heat lamp until they hatch!
Teach your children that the brown things bunnies leave behind are chocolate eggs to be eaten.
"God does not abrogate free will." So I assume that I have the free will to accept or reject God as I deem fit no matter what investigation I choose to conduct, correct? Why do you assume that you can interfere with the choice that HE granted me, why would anyone have to answer to YOU?
"We do. It's called Jesus' wisdom."
Somehow, I've never pictured Jesus sitting on a couch in his double-wide, wearing a wife-beater and chugging PBR. But, OK.
That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and perform; [even] a freewill offering, according as thou hast vowed unto the LORD thy God, which thou hast promised with thy mouth. That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and perform; [even] a freewill offering, according as thou hast vowed unto the LORD thy God, which thou hast promised with thy mouth.
Free Will is like the Prime Directive on Star Trek: it's not supposed to be violated, but all they do is violate it.
The flood? Violated free will. Sodom and Gomorrah? Yep, abrogates free will. Jesus running around performing miracles (that any childrens' party magician could do)? Oooops! God kills Job's family and impoverishes him to prove a point to the devil? Uh, yeah, free will or something.
And where in the Bible will you find free will? Oooooooooooooooooooops! You won't. You can find passages where people have choice, but you can also find passages where they are destined and unable to choose.
Free Will is The Big Lie, the lame excuse to cover up the fact that Christianity is one of the worst failures of The Problem Of Evil.
And HeavenSent had to pervert what was actually written there to falsely insert the phrase "free will" into the Bible. Check it out. No translation says what she posted.
Christians go sleazy so readily!
I like having oral relations with butterscotch covered goats.
Still being the bully phony heavensent? I guess fools don't have anything creative to do.
" I guess fools don't have anything creative to do."
LOL Says the person who merely comes here to say how everyone but you is wrong, will go to hell, and generally be a trolltastic moron.
Pot, meet kettle.
Arvn Huac, free will scriptures are in the Bible except in Biblical times the two words were joined.
Hawaiiguest, A BIG SKIP TO YOU.
I still can't find that one cat...I checked my cameltoe but it was empty for once.
hawaiiguest, you've read some of my posts yet still refuse to grasp what I've written.
hawaiiguest, you keep tipping your hand to be Tommy Tom.
I speak to myself often so that I know I am talking to at least one person who truly understands Jesus' truth.
I think Christians should be made to have some sort of mark on their forehead to identify them, and should not be allowed to engage in any commercial or legal transaction unless they have the government mark on their face somewhere.
Naw. They can always be spotted by the maxim: "Keep silent and be thought a fool; open your mouth and remove all doubt."
The moment they open their mouths . . .
We do. It's called Jesus' wisdom.
My cats are not yet wise to my gastronomical ways.
Fake heavensent is being a bully, as usual.
Let the real HS go. She does a fine job of making herself & her supernatural fantasies look silly all on her own.
That stupid expression is the mark on my face that I'm a Christian. And the bullhorn I screech all my Jesusy wisdom through on every street corner.
Righteo, you need to comprehend you ripped of Jesus' scripture Proverbs 17:28
I rip it off all the time and then wipe myself with it.
Just a question - to stir the pot
If jesus is all powerful omniscient god ... why can he only convert 1/3 of the population?
pretty week god if you ask me
I know. Jesus also promised to bring love and harmony to all. But look around.
My god, Thor, promised to rid the world of ice giants. Have you seen any ice giants lately?
The Jesus god is weak.
Where do you get 1/3?
1.2 Billion christians, 7 billion people on earth ....
Love and an eternal Auschwitz for those who don't become his toadies. Because he loves us.
1.2 is Catholic Pope-toadies. 33.3% for crossuckers is from the CIA World Fact Book. Non-religious/atheist is 12%, and growing far far faster than any other position on religion.
"Where do you get 1/3?
1.2 Billion christians, 7 billion people on earth ...."
You do realize you're only bolstering his point, right?
Alias: A simple use of google would provide you the answers.
"Christians account for almost a third of the world’s population. This was one of the findings in a report published Monday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The data from the 2010 survey of more than 200 countries found that worldwide, there are 2.18 billion Christians, nearly a third of the estimated global population at that time of 6.9 billion."
Maynard, Jesus gave us all freewill. You choose not to claim your birthright that He promised.
Jesus promised free will? Oh do point out the passage where he does that!
Neil Peart promised Free Will.
Jeebus had nothing to do with it.
"Maynard, Jesus gave us all freewill. You choose not to claim your birthright that He promised."
And his message is so compelling, so convincing, so accepting, so "right" that 2/3 of the population do NOT choose it
I stand by my original statement
HS....free will and an omniscient god are inconsistent
Maynard, Jesus made ALL for His pleasure. Anyone or anything that doesn't please Him will be blotted out in the 3rd earth/heaven age. No eternity for them. Before all you nonbelievers write your nonsense about His truth. Remember, it's His ballpark, His game, His rules. His masterpiece ... and what do you do? Complain, complain, complain.
Who's complaining? The only one complaining here is you, HS, whining about your handle being stolen. Waaaaah!
"Maynard, Jesus made ALL for His pleasure ... "
Fantastic GREAT WONDERFUL!!!
The fact that 2/3 of the population chooses something other than jc means that at BEST his message inadequate and wanting
That's it dodo. Jesus wasn't really dead. I want a book, sugar
While Christians might not have been persecuted in the way Church history might have told it....it wasn't always easy for what was considered a Jewish Sect to have been around in the late 1st century.
How thoughtless of us all!
The jews have a patent on being persecuted, and we should all note just how hard it has always been to be Jewish!
Well, outside of Hollywood and New York, anyway.
@ Chips and Dip
Hi The real Tom!
Sorry, dear. Not me.
Lycidas is also known as:
Atheism is unhealthy or whatever that name is
Mark from Middle River
And you come to this knowledge how, exactly?
No. Lycidas does use a couple of other names, but none of those... Uncouth Swain is one - can't recall the others right now, tho', but they are not what you cited.
Sorry Central Scruitinizer, Chips.....not any of those ppl.
It's funny to see you guess though.
As one mentioned I do use Uncouth Swain and also Entil'za on occasion but I never have hid that fact.
"God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers."
"Place yourselves under the authority of human governments to please the Lord. Obey the emperor. He holds the highest position of authority."
Odd. Now why would a deity want that? Hmmmmmmm unless the words were written by someone in government. HMMM
Pre-emptive circular logic: the mark of a talented grifter.
Joseph Smith used that trick too, as did Mohammed.
How's that paranoia Matthew?
It is so untrue that Christians are always beating up atheists and other religions. Whenever there is an article, a video, or anything even mentioning Christianity, there is always an atheist piping in about how there is no god and we all evolved from apes. Just from the few comments I can see, at least half of them are doing this. In school, Christian children are forced to learn all about evolution in science and history, but can't even speak the word "God" without being frowned upon. And did you hear the recent story about a school that tried to watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas" but an atheist mom complained and it became nationwide news? Christians are good hearted people. And if they aren't, they aren't Christian. Yet why are atheists always calling us the "intolerant people"?
If you want to teach about your 'god' in school, then everyone else gets to teach about their 'god' as well.
See the problem?
They teach evolution in science class for the same reasons they teach about gravity and the boiling point of water.
please consider the following:
Nothing exists without its opposite – darkness/light, hate/love, apathy/passion, belief/unbelief. Unbelief is coequal with belief in the conversation. That's why atheists are here.
If you look carefully you will see that most (though not all) of the "atheists piping up" here are in response to Christians who are either:
1. Criticizing the article inaccurately
2. Criticizing atheists.
I was unaware that you were qualified to define what a "true Christian" is. Even though someone would no doubt say that you aren't a true Christian.
Are you one of those people who think that teaching evolution in public schools is "anti-Christian"?
"In school, Christian children are forced to learn all about evolution in science and history, but can't even speak the word "God" without being frowned upon."
Quoted for comic relief.
"Yet why are atheists always calling us the "intolerant people"?"
If the shoe fits ...
You do know the only reason children are Christian ( or follow any religion ) is that they have been indoctrinated and or brainwashed.
We are all born atheists!
Babies are self-centered and helpless. Not smug and arrogant.
"You do know the only reason children are Christian ( or follow any religion ) is that they have been indoctrinated and or brainwashed."
THE ONLY REASON?
I know you don't actually believe that.
Doesn't your god frown on lying? This is a lie. Nothing more, nothing less. No child has EVER been prevented from praying or saying the word "God."
You're lying. Why do people like you lie to try to prove what good little believers you are?
@ We are all born atheists???
But I'm correct, A child will believe what it is told by a respected adult figure no matter how absurd the story.
Christians believe that their god, their religion, their way of doing things is better than everyone else. "God" loves them best because they're saying and doing all the things that “he” wants. And if they fail, they only need tell to confess and sins are forgiven. But what of those who don’t come to church and partake in these rituals and believe in this god?? They become a poor lowlife sap that doesn’t have a chance. Stupid people. But it’s their choice, right? Doesn’t matter, Christians are above them. Christians feel special to be "in the know" about the wonders of their god while everyone else is doomed.
And you claim atheists are the arrogant ones??
Yeah, funny thing about evolution: it falls into that category known as "scientific fact". Like all science, of course, it is falsifiable – but no one has ever proven it wrong, and no one has ever come up with a better theory that explains so much of the natural world using one simple concept, testable using logic and experiment.
You can't mention your god in schools because christians in particular have a very, very nasty habit of not just mentioning it, but of trying to ram it forcibly down the throats of the unwilling, and giving them the power of the state and an innocent audience of children to practice this forced indoctrination on has never worked out well in the past. In fact, when the topic of teaching religion in schools crops up and you suggest to those pushing the idea that maybe it would be OK to teach religion in a comparative context, with many of the world's major religions examined objectively alongside each other, the creationist fundies are the ones yelling the loudest that that must never, ever be allowed – it's only their view that's welcome.
In other words, science has built-in tools that not only allow, but encourage, critical thought and examination of what is presented, while religion is dogmatic, absolutist and rabidly exclusionary. Reason enough to teach science and not religion in public schools.
Science=peer-reviewed evidence; Your imaginary friend god=fiction...The Dover Trial settled this...suck it up.
If you want your children to learn about god, send them to a religious school but do not expect tax payer dollars to pay for your belief to be taught above all others.
"Christians are good hearted people. And if they aren't, they aren't Christian. Yet why are atheists always calling us the "intolerant people"?"
Ummm, you don't even like it when Christians call themselves "Christian" if it does not fit into your personal definition.....get it now?
You know, when you work with rust remover a lot, you really ought to wear a good quality gas mask.
I'm starting to believe that DoctorKnownothing is a complete nut-job.
I can post a video of a cat playing Beethoven.
This bozo isn't a doctor of anything.
if someone "dies" – has some experience – wakes up – and is able to recount it... guess what.
they were not dead.
basically – this account – like all other similar accounts are absolute bunk.
biophysics is hard – that's why everyone doesn't have a doctorate level degree in it.
cha cha cha
The real Tom, Why don't you go watch the other video below this one. It was created by medical doctors. They looked at near death experiences from a scientific perspective. They had sensors monitoring brain activity while the heart was stopped and they interviewed the patients that died. While they were dead, they gave information about what was happening that were beyond their ability to see if they did not leave their body. It an objective study.
it's comical how religion can take a person with little more than a grade school education – and elevate their mind to the level where they literally believe they can argue subjects for which they are so completely ill-equipped – that virtually everything they posit seems as if it's coming from an 8 year old child.
the thing i don't understand – and probably never will – is why on earth does anyone believe that these folks should be suffered pleasantly or politely?
Where are the peer reviewed papers? Where is the full results for everyone to see? This NDE crap has been tested before, and has always failed. I find it interesting that they wait for heart stoppage instead of waiting for the brain to stop functioning.
It was created by medical doctors.
I don't care who created it. There are probably a slew of videos created that hold an opposing view.
You can appeal to authority all you like, Doofus, but it will not make what you post fact.
I am starting to understand why God just throws non-believers in hell. You guys are annoying.
"It was created by medical doctors."
oh i love this one... what a gem....
medical doctors.... like..... congressman paul broun???
Good. Right back at you. It's annoying when some as swipe posts videos and attempts to pretend they're "scientific research." It's more than annoying when said doofus pretends he has an education.
Just hilarious. "I posted a video made by medical doctors. Therefore, what I believe is true."
I agree with one thing you've posted DocKnow-
It is always annoying to be proven wrong.
Actually, I would like to see some of Austin's dreams made into video...
" It was created by medical doctors. They looked at near death experiences from a scientific perspective. They had sensors monitoring brain activity while the heart was stopped and they interviewed the patients that died. While they were dead"
They were not dead you moron.
If they were dead, they would not have had NEAR death experiences.
Dead people don't have NEAR death experiences, because they aren't NEAR dead, they are dead.
Yes, DoctorKnow... what we need is some ADEs – AFTER death experiences... like 4 weeks after, or 4 years, or some such. NEAR is only good in horseshoes and hand grenades.
After looking back at the article, I can see why it is so hard for Christians to read. It explains why the church grew without giving any credibility to god. Christianity gives hope to the poor. It spread because it told a better story than the Roman gods. Hades was waiting for almost all the souls in Roman religion. The non-Roman citizens had little hope in life, but Christianity gave them hope for final justice and a better afterlife.
FYI – the Romans persecuted everyone who wasn't Roman. You Christians can stop expecting sympathy any time now.
Except there was Elysium to look forward to.
You mean that place that was reserved for people related to the gods?
Wow. A lot of optimism was needed to think you would get in there.
That was why i said "Almost all".
I agree. I believe that the success of the christian church can be credited to it's appeal to the masses. Most religions that came before were all about the elite class. Christianity is more egalitarian. Anyone gets a crown if they just obey the rules. It's a great scam. I can see why the poorest people (who are also the largest portion of the population) would fall for it.
How come no NDEs are ever forthcoming from people who went to hell, DoctorKnownothing?
All religions have people with NDEs. And guess what? They all see stuff consistant with their beliefs!
Alias, That video is a scientific study made by medical doctors. There are very little mentions of God in the video. It is mostly science.
And what is it you think it proves?
There is nothing more to NDE's other than the brain going through a shutdown process. NDE's have been tested extensively for any kind of valid supernatural occurrence, and has failed every single time.
Delusional wishful thinking.
hawaiiguest, You are wrong. Watch the video. That is not what the medical doctors are saying in that video. There are also some that suggest your point, but there are some interesting facts. One of the patients, described things she could not possibly have seen. It is not smart to denounce and mock something without good cause.
Unless YOU'RE the one doing it, huh?
All this video proves is that anyone who wants a medical degree can get one if they work hard.
No reason to think people with a PHD don't have foregone conclusions they want to 'prove' in a video.
Then like I asked above. Where are the peer-reviewed papers? Where's the complete set of data and the full methodology. Where is all the information that could be used to come to a conclusion about this particular study? You have provided none of that, and expect people to take a youtube video seriously, which is completely moronic.
Christians sing the blues so simpleton mothers will exchange their sons rear ends for a false promise of an afterlife.
Poor persecuted CVhristians, the largest mass murderer's in human history.
Prayer changes things ,
Didn't do much for the bimbo that got the Roman sword, but I bet it turned the Roman dude on!
HAcking a Christian chick to death is SOOOO much hotter when they are praying!
William, William, William,
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
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!
"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!.
I would gladly be insructed under Dr. Moss.
It amazes me how many athiest are on an article about Christian Faith. Have you all finally comes to your senses. Looks to me like your intersted in coming from the Dark side.
It's "you're", you ignorant git. Somebody has to point out how stupid fundies like you are.
Your pinkie finger must have suffered the same fate as DoctorKnowNothing's. Unless you're just his sock puppet.
If you're going to address atheists, you should learn to spell the word first.
The Dark Side has cookies.
CNN is not a religious organization. It's not like we're going to your church to protest like you people do to our funerals. You may kindly pipe it down.
"Looks to me like your intersted in coming from the Dark side."
As a staunch member of the Jedi Church, I'm totally insulated against the Dark side.
intersted? Since when is that a word?
Freedom of speech, striker. Look into it. And figure out how to use spell check while you're at it. It is your friend. Embrace it.
Christians learned to be the persecutors by the 3rd century. After the defeat of Julian in 363 AD, they waged their own little jihad against pagans for the next few centuries, with time to take on the Arians, too. Then, they focused on murdering each other as heretics for a millenium plus. They certainly cannot now be considered "persecuted" in the US, except by their own hyperbole.
And number 12 on the list of the most irritatingly stupid arguments used by religionists here:
12. Failure to recognize the reverse of the coin:
eg: “This is the Belief Blog why are you here?” – Nothing exists without its opposite – darkness/light, hate/love, apathy/passion, belief/unbelief. Unbelief is coequal with belief in the conversation.
This doofus has been here before under many different handles.
If "coming to my senses" means committing to belief in talking snakes, pregnant virgins and a vengeful, violent god, leave me on the dark side.
if your religious beliefs cause you to love a lie – and hate the truth – make no mistake.... you are the dark side.
monotheism – xianity in particular – is the true force of darkness in this world...
and science – our only illumination.
500 years of science never once bending to religion is all the evidence anyone should ever need to prove the absolute lack of truth and divinity in monotheism.
Proven science and Jesus' truth have always been in perfect harmony.
And yet you are a self-professed "Young Earth Creationist" nutjob without an ounce of understanding in science.
tallulah13 is concerned about freedom of speech but, never says anything to the fool who steals Christians handles to spew their babble.
hawaiiguest, as I wrote previously when asked, I'm not affiliated with any church and I'm not a young earth creationist. Read very, very slowly hawaiiguest, I read and study the Bible. Amen. (wink, wink).
P.S. hawaiiguest, I retired from a science field.
Ok I can't tell which HeavenSent is fake or not right now. Either way, HeavenSent has stated in the past that she thinks the earth is 6-10,000 years old and that evolution is a lie of the devil meant to steer people away from Jeebus.
mk, that talking snake (Lucifer aka Satan) sure has your ear.
"P.S. hawaiiguest, I retired from a science field"
Technically speaking, a sanitation engineer is not actually a science field.
HS, my screen name has been "borrowed" many times here by people who are trying to insult me. I simply ignore them. Crying never makes a bully stop, but paying them no attention takes away their power.
When HS says she "retired" she means "retired" in the sense that she got canned.
"P.S. hawaiiguest, I retired from a science field"
"Technically speaking, a sanitation engineer is not actually a science field."
Heh, and "retired" is a giant misnomer (or euphemism) too. Very little of what HS says or thinks (on *any* subject) can be given any credence.
One would have to be a sanitation engineer to read your garbage.
GOper how do you know that did you ask them?
Get with the program, Striker and learn to use the reply button.
how did who know what?
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.