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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. Unbeliever

    All the other religions are prospering, its people & country, Chinese, Indian , ect.. but ours we continually suffer under the Christian Religion!

    March 31, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • MD

      Actually our country continues to falter as athiest/agnostic views continue to grow. Our country is much weaker now than 50 yrs ago when Christian beliefs were stronger

      March 31, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • HarryGP

      I would prefer to believe God than false gods, or nothing. Salvation from Jesus Christ's sacrifice and raising from the dead for our sins, that's a definate plus in by book... the Bible.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • Tim Brown

      Your god is part of an incoherent fairy tale – grow up.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • Dumbster Baby

      The incoherent fairy tale is in your mind, God's word is fine.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:51 am |
  2. The Anti Christ

    I ask my atheist and agnostic foot soldiers to keep up your attacks on the believers.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • Realist

      wish you would evolve

      March 31, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • Mike

      Enjoy this game of life. The next game won't be so fun for you. Happy Easter.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • Tim Brown

      Happy fake resurrection, fairy tale believer.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • Beezle Buddy

      Is trolling considered a Christian virtue? The sad thing is that most Christians are probably so culturally oblivious to think this is really an atheist talking and not a conservative troll.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:48 am |
  3. Colin

    Christianity is the belief that an all-knowing, immortal super-being created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies (each with billions of stars and planets) 13,400,000,000 years ago. He then sat back, waited 10 billion years, created the Earth, sat back and waited another 3.4 billion years for life to slowly evolve into human beings and, at some point, gave them a "soul" and immortality, then sent it's "son" to Earth to die on a cross so that human beings would be forgiven for Adam's original sin that we now all know never happened.

    And to think, we atheists think you Christians are a little simple! I'm sorry, but if you believe stupid things, don't complain when people call you stupid.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • rabidatheist

      Don't forget talking snakes, Hebrew speaking donkey, men living in fish for three days, and my personal favorite.....ZOMBIES.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • Dumbster Baby

      Since when has God been limited in what he can do? After forming a universe, I'd say he's quite fit to do anything he wants. I can ramble off a few relatively intelligent animals: talking parrots and whales, along with video game playing chimps and apes, sign language talking apes, and animal kingdom is filled with paired species that can notice a mate, find food, build shelter, and other things. Not all whales can talk, not all chimps can play video games... but some did. Why is God limited in what he does with any other animals at any other time?

      March 31, 2013 at 9:01 am |
  4. Ray

    Christians are being persecuted......its seen everyday....especialy from the gay community anytime a real beliver in christ speaks everybody seems to quiet and then jump on him how its not correct and its hatered what god is showing us....

    March 31, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • End Religion

      You're got to be kidding me. Open your eyes. Your book is a fraud, written by men as a form of control. Your stupid book says, "kill gays." What the fück do you think gays are gonna do, stand by and let it happen? Do you say gays running around with a book that tells THEM how to live, inside which says, "kill Christians"?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Actually, there's a whole lot more persecution flowing from the christian community, especially in the direction of gays, than flows the other way these days. Go check out the comment section in any of the gay marriage articles that ran last week for a peek at how vile and hate-filled christians are.

      Maybe we could talk about Dan Cathy's attempts to criminalize gay behavior in Africa by imposing the death penalty for it?

      Anyway, thanks for proving much of the article correct by reaching for the whole "persecution" trope when even mildly questioned.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • rick

      what do you call it when the pious are attempting to deny people their civil rights?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • Agreed

      My, just look at the articles on CNN always trying to "turn upsidedown" Christian beliefs, and look at all the people demonizing and bullying Christians. You are right. I just hope they won't be burning us at the stake anytime soon, but their demonizing rhetoric would suggest otherwise.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • JJ

      So, it's persecution when a minority raises their bloodied heads and dare request the same liberties you jack-booted Christians enjoy and deny others? You're pathetic.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • Tim Brown

      Ray you are a 2 year old.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • Agreed

      Jay, in case you haven't noticed, Christians are no longer in the majority. If we were, this country would not be doing some of the things that are currently being done.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:41 am |
  5. Joe Giardina

    Protesters burn Christian homes in Pakistan
    AFP News Sat, Mar 9, 2013

    Thousands of angry protesters on Saturday set ablaze more than 100 houses of Pakistani Christians over a blasphemy row in the eastern city of Lahore, officials said.

    Over 3,000 Muslim protesters turned violent over derogatory remarks against Prophet Mohammed allegedly made by Sawan Masih, a 28-year-old Christian, three days earlier, police official Multan Khan said.

    Protesters began to assemble in the area on Saturday morning and later set on fire houses and other items including furniture, crockery, auto rickshaws, bicycles and motorbikes belonging to local Christians.

    "Thick clouds of smoke engulfed the small houses, mostly consisting of one or two rooms, and many of them looked like charred shells," said an AFP reporter at the scene.

    Police said protesters burnt 25 houses but Dr Ahmad Raza, in-charge of local rescue operations, and the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) put the number at more than 100.

    "At least 160 houses, 18 shops and two small churches were burnt by protesters," Raza, who was busy in rescue operations in the area, told AFP.

    Expressing grief and anger at the attack, HRCP chairwoman Zohra Yusuf put the number of houses burnt during the protest at over 100.

    Police baton-charged the protesters to disperse them from the neighbourhood. There was no loss of life reported during the violence but 20 policemen were slightly injured during clashes, officials said.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • Realist

      christians and muslims need to grow up

      March 31, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Tim Brown

      Try being an atheist in Pakistan.

      How many Iraqis did the American Christians kill? At least 100,000.

      I do believe our Christian ancestors killed millions of Native Americans and stole 2 continents.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  6. Rick

    When will Christians boycott this RAG?
    This will be the last time I visit this propaganda machine,
    peace out

    March 31, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • Tim Brown

      You're a perfect example of what the article talks about. You always think you are being persecuted when there is nothing there.

      That's the gel that holds cults together.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Joe Giardina

      CNN Hits A 20-Year Primetime Ratings Low
      Posted: 05/22/2012

      CNN's ratings problems just keep getting worse.
      The network had its lowest-rated month in over a decade in April. That prompted stern warnings from the top that CNN has to improve its numbers.

      Yet Tuesday brought the dispiriting news that CNN had its lowest-rated week in primetime in a staggering 20 years last week. Just 395,000 people tuned in to watch Anderson Cooper and Piers Morgan. The total day numbers were not much better: CNN had its third-worst week since 1997.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Tim Brown

      Right on point Joe.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • End Religion

      Rick, you'll be back. Hopefully next time you're back you'll have wised up and become an atheist.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • End Atheism

      Why would anyone want to be a hateful atheist like you?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • Rocket

      Oh F-K you! Rick! Guess who!

      March 31, 2013 at 9:38 am |
  7. maria

    jesus was never a god, he was just a man like any other, worshipping jesus is like worshipping george micheal or christiano ronaldo, like any other man
    christans are stupid to believe jesus is a god.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:31 am |
  8. Will Smith

    Last visit to CNN.
    This is propoganda bs.
    You are a small and sad bunch.
    Pathetic.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • midwest rail

      I'm betting you didn't read the article. Instead, you saw the headline, and will now use it as evidence of "persecution" of Christians in America.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • End Religion

      Will, you and Rick will be back. Hopefully when you do make it back you will have grown up and become an atheist.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  9. Farooq The Great

    Typical atheists. You post about Christianity but you know absolutely nothing about it. Your robotic posts espouse the belief that the Bible is some sort of installation manual. As if every word in it stands on its own merits. Context and meaning seem to be foreign concepts to you. You do realize that Christians laugh at you just as hard as you laugh at them right? LMAO

    March 31, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • Tim Brown

      What was the context that justified the Israelites smashing babies' heads on the rocks?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Actually, the notion that the bible is precisely, literally true and requires NO interpretation, stating things plainly as they are, is a singularly christian notion, particularly loudly espoused by the evangelical movement in the US.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • JJ

      You bafoon, a lot of atheists here know more about Christianity than you do and were once Christians. They finally could no longer be gullible and not ask basic questions which melted their blinders away.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • Beezle Buddy

      So where in the bible or christian culture is LMAOing considered wholesome?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • End Religion

      So when your god supports and condones slavery, what context makes that OK? How about when he says, "kill gays"? What context makes that OK? And selling one's daughter into slavery? Is there a good context for that?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • End Atheism

      Other End, this just disprvoes that JJ and other atheists know more about the Bible. You don't even know basic theology.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • End Religion

      Atheists: Teaching Christians Their Own Bible, Since 325AD.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
  10. Mr Klatuu

    I suppose the catacombs at Palermo no longer exist? While the degree of persecution can be argued, there is no question it happened. For this author to play it down is as absurd as Iran claiming the holocaust didn't happen either. Sorry, but the National Socialist Party of Germany during WWII did persecute Jews and put millions to death. And the Romans likewise went after Christians, forcing them to go underground for their ceremony and burials. You can't change FACT.

    But what really offends me is that CNN would run this story on Easter. I am a non-religious person, but I respect my fellow man and their beliefs. That's more than I can say for CNN.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:30 am |
  11. guest

    Just the very existence of this blog site is evidence of the need of the Bible.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Right God forbid that anyone take the time to actually examine what the bible and its adherents say, after all.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • Mirosal

      So, if everybody believes as you do, without question, life would be so much better? Get real, because you're almost out of visual line-of-sight from reality.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • Mirosal

      Guest ... do you REALLY wqant us to cover the atrocities made by theocracies in the past? There are quite a lot of them, and the atrocities were commited in the name of their "god". Yeah, I'd sure love to live under THAT kind of rule, wouldn't you?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:35 am |
  12. The Anti Christ

    The hate is strong in the non-believers...I can feel it.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Tim Brown

      You can feel it? No wonder you'll believe anything.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • rabidatheist

      I think you mean to say "The disbelief is strong in these non-believers". It does come as a result of actually reading the religious books, and the manufactured history it claims.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:34 am |
  13. ricke1949

    Articles like this show how profound academia has fallen. The Chinese had more patents than us last year.
    The degrading of learning is so profound, many profs should be fired for malteaching and sued by parents who paid the fare.
    Sad very sad.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • SixDegrees

      The degrading of learning in the US is almost entirely due to vigorous efforts by christians to ram their belief systems into the school system and replace topics like science with non-thinking dogma.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • Sane Person

      Yup. Thats what you get when you teach 6000 year old earth, magical boats built by an old man that managed to herd a pair of every single animal on earth on to it, (Even the ones not yet discovered), man coexisting with dinosaurs, women's va.ginas having the power to "shut all that down", and things like biology and genetics being straight from the pit of hell.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • MD

      Actually, I find it ironic that as the athiest numbers rise, our country continues to become weaker

      March 31, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • Dumbster Baby

      Why don't you detail the source of the big bang, life, and species. That might help educate us believers in God. Assuming you know these things, you having been there?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Beezle Buddy

      MD- riight... And all those increasingly Catholic countries are doing just greeeeat. Mexico? Pacific Islands? Africa? I think the former prosperity of this nation had a lot more to do with being more WHITE than being more Christian. And I also don't think it was as good as you remember. The 50s were not a Normal Rockwell painting.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • easter bunny

      Amen Six

      March 31, 2013 at 9:01 am |
  14. eclemen

    Much of this article, and many of the responses to it is evidence of why many Christians feel as though their religionunder assault. First, the wording of the article would imply that there were less than ten Christian martyrs, when the "ten" actually refers to an act of martyrdom which might have many victims. As fir the poster demanding "credible evidence" of God's existence, there is avreason that the word "faith" is used to describe religious beliefs. There are certainly many "miracles" that occur in our world, positive events that cannot otherwise be explained rationally.

    The recent trends of trying to turn the "separation of church and state" into a defacto ban on any public reference to religion is the most recent element of society which offends many in the Christian – and other – faiths. It's one thing for a Bible, or Ko'ran or Torrah to be allowed in a school. It's quite another to have words taught to you asca mandatory aspect if education. Being in the presence if someone who chooses to pray is very different from being forced to pray yourself.

    Finally, consider – honestly – what the response would be if articles about The Muslim faith as they were about the Mormons recently. While there are examples of hypocrisy in all religions, those examples are not typical of the majority in those religions.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Beezle Buddy

      While there are people pushing especially hard on the Christian contingent, most of the debate comes down to the fact that the people trying to get the Bible INTO schools are the SAME people trying to keep MUSLIMS out of EVERYTHING. Christians are the ones waging a religious battle. Atheists are trying to get them all to act the same and keep it in the church.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:46 am |
  15. Tim Connelly

    Well, isn't this just the perfect CNN story? Take a swing at Christian belief on Easter, and take another swing at a couple of Republicans. Wow.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Uh – what "swing" is that? There's nothing attacking faith in this article in even the slightest sense.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • Realist

      you dont like others with opinions? close minded?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • Tim Brown

      By reporting on a book written by some guy at Notre Dame? Here we go with The Christian Persecution Complex again.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • O'Really

      This is the 21st century grow up and stop believing in mythology and fairy tales and you might get some respect.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • Sane Person

      Well, you know Notre Dame, that bastion of liberal atheism.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • SK

      Just because someone is at Notre Dame doesn't make one a Christian, stupid.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • SK

      When was the last time CNN wrote an article critical of Islam? For the idiots at CNN (and some other libs here) Christianity is a fair game. Spineless cowards!

      March 31, 2013 at 8:38 am |
  16. Mirosal

    @ "Atheist intolerance?" ... you REALLY need to study some history. For the record, Hitler and Mussolini were in fact Christian ... they both conferred and had treaties with Pope Pius XII. Mussolini was Italian, golly gee guess what faith he was brought up in. And as for Hitler, he was also raised Catholic. Read a biography or 2 instead of your 2000 year old big book of moldy mythology. Read Mein Kampf. In it Hitler says he is a "soldier of the lord".

    March 31, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • Farooq The Great

      LOL! There was nothing Christian about Hitler. He replaced pictures of Christ with his pictures of himself! That's typical of an atheist though.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Colin

      "I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so."
      - Adolf Hitler, to General Gerhard Engel, 1941

      "We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out." Adolf Hitler, Speech in Berlin, October 24, 1933

      "Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith ...we need believing people." Adolf Hitler, April 26, 1933

      And on Feburary 1, 1933 Hitler delivered a speech in which he promised to restore "family...honor and loyalty, Volk and Vaterland, culture and economy" and recover "the eternal foundation of our morality and our faith." Hitler further declares a "merciless war against spiritual, political, and cultural nihilism."

      "My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice... And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.
      Adolf Hitler April, 12th 1922

      March 31, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Realist

      hitler claimed he was catholic to his end. catholics hated jews during that time

      March 31, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Farooq The Great

      LOL! So he was a Christian because he called himself one? That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. I believe in Christ. But I consider myself an atheist. LMAO

      March 31, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • Agnostic

      Hitler was a rationalist and a materialist, which the slightest cursory search online would tell you. Most of the most brutal dictators of the past few centuries were atheists who showed great disdain for religion (not just Christianity).

      March 31, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • O'Really

      It doesn't matter whether they were Christian or not. World religions are all made up of myths and fairy tales. There is good and bad in any religion or lack thereof. The point here is that adults need to accept reality and stop believing in these ridiculous although sometimes entertaining faiths/religions. Fairy tales are for children, please folks grow up already.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • rabidatheist

      Oh boy, it never fails. Here comes the ignorant "Hitler wasn't a Christian nonsense". Read Mein Kampf, in it he makes it very clear that he is doing the lord's work in defending himself from the Jews. He took the teaching that the Jews killed Christ, and his blood will be upon the for all generations right from the Bible. There are 33,000 different flavors of Christianity so please tell me how you have the right version, and his was wrong?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:45 am |
  17. Realist

    far more human suffered far worst than christians claim their jesus did.. And btw,, jesus was either a criminal, mentally ill or both

    March 31, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • SK

      I should say this is one of the most stupid and ignorant comment of the day! Where do you cook up garbage like this?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:33 am |
  18. Agnostic

    I'm not even Christian, but obviosly this is an anti-Christian piece. Modern Christians do not have a "martyr" complex. They undoubtedly face widespread ridicule from the media (especially Hollywood) and an increasingly vocal minority who essentially call them stupid-heads (like Jacob) and mischaracterize their beliefs,, but this fact doesn't make them martyrs. It annoys many, though.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • SixDegrees

      It seems to offer a good deal of support for christianity – if you take the time to actually read it.

      Knee jerk much?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • Agnostic

      There's a few nice things said about early Christians helping their neighbors and giving the poor hope that the afterlife will bring them a better existence, which is positive in a sort of back-handed way.....I suppose. What specific paragraph did you find positive?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini, D.D. (h.c.) ©™

      @ Agnostic:
      Christians should be ridiculed. They are dangerous, aggressively attempting to inhibit logical mentation, and denying civil rights to human beings.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:30 am |
  19. Kevin

    The resurrection is proof of God and who he is.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • SixDegrees

      So, nothing, in other words.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • Mirosal

      The story of a resuurection is not proof of anything, as the story you've been told since birth was NOT recorded by anyone who was there, rather it was FINALLY written down 2 generations after the so-called "fact". That's called hearsay, adn it's not admissible as evidence of ANY kind.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • maria

      of course there is god... but its not jesus..jesus was a man and died like a man. he was a good man definiately

      March 31, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Sane Person

      Considering that story wasnt even created until a few hundred years after the supposed "ressurection", and the fact that the story exists only in your fable book (also compiled, and edited hundreds of years later), I dont think claiming it to be true is the same as, you know, being true.

      He could always stop by and give his personal account, if he isnt too busy. (Being omnipotent and ubiquitous, I doubt it would straing his schedule)

      March 31, 2013 at 8:36 am |
  20. JR G

    I am a believer, period. This article is so full of bull expulsion that I was almost taken back,,,,,,,,,,until I realized I was reading it on the Communist News Network.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Apparently, actually reading it was too much trouble. Maybe you could find someone who actually got through elementary school to help you sound out the big words?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:22 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.