home
RSS
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. R.M. Goodswell

    Christians would have you believe that they were singled out by the Romans....other cultures and peoples faired poorly when encountering the empire....heh...even being roman didn't buy you a pass sometimes in ancient rome....if they felt they needed fresh bodies for the arena, you became fodder.

    Historically, Christians did the lion's share of the persecuting, not the other way around.

    But then fabricating miracles, artifacts, saints, stories of hardship and trials are as easy as breathing for the religious.

    April 7, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • faith

      R.M. Goodswell
      Christians would have you believe that they were singled out by the Romans....other cultures and peoples faired poorly when encountering the empire....heh...even being roman didn't buy you a pass sometimes in ancient rome....if they felt they needed fresh bodies for the arena, you became fodder.

      Historically, Christians did the lion's share of the persecuting, not the other way around.

      But then fabricating miracles, artifacts, saints, stories of hardship and trials are as easy as breathing for the religious.

      lol

      where do they find this steady stream of (1) idiots?

      June 22, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
  2. abmoloc

    Dear Prof. Moss
    By writing this book you are proving that persecution of Christians still continues today, in 2013. It is NOT just a thing of the past. It is so sad!!

    April 7, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Persecution BY the christians continues as well.

      April 7, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • The real Tom

      Oh, for Pete's sake, that isn't what the book claims. Did you even read the article?

      April 7, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
  3. Poppa

    Everyone that wishes to understand religion needs to take their own journey. You can not understand the truth by just reading the bible. You must also read the works of the many relating to changes made by individuals inserting or deleting the parts that did not reflect their personal beliefs. A good example of this is the changes made to silence women in a patriarchal society, especially after the religion was co-opted by the Romans. There were many high ranking women in Christianity especially when it was still known as the way which was trying to emulate the way Jesus lived his life. Also you need to look into translations of words when changed to different languages, many passages lost their true meaning in this way. Sections of the KJV were known to be wrong before mas printing began but were never corrected for reasons we can only wonder about. I am a believer who does not claim affiliation to any sect because they all add their own prejudiced dogma most of which is that you have to believe that everything in the bible is beyond refute. With the Romans and Catholics having control and deciding what is true and what is heresy for several hundred years we will not know what is true allwe can really do is try to live the way as best as we can. Caring for one another and helping others no matter what they may believe and this is what attracted so many in the first place. This also goes for the Los testament as many of the words used ha moe than one interpretation and the one that was selected is not always the one that makes the most sense.

    April 7, 2013 at 2:15 am |
    • faith

      when dorothy pretends to be a disgruntled christian, she makes sure she sounds even dumber than she normally does. plural subjects with singular verbs, vice versa.

      April 7, 2013 at 3:52 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      A$$uming the bible is more than a collection of stories written by men is your first mistake. Thinking that the gods and magic it tells about is somehow real, is the second mistake.

      April 7, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • whatever

      Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit all exist. The apostles confirmed it. The prophets confirmed it. Priest, scribes and kings confirmed it. It's history and the record of it can be read in the bible. Enjoy God's gifts in creating us and having his spirit within us. Praise God!

      April 7, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      It says so in my bible is not any form of evidence.

      Why do you not believe in Zeus, Odin, Ra, Quetzelcoatl?

      Men have created thousands of gods....and not one of them actually exists.

      April 7, 2013 at 10:53 am |
  4. faith

    dottie, we love you. honest. u r so clever. can i buy some of ur comic books, please?

    April 7, 2013 at 12:10 am |
    • faith

      reporting

      April 7, 2013 at 12:28 am |
    • Science

      Hey faith the lasstest news for you !

      U.S. judge widens 'morning-after' pill access for young girls.................... did prayer change that ruling ?

      http://www.newsdaily.com/stories/bre9340es-us-usa-contraception-ruling/

      April 7, 2013 at 7:40 am |
  5. james

    if anyone is sincerely interested in the truth go to jw.org to learn what the Bible really teaches, freely, just as Jesus taught. j

    April 7, 2013 at 12:06 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Will I find independent, objective, factual and verifiable evidence for your god and the jesus myth, or just more unfounded delusional claims.

      April 7, 2013 at 12:15 am |
    • val

      How many groups claim to be the only ones able to show people what the Bible really teaches?

      April 7, 2013 at 12:16 am |
    • james

      please if you are sincere and want to learn what the bible teaches freely and completely check it out. I did after examining many religions, too many to list but after being so discouraged about the subject I decided to give them a chance and could not find anything that could not be backed up by the Bible history and archeology as well as the false religions that have misled so many. that is why I just ask others to look into this freely and that means no cost just a little time, j

      April 7, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  6. faith

    "sam stone
    how is this an attack on christianity?
    do you like to feel persecuted?"

    dottie, just take your picture down you ugly hog

    April 7, 2013 at 12:03 am |
  7. faith

    CNN- YOU WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR ALLOWING THESE ANIMALS TO DISRESPECT THIS PITIFUL FORUM AND THE WARREN FAMILY TRAGEDY. YOU WERE WARNED MANY TIMES

    April 6, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
    • Dennis

      faith, holding the caps lock key down and threatening CNN really makes you the "animal".

      Freedom of speech. Learn about it. Appreciate it.

      April 7, 2013 at 12:03 am |
    • faith

      "Dennis
      faith, holding the caps lock key down and threatening CNN really makes you the "animal".
      Freedom of speech. Learn about it. Appreciate it.."

      dottie, please remove the picture with your face showing. people will start believing the stories about how torturous hell is

      April 7, 2013 at 12:06 am |
    • The real Tom

      Hahahahahahahaha! "faith", you're such a doofus. What are you going to do about it? Stomp your feet?

      April 7, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
  8. faith

    Dottie,

    u r reported

    April 6, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • Wesley Trowel

      faith is stupid.That applies to both the person using the name, and the religious type.

      April 6, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
  9. Adam Read

    Adam Read
    I am what you might call "recovering from being an evangelical." I get these people, and I understand their instincts.

    For over two years now, however, I have been trying to bring to light some very serious problems with the theology of the Bible that the church doesn't seem to be aware of....or able to admit. I have run into this cognitive wall over and over again, and it comes out in the linguistic patterns of the written conversations I have had with pastors and elders I have known for nearly a decade.

    The very serious problem with how the books of the Bible were written is that they don't ever even attempt to invite or introduce the possibility that the things they are writing might in fact be wrong. Even the character of God himself prohibits anyone questioning or testing him. So, what happens as people read these stories over and over, the conversation simply never comes up...and if someone challenges their faith...and they go to the Bible to look for answers, they are simply never going to find a trace of what I'm trying to say here in the sacred books. It's as if the words themselves were organized in a pattern that projected a mindset of isolation into the readers.

    This is the very construct that causes so many problems for Christians, Jews, Muslims, and probably many other religions. If you cannot admit that you might in fact be wrong, then your life will be spent defending something vehemently that no one can truly substantiate.

    Those that follows the Bible can easily spend their entire lives walking through the halls of the Bible, and pasting the phrases and stories that were used in it into parts of modern day sentences. Yet, if you are never permitted to exit the maze to begin with, you will never know that you are in one at all.

    As an aside and as a crossover to psychology, I can tell you for sure that many of the assumptions of Judaism and Christianity are firmly embedded into the study of modern psychology. After all, much of modern psych has been developed in western civilization, and western civilization is very heavily rooted in the Bible.

    If you are not permitted to challenge the Bible, then you will have a very hard time challenging modern psych as well, for they both take on the very unquestionable personality of the same alleged authority. The DSM-IV may as well just be called "God's Book of Unclean Lepers," and it assumes, just like the Bible, that the clinicians are the elite and perfect "normal" ones and that everyone else that looks different than them has the disorder.

    This just isn't the case.

    April 6, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • Joni

      No one says you can't ask questions of the Bible. In fact, you probably should. Go ahead. Check it against others' ancient writings, scientific facts, etc. The issue I've found that many people have who have problems with the Bible being what is known as 'the infallible Word of God' is that they are mostly missing the point of the whole thing. Did God make the world in 7 days or 100,000,000 years? Those facts are debatable. But could there possibly be something more to the story of Genesis than historical fact-finding? What if the Spirit of God is trying to tell us something about OURSELVES? God wants to talk to us personally, but are we willing and open to listen to what He has to say? To me, missing the deeper meaning of all these stories while we bicker about facts is the real mistake made.

      So go ahead. Search. Do comparisons. That's what you're supposed to do. You may come to different conclusions than other people. But for God's sake, when it comes to the Bible, don't miss the forrest for the trees.

      April 6, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Joni,

      Once you've so abandoned claims to meaningful validity in the bible, you might as well pick any book for self-inquiry. What might the Harry Potter stories be trying to tell us? There's just nothing to make the bible special enough to be worthy of extra time and consideration. If you're interested in self-inquiry there are a lot of psychological texts written in recent years when the science was far, far in advance of anything understood about humans back in biblical times.

      April 7, 2013 at 12:04 am |
    • Believe God, read the bible

      "So, what happens as people read these stories over and over, the conversation simply never comes up...and if someone challenges their faith...and they go to the Bible to look for answers...."

      Then you pull out the big guns:

      1 Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

      April 7, 2013 at 12:04 am |
    • Rick

      Joni
      "Did God make the world in 7 days or 100,000,000 years? Those facts are debatable."
      If biblical "facts" are debatable then how about "Did Jesus ever condemn gay relationships, or were these condemnations just a part of the prevailing culture?" or "Did Jesus ever really claim to be the actual Son of God, or did he mean it like Jews do even now, to mean that he was a member of God's children, the Jews?"

      I've done my searches and comparisons. The more I do the stronger my atheism gets.

      April 7, 2013 at 12:28 am |
    • Your comment is awaiting moderation.lol?? Your comment is awaiting moderation.

      saraswtti sayz,
      "...............far, far in advance of anything understood about humans back in biblical times."

      All times are biblical times. Ever heard of His story??

      "Isa 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times [the things] that are not [yet] done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:"

      The end will be similar, but this time it won't be a flood. He promised.

      April 7, 2013 at 2:42 am |
  10. gessoart

    Yes, this is one of CNN's weaker articles. It tries to create an interesting premise, but then doesn't really deliver. Historians of the time, such as Josephus, make it clear that persecution of Christians was ubiquitous in the Roman Empire. Over the past 100 years hundreds of thousands of Christians have been put to death for nothing more than their faith during the Stalin purges, Chinese communist revolution, and hot spots all over the globe. The warning of Christ regarding persecution is not an empty threat, as the author suggest. This was really a worthless article.

    April 6, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
    • Saraswati

      The point of the article was not that there was no persecution of Christians, but that it was exaggerated. A problem with both Christians and Muslims is that these groups tend to think that their persecutions are somehow special. They are no different than the persecutions of minorities we see everywhere, and less common, per capita, among Christians right now than other groups simply because they are the majority in so many places. Christians are a large group, so there certainly are persecutions, but not out of proportion to those of other groups.

      April 6, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Hasn't Josephus been thoroughly discredited as a reliable historian?

      April 6, 2013 at 11:55 pm |
  11. KG

    The story is full of contradictions. At one point, the author states that being martyred was so unlikely that it compares to winning the lottery, and yet later in the article I read "The Roman Emperor Septimius Severus had decreed that any new conversion to Christianity would result in death."
    I've been going to CNN for my news for years, but I think it's time to switch if they are going to continue publishing such poor articles.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • cc3

      There is a difference between putting out a decree and carrying that order out. History is highly complex. Please treat it with that respect. –An historian

      April 6, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • Rick

      Christian lore would have you believe that martyrdom was running full strength from the beginning all the way Constantine, but it seems that the persecutions were only sporadic. Severus was Emperor around 200 AD. It's the same difference between saying that black people were slaves before the Civil War, but aren't anymore.

      April 7, 2013 at 12:36 am |
  12. Peter

    This article made me laugh at how wrong it is. Lets not pretend Christians only lived in Rome and never lived or traveled outside of Rome.

    April 6, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • Rick

      Pretty much everywhere Christians travelled or lived in any number for a good long time was within the Roman Empire, right?

      April 7, 2013 at 12:38 am |
  13. Your comment is awaiting moderation.lol?? Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    A&A's hang here to relieve stress from their mess.

    April 6, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
  14. mzh

    Few verses from Quran about Monotheism VS Polytheism:

    39:27 – And We have certainly presented for the people in this Qur'an from every [kind of] example – that they might remember.
    39:28 – An Arabic Quran, without any crookedness (therein) in order that they may avoid all evil which Allah has ordered them to avoid, fear Him and keep their duty to Him.
    39:29 – Allah puts forth a similitude: a (slave) man belonging to many partners (like those who worship others along with Allah) disputing with one another, and a (slave) man belonging entirely to one master, (like those who worship Allah Alone). Are those two equal in comparison? All the praises and thanks be to Allah! But most of them know not.
    39:30 – Indeed, you are to die, and indeed, they are to die.
    39:31 – Then indeed you, on the Day of Resurrection, before your Lord, will dispute.
    39:32 – Then, who does more wrong than one who utters a lie against Allah, and denies the truth [this Quran, the Prophet (Muhammad SAW, and Jesus the Son of Marry), the Islamic Monotheism, the Resurrection and the reward or punishment according to good or evil deeds] when it comes to him! Is there not in Hell an abode for the disbelievers?

    Indeed these are the signs for those who uses their intellectuals to accept the oneness of The Almighty...

    April 6, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • Wesley Trowel

      "signs for those who uses their intellectuals to accept"

      Yo, dude, no wonder your religious myth only dominates in third world countries with high birthrates and poor education.

      April 6, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
    • faith

      Wesley Trowel
      "signs for those who uses their intellectuals to accept"
      Yo, dude, no wonder your religious myth only dominates in third world countries with high birthrates and poor education.

      You sure worry

      April 6, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
    • mzh

      Wesley Trowel:

      Dude with due respect you have no idea how many kids go to school without breakfast and without any arrangements of next meal in America... and population? most of Americans are coming to this world out of good luck which is called what?
      In 50 years African Americans are slave of white people and now we have African American president... and I am so happy for that... you will see a day coming may be in 100 years more or less Americans will accept Islam and will become a Muslim majority country... the way Americans are reverting to Islam...

      April 7, 2013 at 10:43 am |
  15. Science

    Here is where the discussion should be ? Not with some outdated fairy.in the sky !

    Can Synthetic Biology Save Wildlife? From Re-Creating Extinct Species to the Risk of Genetically Modified Super-Species

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130402182502.htm

    April 6, 2013 at 7:20 am |
    • lol??

      don't worry about fairies in the sky and do SOMETHING about nuclear waste and Asian carp, dudette.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • faith

      satan

      April 6, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
  16. muffina

    Dear Members, look at people differently, I always was a god, I always believed in something, do not know how to live differently, once the only religion, fear of the unknown aroused in us respect...http://2swiaty.pl/

    April 6, 2013 at 5:51 am |
    • lol??

      God made it easy on ya to believe. He hardwired your brain to believe, science says. Just don't get the wrong one .

      April 6, 2013 at 8:50 am |
  17. Ryan

    The good reverend says Christians don't have a martyr complex, and then goes on about how Christians are persecuted.

    April 5, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
    • lol??

      Boolean algebra.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • faith

      both r true moron. must be dottie

      April 6, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
  18. G to the T

    The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing people to follow the words of Paul instead of the words of Jesus. He changed the religion OF Jesus to a religion ABOUT Jesus...

    April 5, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
    • lol??

      Right, and Peter was the first popette with a 98% jewish congregation in Rome.

      April 6, 2013 at 8:53 am |
  19. Roy

    Your picture indicates men hung on a cross, for your information the form of persecution used was hanging on and fastened to a stake, orginal greek stauros, change your picture.

    April 4, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
    • james

      not too many realize that people were impaled, hung on a post or tree with their hands vertical not out as shown on a cross which was a pagan symbol from chaldea and egypt. good thing he was not shot or think of the people with guns hanging around their necks today.

      April 5, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • lol??

      Thinkin' about the serpent on the pole in the wilderness?? Don't like the message of the cross??

      ".....It needs to be noted that for over 50 years the Watchtower Society used the cross, taught that Jesus died on a cross and even included it on the cover of the Watch Tower:......."

      http://jwfacts.com/watchtower/experiences/paul-grundy.php

      April 6, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  20. wade moran

    Will CNN's attack on Christianity ever end? I guess when Iran and Egypt's does

    April 4, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • Pepperpot Waitress

      Lol. And how is CNN doing that?

      April 4, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      misspelled your last name dude.

      April 5, 2013 at 12:16 am |
    • sam stone

      how is this an attack on christianity?

      do you like to feel persecuted?

      April 5, 2013 at 11:43 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68
Advertisement
About this blog

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