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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. Goaty McCheese

    This article was so long I got bored and stopped reading. I suppose I could have finished it but I didn't want to be a martyr.

    April 22, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
  2. stacy100

    sam stone....The Great Commission demands that Christian go out....Matthew 28:18-20
    "Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." This is way Christian as always trying to convert people to Christianity. You think I like having people turn away from me or stop being my friend? God commanded this from me and I must follow...no matter the cost.

    April 22, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • Albert

      It's also what makes Christianity so annoying to those who aren't Christian. It sounds like you've seen how irate people get when you don't just leave them alone to believe what they want. Hindus or Jews are more respected by non-believers because they don't go around trying to convert people.

      April 22, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • sam stone

      then do not feel upset when people ridicule you

      April 22, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • sam stone

      i agree that it is annoying to non-believers to be preached to.

      what incredible arrogance for anyone to claim they know god better than anyone else

      April 22, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • sam stone

      albert: nor are hindus or jews trying to legislate their beliefs like many christians seem to want to do

      April 22, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • Jeremy

      I understand.

      God bless you Stacy, and may you be rewarded for your efforts.

      April 22, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • sam stone

      perhaps if there were a god other than that in which stacy puts her faith, she will be tortured for her efforts

      April 22, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • sam stone

      stacy: doesn't it occur to you that a god that needs preaching by humans to get other humans to believe may be a very weak god?

      April 22, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • Wendy

      I think she's just trying to explain what's in her religoun, Sam. I don't find it offensive. I find it hard to believe that there is any such things as miracles or a fourth dimension, but I don't mind if someone wants to talk to me about the bible or any other book for that matter. Look into what the symbolism says it might make religious texts a little easier to understand and less bothersome for you. Many a religion wasn't what I thought it was and was worth listening to someone elses viewpoint.

      April 23, 2013 at 12:06 am |
    • sam stone

      wendy: i find preaching to be offensive

      April 23, 2013 at 4:49 am |
  3. clarity

    God is real. Jesus is the answer. Atheism is a delusional form of stupidity and stubbornness.

    April 22, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • sam stone

      You know that posting the same drivel does not make it any less drivel, don't you?

      April 22, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Inquisitor

      Krishna is real. Ganesha is the answer. Christianity is a delusional form of stupidity and stubbornness.

      Did I convince you to become a Hindu? No? That wasn't persuasive? I just can't understand why not.

      April 22, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • Gopika

      Krishna and Ganesha as symbols speak to a very similar concept, Inquisitor.

      April 22, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
  4. C. N. Nsux

    The mainstream liberal media can never pass up an opportunity to say something nasty about the Christian religion. If they posted a similar article about the Jewish faith or Islam they would immediately be condemned as bigoted.

    April 22, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • midwest rail

      Nonsense.

      April 22, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • sam stone

      CNN has reported on American Atheists billboards about Judaism or Islam.

      Are ya feeling all persecuted, C.N. Nsux?

      April 22, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • The real Tom

      Did you even READ the article? It's not saying anything "nasty" about Christians. Honestly, I question your ability to comprehend the written word.

      April 22, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Jeremy

      Truth.

      April 22, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
  5. Ted

    Man, she's wearing a lot of makeup.

    April 21, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
  6. Mala

    I think a lot of you are missing the point. Some of these martyrdom stories may be fiction, some not. The issue is the concept of persecution. A noisy group of our Christian brothers and sisters scream persecution if people are not open to their views or they don't get their own way. Everything becomes a war on their religion.

    Actual persection is a little more serious than not being able to stick a creche on the lawn at city hall at taxpayer expense or giving civil rights to people whose behavoir you think is "icky" and you have rooted around in your scripture to somehow back up discrimination against them.

    Get some perspective. Consider people who actually experienced real persecution. Ask a Jewish holocaust survivor, a Christian who lives in a predominantly fundamentalist Muslim country and lives in fear of death for havin a bible in the house, or a Muslim who isn't quite the right "flavor" of Musilim for their community, etc. They might have a more realistic view of persection.

    There are states in the US where to hold a legislative office you are required to swear you believe in an all powerful god etc. (mostly the south, who seem to think separation of church and state is a suggestion). This is descriminatory against non believers. NOT PERSECUTORY – discriminatory – and perfectly legal in those states. As far as I know there isn't a state that requires you to foreswear beleiving in a god.

    April 21, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • faith

      dodo? oh dodo. u no better. u were asked to prove your claim and u never did. naughty, naughty.

      April 21, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
    • Billy

      Well said, Mala.

      April 22, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • Jeremy

      Persecution is persecution, whether it's a missed promotion, or a death. It's still persecution.

      April 22, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Jeremy, Do you have examples of discrimination against christians in the USA?

      April 22, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
  7. john

    2013?

    April 20, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • Science

      ................facts work best for teaching children !

      Evolution wins hands down ..........time for god(s) to get the HELL out of the way................so humanity can evolve !

      Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418104324.htm

      Source listed above better than the bible's

      April 21, 2013 at 7:51 am |
  8. mkeybr

    In 1964, when I was 6 and sitting in Sunday school, the nun told the group of us preparing for our first communion that getting into heaven was nearly impossible. She pointed out there were only 50 people currently residing there and the recently assassinated President Kennedy made it 51. I decided right then and there that this nun was an idiot, the church was devoid of logic, the priest was a liar, and there was no "life-everlasting" after death. I sleep in every Sunday and life is sweet.

    April 20, 2013 at 1:03 am |
    • john

      lmao

      April 20, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
    • Fred Melton

      Dear mkeybr,
      I am with you. That nun was wrong. Where she got the notion of 50 in heaven, and the 51st being President Kennedy, isn't worth even assessing. Yes, no logic in those other pieces about "church" as you presented them.
      But without needing to prove and persuade, just to testify, I am part of a different Christian church. One that believes in God's everlasting love for all of us, that faith is a relationship which can't be proved or disproved-but experienced. And that exeprience is wonderful, enriching, defined by mercy and love, open to all. Anyway, the church to which I belong sees a Christ who cared for the outsider, welcomed the stranger, offered forgiveness to the offender, showed us limitless love and went to his death for his faith and purpose. My church is not made up of egotisical, judgmental types, but humble people knowing we are make mistakes, but that everyone has potential. A church that encourages us to be generous, to work for justice, to care for the poor, to forgive others, and see God's love amid a world that still has lots of brokenness and sin.
      I need my sleep too, but find my energy and joy going to church on Sunday mornings, and caring the spirit of God throughout the week . . . best as possible Blessings to you.

      April 21, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
    • sam stone

      my moment came while i was in my family's syrian orthdox church, looking at all the gold on the wall

      April 21, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
    • sam stone

      fred......i suppose i do not agree with you,but you seem like a decent person. peace to you

      April 21, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
    • LustFigures611

      My moment came when my friend and I found a key to the church in the parking lot and went inside to steal things without consequence.

      April 22, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
  9. oh no

    mique

    "Not a hater, I just would love to be a nonbeliever without persecution from evangelicals. I don't care what you believe and you should feel the same way towards me." lol

    poor baby

    dodo, did u hear this? a god-hating punk don't want persecution no more from reborners! save that girl, dodo. tell her how awful your life has been since you stopped being a reborner.

    April 19, 2013 at 4:59 am |
    • Bull In The Heather

      It's enormously pleasing to note that everywhere in the western world the fastest-growing sector of society is generally the irreligious sector. 1000 years ago everyone was religious. 500 years most people were. 200 years ago a lot of intelligent people were deists. Post-Darwin most intelligent people were non-believers. Today science, human rights, the arts, philosophy and politics are all pushing back religious privilege and belief. In the western world the only hope is Islam, which isn't converting anyone, just out-breeding them, and that only in a few cases and countries. My generation is dramatically less religious than the previous one, and the more educated and literate you are the less likely it is that you're religious. You should be overjoyed that the beliefs that have shackled your mind and warped your morality to such a poisonous extent are withering on the vine. In a couple of centuries people like you will be free. Rejoice!

      April 21, 2013 at 9:53 am |
  10. JOHN

    The King has established the stage... that's true. He has spoken to mankind, many having chosen to rebel against Him. Christians see him as granting intelligence, and freewill. One in the process of calling an eternal family back to himself. The New Testament was written, giving explanation of what God was doing through Christ. Three eyewitnesses stated they seen the crucifixtion and the resurrection. I find it difficult to locate historical errors in the New Testament, how about you? Thus it makes sense, therefore I believe. Many tend to reject Christ...I'll ask them which chapter is historically inconsistent, or which gospel record have they studied out and considered? The silence reflects decisions being made upon emotion rather then honest investigation.

    April 19, 2013 at 3:28 am |
    • Savonarola

      John – Are you kidding? God grants intelligence and freewill, then leaves out the vital part–evidence? And please don't call the Bible evidence–the Bible makes the claims and therefore cannot reasonably also be used as evidence for those claims.

      April 19, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • sam stone

      john: we cannot rebel against something in which we do not believe. please, take a logic class

      April 21, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
    • Warren

      So many Christians have a basic lack of understanding of what an atheist is. To them, an atheist acknowledges the existence of their god but chooses to rebel against him. They don't understand that if you acknowledge their god exists you are automatically not an atheist.

      That's apparently why they persist in their pointless quoting of their bible when they try to convince atheists to "return to God".

      April 22, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • Goaty McCheese

      "–the Bible makes the claims and therefore cannot reasonably also be used as evidence for those claims."

      I think you need to think this through a little more.

      April 22, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
    • The real Tom

      It doesn't require "thinking through." It's perfectly clear–the poster is talking about circular reasoning, and is correct. One cannot use a source to prove the claims the same source makes.

      April 22, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  11. Maureen

    All you unbelieving people (some seem so vicious!)....I believe what I believe so leave me alone. You can believe what you want, I will not force my beliefs on you...only pray for you.

    April 18, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • child of midian

      When you pray for me, you force your beliefs on me. That's hypocritical.

      April 18, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • oh no

      dear dodo, please throw midian the moron out on her touche. thanks and amen

      April 19, 2013 at 5:01 am |
    • Science

      Maureen..........................you got one stuck in your throat ?

      Evolution wins hands down time for god(s) to get the hell out of the way ...............so humanity can evolve !

      .Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418104324.htm

      April 20, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • sam stone

      maureen: you pray for us, we'll think for you

      April 21, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
    • sam stone

      maureen: the problem is lots of christians do try to force their beliefs on others by attempting to legislate those beliefs into our secuar law

      April 21, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
  12. Lena

    I used to love engaging in religious debate. Satisfy with own understanding and arguments.

    But as I grow older, I finally realised.
    Encounter with God or spirit cannot be discussed. Only experience.
    If faith is given to you, you will understand and thing become plain and simple.

    .

    April 17, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
    • Philosophy

      Ever try and figure out what God is? Everything and nothing? The sum total of everything and nothing combined? 42? All of the above?

      April 17, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
  13. Emma

    The Christian purpose is to serve God because everyone owes it to him. He is powerful and mighty. He is loving and merciful. Do you realize the abounding unconditional love that pours from him? Jesus died to save you because he genuinely cares. No one deserves his awesome mercy, but he still offers it.

    April 17, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • Inquisitor

      Yawn...you realize, of course, that this story is known but not believed by most of the planet's population.

      April 17, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • sam stone

      Awesome mercy? You must be joking

      April 18, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • mique

      Yup. All the people that love me always threaten to stone me to death before I burn for eternity for not believing what they do. Kind bunch. Compassionate, too.

      April 18, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • child of midian

      Please, to the woman who lost her legs, her son and nearly her daughter, tell of god's mercy. God's mercy would have tipped off a police officer who would see the man setting down the back pack and this would never have happened.

      Your god has no mercy or kindness, we are all just a soap-opera for his entertainment and he seems to relish ignorance and suffering like the producers over at MTV.

      April 18, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
    • Al

      Do you ever listen to yourself?

      April 19, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
  14. Dale

    And as they died with blood every where, the crowd mocked them and cried out, "Washed and saved! Washed and saved!" In the past 110 years more Chrisitians died for their faith than from 33 ad until 1900. As I read the posts here, I think the HATERS still mock them, but now are to dumb to understand what the early haters were meaning as they cried, "Washed and saved!"

    April 17, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • Franklin

      Christians are not the only people in the world who sometimes die because of their faith–did you know that? Sometimes, it's the Christians doing the killing.

      April 17, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • mique

      Not a hater, I just would love to be a nonbeliever without persecution from evangelicals. I don't care what you believe and you should feel the same way towards me.

      April 18, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • Inquisitor

      The problem, mique, is that the Christians (and some other religions) believe that your actions or lack of action (e.g., not properly worshiping their deity) can anger their god and bring his collective punishment upon everyone, so they think it's their civic duty to help you see the light and to legislate their ideas so that all must follow their ways (of course, history shows they can't even agree among themselves what those ways are).

      April 18, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • Savonarola

      Inquisitor – Yeah, I like how their "personal" god supposedly becomes so indiscriminate when angered, punishing the innocent along with the guilty.

      April 19, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • sam stone

      Dale. Do you feel that putting the word "haters" in caps gives your drivel any more power?

      April 22, 2013 at 5:54 am |
  15. Steve

    This is not my work–I copied it from a post I viewed some time ago, I don't remember who posted it–but I think it bears reposting:

    Top Ten Signs You're a Christian:

    10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.
    9 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.
    8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.
    7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!
    6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.
    5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.
    4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs – though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."
    3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.
    2 – You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.
    1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian.

    April 17, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • Amused With It All

      Then according to this list I am not a Christian

      10 – I feel no outrage when someone does not believe as I do.

      9 – I do not feel "dehumanized" when science states we came from a primordial soup

      8 – I laugh at no one for their differing beliefs

      7 – My face does not turn purple over things done by radicals and the references to biblical happenings are a bit exaggerated... But I get the point.

      6 – I do not laugh at any religions beliefs, nor do I laugh at any one persons beliefs

      5 – I look for no loopholes in anything scientific and the age of the Earth, by religious belief, is speculation. No one knows for sure, not even scientists, so why dwell on it.

      4 – I believe anyone who has accepted Jesus Christ as the Son of God, who died on the cross and rose again, as their savior will spend eternity in splendor. Even those in rival sects. I believe in a relationship not a religion. I believe anyone who does not accept this will be in an eternity seperated from God, which for me would be hell. I do not pretend to know what Hell is or what it will be like. I have no religion but I do believe my faith is tolerant and loving... However, there are times I could be more loving and more tolerant of others.

      3 – I will never try to prove faith to another. I have faith because of my own expieriences just as another may have "no-faith" or not believe because of their own expieriences.

      2 – There is no success or failure rate. I do not pray asking for "things" that seems a bit selfish. I pray for myself, and others, and ask for wisdom, peace, clarity, knowledge, acceptance... I pray for God's will to be done and for the wisdom to understand it, whatever it is. I do not see how you can put a success or failure rate on that.

      1 – Many atheists, and agnostics, I have encountered know very little about the Bible and routinely utilize the same 10 – 20 verses to reiterate their point. I have run into some that are very educated on the Bible but often the verses used in a discussion are taken out of context. I do not claim to know a lot about the Bible. I am learning more and more and I am of the idea that if I cannot answer you right away I will study and come back to you later. I also do not care about church history as I am not religious. I am a Christian and I read and study the Bible but I do not buy into religion or religious sects because I see nothing but man made flaws, but that is beside the point. Generally I do not get into theological conversations with people. I speak about my faith and beliefs when an opening presents its self and someone else asks.... I try to not be one to push my beliefs on others, try being the key word.

      April 19, 2013 at 4:45 am |
    • Andrew

      Amused: My guess, though, is that you know plenty of Christians who fit those first descriptions.

      April 23, 2013 at 8:10 am |
  16. old golfer

    As I read history, were it not for Constantine, there would probably not be a Christian religion today. But let's not let facts get in the way of religion. God gave man reason. Man gave man religion.

    April 17, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care!

      R'amen!

      April 17, 2013 at 11:13 am |
  17. ronjayaz

    Let's face it, Xianity is a gory religion. Try watching the PASSION OF JC, one by that Jew-hater, what's his name? One thing abt the major religions is that they make U accept a ridiculously impossible thing as the center of one's faith like the nailing to a cross a human body & not having it tear away.

    April 16, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • sam stone

      my cousin is a born againer, and she liked the passion of the christ. it made her feel good all the torture jeebus went through save her

      April 16, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • I know this one

      DIsclaimer: I am not claiming that invisible beings exist or that there is any truth to any religions at all.

      I do however know a few Christians and I know there mentality. The idea behind the gore in their symbolism is that they feel "the diety" would sacrifice limitlessly in favor of aleviating someone elses suffering. Therefore they in turn are supposed to learn from that imagery in order to give till it hurts to help someone else. Granted I'm sure most of them don't learn that lesson...I wouldn't want to give of myself for anyone else either.

      But its why they have the gore.

      I hope that makes more sense.

      April 16, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • huguenot

      ronjayaz – Most scholars believe Jesus was tied to the Cross at the wrists (which would have been strong enough to hold him up). When the arms of the condemned on a cross are held above parallel with the ground, it prevents the condemned from breathing fully, and causes a slow asphyxiation. To get a full breath, the condemned may lift his/her body weight up on the legs, even if the feet are nailed to the cross. But this is exhausting and only delays the inevitable. And it is why the legs of the other two condemned criminals crucified with Jesus were broken. So they would die faster, as they could no longer bear their weight on broken legs. In Jerusalem, the Romans didn't want a ritually unclean body on a cross through the Jewish Sabbath day (Saturday – remember this event took place on Friday). As for the nails in the hands, that was done simply to increase the agony of the condemned.

      April 17, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care!

      "Scholars"? What scholars? We have no idea what was used to kiII the character Jesus from the work of fiction known as the bible. Stop believing in fairy tales and get on with your life.

      April 17, 2013 at 9:30 am |
  18. nothing

    fake professors rewriting history, not surprised.

    April 16, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • sam stone

      fake professors?

      April 16, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • sam stone

      do you feel you know more than this professor, or you just yet another christian blowhard?

      April 16, 2013 at 10:05 am |
  19. Bart Hawkins

    Ludicrous. Anyone named after YEAST needs to do something else.

    Another liberal phony.

    April 15, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
  20. Eric

    hey hey hey, let's not forget all of the wonderful atheists, jews, pagans, muslims, and racial minorities the christians "martyred" when the shoe was on the other foot

    April 15, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • Larry

      You forgot all the "heretics" Christians had executed, sometimes torturing first. Of course, they were actually fellow Christian who simply differed from them somewhere in theological opinion.

      April 16, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • Steve

      Well said, Eric.

      April 17, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.