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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. Mohamiss Shafique-Kaddir

    Christians create the vilence against themselves by being hateful and racist bigots . Chistian oprression of Muslims incites the violence and death they claim they are victims of . Instutuional racism has always been and anti Muslim weapon of White Male Christians . Christ kills Muslims daily .

    March 31, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • SK

      Not true. You must be living in a different world. Christians and other minorities are killed and persecuted in all the Muslim countries daily. Just google for Christian persecution in Muslim countries. If Christians are killing Muslims why do Muslims run from their great Muslim countries to the west? Why don't they just stay were they are? The fact is even Muslims are not able to have a good life in their own countries.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:51 am |
  2. Reality

    For more on the infamous Resurrection con, see Professor Gerd Ludemann's review in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, ( Mark 16) and also http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb275.html.

    For more on the infamous Ascension con, see the same book, Luke 24:50-53 and http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb480.html

    So where are the bones???

    According to Professor JD Crossan's many exhaustive studies, they still are a-mouldering in the ground outside of Jerusalem or were eaten by wild dogs and are now cycling through nature's recycling system.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:42 am |
  3. myway

    This article should be read by every Christian. The roots of christianity have been neglected or distorted by almost all churches. The reality is, christianity started out as a jewish sect and eventually grew into a stand alone humane movement. Antiquity was filled with weird cults, some serving deviant fetishes of its membership. Christianity with its simple and by contrast enlightened message must have appealed to many intelectuals, middle and upper class roman citizens who felt spiritually unfulfilled. Today many christian sects have become cultish by taking liberties how to interpret outdated and misunderstood scriptures. We're entering an age of christianity fatigue evidenced by growing movements such as the agnostics and atheists. Perhaps we're ready for a new major spiritual movement in tune with science and current lifestyle.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • proud british

      jesus was a man. jesus popularity was encashed by greedy church. but all bad things meets end, so will come church's end too. jesus was a ordinary man, who was nailed to a woood plank. end of story. no need to worshipp someone hanging from a wooden plank.
      countries like india and china worship moderate religions like hinduism and buddhism, i feel those two are real religions

      March 31, 2013 at 8:56 am |
  4. Emily

    Today it is Easter Sunday and we SHOULD BE THANKFUL FOR THY LORD THAT HE GAVE UP HIS LIFE FOR OUR SINS! No matter what color that we are nor if we are Catholic or Jews etc. Thy Lord loves us all very much! People are the ones that cause harm to those whom are not the same. People want power over those that are weak. How can you say that you Love your God when you cause pain to others. War,to show power! Those that want war they are weak!! Chicken!! They are afraid of Peace!!! Afraid of Love!!! Afraid of the world to be rid of the word war!!! If I could,I would give those that want war a great big Bear Hug to get rid of that hate and bring peace to their hearts!!!

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

      "we SHOULD BE THANKFUL FOR THY LORD"

      Grammar much?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • Reality

      (from Professor JD Crossan's book, "Who is Jesus" co-authored with Richard Watts)

      "Moreover, an atonement theology that says God sacrifices his own son in place of humans who needed to be punished for their sins might make some Christians love Jesus, but it is an obscene picture of God. It is almost heavenly child abuse, and may infect our imagination at more earthly levels as well. I do not want to express my faith through a theology that pictures God demanding blood sacrifices in order to be reconciled to us."

      "Traditionally, Christians have said, 'See how Christ's passion was foretold by the prophets." Actually, it was the other way around. The Hebrew prophets did not predict the events of Jesus' last week; rather, many of those Christian stories were created to fit the ancient prophecies in order to show that Jesus, despite his execution, was still and always held in the hands of God."

      "In terms of divine consistency, I do not think that anyone, anywhere, at any time, including Jesus, brings dead people back to life."

      March 31, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • SK

      @Reality

      Oh yeah, early Christians and apostles like Paul fabricated the stories to fit the ancient prophecies so that they can be persecuted and killed. Makes a lot of sense.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:01 am |
  5. Memo2

    To Realist ?. Some how we all carrie some of it, don't you think !!.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:41 am |
  6. Rahul

    Jesus lives! He is the Risen King and Savior! Blessed be His name.

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

      Really? I wonder why all four authors of the Gospels recorded the event so differently?

      Who went to the tomb?

      Mark (written about 35 years after Jesus died) – 3 women – Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome.
      Matthew (written about 50 years after Jesus died) – 2 women – Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary.”
      Luke (written about 50 years after Jesus died) – at least 5 women – Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna and other, unnamed women. At least five women.
      John (written about 60 years after Jesus died) – Only 1 woman – Mary Magdalene.

      What did they find there?

      Mark (written about 35 years after Jesus died) – the stone has been rolled back from the entrance to the tomb. There is no mention of any guards. A young man in a long, white robe is inside. His identi.ty is not revealed. He tells the two Marys and Salome to go tell the disciples that Jesus has risen and has gone to Galilee, where Jesus will appear to them.

      Matthew (written about 50 years after Jesus died) – the stone has NOT been rolled back from the tomb. There is a great earthquake and an angel from heaven appears, rolls back the stone, sits on it and stares at them a face like lightning. There are guards posted, who freeze with fear. The angel takes the two women and shows them that the tomb is empty and tells them Jesus has risen and will meet the disciples in Galilee.

      Luke (written about 50 years after Jesus died) – the stone IS rolled back. No earthquake, no angels, no young man in robe, no guards. Instead, two men are there in shining garments. They tell the group of (at least five) women that Jesus has risen as he foretold. No direction is given for the disciples to go to Galilee.

      John (written about 60 years after Jesus died) – the stone IS rolled back. Mary Magdalene, who is alone, simply finds an empty tomb and flees. No angels, earthquakes, men in shining uniforms or guards are mentioned. She gets Peter and one other, unnamed disciple and they return. They find Jesus’ robes discarded on the floor, but the garment from his head neatly folded. Peter and the other disciple leave, but Mary Magdalene stays, weeping. She looks back in to the tomb and sees two angels and Jesus appears. She thinks he is the gardener until he reveals himself. He gives no direction about Galilee but simply tells her to tell the others he is ascending to the Father.

      What happens next?

      Mark (written about 35 years after Jesus died) – Nothing. The original Gospel according to Mark ends with the women leaving the tomb frightened and saying nothing to anybody about what they saw.

      However, in the forged last 12 verses that were added to the end of the Gospel according to Mark a couple of hundred years later, Christ appears first to Mary Magdalene “out of whom he had cast seven demons.” She tells the others who do not believe her, but Jesus then appears to two (unnamed) disciples as they are walking in the countryside. They tell the others, who still don’t believe, but Jesus later appears to all 11 apostles (Judas is persona non grata at this point and/or dead) and rebukes them for not believing Mary Magdalene and the first two apostles who saw him earlier.

      He then famously tells them to go out and preach the gospel to every creature and that he who believes and is baptized will be saved and he who does not will be condemned. Those who believe will speak in tongues and be unaffected by poisons and will be able to handle snakes and heal the sick by the mere laying of their hands.

      This forged passage above is, by the way, where the evangelical tradition of “speaking in tongues,” the Appalachian tradition of snake handling and the Christian Science tradition of healing through “laying of hands” all come from – and it’s a complete forgery. Oh, the irony is rich!

      Having told them this, Jesus zaps up to heaven and sits at the right hand of God.

      Matthew (written about 50 years after Jesus died) – The two women meet Jesus and worship at his feet. He tells them to tell his disciples to meet him in Galilee. Meanwhile, the guards relate their story to the elders and the chief priests who bribe them to lie and say that the disciples took Jesus’ body away. Eventually the 11 apostles see Jesus in Galilee, some still doubting. Jesus tells them to go out and baptize people of all nations and that he will always be with them.

      Luke (written about 50 years after Jesus died) – Peter runs to the tomb and finds it empty with Jesus’ clothes discarded. Jesus does not appear to him, but does to two disciples who are walking in the countryside. They do not recognize him and he feigns ignorance as they recount the story of his death and of women encountering angels in the tomb. Jesus walks with them some more, rebuking them and then spends the night with them, breaking bread at which point they realize who he is and he vanishes.

      They tell the 11 apostles what happens and then Jesus appears to them. He explains the scriptures to them and that it was necessary that he die and be resurrected. He then leads them to Bethany and is carried up to heaven.

      John (written about 60 years after Jesus died) – This is the longest post mortem account of the four. Mary Magdalene recounts her story to the apostles. He appears to them that night when they are assembled, hiding from the Jews. He shows his wounds to them. Thomas was not there and when they tell him, there is the famous “doubting Thomas” scene. This scene does not appear in any other gospel.

      Jesus later appears to some apostles while they are fishing. They do not recognize him at first. They catch nothing, but Jesus tells them throw the nets out of the other side of the boat and they catch many fish. Then they know it is Jesus. Jesus eats a breakfast of fish with them and has a strange conversation with Peter. The Gospel ends with the comment that Jesus did many other things that the author did not mention as doing so would be too great a task. No mention is made of Jesus’ ultimate departure.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:43 am |
  7. Colin

    Can a Christian please help me? I am having trouble distinguishing the third example of circular reasoning from the first two. Perhaps you can explain the difference.

    “I believe Obama is a great man because his biography says so, and the reason I believe his biography is that it is about Obama, who is a great man.”

    “I believe David Koresh was a wise and great prophet because the Branch Davidians wrote a book saying he is. I believe that book because it was inspired by David Koresh, a wise and great prophet.”

    “I believe God exists because it says so in the Bible. I believe the Bible because it is the inspired word of God.”

    March 31, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • mark

      Simple the author of the bible rose from the dead and witnesses were there. Koresh is still dead, and Obama will be someday as well. God love em! and You!

      March 31, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • Ray FInkle

      Sure, don't believe the Bible outright. Believe your eyes! Dead sea crossing, moses camp on Mt Sinai, the rock struck from which water flowed, Aarons al;tar to Baal, Noahs, ark, the actual sight of christs crucifiction, Sodom and Gamorrah, all found exactly where, and exactl;y as described in the bible! God has left all the proof any reasonable person ever needs to find faith in God the father, the son, and the holy spirit.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • Steve

      i don't know of any thoughtful Christian who believes in God simply because the Bible says. so. The Bible is improtant as it tells the stories of thousands of people over thousands of years trying to understand God. God is something most Christians come to understand and know through faith, experience, reason, and reflection. It comes fromthe realization that there is more to the world and the universe than matter...there is a depth to existence that direts us towards a spiritual reality, God is the name of the ultimate source of that reality. Like in the Bilbe, Christians and other beleivers are still struggling to understand God. This is no different to scientists who continue to struggle to understand the mystery of our universe, the only difference is that science focusses on the external and the how, religion on the internal and the why.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • rabidatheist

      @ Ray Finkle you may want to research what you just said, then retract it. There is not a single shred of evidence for the Exodus, or it's Moses character. 40 years wandering a route that tooks Alexander the Great only 4 years to make, and they have not found one piece of evidence in the desert to support the claims. There were no SLAVES in Egypt, there was a working class of Semites that lived there, but they were not slaves.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • HappyEaster

      If God exists, the Bible will state His existence
      The Bible states Gods existence
      Therefore God exists.

      Begging the question, re circular reasoning is a fallacy, not a valid argument.
      Good day and God bless!

      March 31, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • HemantKumar

      Even if God did not exist, man would have surely invented him...

      March 31, 2013 at 9:44 am |
  8. mark

    How come every time I ask an atheist to prove love and hope exist, there is silence.?

    March 31, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • Colin

      What the hell does that have to do with the existence or non-existence of the Judeo-Christian god?

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

      The argument is prove God exists. I'm just sayin.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Because you are asking a silly question, and then you would try to turn the logic any answer into an argument for god, when in fact you would be comparing an apple to an orange and it is you that would not see the difference.

      Love is a biological reaction, complete with chemical interaction, and can be measured by testing for certain chemicals and reading brainwave patterns.

      There is no test for god because gods are imaginary.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • mark

      Really! Because when I pray I feel a reaction as well. Enormous peace! Hmm.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • mark

      And what about hope?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Richard: This is the same 'mark' who insists that Easter is originally a christian holiday and that non-believers are hypocrites for celebrating, yet he fails to understand his own hypocrisy. You can educate an ignorant person but you can't change stupid.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • Joe Giardina

      Because that is what they thought they elected as President of the US. They now know they didn't and don' t want to talk about it.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • mark

      Truth that is so unkind to speak that way. Please don't call me stupid because I don't agree with you.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • mark

      Oh and Truth you're right Truth does prevail, and will. Jesus the truth will prevail. I just "hope" you realize it before your last breath. God bless you!

      March 31, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • rabidatheist

      Love is actually a measurable chemical reaction in the brain. Science for the win Alex!

      March 31, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • mark

      So is he reaction to prayer to God. make the connection. Oh and hope?

      March 31, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • JWT

      God is your thing mark – not mine. Pray all you like if it makes you feel good. I'll eat my easter eggs today.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • rabidatheist

      Yes Mark it is a measurable reaction in the brain of believers when they are praying. That in no way confims the existence of any god, it only scientifically proves that your brain makes you feel that it is real.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      mark
      Hope and love are emotions, ideas. One can prove they exist although it is difficult due to the abstract nature of emotion and thought.

      God is not an emotion but an idea. and that is where god ends...at the idea. Men think gods exist, so they write stories about that god, create stories and legends that extoll the virtues and deeds of this great wonder.

      And that goes for every religion that man has ever created...including yours.

      Why is it you reject 99.99% of all gods, but believe your 0.01% is the one true one.

      Show me the others either exist or do not exist, and that will either lend credibility to your argument, or show you why i reject your god along with all of the others.

      Do you really know why you believe? Answering to yourself why you reject all of the other gods, should give you a clue as to the illogic of belief in any one of the thousands of gods that men think exist.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • mark

      Richard....Hope is not an emotion.But who cares. My personal faith journey was empirical on many levels. Jesus is my answer. It's a long story. I walked n the Sinai, I sat in the garden of Gesthemany, I ended up being baptized in the sea of Galilee. I felt is presence on every level and continue to feel him working in my life. That is why there are martyrs. They in their spirit have felt his presence. Until you have experienced that I totally get why it is hard to accept he exist. I was an atheist myself. God love you!

      March 31, 2013 at 9:41 am |
  9. proud british

    how can Jesus be god? god is a powerful force which created heaven and earth. jesus was killed like ordinary man. jesus's hands were nailed, head was nailed, balls were nailed, legs were nailed. what happened with jesus was v bad and whosoever did that were criminals. but tht doesnt mean jesus is god. if he was god he wud have protected himself rather than die like a helpless street dog

    March 31, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • mark

      And then from all that torture he rose perfect. Could you do that? Jesus loves you!

      March 31, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • Ray FInkle

      God sacrificed his only son, the only innoce3nt human in history, he sufferd the shame of occupying a human body and then he lived his whole life without sin, and let himself be wrongly accused and executed that our sins may be traded and washed away by the blood of the lamb of God. The big bang was the Unity shattered by Satan rebelling from God the dawn of seperation.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • rabidatheist

      @ Ray Finkle, you don't even know your own story, do you? Accoring to the Bible three people were born innocent, and free of sin, Jesus......Mary (the immaculate conception), and Job. Do we atheists constantly have to remind you of what your story says?

      March 31, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • mark

      Quick note...Original sin, also called ancestral sin,[1] is, according to a Christian theological doctrine, humanity's state of sin resulting from the fall of man,[2] stemming from Adam's rebellion in Eden.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:07 am |
  10. Memo2

    The actual BiBle's doesn't meant anything, because Christ didn't wrote it.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • mark

      Trinity! Oh and Jesus/God loves you!

      March 31, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  11. Ray FInkle

    And christians were heavily persecuted. She is an idiot and her article has very little basis in fact. Note there is no mention of Seleucid empire or antiochus epiphanes. She may be right that Christians were not drawn to become christians because of persecution, that's so stupid it's laughable. Who says wow those guys are really suffering, I think I'll join them? Dumb. They were drawn to Christs ministry and his divinity. What's the author a doctor of Satanism? PC multicultural self-worship of her pathetically samll intellect?

    March 31, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  12. 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 8:39 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 8:41 am |
    • Realist

      christinas and muslims need to grow up....

      March 31, 2013 at 8:41 am |
  13. Jack

    "I'm sure if there is 'a' Christian somewhere in the world being persecuted"

    Many christians are being persecuted today, in the 21 century (Africa, Asia, and to some extent in parts Europe). I think it would be much more difficult to be a christian 2000 years ago when laws, prejudices and so on were far less sensitive to this sort of thing. My wife works at a refugee clinic – most of the asylum seekers are christians fleeing from religious persecution, many of them have family member who were attacked or killed because of their beliefs. If the ancient world was anything like some places today, I'm sure there was a large degree of persecution. Martyrdom depends on your definition I guess. I don't think being a Christian is/was ever easy. Like the author said, Jesus was a divisive character.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  14. crappygovernment

    Tim Tebow is being persecuted for being America's first authentic, outspoken Christian role model in decades! All Christians should abandon the Neocon Freemason League if they blackball Tebow out for his outspoken Faith! He's still 8-5 as a starter with a playoff win under his belt. Tebowphobia is mentioned in Act 14:1-2 Feel free to look it up yourself!

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

      how silly

      March 31, 2013 at 8:42 am |
      • crappygovernment

        Jay fiedler and sage rosenfels wouldn't have been treated that way, comrade!

        March 31, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Actually, the most scathing criticisms of Tebow have come from other christians, who point out that the superficial, public flaunting of faith he indulges in is explicitly warned against in the NT.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:42 am |
      • crappygovernment

        Most of the Christian Saints and Prophets were outspoken with the Good News of the Lord, comrade! They took it to their corrupted societies just like Tebow!

        March 31, 2013 at 8:44 am |
  15. are122

    Persecution and mocking is as necessary now as in Jesus times. Fortunately there is never a shortage of volunteers.

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

    Christians are being prosecuted to this day; Look at Copts in Egypt Christians in Syria and the rest of the middle east. look around you everywhere.

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

      christians and muslims need to grow up..

      March 31, 2013 at 8:37 am |
  17. Memo2

    Was a Conspiracy to Jesus Christ,because he was against the power of tyranny.

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

      jesus was likely mentally ill

      March 31, 2013 at 8:38 am |
  18. Newsguy

    Sure, and Ms. Moss is also only a figment of my immagination.

    For the record: Accroding to last year's comprehensive Pew Forum study, Christians have been persecuted, and 105 000 of them killed, in 131 countries in the world today. When is Ms. Moss going to write a book about that? Oh, yes, I forget, she is only a figment of my immagination.

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

      and catholic hierarchy abused 10's of thousands of small children world wide.. Nice christians

      March 31, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  19. Ray FInkle

    Supposedly smart archaelogists keep cheating by using the BIBLE to make amazing discoveries right were the bible says they were, and then they credit aliens or natural explanations. All the remains of the red sea crossing etc etc are still there as if Moses crossed the sea yesterday even the bones of the drown Egyptians. Almost every major bible story has been proved true by SCIENCE. Occam's razor states that all things equal, the simplest explanation is the correct one. What's more probable that the Bible which says God did something somewher, go to that place and scientists find it, and that little greren men must have done it. Because little green Gay men from Mars are much more probable than a omnipotent GOD. This author is bound straight for hell.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      There are more stories out of the bible that have been proven impossible and or wrong by science than have been shown to have any credibility...Of course I'm talking about actual science...not that christian science and creation "science"...which use scientific sounding things and jump to ridiculous unjustifyable conlusions, or that create incorrect premises and then make up answers to suit the questions.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • Science

      Hey ray if you will read transcripts you WILL kearn something.

      Dover Trial Transcripts............................................. facts.

      Below are the complete transcripts from the Dover Trial. Thanks to our friends at the National Center for Science Education for helping us fill in the missing transcripts.

      http://www.aclupa.org/legal/legaldocket/intelligentdesigncase/dovertrialtranscripts.htm

      March 31, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • G to the T

      Sorry Ray – sounds like you are using some seriously outdated information. You may want to check out what modern archeology is saying about these topics.

      April 2, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
  20. futuradellnazione

    Barely a mention of what Christians go through in the Middle East. Not a single mention of Communist China. Sigh. But isn't Candida the perfect name for a female academic with the intellectual yeast infection of anti-Christianity?

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

      christians and muslims need to grow up.....

      March 31, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • shipwreck73

      Did you read her book or are you being typical modern christian "martyr" ?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:58 am |
      • futuradellnazione

        I read her quotes above. I think she very purposely gives the impression that individual CASES of martydom equal individual martyrs. Nero is known to have killed hundreds and thousands at a time, unless Tacitus is a liar.

        And the persecution is real in today's world and carefully reported in publications like "Voice of the Martyrs." Not, however, by outlets like CNN. In Iran, Afghanistan, etc., AMERICAN Christians have been killed simply for being Christians.

        Who do America's liberals blame? The victims. Stupid Christians shouldn't have been there anyway, right?

        March 31, 2013 at 9:24 am |
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About this blog

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