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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. cindy lou who

    a Blessed Easter CNN.....light will always prevail against your darkness.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • End Atheism

      Awesome?! What a depraved society we live in. The know-nothing kids who made this video are bigoted, vulgar twits.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
  2. Shout-Out: TheBibleReloaded

    March 31, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • LOLWOG

      That's was awesome, thank you guys.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:15 am |
  3. Unbeliever

    This is so healthy what were doing here Today! We are telling the WORLD how we feel! GOD, how WE FEEL! GOD, I,m sorry I have to condemn, but what I speak is the TRUTH! You know it & I know it! Like the last POPE said GOD was sleeping through EVERYTHING! I hope this POPE & I wake you up! You have terribly, left your people down! YOU OWE! BIG TIME! Chee, maybe I will go to church today! Maybe GOD WOKE UP!

    March 31, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • Believer

      Maybe, unbeliever is rite! Do you like the world around you, Where is GOD in everything? I know many to who are dis-satisfied with the church, who left the church-& who are into other religions! I guess Unbeliever if you feel that you have a God or a friend who doesn't favor you, it's time to move on! BEST!

      March 31, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • Dumbster Baby

      Why don't you explain how you think God owes for what people do? Are people responsible for anything they do?

      March 31, 2013 at 9:10 am |
  4. ankenyman

    Moss should go to Nigeria or Yemen or many places in the Middle East and declare her Christianity and see what happens. She is a pathetic attention-seeker and Church dissenter and this article actually rebuts most of what she is claiming.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • McCave

      Amen, Brother. But you have to admit... she has found a way to sell books.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:08 am |
  5. Neen

    To all atheists,

    I don't hate you, but you hate me. You hate me for being a believer, I love you & pray that you find the path to Jesus Christ.

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

      I don't hate you at all, but I do see people following religion that hate out of tradition. I wish you well and hope you have an enjoyable life and share compassion yourself.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • Neen

      Mahhn,

      Thank you, I really appreciate it! I hope the same for u brother!

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

      Hate you? We don't even know you, why would we hate you? You do know we too can, "Hate the sin, and not the sinner"?

      March 31, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • Neen

      Rabidathiest,

      Humble athiests are like the marines. The few, and the proud. Lol.

      I'm glad to network with people that have no hate in their hearts, we're a rare breed.

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

      I don't hate you neen...I do not know you.

      I dislike the religion you have because like all other religions , it is based on ignorance.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • LOLWOG

      We don't hate you, we hate your ignorance and how you arrogantly flaunt your beliefs in our faces on a daily basis. Even the president of the United States has to pander to you and end all his speeches with "God Bless You and God Bless America."

      March 31, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Neen

      Not necessarily...

      They've taken God out of our school systems to not upset people like you who cringe whenever they hear 'God' or 'Jesus'

      However me, I don't care.

      Also, what do you mean my ignorance? I can't prove it's right as you can't prove what's right, so why am I ignorant but you are intelligent?? It makes no sense...

      March 31, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • Parfin Woodell

      Sorry, i save my hate for people who deserve it.
      You dont qualify.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:12 am |
  6. Memo2

    Just my comment, I don't understand, why, always some one keep trying and trying to find the way of everybody by against everybody ??.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      because telephone poles don't have handlebars?

      March 31, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • Parfin Woodell

      Could you translate that to english ?

      April 1, 2013 at 8:13 am |
  7. truth

    stop the nonsense? Persecution? How about children ra-ped and so-d-omized by the catholic church's hierarchy and the worse crimes of cover ups? Cruelty against children and worse than death as many victims suffer from the mental illness caused by the abuse.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  8. Colin

    Yesterday morning there was a knock at my door. A pleasant and enthusiastic young couple were there.

    John: "Hi! I'm John, and this is Mary."

    Mary: "Hi! We're here to invite you to come kiss Hank's ass with us."

    Me: "Pardon me?! What are you talking about? Who's Hank, and why would I want to kiss His ass?"

    John: "If you kiss Hank's ass, He'll give you a million dollars; and if you don't, He'll kick the guts out of you."

    Me: "What? Is this some sort of bizarre mob shake-down?"

    John: "Hank is a billionaire philanthropist. Hank built this town. Hank owns this town. He can do whatever He wants, and what He wants is to give you a million dollars, but He can't until you kiss His ass."

    Me: "That doesn't make any sense. Why..."

    Mary: "Who are you to question Hank's gift? Don't you want a million dollars? Isn't it worth a little kiss on the ass?"

    Me: "Well maybe, if it's legit, but..."

    John: "Then come kiss Hank's ass with us."

    Me: "Do you kiss Hank's ass often?"

    Mary: "Oh yes, all the time..."

    Me: "And has He given you a million dollars?"

    John: "Well no. You don't actually get the money until you leave town."

    Me: "So why don't you just leave town now?"

    Mary: "You can't leave until Hank tells you to, or you don't get the money, and He kicks the guts out of you."

    Me: "Do you know anyone who kissed Hank's ass, left town, and got the million dollars?"

    John: "My mother kissed Hank's ass for years. She left town last year, and I'm sure she got the money."

    Me: "Haven't you talked to her since then?"

    John: "Of course not, Hank doesn't allow it."

    Me: "So what makes you think He'll actually give you the money if you've never talked to anyone who got the money?"

    Mary: "Well, maybe you'll get a raise, maybe you'll win a small lotto, maybe you'll just find a twenty-dollar bill on the street."

    Me: "What's that got to do with Hank?"

    John: "In this town, Hank is the same as good luck. All good things are attributed to Hank'"

    Me: "I'm sorry, but this sounds like some sort of bizarre con game."

    John: "But it's a million dollars, can you really take the chance? And remember, if you don't kiss Hank's ass He'll kick the guts out of you."

    Me: "Maybe if I could see Hank, talk to Him, get the details straight from Him..."

    Mary: "No one sees Hank, no one talks to Hank."

    Me: "Then how do you kiss His ass?"

    John: "Sometimes we just blow Him a kiss, and think of His ass. Other times we kiss Karl's ass, and he passes it on."

    Me: "Who's Karl?"

    Mary: "A friend of ours. He's the one who taught us all about kissing Hank's ass. All we had to do was take him out to dinner a few times."

    Me: "And you just took his word for it when he said there was a Hank, that Hank wanted you to kiss His ass, and that Hank would reward you?"

    John: "Oh no! Karl has a letter he got from Hank years ago explaining the whole thing. Here's a copy; see for yourself."

    From the Desk of Karl
    1. Kiss Hank's ass and He'll give you a million dollars when you leave town.
    2. Use alcohol in moderation.
    3. Kick the guts out of people who aren't like you.
    4. Eat right.
    5. Hank dictated this list Himself.
    6. The moon is made of green cheese.
    7. Everything Hank says is right.
    8. Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.
    9. Don't use alcohol.
    10. Eat your wieners on buns, no condiments.
    11. Kiss Hank's ass or He'll kick the guts out of you.

    Me: "This appears to be written on Karl's letterhead."

    Mary: "Hank didn't have any paper."

    Me: "I have a hunch that if we checked we'd find this is Karl's handwriting."

    John: "Of course, Hank dictated it."

    Me: "I thought you said no one gets to see Hank?"

    Mary: "Not now, but years ago He would talk to some people."

    Me: "I thought you said He was a philanthropist. What sort of philanthropist kicks the guts out of people just because they're different?"

    Mary: "It's what Hank wants, and Hank's always right."

    Me: "How do you figure that?"

    Mary: "Item 7 says 'Everything Hank says is right.' That's good enough for me!"

    Me: "Maybe your friend Karl just made the whole thing up."

    John: "No way! Item 5 says 'Hank dictated this list himself.' Besides, item 2 says 'Use alcohol in moderation,' Item 4 says 'Eat right,' and item 8 says 'Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.' Everyone knows those things are right, so the rest must be true, too."

    Me: "But 9 says 'Don't use alcohol.' which doesn't quite go with item 2, and 6 says 'The moon is made of green cheese,' which is just plain wrong."

    John: "There's no contradiction between 9 and 2, 9 just clarifies 2. As far as 6 goes, you've never been to the moon, so you can't say for sure."

    Me: "Scientists have pretty firmly established that the moon is made of rock..."

    Mary: "But they don't know if the rock came from the Earth, or from out of space, so it could just as easily be green cheese."

    Me: "I'm not really an expert, but not knowing where the rock came from doesn't make it plausible that it might be made of cheese."

    John: "Ha! You just admitted that scientists don’t know everything, but we know Hank is always right!"

    Me: "We do?"

    Mary: "Of course we do, Item 7 says so."

    Me: "You're saying Hank's always right because the list says so, the list is right because Hank dictated it, and we know that Hank dictated it because the list says so. That's circular logic, no different than saying 'Hank's right because He says He's right.'"

    John: "Now you're getting it! It's so rewarding to see someone come around to Hank's way of thinking."

    Me: "But...oh, never mind.

    From jhuger.com

    March 31, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • Jonline

      Wow. That is good.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • Sane Person

      Religion in a nutshell. Bravo!

      March 31, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • Parfin Woodell

      Colin, A toast to you, i open a bottle of beer (Spoit) and drink to Colin (guggle, guggle)
      That was GREAT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      April 1, 2013 at 8:19 am |
  9. Mark

    Jesus was a suicide, not an execution.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  10. Frank

    Just in time for Easter http://www.wakingtimes.com/2013/03/23/the-nicene-creed-the-birth-of-christian-dualism/

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

    I wish the Pope would get off his ass & start praying for everyone- not only the SPANISH! It's like that guy who hit the LOTTO! Expect the SPANISH to rise. First it was the Blacks now the Spanish! I have nothing against neither. I love all! But he needs to pray for anyone, especially in AMERICA- all the violence we are having, bad weather, bad economy! The last Pope said "GOD WAS SLEEPING" Well you know what, I'm going to WAKE HIM UP! & tell this new POPE, If he's doing his JOB rite, we will see AMERICA the way it should be! PROSPERING not SUFFERING! This Pope will not be far behind the last one, if he doesn't START PERFORMING! GET ON YOUR F--KING KNEES & PRAY HARD!

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

      I've not noticed him praying just for the Spanish. I have noticed him speaking in Italian, as every other Pope has, since ...you know....they are in Italy. If you have nothing against people, why do you point it out?

      March 31, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • darth cheney

      You "love all?" That's really funny.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  12. Lou

    FAITH

    is believing in a God that you know for a fact is not real.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:53 am |
  13. 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 8:52 am |
  14. Memo2

    Jason, don't worry about the news, we are free to think and do what we want, if we want !!.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:50 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 8:52 am |
  15. Mahhn

    Happy Fertility celebration (another festivity converted into a religions thing) May some of you act like rabbits today and enjoy life!

    March 31, 2013 at 8:50 am |
  16. crappygovernment

    Tebowphobia is mentioned in Acts 14:1-2
    1At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively(won football games) that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. 2But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.

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

      lingerie league!

      March 31, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • Parfin Woodell

      Tebow praises god for a touchdown,
      but never blames god for an interception or a fumble.
      Must be nice to be god.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:22 am |
  17. Memo2

    If you think Jesus Christ did something for us, earn it with our own act's, never is too late to change it tomorrow will be better, is after you.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:48 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 8:53 am |
  18. Joey Isotta-Fraschini, D.D. (h.c.) ©™

    A "Belief Blog" is an ideal forum for the illumination of irrational beliefs and the lies of Christianity's champions.

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

      Maybe they should not have created the wedge !!!
      The wedge strategy is a political and social action plan authored by the Discovery Insti-tute, the hub of the intelligent design movement. The strategy was put forth in a Discovery Insti-tute manifesto known as the Wedge Docu-ment,[1] which describes a broad social, political, and academic agenda who

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedge_strategy

      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 8:53 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 8:53 am |
  19. Mr. Patton

    It has been a fascinating history of Christianity. "The early church, though, was radically inclusive." Things are so different now that I didn't recognize what "church" the author speaks of.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:47 am |
  20. Jason

    Interesting Story, BUT does anyone else find it offensive that CNN releases this story on EASTER- the most sacred day of the Christian faith? As I said, this is an interesting article and perspective, but I find it disgusting that CNN posted it today. CNN has sensitivity for every religious culture other than Christianity. Post this crap tomorrow, CNN.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Does anyone not find it offensive that christians continue to take credit for a holiday that was not originally theirs? I think the pagans should be the ones taking offense at the absurdity of christianity and how it walked in, stole their rituals and forced them to convert.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • Atheist Intolerance?

      You're requesting that CNN be tactful? LOL

      March 31, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini, D.D. (h.c.) ©™

      @ Jason:
      Your attempt to silence free speech in the USA is offensive, especially so as you would silence it to promote religion.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • Ka-ching

      Sort of like black Friday for the retailers. Christians that haven't been to church since Xmas show up with bulging wallets and make the hustle profitable. Oh lord won't you buy me a (new) Mercedes-Benz, favorite hymn of every evangie preacher.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • Jason

      @Joey

      Maybe you should re-read my post, my friend-I said post it tomorrow and I actually found the premise of the article intriguing. No where in my post am I even coming close attacking free speech... I am simply suggesting that CNN have some tact. So calm it down a bit, buddy.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • darth cheney

      Thanks for helping prove Moss' point. Your persecution complex is nearly as astounding as your lack of awareness of it.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Parfin Woodell

      Actually this story was not posted on easter Sunday.
      You read it on easter Sunday, and you blame CNN ?
      Wow.
      You have the sarah Palin disease......Blame everything on the media.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • G to the T

      The article came out on saturday, how is that Easter?

      April 2, 2013 at 2:57 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.