4 big myths of Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation has terrified and confused readers for centuries. Few agree on its meaning, but many have opinions.
March 31st, 2012
10:00 PM ET

4 big myths of Book of Revelation

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - The anti-Christ. The Battle of Armageddon. The dreaded Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

You don’t have to be a student of religion to recognize references from the Book of Revelation. The last book in the Bible has fascinated readers for centuries. People who don’t even follow religion are nonetheless familiar with figures and images from Revelation.

And why not? No other New Testament book reads like Revelation. The book virtually drips with blood and reeks of sulfur. At the center of this final battle between good and evil is an action-hero-like Jesus, who is in no mood to turn the other cheek.

Elaine Pagels, one of the world’s leading biblical scholars, first read Revelation as a teenager. She read it again in writing her latest book, “Revelations: Visions, Prophecy & Politics in the Book of Revelation.”

Pagels’ book is built around a simple question: What does Revelation mean? Her answers may disturb people who see the book as a prophecy about the end of the world.

But people have clashed over the meaning of Revelation ever since it was virtually forced into the New Testament canon over the protests of some early church leaders, Pagels says.

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“There were always debates about it,” she says. “Some people said a heretic wrote it. Some said a disciple. There were always people who loved and championed it.”

The debate persists. Pagels adds to it by challenging some of the common assumptions about Revelation.

Here are what she says are four big myths about Revelation::

1. It’s about the end of the world

Anyone who has read the popular “Left Behind” novels or listened to pastors preaching about the “rapture” might see Revelation as a blow-by-blow preview of how the world will end.

Pagels, however, says the writer of Revelation was actually describing the way his own world ended.

She says the writer of Revelation may have been called John – the book is sometimes called “Book of the Revelation of Saint John the Divine” but he was not the disciple who accompanied Jesus. He was a devout Jew and mystic exiled on the island of Patmos, off the coast of  present-day Greece.

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“He would have been a very simple man in his clothes and dress,” Pagels says. “He may have gone from church to church preaching his message. He seems more like a traveling preacher or a prophet.”

The author of Revelation had experienced a catastrophe. He wrote his book not long after 60,000 Roman soldiers had stormed Jerusalem in 70 A.D., burned down its great temple and left the city in ruins after putting down an armed Jewish revolt.

For some of the earliest Jewish followers of Jesus, the destruction of Jerusalem was incomprehensible. They had expected Jesus to return “with power” and conquer Rome before inaugurating a new age. But Rome had conquered Jesus’ homeland instead.

The author of Revelation was trying to encourage the followers of Jesus at a time when their world seemed doomed. Think of the Winston Churchill radio broadcasts delivered to the British during the darkest days of World War II.

Revelation was an anti-Roman tract and a piece of war propaganda wrapped in one. The message: God would return and destroy the Romans who had destroyed Jerusalem.

“His primary target is Rome,” Pagels says of the book’s author. “He really is deeply angry and grieved at the Jewish war and what happened to his people.”

2. The numerals 666 stand for the devil

The 1976 horror film “The Omen” scared a lot of folks. It may have scared some theologians, too, who began encountering people whose view of Revelation comes from a Hollywood movie.

The Omen” depicted the birth and rise of the “anti-Christ,” the cunning son of Satan who would be known by “the mark of the beast,” 666, on his body.

Here’s the passage from Revelation that “The Omen” alluded to: “This calls for wisdom: let anyone with understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person. Its number is six hundred sixty-six.”

Good movies, though, don’t always make good theology. Most people think 666 stands for an anti-Christ-like figure that will deceive humanity and trigger a final battle between good and evil. Some people think he’s already here.

Pagels, however, says the writer of Revelation didn’t really intend 666 as the devil’s digits. He was describing another incarnation of evil: The Roman emperor, Nero.

The arrogant and demented Nero was particularly despised by the earliest followers of Jesus, including the writer of Revelation. Nero was said to have burned followers of Jesus alive to illuminate his garden.

But the author of Revelation couldn’t safely name Nero, so he used the Jewish numerology system to spell out Nero’s imperial name, Pagels says.

Pagels says that John may have had in mind other meanings for the mark of the beast: the imperial stamp Romans used on official documents, tattoos authorizing people to engage in Roman business, or the images of Roman emperors on stamps and coins.

Since Revelation’s author writes in “the language of dreams and nightmares,” Pagels says it’s easy for outsiders to misconstrue the book’s original meaning.

Still, they take heart from Revelation’s larger message, she writes:

“…Countless people for thousands of years have been able to see their own conflicts, fears, and hopes reflected in his prophecies. And because he speaks from his convictions about divine justice, many readers have found reassurance in his conviction that there is meaning in history – even when he does not say exactly what that meaning is – and that there is hope.”

3. The writer of Revelation was a Christian

The author of Revelation hated Rome, but he also scorned another group – a group of people we would call Christians today, Pagels says.

There’s a common perception that there was a golden age of Christianity, when most Christians agreed on an uncontaminated version of the faith. Yet there was never one agreed-upon Christianity. There were always clashing visions.

Revelation reflects some of those early clashes in the church, Pagels says.

That idea isn’t new territory for Pagels. She won the National Book Award for “The Gnostic Gospels,” a 1979 book that examined a cache of newly discovered “secret” gospels of Jesus. The book, along with other work from Pagels, argues that there were other accounts of Jesus’ life that were suppressed by early church leaders because it didn’t fit with their agenda.

The author of Revelation was like an activist crusading for traditional values. In his case, he was a devout Jew who saw Jesus as the messiah. But he didn’t like the message that the apostle Paul and other followers of Jesus were preaching.

This new message insisted that gentiles could become followers of Jesus without adopting the requirements of the Torah. It accepted women leaders, and intermarriage with gentiles, Pagels says.

The new message was a lot like what we call Christianity today.

That was too much for the author of Revelation. At one point, he calls a woman leader in an early church community a “Jezebel.” He calls one of those gentile-accepting churches a “synagogue of Satan.”

John was defending a form of Christianity that would be eclipsed by the Christians he attacked, Pagels says.

“What John of Patmos preached would have looked old-fashioned – and simply wrong to Paul’s converts…,” she writes.

The author of Revelation was a follower of Jesus, but he wasn’t what some people would call a Christian today, Pagels says.

“There’s no indication that he read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount or that he read the gospels or Paul’s letters,” she says. “….He doesn’t even say Jesus died for your sins.”

4. There is only one Book of Revelation

There’s no other book in the Bible quite like Revelation, but there are plenty of books like Revelation that didn’t make it into the Bible, Pagels says.

Early church leaders suppressed an “astonishing” range of books that claimed to be revelations from apostles such as Peter and James. Many of these books were read and treasured by Christians throughout the Roman Empire, she says.

There was even another “Secret Revelation of John.” In this one, Jesus wasn’t a divine warrior, but someone who first appeared to the apostle Paul as a blazing light, then as a child, an old man and, some scholars say, a woman.

So why did the revelation from John of Patmos make it into the Bible, but not the others?

Pagels traces that decision largely to Bishop Athanasius, a pugnacious church leader who championed Revelation about 360 years after the death of Jesus.

Athanasius was so fiery that during his 46 years as bishop he was deposed and exiled five times. He was primarily responsible for shaping the New Testament while excluding books he labeled as hearsay, Pagels says.

Many church leaders opposed including Revelation in the New Testament. Athanasius’s predecessor said the book was “unintelligible, irrational and false.”

Athanasius, though, saw Revelation as a useful political tool. He transformed it into an attack ad against Christians who questioned him.

Rome was no longer the enemy; those who questioned church authority were the anti-Christs in Athanasius’s reading of Revelation, Pagels says.

“Athanasius interprets Revelation’s cosmic war as a vivid picture of his own crusade against heretics and reads John’s visions as a sharp warning to Christian dissidents,” she writes. “God is about to divide the saved from the damned – which now means dividing the ‘orthodox’ from ‘heretics.’ ’’

Centuries later, Revelation still divides people. Pagels calls it the strangest and most controversial book in the Bible.

Even after writing a book about it, Pagels has hardly mastered its meaning.

“The book is the hardest one in the Bible to understand,” Pagels says. “I don’t think anyone completely understands it.”

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Books • Christianity • Church • Devil • End times • Faith • History • Jerusalem

soundoff (8,460 Responses)
  1. wa79

    Having read the book of Revelation myself, it is clearly not about the end of Jeruselm. I've done my own reasearch into John and Revelation. While her history is correct, her application isn't, neither are her ideas about John. Just because she is a so called expert doesn't mean she's acurate. History is riddled with "experts" in various fields that provided incorrect (and sometimes deadly) information. If a person reads the book (or whole bible for that matter) with an open mind, its surprising what they will and won't find. It's also very sad to hear people make judgements about a book they've never read. Read the book yourself then you can decide for yourself whether the bible is dribble or not.

    April 1, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • scoobypoo

      Revelations is just one of a random selection of fairy tales [i.e., the bible], with most topics clearly stolen from earlier pagan stories. If you did any real 'research', you would know this.

      April 1, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  2. D.Hung

    Elaine Pagels is a professor at Princeton, but that hardly makes her a "leading" scholar on this subject, except in the sense that sensationalism "leads" the front page. Folks like Pagels, Crossan, and Borg are RADICALS, whose views are flatly REJECTED by 95% of SECULAR HISTORIANS, her own peers. This is not a religious argument: whatever you believe about the contents of the bible, the work of Pagels was discredited long ago and that is a plain fact of scholarship. This "new" book does nothing but rehash her old arguments from the 70's.

    April 1, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • WMoonFox

      I cannot speak to her other works, but the idea that Revelation was written as a political piece describing the life and times of the author is pretty well accepted by most secular historians, and has been for some time. In that respect, you are completely incorrect.

      April 1, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • Randall

      Honestly, I think both sides are pretty stupid. Religious fanatics trying to convince everyone the bible is true and the others trying to convince you it isn't true. I think it's a waste of time on both sides. Believe what you want and move on.

      April 1, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • scoobypoo

      Randall, it is not a waste of time to illuminate the idiocy of religion.

      The 'waste of time' is time spent praying to imaginary beings and killing and discriminating based on fairy tales and childhood indoctrination.

      April 1, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • D.Hung

      @Randall: You have failed to read: this is not a religious argument. Blake has made claims about Pagels' academic standing, and Pagels has made claims about a piece of text. Both are open to investigation without speaking of any particular religion. And it turns out that neither is credible.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • D.Hung

      @WMoonFox: It's not surprising that you think this view is "pretty well accepted." Pagels and her peers spend great effort on publicity, portraying their views as "the assured results of modern scholarship." However, it's quite easy to survey their 5000 colleagues in the SBL (the standard professional organization for scholars in this field, like the AMA for doctors and IEEE for engineers), and discover that they are, as a numerical fact, a 5% fringe view. The other 95% spend their time doing actual research, whereas Pagels spends her time on talk shows marketing her outdated views to an unsuspecting public.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • D.Hung

      @scoobypoo: I like your circular argument. Please continue.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  3. James

    I'd say some Christians have taken up the book of revelations as a new religion in its own right. These pseudo-Christians risk letting their own tendencies toward separation and the hate of others lead them into worshiping a dark part of religion that allows them to envision and dream of destruction and fire for the rest of the world. Since I've been a child, I have heard changing popular interpretations of revelations molded to the current political landscape at that time. Why some Christians prefer to focus on all this darkness is as strange of the book of revelations itself.

    April 1, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  4. Randy

    This woman is a Biblical Scholar?! I don't buy a word she says. She sounds like another person trying to deceive people from God's word.

    April 1, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • reason

      Or is it you who is deceiving people into irrational religion?

      April 1, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • Dixon

      exactly what "reason" just said

      April 1, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • Randy

      I have sat through 'Christian' bible studies on the book of Revelation and what she says it says is nothing of the sorts. When all the symbolism is broken and the words used are transferred back to Hebrew and Greek meanings it tells a more accurate story. I was not the least bit surprised by your comments as it's exactly what I would expect from someone who has already been mislead. I don't expect anyone to believe me. Read it for yourself the Holy Spirit works through all of us individually to understand the Word as we need according to God.

      April 1, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • emahu

      if she is a Bible scholar why is she say a myth?no it is not a myth..peoples interpretation may vary cos ..,but rather all the prophesies are going to achieve sooon what ever the misunderstood of peple ....

      April 1, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  5. Sebastian

    After reading this blasphemous article, I was looking for the words "April Fools" at the end.

    April 1, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • Randy

      I agree.

      April 1, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • Dixon

      The only "fool" here is you for believing in an antiquated book written by uneducated men. The facts are that 5th graders today know more about the world in which we reside than did the simpletons that wrote the Bible. You'd NEVER let a 5th grader dictate the course of your life, but when it comes to the Bible, then you are fine with it. It is absolutely mind-boggling. Congrats on that!

      April 1, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • Randy

      Atheist and other anit-christians love trying to take their agenda to these blogs Sebastion. God's word tells us this in the Bible as I am sure you already know. So sad.

      April 1, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Dixon

      Randy: You can't even spell "Sebastian" and it's right there in front of you. Classic.

      April 1, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  6. A Trained Monkey

    Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

    April 1, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • Turth7

      That's the devil's hallmark.

      April 1, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • ankenyman

      Atheists are the ones who have to believe in a practically infinite number of logical absurdities to think that there is no God. Shouldn't there be absolute nothingness, if there is no God? Why is there any matter, space, dimensionality, order, design, LIFE, intelligence at all? You have to believe that something came from nothing and that life and intelligence somehow emanated from inanimate objects, and matter arranged itself in an orderly way conducive to life here – all on its own. Which is more absurd?

      April 1, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • scoobypoo

      ankenyman, your response is typical but is so easily dismissed. It's called "faith" because there is no logic to it.

      If the complexity of our universe "requires" there be a creator, then that creator must naturally be even more complex than the creation and thus the creator too "requires" another creator, and _that_ creator needs a creator-creator-creator and so on...

      April 1, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • JennieD

      I like that!

      April 1, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  7. UncleM

    Believing BS doesn't make it true.

    April 1, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  8. Bruce

    John and CNN have made a big April Fool's joke!

    April 1, 2012 at 8:54 am |
  9. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 1, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • Dixon

      This is what I wrote to you earlier and you lacked the intellectual capital to respond:

      Let's stop and look at prayer for a minute which is done by the vast, vast majority of believers. The facts are that numerous studies have been done by some of the world’s most prestigious groups (Mayo Clinic, Duke University Medical Center, Harvard, American Heart Association, etc) that show that prayer clearly does NOT work. If you think otherwise, then I suppose you must be more educated than they are (and places like the Mayo Clinic has strong religious affiliations with one of their main hospitals named St. Mary’s).

      If prayer really works: How many amputees has God/Jesus miraculously cured? There are so many “miracles” that happen, yet it is amazing how not one amputee has spontaneously regenerated a limb. I guess God hates amputees.

      The Bible says you if two or more of you pray to God, your requests WILL be answered without question. My friend and I just prayed for instantaneous world peace… yet “amazingly” it didn’t happen. If you say it is because I am not a believer, you and your friends pray for instant world peace and see if it happens. We both know it won't happen.

      Here's the trick: No matter what you pray for, it gets answered because of the way that people allow for there to be no "bad" option. Christianity. com says, "We have to trust that He knows what’s best. God answers prayers in the form of 'yes', 'no' and 'wait'. Sometimes the hardest answer to accept is 'wait'. It’s difficult to be left in limbo, wondering how God will handle our problem, but we must have faith that He will!"

      Thus, imagine that I put a box of cereal on the counter, and I say to you, "Pray to the box of cereal." I tell you that if you pray to the box of cereal, it will answer all your prayers. You are skeptical, but you agree to try it. You pray to the box of cereal to give you $1K.

      Now I say to you, "The box of cereal answers prayers in the form of 'yes', 'no' and 'wait'. Let's see what happens."

      What is going to happen? There are three scenarios:

      Scenario 1: Out of the blue, a check for $1,100 arrives in the mail tomorrow. It is an unexpected tax refund check from the IRS. I say to you, "See! The box of cereal answered your prayer!"

      Scenario 2: Seven weeks later, out of the blue, you get a cost-of-living raise and it happens to increase your salary by $1,200 per year. I say to you, "See! The box of cereal answered your prayer! You just had to wait patiently."

      Scenario 3: Nothing happens for six months. You ask me, "Why?" I say, "We have to trust that the box of cereal knows what’s best. Let's be patient."

      Look at what happened: In scenarios 1 and 2, the box of cereal really did answer your prayers. And in scenario 3 we are waiting for it to answer your prayer, knowing that it is doing what is best for you.

      Now let me ask you: Will you get down on your knees and worship this box of cereal?

      Probably not. But why not? You won't worship the box of cereal because you know it didn't do anything. The box of cereal did not "answer" your "prayer." The box of cereal did not cause you to get a raise or get a check in the mail. Did the box of cereal do anything at all? No. Absolutely not. You know that. We both know that. It was nothing more than a coincidence.

      If the criteria is 'Yes', 'No' and 'Wait' it appears that box of cereal answers EVERY prayer. But we both know that the box of cereal did nothing. Thus, you are just fooling yourself.

      Meanwhile, atheists have the highest IQ's (as determined by numerous studies) and guess who has the lowest IQ's? Yep, that's right, religious zealots.

      April 1, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • scoobypoo

      "...Athanasius was so fiery that during his 46 years as bishop he was deposed and exiled five times. He was primarily responsible for shaping the New Testament while excluding books he labeled as hearsay, Pagels says..."

      So your bible is a random hodgepodge of tracts, and you take it now as literal truth? Too funny. It's no more real than Grimm's Fairy Tales, and a lot less entertaining (and a lot more dangerous).

      April 1, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • Randy

      Dixon you seem to amaze me with your inaccurate reports of prayer. You're suggest are the opposite of many studies from the same hospitals and universities. Of course if you're getting your information from a source of anti-god articles written by atheist and satanics I would suppose your inaccurate information wouldn't be so inaccurate.

      April 1, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Dixon

      @Randy: LMAO... so you know more than the Mayo Clinic, Harvard, Duke Medical, the American Heart Association, etc? The Mayo Clinic is associated with faith and it's two main hospitals are named St. Mary's and Methodist. But hey, I guess they are "atheists and satanics." It's more like you are delusional my friend. Seriously Randy, how many amputees has God miraculously cured? Come on, we're all waiting to hear the answer to that one.

      April 1, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Marzi

      The things you call "facts" are still up for debate. For instance, do atheists have higher IQs? When compared to the world's population, yes but it is important to understand why: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-human-beast/201005/the-real-reason-atheists-have-higher-iqs
      Secondly, the studies about prayer are still up for debate: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/health/31pray.html?pagewanted=all
      And as for your thoughts about 5th grades knowing more about the world, yes they have more knowledge, but that does not make them wiser. That is one of the biggest flaws in your thinking: higher intelligence does NOT necessitate maturity and wisdom. It certainly should make wisdom easier to obtain but often does not.

      April 1, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • buckeyenonbeliever

      Please provide evidence that prayer has tangible, positive effects. You cannot.

      Religion and not atheism, poses the single greatest danger and threat to not only children; but humankind. Please take the delusional goggles off and join the rest of us in the real world. Reason not religion, education not indoctrination; is the answer to the worlds' ills. God and religion have had their chance for thousands of years and have failed miserably. The same bigotry, the same misogyny, the same racism, and the same evil exists today as did when the religion myth was created.

      The definition of insanity is to repeat the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Is there a better term than insane to explain religion? I think not.

      Genesis 6:7

      April 1, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • gman

      @ dixon, what you say is widely accepted as general answers to prayer. but god chooses his response. job
      suffered for a long period of time before god finally answered him out of the storm. and the lord went on for
      nearly 2 chapters. i would recomend you read the last chapters of job where god is speaking to him. nothing
      on this earth is like it. this answer defies all imagination and clearly comes from god.

      April 1, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  10. jim

    It is funny how when scholars who spend their lives researching the historical roots of the Bible get attacked when their work reveals a history that does not fit with current beliefs.

    April 1, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • reason

      Or more likely their work conflicts with religious beliefs.

      April 1, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • Turth7

      Do you not understand that one must have the Holy Spirit before you can even understand what scripture is telling you? Do you understand that Jesus said "God is to teach them"? You are not to listen to man.

      Jesus healed the "blind" – those "without knowledge"

      April 1, 2012 at 9:10 am |
  11. tepeters

    She really isn't saying anything new. Forty years ago I took seminary classes that taught emphatically that contrary to popular piety Revelations is referencing what the author thought was the immanent end of the Roman Empire. Since the class was designed to turn out pastors, everyone was admonished not to teach this to a congregation less you confuse their faith. I don't recall all these details Pagel is asserting but the point is the same. It works for me any way and is why I am not a christian because christianity misinterpreted the meaning of Jesus from the gospel OF Jesus to the gospel ABOUT Jesus.

    April 1, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  12. Rick

    Is this article from CNN just another chapter in the war on religion?

    I have CNN book marked for morning news reading and I think that I may see a pattern.

    April 1, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • MAX

      More like a war on Christianity. If it is Islam there will be something positive coming from CNN.

      April 1, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • Bruce

      It seems that CNN and John are fighting the anti Religion war indeed. On and on they go. It's their duty. Religion, capitalism, traditional values, on and on they go.

      April 1, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • mikstov33

      The start of the war against the Two Wtnesses of Revelation.....Christianity and Judaism. When they are defeated all non-beleivers will send gifts to each other in celebration,and party hardy.However, they rise again 3 and a half years later to be taken up to Heaven.
      Sounds as though some in this world have already started the festivities.

      April 1, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  13. LBL

    I'm afraid Mr. Blake needs to get his facts straight. Instead of going to a person who is clearly anti-Christian to find out what Christians believe, why not find out from a true Believer what the Bible teaches? You don't have to believe it; God Himself doesn't force His truth on anyone. But if you're going to write about my beliefs at least be honest in your reporting about them. To quote this person who clearly knows nothing about the book of Revelation or its writer as if she were an expert simply because she is from Princeton wreaks of poor journalism. I have not had any respect for CNN or their biased reporting since their coverage of the 2000 elections, but this is a new low, even for a CNN writer. If this garbage had been written about another particular religion there would now be bombs going off all over the western world.

    April 1, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • AGuest9

      What "truth"? That "John" was an opium user, or mentally ill?

      April 1, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • jOe kenadee

      Wow you totally didn't read the article you're the first April fool I've come across!

      April 1, 2012 at 9:01 am |
  14. E

    It is ALL a myth.

    April 1, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  15. Scholar

    Thank you CNN for a well done article. I know many will hate this one, but its full of facts and balanced just right. Thank you John. Thank you Pagel!

    April 1, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • nana

      You are so mislead! Read the bible...see for yourself. CNN is not the bible, nor some wanna be mockery writer of the bible

      April 1, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  16. reason

    The gods of all organized religions, if true, would all be horribly unjust and evil deities to send billions of people to eternal suffering for choosing the wrong one or being born in the wrong place. Looking at organized religion objectively, they are myths from stone age societies that were trying to explain the world, and there is virtually no chance any one is truth.

    Rationally speaking if there is a just god and an afterlife, you will be judged on how you live your life. Rejecting reason and deluding yourself in blind faith does not help your case.

    April 1, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  17. becca

    Anyone who read and understood the Book of Revelation will understand exactly why this and articles like it are being published so often. The Book tells us this will happen.

    April 1, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • Randall

      It also says there are magical talking snakes too.

      April 1, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • just sayin

      The snake was never referred to as magical by anyone in authority and still has not been. Read the account instead of parroting what some atheist guru has said.

      April 1, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  18. lori

    If the bible isnot true I have nothing to lose.But if it is I have everthing to gain.So I belive.We all have free well

    April 1, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • UncleM

      That is so intellectually lame. How about the Easter bunny.

      April 1, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • reason

      The majority of the world believes in a god or gods, and the majority of the world thinks YOU are going to hell for picking the wrong one.

      Deluding yourself in an organized religion that is almost certainly nothing but stone age myths does nothing to save you.

      If there IS a just god and you are a good person, what do you have to be concerned about?

      April 1, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • AGuest9

      I think you believe in Pascal's Wager.

      April 1, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  19. ohreally


    OSIRIS – EGYPT: He came to fulfill the law. Called "KRST," the "Anointed One." Born of the virgin Isis-Meri on December 25th in a cave / manger, with his birth announced by a star and attended by three wise men. Earthly father named "Seb" (translates to "Joseph.") At age 12 he was a child teacher in the Temple and at 30 he was baptized, having disappeared for 18 years. Osiris was baptized in the river Iarutana - the river Jordan - by "Anup the Baptizer," who was beheaded. (Anup translates to John.) He performed miracles, exorcised demons, raised El-Osiris from the dead. Walked on water and was betrayed by Typhon, crucified between two thieves on the 17th day of the month of Athyr. Buried in a tomb from which he arose on the third day (19th Athyr) and was resurrected. His suffering, death, and resurrection celebrated each year by His disciples on the Vernal Equinox - Easter. Called "The Way, the Truth, the Light," "Messiah," "god's Anointed Son,' the "Son of Man," the "Word made Flesh," the "word of truth." Expected to reign a thousand years.

    April 1, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • Nate

      Pulled straight from zeitgeist. Go to any Zeitgeist debunking website on google (there are plenty) and read why this simply is not true.

      April 1, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • AGuest9

      Same myth.

      April 1, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • ohreally


      This religion, cloaked in mystery and secrecy, has captivated the imaginations of scholars for generations. Many facts discovered sheds vital light on the cultural dynamics that led to the rise of Christianity. The National Geographic Society’s book “Great Religions of the World,” page 309 writes; “By Jesus’ time, East and West had mingled here for three centuries. Down columns of boulevards walked Roman soldiers loyal to the Persian god Mithras.” Mithras was a Persian deity. He was also the most widely venerated god in the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus. The Catholic Encyclopedia as well as the early Church Fathers found this religion of Mithras very disturbing, as there are so many similarities between the two religions, as follows:

      1) Hundreds of years before Jesus, according to the Mithraic religion, three Wise Men of Persia came to visit the baby savior-god Mithra, bring him gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense.
      2) Mithra was born on December 25 as told in the “Great Religions of the World”, page 330; “…it was the winter solstice celebrated by ancients as the birthday of Mithraism’s sun god”.
      3) According to Mithraism, before Mithra died on a cross, he celebrated a “Last Supper with his twelve disciples, who represented the twelve signs of the zodiac.
      4) After the death of Mithra, his body was laid to rest in a rock tomb.
      5) Mithra had a celibate priesthood.
      6) Mithra ascended into heaven during the spring (Passover) equinox (the time when the sun crosses the equator making night and day of equal length).

      April 1, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • ohreally

      Trinity―Trinities were popular in pagan sects before Christianity was introduced to the world. Some of the more well known trinity gods included Mithra-Vohu Mana-Rashnu, Amen-Mut-Khonsu, and Osiris-Isis-Horus.

      Virgin Birth―Among the pagan cultures that preceded Christianity, virgin birth stories abounded. The long list of pagan gods born of virgins includes: Romulus and Remus, Zoroaster, Buddha, Mithras, Chrishna, Osiris-Aion, Agdistis, Attis, Tammuz, Adonis, Korybas, Perseus, and Dionysus.

      Disciples―In the following 'saviors' cases, a grouping of disciples was present, just as they were present in Jesus' story: Horus, Buddha, Chrishna, Dionysus, Mithra. Interestingly enough, in the case of Dionysus, his disciple Acoetes was a boatman, just as Jesus' disciple Peter. And just as Peter was freed from jail when the doors miraculously flew open, so was Dionysus' disciple Acoetes. In Budda's case, he, like Jesus, demanded that his disciples renounce all worldly possessions. Yet another instance of similarity is that the disciples of both Jesus and Buddha were said to have been arrested for preaching, as well as witnessed to have "walked on water."

      Miracles―Among those 'saviors' who, like Jesus, performed countless miracles include: Horus, Chrishna, Buddha, Dionysus, Mithra, Osirus, and Adonis. Horus was said to have walked on water, just as Jesus did. In addition, Horus raised one man, El-Azarus, from the dead in front of countless witnesses. In the case of Buddha, it was told that he fed five hundred men with one loaf of bread, that he cured lepers, and that he caused the blind to see. Dionysus rescued a person from dying when the person was utterly desolate and placed them among the stars. And he gave food and drink, herbs and berries, to the starving people - not to mention turning water into wine.

      The Sun―Here is another common theory, quoted from S. Acharya's "The Origins of Christianity and the Quest for the Historical Jesus:" "The reason why all these pagan narratives are so similar to a "god-man" is that these stories were based on the movements of the sun through the heavens, an astrotheological development that can be found throughout the planet because the sun and the 12 zodiac signs can be observed around the globe.

      April 1, 2012 at 9:01 am |
  20. msadr

    I have studied under some of the best biblical "scholars" in the world and I've never even heard of Elaine Pagels. Her interpretation, (one of hundreds), doesn't make sense. If John was writing about how his own world was destroyed, then why did he use prophetic form and reference the prophecy of the 70 weeks from the book of Daniel? And the author describes things from his visions that did not, and could not, exist in his day (they exist now). I really don't think he believed his visions to be about the present or even the near future. Whether he was racist and hated women I don't know. But that seems like kind of a stretch from just reading the text. I could buy into the idea that he hated Rome, but that's the only idea of merit that I see here. Oh, and I the number 666 is disputed too. Could be 616.

    April 1, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • jjane

      Yeah, gotta agree. CNN and Pagels is going the same path as religious apologists.

      April 1, 2012 at 9:08 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.