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. mrdeshon

    What a much needed & well researched article. Im glad someone finally has the courage to undemonize this most frightening of bible books. I feel this book has been used throughout the history of Christianity to enslaved & suppress free thinking in its followers. The powers that be remain unchallenged & unchecked. Thank you for your courage. It is LONG overdue.

    April 1, 2012 at 4:59 am |
  2. JW

    It will be so interesting to see the events of Revelation come to pass before this very author's eyes. These events are prophesied not only in Revelation, but are found in the prophetic books of Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, Joel, Amos and several others of the Old Testament. The book of Enoch also has him seeing some of the same visions as the disciple John saw that he recorded in Revelation. This author does not know the Bible obviously, and has come to the wrong conclusions because of ignorance of God's Word and His consistency in telling us exactly what will happen in the future. Those who believe the Word of God are wise. Those who don't are in peril of their very lives.

    April 1, 2012 at 4:57 am |
    • George Bush

      Good that you are scared, you are easier to control that way, now give money to your church like a good brainwashed sheep.

      April 1, 2012 at 5:09 am |
    • Enlightened

      My God can kick your Gods ass. Seriously.

      April 1, 2012 at 5:31 am |
    • primatica

      Keep waiting.....but leave the rest of us to live our lives on this earth without your nonsense

      April 1, 2012 at 7:45 am |
    • adpirz

      I am legitimately curious: you are one of many here to claim that the book of Revelations is actual prophecy and that many events have been foretold, but no one's showing me where in the text this has happened. At least in this article, the author describes how the text directly relates to the Roman Empire.

      Can you show me how the Book of Revelations specifically predicts any events of the last 200 years?

      April 1, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Jorge

      Some of the prophecies coming true from Revelation:

      – Third temple
      Revelation talks about a 3rd Jewish temple being built. It will be built in troublesome time and very quick. There is a Jewish organization already getting everything organized for this. templemountfaithful.org. Check it out.

      – Arrogance and Insensitivity by Mankind
      "But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of god; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."

      All you have to do is read about gang/drug activities, human trafficking, wealth hoarding, etc.

      – Technology
      Revelation 13:16-17 "And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name."

      All of us smart people. Let's think about this. At what time in history has it been possible to control the small and the great? the rich and the poor? When has it been possible to be able to buy/sell with something that EVERYBODY can have? Never, just in this time period and near future. Technology makes it easy for everyone with a cellphone or some form of implantable microchip to buy something. Already the concept of implantable microchips is gaining acceptance due to its convenience of offering medical records, credit, and ability to buy/sell:


      April 1, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  3. Norman

    This article is a great example of why people trust FOX news more than CNN.

    April 1, 2012 at 4:56 am |
    • George Bush

      These comments sure are, people are simple minded and the weak minded even fear science.

      April 1, 2012 at 5:06 am |
    • Brandon

      nobody w/ any sense trusts either of them; but Fox news is significantly worse to be perfectly honest

      April 1, 2012 at 5:17 am |
  4. Kevin

    4 myths? That would make the Old Testament limited to 4 statements.

    April 1, 2012 at 4:56 am |
    • CJMack

      We are discussing a book in the NEW testament. Guess it's time to do a little studying, eh? Your eternal destiny depends on your decision to accept Jesus' death as a redemptive act.

      April 1, 2012 at 9:10 am |
  5. MARIE


    April 1, 2012 at 4:53 am |
    • Kevin

      Why you so crazy?

      April 1, 2012 at 5:06 am |
    • Brandon

      this is why atheism is on the rise

      April 1, 2012 at 5:13 am |
    • tamramb

      wow, this is scary. she's so into the "translations" and stories, she's never stopped to question what she actually has been taught. oh well... in the end (hahahaha) it'll all be sorted out

      April 1, 2012 at 5:17 am |
    • John

      Your understanding was obviously GIVEN to you. You did not form it on your own by critical research.

      April 1, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  6. Rim

    I find it fascinating that there are still people who believe in any sort of bible.
    It's laughable and sad at the same time.
    All these amazing discoveries about life (none of which point to a creator)are passing you people by.

    April 1, 2012 at 4:53 am |
    • MARIE


      April 1, 2012 at 4:55 am |
    • gopanthers

      yes the details of life, the human brain, and how things work together perfectly, is all by accident, just like a house builds itself, and a cars engine is just designed on its own

      April 1, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  7. No one

    Did CNN really need to put that image on the front page?

    April 1, 2012 at 4:51 am |
  8. susanna king

    People are certin they know the real meaning of the Book of Revelation today. Yesterday people had a different idea as to the meaning and were certin they understood the book. But tomarrow they may have a differnt idea all together about its meaning.Thats the way this book works

    April 1, 2012 at 4:51 am |
  9. Joe

    Jerry148 is right

    April 1, 2012 at 4:47 am |
  10. Wendy

    I am a Christian...a follower of Christ. One thing a very wise person once told me is this....sometimes we have to agree to disagree on the beliefs that some have of the Bible and religion in general. But there are things we must, as Christians agree on; that we are all sinners and separated from God. Nothing we could do could make us righteous before God. That Jesus Christ bore our sins and died on the cross. He took God's judgment that we deserved. He rose from the dead and defeated death and is now seated at the right hand of the Father.

    Some of these comments make me very sad. As a Christian I believe that the Bible was inspired by God and that the books in the Bible are in there because God wanted them there. This article is a good reminder that I need to continue to pray for the people in this world. Yes even you that will laugh and make fun of me. The Bible commands me to love my enemies.

    And for those of you who are Christians...remember that Jesus told us we would be hated because of him. So don't be surprised when we are attacked for our beliefs.

    April 1, 2012 at 4:40 am |
    • soundmind

      Your response is well written and I sense your restrained frustration with the author. I agree with your assessment and I further commend your response. Be Blessed!

      April 1, 2012 at 4:52 am |
    • Mighty7

      Don't you think for one second your sweet words fool me. I can smell the sulfur all the way from here. I know how your kind, shewolf dressed in lamb's clothing. I can feel the Fallen One working through you. It is clear you are not Christian.

      Be gone!!

      April 1, 2012 at 4:58 am |
    • ssdwcc

      How dumb can people be. Christ and Christianity are the biggest hoaxes of all time. I haven't yet met anyone who purports to be a Christian that knows anything about Christianity. These people are so laughable and follow like sheep. Quite sad, actually.

      April 1, 2012 at 5:02 am |
    • Brandon

      you are terribly naive, take off your blinders and look at the world through clear eyes

      April 1, 2012 at 5:15 am |
    • paul

      Dear Wendy, I found the article interesting, and it does make a good case for understanding the book of Revelation a lot easier other than using it as a scare tactic that most preachers have used it for.

      April 1, 2012 at 5:15 am |
    • paul

      Dear Wendy, I found the article interesting, and it does make a good case for understanding the book of Revelation a lot easier other than using it as a scare tactic.

      April 1, 2012 at 5:16 am |
    • RevMum

      Wendy, that is a very nice post.

      April 1, 2012 at 5:54 am |
    • primatica

      The world is changing , agree to disagree doesn't cut it in the public forums because we are all connected now , like it or not we are all on the grid. In this world we need reality and fact, and it has to make some sense. We have to be educated enough to understand religion's position as being the first enterprise to profit on putting into words the basic human emotion of empathy and enforcing it with the myth of damnation. All religion's teach the golden rule at it's core.

      April 1, 2012 at 7:54 am |
  11. claviger54

    "[H]e 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."

    Someone needs to read her epistles. St. Paul is positively bent on dissolving the divide that the Law might create between Jews and Gentiles. St John was a Christian, of the Church of St Paul. No disparity lies between the two.

    "[Athanasius] was primarily responsible for shaping the New Testament while excluding books he labeled as hearsay, Pagels says."

    The Council of Carthage rejected several books that St. Athanasius wanted in the canon, including the apocalyptic Shepherd of Hermas. He was in no means "primarily responsible for shaping the canon." No single person was. The Church holds councils for a reason.

    April 1, 2012 at 4:38 am |
    • primatica

      So am suppose to feel better about the bible because the will of God was deciphered by a council of priests instead of one?

      April 1, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  12. Tom Young

    I'm so glad that I can rely on the guidance of God's Holy Spirit for the accurate interpretation of the Book of Revelation and not have to resort to relying on News media for the same. See, there is a God, there must be.

    Proverbs 3:5-6

    April 1, 2012 at 4:36 am |
  13. bluemax77

    It’s all a myth, are they kidding...Only in America would this c r a p be in the news...

    April 1, 2012 at 4:36 am |
  14. John

    Well I think poop, poop, poopy, poop.

    April 1, 2012 at 4:34 am |
  15. trdaddy

    Revelations is a guide, IT IS NOT PROPHECY!!

    April 1, 2012 at 4:29 am |
    • soundmind

      I am certain you are wrong.

      April 1, 2012 at 4:54 am |
    • Brandon

      It's a piece of fiction meant to frighten people so they are more malleable

      April 1, 2012 at 5:09 am |
  16. poo goblin

    1st of all. john wrote a gospel. the last written gospel. it has a completely rewritten version of the life of christ. he performed few miracles, if any, until after john wrote them. let people have faith. it's not like they're burning a cross into your butt. Additionally, there are few written accounts of nero. romans hated him because he caused, sort of, a traumatic war. moreover, he killed himself. romans valued strength and valor. Nero was name was slandered. All positive accounts of his life were destroyed. Nero may not have been as bad as he has been considered. Christians and atheists should stop ramming philosophies down each others' throats. read some books, take some classes, and enjoy your damn life. defending an ignorant opinion online to a comment section is thoroughly pointless. you're not going to change any opinions. heed this advice; you can never change another person's opinion.

    April 1, 2012 at 4:27 am |
    • trdaddy

      thank you! Amen to that! Many of you need to loosen your grip on your religous opinions! THEY WILL GET YOU NOWHERE! (Including Heaven)

      April 1, 2012 at 4:39 am |
  17. jerry148

    Coming to the CNN message boards to talk about hot-button topics is sort of like trying to reason with a terrorist.

    Everyone believes so deeply in what they believe that it's impossible to have a remotely civilized conversation.

    April 1, 2012 at 4:24 am |
    • Erik

      Let me clarify the above. A muslim is no longer a muslim if he repents and turns to Jesus as his savior

      April 1, 2012 at 5:01 am |
    • jerry148

      Never said anything about Muslims.......

      I said *terrorist*. Terrorists can be anyone. For example: the IRA, Ted Kaczynski, Anders Behring Breivik, Aum Shinrikyo, the KKK, the LRA, and the list goes on.

      Stop being so narrow-minded.

      April 1, 2012 at 5:14 am |
  18. Erik

    CNN is totally biased. Youd neve see them publishing a report on discrediting ISLAM and its Prophet Moe. You see because CNN gives ISLAM a pass because it fears blow back of attacks to its many reporters in the middle le east and at home. Cowards....

    April 1, 2012 at 4:23 am |
    • Erik

      Well of course they are biased they have Fareed Zakaria who professing Muslim. So it makes sense that CNN likes to attack Israel and the christians....


      April 1, 2012 at 4:30 am |
    • Mighty7

      Satan must like your work, You are doing it well, spreading all that hate and lies in His Name. He must have a special place for you in his burning cave.

      April 1, 2012 at 4:40 am |
    • tamramb

      wow, racism and religion. which sermon from Christ did that come from? but you are aware that muslims accept Christ and adhere more to eating principles than you ever will? how's that pork & fasting discipline working out for ya?

      April 1, 2012 at 4:48 am |
    • Leif

      I have never seen American tv that supports Islam. But I do see endless programming based on certain interpretations of the Book of Revelations. Thank God someone has enough guts to respond.

      April 1, 2012 at 4:54 am |
    • Erik

      Muslims except Christ? As a matter of fact they consider the Jesus in the bible as blashphemous because he makes himself to be the Son of God. In other words God in the flesh....Islam considers Jesus as some prophet but nothing more beyond that. You are incorrect that Muslims except Christ. In order for a Muslim to accept Christ they have to renounce the allah and his prophet. And many are but secretly because its a capital crime by the death penality for a muslim to convert to and recieve Jesus Christ as savior...

      April 1, 2012 at 4:58 am |
    • Leif

      The word is "accept", not "except". Stop cutting and pasting.

      April 1, 2012 at 5:04 am |
    • tamramb

      Erik, where do you get your "facts" from? plus you seem very angry, bitter, enraged and biased based upon your own interpretations. which religion do you worship?

      April 1, 2012 at 5:20 am |
    • EmcK

      It's a capital crime for a Muslim to convert to Christianity? Have you ever read your Bible? Specifically the book of Deuteronomy?

      Here, let's take a look at what the Christian Bible says:


      13:6 If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers
      13:7 Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;
      13:8 Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him:
      13:9 But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.
      13:10 And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

      April 1, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  19. Danny


    April 1, 2012 at 4:23 am |
  20. Dozy

    Paul Lee
    Religion is a bad influence? Have you missed what happened under atheism? Wars and simple hatred under humanism killed more people than in all of religious wars, and oppressed more people in peace than anything that happened under religious rule. That does not excuse the wrongs done in the name of religion, but I beg to differ from your simplistic slur against people of faith. Or to put it another way, Bronze Age fanatics (methinks the Roman Empire was a bit beyond that...) might be pitied for their foolishness, but what can we say about modern and postmodern atheists whose actions are even worse?

    At Paul; what happened under atheism? how did humanis kill more people than religious wars

    April 1, 2012 at 4:23 am |
    • jerry148

      Let us not forget the wonderful contributions that science has given us, namely: nuclear weapons, herbicides/Agent Orange, bio-weapons (anthrax, smallpox, ebola, etc), the T4 campaign, the Great Purge (under the officially atheist Soviet government)......sure there are also some excellent things that science has also given us.

      In realitas, the numbers killed under religious warfare are indubitably far lower than those atrocities committed in the name of freedom, science, advancement, etc, etc.

      April 1, 2012 at 4:33 am |
    • Michael

      How? Let's confine this to Athiests of the 20th Century, where 3 of these men are responsible for the deaths of over 100 million people.

      Hitler – National Socialist and pesecutor of Christians ( Especially Catholics ) and Jews: ~30 Million Killed in his reign of terror through Europe.

      Stalin – Global Socialist ( Communist ) and pesecutor of Christians ( primarily Orthodix ) The only person to kill more Russians and other ethic minorities in the Soviet Union than Hitler. – estimates are between 20 – 30 Million killed.

      Mao Zedung – Global Socialist ( Communist ) Killed over 50 Million Chinese. Mao's religous persecutions were more widespread, killing and imprisioning Christians, Buhddists and Muslims and intentionally starving tens of millions of other non-conformists.

      April 1, 2012 at 4:38 am |
    • Erik

      Michael you are correct and u need to add Pol Pot who killed at least 2 million. Atheism has contributed to the killings of innocent people then u could ever imagine. Consider the slaughter down in Africa, the slaughter that is happening under Islam and in the name of Islam of shocking. U can convert to any religion in the middle east without the fear of the death penality from the Gov. Except if you convert to Christianity....Now that should make CNN headline news, but it never will.

      April 1, 2012 at 4:50 am |
    • Brandon

      Hitler was not an atheist.

      April 1, 2012 at 4:55 am |
    • George Bush

      In the bible God killed nearly every man, woman, child, and unborn child in the world in the great flood. He was the original mass murderer.

      April 1, 2012 at 5:04 am |
    • Brandon

      you seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of Atheism. It's merely a lack in belief in a/any gods. There is no "under Atheism", because it's not a moral and ethical set of rules like a religion is, it's merely a stance of the validity of a god. Stalin and Mao's faults had absolutely nothing to do with atheism and everything to do with the fact they were fanatical nationalist dictators. There are plenty of bad people in the world, some of them believe in Gods, and some of them don't.

      Some of the most ethical, moral, economically stable, and peaceful nations in the world are currently home to some of the highest populations (per capita) of atheists. Pretty much all of northern Europe adheres to this. On the other hand, China is a cesspool of human rights violations. The exact same can be said for religious nations, however, very few total theocracies are viewed in a positive light.

      April 1, 2012 at 5:07 am |
    • All are

      All governments are socialistic to different degree's....The only type that isn't actually isn't a type of government at all is anarchy......Now repeat after me.....We are socialists who don't practice communism(U.S.).....Repeat until it sinks in...OR look up the ROOT of the word Communism or Committee...(COMM)....Our government is riddled with Committees....Honestly, the red scare/McCarthyism is a terrible thing to resurrect....Only desperate men would resort to it.....

      April 1, 2012 at 5:09 am |
    • George Bush

      Nobody ever killed in the name of atheism. The bible states to kill all non-believers and their animals, the bible is just crazy, no different than the Koran.

      April 1, 2012 at 5:13 am |
    • EmcK

      The difference, my myopic friend, is that the absence of religion was NOT the reason for the killing. Christians put to death every man, woman and child in Jerusalem who was not a Christian during the crusades because "God wills it". Those you allege were killed by "atheists" were NOT killed for God, they were not killed because of a non-belief in a God, they were killed out of pure human lust for power (which exists independently of religion and has occurred in all major religions, between major countries purporting to be fighting for their God, etc.)

      Nowhere will you find a case of millions of people being killed while the ones killing them are saying "I am killing you because I don't believe in God and you do". You will find millions throughout history being tortured for not being Catholic, burned at the stake for heresy, hanged for being witches by Christians, stoned for some imagined insult against the Prophet, etc.

      If you have Stalin killing millions of people and he happens to be an atheist, he is not killing people because he's an atheist or in the name of atheism, he's killing them because he sees them as a threat to his power.

      If, on the other hand, you have the Roman Catholic Church ordering an inquisition that tortures and kills people in the name of God because of an unwillingness to comport to that church's interpretation of scripture, then you have people killing specifically for religious beliefs.

      There's a vast difference between the two. One thing intelligent people learn quickly is that correlation does not equal causation.

      April 1, 2012 at 9:20 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.