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. Ed Garfield

    Early Christians in the Roman Empire showed little or no sympathy for other religions, even judiaism.. To Roman society mono-theism and the incorporating of many religious beliefs was a tenet of the society. The one God religion of Christianity wiped away centuries of cultural beliefs and traditions. From the point of view of the Romans it was an exclusive society and a threat to Roman power. It brought in new adherents without the standard sacrifices and rituals. In other words in was inexpensive to join. The Roman taxman could not tax Christian churches because much of what they did was in secret and the churches took in very little money in the form of contributions. Unlike other religions, Christians often proselytized their faith in provinces and regions where it was against the law. As Christianity grew, its adherents were rich and wealthy, who dealth with Christians exclusively in loaning money and investing in business. They were disliked by many in Roman times as much for their money centric culture as their religous beliefs. The martyr stories are no doubt based in truth but largely exagerated. They came into fruition during the Dark Ages, to show the common starving peasant allegories of suffering in the name of religion.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • gordys

      If you read the Bible you will undersand that true Christians have true sympathy for all mankind. That is why they try to get the Good News out. Christians did not exclude anyone from help, only those who prevented the Good News from being heard, or those who distort the true Message.

      If you have met so called Christians who prevented you from getting some loan, there are two possibilities: you tried to block them from telling the Message directly or indirectly, or you met a wolf in a sheep skin. Don't persecute the messenger, just listen to the Good News and ask Christ for understanding.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:51 am |
    • visitor

      gordys – If someone objects to rhetorical abuse disguised as "good news" like, one will burn for eternity if one is not of the same religion, that objection is not "Persecution". That is simply objecting to emotionally abusive and violent language (which is especially objectionable when taught to children).

      March 31, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • gordys

      @visitor, I'm sorry that there are people who had the experience of "rhetorical abuse". That is not what the Christians are supposed to do. I never force my children to become a Christian even though I'm a Christian. I only tell them the Truth, and it is up to them whether they accept or reject the Truth, although I would feel pity that they won't be with me if they reject.

      As the Bible already stated, it is a very narrow escape passage to Salvation, and not many people are willing to go there.

      March 31, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
  2. Seattle Al

    Sorry, this is old news and bad reporting. Forty some years ago William Frend wrote "Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church". It is the definitive text on the subject and Moss simply rehashes his obervations, wiithout his depth. The reporter treates Moss' book like this is some new revelation and obviously did no additional research for the story. Weak book, bad reporting. Move on, nothing to see here.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • visitor

      The article states....

      "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."

      In the article.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:38 am |
  3. Melissa

    The Pagan origins of Easter Traditions.

    Easter was called Oester or Eoster in the ancient world. Oester was a pagan fertility goddess whose symbol was a rabbit.

    Eggs are a fertility symbol in many cultures throughout history. Egyptians, Romans and Persians all used eggs in their springtime ceremonies.

    The Greek goddess Demeter and the Indian goddess Kali were also worshiped at this time.

    You christians may like to claim that this is a christian holiday but its only a christian holiday because you worked so hard to turn it in to one. It's origins are NOT christian.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • Christian7

      Easter represents the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • The real Tom

      And as such, silly, the date it is celebrated is arbitrary.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • The real Tom

      Christian7, stop your trolling. You aren't a Christian and you don't believe what you're posting anymore than you believe any of the crap you ever post. You're just a troll.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Actually, Easter is firmly based in Passover. Same calendar, same underlying theological themes and messages.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • The real Tom

      Doesn't matter-none of the religious calendar dates are anything but arbitrary. You do know that Jesus wasn't born on December 25, don't you?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • visitor

      Happy Easter and Blessed Be!

      March 31, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • gordys

      The pagan rituals that pre-existed were basically overshadowed. It was part of a way to tell the Good News of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection without forcefully removing old rituals and customs. It is the same with Christmas, Halloween, etc.

      Just because someone who prays to pagan gods in certain way, then decides to pray to the true God through Christ in the same ritual that they were so ingrained from childhood, doesn't mean the person moved back to pagan gods.

      But I personally don't like rituals, since they do give misunderstandings to non-Christians, and take the mind away from the true Gospel. For true Christians, when they grow within Christ, they understand that any forms of rituals do not help with the message spreading, and they usually stop doing those rituals.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
  4. Shame on CNN

    Don't have time to go into details but this article is full of lies... Plus, could this person be any more partisan.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • SixDegrees

      It would probably make a lot more sense if you were to actually read it.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • visitor

      No it's not. It's not even controversial. Shame on you for calling names.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:35 am |
  5. JC

    When people attack our religion in sucks but you must remember that your faith is between you and God. The faithless and hater atheist are not your problem. Remember God can fight his own battles. Stay joyful and in peace on this Easter Sunday!

    March 31, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • Saraswati

      Your religion is "attacked" when someone burns down your church. Calling fact based critique and disagreement "attacks" is exactly the type of whiny persecution complex the author is referring to.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • gordys

      Amen to that. The only thing Christians are supposed to go, according to the Bible, is spread the Good News, and obey Christ.

      The persecution of Christians is just that: any way or form to stop a Christian from sharing the Good News. Christians don't need to convert anyone, just tell the message. It is up to the listener to accept or reject the message, that is all.

      If you see all the physical persecution (that is all people know about Christian persecution), there is always a condition: Don't tell the message of Christ and you will live. Read the article carefully: Romans did give a chance for Perpetua to live if she would renounce Christ.

      That is the true persecution: preventing Christians their freedom to share about Christ to others, or forcefully distorting the true Gospel. A persecution that physically harms is just a minor part of persecution in this day and age, but the persecution persists.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
  6. chicadow

    I'm happy you were able to full your void, but please remember we all don't necessarily have voids to fill. I respect your beliefs, you respect mine.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:27 am |
  7. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    God required a sacrifice, Christians believe. Christians believe that God provided a human sacrifice suitable for him – his own son, but entirely human. This son of Mary was killed. It was a human sacrifice, Christians must believe. Christianity departed from Judaism at this point – a human sacrifice. And what of the rest of it?

    13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

    Christians hope that there is resurrection of the dead, and that Jesus, their Christ, was resurrected. Even so, their faith rests on a human sacrifice and even the Resurrection cannot change that.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • A Frayed Knot

      Yes, this fantasy god, who could/can do absolutely *anything*, would have his hurt feelings/anger/disappointment appeased by an execution?!

      March 31, 2013 at 11:39 am |
  8. HeavenSent

    As a true Christian, I reverse what the lions did, on my cats.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:27 am |
  9. BigSkyHumanist

    One christian was crucified and then thousands of heretics were burned at the stake.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:27 am |
  10. Brianbgood

    Curious what the contrast in numbers would show; Christians tortured , imprisoned and killed vs those imprisoned, tortured and killed by Christians. I posit the latter would me exponentially greater. Taking into account hundreds of years of crusades, various inquisitions and witch burnings, not including all those good Christian southerners who held slaves of their own....

    Curious where the Holy Spirit was on that one? No memo, no "hey you're doing it wrong and I am not to be represented in this way!" Nothing. Just man kind making the rules up to fit his needs at the time.. Someday the mental slavery of all 3 abrahamic faiths will be common knowledge to all and the entire world will be better of for it.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • gordys

      Did you know that many professed "Christians" are not real Christians? They are wolves in sheep skin. Don't believe everything you read. True Christians don't force anyone to convert, they are messengers of Christ to tell the Good News, that is all, unlike most other religions.

      Undermining the true message of Christ is also part of the "persecution". Persecution has many forms, and most people only perceive direct physical harm as persecution. In this modern age, the form of persecution has also evolved, but they are as much a form of persecution to stop the message from spreading.

      Other forms of persecution: Preventing Christians from normal livelihood, not giving space for prayer, obstructing or preventing the message from spreading by the media. Anything that can distract the mind from the true Gospel.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:43 am |
  11. Darwin

    IF heaven is so wonderful, and our mortal life is just for a tiny instant of time compared to all eternity in this fabulous heaven, then I'm ready to go there right now. So what if these "martyrs" experienced a second of pain as the LION bit into their necks? According to their fairy tale, they believed that, upon their deaths, they instantly landed into the lap of Jesus for the next quintillion years. So where's the suffering there? CANCER patients today experience MORE PAIN and suffering for much longer than a Christian martyr or even JESUS ON THE CROSS. Of course, they don't allow you to point out these awkward problems in Sunday school – they'll throw you out!

    March 31, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • gordys

      The pain and suffering on this earth is nothing compared to what non-believers will experience after dead. That is why Christ would like to tell the Good News to everyone. Christ's sacrifice and resurrection has made ths judgment on everyone to hell null and void to those who accept the Grace of God. All you have to do is ask Christ for forgiveness and enter into your mind.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  12. Joey Isotta-Fraschini, D.D. (h.c.) ©™

    Christianity is BS. It's good to see that many Americans are not afraid to say that now.
    We've come a long way.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  13. socalpimp

    I wonder if CNN would ever have the courage to challenge ISLAM like they do Christianity?

    March 31, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • SixDegrees

      I don't see anything being challenged here.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • Akira

      Why is presenting an article a "challenge"?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:28 am |
  14. Luis Wu

    Top Ten Signs You're a Christian
    10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.
    9 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.
    8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.
    7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children and the murder and enslavement of thousands of women and children in Numbers: 31.
    6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.
    5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.
    4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs – though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."
    3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.
    2 – You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.
    1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • Melissa

      This was excellent Luis.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • MedicT

      Best way to recognize a Christian? He/She will pray for and accept you regardless of your derogatory comments toward them.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • John

      Good post.

      Just to mention, I know of a number of people (Christians) that went to Pentecostal worship services and became ex-Christians after the rolling on the floor and speaking in tongues frenzy. LOL

      March 31, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • visitor

      I would like to add, they often say "I'll pray for (you) or (fill in the blank)" like they are doing someone a favor. They believe they have some magic and their prayer spells are not only magnanimous, but somehow will emotionally disarm their targets and shut down what they perceive as something unworthy in another individual, dishonoring their own spirit and feeding their own Pride.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • gordys

      True Christians don't force anyone to convert. All they do is share the message of Christ, and only react when others prevent them from telling the Good News, or distort their message.

      Please open your mind, and see whether you fall in any of those categories. Then ask Christ for forgiveness and for Him to enter your mind.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • G to the T

      Do you honestly believe there's anyone left in the US (I'm not even going to cover the whole world here) that has NOT heard about Jesus and that he was supposed to have died for our sins? Our culture is saturated with it.

      Here's a hint, everyone knows! You guys did it! Now back off and let people decide for themselves...

      April 5, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
  15. fred

    Why do people continually refer to a fictional character like jesus as if he was real? That is the very definition of mental illness.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • JC

      When people speak out against our religion in sucks but you must remember that your faith is between you and God. The faithless and hater atheist are not your problem. Remember God can fight his own battles. Stay joyful and in peace on this Easter Sunday!

      March 31, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • Ed

      Problem is, the god side never delivers. It ain't there.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • Christian7

      Please teach us how Jesus is a fictional character. How do you know this? Please explain,

      March 31, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • hotsauce

      You are an idiot, Jesus was a real person.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Melissa

      hotsauce, prove it.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • visitor

      It's a religion. You could try to be a little more respectful toward Religion and the Mentally Ill, especially on the highest holy day in the religion. You could even open your mind a little bit.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:50 am |
  16. Austin

    King James Bible
    The Suffering Servant
    (Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65; John 18:19-24; 1 Peter 2:21-25)

    1Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?

    2For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

    3He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

    4Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

    5But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

    6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

    7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

    8He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • Austin


      March 31, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • The real Tom

      Got any independent evidence?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • SixDegrees

      How come your verse numbers don't match up with your citations?

      March 31, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • Luis Wu

      Blah blah blah blah to you too.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • A Frayed Knot


      Don't you think that Matthew, Mark, Luke, John (or whoever wrote under those names) READ (or heard) "Isaiah"? Pretty dang easy for them to write their stuff to match it, y'know.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • Melissa

      Anyone else get the feeling of Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker and the force in Austins post? It has about as much reality.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:33 am |
  17. Me

    I can't believe CNN would post this on Easter u gonna insult Islam on rhamadad

    March 31, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • SixDegrees

      I'm not seeing any insult here, just a presentation of established historical fact.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Neko

      If you saw an insult you must not have read the last couple of paragraphs.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:34 am |
  18. Blue_Ridge

    Really CNN? This is your top headline on Easter Sunday?

    March 31, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • Christian7

      I know. It is amazing that they do not stop their attack on Christians even on a Holy day. Notice they do not ever attack Muslims.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • Neko

      Yes, maybe because it's ..."Easter Sunday". Hello.....

      March 31, 2013 at 11:33 am |
  19. tony

    Easter is the celebration of the creation of the son of a "Jealous God".

    March 31, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • Melissa

      No, Easter is the celebration of a pagan goddess that the christians stole in order to convert more people to their religion.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • visitor

      Incorporated, as all cultures have done.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:56 am |
  20. kepha613

    Why not write about how a pagan ritual of Ishtar (easter) where people teach their children to look for colored bunny eggs (fertility worship) has been woven into the Hebrew murder of the Great Teacher Yeshua (Jesus) called Messiah on the eve of Passover. He was killed the same time as the Passover lambs/goats were being slaughtered, which wasn't today, but last Monday. Talk about bad timing, misinformation and outright deception.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • Sargon Awdishu

      Really CNN should have reported The suffering of Jesus Christ and shedding his blood on the cross for our salvation,his messages of peace and love and forgivness not old hatred,selfishness and unforgivness that is still deeply rooted and arises only on such occassions but as Jesus said on the cross my Father forgive them as they dont know what they are doing(saying). Happy Easter Everyone.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • visitor

      You weren't attacked. Happy Easter.

      March 31, 2013 at 11:35 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.