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. Nj moderate

    I am so tired of this. CNN chooses to run this piece of crap on Easter. The amount of anti Christian bigotry on this network is beyond belief.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:44 am |
    • midwest rail

      You didn't read it, did you ?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:45 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Apparently, you couldn't be bothered actually reading the article. Which certainly doesn't come across as anti-chrisitian in any way I can detect.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:46 am |
    • JJ

      Typical knee-jerk reactionary Christian who didn't read article, skipped down to comment about it, read some challenge to his faith and decided he had been persecuted.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:50 am |
    • Parfin Woodell

      You can climb down from that cross bubba.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:05 am |
  2. Alex

    wait, what does this have to do with a rabbit laying chocolate eggs. All joking aside. My biggest problem with the article is how Christians persecuted everyone else or have we all forgotten about the dark ages.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • Mirosal

      Alex, don't forget about colonial America, or the wars against the "sava'ge" Native Americans.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:47 am |
    • SixDegrees

      ...or about their continued persecution of all manner of groups to this day. At the moment, gays top the list as targets of hatred and vitriol spewed forth by christians, but they're a recent focus, with many others having spent time in that spotlight in the past.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:47 am |
  3. Unbeliever

    Catholic religion is over with! To many Christians suffering! Priests don't pray enough for its land & people. Only looking for a paycheck! Do you want to worship a GOD who reins havoc in our Country, kills innocent people, makes people struggle. & destroys peoples lives & homes with temperamental weather

    March 31, 2013 at 7:42 am |
  4. DiedrichKyrian

    I dont hate Christ or Christians. I am *ASKING* to be given the same respect of MY religion as I give Christianity. If you *CANT* respect my religion, then please dont complain or feel persecuted when I dont give respect to yours.

    Simple as that. (I also dont say MY way is the only way. There's 6-7 BILLION people on this earth. NO way will be the RIGHT way for everyone.)

    March 31, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • Unbeliever

      Honey, I was a Christian, I'm just given you the facts! Are you satisfied with the world around you! Do you agree with what's going on! Innocent lives being taken, people struggling in jobs & this economy, people losing homes in temperamental weather! It is what it is ! WAKE UP!

      March 31, 2013 at 8:31 am |
  5. Dawkins is an idiot

    Joseph Stalin – atheist

    March 31, 2013 at 7:39 am |
    • Sane Person

      You – moron.

      This game is fun!

      March 31, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • SixDegrees

      David Koresh – christian.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:41 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Kangaroo – marsupial

      March 31, 2013 at 7:42 am |
    • Mirosal

      Hitler – Chrsitian

      March 31, 2013 at 7:42 am |
    • Mirosal

      Easter Bunny – a magical rodent who squirts out colored hard-boiled eggs out of its rec'tum for you to EAT .... yummy, just what we need, shi'tty eggs. You're right, this IS a fun game.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:45 am |
    • Sane Person

      King Richard – christian!

      March 31, 2013 at 7:46 am |
    • JJ

      Thousands of child raping priests – Christian

      March 31, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • frank burns

      The destroyers of the Twin Towers: Deeply religious. So what?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • Atheist Intolerance?

      Hitler was not Christian – read a bloody history book. I'm sure there are plenty of pedophiles roaming around that aren't Catholic Priests – what a completely ridiculous thing to say.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:01 am |
    • mark

      Jesus The Christian! Bam!!

      March 31, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • JJ

      Er...Jesus was a Jew. Bam!!!

      March 31, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • Unbeliever

      Some people just can't face the facts or accept reality!

      March 31, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Parfin Woodell

      Adolph Hitler = Christian.
      Tag, your it.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:08 am |
  6. Shaking my head

    Why are you running this piece on Easter Sunday?


    March 31, 2013 at 7:38 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Because it's topic is martyrdom, which fits in rather well with today's observances, don't you think?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:44 am |
    • jenny dillartile

      Another Christian making up his own facts! The article was published on Saturday March 30th 2013 ....so explain to me how is saturday also sunday?

      March 31, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  7. Cats Love It

    Delicious healthy food for your favorite Kitty. We have brought back the old timey tradition of turning Christians into cat food no matter the type or size of your pet. Look for PerPETua cat food in easy to open cans $3.00 each or case of 12 for $30.00 at all of the finer pet stores.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:37 am |
  8. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    Many humans are Christians only for utilities such as business networking and dating. Others persons are simply too terrified to live realistically and accept responsibility for their own failures. In all cases, Christianity involves at least one kind of con job.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:37 am |
  9. Unbeliever

    To much pain & to much sorrow in Catholic religion! NO THANKS!

    March 31, 2013 at 7:36 am |
  10. EmbareassedforCNN

    I am embarrassed for CNN....It is Easter Sunday and THIS is the piece you choose to run........way to stay classy...just goes to show you are nothing but the Left's whipping boy

    March 31, 2013 at 7:35 am |
    • Joe Giardina

      CNN Hits 20-Year Monthly Rating Low In May
      By DOMINIC PATTEN | Wednesday May 30, 2012

      CNN Ratings DownThe news just went from bad to worse at CNN. After the cable news network delivered its lowest-rated month in total viewers in over a decade in April, May became CNN’s worst month in primetime among total viewers in over 20 years. From April 30 to May 27, the cable news network attracted an average of 389,000 viewers in primetime. It was also CNN’s second-lowest-rated month in primetime among the 25-54 demographic (114,000) since October 1991. Only May 2000, with 104,000 viewers in the demo, did worse. Piers Morgan Tonight received the lowest total viewer and 25-54 demo numbers that CNN has had in the 9 PM time slot in two decades. The interview show got only 417,000 total viewers and 117,000 among the 25-54 demographic. At 7 PM, Erin Burnett, another relative CNN newcomer, had the lowest 25-54 demo numbers in 20 years in the time slot for the network and the second lowest after June 2001, in two decades in terms of total viewership. Burnett’s show attracted just 89,000 viewers in the 25-54 demo from April 30 to May 27. The latest numbers follow CNN hitting its lowest-rated weekday primetime in 20 years during the week of May 14-18.

      March 31, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • Rocket

      Oh, grow up & pluck some EASTER BUNNIES! CNN IS GREAT!

      March 31, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Parfin Woodell

      Dont like the message, shoot the messenger.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:11 am |
  11. Mike D49

    I'm not Christian but why post this on Easter Sunday? It's only to continue to attack on religion and continue with the divisive policy CNN drives. Why they even pretend to be a legitimate news organization anymore is beyond me.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • SixDegrees

      How is anything in this article an "attack on christianity"? Why would telling the historical truth in any way be construed as such?

      Sounds to me like your skin is remarkably thin.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:35 am |
    • Sane Person

      Why are you offended by truth? That in and of itself should give you pause today as you celebrate your gods reanimation and 2000 year road trip.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:41 am |
    • Shaking my head

      Six degrees, the guy is correct. They run this on the holiest day of the Christian calendar and you say 'I don't get it'.

      It's not about the discussion, it's about the timing, which is absolutely no accident. Mike doesn't need thicker skin, CNN needs more basic respect.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • Parfin Woodell

      What attack are you talking about ?
      I dont see one in this story.
      Dont they teach Christians how to read ?
      Too bad.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:12 am |
  12. TG

    Jesus told his eleven faithful apostles that "people will deliver you up to tribulation and will kill you, and you will be objects of hatred by all the nations on account of my name."(Matt 24:9) When choosing his twelve apostles some 2 years earlier, Jesus told them: "Be on your guard against men; for they will deliver you up to local courts, and they will scourge you in their synagogues. Why, you will be haled before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them and the nations"(Matt 10:17, 18)

    After Jesus death, this proved true. But why were genuine Christians hated ? The apostle Peter wrote that "because you do not continue running with them (the "world") in this course ("loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries", verse 3) to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you."(1 Pet 4:4)

    David brought it home as to why genuine Christians have been despised, saying: "In you, O Jehovah, have I taken refuge.....For you are my crag and my stronghold.....From the standpoint of all those showing hostility to me I have become a reproach, and to my neighbors very much so, and a dread to my acquaintances."(Ps 31:1, 3, 11)

    Because David loyally looked to Jehovah God, he was persecuted, hated. Likewise of true Christians, for these have followed the words of Proverbs 18:10: "The name of Jehovah is strong tower. Into it the righteous runs and is given protection." All those who are righteous make Jehovah as their ' crag and stronghold '.(Ps 18:2) For this, they are persecuted "in all the nations."

    Even among the churches of Christendom, Isaiah wrote: "Hear the word of Jehovah, you men who are trembling at his word: "Your brothers that are hating you, that are excluding you by reason of my name, (those trembling at Jehovah's word) said, ' May Jehovah be glorified' ....(the so-called "brothers") are the ones that will be put to shame."(Isa 66:5) Hence, the churches have "excluded" themselves away from the use of God's name Jehovah, persecuting those who have placed their faith in Jehovah God.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:33 am |
  13. Juanito

    I read this and consider the incredible growth of Christianity in China. It's growing a lot faster in places like China and Iran and a compelling reason is that both governments are hostile to the teachings of Jesus.

    While Rome's persecution may have been sporadic, it was still not a good time to profess any deity over that of the Emporers.

    As for today in the US, faithfully embracing the teachings of Jesus draw only ridicule(just check the trolls on this article. Right, End Religion?), and that's for now.

    The double standard of tolerance being spewed by anti-Christians today shows that a nationwide vote is the only thing that separates us from early Nazi Germany. Latter Nazi Germany is what lays ahead.

    The one thing that even the anti-Christians can't deny is that Jesus' word of warning to believers in Him will be hated, reviled and even killed for it.

    All was prophesied in Scripture, and its going according to His will.

    The Good News is He has risen from death, and He is waiting on us all to accept His sacrifice. Take the opportunity now to accept Him on this wonderful day!

    In His Love! Juanito.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Where else in history have you ever heard of anyone coming back to life after 3 days? Kind of seems irrational to the rational mind.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:37 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Hitler and the Nazis were Catholics, not atheists. Please learn some history.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:39 am |
    • Tkp353

      Actually, Hitler came Fromm Jewish upbringing.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:46 am |
    • Mirosal

      Hitler had a Jewish ancestry, but he was raised Catholic .. even served as an altar boy in his church in Braunau, Austria. Maybe that was the problem .. he was a Catholic altar boy ... hmmm... makes you think what happened to him at an early age, no?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:50 am |
    • Parfin Woodell

      The double standard of tolerance being spewed by anti-Christians today shows that a nationwide vote is the only thing that separates us from early Nazi Germany. Latter Nazi Germany is what lays ahead.

      Gee, isnt it the Christians that want to put gay people in concentration camps ?

      April 1, 2013 at 7:16 am |
  14. Ken from FL

    Obviously, you know zip about the church's early history. Happy Easter to you,too. Christ is risen.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:31 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      What exactly does that mean? Christ is risen? Are you referring to 200 years ago? Or is he back now?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:37 am |
    • Mike

      He is risen ... INDEED!!!!

      March 31, 2013 at 7:38 am |
    • End Religion

      If he was "risen then he was never dead, or perhaps undead if you're going to believe in nonsense, but in any case that renders your religion moot. He's dust in the wind if he ever existed, just like any other human. And you're making up imaginary buddies to keep boogeymen at bay, just like a 5 year old.

      March 31, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  15. Livelystone

    What a surprise waking up on the most respected holy day of the Christian faith only to see that CNN has launched another anti-Christian headline on their home page.

    Back in the days of the Bible they killed with spears and swords. These days they do it with the sword of the tongue taking advantage of a church that has lost its way with God.

    However, God is not slack considering His promises written in prophecies for Israel that are God's promises for the church.

    Meanwhile, persecution does not increase the ranks, however, it does purify them. ....... and the church is in dire need of some "righteous cleansing".

    On the other hand the power of the truth seen through the resurrection, and the working of miracles, does increase numbers.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:31 am |
    • SixDegrees

      How is historical accuracy "anti-christian" in any way? Seems to me that clinging to mythology in this case is far more anti-christian, as it hides the actual ascendancy of the religion behind fairy tales and pablum.

      Knee jerk much?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:37 am |
    • Atheist Intolerance?

      LOL "historical accuracy" – I love that so called 'questioning' 'critical' atheists like yourself are so ready to read and accept an article on CNN (of all places!) as "historically accurate". how naive can you POSSIBLY be ?!? Crash course in history – there are always academics arguing a variety of different sides in a debate. Why? Because history has less to do with what actually happened and more to do with the interpretations of modern scholars who often have predetermined ideological stances. See? it's called B-I-A-S. Didn't they teach you that in im-smarter-and-more-critical-because-im-an-atheist school ??

      March 31, 2013 at 8:04 am |
  16. Lanier

    Atheists unite and please take the unbelief elsewhere. This is a Christian blog, we get it you do not belief.

    Why are you reading a belief blog since you do not believe? Then posting comments.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:31 am |
    • midwest rail

      Free country ?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Free speech?

      Exposing the hypocrisy of organized religions?

      Pointing out the danger of inst-itutionalized child abuse through religious indoctrination?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:36 am |
    • Mirosal

      Lanier, take reading comprehension lessons. Nowhere in the ti'tle of this blog does it say "christian". It says "beleif". You're a very narrow-minded bigot to as'sume that "belief" automatically means "christian".

      March 31, 2013 at 7:37 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Ah – one of christianity's favorite tools: censorship.

      Next, maybe you could propose burning a few non-believers in the public square.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:39 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Lanier: Reading comprehension skills were never taught to you apparently. This is not a christian blog, nor has it ever been. If you don't like what we have to say maybe it is you that needs to find another blog, we will keep commenting regardless of your ignorance. Just because we don't believe in your imaginary friend or the imaginary friend of other religions does not mean we don't hold beliefs, the difference is that we care that what we believe is true...you don't care (thus the faith you have in the buybull).

      March 31, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • Hello

      read Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill....

      March 31, 2013 at 7:46 am |
    • Juanito

      @ Lanier:

      I don't think the self proclaimed athiests that troll these articles are really athiests. More agnostic than atheist.

      Most comments are made to ridicule, and their reasoning is pedestrian, juvenile at best.

      Any true athiest wouldn't waste their 'free lunch' lives (as Stephen Hawkings teaches) taking hours of their lives to argue about something they profess to know with all certainty doesn't exist.

      I've seen End Religion's rants, and have estimated he has spent more than 3 months of his life toying with believers. If he truly believes his life is a 'one and done worm food festival', then he is a fool for wasting it here.

      I think he, and others like him, are really not convinced in what they believe, and come here for either conversion to Jesus or vindication of their birthing beliefs.

      Either way, they're still bothering to be here, and I think that disqualifies them as true athiests.

      I pray they come to Jesus, nonetheless. While they are not my enemies, what awaits them if they don't I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

      In His love! Juanito.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:50 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Juanito: Agnostic: refers only to knowledge not belief. I'm an Agnostic Atheist...I can't say with 100% certainty that a god doesn't exist but I do not see the evidence supporting one and thus I do not believe in one. If you're an honest theist, you too are agnostic. Learn to use a dictionary.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • Mirosal

      Why should we come to jesus .. after all, wasn't it your zombie guy that said he will return? So why go to him, he's obviously GONE now, because he hasn't come back yet. According to your faith, he'll return. it will be a long wait, so order something off the menu and have a seat at the bar.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:54 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      @Juanito – again with the threats! You KNOW something horrible awaits us? How do you KNOW? Let me guess – you read about it in a book?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:55 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      "what awaits them if they don't I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy."

      And apparently you do wish it upon us or you wouldn't be speaking the way you are...the whole 'believe as I do or suffer the consequences' speaks volumes about how you think...not a moral thing to think at all. We're not too worried because as far as anyone knows we die and that is the end of it all...there is nothing further that can be shown to exist.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:57 am |
    • End Religion

      Juan, thanks for helping us create more atheists with your hateful proxy threats and childish notions of invisible buddies!

      Lotsa Love,

      March 31, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • Juanito

      @ Attack of the 50ft:
      I have not threatened you, and I can't or would want to do anything that hurts you. I would cruel to let you go without warning into a room where a lion is waiting. I would tell you, and even physically try to stop you. But if you refuse to listen and ignore the warning, then the determined choice is yours.

      What threatens you is the reality of what awaits the unrepentant. It's in Scripture, and sorrowfully, many do not believe it.

      @ Truth Prevails:
      The proof of God's Existance is around you. If you look for it, you will find it. Pray to Him with your honest heart. Ask Him for His wisdom, heart and eyes, and He will reveal it to you.

      @ End Religion:
      There is nothing hateful in what I've said, nor dishonest. I called you out because you have ridiculed a lot of my fellow believers in multiple posts, and you've invested an incredible amount of time in arguing against something that you think doesn't exist. It's like talking about the 2013 Yugo. Why waste your time?

      March 31, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
  17. Ken from FL

    Obviously, CNN just can't help itself. On the holiest day of the Christian calendar, it publishes this hit piece on Christian beliefs and traditions. The pattern continues. Thereby proving what CNN tries to deny, that there is a war against Christianity.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:29 am |
    • midwest rail

      Nonsense. While it is certainly true that Christians in many parts of the world suffer persecution, the same cannot be said for those in America. Disagreement is not persecution.

      March 31, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • SixDegrees

      How is this in any way a "hit piece"? Did you bother actually reading it, or were the words too big for you?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:39 am |
    • Parfin Woodell

      Five bucks on the Lions.
      That will end this crap.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • Saraswati

      @midwest, they've had to redefine persecution to include disagreement, because otherwise the whole story they tell themselves starts to unravel.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:54 am |
  18. Mg

    Ugh. So? Believe in good will. Believe in yourself. Not a figurehead. Christianity was invented way after Jesus. Come on already people. That is easy to figure out. Happy Easter.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:27 am |
  19. john vance

    Christianity worked because it had a well-designed theologic structure offering broad appeal. LIke all religions it has been manipulated for both good and bad but the foundational ideas remain attractive.

    March 31, 2013 at 7:23 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      The foundational idea? What, that god sent himself in human form to earth to live and die, so that he could live again and then rejoin himself in heaven, so that the creations, who apparently have original sin because a talking snake convinced a rib lady to eat an apple thousands of years ago, could choose to believe in Zombie Jesus and if they did they would go to heaven but if they didn't believe in Zombie Jesus they would fry in Hell forever, regardless of how good a life they lived on Earth?

      THAT foundational idea?

      March 31, 2013 at 7:30 am |
  20. Jacob

    You guys are so pathetic.

    You're brainwashing an entire nation and you're the reason our citizens are completely ignorant of real history and can't even graduate they're so stupid. You guys teach "I found four leftists who say so" history..

    March 31, 2013 at 7:23 am |
    • Parfin Woodell

      I will take four leftists, two athiests and a couple of gay guys over a Christian every day of the week,
      and twice on Sundays.

      HEY Christians, you do understand that you sin everytime you go to church on Sunday, dont you ?
      The Sabbath is on SATURDAY.
      Your own church changed the rules.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:57 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.