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Martyrdom: Is Any Religion Worth Dying For?

christian martyrdom

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Christians in the Middle East are being persecuted for their faith. ISIS has slaughtered thousands of Christians and Muslims, all because they had the wrong religious belief. Shameless Evangelical preachers and right-wing politicians have used these killings as an opportunity to provoke fear in their followers. These preachers of fear live in a delusional world where being required to bake a cake for a gay couple or giving the same civil rights to LGBTQ people as to heterosexuals is the equivalent of having your head lopped off by ISIS. American Evangelical Christians have a persecution complex, stoked by horror stories about the atheist, secularist, humanistic, socialist horde taking over THEIR country. (Please see The Paranoia and Persecution Complex of the Religious Right.) With great mockery and ridicule, I laugh at American Christians who think they are being persecuted. Those who promote such things deserve the disdain dished out to them by both the religious and non-religious.

That said, the beheading of Christians in the Middle East has American Christians asking if they would be willing to suffer and die for the cause of Christ. Billy Watkins, a Christian and a writer for The Clarion-Ledger had this to say:

I can’t explain why.

Perhaps it doesn’t require an explanation.

But as the calendar quickly moved toward today — Easter Sunday — the more an image flashed in my mind: 20 Egyptian Christians and one other man, forced to their knees on a Mediterranean beach by members of ISIS on Feb. 15 and asked one by one if they believed in Jesus Christ.

Each answered yes, knowing the consequences.

All 21 were beheaded….

…It made me look inside myself, perhaps deeper than I’ve ever looked before.

It made me face the question: If I were in a similar situation, would I have the faith and the courage to look the ISIS cowards in the eye and say, “I believe in Jesus Christ.”

Knowing those would be the last words I ever said. Knowing the torture I was about to experience. Knowing my family and friends would grieve over my death. Knowing this life, which I can only comprehend as a struggling human, would end.

I would like to say yes, I would have the strength.

But do any of us really know until we are put in that situation?

To help me have some comparison for my struggle with this, I reached out to eight friends.

I asked them how they pictured themselves answering that question with a knife to their throats.

Some answered by email, others by Facebook message. Each provided food for thought. And I must commend them for digging deep inside their souls to help provide their answers.

One of the first I received: “This is very hard. I have tears. No, I am crying … I want to scream yes to those butchers. I believe in Jesus Christ!!!! But when I think of never seeing my husband, my family, my grandchildren, my grandchildren to come, I have to pause. More tears … ”

Friend No. 2 wrote, “I believe each Christian would always be ready to say, ‘Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.’ However, after watching two beheadings on YouTube, it gave me pause for thought. How could I possibly endure torture and a painful, slow death for my beliefs? My next thought was, ‘But that’s what Jesus did for me. Would he expect any less of me?’ ”

Friend No. 3: “There is a peace I believe God gives you in that situation. Just as Jesus prayed in the garden, twice, to let this cup pass from his wrath … I might say the same prayer, but in the end I would submit to God’s plan.”

Friend No. 4: “This is, of course, an impossible question to answer. Under the circumstances, I cannot imagine what I would do … it is always easier to sit in your living room and be convinced of your own virtues under the proposed circumstance. I also know I can rationalize decisions and I can waffle between what I want I know to be true … I could see this part of me rationalizing that it’s more important for me to live for any or all of the following …” My friend named his wife, children, extended family and church.

“I have so much to live for that lying to people who want to kill me is easily excused … (But) the scenario you describe is no time for rationalizing. It is a test … I hope I would get it … I want to be counted among those who would forgo this life for the better eternity to come.”

“Last point,” he wrote. “Hearing about the death of these 21 men has mattered to me — and not for the reason the killers wanted. It encourages me to live a life worthy of my calling. They died for Christ. May I at least live for him?”

Friend No. 5 wrote, “In facing a gruesome, wicked, evil death, my faith would still be in God. I hope and trust that such a painful ordeal would be ultimately redeemed and used by God for his purposes. Therefore, such a death is not in vain.”

Friend No. 6 was equally sure of his answer: “Faith is all you have left in that situation. To reject your faith would leave you with nothing — even if you lived. I can say unequivocally I would not reject my belief in Christ. If I did, I would be dead even though I lived. The other thing I know is that I would not die passively. I would fight with all my being. I would not let them dictate the terms of my death.”

Friend No. 7: “When you reach the most terrifyingly vulnerable moment of your life, you’re stripped to nothing but the things no can take away … the core beliefs that have driven every decision you’ve ever made. Ultimately, I would rather die outwardly professing my faith, with my death serving as a testament to those beliefs …

“But then I think of my child, of helping teach him those beliefs … If being a coward and lying to save my life means I’ll have the opportunity to raise a Godly man, so be it … Maybe this isn’t the right answer. But doing the right thing often means forgoing interests of the present so you can protect interests of the future.”

Friend No. 8: “Thomas Babington Macaulay wrote, ‘And how can a man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods?’

“This world doesn’t afford many civilians the chance to die well for something that matters … it sounds cavalier, but I would be humbled and honored to be put in a situation where I had to choose between my life and the one thing that means most to me — my faith in Jesus Christ … I have a passion for this world, and ultimately the honestly amazing and blessed life that I’ve been given.

“I believe if he brings us to that place of choice, he gives us the grace to handle it if we remember that he is the ultimate source of everything … it’s not the end, it’s the beginning … let me go how he would take me, and let his will be done.”

This is what I believe: If I were put in that situation, I believe Jesus Christ would bathe me with a peace beyond human comprehension…

Those of us who were once Christians have asked the questions that Billy Watkins asks in his article. If it came to it, would we have been willing to die for Christ? Having grown up in a religious culture where persecution was touted as a sure sign of one’s faith, I had moments when I questioned whether I would stand up for Christ no matter what happened. Preaching on the street brought me into contact with people who wanted to do me bodily harm. One man deliberately aimed his truck at me, hoping to run me over. Over the corner curb he came, hoping to silence the Baptist street preacher. Fortunately, he missed.

christian martyrdom 2

In the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is required reading. Written in 1563 by John Foxe, the book is “a polemical account of the sufferings of Protestants under the Catholic Church, with particular emphasis on England and Scotland.” The first edition of the book was titled “Actes and Monuments of these Latter and Perillous Days, Touching Matters of the Church.”

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is often used to prove that true Christians have always been persecuted for their faith. If the book was made into a movie, many modern-day Evangelicals would refuse to watch it due its violence and gore.

The preface of the Christian Classics Ethereal Library edition of the book states:

After the Bible itself, no book so profoundly influenced early Protestant sentiment as the Book of Martyrs. Even in our time it is still a living force. It is more than a record of persecution. It is an arsenal of controversy, a storehouse of romance, as well as a source of edification.

These days, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is not widely read outside of Evangelical, Baptist, Fundamentalist, Amish, and Mennonite circles. Part of the reason for this is because John Foxe’s credibility has been called into question. Wikipedia states:

The author’s credibility was challenged as soon as the book first appeared. Detractors accused Foxe of dealing falsely with the evidence, of misusing documents, and of telling partial truths. In every case that he could clarify, Foxe corrected errors in the second edition and third and fourth, final version (for him). In the early nineteenth century, the charges were taken up again by a number of authors, most importantly Samuel Roffey Maitland. Subsequently, Foxe was considered a poor historian, in mainstream reference works. The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica accused Foxe of “wilful falsification of evidence”; two years later in the Catholic Encyclopedia, Francis Fortescue Urquhart wrote of the value of the documentary content and eyewitness reports, but claimed that Foxe “sometimes dishonestly mutilates his documents and is quite untrustworthy in his treatment of evidence”.

In contrast, J. F. Mozley maintained that Foxe preserved a high standard of honesty, arguing that Foxe’s method of using his sources “proclaims the honest man, the sincere seeker after truth. “The 2009 Encyclopædia Britannica notes that Foxe’s work is “factually detailed and preserves much firsthand material on the English Reformation unobtainable elsewhere.” It was typical, however, in the late nineteenth and early decades of the twentieth centuries to treat Foxe’s text as “not to be trusted….If not the father of lies, Foxe was thought to be the master of inventions, and so readers of the Encyclopedia [sic] Britannica were advised and warned.”

Foxe based his accounts of martyrs before the early modern period on previous writers, including Eusebius, Bede, Matthew Paris, and many others. He compiled an English martyrology from the period of the Lollards through to the persecution of Protestants by Mary I. Here Foxe had primary sources to draw on: episcopal registers, reports of trials, and the testimony of eyewitnesses. In the work of collection Foxe had Henry Bull as collaborator. The account of the Marian years is based on Robert Crowley’s 1559 extension of a 1549 chronicle history by Thomas Cooper, itself an extension of a work begun by Thomas Lanuet. Cooper (who became a Church of England Bishop) strongly objected to Crowley’s version of his history and soon issued two new “correct” editions. John Bale set Foxe onto martyrological writings and contributed to a substantial part of Foxe’s ideas as well as printed material.

Foxe’s book is in no sense an impartial account of the period. He did not hold to later centuries’ notions of neutrality or objectivity, but made unambiguous side glosses on his text, such as “Mark the apish pageants of these popelings” and “This answer smelleth of forging and crafty packing.” David Loades has suggested that Foxe’s history of the political situation, at least, is ‘remarkably objective’. He makes no attempt to make martyrs out of Wyatt and his followers, or anyone else who was executed for treason, except George Eagles, whom he describes as falsely accused.”

Sidney Lee, in the Dictionary of National Biography, called Foxe “a passionate advocate, ready to accept any primâ facie evidence”. Lee also listed some specific errors and suggested that John Foxe plagiarized. Thomas S. Freeman observes that, like a hypothetical barrister, Foxe had to deal with the evidence of what actually happened, evidence that he was rarely in a position to forge. But he would not present facts damaging to his client, and he had the skills that enabled him to arrange the evidence so as to make it conform to what he wanted it to say. Like the barrister, Foxe presents crucial evidence and tells a side of the story which must be heard, but his text should never be read uncritically, and his partisan objectives should always be kept in mind.”

By the end of the 17th century, however, the work tended to be abbreviated to include only ‘the most sensational episodes of torture and death’ thus giving to Foxe’s work ‘a lurid quality which was certainly far from the author’s intention’…

…Acts and Monuments was cannibalized for material to warn of the dangers of Papistry and, in Foxe’s name, also to undermine resurgent High Church Anglicanism. The author’s credibility and the text’s reliability became suspect, then, for both Catholic and Anglican Church defenders. Samuel Roffey Maitland, Richard Frederick Littledale as well as Robert Parsons and John Milner, mounted campaigns to disprove Foxe’s findings. Maitland’s and others’ critiques helped to awaken increasing antagonism toward intolerance in the public conscience. Combined with professionalized academic dissociation, left no voices to speak in Foxe’s defence, and reduced Foxe’s historical credibility such that “no one with any literary pretensions…ventured to quote Foxe as an authority.” John Milner, defender of the “old religion” (Catholicism), authored several tracts, pamphlets, essays, and Letters to the Editor: “Dear Sir…”; using all public means available to him for declaring that abuse of Englishmen was occurring “frequently”, ipso edem, the defamation and harassment of Catholics in England – a treatment not similarly visited on Sectarian communities or the Quakers.

Milner’s life project to discredit ‘Foxe’ was polemical—that was the point of arguing: to persuade people to see things as the speaker constructed or, at least, to seeing some merit to his case. Before the Houses of Parliament in the years of Milner’s and others activism, were bills for relieving English Catholics of tax penalties (for being Catholic), having to tithe to the Anglican Church, and relief from imposition of the Oath that stood between any Catholic and a government position.

While it is true that Christians throughout the 2,000-year history of the church have been martyred, it is also true that martyrdom stories have been grossly exaggerated, often little more than hagiography. Catholic scholar Candida Moss, former professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, took a careful look at early Christian martyr stories in her book The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom.  (You can read my review of The Myth of Persecution hereHere’s an excerpt from my 2013 review:

…While Moss admits that Christians were persecuted on and off throughout the first 300 years of church history, she thoroughly debunks the claim that Christians were always persecuted. In fact, many of the instances of persecution were actually prosecutions…

…Throughout the book, Moss details how many of the source documents for the stories about Christian martyrs were embellished, and, at times, fabricated out of thin air.  Even some of the saints revered by the Catholic church have histories that call into question their authenticity. I was quite surprised and delighted that Moss, a professor at a Catholic university, did not shy away from the controversies surrounding the mythic stories of the Catholic church.

Moss also details how some of the ancient martyr stories were actually borrowed from other cultures and religious traditions. There were times when I thought Moss was stretching these connections a bit, but I found the chapter, Borrowing of Jewish and Pagan Traditions, to be quite fascinating…

While Billy Watkins ponders whether he would be willing to lay his neck on the line for Jesus, I want to ponder the notion of a God who asks his followers to die for him. While most of us can readily understand dying for the sake of family or trying to help our fellow man, what are we to make of a religion and a God that put great value on dying for one’s faith? While Christians will likely say that their martyrdom allows them to give a final testimony to God ‘s love and grace, I do wonder about a God who could save someone from having their head chopped off and does nothing. What would we think of a man who stood by while his wife or children were violently attacked and killed? Dying for one’s family is recognized by all to be a heroic act. But, dying for a religious belief? Wouldn’t it be better to lie and live than to tell the truth and die? Unlike the Muslim, the Christian martyr receives no special reward for dying. Why die when you can live?

christian martyrdom 3

At the heart of this discussion is the way Christians are conditioned to accept martyrdom. Church members are regaled with stories of Christians dying for their faith. Pastors preach inspiring sermons about the martyrdom stories in the Bible, complete with modern-day illustrations of Christians dying for their faith. Christians are reminded of the greatest martyr of all time, Jesus. If Jesus willingly died for us, shouldn’t we be willing to die for him? says the local Baptist preacher. And all God’s people said, AMEN!

I wonder if these stories would be enthusiastically believed if church members found out many of them are lies or half-truths? Pastors remind their flocks that True Christians® must be willing to die for their faith. These pro-martyrdom pastors subtly suggest that a person who cowers when faced with martyrdom should not expect forgiveness or a home in Heaven when they die. God is the giver and taker of life, and if he wants to have a Christian’s head lopped off, dare anyone object? The Apostle Paul made it clear that God has a right to do whatever he wants with the Christian’s life:

 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? Romans 9:20-21

Well, I object. There is no religious belief worth dying for. I question what kind of God would do such a thing to someone he calls his child? I know I would do everything in my power to keep my wife, children, and grandchildren from being harmed, even if it meant losing my own life. It seems quite perverse to me for a God or a religion to ask or demand someone’s death just so the world can see their faith. Wouldn’t LIVING by faith be a better testimony than DYING for faith?

What I have written here should not be taken as a dismissal of the persecution many Middle Eastern Christians face on a daily basis. I abhor all such killing and fully support efforts to put an end to such needless bloodshed. The goal should be for everyone, regardless of belief, to worship freely without the threat of harm or death. The children of Abraham – Christianity, Islam, and Judaism – have histories soaked in the blood of their followers. Perhaps it is time for them to quit trying to subjugate one another. Perhaps it is time to put an end to jihads, crusades, and holy wars. Two thousand years of bloodshed lead me to believe that there must be a better way. Perhaps it is time for peaceful co-existence, leaving it to God to settle matters after death.

As an atheist, I am greatly troubled to see people give their lives for a religious belief. Knowing that the God they are dying for doesn’t exist, I am pained to see them sacrifice everything for nothing. We should weep when we see the young offered up to God as sweet-smelling sacrifice. Is such a God worthy of worship? I think not. Life is worth living, even if it means, in the moment, lying about one’s faith. Christians need to reorder their importance list, moving God down the list behind family. If death comes in protection of one’s loved ones, so be it. But to die for a religious belief, to satisfy the blood lust of the Christian God? Can we even fathom such an abhorrent demand? I know I can’t.

But Bruce, you are not a Christian. How dare you tell Christians what should be important to them! I am not doing so. I am, however, asking them to question their belief in a God who demands his followers be willing to die for him. I am asking them to reconsider what it is that is most important to them.  If the Christian is still willing to die for their faith/God, fine. But they should not expect me to rejoice over their death or understand their motives.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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22 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Dennis

    You know, it has always amazed me how a group of people, that are always spouting off about how wonderful ‘heaven’ is, are so afraid of going there. When it comes to dying, in any form or fashion, they shudder and shake thinking about it. It makes me wonder if they really believe in the ‘sweet by and by’ after all. Perhaps not.

  2. Avatar
    sgl

    the comments seemed to indicate (as dennis above noted) that they’re really quite afraid of death, which is odd considering where they allegedly believe they’re going. also, it seemed they were quite afraid of “losing faith”, ie, having doubts, and not shouting their faith from the treetops until the end. as if the creator of the universe needs them to stand up for him.

    as for me, my first thought is that it’s a false choice. i don’t pay much attention to isis, but my guess is that even if you denied being a christian, i seriously doubt they would therefore keep you alive. simply being a westerner and non-muslim is probably sufficient reason for them to kill you. and anything you deny they’re not likely to believe anyway.

    i was in egypt ~20 years ago as a tourist, and met a coptic christian, who i spoke with, and even sent letters back and forth several times after i got back home. coptic christians were somewhat persecuted under mubarak. the gentleman i met was a dr, but said that it was rare, as coptic christian students faced much discrimination from the muslim professors. also, if any coptic christian churches were damaged, (fire, etc), they were not allowed to rebuild them. and yet i never heard/saw any christians complain about this then, since egypt was supposedly our ally.

    anyway, what’s the likelyhood of most americans facing that choice at the hands of isis anyway? non-existant, unless you’re in the military, or a covert missionary. but it’s a good way to rally the christian fear factor.

    so, all in all, i agree with you bruce, that this is just a bunch of emotional blather to get the pew-dwellers riled up and donating and feeling afraid and persecuted, so the leadership can lead them by the nose wherever the leaders want to send them. but a modicum of logic says that there’s not really much for them to worry about. they’re far more likely to lose their job, or lose their house, or have a medical issue, than have any dealing with isis, or face any serious persecution for their beliefs.

  3. Avatar
    Tammy

    Back in the 90s Jim and I went to an exhibit in northwest Ohio about anabaptists martyrs. One portion of the exhibit talked about the families who denounced their second baptism and returned to Lutheran/catholic practices. They continued to believe secretly in the anabaptist theology. They did this in order to raise their children as anabaptists – in secret. They reasoned it was better than letting their enemies raise their children after their martyrdom. I was impressed with their decision.

  4. Avatar
    Knoxville Freethinkers

    Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is often used to prove that true Christians have always been persecuted for their faith. If the book was made into a movie, many modern-day Evangelicals would refuse to watch it due its violence and gore.

    I don’t know, I think it’s more likely they’d flock to it a la Passion of the Christ, claim it all as 100% fact, cast evil actors that look suspiciously like Obama, and have Phil “All Ducked Up” Robertson recount his story of the atheist family getting raped and beheaded, because, you know, where are your morals?

    I’m skeptical of religious and supernatural claims, and as an atheist, certainly wouldn’t consider any of them worth dying for. That said, there may still be beliefs for which I’d be willing to give my life. Any such scenario is very unlikely living in the United States, so I don’t give it a lot of thought and can’t predict what I would do in advance–there are way too many variables.

    If a particularly zealous believer in TN holds me at gunpoint and demands to know if I’m a believer, where I go to church, etc., I will almost certainly lie. Lunatics intent on causing me harm are not entitled to true details about my life. Moreover, if I escape the situation alive, there’s a good chance the person will be arrested and I will not face such a scenario again. The government would be on my side (yes, even in Tennessee).

    In some countries, however, the options are not as easy. Whether the Inquisitors of old or the Islamic States of present, repressive governments often have all the “evidence” they need before they even accuse you. You may come to a point where you know the jig is up and you cannot escape, no matter what you say. You may be with a group of like-minded people who are willing to die, do you want to lie and walk away to let them die alone? There may be a certain satisfaction to speaking truth to power as a valiant last act when all other options are gone, but I can’t honestly say what I can do.

    Religions that prohibit denial of belief, even to save one’s life can only do so through guilt, manipulation, and (often) threatening a fate worse than death. They attempt to take life and death choices away from the believer. My life is my own, and I can, and will make my own choices.

  5. Avatar
    Scott

    Even though it’s not quite the same, I love Julia Sweeney’s answer to what Abraham should of said when God told him to sacrifice Isaac. “Shouldn’t the correct answer be “NO!””

    Scott

    • Avatar
      Brian

      My response would include expletives hurled at the prick too…. Children today, right now, are being ‘corrected’ for God, real, innocent children and young people, beaten into submission with tools as varied as rods and words. It makes me gut-sick and heart-hurt to know that the miserable black book is probably the most vicious weapon that exists. One might say it even shat out the Koran and all other scriptural nonsense. Look at the suffering that goes on now based on that trash. Thankfully, here in Canada, the courts have stated that we have a right to be free of religion, and that it is not right to say a prayer before government meetings, that there must be neutrality in political affairs. And already some mayors/elected officials swear to their sweet Jesus that they will defy the law and stand with their faith. What utter bullshit delusion condones this kind of rigid denial of MY rights as a non-believer. I have seen the harm and I have been it. To those politicians who deny me my right to be free of their harm, FUCK YOU. I will not stop crying foul.

  6. Avatar
    Daniel Wilcox

    Thanks for this powerful article, especially the sentence, “We should weep when we see the young offered up to God as sweet-smelling sacrifice. Is such a God worthy of worship? I think not.”

    I grew up in the Baptist–back–to–John-B:-) myth, read some of Foxes accounts, and many others. Was so horrified and wrongly motivated…
    But then as I studied academic history, I found it was a lot more complicated…that the persecuted Protestants were persecutors and killers too, and that early Christians persecuted and killed far more other Christians, Pagans, and Jews than the Romans ever did! Whew!

    Jesus Wars by Phillip Jenkins gives one user-friendly history of this (for those who haven’t already read it).

    However like you say, this doesn’t take away at all from the innocent now and in the past who were tortured and killed just because of their views.

    What’s most weirdest of all about this is that many of the “persecuted” Protestants were actually Calvinists who strangely had already consigned their enemies (the Papists, Socinians, etc.) to foreordained eternal damnation!

  7. Avatar
    Brian

    I have long wondered how it is that white becomes black and over and again in scripture. God loves us so much (even before sperm meets egg) that he will have his own son tortured and killed for us. Normally, this kind of sick sacrifice would be seen quite simply for what it is, a mean-hearted man with power, harming innocence. But in this case, no no…. It is great love. Anybody else think the term, mindfuck, comes into play. I know the term is harsh particularly among those concerned with punishment, but really, can you believe this stuff? I was born into it and never questioned the woo-woo for years and years. I was saved, more than once actually, having realized like the churched boy I was, that I had fallen away by thinking dirty thoughts and being unable to exorcise the word, fuck, from my mind. Even today, years after finally believing myself that I was fully honest only by admitting non-belief, I have quandaries about the use of the word, fuck. It can be extremely rude and an expression of intense connection and love. There is a two-sidedness to it. I wonder if these kinds of reflections or two-sided meanings are not a good way to look at the Bible too, how historically it has been used to mean something very different than what is on the surface. If you asked somebody on the street who was not churched, how it is that some guy could hear a voice from the ether telling him to bind up his son and gut him on a sacrificial rock, what do you figure that average Joe might answer? Right: the dude is obviously a homicidal, delusional maniac and the child is not safe with him. But what if the guy who told him to do the killing was the big boss, the commander-in-chief of all the commanders? Shucks, well then, let’s gut the little fella…. The Bible is one sick mess of stories like this…. It amazes me that I could polish my shoes, dress up in a tie and go to listen to this madness. And it was my normal life! Holy shit…

  8. Avatar
    brbr2424

    Christians may as well profess their Christianity if ISIS is in the mood to decapitate people because the answer won’t change the outcome. A few of the hostages who were killed adopted their captor’s religion, and their conversion didn’t save them. There’s a blogger who blogs on the Jehovah Witnesses religion. He has a photo of a JW soon to be new mother at her baby shower. She martyred herself by refusing the blood transfusion she needed. Her fellow adherents are applauding her choice to not give up her eternity in paradise after death in exchange for her life on earth and being able to mother her new baby.

    I can’t remember which site it was on but Christians were interviewed about whether they would obey god and kill their child if he commands it like he commanded Abraham to do. Without hesitation all but one guy agreed they would do it. The one guy said that he had screwed up in life and this would just have to be another of his screw ups. It’s pretty disturbing that people would kill their child if given the order from god, especialy since if anyone does get that order from, no doubt it will just be the delusional voices in their head.

  9. Avatar
    Becky Wiren

    When I was a Christian, I wasn’t deeply into martyrdom. I can remember thinking to myself: “Well, if someone is going to kill me, am I supposed to accept…or lie my way out?” I guess I thought that God would forgive me. 😉

  10. Avatar
    RebelLady

    I know its really, really hard to believe, but I was reading a comment on another website recently where this pastor says he read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs to his children over breakfast EVERY morning. That, to me, should be considered child abuse! I can’t imagine the harm doing such a ridiculous and outrageous thing to a child must do!

    And, yeah, I think lying and living would be my choice, too.

  11. Avatar
    El - Nor

    Abraham’s obedience to his belief s was not because he wanted to obey a blood sucking God. you obviously forgot to read the account that says he agreed to because he believed that the one who require his death is capable of raising him to life… Isaac was d child of promise by who’s Abraham s defendants would be named. Its a pity that a man will dress up and go to Church all his childhood and believe only what a pastor preaches and never open the Bible to read objectively. It is written through out the old testament that God doesn’t require a human sacrifice and even condemned those sacrificing their children to idols like molech.
    If you are in a society like mine , then you would know that you are only living in self deceit to say that there is no God . Not to admit certain errors in the history of Christian believers is to tell a lie because they are humans and a capable of errors but to deny God and his word … you are lost.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Was Jesus human? Yes? Then God required a human sacrifice. We’re the Old Testament sacrifices a shadow of things to come? Yes? Then they were a shadow of God requiring the human named Jesus to voluntarily sacrifice his life on the cross.

  12. Avatar
    BJW

    I still have a similar opinion as previously. Can not see sacrificing myself for a religion or concept. For a person, yes. For my loved ones, for vulnerable people. Heck, I’d probably sacrifice myself for a stranger…but Christianity can go to hell, so to speak.

  13. Avatar
    Matilda

    It took us 11 years to conceive our first child and some desperate praying to be ‘blessed by a child.’ Overwhelmed with gratitude for her safe arrival, and deeply fundy, I had a horrible recurring thought, supposing my ‘loving father’ god decided our faith needed testing and took her from us like Isaac nearly was? (I had 2 more children, but didn’t expect at that point to be able to conceive again.) What if god asked us to do something like Hannah did, take her much-wanted only son to the temple and only see him once a year? I decided I couldn’t do that, I’d have to commit the sin of saying no to god…and asking for forgiveness later. And, as a mum of three small kids, should I ever be called to deny my faith, or proclaim it and be martyred, sorry god, I’d choose the former, my children were too precious for me not to see them grow into adulthood…I was a very bad x-tian I guess in that respect.

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    ObstacleChick

    Lots to unpack here. I am reminded of a couple of things from childhood. (1) Our youth group sometimes played a game called “persecution” after dark, usually during retreats or lock ins. We were divided into 2 teams, secretly so each person knew if they were a Christian or a persecutor. Each person had a flashlight. It was a game of deception, trying to figure out which other players were to be trusted or fled from, and getting safely to home base if you were a Christian or capturing Christian’s if you were a persecutor. At the time it was fun, but it taught us a lit about deceiving our friends, lying, etc, in order to win the game.
    (2) My grandma had quite a library of Christian literature (which is all she would read). She had Corrie ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place” about a Dutch family who hid Jews in their home, were eventually discovered by Nazis, and sent to a concentration camp. Corrie and a couple of members of her family survived while others died in the camps. My grandma had another book “If I Perish” about a Japanese Christian woman during WWII who was persecuted/imprisoned by the Japanese “for being Christian”. Another book was about a Soviet Christian man who was persecuted “for being a Christian”. The point of these books was to teach us Christians to be faithful and true.

    When you think about it, the crux of fundamentalist evangelical Christianity is Right Belief. That’s it – believe the right things, say the prayer, and you’re a Christian whose soul is safe from eternal torture in hell. So it makes sense there’s such an evangelical emphasis on always admitting under all circumstances that you believe the right things. Period.

    As someone outside religions, I have no problem lying to stay alive. I would sacrifice my life to save the life of someone I care about. Maybe I would die fighting in a battle to protect others. But if ISIS or whoever threatened to behead me unless I renounced X, I would probably lie my butt off to stay alive survive. My choice to die needs a purpose, and declaring to believe or not to believe something doesn’t rank high enough as a purpose.

    But boy, fundamentalist evangelical Christianity sure pushed the persecution concept in order to rile up its followers to be super committed to Jesus.

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    dale m

    Hmmmmmm ….. I would agree that Christians have always been persecuted (whatever that means to them) and R still being persecuted to this day ……… BY OTHER CHRISTIANS !!! This is why secular constitutions exist ….. to stop the bloody persecution of Christians by other Christians and Muslims. As an atheist, I unabashedly declare to U ….. you’re welcome.

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    mary

    oh my, the foxes book of martyrs. the ifb held this in such high regard. my late fil was crazy over this book even though he never really read it. he was just a parrot. constantly saying things like if you were on trial for being a christian, would you be convicted? wow, i cannot get over the crazy sometimes. just glad to be out at least. my kids have not had to hear this crap. the longer we’re out, the crazier it all seems.. thanks for the repost. good stuff. i wish we could all realize that religion is not worth fighting and hurting others over.

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    Ian for a long time

    I read parts of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs while in ACE schools. We had a copy at home, but it was a book I was never really interested in.

    I never wanted to be martyred. I never wanted to die, period. As a Christian child in the 70’s and 80’s, there was a lot of end time talk- the Mark of the Beast, the Tribulation, Russia invading America, etc. We were brought up in a fearful world, know that our Christianity could be put to the rest at any moment. What made this worse was when our church started believing in a “pre-wrath” (mid-Tribulation) rapture. We, the elect, would go through 3.5 years of hell on earth before God would take us away. That weighs pretty heavily on a teenaged boy’s mind.

    Does anyone remember the song “40 Brave Soldiers for Christ”? It used to play on a Christian radio station, KHVN, in the late 70’s. The song is a story, set during the early days of Christianity, about 40 Roman soldiers who were Christians. They were found out and martyred. The song haunted me as a little boy. I remember coming out of my room, crying, because the song scared me. I was afraid that I’d be made to stand on ice and freeze, like the soldiers. So, now, as an adult, if I walk outside in bare feet, and my feet get painfully cold, that song goes through my mind.

    So, no, I don’t want to be martyred for my beliefs, just as I don’t want to kill anyone for theirs.

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    Bob Felton

    I’m sorry I didn’t see this thread sooner. I second the urging to read “The Myth of Persecution” by Candida Moss, a serious and accomplished scholar, which documents that much of the martyr narrative is fabrication. What is more, she shows that a great deal of the “persecution” was, in fact, prosecution for violating Roman law (rather like contemporary America); those Christians who observed the laws were left undisturbed.

    Don’t miss the story about the pack of loonies who showed up at a bewildered Roman governor’s home demanding to be martyred, only to be shooed away as nuisances.

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