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Christian Martyrdom: Is Any Religion Worth Dying For?

christian martyrdom

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 to 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 puts 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 lying and living be better than telling the truth and dying? 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 partner, 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 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 sacrifices. 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 Christians are 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, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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  1. Avatar

    As I see it martyrdom is for fanatics, and by definition fanatics don’t think logically. It’s more than easy to sit in a comfortable chair and try to rationalise in the way these folks do. There’s some acknowledgment of the complete detachment from reality, but there’s actually no way of properly understanding the horror of the situation, and nor is there any appreciation of the ridiculous nature of the choice. If it’s deny Jesus or die then no person in their right mind is going to do other than deny. After all, if Jesus is so powerful that he’s able to watch over this event (which presents its own problems) then he can surely see the reality of the nature of the ‘choice’.

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    I remember as a Christian teenager having this type of crap being thrown at me all the time at church. Face it when you are that age all you want to do is fit in but I was told my desire to fit in was an affront to my lord. Being ridiculed for my faith should be a badge of honor and the least I could do for the one who died for me. This is probably a lot easier to do in the Bible Belt than in a much more secular part of the country where I grew up. I was placed in a no win situation where I had to choose between Jesus and the acceptance of my peers. Conformity and acceptance are of paramount importance to teenagers who are still years away from a fully developed cerebral cortex. Decades removed from that period of my life I still experience symptoms of stress and conflict when I recall this.

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    Yulya Sevelova

    Where you’ll find such persecution still, is in the Communist countries, like Russia, China, and especially North Korea. There in those places, God, and other belief systems compete with the ” Great Leader” who is regarded as a living God himself. They get the worship,and demand it. I’ve known about this since I was a kid. I had a different idea of what Christians actually were though. No clue till we went up North ,where lots of churches were,and there you’d run into lots of churchgoing Christians. I have so say here, that while Chingis Khan ( Ghengis to Westerners) was no humanitarian, he at least allowed freedom of religion – as long as you didn’t interfere with his activities and policies. Marco Polo WAS a schemer for the popes,and a spy,that’s a story for another day. And the Old Silk Road is now the route for the military highway known as the Belt and Road Initiative,from China. It ends in Israel,by the way. It’s been modernized to accommodate tanks and other things. Since Netanyahu just sent drones over Iran last night, the long history of Middle Eastern people trying to force others to obey their beliefs goes back at least 4,000 years. Not good for the rest of the world. Passover is the 22nd over here,23rd over there,as they’re a day ahead. That’s when Netanyahu may cut loose, and yeah, ISIS is just more of the same. I don’t even want to type in what I’ve heard them do. The only real persecution Christians face in the US so far, is from devil worshippers. It’s more apparent here in LA,than in rural places. There are church goers who claim they want to be persecuted, because their lives are so calm and sedated. They see it as a heroic adventure, very dramatic. They don’t have a clue what it really involves.

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    I remember as a teen in Southern Baptist church discussions about being willing to die for Christ. Of course, we all said, yeah, of course we would! Secretly, though, I knew it was likely that I would not. I would do my level best to scheme, fight, lie, manipulate, etc., to escape such a situation. Inside, I squirmed knowing that I was a terrible Christian. But, heck, I figured I could do a lot more to fight in the resistance than just being dead. In those days, it was the USSR Communists we feared above all. How funny to see 40 years later evangelicals liking Putin.

    Anyway, I am not sure what I would die for. Certainly my family – if I was told that someone in my family had to die to spare the rest, I would volunteer. A dystopian theoretical situation in which Trump is re-elected and shit goes down where people have to swear allegiance to Trump or die – what would I choose? Tough call, but lying and fighting in the resistance would be a better option, I think…..

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      Yulya Sevelova

      Agreed, Obstaclechick !! Fight like hell, and use all tactics at your disposal,and that way keep your self respect. Don’t make it easy for tyrants, if you can help it. As for the Fascist fanatics who love Putin, I’ll never be able to wrap my brain around THAT one- the guy was a KGB officer, and the KGB really went after Christians, and still do ! Orthodox Church versions, not so much, at least for now. But that too can change in a heartbeat. I heard on the local radio station here yesterday, that the 911 outages were caused by cut cables and that the FBI is investigating this. We’re already at war, it just hasn’t gone hot yet. This is how asymmetrical war tactics are fought, from the Eastern perspective. What sane, decent Christian could ever go for Putin, Orban, Xi, ad nauseum ?? What sheep💩 for- brains those people are, to think such people are champions of the Bible ?? Some guy just set himself on fire outside the courthouse where Trump’s trial is . Not sure just why, or who the man is yet. Putin is NOT their ally. Wake up and smell the jet fuel, church people !

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    John S.

    I am a lot more likely to disparage those who insist on killing anyone because of their belief, regardless of who it is.
    As a Catholic, I am keenly aware that there are those who are either hyper Protestant evangelical or anti-theists (NOT atheists) who have no other joy in their life than to hector, oppress and otherwise make life unbearable for those of my faith. And yes, I realize the Catholic Church historically is guilty of this in history as well.

    I would allow myself to be martyred for this simple reason- not because I think it will get me some kind of reward in the afterlife, but because I cannot stand bullies. And to renounce your faith merely because someone is threatening you is to give in to a bully.
    And as many have found out, these kind of bullies (anti-Catholic “Christians”, Marxists, Nazis, Muslim jihadists etc) rarely stop with the initial demand that you verbally renounce your faith. Next comes other demands to further demonstrate your solidarity with their point of view- denounce others, participate in the torture and killing of your former co-religionists, etc.

    My values on this were formed in my childhood, after reading George Orwell (who I believe was an atheistic socialist) novels “Animal Farm” and “1984”. From what I understand, Orwell became jaded after his experiences in the Spanish Civil War- while he fought for the Republicans, he saw the atrocities committed by the far-left fanctions, influenced by their USSR advisors. He also saw the atrocities committed by the far right Francoists in response. Many of the victims were Catholic religious and lay persons who would not renounce their faith to the Communists. This made many of them hitch their wagons to Franco, who committed an unprecedented amount of killing after he took power.

    Violent ideologies enable violent people. Violence begets violence, and oppression rarely ceases because are you no longer perceived as a “threat”. It only stops when you are completely “unpersoned” due to your past affiliation. And like Winston Smith in the book 1984, you will spend your remaining days waiting for the Party to end your life anyway.

    All this said, like Bruce I would much rather live my life and practice my faith in a quiet and joyful manner. I certainly do not see any virtue in seeking out martyrdom by poking the bear. But I’m also not going to stay away from the woods because the bear might possibly attack me.

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    Tammy Schoch

    Back in the day I went to a Mennonite sponsored art show about anabaptist martyrs. There was a section on those who converted back to catholicism/lutheranism in order to continue to raise their own children, secretly teaching them anabaptist theology at home. They decided it was better to do this than to let their enemies raise their children.

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    I can see why Christians extol the martyr. It was great P.R. when the cult of Christ was beginning. Imagine being a Roman citizen watching Christians willingly go down to their death in the coliseum. It might at least get people interested in what they thought was so wondrous that they were willing to die for it.
    While early Christians loved to prove their cred by getting martyred, at least my understanding of the Jesus story does not make this seem like the Jesus approved course of action. For example you have Jesus instructing Peter to deny him. (Yes the text seems that he is “predicting”, but in the disciple-teacher relationship context it is an edict, not a predict.) Why would this be so? Simple, there is little to be gained by the sacrifice. Will you convince those that would strike you down for your beliefs? Possibly, but I’d suggest you can do more Christian stuff alive than dead.
    (Note that the celebration of martyrs starts with Stephen in Acts, so this is Paulianity, not Christianity. I consider them distinct.)
    Anyway that’s my brief foray into “Theology”… how’d I do?

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    After saying “I believe this” and “I believe that” over and over, Friend No. 8 finally wrapped it up with, “I believe Jesus Christ would bathe me with a peace beyond human comprehension…”

    Very much doubt it. If there were any such peaceful martyrs, they wouldn’t brag on a public forum. Friend No. 8 is a braggart, and braggarts make a big show of their faith, but would squeal like a pig the minute they got a hangnail.

      • Avatar
        Karen the rock whisperer

        Al, for that unkind comment, I, as party manager for the Gerencser Hell Inaugural party, deputize you to bring the Corelle dishes. Paper won’t hold up to the hellfires. Lucifer himself has promised to cater the drinks, and several brilliantly skilled gay chefs are putting together a buffet that would be to die for if we aren’t already dead. If Bruce pre-deceases us, well, he’ll have to wait a bit, but he can handle that.

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    Karen the rock whisperer

    We talk about reacting to extreme situations with “flight or flight”, but as my therapist points out, it is actually, “fight, flight, or freeze”. If someone was about to execute me violently unless I declared fealty to their deity, I would undoubtedly just freeze. That’s how my brain works. I would stare at them blankly until I felt the pre-death pain.

    It’s important to remember that human brains work for us at their own pleasure, so to speak. Human psychology is extremely complicated, and we are not always in rational control of our minds. Human brains have a whole lot of hardwiring that has statistically been demonstrated, over millions or even billions of years of evolution, to work to keep more members of a species alive than not. Keep the species going long enough, and it gets to keep on evolving into newer species. We are one current tip of a long-successful run, and if we don’t end up wiping ourselves and most of the rest of the planet out, who knows how our species will evolve eventually? But in the excruciating moment of live-or-die, our rational brains may have difficulty overriding all that evolutionary background wiring.

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