Our conspicuous crimes

Ask yourselves then; is Christ divine? If in fact recognising him as such remakes a man and makes him good, then false deity had better be abandoned. Your own writers pay plenty of testimony to other spiritual natures. The books of Moses make clear their nature – they are corrupt angels, demons. They seek to corrupt body and soul, and they can be everywhere, such is their nature that their swiftness passes for divinity. They cause disease, which they are kind enough then to heal! You know how magicians are – imagine what evils the powers they draw upon are like. And such are your gods. Produce one of your ‘inspired’ men, with his demon, and let any Christian you please talk to him. The demon will soon confess that he is a demon! Try it, and if he doesn’t, hang the impudent Christian forthwith. The name of Christ will compell them to talk true, and what then is left of your ‘gods’, if they admit themselves they are demons?

Surely every man is entitled to worship as he pleases. After all, no-one, not even a man wants unwilling worship.

But you tell me that the Romans rule the world because of the gods, and we endanger state security by our failure to worship them, risking their anger. Well, since you captured those gods from foreigners, whom they failed signally to defend, it doesn’t seem as if their help is worth much! So our refusal to worship them doesn’t hurt you. On the contrary, we ask the Creator to help the empire. A real God is rather more useful than a fake one.

The second charge is more serious, apparently – treason against Caesar. Truly a living man is more important than a fake god, even to you! But we ask the real God to help him, not the fakes and demons. Of course we’re just lying to you, but look in our holy books, which we don’t conceal. And since the Roman empire holds off the end of the world, naturally we wish it to be preserved. But not by false honours, and dishonest applause, which Augustus himself rejected. Moreover your religion is of such a nature that frankly Caesar is dishonoured by being included in it, with its impious way of worship being positively disrespectful to him. But be serious – is it really the Christians who assassinate the emperors? And wasn’t every one of the assassins worshipping the emperor, right up until they stabbed him; and even giving the Christians the name of public enemies while they themselves plotted? Of course we aren’t treasonous – if we were, we are so numerous in even your own estimate that we outnumber your soldiers! If you killed us all, who would be left for you to rule?

The meetings of the Christians are described, and how the Christians love one another. Yet the unbelievers sneer at the way Christians call each other ‘Brothers’ – because among pagans such usage always means fraud. We share everything except our wives – you share nothing except your wives.

Every misfortune is ascribed to the Christians – as if earthquakes never happened until 33AD.

You say that the community suffers because of us – we are unprofitable in business. Yet we have to live, and buy and sell like everyone else. The only people to suffer are the pimps and magicians! But the state really does suffer when the honest and hardworking can be executed because they are Christians – that really does decrease the public revenue.

So are we the only ones who are innocent? Well, we are certainly the only ones living by a philosophy that makes us so!

You say we are just another spin-off of philosophy, then. Well why don’t you persecute your philosophers, then, when they say the gods are fake, or bark against the emperors. Perhaps it is because the name of ‘philosopher’ does not drive out demons like ‘Christian’ does.

We are not a new philosophy but a divine revelation. That’s why you can’t just exterminate us; the more you kill the more we are. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. You praise those who endured pain and death – so long as they aren’t Christians! Your cruelties merely prove our innocence of the crimes you charge against us. When you chose recently to hand a Christian girl over to a brothel-keeper rather than to the lions, you showed you knew we counted chastity dearer than life.

And you frustrate your purpose. Because those who see us die, wonder why we do, for we die like the men you revere, not like slaves or criminals. And when they find out, they join us.