One of the most ridiculous arguments I have heard for the existence of Christ on debate forums and other places is that if he did not exist and his story was not true, then why did so many people die as martyrs for their beliefs? It sickens me when I see books written by christians where they put their martyrs on a pedestal for choosing death over denying the truth of scripture. They love to talk about how hard it was for the early church, how they were oppressed by everyone, and how they have suffered for their beliefs in order to bring this "gospel of truth" to the world. They attribute the spreading of the gospel to its God and the fulfillment of prophecy that it should be preached throughout the entire world etc.
If martyrdom were a criteria to establish truth then atheism, free thought, secularism would then have to be the exception to the rule. History is full of many brave men and women who dared to stand up to the church. We have our own martyrs too who gave their lives so that we as a people could be able to think for ourselves and make our own decisions as to what we deemed true or false. Many were stoned, burned at the stake, tortured, murdered for the right to live free and be able to express your own thoughts and beliefs without fear of retribution.
You would think that for a religious group that has suffered so much throughout history that they would learn from it and not oppress or enslave anyone, but the reality is that nothing could be further from the truth. Once Constantine made Christianity acceptable in the Roman empire and later he himself converted to Christianity, they sought retribution with a vengeance. With the help of the government body of Rome they were able to decimate all other religions and sects that did not agree with their beliefs or any ideologies that went against their teachings. Christianity was quickly able to establish a real theocracy where the rule of law went hand in hand with the law of their god; church and state were in bed together and it was for the long haul. You could read about the history of the Catholic church on their website but take anything the church tells you with a grain of salt. http://www.ourcatholicfaith.org/thechurch.html
They were the legislators and they used the state to be the enforcers of the laws that they enacted. Anyone who dared say anything against the church and its doctrines was subject to a one sided trial where the accused was already guilty before his case was even heard. After the trial came the wonderful instruments of torture that the church had developed to force the accused to confess Jesus as Lord and repent of their sins, and once they managed to save his/her soul they then proceeded to destroy his/her sinful and corrupt body so that they could not sin anymore. The usual method of execution was burning at the stake, sometimes it was hanging, at other times it was beheading. All these acts were done in the name of a loving god.
The Catholic church was hard at work falsifying historical documents to seem to be in accord with their biblical stories, they went out of their way to propagate the myth. Why wouldn't they? Not only was this myth making them rich it was keeping the majority of the populace under the control of the church, people were literally afraid to speak anything against the church. They had citizens spying on their fellow citizens to help them root out dissenters and non believers for a price, and they also at times made false accusations against the rich. The reason for that was because when you were accused of being an infidel, blasphemer, or dissenter by the church one of the many bonuses was that you would at the same time forfeit your right to any property owned or money earned. Guess who automatically by default took control of all of your assets; you guessed it, the church.
The early church had translated the bible into Latin and they suppressed anyone who would try to translate the bible into any other common language, they claim to have done this so that the church was the one and only authority regarding the scriptures and their interpretation. Tyndale dared to make the first English language translation of the bible that came directly from the Hebrew and Greek texts. Tyndale paid for this act with his life: 'In 1536 the crown authorities strangled Tyndale to death and subsequently burned his body.' You can read more about this here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyndale_Bible
Christians who dared not believe what they were told by the church were considered dissenters and blasphemers. In those early days of the church any defiance of church doctrine was swiftly dealt with and the offender was usually executed fellow christian or not.