Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sal and Slavery

I’ve tried to avoid this topic. As unbearable as atheists are on subjects like origins, they’re even worse when it comes to things like slavery in the Bible. Their imaginations run loose and their feigned outrage cause them to exaggerate and fabricate to an extent that seems to know no bounds when it comes to the topic of slavery in the Bible. Why do I say their outrage is not genuine? Because, if you'll remember, atheists don't believe in God. They don't really believe that any of this actually took place. "I don't believe in God, but I'm furious that He commanded the Israelites to take slaves." Pfft!

What follows is from a discussion between John Loftus and another couple. For the life of me I can’t find the site from which this was taken. Loftus of course makes comments that are easily as nonsensical as Sal’s. I give it to you as I found it. If you are willing to read with an open mind and not in a spirit of challenging what you read before you’ve read it all, you might, might gain a proper perspective. Personally? I don’t hold out any hope for education as the mass of bigotry and bias among atheists in this area is as dense as a black hole.

It is often affirmed, as an incontestable and obvious truth, that the Bible supports slavery. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong cites Leviticus 25:44 as evidence of this charge in “Why Traditional Theism is not an Adequate Foundation for Morality.”1. [1] Although Armstrong is not the alone in making this claim, I think the charge is mistaken; the Bible does not support slavery.

This claim was refuted by John Locke in his Second Treatise on Civil Government, one of the founding texts of contemporary liberal political theory. Locke was a famous English philosopher, less known is that Locke was also the author of several commentaries on scripture and the First Treatise of Civil Government was essentially a class argument from scripture against the divine right of kings. In the Second Treatise, Locke argued that the law of nature, which for Locke is the law of God, forbids a person selling themselves or another into slavery.[2]

In response to the line of argument Armstrong cites, Locke responded with
I confess, we find among the Jews, as well as other nations, that men did sell themselves; but, it is plain, this was only to drudgery, not to slavery: for, it is evident, the person sold was not under an absolute, arbitrary, despotical power: for the master could not have power to kill him, at any time, whom, at a certain time, he was obliged to let go free out of his service; and the master of such a servant was so far from having an arbitrary power over his life, that he could not, at pleasure, so much as maim him, but the loss of an eye, or tooth, set him free, Exod. xxi.[3]

Locke’s argument here is as follows,
[1] If a person is a slave then that person is “under the absolute, arbitrary power of another, to take away his life, when he pleases.”[4]
[2] The institution referred to in scripture that people could sell themselves into, was not one where they were “under an absolute, arbitrary, despotical power.”
The conclusion Locke draws from [1] and [2] is that the institution scripture refers to is not slavery. Locke’s response here is interesting and fundamentally correct. Here I want to simply elaborate on it in more detail so I will address each premise in turn.

What is Slavery?Central to Locke’s argument is his definition of slavery and understanding of what makes slavery wrong. Locke understands the state of slavery as,
[1] If a person is a slave then that person is “under the absolute, arbitrary power of another, to take away his life, when he pleases.”
Rodney Stark utilises a similar definition,
A slave is a human being who, in the eyes of the law and custom, is the possession, or chattel, of another human being or of a small group of human beings. Ownership of slaves entails absolute control, including the right to punish (often including the right to kill), to direct behaviour, and to transfer ownership.[5]
The Oxford Dictionary gives a similar definition; a slave is defined as a “person who is the legal property of another or others and is bound to absolute obedience, human chattel.”[6] Timothy Keller notes correctly that the English word ‘slave’ carries connotations of new-world slavery as it was practiced in the British Empire, made infamous in the antebellum southern states of the US.[7] It is this paradigm that critics of scripture tend to allude to. John Loftus, for example, cites an eyewitness description of antebellum practices and then links it slavery in the Bible,

He took her into the kitchen, and stripped her from neck to waist. He made her get upon the stool, and he tied her hands to a hook in the joist. After rolling up his sleeves, he commenced to lay on the heavy cow skin, and soon the warm, red blood came dripping to the floor … No words, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his iron heart from its bloody purpose. The louder she screamed, the harder he whipped; and where the blood ran fastest, there he whipped longest. He would whip her to make her scream, and whip her to make her hush; and not until overcome by fatigue, would he cease to swing the blood clotted cowskin.

Why didn’t the Christian God ever explicitly and clearly condemn slavery?[8]
In the British Empire and in many US states, slavery was governed under the Code of Barbados. This code was explicitly racist and described Africans as “heathenish, brutish, and an uncertaine, dangerous kinde of people.”[9] It allowed owners to use, “unlimited force to compel labor without penalty even if this resulted in maiming or death;”[10] It denied slaves due process rights, allowed owners to, in effect, kill their slave for any cause, forbade slaves from marrying and effectively, prevented owners from setting their slaves free.[11] Keller writes that, “The African slave trade was begun and resourced through kidnapping.”[12] Stark notes that “20 to 40 percent of slaves died while being transported to the coast, another 3-10 percent died while waiting on the coast, and about 12 to 16 percent boarded on ships died during the voyage.”[13]

Does the Old Testament Approve of Slavery?
Armstrong argues that “the bible contains some horrible passages about slavery;”[14] to substantiate this he cites from the English Standard Version, "as for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations around you." (Lev 25:44) [15]
The ESV here uses the English word ‘slavery’ to translate the Hebrew word ebed. An important initial observation is that ebed is the noun form of the verb abad which means ‘to work’ or ‘to serve.’ Ebed does not have the same semantic range as the contemporary word ‘slave;’ Freedman notes,

The word ebed however, denoted not only actual slaves occupied in production or in the household but also persons in subordinate positions (mainly subordinate with regard to the king and his higher officials). Thus the term ebed is sometimes translated as “servant.” Besides, the term was used as a sign of servility in reference to oneself when addressing persons of higher rank.[16]

Locke suggests that an examination of The Torah’s references to an ebed shows that, in fact, it is not the equivalent of what in English language and culture is referred to with the word ‘slave.’ I noted above that Locke’s second premise was,
[2] The institution referred to in scripture that people could sell themselves into, was not one where they were “under an absolute, arbitrary, despotical power.”
I will give four examples to demonstrate why I think Locke is correct.

First, an ebed was not acquired by kidnapping; kidnapping a human being and selling them as a slave was a capital offence in The Torah (Ex 21:16). Moreover, slave trading is implicitly condemned in the book of Revelation (Rev 18:13) and explicitly condemned by Paul as contrary to the law and sound doctrine (1 Tim 1:9-10). An ebed is used in The Torah to refer to a person who offers to work for another, free of charge, in exchange for a debt being cancelled. During service the ebed worked for and served another, lived in that person’s house and probably received free food and board.

Second, the institution was not based on racist notions that ebed were of an inferior race. In fact, the opposite is affirmed. In the book of Job we read,
If I have rejected the cause of my male or female slaves [Hebrew: ebed amah] when they brought a complaint against me; what then shall I do when God rises up? When he makes inquiry, what shall I answer him? Did not he who made me in the womb make them? And did not one fashion us in the womb? (Job 31:13-15

Here Job refers to an ebed as having a right to go to court and sue their “owner” in pursuit of their rights. Job bases this on the idea that both he and his ebed are equal; both are created by God.

Third, as Locke notes, an ebed was not the property of another so that they could dispose of them as they saw fit. To deliberately kill an ebed is a capital offence (Ex 21:20-21). Similarly, it was illegal to strike an ebed (Ex 21:26-27). This latter point is often denied on the basis of Exodus 21:20-21,

If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.

Some interpret this passage to mean that because a slave is the property of another they can severely beat the slave and providing the beating is not fatal, there is no punishment. This fails to deal adequately with the context and the Hebrew text; the word translated as ‘property’ here is actually ‘silver’ (a reference to money) and the word translated ‘punishment’ here is not the usual word for punishment. Christopher Wright notes that the word implies “the shedding of the blood of the master of the slave”[17] and so refers to capital punishment. It is used in direct contrast with the same word in the previous verse where it is stated that deliberately killing an ebed is to be avenged. Therefore it does not say the person will not be punished for beating a slave, it says he will not be executed for it unless he kills the slave. For further evidence that the passage is not a licence to beat, a couple of verses later even causing a minor injury on an ebed, such as a bruise, is explicitly condemned.

The same contrast occurs in the passage immediately preceding where a free man who struck and killed another was to be “held responsible” but not if the person survives. It is clear from v 19, however, that the person was in fact to be punished; hence, again, the ‘held responsible’ is referring only to being held responsible for murder and is not speaking to the lesser charges. What Ex 21:20-21 says then, is that if a person deliberately kills their ebed then they are to be held responsible for murder and executed. If the slave if the slave “gets up after a day or two,” they are not to be held responsible for murder because the ebed is their “silver.”

This makes sense when a few verses later, in Ex 21:26-27, striking a slave is explicitly prohibited and the legal punishment is for the ebed to go free. In The Torah, the penalty for assault was for the assailant to provide monetary compensation to the victim.[18] This would create a quandary in this case as an ebed is in a position of servitude because he or she is in debt to the person they work for. In such a case the assailant would owe money to a person who owes him money. The Torah resolves the issue by declaring that even a trivial strike (such as the causing a bruise 21:25) resulted in an immediate cancelation of the ebed’s entire debt, which would often result in a financial loss to the assailant.

Third, unlike new world slavery which was life long and where, under the Barbados code, emancipation was effectively prohibited, an ebed could not be held in service for more than six years (Exodus 21:2).[19] Upon release, their employer was morally required to give them sufficient resources for them to be set up on their own feet (Deut 15:12-18) and the community left resources for them to live on for a year (Ex 23:10-11, Lev 25:2-7). In fact, The Torah encouraged people to prevent family members from becoming an ebed by paying their debts for them (Lev 25:48). Paul, after writing to the Corinthians and encouraging them to “retain the place in life that the Lord assigned,” encourages slaves to purchase their freedom and not to remain in this position (1 Cor 7:21-22).

Finally, if an ebed fled from an oppressive employer it was illegal to return him or her to “his master,” instead he or she was to live, “wherever he likes and in whatever town he chooses” (Deut 23:15-16). It was forbidden to send him or her back to his owner. This law stood in stark contrast the Ancient Near Eastern legal customs of the day.[20] The code of Hammurabi, for example, proscribed the death penalty for receiving a runaway slave.[21] In the antebellum south, the Fugitive Slave Act 1850 required the return of run-away slaves at penalty of law.

It seems then that Locke’s response is fundamentally correct. While it is true that many English translations of the bible use the word slavery to translate the word ebed it is mistaken to see the two institutions as the same. Slavery refers to the state of being the property or chattel of another; regardless of what connotations various words in English translations have, the institution referred to in scripture did not permit, condone or allow this.

Some people ask, why wasn’t God crystal clear on this issue since people suffered horrendously at the hands of Bible quoting masters?”

Well, even if you interpret “ebed” as “slave” as Hodge did, God WAS crystal clear in scripture about not beating them, not killing them, not threatening, the fact they were entitled to due process rights, must be released after six years and so on; in other words, to NOT treat them as property to be disposed of as one sees fit. Hence, to suggest that the Bible is unclear on the kind of suffering inflicted on the US southern slaves is false.

Another question that is asked is, “If there is a perfectly good God who knows us like he does and could foreknow how we humans would misuse the Bible, then why didn’t he reveal himself to us better than he did? There are many things in the Bible which led his followers to kill and hurt people that upon human hindsight could’ve been stated better.”

This is an incoherent argument. Knowledge constitutes of a warranted and true belief. If God foreknew that people would misuse the Bible then it must be true that they would, but then God could not prevent them doing so, if he did then it would not be true that they would in which case he would not know it.
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Given that slaves had the same basic rights as men, even if it were correct that women were treated like slaves, there should not be a great problem with it. Slaves could not be raped or forcibly married; it is clear from many passages stated above that the only difference between the rights of slaves and men is that one owed money and had consented to work that debt off.

In the passages condemning assault, homicide, etc there are NO exceptions made for women – the fact there are not, that women were treated equally, was actually controversial given the surrounding, non-Christian, cultures.

Some suggest that women were made to marry their rapist. Those passages do not mean rape in the sense anti-theist would like it to mean. They refer to pre-marital seduction – consensual sex - where the woman concerned was quite happy to marry the man she was sleeping with (not surprising given the risk of pregnancy in a pre-contraceptive culture).

If a man raped a woman in the sense to which anti-theists are referring to he was to be executed. This is a better standard for women than the laws that exist against rape today in most industrialised countries.

By the moral standards laid out for the treatment of slaves in the Bible, anyone unlucky enough to get h/himself into debt and could not manage that person could do a lot worse than being an indentured servitude program where s/he got a roof and board and a chance to work the debt off and where that person’s debt could be cancelled if the person I was in debt to mistreated the slave, than being sent to prison for failure to pay h/her fines.
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Rab and others say things like, Please oh please tell us why God didn't condemn it plainly if he foreknew what sincere believers would think about slavery from the Bible. If I were god this is what I would've said: 'Owning a person as property or treating them inhumanely is an abomination. Forced slavery is an abomination. Beating employees is a sin.' This is what I would've said if I were God, and I'm not perfect unlike your God."

This resembles the question:

When did you stop beating your wife?

Of course you can’t give a direct answer to this question because the question assumes you are a wife-beater and you are not.

In the same way, when an anti-theist asks why God does not condemn the beating of slaves or treating them inhumanely or forcing people into slavery, we are being asked to assume that scripture does NOT condemn these things. That, however, is incorrect.

Scripture does condemn these things. Most atheists who ask this question know that the harsh treatment of slaves is clearly condemned but are too dishonest to make this known in what they write on the subject.

However, just to reinforce what’s already been said, I will cite from the King James Version (KJV) which was widely available in the antebellum US South. The citations I provide are straight from the KJV, one does not need to know Greek or Hebrew to read them. Moreover, despite the fact that the KJV translates the word “ebed” as “servant” I shall also assume, for the sake of argument, that southern theologians were correct and that the word “ebed” refers to slavery.
Here are some of the things the scriptures say about beating slaves, treating them as property, inhumanely etc:

Ex 21: 14 "And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death."

This passages states that forcing someone into slavery is a serious sin, punishable at law.

Consider these two passages:

Ex 21:23-26 "And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; HE SHALL LET HIM GO FREE for his eye's sake. And if he smite out his manservant's tooth, or his maidservant's tooth; HE SHALL LET HIM GO FREE for his tooth's sake."

Does that sound like the American south to you?


Deuteronomy 23:15-16 "Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant WHICH IS ESCAPED from his master unto thee: He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: THOU SHALT NOT OPPRESS HIM."

The first verse teaches that it is wrong to beat one's “slave” and that a slave that is beaten by a master should be liberated. The second teaches that a slave that runs away from an oppressive master should not be returned to him. Both then state that a person should not be held in bondage to a master that beats and abuses them.

Ephesians 5: 7-9 "Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him."

This is a command to not even “threaten” one's slave, it also commands people to treat their slaves the way they would like to be treated.

So I put to you, that when you cite an example of “brutal American slavery,” of a woman being whipped, of her bleeding and pleading for the beating to stop, and then, in this context ask why God did not condemn slavery, you are assuming the scriptures did not condemn such practices.

Even defenders of slavery, such as Charles Hodge, admitted what was going on in the south was contrary to scripture.

Again John, I ask, show me a passage where God permits, endorses or commands the practices you describe on p 231 of your book? Where he tells us to ignore the ones I cite? If you cannot, why do you insinuate, on the very same page, that he did not?
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Some might attempt to adopt a narrower definition of slavery and then use it to argue that, on that narrower definition the bible does not condemn all forms of slavery.

The problem with this move that you cannot now use the bible to argue that it supported the kind of slavery that existed in the antebellum south, nor can you argue that the bible supports the kind of slavery common in the new world. Nor can you use it to argue that it supports any obviously objectionable form of slavery. The conclusion that the bible supports some form of slavery does not entail it supports all forms or any particular form the sceptic cites.

Moreover, if this move is made it is no longer obvious that the bible supporting "slavery" is problematic. If the word "slavery" is expanded to include various different kinds of servitude. Including ones which are consensual, are used to pay of debts, the servants are not treated like property, not beaten, treated with dignity and respect etc etc. Then the claim that slavery is always wrong is no longer obvious.
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I believe it is Sal who uses this next passage to show his outrage over slavery. Luke 12:47-48, which states: "That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."

This passage does not teach that it’s permissible to beat ones slave. The text is from a parable designed to illustrate the point that “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Jesus illustrates it by citing an example from the surrounding culture in this the practise of a someone being beaten. The parable is no more about slavery than the parable of the sower is a lesson on gardening. Or that the parable of the vineyard is Jesus giving instructions on how to grow grapes. Or that the parable of the net is a lesson in fishing, or the parable of the good Samaritan is a command to travel from Jerusalem to Jericho. Can you understand that Sal? This is NOT a teaching on how to treat slaves. It’s a parable.

In fact only a few verses earlier Jesus uses the example of burglar to illustrate a point about “being prepared. ” In Luke 12:39-40 Jesus says “ But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."
Yet no sensible commentator has ever interpreted this passage to be a command from Jesus on how to rob houses.

Parables use images examples to illustrate points, what they teach are the points illustrated, they tell us nothing about the examples used.
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[1] Walter Sinnott-Armstrong “Why Traditional Theism Cannot Provide an Adequate Foundation for Morality” in Is Goodness without God Good Enough: A Debate on Faith, Secularism and Ethics eds Robert K Garcia and Nathan L King (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008) 101-116.
[2] John Locke Second Treatise on Civil Government Ch IV.
[3] Ibid, sec 24.
[4] Ibid, sec 23.
[5] Rodney Stark For the Glory of God: How Monotheism led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts and the end of Slavery (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003) 292.
[6] The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English (Oxford: Oxford Clarendon University Press, 1974 ) 5th Edition, 1199.
[7] Timothy Keller Reasons for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Dutton books) 110.
[8] John Loftus Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity (New York: Prometheus Books, 2008) 231. Many thanks to Dean Mischewski for gifting us a copy of Loftus's book.
[9] Stark For the Glory of God: 312-313.
[10] Ibid, 313.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Keller Reasons for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism 111.
[13] Stark For the Glory of God: 303.
[14] Sinnott-Armstrong “Why Traditional Theism Cannot Provide an Adequate Foundation for Morality” 110.
[15] Armstrong omits to mention the previous passage which forbids any Israelite taking another Israelite as a ‘slave’ on the grounds that they are a “slave of God” whom God has redeemed. Paul applies the same teaching to Christians in 1 Corinthians 7:23 prohibiting Christians from being sold as ‘slaves.’ This teaching led many early and medieval theologians to forbid the enslavement of Christians resulting in slavery all but disappearing from Christian Europe in the early Middle Ages; Stark documents this in For the Glory of God: 329-330.
[16] D N Freedman Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group,1992).
[17] Christopher Wright God's People in Gods Land: Family, Land and Property in the Old Testament (Grand Rapids Mi: Paternoster Press, 1990) 242.
[18] See Exodus 21:19.
[19] There is an apparent discrepancy between Exodus 21:1-6 and the release laws of Leviticus 25:39-43; Christopher Wright in God's People in Gods Land: 253, noted that the law in Exodus 21:6 refers to Hebrew slaves. Wright notes that in its original context the word ibri designated a social class, not an ethnic group. This was the class of people who did not own land, who survived by hiring themselves out to land owners. Lev 25, on the other hand, deals with an Israelite landowner who has been forced into poverty by mortgaging his land and then selling himself and his family into the service of another land owner.
[20] Wright God's People in Gods Land: 249.
[21] Code of Hammurabi 16.

24 comments:

God 777 said...

"Those passages do not mean rape in the sense anti-theist would like it to mean. They refer to pre-marital seduction – consensual sex"

ROFL! Oh the lies you tell yourself!
You have to change MY words to fit your modern ideas!

Paul P. Mealing said...

Hi Makarios,

You certainly get a hiding, so I'll try and leave you alone after this. All you are pointing out is that the Bible is a contextual document; it's really only in the last century that slavery has been finally considered universally immoral in Western society. It was the industrial revolution that put slavery out of business, when it became more expensive to keep them than to replace them with machinery.

Previously, going right back to the Greeks, and even the Egyptians, it was a social norm. Today it still exists in the form of people taking jobs by paying a bond and then working the bond off, and it's not even illegal in some countries to do that. So the slaves in the Bible are really only servants in your view, and this was also true in most feudal societies where servants worked for their board or were sold by a family to pay off a debt. This is a rarity these days, though not irradicated, but the Bible reflects the time and place in which it was written when this was common place.

It's like the 10 commandments, which are really a set of rules so that a tribal commuunity can co-exist without killing each other over social infringements.

I'm not an atheist, by the way, I just acknowledge that everyone has their own idea of God. Do you believe that George Bush and Osama Bin Laden believe in the same God?

Do you think the Bible trumps the Qu'ran or the Mahabaratta? Think of all the wars that have been fought over trying to prove that 'my God is better than your God'.

Even your idea of Jesus is unique and different to everyone else's. And then there is God, the Father, who is a completely different personality to Jesus, so you already believe in 2 different Gods. Or is Jesus the same God only he came to Earth where he had a personality transplant and became a nice person?

Yes, I'm being flippant, but the two couldn't be more different. The Biblical God is not a nice character at all, but that's my personal view. However he's a mythic character like all the other gods of mythology, so there is nothing really special about that. In fact, he's effectively a projection of a persecuted people, so no one should be surprised that he's not nice.

I know you will take offence at this, but it's what I honestly think, and it would be insincere to pretend otherwise. I grew up with the Bible and it just made me neurotic. I'm not surprised that people of my generation rejected it in droves.

All the Best. Paul.

The Atheist Missionary said...

Paul, I know that you are late to this party but I just want you to know that Mak is not even willing to discount the literal truth of Noah's Ark. He is living in a bubble that requires him to believe that the Bible is the word of his chosen god. As a result, he has to engage in mental gymnastics (such as this post) to engage in apologetic exercises that are often quite amusing.

Dale said...

Makarios - wow, what a load of verbal chaff! You have a gift for equivocation. I suppose you would need that to get as far as you've gotten down the hideous rabbit-hole of wishing away the Bible's endorsement of slavery (among other things).

A simple request: could you go ahead and cite the specific biblical passage -- ideally one from Jesus (the ones they often print in red) but it can be from any ol' Bible hero -- where the Bible states plainly and unambiguously that slavery is wrong?

To say that slavery is wrong is quite different from saying one should treat one's slaves humanely.

To say that slavery is wrong is quite different from setting forth conditions under which slaves should be freed. (Unless, I suppose, the condition is something like: "If you have slaves, set them free now.")

To say that slavery is wrong is quite different from listing rules on what to do with escaped slaves.

Etcetera.

On a separate straw-man, for whatever it's worth, I am not angry at your favorite god for slavery. I am angry at depraved human beings who have cited your favorite god, and plenty of other gods and miscellaneous bullshit excuses besides, to justify slavery.

This is cousin to a broader anger over the fact that people spend time and energy redefining words, splitting hairs, lying to themselves, and lying to others to salvage a batch of sordid, ignorant, retrograde fairy tales written by desert-dwelling primitives.

Makarios said...

"could you go ahead and cite the specific biblical passage -- where the Bible states plainly and unambiguously that slavery is wrong?"

"Love your neighbour as yourself."
Now, as an atheist you are probably a very linear thinker, unable to trasfer into the abstract. These means, you'll have no idea how this verse can apply to anti-slavery. On the other hand, the Bible wasnt' written with your kind in mind so you don't need to feel bad for not getting it.

I understand your frustration with people who justify heinous behaviour via the Bible. The thing is, people allow their bigotry and bias to influence what they read and listen to. In fact, our bias are so strong that we can make almost anything say what we want it to say.

Dale said...

Quoth Makarios: "I understand your frustration with people who justify heinous behaviour via the Bible. The thing is, people allow their bigotry and bias to influence what they read and listen to. In fact, our bias are so strong that we can make almost anything say what we want it to say."

Yesterday you were insistent that god's word is the only thing standing between humankind and subjectivist moral freefall. Now you're conceding that the Bible is open to "almost anything" in the way of justifying moral conclusions.

I agree it's open to quite a bit of interpretation. I'm not sure how that concession works for you.

Anyhoo, I can easily picture "love thy neighbor as thyself" used to oppose slavery. I can also picture it permitting someone to own slaves on grounds that they find slavery a just practice under law in the way that, say, imprisoning people is widely considered a just practice under law, notwithstanding the fact that no one is volunteering for hard time at the state pen.

I can also also easily picture someone skating right by "love thy neighbor as thyself" alongside slavery by simply denying that the enslaved -- and/or the enslaved's "type of person," however demarcated -- qualifies as a "neighbor." This is a common enough approach.

The god you worship has, on your account, sent quite a few messages down to earth, directly and indirectly. This god not been shy about laying down rules and issuing flat declarations, some of them quite clear -- Leviticus flatly states that people are not to eat grasshoppers or shellfish, for example. (I realize there is an argument that Jesus repealed that sort of thing, but the point is, Leviticus was very clear on the no-eating-shellfish, no-eating-bugs thing.)

Supposedly, omnipotence and omniscience are qualities of this rule-making, message-sending Bible god. For all that, this god never got around to saying that slavery is wrong.

JD Curtis said...

"could you go ahead and cite the specific biblical passage -- where the Bible states plainly and unambiguously that slavery is wrong?.....Supposedly, omnipotence and omniscience are qualities of this rule-making, message-sending Bible god. For all that, this god never got around to saying that slavery is wrong."

Have you ever heard of a COMMANDMENT stating Thou shalt not steal? It is forbidden to steal a penny from another person, how much more so to steal someones FREEDOM!

God 777 said...

I love it when you try to mold your 21st century ideas with my words! Woot! Freedom is rad but. FREEDOM!

JD Curtis said...

777, I love how you tapdance around the issue and don't address it at all. Perhaps you can cite for me an example in which a naturalistic system was better than that offered in the Bible for it's time? Seeing that anytime atheists had a crack at running the show, they enslaved entire peoples, I doubt that you can.

God 777 said...

And I love how you had to add "...for it's time?"
But most of all I love you.


"Perhaps you can cite for me an example in which a naturalistic system was better than that offered in the Bible for it's time?"

SCIENCE! Science gets things done, yo. Oh... were you talkin' 'bout governments. Good thing a Bible-based people never enslaved anyone. That would be unthinkable!

Dale said...

Wow, JD Curtis, you are several kinds of powerfully awesome: "Have you ever heard of a COMMANDMENT stating Thou shalt not steal? It is forbidden to steal a penny from another person, how much more so to steal someones FREEDOM!"

Oh, the tragedy that you weren't around to offer this compelling, knock-down, cogent-out-the-wazoo observation back in the days when slavery was going strong. How US history would be so very different had you and your brilliant argument been around at the time of the founding fathers -- surely it would have resulted in an 11th amendment banning slavery -- or at least in the months and years leading up to the Civil War. You could have directed our nation's history away from so much suffering and bloodshed.

Darn.

The best ideas are always so simple, right? "Slavery is theft, and theft is forbidden." Short, sharp, direct, profound. Boom goes slavery.

Darn it all -- and darn it all a thousand times over again -- that no one was around with the sheer smarts to come to this astonishing, bracing insight.

Too late, but bravo. Bravo. Bravo!!

JD Curtis said...

So in other words, no. You can't cite a single example for us. That's because none exist Einstein.

And I love how you had to add "...for it's time?"

Given that the Bible was written for mostly uneducated people who lived in an agrarian society in the Ancient Near East, several thousand years ago before there were such things as the Department of Labor-Wage and Hour Division, labor unions, shop stewards minimum wages and other benefits that we enjoy today, you couldnt possibly do something as mind-numbingly stupid as compare the 2 systems of then and now and point out fault with the benefit of the institutions of today.....Could you?

Good thing a Bible-based people never enslaved anyone

There were examples of God's people taking slaves from the nations they conquered. A common alternative at the time would have been whole-sale slaughter. Perhaps you would have found that preferable?

JD Curtis said...

How US history would be so very different had you and your brilliant argument been around at the time of the founding fathers -- surely it would have resulted in an 11th amendment banning slavery -- or at least in the months and years leading up to the Civil War. You could have directed our nation's history away from so much suffering and bloodshed.

Are you really that ignorant of history to not know that slavery was a major issue at the time and that people like Thomas Jefferson and George Mason fought to have it banned? It's my understanding that they needed all the states on board for the Declaration of Independence and they reluctantly agreed to put slavery on the back burner till after war with Britain was settled. Oh well. if GM couldnt do it, I certainly couldnt either

Dale said...

JD Curtis, you are indeed brilliant:

"Are you really that ignorant of history to not know that slavery was a major issue at the time ..."

Uh, no. I am aware that slavery was controversial among the Constitution's framers.

"It's my understanding that they needed all the states on board for the Declaration of Independence ..."

Your "understanding" is, as we are coming to expect, superb. That said, you might want to reconsider whether there were such things as states at the time of the 1776 Declaration, and if so, whether states per se were called on to be "on board for" the Declaration.

You may be confusing the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution. Right wing dolts make this confusion frequently because they like the references to "Providence" and and a "Creator" in the Declaration that are not to be found in the US Constitution, which was ratified by states and as such formally adopted as the new nation's law between 1787 and 1789.

But I digress.

The point is, your notion that "slavery is theft, and theft is outlawed by the Bible, and therefore the Bible outlaws slavery" is a sad (but funny) oversimplification and dodge.

If the Bible clearly defined slavery as theft, you might have a point. But no, it provides regulations of it, but doesn't outlaw it.

If it does expressly outlaw slavery, please cite the passage and set the record straight for all of us.

The fact is, your favorite god, as recounted in all the written records we have that are commonly attributed to it, found it worthwhile to outlaw grasshopper-eating, homosexuality, shellfish-eating, and the wearing cloths of mixed fibers. This god you claim exists and loves us all said those things and plenty more but couldn't be bothered to state a clear ban of slavery.

Rabhimself said...

The fact is, your favorite god, as recounted in all the written records we have that are commonly attributed to it, found it worthwhile to outlaw grasshopper-eating, homosexuality, shellfish-eating, and the wearing cloths of mixed fibers. This god you claim exists and loves us all said those things and plenty more but couldn't be bothered to state a clear ban of slavery.

That really should be check-mate on the whole debate. 10/10 from me.

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