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The Slavery Problem
Posted: 21 January 2007 03:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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[quote author=“Run4orest”]
By accepting slavery as a reality of the times, by never condeming it, by attempting to regulate it, the OT and NT at the very least implicitly accepts it as a necessary evil.

A presumed deity as powerful as the Bible describes should not have been so politically correct during its dialogue with humanity. What we read from the Bible on the issue of slavery is exactly what we would expect from people who were products of the prevailing culture of that time and place.

It would seem ironic that slavery wasn’t questioned more than it was considering how Christianity quickly became the religion of the slave and of the marginalized. Then again, most of the NT references to slavery were written by Paul, someone who, having come from wealth and status, would have found it difficult to relate to their experiences.

There is a catch here.  As you point out, the bible speaks in the voices of the time that it was written.  But when you suggest that the all powerful deity ought not have permitted slavery you are ignoring the idea of free will.  Since, according to the theory, God gave us free will, it would be a contradiction to intervene in our exercise of that freedom.  (I realize that this is in many ways a dumb argument, why didn’t God at least say that slavery was wrong and we ought to avoid it, but it does raise an interesting point—to what extent does an all powerful deity have to back-off and let us exercise the gift of free will?)  rolleyes

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Posted: 21 January 2007 04:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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[quote author=“burt”] There is a catch here.  As you point out, the bible speaks in the voices of the time that it was written.  But when you suggest that the all powerful deity ought not have permitted slavery you are ignoring the idea of free will.  Since, according to the theory, God gave us free will, it would be a contradiction to intervene in our exercise of that freedom.  (I realize that this is in many ways a dumb argument, why didn’t God at least say that slavery was wrong and we ought to avoid it, but it does raise an interesting point—to what extent does an all powerful deity have to back-off and let us exercise the gift of free will?)  rolleyes

You point out the obvious, that this God should have said slavery was immoral. That would have been no different than when he made other moral directives that people may or may not have followed.

Of course, this whole situation involves a God that is intimately involved in human affairs. A very different God, a distant God, would have been inclined to back off and let people figure things out.

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Posted: 31 January 2007 08:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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God should have been wise enough to transcend the social context of mankind and argue against the institution of slavery. He wasn’t, of course, because he was created by man, who also created and supported slavery.

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Posted: 31 January 2007 09:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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[quote author=“bustinoutonfunk”]God should have been wise enough to transcend the social context of mankind and argue against the institution of slavery. He wasn’t, of course, because he was created by man, who also created and supported slavery.


This is a true story: A Peruvian government health worker went to a back country village.  One of the first things that she tried to do was get the villagers to boil their drinking water.  All attempts at this were a total failure.  The villagers would not boil their water because: (1) everybody knew that diseases were caused by evil spirits, not things in water that couldn’t be seen; (2) boiled water tasted funny; (3) Who could trust the government anyway?  So, following up on your argument, the Peruvian government than ought to have sent in the troops, forbidden drinking ordinary water, and forced water boiling.  Because you are an educated Westerner you cannot imagine how difficult it could be to introduce even a very simple innovation into a primitive culture, at least without violating free will (the plight of the American Indian shows what happens in that case).  Note that I am not arguing for or against God here, only against the fallacy in your arguments.

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Posted: 31 January 2007 12:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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[quote author=“burt”]
. . .  Because you are an educated Westerner you cannot imagine how difficult it could be to introduce even a very simple innovation into a primitive culture, at least without violating free will (the plight of the American Indian shows what happens in that case).  Note that I am not arguing for or against God here, only against the fallacy in your arguments.

Burt, God can introduce any innovation He wants to, with tremendous success, according to holy scripture. If He knows that a particular innovation will be unpopular, all He needs to do is to ramp up the drama. Part the seas, write on rock by way of a burning bush, walk on water, etc.—whatever is needed to get the job done.

God did not obliterate slavery not because He lacked the ability to do so, but because he’s a scum-sucking, ornery, anti-humanitarian. That’s the logical conclusion unless you’re an atheist like me.

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Posted: 31 January 2007 10:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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[quote author=“jdeuman”]So I just finished reading Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris.

I am one of the first people to say that Christians have hurt the cause and image of Christ over the centuries.  And while an apology doesn’t cut the horrible atrocities that were caused under “Christian” leadership, it’s all I can really do. 

There was one thing that really bugged me about something Harris had said and I just had to write about it.  Harris was talking about Slavery and how the Bible both the Old and the New Testament encouraged slavery, and how a Christians really have no argument against slavery because their book is cool with it.

Now yes the OT does give prescriptions for Slavery.  And Yes the NT does talk about slavery, but there is something that I think Harris as well as most Atheist have in common, they ignore context.  Sadly many Christians ignore context as well so they misunderstand what the Bible is saying, and they miss-apply the text entirely, and Harris gives one such example on this slavery thing.

In the age of the OT slavery was very common.  Most, if not all cultures had some form of slavery.  Slaves were acquired through military conquest, lack of ability to pay of debts, and things like that.  So for the Law to have a passage that talks about how to treat slaves would be a decent thing to do.  There is also something that Harris ignores all together called the Year of Jubilee, where by all debts are forgiven and all slaves are freed and property is returned to the family ownership.  Show me one culture on earth that had anything like that at the time.

Now I am not saying that I’m down with slavery, but everyone was then.  I agree with Harris that Slavery is horrendous and I am glad that the US has abolished slavery.  But we need to look at the Geo-Political and Social Context of the passage first. 

Context is King!

I think you’re absolutely right.

But that also means that the wisdom of the bible is only relative wisdom. Wisdom for biblical times. Not wisdom for our times.

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Posted: 01 February 2007 09:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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[quote author=“homunculus”][quote author=“burt”]
. . .  Because you are an educated Westerner you cannot imagine how difficult it could be to introduce even a very simple innovation into a primitive culture, at least without violating free will (the plight of the American Indian shows what happens in that case).  Note that I am not arguing for or against God here, only against the fallacy in your arguments.

Burt, God can introduce any innovation He wants to, with tremendous success, according to holy scripture. If He knows that a particular innovation will be unpopular, all He needs to do is to ramp up the drama. Part the seas, write on rock by way of a burning bush, walk on water, etc.—whatever is needed to get the job done.

God did not obliterate slavery not because He lacked the ability to do so, but because he’s a scum-sucking, ornery, anti-humanitarian. That’s the logical conclusion unless you’re an atheist like me.

You are ignoring the condition that I included about not violating free will. 

It’s always possible to make sophistical arguments of the irresistible force and immovable rock sort, but that just shows a lack of sensitivity to the actual cases.  Let’s see, suppose that back along the way God decided that elimination of slavery was essential so abolished it.  Since most of the work in the ancient world was done by slaves, leaving the leisure class free to develop the cultural artifacts that we now take for granted, this would lead to economic collapse and cultural paralysis.  No problem, God can do anything; so he sends his angels to do the work formerly carried out by slaves, or perhaps just produces an advanced technological civilization and adjusts peoples minds and brains so they can live in it.  Hey, we’re back in Eden.  Seems to me that for an atheist it is pretty ridiculous to attribute anything to God, or to project one’s own values on an assumed non-existent deity, other than as a way of supporting ones belief.

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Posted: 01 February 2007 09:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]  
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[quote author=“KFD”][quote author=“jdeuman”]So I just finished reading Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris.

I am one of the first people to say that Christians have hurt the cause and image of Christ over the centuries.  And while an apology doesn’t cut the horrible atrocities that were caused under “Christian” leadership, it’s all I can really do. 

There was one thing that really bugged me about something Harris had said and I just had to write about it.  Harris was talking about Slavery and how the Bible both the Old and the New Testament encouraged slavery, and how a Christians really have no argument against slavery because their book is cool with it.

Now yes the OT does give prescriptions for Slavery.  And Yes the NT does talk about slavery, but there is something that I think Harris as well as most Atheist have in common, they ignore context.  Sadly many Christians ignore context as well so they misunderstand what the Bible is saying, and they miss-apply the text entirely, and Harris gives one such example on this slavery thing.

In the age of the OT slavery was very common.  Most, if not all cultures had some form of slavery.  Slaves were acquired through military conquest, lack of ability to pay of debts, and things like that.  So for the Law to have a passage that talks about how to treat slaves would be a decent thing to do.  There is also something that Harris ignores all together called the Year of Jubilee, where by all debts are forgiven and all slaves are freed and property is returned to the family ownership.  Show me one culture on earth that had anything like that at the time.

Now I am not saying that I’m down with slavery, but everyone was then.  I agree with Harris that Slavery is horrendous and I am glad that the US has abolished slavery.  But we need to look at the Geo-Political and Social Context of the passage first. 

Context is King!

I think you’re absolutely right.

But that also means that the wisdom of the bible is only relative wisdom. Wisdom for biblical times. Not wisdom for our times.

That is using a pretty wide brush.  Why not say that some of the biblical wisdom is of that time and no longer fits, while other aspects of it still have relevance today?

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Posted: 01 February 2007 10:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]  
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[quote author=“burt”]. . . Let’s see, suppose that back along the way God decided that elimination of slavery was essential so abolished it.  Since most of the work in the ancient world was done by slaves, leaving the leisure class free to develop the cultural artifacts that we now take for granted, this would lead to economic collapse and cultural paralysis.

Burt, your apologetics amaze me with their cruelty and ignorance. Granted, we’re playing little mind experiments here, but I really can’t imagine why exactly horrible mistreatment of human beings (typically considered by slaveowners as “not-quite” human) was ever necessary for our eventual cultural evolution. The concept is mind-bending especially because I suspect you’re not a simpleton. You are, however, on my Ignore list.

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Posted: 01 February 2007 11:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]  
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[quote author=“burt”][quote author=“KFD”][quote author=“jdeuman”]So I just finished reading Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris.

I am one of the first people to say that Christians have hurt the cause and image of Christ over the centuries.  And while an apology doesn’t cut the horrible atrocities that were caused under “Christian” leadership, it’s all I can really do. 

There was one thing that really bugged me about something Harris had said and I just had to write about it.  Harris was talking about Slavery and how the Bible both the Old and the New Testament encouraged slavery, and how a Christians really have no argument against slavery because their book is cool with it.

Now yes the OT does give prescriptions for Slavery.  And Yes the NT does talk about slavery, but there is something that I think Harris as well as most Atheist have in common, they ignore context.  Sadly many Christians ignore context as well so they misunderstand what the Bible is saying, and they miss-apply the text entirely, and Harris gives one such example on this slavery thing.

In the age of the OT slavery was very common.  Most, if not all cultures had some form of slavery.  Slaves were acquired through military conquest, lack of ability to pay of debts, and things like that.  So for the Law to have a passage that talks about how to treat slaves would be a decent thing to do.  There is also something that Harris ignores all together called the Year of Jubilee, where by all debts are forgiven and all slaves are freed and property is returned to the family ownership.  Show me one culture on earth that had anything like that at the time.

Now I am not saying that I’m down with slavery, but everyone was then.  I agree with Harris that Slavery is horrendous and I am glad that the US has abolished slavery.  But we need to look at the Geo-Political and Social Context of the passage first. 

Context is King!

I think you’re absolutely right.

But that also means that the wisdom of the bible is only relative wisdom. Wisdom for biblical times. Not wisdom for our times.

That is using a pretty wide brush.  Why not say that some of the biblical wisdom is of that time and no longer fits, while other aspects of it still have relevance today?

No, I don’t think it has any relevance, because those parts that were good have been surpassed by modern philosophers who have developed the ideas into a modern and more useful form. And the bad parts are still dangerous.

At best, it’s bronze age sociology, and that’s pretty primitive.

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Posted: 03 February 2007 10:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]  
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[quote author=“burt”]You are ignoring the condition that I included about not violating free will. 

It’s always possible to make sophistical arguments of the irresistible force and immovable rock sort, but that just shows a lack of sensitivity to the actual cases.  Let’s see, suppose that back along the way God decided that elimination of slavery was essential so abolished it.  Since most of the work in the ancient world was done by slaves, leaving the leisure class free to develop the cultural artifacts that we now take for granted, this would lead to economic collapse and cultural paralysis.  No problem, God can do anything; so he sends his angels to do the work formerly carried out by slaves, or perhaps just produces an advanced technological civilization and adjusts peoples minds and brains so they can live in it.  Hey, we’re back in Eden.  Seems to me that for an atheist it is pretty ridiculous to attribute anything to God, or to project one’s own values on an assumed non-existent deity, other than as a way of supporting ones belief.

Would it have been too difficult for this God to simply have people write down that slavery is wrong? People could have then decided whether or not to continue the practice. If Christians centuries later practiced slavery, they would have at least been unable to justify it using the Bible.

That course of action would not have compromised free will.

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Posted: 05 February 2007 05:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]  
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[quote author=“aaeoni”]
Imagine what would have happened to those slaves if they were to rise up against thier masters.  They would have been killed.  It was the right statement to make.

As opposed to, say, “I am Spartacus!”

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Posted: 05 February 2007 07:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]  
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Imagine if Christians rose up against their Master….

“I am not a creation, I am a Man”

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Posted: 05 February 2007 10:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]  
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[quote author=“Run4orest”][quote author=“burt”]You are ignoring the condition that I included about not violating free will. 

It’s always possible to make sophistical arguments of the irresistible force and immovable rock sort, but that just shows a lack of sensitivity to the actual cases.  Let’s see, suppose that back along the way God decided that elimination of slavery was essential so abolished it.  Since most of the work in the ancient world was done by slaves, leaving the leisure class free to develop the cultural artifacts that we now take for granted, this would lead to economic collapse and cultural paralysis.  No problem, God can do anything; so he sends his angels to do the work formerly carried out by slaves, or perhaps just produces an advanced technological civilization and adjusts peoples minds and brains so they can live in it.  Hey, we’re back in Eden.  Seems to me that for an atheist it is pretty ridiculous to attribute anything to God, or to project one’s own values on an assumed non-existent deity, other than as a way of supporting ones belief.

Would it have been too difficult for this God to simply have people write down that slavery is wrong? People could have then decided whether or not to continue the practice. If Christians centuries later practiced slavery, they would have at least been unable to justify it using the Bible.

That course of action would not have compromised free will.

Perhaps God knew that writing that down was a sure way to guarantee that the book would be a flop.  (Am I going to worship a deity who goes directly against my immediate economic interest LOL )  Could it be that God is being cynical, or just realistic?  The problem with using present day moral arguments to discredit God is that they don’t work.  They are anachronistic and require us to judge the ancients by modern standards.  They don’t make the distinction between the belief system and the deity towards which that belief system points (since most people don’t make that distinction either, they end up worshiping the beliefs and committing idoletry but that is another thread).

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Posted: 05 February 2007 02:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]  
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[quote author=“burt”]Perhaps God knew that writing that down was a sure way to guarantee that the book would be a flop.  (Am I going to worship a deity who goes directly against my immediate economic interest LOL )

Yeah, ‘lol’ smilie face, because slavery sanctioned by God is just so hilarious.

If he was concerned about flopping, there are any number of other commandments he should have left out, since humans are always breaking them to suit their personal needs, anyway. But the idea of the commandments, I presumed, was to set out GOD’s standard for us, not the other way around.

Quite obviously he advocates slavery. We know this, because the best he managed was to merely regulate it, not forbid it. Of course he couldn’t condemn it, because his bottom line is to enslave everyone. Love him, worship him, or suffer forever, that’s God’s deal.  In that sense, his first three commandments absolutely do tell the reader his thoughts on the matter. Depending how your particular religion divvies them up , they show that he utterly demands enslavement. . . to him. He’s utterly paranoid about it.


[quote author=“burt”]Could it be that God is being cynical, or just realistic?

“Realistic”? burt, according to the Creation story, ‘reality’ would have to be exactly as God designed it to be, or it wouldn’t be reality. If he wanted different parameters for our reality, he not only had the power to establish them, but would also have the all-knowingness to confirm the results of any particular version of reality he set up for humanity, from the beginning. Or from the 2nd beginning, after the flood. But he changed nothing, apparently.

The Bible is simply not a useful operations manual in a civilized world because—big shocker, here—no god had anything to do with writing it. The character contradicts himself far too often and too completely to be granted god status. And that’s not being cynical, but just ‘realistic’.


[quote author=“burt”]The problem with using present day moral arguments to discredit God is that they don’t work.  They are anachronistic and require us to judge the ancients by modern standards.

But we’re not judging the ancient peoples—they were just credulous, gullible victims of trusted elders who put religious notions in their heads.  What we’re judging is the non-time-constrained GOD that supposedly set out his rules for all humanity, not just for those ancients.

If his morals are absolute, unchanging, eternal, and if he knew how all of us would turn out, and how we would think in 2007, then there’s no need to question—he’s all for slavery, or else he would have damned it from the start. But suggesting that he was just ‘going with the flow’, to respect the ways of these people, or to save economies? Absurd. Buddha could have laid it out better, and with no attendant fire-breathing ego, to boot.

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