Biblical Slavery, In Context

Does the Bible REALLY endorse slavery, when read in CONTEXT???

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Yes, yes it does.

Leviticus 25:44-46:

‘As for your male and female slaves whom you may have– you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you.

Then, too, it is out of the sons of the sojourners who live as aliens among you that you may gain acquisition, and out of their families who are with you, whom they will have produced in your land; they also may become your possession.

‘You may even bequeath them to your sons after you, to receive as a possession; you can use them as permanent slaves. But in respect to your countrymen, the sons of Israel, you shall not rule with severity over one another.

But maybe that’s still not clear.  Here it is in cartoon form:

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And for those for whom even this is not clear enough, the Brick Testament puts Titus 2:9 into lego pictures for you:

 Tt 2:9 Slaves must be obedient to their masters in everything, and do what is wanted without argument.

Tt 2:9 Slaves must be obedient to their masters in everything, and do what is wanted without argument.

Seriously, how can you believe that a book advocating slavery is the book of the specially revealed divine wisdom of a good God?  How much denial and cognitive dissonance must you have?  How willfully must you trivialize the crime against humanity that is the owning of other human beings to let your eyes gloss over it when you read your Bible and say you find moral guidance and the word of an omnibenevolent deity within it?  How can Christians trivialize biblical endorsements of slavery when precisely those were used to justify the especially horrific Christian American style of slavery depicted in this photo.  And for those who want to try to massage the issue by claiming that Old Testament slavery was probably not as brutal as our own infamous form or say that it’s unrepresentative and mean-spirited for this lego picture to equate American slavery with the Old Testament kind—the issue is simple, the Bible’s endorsement of slavery helped justify and perpetuate the inhuman American kind.  And even were the Old and New Testament styles of slavery less brutal, they’re still profoundly immoral as soon as they involve the buying and selling of human beings.  You don’t have to then be a “particularly bad form of that” to already be unconscionable.  And it’s hard to fathom a good God that would first institute slavery (even the “not so bad in context kind”) put the command for slavery into a book of his special revelation knowing full well it would play an integral role in the American systematic dehumanization.  This is your idea of the evidence of a divinity?

And what about Paul, did God inspire him to be more worried about the church getting a bad name for creating unruly slaves than about agitating for the end of their cruel enslavement?  Good to see even in the first generation Christian leaders were more concerned about institutional reputation than opposition to oppression:

1 Timothy 6:1 All those who are under the yoke of slavery must have unqualified respect for their masters, so that the name of God and our teaching is not brought into disrepute.

1 Timothy 6:1 All those who are under the yoke of slavery must have unqualified respect for their masters, so that the name of God and our teaching is not brought into disrepute.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • http://www.atheist-pig.com The Atheist Pig

    Great videos and Prof is right; anyone should be able to recognize that god condones slavery. You simply can’t get around that fact no matter how you try to spin it.


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