Aspiring to Slavery

Last month, I wrote about slavery and the Bible’s embarrassing (though historically understandable, if we assume there was no divine revelation behind it) endorsement of that vile practice. Today, slavery is widely recognized as the evil it is, and though it still exists in some forms, it lingers only in the shadows, not in the light of mainstream acceptance. Today religious people of all stripes reject slavery, and do their best to gloss over or explain away the unchanged scripture that still supports it.

However, that opposition to slavery is not universal. What baffles me is that, despite abundant historical evidence that slavery is a great crime and a demeaning and degrading state which no human should have to suffer, there are still some theists whose highest aspiration in life is to be property – to be enslaved.

The religious desire to be enslaved cuts across denominations. In Roman Catholicism, there are monastic orders such as the self-proclaimed “Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary“. Some Christian merchandise sites advertise t-shirts that proclaim their wearer “Property of Jesus“. Christians congregate in online groups with titles like “Owned by Jesus“. Jehovah’s Witnesses, meanwhile, hope to become one of the only 144,000 “faithful and discreet slaves” who will be admitted to Heaven (the rest will enjoy eternal life on a recreated Earth, which is apparently sort of an overflow box for Heaven). The Christian magazine Brio has an extended article titled Bought, Branded, Bonded in which the author compares herself to a slave on the auction block, one who is so grateful to be purchased and owned that she would refuse to be set free even if given the opportunity:

I don’t own my life any more. I willingly accept His purchase. He’s the Master. I’m merely the slave. But I love Him so much, I’m saying YES to being branded and bonded to Him forever.

This cringing, self-negating submission has its roots in the Bible itself. Paul in Romans 1:1 refers to himself as the “bond-slave” (Greek doulos, which the KJV translates as “servant”) of Jesus Christ. This same word is used repeatedly by the authors of the New Testament epistles to describe themselves.

This should not be too surprising. Religion, after all, was invented in large part to justify inequalities such as these, to pacify slaves by telling them that their unhappy state was God’s will to which they should gladly submit. (The Bible states clearly that any liberation it offers is for the next life only, and for now slaves should continue to obey their masters.) It is so effective at this that even when the original inequality is ended, the religious justification for it persists, leading modern believers to actually wish for a return to the brutal conditions of the past. The modern Christians who are pining for slavery, if transported back a few hundred years, would almost certainly find kindred spirits in the Christians who told the real slaves of those eras to be grateful and accept their lot.

My flesh crawls every time I read quotes like the above. It takes a seriously warped set of values to seek to exchange freedom and independence for obedience and servility. That entire arrangement is a relic of a past, savage era; it has always served as an apologetic for evil and tyranny, and we should be glad to see it swept away. Human beings cannot be owned, and we are not possessions to be bought or sold or traded around.

But as much as I would not want to be a slave, even less would I want to be anyone’s master, not even a kind and benevolent master. Rather than have people cower and cringe on their knees, I would help them to stand on their own two feet. And in place of the degrading, demeaning worldview that encourages people to think of themselves as property, bought and branded like cattle, I would offer them this advice: You are a human being, a free creature of inherent dignity and worth. You have the ability to choose for yourself and make your own way through life. Your shackles are of your own making, and you can discard them at any time. Trust in yourself, and you will find a life that is far more liberating and wonderful.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://www.common-man.net CommonMan

    The concept of slavery in the Bible is there to show the believer the way to peace. There are two will in the universe, that of Christ and that of Antichrist. To think, even for a moment, that the Bible promotes the idea of one human being being subject of another, except through Christian fellowship is to completely misunderstand its purpose. The Bible is not a “how-to” book for daily life, but a book attempting to describe the spiritual – the relationship between God and man.

  • http://www.common-man.net CommonMan

    The concept of slavery in the Bible is there to show the believer the way to peace. There are two will in the universe, that of Christ and that of Antichrist. To think, even for a moment, that the Bible promotes the idea of one human being being subject of another, except through Christian fellowship is to completely misunderstand its purpose. The Bible is not a “how-to” book for daily life, but a book attempting to describe the spiritual – the relationship between God and man.

  • http://blog.atheology.com Rastaban

    The Bible is not a “how-to” book for daily life, but a book attempting to describe the spiritual – the relationship between God and man.

    Actually large portions of the Bible are a how-to for daily life. A very outdated how-to: much of its advice is morally repugnant today. Yes, the Bible also attempts to describe “the relationship between God and man”, but if that relationship is one of master to slave it is odious. As I think Ebonmuse makes clear, a slavery-relationship demeans both the slave and the slave-owner, it demeans both man and God.

    There is something bizarre in comparing God to a slave-owner. There is something even more bizarre and disturbing in the desire to worship such a God.

  • Alex Weaver

    Good grief. The pseudo-hyper-BDSM (and somehow, I don’t think Hell would fit very well in the “safe, sane, and consensual” framework I keep hearing about x.x) is, if anything can be, even creepier than the Purity Balls.

    The concept of slavery in the Bible is there to show the believer the way to peace. There are two will in the universe, that of Christ and that of Antichrist. To think, even for a moment, that the Bible promotes the idea of one human being being subject of another, except through Christian fellowship is to completely misunderstand its purpose. The Bible is not a “how-to” book for daily life, but a book attempting to describe the spiritual – the relationship between God and man.

    Aside from the fact that the Bible DOES explicitly endorse slavery (in various places in the Old Testament, in Paul’s assurances that slaves should obey their earthly masters), how on earth is slavery a good example of “a way to peace”?!

    “Were you called when a slave? Do not let it worry you; but if you can also become free, rather seize the opportunity. ”

    Is that not an acknowledgement that freedom is better than slavery? Doesn’t it say we should grab freedom if we can? Sometimes back then, however, people couldn’t. Isn’t the verse simply advising to make the best of a situation one could not change? Isn’t that essentially healthy counsel for people today caught in situations not readily changeable?

    So, you’re defending the Bible by appealing to contradictions between different verses?

    The Bible was not a textbook for social revolution. It recognized existing social and economic institutions of its time. That’s not the same as embracing them.

    Failure to condemn an evil is tacit acceptance. All that is required for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. When good people not only do, but SAY, nothing, it makes it all the easier.

    The idea that humanity has left inhumanity behind in some sort of linear march of progress, is not very well supported by the facts.

    How many societies are now openly accepting of slavery today, compared with 200 years ago?

  • http://carriertom.typepad.com/sheep_and_goats tomsheepandgoats

    “Religion, after all, was invented in large part to justify inequalities such as these, to pacify slaves by telling them that their unhappy state was God’s will to which they should gladly submit.”

    I agree, it has often been used that way. But that is different than saying it was designed for that purpose. Consider this at 1 Cor 7:21

     “Were you called when a slave? Do not let it worry you; but if you can also become free, rather seize the opportunity. ”

    Is that not an acknowledgement that freedom is better than slavery? Doesn’t it say we should grab freedom if we can? Sometimes back then, however, people couldn’t. Isn’t the verse simply advising to make the best of a situation one could not change? Isn’t that essentially healthy counsel for people today caught in situations not readily changeable?

    The Bible was not a textbook for social revolution. It recognized existing social and economic institutions of its time. That’s not the same as embracing them.

    Also, your comment regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses is wrong. [this is my field of expertise] I don’t say it is intentionally wrong, and I’m sure I have said inaccurate things about atheists before. And JWs are not the main thrust of your post, I realize. But I’m sure you want to be accurate in all things you touch on, even details.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses are unique among Christian groups in that they entertain no hope of future heavenly life. Instead, they look forward to everlasting life on this earth when it is ruled over by God’s Kingdom, the same Kingdom people familiarly know from the Lord’s Prayer. Should we die before that Kingdom comes, our hope is to be resurrected to that paradise earth. God first put humans on earth. He didn’t put them there because he wanted them somewhere else.

    Kingdom rule over earth is not too far away, in our view, and Revelation 7:9-17 is now taking place. This passage tells of a great crowd of persons gathered from all “nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” who would survive the “great tribulation” and live on into the “new order,” life under Kingdom rule. Almost all of Jehovah’s Witnesses belong to this group. I do.

    The Bible also speaks of a “sacred secret,” (Colossians 1:26) a “secret” first made known to the early Christian congregation, that there would be some from humankind, a comparatively tiny number, who would share in this heavenly government. Their ultimate destiny would be in heaven, not on earth. Since this “secret” was made known shortly after Christ’s resurrection, and there are only 144,000 of these who will serve as “kings and priests, ” very few of them are on earth today. Most, we believe, have long since lived their lives and been resurrected to heavenly life.

    Hope you don’t mind this detail on what is obviously not the main point of your post.

  • http://atheisthussy.blogspot.com/ Intergalactic Hussy

    My flesh crawls, too when I read that quote. Especially as a woman, that it’s coming from a woman, its a little unnerving. Pious Christian, Muslim, and Jewish women make NO sense to this feminist!

  • http://atheisthussy.blogspot.com/ Intergalactic Hussy

    My flesh crawls, too when I read that quote. Especially as a woman, that it’s coming from a woman, its a little unnerving. Pious Christian, Muslim, and Jewish women make NO sense to this feminist!

  • http://goddesscassandra.blogspot.com Antigone

    I always thought pastors* got the sweetest part in this scam. On the one hand, they get all the “bennys” of leadership: respect, authority, direction. On the other hand, they didn’t really have to deal with the responsibility, because it wasn’t HIM that was making the decisions, it was “god” or “Jesus”. IT was “god’s will” that something bad happens.

    *not all Pastors; I have seen some pastors that were good, kind people who were just misguided.

  • Vicki Baker

    Ebonmuse: It’s a mistake to think that since the Western public’s conscious attitude toward slavery has changed, that it has gone away and is no longer a problem. More people are enslaved today than at any time in human history. “New” slavery may be even more inhuman than plantation chattel slavery:

    Today, millions of economically and socially vulnerable people around the world are potential slaves. This “supply” makes slaves today cheaper than they have ever been. Since they are so cheap, slaves are no longer a major investment worth maintaining. If slaves get sick, are injured, outlive their usefulness, or become troublesome to the slaveholder, they are dumped or killed. For most slave-holders, actually owning the slave is an inconvenience since they already exert total control over the individuals labor and profits. The slave-holder cares more about these high profits than whether the holder and slave are of different ethnic backgrounds; in new slavery, profit trumps skin color. Finally, new slavery is directly connected to the global economy. As in the past, most slaves are forced to work in agriculture, mining, and prostitution. From these sectors, their exploited labor flows into the global economy, and into our lives.

    -freetheslaves.net

    http://www.antislavery.org/ is also a good resource.

    The idea that humanity has left inhumanity behind in some sort of linear march of progress, is not very well supported by the facts.

    Also, you never mention in your essays on slavery the many religious people who participated in the Abolition movement here and in Great Britain, and who are participating in the modern anti-slavery movement.

  • Vicki Baker

    Ebonmuse: It’s a mistake to think that since the Western public’s conscious attitude toward slavery has changed, that it has gone away and is no longer a problem. More people are enslaved today than at any time in human history. “New” slavery may be even more inhuman than plantation chattel slavery:

    Today, millions of economically and socially vulnerable people around the world are potential slaves. This “supply” makes slaves today cheaper than they have ever been. Since they are so cheap, slaves are no longer a major investment worth maintaining. If slaves get sick, are injured, outlive their usefulness, or become troublesome to the slaveholder, they are dumped or killed. For most slave-holders, actually owning the slave is an inconvenience since they already exert total control over the individuals labor and profits. The slave-holder cares more about these high profits than whether the holder and slave are of different ethnic backgrounds; in new slavery, profit trumps skin color. Finally, new slavery is directly connected to the global economy. As in the past, most slaves are forced to work in agriculture, mining, and prostitution. From these sectors, their exploited labor flows into the global economy, and into our lives.

    -freetheslaves.net

    http://www.antislavery.org/ is also a good resource.

    The idea that humanity has left inhumanity behind in some sort of linear march of progress, is not very well supported by the facts.

    Also, you never mention in your essays on slavery the many religious people who participated in the Abolition movement here and in Great Britain, and who are participating in the modern anti-slavery movement.

  • http://asthewormturns.com dpoyesac

    One of my favorite books is The Movement of the Free Spirit (Raoul Vaneigem) by Raoul Vaneigem. It’s a study of medieval Christian sects who took the language of freedom from bondage and the ‘kingdom of heaven on Earth’ literally. So they started small, independent anarchist/socialist communes.

    They were, of course, persecuted to death — for heresy — by the official Church authorities.

    And I’m sure that everyone is familiar with Elaine Pagel’s thesis in the Gnostic Gospels that the content of the Bible was chosen with an eye to maintain political control over the population. Had the early Christians kept the Gnostic texts in and kept out the Book of Revelation, then modern Christianity would be infinitely more laid-back and groovy.

    So, Ebonmuse, I think you’re spot on with this one. If you want to maintain slavery of the flesh, start by enslaving the minds.

    (I can’t get the link to Elaine Pagels’ book to work. Anyone interested will have to do an Amazon search.)

  • http://asthewormturns.com dpoyesac

    One of my favorite books is The Movement of the Free Spirit (Raoul Vaneigem) by Raoul Vaneigem. It’s a study of medieval Christian sects who took the language of freedom from bondage and the ‘kingdom of heaven on Earth’ literally. So they started small, independent anarchist/socialist communes.

    They were, of course, persecuted to death — for heresy — by the official Church authorities.

    And I’m sure that everyone is familiar with Elaine Pagel’s thesis in the Gnostic Gospels that the content of the Bible was chosen with an eye to maintain political control over the population. Had the early Christians kept the Gnostic texts in and kept out the Book of Revelation, then modern Christianity would be infinitely more laid-back and groovy.

    So, Ebonmuse, I think you’re spot on with this one. If you want to maintain slavery of the flesh, start by enslaving the minds.

    (I can’t get the link to Elaine Pagels’ book to work. Anyone interested will have to do an Amazon search.)

  • Archi Medez
  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    For tomsheepandgoats:

    Is that not an acknowledgement that freedom is better than slavery? Doesn’t it say we should grab freedom if we can? Sometimes back then, however, people couldn’t. Isn’t the verse simply advising to make the best of a situation one could not change?

    No. The Bible does not merely counsel people to accept the unchangeable; it commands them to accept their servitude even if given the option to escape it. For example, it does not tell Christian slaveowners to free their slaves, and encourages slaves who are owned by Christians to be grateful for that and to seek to do their masters honor. It also says that slaves should obey even cruel or harsh masters.

    It also lays out explicit rules for under what circumstances a person is allowed to buy or sell slaves, how hard a slaveowner is allowed to beat his slaves, and how long you can own slaves. (You can own foreign slaves forever; if your slave is a fellow Israelite, you can only keep him seven years – unless he’s gotten married and had children while he was your property; those stay with you, and if the slave doesn’t want to leave them and passes up his chance for freedom, you can keep him forever.) These rules are presented as direct from the hand of God. To use your language, the Bible absolutely does embrace the institution of slavery.

    As far as your point about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I can cite abundant references, including from the Watchtower, that state that the 144,000 will be admitted to Heaven, while everyone else will have eternal life on Earth.

    Also, for Vicki:

    It’s a mistake to think that since the Western public’s conscious attitude toward slavery has changed, that it has gone away and is no longer a problem.

    I suggest you go back and read my post more carefully before imputing these assertions to me. I never said that slavery has been completely abolished, and in fact I did mention – in the very first paragraph – the religious believers who oppose it. I also pointed out that their opposition comes from their own consciences, and does not find support in the pages of their chosen scripture.

  • http://inthenuts.blogspot.com King Aardvark

    This is a coincidence for me, for the sermon at my wife’s church this weekend was about being a slave to god or something like that. The pastor had a strange argument that slavery in the bible was okay because, unlike the african slaves in the US who were treated badly and forced to do menial labour for free, old Greek-Roman slaves were often educated, acting as scholars, engineers, clerks etc, sometimes paid, and often treated decently. Great argument, except that it doesn’t change the facts that a) most slaves were still doing menial labour and being treated badly, and b) they still weren’t free. He seemed to miss the point about slavery – it’s not just the bad treatment, it’s the inherent lack of freedom as a human being that matters.

    Anyway, the sermon was how it glorifies god to humbly do the bidding of your masters even if they treat you badly because then you’re like Jesus in that you live in an unfair world and don’t lash out at your tormentors.

    What a bunch of twisted weirdos.

  • The Vicar

    Well, also those conditions were only held by a relative handful of ancient slaves. The majority were mistreated. The ancient Greeks used to work slaves to death in mines with shafts which were only 3 feet in diameter, the Romans did the same with farm slaves, both cultures had slaves rowing ships under the whip (although since ancient Greece was more a conglomeration of similar cultures than a monolithic entity, not all Greek cities did this), and don’t get me started on Islamic slaves. As for the ancient Hebrews, well, if they had to outlaw beating a slave to death by writing it into the bible, you better believe it was happening.

    If your pastor thinks that biblical slavery was so great, offer to enslave him and/or his family on the same terms mentioned in the bible and see if he’s willing to go through with it.

  • Javaman

    Nobody can make you their slave unless you give them your permission.

  • http://carriertom.typepad.com/sheep_and_goats tomsheepandgoats

    Ebonmuse:

    On Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was not clear. I take no issue with your comment, which is exactly correct. My remark (which I acknowledged was regarding a detail) was directed to your (unnecesarily sarcastic, IMO) initial observation about JWs: “Jehovah’s Witnesses, meanwhile, hope to become one of the only 144,000 “faithful and discreet slaves” who will be admitted to Heaven (the rest will enjoy eternal life on a recreated Earth, which is apparently sort of an overflow box for Heaven).” I don’t hope to go to heaven. Why would anyone want to go there? What would you do there? My hope is to live on the earth.

    On slavery, I do not contest many of your points, except your conclusion that the Bible promotes/glorifies/embraces slavery. It does none of those things. It recognizes/regulates it, that’s all. I resubmit my scripture at 1 Cor 1 Cor 7:21

    “Were you called when a slave? Do not let it worry you; but if you can also become free, rather seize the opportunity. ”

    If the verse doesn’t mean what I said it does, what do you think it means?

    You may get a good many “snotty” comments from religionists. I don’t mean to be one of them.

    “and encourages slaves who are owned by Christians to be grateful for that” I’m not quite sure where that comes from. If you have a passage in mind, I suspect the context will indicate that such a slave might be grateful, not that he is a slave, but that, being a slave, he is owned by a Christian and not some mean SOB.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    I don’t hope to go to heaven. Why would anyone want to go there? What would you do there? My hope is to live on the earth.

    I confess I’m puzzled to hear that statement coming from a theist. Can you explain?

    On slavery, I do not contest many of your points, except your conclusion that the Bible promotes/glorifies/embraces slavery. It does none of those things. It recognizes/regulates it, that’s all.

    What is the difference? If the Bible does not promote or embrace slavery, why does it have its own rules, for its own believers to follow, on how they should acquire and treat slaves? Why wouldn’t it just tell its adherents not to participate in that institution?

    “and encourages slaves who are owned by Christians to be grateful for that” I’m not quite sure where that comes from.

    It comes from 1 Timothy 6:1-2. Here’s the Watchtower translation:

    Let as many as are slaves under a yoke keep on considering their owners worthy of full honor, that the name of God and the teaching may never be spoken of injuriously. Moreover, let those having believing owners not look down on them, because they are brothers. On the contrary, let them the more readily be slaves, because those receiving the benefit of their good service are believers and beloved.

  • Jim Baerg

    Rastaban wrote: “Yes, the Bible also attempts to describe “the relationship between God and man”, but if that relationship is one of master to slave it is odious.”

    This reminds me of a point made by David Brin (in the essay ‘Whose Millenium in the collection ‘Otherness’) about how the 2 common Christian metaphors for the relationship of God & man are so different. There is God the Father & God the Shepherd. A good father raises his children to become his equals, while a shepherd raises the sheep for wool & meat. Some biblical verses allowing a father to sell his children into slavery make this a much smaller difference.

    The Vicar wrote “both cultures had slaves rowing ships under the whip”

    Actually rowers in Greek & Roman times were usually free men. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galley_slave
    Not that this makes the slaves on farms & mines in the ancient world any better off.

  • The Vicar

    Javaman:

    Nobody can make you their slave unless you give them your permission.

    <sarcasm> Well, hey! Great! You have just solved the racial ethical dilemma of modern American caucasians: we weren’t guilty of enslaving millions of Africans (or standing by while they were enslaved, or purchasing the slaves and using them, or keeping silent and using the products of their labor) because they had all given their permission. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been slaves. Simple as that; we can stop worrying about racism because all those people chose their fates. </sarcasm>

    Ebonmuse:

    I don’t hope to go to heaven. Why would anyone want to go there? What would you do there? My hope is to live on the earth.

    I confess I’m puzzled to hear that statement coming from a theist. Can you explain?

    Perhaps I’m misinterpreting him, but I think he means “if heaven will only have 144000 people and all the rest of the good will be on earth, then heaven will be boring and I’d rather be on earth.” Perfectly reasonable, given the choice as stated, although one presumes that the intent is for the people in heaven to have more important things to do which will keep them too busy to notice their relative isolation.

  • The Vicar

    Javaman:

    Nobody can make you their slave unless you give them your permission.

    <sarcasm> Well, hey! Great! You have just solved the racial ethical dilemma of modern American caucasians: we weren’t guilty of enslaving millions of Africans (or standing by while they were enslaved, or purchasing the slaves and using them, or keeping silent and using the products of their labor) because they had all given their permission. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been slaves. Simple as that; we can stop worrying about racism because all those people chose their fates. </sarcasm>

    Ebonmuse:

    I don’t hope to go to heaven. Why would anyone want to go there? What would you do there? My hope is to live on the earth.

    I confess I’m puzzled to hear that statement coming from a theist. Can you explain?

    Perhaps I’m misinterpreting him, but I think he means “if heaven will only have 144000 people and all the rest of the good will be on earth, then heaven will be boring and I’d rather be on earth.” Perfectly reasonable, given the choice as stated, although one presumes that the intent is for the people in heaven to have more important things to do which will keep them too busy to notice their relative isolation.

  • Alex Weaver

    Nobody can make you their slave unless you give them your permission.

    I suppose that’s true, if one’s perspective is warped enough to also consider “your money or your life” a free choice, and muggers as not deserving of prosecution as a result.

  • Mobius 118

    To TomSheepsandGoats:

    I happen to be renting an apartment from a Jehovas Witness family, and they’ve already been trounced by me in a discussion about this. I’ve been tossing around the JW version of the bible, which is proported to be the truest form of the greek and Hebrew text.

    To which I laugh, because the bible, even the JW version, is a socially engineered product to control the lower class. Which I’m a part of.

    I’ve used the slavery arguement, to which left the mother speechless, and I dare not discuss with the husband, mainly because he controls the renting. Anyway, they have the hope of going to heaven, and leaving the rest of us heathens on the Earth to rot.

    True words from her mouth, which didn’t faze me. I’ve heard all of the attacks against me and the atheist kind.

    Anyway, the point is, I don’t speak for all atheists, and you sure as hell don’t speak for all JW’s. Ebonmuse’s usage of the quote was quite correct, since the college town I live in actually has a decent sized JW community.

    Like the godless bastard I am, I’ll gladly send any theist packing after they lose the arguement. The slavery issue is endoresed by all versions of the judeo-christian God, and I object to it. It’s morally reprehensible, and anyone who is a Christian, by the decree of their faith, must uphold all teachings of the bible. To do otherwise is to be a heretic or a hypocrite. That is what being a true bible puncher is all about.

    So, obviously we have a dilemma, since most Christians aren’t that devoted to the whole fantasy, since we don’t have an abundance of slaves in this country.

    But, the issue of the faithful becoming slaves to a deity is, like EbonMusing said, nauseating, and I’d slap anyone who says that in my presence. Honestly, I’m no one’s b*tch, and I’m sickened by people who gladly give up their freedom and liberty to follow something that has never showed his face. Since we can’t use the bible as a historical reference, because of it’s errors, we’re left with questions.

    And yet, after 2000 years of nothing happening according to the bible, people still feel like hanging on to the vestiges of faith.

    Another rant…I’d better just read and not voice, because I sound like an alarmist.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    This is going to be tricky to say, so please forgive me if I don’t say it right.

    What you’re describing/quoting in this post sounds less like literal slavery (e.g., capturing people in nets, putting them in chains, hauling them across the ocean, and forcing them to work under penalty of torture, mutilation or death), and more like a consensual, 24/7, dominant/submissive kinky-sex relationship.

    Which, in fact, I don’t have any problem with.

    I do think religious believers (and for that matter, consensual 24/7 dom/sub folks) misuse the word “slavery” when they use it this way, since I think the word “slavery” strongly implies force and lack of consent. And of course, I’m troubled, to say the least, by people surrendering themselves in this way to a God who almost certainly doesn’t exist.

    But the basic concept of surrender that they’re discussing doesn’t seem that weird to me. It’s how some artists feel about their work, how some activists feel about their causes, how some parents feel about their families. “This is bigger than I am, and I am giving up selfish concerns in order to devote myself to it.”

    We may find the rhetoric icky (and people who are descended from actual literal slaves may find it insulting and offensive). But is it really that much ickier than the “slave to love/I belong to you/I don’t want to be free” language you hear in so much pop music?

    The problem isn’t the concept of willingly and joyfully giving over your life to something outside yourself. The problem is that what these people are giving their lives over to is an idea that’s mistaken at best, nonsensical and harmful at worst.

  • Alex Weaver

    What you’re describing/quoting in this post sounds less like literal slavery (e.g., capturing people in nets, putting them in chains, hauling them across the ocean, and forcing them to work under penalty of torture, mutilation or death), and more like a consensual, 24/7, dominant/submissive kinky-sex relationship.

    Which, in fact, I don’t have any problem with.

    I don’t necessarily have a problem with that sort of relationship either, though I can see how it could be easily abused.

    I would very much have a problem with a 24/7 BDSM relationship in which the submissive partner (or partners) was threatened with being set on fire if they tried to leave. I would also very much have a problem with such a relationship being taught or modeled to society in general and children as the normal, and only acceptable or healthy, form of a relationship. I’d also very much have a problem with children being raised in such a relationship, as “submissives in training” so to speak. I think that’s the difference here. :/

  • http://carriertom.typepad.com/sheep_and_goats tomsheepandgoats

    Um…nobody actually did answer my query about 1 Cor 7:21

    “Were you called when a slave? Do not let it worry you; but if you can also become free, rather seize the opportunity. ”

    If the verse doesn’t mean what I said it does, what do you think it means?

    Ebonmuse, as to my statement about not wanting to live in heaven, I think I already covered it (with my first comment) but it got lost in the flood of words. Here it is again:

    “Jehovah’s Witnesses are unique among Christian groups in that they entertain no hope of future heavenly life. Instead, they look forward to everlasting life on this earth when it is ruled over by God’s Kingdom, the same Kingdom people familiarly know from the Lord’s Prayer. Should we die before that Kingdom comes, our hope is to be resurrected to that paradise earth. God first put humans on earth. He didn’t put them there because he wanted them somewhere else.

    Kingdom rule over earth is not too far away, in our view, and Revelation 7:9-17 is now taking place. This passage tells of a great crowd of persons gathered from all “nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” who would survive the “great tribulation” and live on into the “new order,” life under Kingdom rule. Almost all of Jehovah’s Witnesses belong to this group. I do.

    The Bible also speaks of a “sacred secret,” (Colossians 1:26) a “secret” first made known to the early Christian congregation, that there would be some from humankind, a comparatively tiny number, who would share in this heavenly government. Their ultimate destiny would be in heaven, not on earth. Since this “secret” was made known shortly after Christ’s resurrection, and there are only 144,000 of these who will serve as “kings and priests, ” very few of them are on earth today. Most, we believe, have long since lived their lives and been resurrected to heavenly life.”

    Regarding the difference between promoting slavery and recognizing it:
    How many social evils would you say there are today? Dozens? Hundred, even? Do I have to condemn every damn one of them every time I open my mouth? Do you know anyone who does that? Sometimes it’s more practical to counsel people how to live under a system that isn’t going to change anytime soon.

    To illustrate with a slightly off-topic example. In Rochester, NY, where I live, they are going to “fix the schools.” When it was time to put my kids in school, they were, even then, going to “fix the schools.” But they’d been going to do that for a long time, and I didn’t believe them. We homeschooled our kids and are happy with the results. They are both in their 20s now, and do you know what board members are saying? They’re going to “fix the schools,” which last year achieved a graduation rate of 39% (that’s not a typo)

    Perhaps, instead, I should have railed every day about how we should “fix the schools.” But, trust me, there were plenty of people doing just that. I chose to adapt to an unpleasant reality and maneuver as best I could. Much of the Bible can be seen in that light.

  • andrea

    Tom, you seem to be ignoring the “context” of the verse you cite. Here’s a more complete view “20Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him. 21Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave. 23You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 24Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.”

    It does seem to be a contradiction. Paul exhorts people to stay as they are when they answer the “call”. To remain slaves, if necessary. It almost seems to be an afterthought when he says “if you can, gain your freedom”. I do wonder if it is a reference to the bond-slave system of the Jews, when you can buy yourself free or get free after 7 years regardless.

  • andrea

    Tom, you seem to be ignoring the “context” of the verse you cite. Here’s a more complete view “20Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him. 21Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave. 23You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 24Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.”

    It does seem to be a contradiction. Paul exhorts people to stay as they are when they answer the “call”. To remain slaves, if necessary. It almost seems to be an afterthought when he says “if you can, gain your freedom”. I do wonder if it is a reference to the bond-slave system of the Jews, when you can buy yourself free or get free after 7 years regardless.

  • Polly

    Perhaps what Paul meant was that they should gain their freedom by “legal” means working within the system if/when the opportunity arose, rather than simply running away. Onesimus (Book of Philemon) might be an example of the wrong way to gain freedom. Paul actually sent him back to his master.

  • Polly

    Perhaps what Paul meant was that they should gain their freedom by “legal” means working within the system if/when the opportunity arose, rather than simply running away. Onesimus (Book of Philemon) might be an example of the wrong way to gain freedom. Paul actually sent him back to his master.

  • Alex Weaver

    Perhaps what Paul meant was that they should gain their freedom by “legal” means working within the system if/when the opportunity arose, rather than simply running away.

    And this is different from an endorsement of the system how?

  • Polly

    I wasn’t claiming that Paul didn’t endorse the slave system. Hard to imagine where you get that from considering I cited Paul sending a slave back to his master! *confused look*

    I was just adding another interpretation to andrea’s musing on the possible meanings of the passages. I didn’t realize I was stepping into an ongoing debate. I realize this isn’t a Bible study but I thought I’d pitch in my 2 cents on the context.

  • Polly

    I wasn’t claiming that Paul didn’t endorse the slave system. Hard to imagine where you get that from considering I cited Paul sending a slave back to his master! *confused look*

    I was just adding another interpretation to andrea’s musing on the possible meanings of the passages. I didn’t realize I was stepping into an ongoing debate. I realize this isn’t a Bible study but I thought I’d pitch in my 2 cents on the context.

  • Javaman

    To the Vicar:
    My comment was addressing being a slave to any theocracy. After all, atheism is all about rejecting the bondage of restriction of thought. I said in an earlier comment that god is a terrorist, in that religious people are kept in line by the ultimate fear of punishment. To be an atheist requires a great deal of casting off the chains that restrict your thinking. I should have been more clear. But in regard to physical bondage, I like New Hampshire’s motto of “Live Free or Die”. I am an alpha male who has strong leadership qualities. I don’t blink and I don’t back down. There are some things worse than death. There are some principles worth dying for. Any master would have to put some pretty strong chains on me, because the first time his back was turned I’d slit his throat. If I was an African slave, I would have been one of the first to lead a rebellion on the Amistad. During World War II I would have been one of the leaders in the Warsaw ghetto. During the American Revolution I would have been one of the Sons of Liberty. I have a pair of balls and I’m not afraid to use them when I feel my liberty is being threatened. Ultimately I decide my fate.

  • Javaman

    To the Vicar:
    My comment was addressing being a slave to any theocracy. After all, atheism is all about rejecting the bondage of restriction of thought. I said in an earlier comment that god is a terrorist, in that religious people are kept in line by the ultimate fear of punishment. To be an atheist requires a great deal of casting off the chains that restrict your thinking. I should have been more clear. But in regard to physical bondage, I like New Hampshire’s motto of “Live Free or Die”. I am an alpha male who has strong leadership qualities. I don’t blink and I don’t back down. There are some things worse than death. There are some principles worth dying for. Any master would have to put some pretty strong chains on me, because the first time his back was turned I’d slit his throat. If I was an African slave, I would have been one of the first to lead a rebellion on the Amistad. During World War II I would have been one of the leaders in the Warsaw ghetto. During the American Revolution I would have been one of the Sons of Liberty. I have a pair of balls and I’m not afraid to use them when I feel my liberty is being threatened. Ultimately I decide my fate.

  • http://badnewsbible.blogspot.com XanderG

    The subservience, endemic in religion, has always stuck in my throat. Even the name Islam means submission, and there is a similar trend in many other religions. To be truthful, I have always found it the most pathetic side of faith, among the worthlessness of humanity. The wanton will to ‘serve’ god(s), is something I feel I will never understand.

  • Wedge

    The wanton will to ‘serve’ god(s), is something I feel I will never understand.

    Oh, I understand it. What is easier than to relinquish all responsibility for making decisions, living with consequences, or facing uncertainty? It’s contemptible, but there’s a reason that security and liberty do not go well together.

  • Wedge

    The wanton will to ‘serve’ god(s), is something I feel I will never understand.

    Oh, I understand it. What is easier than to relinquish all responsibility for making decisions, living with consequences, or facing uncertainty? It’s contemptible, but there’s a reason that security and liberty do not go well together.

  • http://badnewsbible.blogspot.com XanderG

    To Wedge:

    I do see what you mean, and no doubt that plays a big part in it. Too many times people are willing to give up responsibility to a higher power. I think there is something called the ‘agentic theory’ whereby people are more willing to do morally evil things if they believe they are merely acting as an agent of an authority. Perhaps that explains some of the willingness to kill innocents, found in Islamic terrorism? Who is higher in authority than allah? Of course this could also apply to other people, including Christian fundamentalists and also the so called Nuremburg defence.

    Me: “The wanton will to ‘serve’ god(s), is something I feel I will never understand.”

    Wedge: “Oh, I understand it. What is easier than to relinquish all responsibility for making decisions, living with consequences, or facing uncertainty? It’s contemptible, but there’s a reason that security and liberty do not go well together.”

    I suppose what I really meant is to say, that for myself, personally I would rather take responsibility for my actions and lead a good life that way, then abdicate my free will, by entering any kind of servitude. Live free or die, I guess.

  • Wedge

    I suppose what I really meant is to say, that for myself, personally I would rather take responsibility for my actions and lead a good life that way, then abdicate my free will, by entering any kind of servitude. Live free or die, I guess.

    I’m with you.

  • Wedge

    I suppose what I really meant is to say, that for myself, personally I would rather take responsibility for my actions and lead a good life that way, then abdicate my free will, by entering any kind of servitude. Live free or die, I guess.

    I’m with you.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    A remark on Greta Christina’s comment:

    But the basic concept of surrender that they’re discussing doesn’t seem that weird to me. It’s how some artists feel about their work, how some activists feel about their causes, how some parents feel about their families. “This is bigger than I am, and I am giving up selfish concerns in order to devote myself to it.”

    This is true – except for one pretty big difference. If you choose to devote yourself to a cause, or for that matter to enter into a sexual relationship, and later decide that it’s not for you, you can back out. The relationship exists by mutual consent and can be terminated at any time. Participation is by choice, and if you so choose, you have not surrendered your autonomy. (Parenting, I grant, is a special case: but note that in that case the parents are the ones in charge.)

    That isn’t how these believers view their situation. Instead, they insist that they no longer own their own lives, that they are no longer free to exercise their own will, and that they are not free to terminate that relationship, but rather face dire punishment if they decide to walk away from it. We know that none of those things are true, but they don’t feel that way. And not only do they not mind, they seem positively eager to continue in this tyrannical, coercive relationship. The idea that they would gladly choose to serve a being who does not give them the freedom to choose differently is what gives me such a feeling of revulsion.

    Also, for tomsheepandgoats:

    Regarding the difference between promoting slavery and recognizing it: How many social evils would you say there are today? Dozens? Hundred, even? Do I have to condemn every damn one of them every time I open my mouth?

    No. But if you don’t approve of one of those evils, I would expect that your list of rules for an ideal society would not perpetuate, promote and encourage it. If you were against that evil, I’d expect that your ideal society would simply abolish it. The Bible, on the other hand, lists specific conditions under which you can sell people into slavery and how long you may own them (forever, in quite a few cases); regulates how hard you are allowed to beat your slaves, up to and including beating them to death; and exhorts slaves numerous times to be obedient and to obey their masters, telling them that they should be happy to be enslaved by Christians.

    Clearly, the Bible didn’t ignore the topic of slavery because of a lack of time or space – it refers to slavery numerous times throughout both testaments. If its authors were opposed to this practice, they had ample opportunity to say so. Instead, they speak of it as if it were the most normal thing in the world. In one parable (Luke 12:47), Jesus even favorably compares God to a slaveowner who beats his slaves for not obeying him.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    A remark on Greta Christina’s comment:

    But the basic concept of surrender that they’re discussing doesn’t seem that weird to me. It’s how some artists feel about their work, how some activists feel about their causes, how some parents feel about their families. “This is bigger than I am, and I am giving up selfish concerns in order to devote myself to it.”

    This is true – except for one pretty big difference. If you choose to devote yourself to a cause, or for that matter to enter into a sexual relationship, and later decide that it’s not for you, you can back out. The relationship exists by mutual consent and can be terminated at any time. Participation is by choice, and if you so choose, you have not surrendered your autonomy. (Parenting, I grant, is a special case: but note that in that case the parents are the ones in charge.)

    That isn’t how these believers view their situation. Instead, they insist that they no longer own their own lives, that they are no longer free to exercise their own will, and that they are not free to terminate that relationship, but rather face dire punishment if they decide to walk away from it. We know that none of those things are true, but they don’t feel that way. And not only do they not mind, they seem positively eager to continue in this tyrannical, coercive relationship. The idea that they would gladly choose to serve a being who does not give them the freedom to choose differently is what gives me such a feeling of revulsion.

    Also, for tomsheepandgoats:

    Regarding the difference between promoting slavery and recognizing it: How many social evils would you say there are today? Dozens? Hundred, even? Do I have to condemn every damn one of them every time I open my mouth?

    No. But if you don’t approve of one of those evils, I would expect that your list of rules for an ideal society would not perpetuate, promote and encourage it. If you were against that evil, I’d expect that your ideal society would simply abolish it. The Bible, on the other hand, lists specific conditions under which you can sell people into slavery and how long you may own them (forever, in quite a few cases); regulates how hard you are allowed to beat your slaves, up to and including beating them to death; and exhorts slaves numerous times to be obedient and to obey their masters, telling them that they should be happy to be enslaved by Christians.

    Clearly, the Bible didn’t ignore the topic of slavery because of a lack of time or space – it refers to slavery numerous times throughout both testaments. If its authors were opposed to this practice, they had ample opportunity to say so. Instead, they speak of it as if it were the most normal thing in the world. In one parable (Luke 12:47), Jesus even favorably compares God to a slaveowner who beats his slaves for not obeying him.

  • http://carriertom.typepad.com/sheep_and_goats tomsheepandgoats

    Two thoughts, Ebonmuse, and BTW I appreciate your respectful tone and (for the most part) that of your commenters.

    Grant me a premise for now. Don’t argue about it. Just grant it. I’ll understand it is tentative on your part: The Bible is not a book of social revolution. Instead, (I know some find this distasteful) it points ahead to God’s Kingdom, which will, when it rules, cure ills that have not been cured in all human history.

    Given that “fact,” we may divide human history into two periods: when “God’s people” were autonomous and when they weren’t. For the most part, they were autonomous (the Jews a sovereign nation) in the OT, however there has never been a Christian nation, neither now or in NT times. Rome was the power of Jesus day. Scripture might therefore be expected to be law of the land in OT times, whereas a personal code of conduct in NT times.

    When scripture was law of the land, what of this “7 year” arrangement you and several commenters have mentioned? And why only 7 years? Jews, like everyone else, had an economy. And like today, through an interplay of hard work and dumb luck, some would prosper and some would become impoverished. What do you do with those who were impoverished? What do we do with them today? Has today’s society found a workable and ideal solution? Do you think it has? In ancient Isreal, individuals, if they became desperate enough, could sell themselves into slavery to their more prosperous neighbors. (they were never taken by force) Alright, so that’s not so great. Is today’s solution of poverty any better?

    But here is something you and your commenters have inexcusably not mentioned, preferring instead to take shot after shot at anything religious. After 7 years, they were set free! Sooner, if they became slaves before the designated 7th year. And not set free into poverty. Each Jew was restored to his original hereditary possession, which he may have sold off during periods of poverty. Thus, there would never be generation after generation of permanent poverty, as exists today. Nor would the rich become so entrenchedly rich that ones “born into it” could muster no empathy for their fellow man. The obscene lopsided distribution of wealth which is characteristic of most societies today never got a footing in Israel. I suspect few of your readers know of this structure, and maybe not even you yourself, but I think it compares favorably to anything humans have devised since. It (we believe) was a divine law. It was not from humans.

    I further submit that many of your readers who may think freeing the slaves after 7 years is wonderful would immediately rethink their position if they realized it would cost them, as it did those prosperous Jews. They would, instead, raise a deafening roar about how THEIR freedom was being intolerably infringed upon! Free the slaves, as long as its on someone else’s dime! Here is a society, unheard of in human history, who regularly, as a matter of course, freed slaves! And all your readers can do it bitch about how barbarous they were back then! Their system beats anything we have today. Do you think “welfare” people are “free?” Go ask them how “free” they think they are! The mere fact that you and your readers possess broadband, unaffordable to a poor person, indicates 90% percent of you have not the slightest idea of their status.

    So that’s the OT. No, I don’t apologize for it one bit! You should apologize for having devised no methods as effective for alleviating poverty, though you [and of course I don't mean "you" personally] have had 200+ years. (I am based in the U.S.)

    Now, for the New Testament, Scripture was not the law of the land. Rome was. And the Bible (remember your concession) is not a book of social upheaval. So it instead counsels mainly how to conduct yourself if you own slaves or if you are one. And (what must seem to be my favorite scripture, it has saved my “balls” (per Javaman’s crude expression) more than once) if you have the opportunity to become free, do so. Of course, though legal means. Otherwise, try to adapt as best you can. Read the book of Philemon in the NT. It’s only one page. It is Paul’s letter regarding the escaped slave Onesimus. It’s clear he favors O being freed, but he does not ignore the then-law of the Romans.

    We believe (Jehovah’s Witnesses) that God’s Kingdom will, in time, rule over the earth. (yes, I know you don’t believe that, but remember, you’ve temporarily ceded the floor. I’m not trying to persuade you here, I am merely giving you context to understand our position) Something akin to scripture, some direction from God, will again be law of the land. I’ve no doubt it will be even more successful at eradicating poverty and granting true “freedom” than even in the OT. If I am wrong and there is no Kingdom coming and it’s strictly human rule ahead, does anyone seriously think they will ever come to grips with poverty? Is there anything in human history to suggest this?

  • http://carriertom.typepad.com/sheep_and_goats tomsheepandgoats

    Two thoughts, Ebonmuse, and BTW I appreciate your respectful tone and (for the most part) that of your commenters.

    Grant me a premise for now. Don’t argue about it. Just grant it. I’ll understand it is tentative on your part: The Bible is not a book of social revolution. Instead, (I know some find this distasteful) it points ahead to God’s Kingdom, which will, when it rules, cure ills that have not been cured in all human history.

    Given that “fact,” we may divide human history into two periods: when “God’s people” were autonomous and when they weren’t. For the most part, they were autonomous (the Jews a sovereign nation) in the OT, however there has never been a Christian nation, neither now or in NT times. Rome was the power of Jesus day. Scripture might therefore be expected to be law of the land in OT times, whereas a personal code of conduct in NT times.

    When scripture was law of the land, what of this “7 year” arrangement you and several commenters have mentioned? And why only 7 years? Jews, like everyone else, had an economy. And like today, through an interplay of hard work and dumb luck, some would prosper and some would become impoverished. What do you do with those who were impoverished? What do we do with them today? Has today’s society found a workable and ideal solution? Do you think it has? In ancient Isreal, individuals, if they became desperate enough, could sell themselves into slavery to their more prosperous neighbors. (they were never taken by force) Alright, so that’s not so great. Is today’s solution of poverty any better?

    But here is something you and your commenters have inexcusably not mentioned, preferring instead to take shot after shot at anything religious. After 7 years, they were set free! Sooner, if they became slaves before the designated 7th year. And not set free into poverty. Each Jew was restored to his original hereditary possession, which he may have sold off during periods of poverty. Thus, there would never be generation after generation of permanent poverty, as exists today. Nor would the rich become so entrenchedly rich that ones “born into it” could muster no empathy for their fellow man. The obscene lopsided distribution of wealth which is characteristic of most societies today never got a footing in Israel. I suspect few of your readers know of this structure, and maybe not even you yourself, but I think it compares favorably to anything humans have devised since. It (we believe) was a divine law. It was not from humans.

    I further submit that many of your readers who may think freeing the slaves after 7 years is wonderful would immediately rethink their position if they realized it would cost them, as it did those prosperous Jews. They would, instead, raise a deafening roar about how THEIR freedom was being intolerably infringed upon! Free the slaves, as long as its on someone else’s dime! Here is a society, unheard of in human history, who regularly, as a matter of course, freed slaves! And all your readers can do it bitch about how barbarous they were back then! Their system beats anything we have today. Do you think “welfare” people are “free?” Go ask them how “free” they think they are! The mere fact that you and your readers possess broadband, unaffordable to a poor person, indicates 90% percent of you have not the slightest idea of their status.

    So that’s the OT. No, I don’t apologize for it one bit! You should apologize for having devised no methods as effective for alleviating poverty, though you [and of course I don't mean "you" personally] have had 200+ years. (I am based in the U.S.)

    Now, for the New Testament, Scripture was not the law of the land. Rome was. And the Bible (remember your concession) is not a book of social upheaval. So it instead counsels mainly how to conduct yourself if you own slaves or if you are one. And (what must seem to be my favorite scripture, it has saved my “balls” (per Javaman’s crude expression) more than once) if you have the opportunity to become free, do so. Of course, though legal means. Otherwise, try to adapt as best you can. Read the book of Philemon in the NT. It’s only one page. It is Paul’s letter regarding the escaped slave Onesimus. It’s clear he favors O being freed, but he does not ignore the then-law of the Romans.

    We believe (Jehovah’s Witnesses) that God’s Kingdom will, in time, rule over the earth. (yes, I know you don’t believe that, but remember, you’ve temporarily ceded the floor. I’m not trying to persuade you here, I am merely giving you context to understand our position) Something akin to scripture, some direction from God, will again be law of the land. I’ve no doubt it will be even more successful at eradicating poverty and granting true “freedom” than even in the OT. If I am wrong and there is no Kingdom coming and it’s strictly human rule ahead, does anyone seriously think they will ever come to grips with poverty? Is there anything in human history to suggest this?

  • Alex Weaver

    Javaman:

    First, I assume your word choice does not reflect the actual opinion that the qualities of independence and willingness to defend one’s own are dependent on gender. Either way, it’s rather grating, especially in this day and age.

    Second, I hope you distinguish between willingness to fight and if necessary sacrifice oneself for a greater cause, and throwing one’s life away as a matter of pride merely to make a point.

  • Residue

    however there has never been a Christian nation, neither now or in NT times

    I’m slightly baffled by this. Even ignoring Vatican City, Christianity was compulsory in several areas in Europe a few hundred years ago – look at the Tudor period in England for instance.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    But here is something you and your commenters have inexcusably not mentioned, preferring instead to take shot after shot at anything religious. After 7 years, they were set free!

    That is not necessarily true. In the first place, the Bible is explicit that the seven-year Jubilee was only for fellow Israelite slaves. Slaves bought from foreign nations could be kept as property forever:

    “As for your slave man and your slave girl who become yours from the nations that are round about you people, from them you may buy a slave man and a slave girl. And also from the sons of the settlers who are residing as aliens with you, from them you may buy, and from their families that are with you whom they had born to them in your land; and they must become your possession. And you must pass them on as an inheritance to your sons after you to inherit as a possession to time indefinite.”

    —Leviticus 25:44-46

    How about that! According to the Watchtower Bible, not only can you pass them down as property forever, you must. It seems like, even if the owner in such a situation wants to set his slaves free, he is not allowed.

    Second, there are circumstances under which even an Israelite slave could be kept forever:

    “In case you should buy a Hebrew slave, he will be a slave six years, but in the seventh he will go out as one set free without charge. If he should come in by himself, by himself he will go out. If he is the owner of a wife, then his wife must go out with him. If his master should give him a wife and she does bear him sons or daughters, the wife and her children will become her master’s and he will go out by himself. But if the slave should insistently say, ‘I really love my master, my wife and my sons; I do not want to go out as one set free,’ then his master must bring him near to the [true] God and must bring him up against the door or the doorpost; and his master must pierce his ear through with an awl, and he must be his slave to time indefinite.”

    —Exodus 21:2-6

    So, if you’re the owner and you give your slave a family, when it’s time for him to leave, they stay with you. If the slave doesn’t want to leave his family, then you can keep him forever. What sort of cruel society would force that kind of choice on anyone?

    And you have yet to address in any way verses like this one, which explicitly permit the owner to beat his slaves to death, so long as they do not immediately die from the beating but linger and suffer for a few days before expiring:

    “And in case a man strikes his slave man or his slave girl with a stick and that one actually dies under his hand, that one is to be avenged without fail. However, if he lingers for a day or two days, he is not to be avenged, because he is his money.”

    —Exodus 21:20-21

    Verses like these show that Biblical slavery was hardly the peaceful, idyllic relationship you’d like us to believe it was.

    Their system beats anything we have today. Do you think “welfare” people are “free?” Go ask them how “free” they think they are!

    I find this unbelievable. Are you really claiming that because our society has yet to solve the problem of poverty, this shows that human slavery is a superior system? That’s like saying we should bring back segregation because we have failed to completely put an end to racism!

    Now, for the New Testament, Scripture was not the law of the land. Rome was. And the Bible (remember your concession) is not a book of social upheaval. So it instead counsels mainly how to conduct yourself if you own slaves or if you are one.

    Again, you have not addressed the verse that explicitly says that slaves should be happy to be owned by a Christian, and does not tell Christian slaveholders to set their slaves free. Even if we grant that the Bible wasn’t a textbook for social revolution, neither does it encourage Christians to participate in the sins of the society they live in! The fact that the Bible does not denounce slavery or tell its followers not to participate in that custom can only mean that its authors did not view slavery as a sin.

  • http://auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Ebonmuse,

    Interesting spin on the whole slavery imagery used in the Bible. I think it is important to highlight that the Biblical view always depicts people in bondage to *something*. I am particularly thinking about Paul here, since that is who you quoted. To Paul, becoming a “slave of Christ” is to be set free from being a “slave to Sin” which, as Paul says, leads to death.

    I think of “slavery to Christ” as a contrast to being a “slave to sin”. To me, it is binding myself to live a morally good life and setting myself free from leading a morally corrupt life. It has been very rewarding for me so far. To be fair, I am different from most Christians I know.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • http://carriertom.typepad.com/sheep_and_goats tomsheepandgoats

    Ebonmuse:

    You have attached some asterisks and addendums, and you have checked me in my welfare/slavery rant, but, in general, you have let my argument stand. To wit, the ancient Hebrews were given by Scripture a sustainable economy that corrected today’s abuses, in which both generational poverty and a generational “privileged class” was averted. That system included slavery, but (as it pertained to fellow Jews) its most disagreeable edges were eradicated. It was strictly voluntary (to sell oneself into slavery) and it was temporary. And, when the temporary period ended, the former slave had a fighting chance (unlike most poverty alleviating schemes today) to not fall back into poverty. The OT system does not compare poorly with modern-day efforts regarding the poor.

    You used the term “idyllic,” but I assume you threw that in for the sake of sarcasm, which, I guess, is permissible. I’m certainly not above it. But I do not consider the system idyllic, only workable, and superior to many economies today. There are harsh realities in life. The world is not Ozzie and Harriet, and never has been.

    Still, you have landed some solid blows, though, IMO, non-lethal. What can I do with them? Knock them out of the park, solid base hits, walks on balls, (no reference to JMan) or strike out? I think it will be a little of each.

    “Slaves bought from foreign nations could be kept as property forever:
    “As for your slave man and your slave girl who become yours from the nations that are round about you people, from them you may buy a slave man and a slave girl. “

    Here I will not go for the grand slam, but will perhaps achieve a single or bunt.

    Tribes and peoples back then were constantly fighting, raiding each other’s territory, and so forth. Israel was one among many such nations, and it was an insignificant nation at that. Scripture could not be “law” in this case as it was among Jews, since nobody except the Jewish nation accepted its authority. What do you do in the aftermath of such fighting? What do nations do today? Generally, you kill your adversary, and today’s enlightened society has not managed to find a kinder solution. Or you capture them, in which case they are “enemy combatants.” Does any modern-day nation come to mind, Ebonmuse, that is under criticism for its dealings with enemy combatants? Nations back then in that primitive world enslaved their captures enemies. Not idyllic, I grant you, but not so clearly despicable when compared to wartime realities today.

    “And you must pass them on as an inheritance to your sons after you to inherit as a possession to time indefinite.”
    —Leviticus 25:44-46
    How about that! According to the Watchtower Bible, not only can you pass them down as property forever, you must. It seems like, even if the owner in such a situation wants to set his slaves free, he is not allowed.”

    Here I will (change metaphors) punt. Most translations do not render that verse (Lev 25:46) so absolutely as the NWT. For example, you “CAN make them slaves for life,” (TNIV) “you MAY make slaves of them forever.” (Lam) So the extreme situation you portray of MUST appears to be bogus. I won’t get into the reason for differences in translating tenses (which, in any case, I don’t know offhand) but most translations soften the NWT’s Lev 25:46. BTW, it shows that Watchtower’s translation is honest scholarship. They have not penned a translation simply to suit their doctrines, as is often charged, for they clearly would have cleaned up that verse.

    “So, if you’re the owner and you give your slave a family, when it’s time for him to leave, they stay with you. If the slave doesn’t want to leave his family, then you can keep him forever. What sort of cruel society would force that kind of choice on anyone?”

    Hmmm. Yeah, that might seem a bummer. On the other hand, the (Israelite) slave knows he will be free in, at most, 7 years. The law of the land is clear. Why does he not simply avoid taking a wife during that brief period? Not to mention, his wife, if she is an Israelite, will herself become free. Can’t he just wait it out? Unless he married one of the foreigners, which Israelites were encouraged not to do. (I realize this opens up another can of worms) But he married her anyway. Ah, well. Aren’t there some gods somewhere who forsook immortality so as to marry mortals? And don’t forget the entire scripture: “But if the slave should insistently say, ‘I really love my master, my wife and my sons;” Apparently, well-treated slaves might decide they really love, first of all, their “master.” Just because you would never choose such a situation, nor, as we know, Javaman, that doesn’t mean that others (without “balls”) might. But you will pull the “Stockholm syndrome” argument on me, and I guess I really have no answer to that. You have to have been there, which neither of us were.

    “And in case a man strikes his slave man or his slave girl with a stick and that one actually dies under his hand, that one is to be avenged without fail. However, if he lingers for a day or two days, he is not to be avenged, because he is his money.”

    Hmmm. Harsh reality, I grant you. Think twice before you sell yourself into slavery. You might get an SOB master. And it’s Russian roulette if you are a captured foreigner, to be sure. Hopefully, the Mosaic Law, which in general, encouraged decency, would forestall such abuse, but the potential was there. But again, is it really so much worse than the cruelties people inflict upon their adversaries today, in spite of often strict laws to the contrary?

    “I find this unbelievable. Are you really claiming that because our society has yet to solve the problem of poverty, this shows that human slavery is a superior system?”

    Alright, alright. I already conceded you checked me in my rant.

    “Again, you have not addressed the verse that explicitly says that slaves should be happy to be owned by a Christian, and does not tell Christian slaveholders to set their slaves free.”

    Actually, I think I did, by employing my favorite scripture: “Were you called when a slave? Do not let it worry you; but if you can also become free, rather seize the opportunity. ” Thus, Paul clearly views freedom, where it was legally possible, as the preferred option. “Your” scripture, then, must be seen in that light. For a person who was a slave, life could be considerably worse than belonging to a Christian master. Presumably, the Christian master would be “nicer,” especially to his “brother.” And the slave might figure that at least his efforts were benefiting a fellow Christian, who was on the same side as he in metaphysical things. For that RELATIVE reason, he might be grateful. (Another bunt, perhaps, or even a walk on balls. I don’t claim it’s a grand slam.)

    But now I will confess to a prejudice of my own: I’m uncomfortable with making rabid accusations of an ancient society, and much more so judging ancient peoples by today’s standards. It seems too much a fulfillment of Proverbs 30:12….

    “There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes but that has not been washed from its own excrement.”

    It is OUR world, not theirs, which is on the brink of annihilation from any number of causes: environmental ruin of the planet, nuclear ruin, terrorism, class warfare, economic destruction, and so forth. It is OUR world, not theirs, that lets 20% of its people go chronically hungry, or without clean water, or without any prospects as children other than to become someone’s “freedom fighters.” If they were barbaric back there in the OT, our world is 100 times so. You don’t think we should have a better track record ourselves before we go pointing out how rotten they were?

    There also is the sense in the Bible that the future God’s Kingdom will solve all issues, as I’ve mentioned before. That, in this system of human rulership, “idyllic” solutions are not possible and we work with what we have. I’ll address this more if you like, but I won’t presume to inflict it upon you now. It’s bad enough when Jehovah’s Witnesses come to your door and stay on and on and on, telling you things that you never asked to know. No need to also do it on a fellow’s blog.

  • OMGF

    Actually, I think I did, by employing my favorite scripture: “Were you called when a slave? Do not let it worry you; but if you can also become free, rather seize the opportunity. ” Thus, Paul clearly views freedom, where it was legally possible, as the preferred option.

    And, those laws that provide for slavery came from…Yahweh.

  • Polly

    I’m uncomfortable with making rabid accusations of an ancient society, and much more so judging ancient peoples by today’s standards.

    Me, too. I would be much more forgiving of this ancient people if so many post-
    Roman Empire nations didn’t regard those barabric rules and regulations as moral precepts handed down from GOD.
    Many abolitionists may have been Xians, but the Bible was on the side of the slavers.

    That, in this system of human rulership, “idyllic” solutions are not possible and we work with what we have

    How is it that humans managed to do better than god? If you’re going to set up a society, I think man could have set up many better models than YHWH. Perfection isn’t a requirement. There’s more than enough wiggle room between OT theocracy and perfection to make the demand that an omniscient god should have done better.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    That system included slavery, but (as it pertained to fellow Jews) its most disagreeable edges were eradicated.

    I’d be most curious to see what you consider a “disagreeable edge” if you don’t think beating a slave to death counts. Please note that the Bible does not exempt fellow Israelite slaves from this rule.

    What do you do in the aftermath of such fighting? What do nations do today? Generally, you kill your adversary, and today’s enlightened society has not managed to find a kinder solution.

    You’re not serious, right? You’re saying that modern society has found no solution to dealing with prisoners of war better than slaughtering them en masse. Have you heard of the Geneva Conventions?

    The law of the land is clear. Why does he not simply avoid taking a wife during that brief period?

    That seems like very good advice, unless you consider it from the point of view of a man who otherwise faces the prospect of seven years of hard labor without sex or companionship. The prospect of having a wife must have been mightily tempting under those conditions, and any cunning slaveowner would doubtless know that and would use this rule to entice and trap his slaves into perpetual ownership.

    Not to mention, his wife, if she is an Israelite, will herself become free.

    Unless, of course, the slave’s master threatens to beat the slave’s wife to death if the slave leaves his service – again, something which the Bible explicitly permits slaveowners to do. Do you really not see how incredibly easy it would be to exploit these rules for blackmail?

    Hmmm. Harsh reality, I grant you. Think twice before you sell yourself into slavery. You might get an SOB master. And it’s Russian roulette if you are a captured foreigner, to be sure.

    You’re conceding my point. Come on, Tom, you’re better than this. I don’t think you’re a bad person. This book doesn’t deserve to have you defending it. You don’t need to make excuses for what your conscience tells you is wrong.

    Hopefully, the Mosaic Law, which in general, encouraged decency, would forestall such abuse, but the potential was there.

    Again – are you serious? The Mosaic law “encouraged decency”? According to the Mosaic law, the punishment for picking up sticks on Sunday was to have your head crushed in with rocks. According to the Mosaic law, if your father stole some jewelry that was supposed to be offered up to God, he could be burned alive and you would be burned right alongside him! According to the Mosaic law, if your son or daughter, your best friend, or the love of your life decides to follow other gods, you must show them neither pity nor mercy – you must kill them on the spot. The Mosaic law was not decent, it was monstrously evil and cruel.

    But again, is it really so much worse than the cruelties people inflict upon their adversaries today, in spite of often strict laws to the contrary?

    It doesn’t matter! Pointing out that other societies have committed similar cruelties does not make the Mosaic law one whit less bad. If I’m put on trial for murder, it is not an excuse for me to claim that lots of other people do it too. And this is especially true considering the Mosaic law is supposed to be, literally, direct from the hand of God. Is God no better than sinful, fallible humans?

  • http://carriertom.typepad.com/sheep_and_goats tomsheepandgoats

    Okay. I’ve given it my best shot, and you’ve been gracious in allowing me a platform. I appreciate that. And you’ve let a few of my points stand, though in the main, you do not agree.

    Look, I am not preaching to the choir here and so I hardly expected to sway you to my side. This is about understanding each other’s perspective, mostly. If someone is actually persuaded, well, that is just icing on the cake, but it’s not a realistic goal.

    We’re in opposite camps, I don’t mean on slavery, but on God. So we’re not going to see too many things eye to eye. You are a worthy “opponent.” And, as stated, you’ve been gracious.

    The differing views we have on this subject are accounted for, IMO, by our differing views of the Bible’s perspective/purpose. I tried to address this in my final paragraph: “There also is the sense in the Bible that the future God’s Kingdom will solve all issues, as I’ve mentioned before. That, in this system of human rulership, “idyllic” solutions are not possible and we work with what we have.” In other words, we’ve gone as far as we can in both advancing arguments on slavery. We’d need to come to some common understanding on my above point before we could advance any further.

    But besides reaching a dead end, we are stuck trying to argue a point which misses much of your original post’s implications. Because, I think Matt R actually nailed it. He pointed out that

    the Biblical view always depicts people in bondage to *something*. I am particularly thinking about Paul here, since that is who you quoted. To Paul, becoming a “slave of Christ” is to be set free from being a “slave to Sin” which, as Paul says, leads to death.

    I think of “slavery to Christ” as a contrast to being a “slave to sin”.

    We are all slaves, Ebonmuse, above and beyond being slaves to any human master. We are slaves to sin, sickness, and death.. When you [not personal "you," remember] are 90 years old, in some nursing home, where someone is changing your Depends three times a day, then tell me about how proud and strong and free you are. Then let Javaman tell us about his “balls.” (you must admit, I am getting mileage out of that remark) In his day, Ronald Reagan was, arguably, the world’s most prominent person. Ten years later he didn’t know who he was. We are all slaves to realities greater than human bondage, and I think it unwise for atheists to give up on the spiritual, since science offers nothing to free us from this “slavery, ” but spiritual things might.

    Isaac Newton, you know, wrote more about spiritual things than about math and science combined. And why not? The answers science can give are only relevant to us for our 80+ years. The answers spiritually can potentially give stretch far longer. I’m not so quick to conclude that Newton (and nearly all scientists of his day and before, and for a time after, was a genius in one field and an ignoramus in another.

    But this is a bit of a rant, I concede, and it goes far afield. We’ve taken the slavery question as far as we can, IMO. Perhaps I’ll post again on your blog. Feel free to post on mind. I hope you do. I will be gracious to you, as you have been to me.

    Just a couple of tweaks to your last comment.

    Have you heard of the Geneva Conventions?

    I didn’t ask “do rules exist?” We’ve got rules enough that, if laid end to end, you could walk across the Milky Way. But rules only represent intentions. I asked about deeds. Society today, despite the Geneva Conventions, slaughters enough adversaries to make OT societies blush. Nuclear weapons, biological weapons, napalm and so forth, slaughter far more effectively than a single person’s sword.

    You’re conceding my point. Come on, Tom, you’re better than this. I don’t think you’re a bad person.

    I don’t think you’re a bad person either. So why can’t I concede a point? I never said you were wrong in every particular.

  • Reed Ulvestad

    The answers science can give are only relevant to us for our 80+ years.

    Hahaha. Sure, and without those answers of science, you’d have to replace “80+” with “30ish”.

  • RiddleOfSteel

    How is it that humans managed to do better than god? If you’re going to set up a society, I think man could have set up many better models than YHWH. Perfection isn’t a requirement. There’s more than enough wiggle room between OT theocracy and perfection to make the demand that an omniscient god should have done better.

    Yes, this is my concern as well. If I am understanding correctly, tomsheepandgoats claims that his god essentially compromised morality, by dumbing it down to the level of biblical society. This compromised morality calls into question the legitimacy of the Bible as a moral guide today. If we act according to the morality dictated in the Bible, we can’t be assured that we are acting morally. Dictates that were once put forward as the proper way to act are now understood as immoral. Biblical morality does not stand the test of time. Like others here, I would except more from a god than a book containing compromised and watered down morals.

  • Polly

    Like others here, I would exc[pect] more from a god than a book containing compromised and watered down morals.

    And yet, many Xians accuse atheists of being relativists (moral, cultural, and otherwise). But, the kind of answers they give about the OT, are pure relativism. “Each society is its own standard” seems to be the underlying principle. At least atheists don’t demand that the creator of the universe must be made to bow to our foibles!

  • http://carriertom.typepad.com/sheep_and_goats tomsheepandgoats

    If I am understanding correctly, tomsheepandgoats claims that his god essentially compromised morality, by dumbing it down to the level of biblical society. This compromised morality calls into question the legitimacy of the Bible as a moral guide today.

    Yes, that is pretty astute, Riddle of Steel. I wouldn’t phrase it that way, but from an atheist’s point of view, I guess it is fair.

    How would I phrase it? This is a challenge, because in order to phrase it, you have to grant me a premise or two. And you are not going to want to grant them, because they run against your core belief. Ah, well, no matter. Sometimes you can only understand a viewpoint by acknowledging, if not accepting, a viewpoint upstream.

    A brief aside: You may know that Jehovah’s Witnesses differ substantially from mainstream churches, including fundamentalists, so much so that the most strident among them will not acknowledge we are Christians. For example, we are not Trinity people. It makes as little sense to us as it does to you. And early JW C.T.Russell was billed as the man who “turned the hose on hell and put out the fire,” this back in a day when all churches believed in hell. I say this because you will answer us according to your knowledge of churches, and so your answers will not always hit the mark. We don’t “come from” the place you think we do. Of course, that’s not to say we’re chums. We are still diametrically opposed on many things. Just not always on the things you imagine.

    A premise that we hold but most of churches do not: God created humans for earth, not heaven. He meant them to live indefinitely on it, without death. Death only came about through initial disobedience to him, as a consequence, sort of like pulling the plug on a fan. Thus, you will notice in Genesis, lifespans progressively fall, from almost 1000 years till the 80 years of Psalm 90, to even lower after Bible times, then, per Reed Ulvestad, science and sanitation succeeds in picking it up a little. Now, I don’t expect you to agree with any of this. It is just background for my explanation to the point you raised.

    The Bible essentially is a chronicle of how God intends to restore matters to his original purpose. Now we get to the point you raised. Things have fallen a long ways from God’s original purpose, not just in lifespans, but in societal relations. A consequence, in our view, of man’s rebelling from God, deciding for himself what is “good and bad,” an allusion to the Eden tree. So how does God start to repair matters? The answer is a bit involved, but includes the notion that you don’t do everything at once. For example, should you decide to repair your house which has been flattened by a hurricane, you start with the bathroom. All the while the atheists are loudly bitching ‘what about the kitchen? How come that’s such a mess?’ In time you move on to the kitchen, but the atheists are mad about the garage! When are you going to get to that?! The point is, in a repair program, you don’t do everything at once, nor would anyone expect you to. So that is how I would phrase your observation that morality in the Bible is “dumbed downed” to the level of primitive society.

    Here is an parallel example from the NT. Jesus’ opposers, intent on trapping him: (Matt 19:3-9)

    And Pharisees came up to him, intent on tempting him and saying: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife on every sort of ground?”  In reply he said: “Did you not read that he who created them from [the] beginning made them male and female  and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh’?  So that they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has yoked together let no man put apart.”  They said to him: “Why, then, did Moses prescribe giving a certificate of dismissal and divorcing her?” He said to them: “Moses, out of regard for your hardheartedness, made the concession to you of divorcing your wives, but such has not been the case from [the] beginning. I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, and marries another commits adultery.

    Notice the same principle of not fixing everything all at once.

    Now what about your second point, that this delayed repair, or “compromised morality calls into question the legitimacy of the Bible as a moral guide today”? It depends on how you use the Bible. If you consider it a rulebook, that it, every verse should dictate how you ought to be acting, then your point is valid. But who uses it that way? We certainly don’t. The Bible is history and it contains real warts of real people. Nobody, at least among JWs, imagines differently.

    The Meathead put it well. He quoted [wasn't he an atheist?] some “disgusting” verse in the Bible, and his wife exclaimed “that’s terrible!” But Archie [Bunker] interjected: “It’s beautiful, it’s in the Bible!” But much of what the Bible reports is terrible because it records human history, which, unlike today, has not always been idyllic. (forgive that final sarcasm, but note, at least, no further reference to JMan) Also, Polly’s comments sound interesting and worthty of reply. Alas, will time permit me to get to it or not? Maybe someone else will.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Some more comments for tomsheepandgoats:

    We are all slaves to realities greater than human bondage, and I think it unwise for atheists to give up on the spiritual, since science offers nothing to free us from this “slavery, ” but spiritual things might.

    This couldn’t be more backwards. If anything is going to free us from physical sickness and weakness, it’s science. In just a few hundred years, science has already brought vast improvements in our day-to-day lives. Think of how many diseases we can treat, how many injuries we can cure, that would have been utterly impossible to do anything about even a few decades ago. (I have an upcoming post about this.) Think of how many people are alive today that would have been dead by now if they’d lived in an age when we couldn’t treat appendicitis, or when we didn’t have vaccination, or when C-section was a death sentence for the mother.

    Meanwhile, millennia of religious belief have produced not a glimmer of insight into the way the world actually works, nor a shred of real improvement in the human condition. When it comes to alleviating suffering in meaningful ways and not just offering comfort, superstition is utterly ineffective. If someone has a fever, you can anoint them with oil, or you can give them antibiotics. If someone has AIDS, you can tell them to drink holy water, or you can distribute antiviral drugs. If someone has a mental illness, you can have them undergo psychotherapy and take medication, or chain them to their beds and perform exorcisms. If someone has diabetes, you can prescribe regular prayer vigils and hymn-singing, or you can administer insulin. Which of these options would you choose in any of these circumstances?

    And given what Tom has told us about his faith, I can cite one more particularly apt example: blood transfusion. Yes, if careful preparations are made beforehand, surgery in a tightly controlled environment can often be done with relatively little loss of blood. But if a Jehovah’s Witness is in, say, a car crash, or some other traumatic accident that causes massive blood loss, and they sincerely believe that God has commanded them to abstain from blood, they can and do die for that belief. What a tragic mistake these people are making! They’re so sure about the existence of another, unproven life that they’re willing to throw away their real life right now for its sake, and if they’re wrong, they’ll have wasted the only life they were ever going to have. What sort of foolish person mortgages a certainty for a mere possibility?

    Let’s put it this way: When religious people can offer evidence – any evidence at all – that “spiritual” things have any efficacy whatsoever in the real world and are not just empty words uttered by desperate and ignorant men, then I’ll believe that they might help us at some point in the future. Until then, I’ll take my antibiotics and organ transplants, thank you very much.

    Notice the same principle of not fixing everything all at once.

    The problem with this is that, if we as a society had stayed with the Bible, slavery would never have been fixed. There is no biblical verse abolishing it. The canon is closed, and no new scripture is being written. (In fact, the Bible explicitly says that we should reject any new doctrine, even if it’s brought by an angel.) As I’ve shown before, abolitionists who argued against human bondage often faced fierce opposition from believing Christians, who repeatedly pointed out that the Bible clearly does sanction slavery in multiple places, and never speaks of it as if it were a wrong or a sin. I repeat the verse that I’ve brought up several times and Tom has never addressed:

    Let as many as are slaves under a yoke keep on considering their owners worthy of full honor, that the name of God and the teaching may never be spoken of injuriously. Moreover, let those having believing owners not look down on them, because they are brothers. On the contrary, let them the more readily be slaves, because those receiving the benefit of their good service are believers and beloved.

    This is no grudging, reluctant acceptance of slavery. On the contrary, this is a genuine and heartfelt endorsement of the practice.

    If the Bible was going to take a stab at eradicating slavery, this would have been the place to do it. It doesn’t. On the contrary, it speaks of slavery as if it were the most normal and natural thing in the world, and offers not a hint of condemnation of Christians engaging in it. As I said before, even if the Bible does not attempt to abolish all the sins of the world in one stroke, it certainly does not give believers permission to engage in them themselves. On the contrary, it commands believers not to do that, to hold themselves apart even if it makes them very unpopular. But when it comes to slavery, we see no such command.

  • shifty

    I am very curious about our planets ability to sustain a population that will continue to live on it indefinitely. What an awful, arrogant, selfish thought.

  • http://carriertom.typepad.com/sheep_and_goats tomsheepandgoats

    Shifty:

    I don’t know. I would think the supply (of people) would have to go down or the storage space up. In any event, I don’t see what’s so awful, arrogant, selfish about it.

    Ebonmuse:

    You have cited several oddball religious practices so as to discredit them. So? Does the abundance of counterfeit money prove there is no such thing as real money?

    And you have mentioned blood transfusions. It’s true, Jehovah’s Witnesses will not accept them. And yes, it is for religious reasons, not medical. Still, slowly but surely, the medical establishment is coming around to the thinking that if you can possibly avoid a transfusion, you should. And thanks to the efforts of Jehovah’s Witnesses working with hospitals and doctors, you almost always can (with advance planning). Blood, after all, is a foreign tissue, even when properly matched, and we all know the body doesn’t like foreign tissue and tries to rid itself of it. True, you can suppress the immune system, but that leads to other complications.

    It’s good to keep up with these things. Here are links to articles in the NYS Medical Journal, JAMA, a video which interviews respected medical people the world over, and an address before the Australian and New Zealand College of Anesthetists two week ago that declares all patients, ethically, should be treated as if they were Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    Is this to say that no JW has ever been inconvenienced by their blood transfusion stand or has even lost life? No. But it must be kept in perspective.

    People put their lives on the line for any number of reasons, some decidedly frivolous. There is a steady stream of those who die in sports, especially extreme sports, accidents. Why not ban sports? They’re hardly necessary.

    When the Challenger astronauts died, they were praised by all. Nobody said they were foolish for risking life in a nonessential cause. They “died for science, fulfilling their dream, etc.”

    Not to mention those millions who have died “for their country.” And exactly how have they died? At the hands of others also eager to die for their country.

    the only difference between the JW cause and the others I’ve mentioned is that you don’t believe in ours. In the others you do.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    As readers will notice, I anticipated Tom’s argument about blood transfusion and responded to it in advance; he nevertheless made that very argument without alteration. Yes, if carefully prepared and planned for in advance, surgery can usually be done with relatively little loss of blood and does not require transfusion. That is not the case for people who arrive at the emergency room with massive trauma. That is not the case for hemophiliacs. That is not the case for people with sickle-cell anemia or aplastic anemia. That is not the case for people with leukemia or other forms of cancer, who are at risk of serious bleeding if they don’t receive transfusions of platelets. That is not the case for premature infants who don’t have enough red blood cells of their own. The idea that transfusions are never medically necessary is contradicted by reality. Read the stories of some people who would now be dead if they were Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    I’m also not going to let Tom forget this passage:

    Let as many as are slaves under a yoke keep on considering their owners worthy of full honor, that the name of God and the teaching may never be spoken of injuriously. Moreover, let those having believing owners not look down on them, because they are brothers. On the contrary, let them the more readily be slaves, because those receiving the benefit of their good service are believers and beloved.

    If he continues to avoid this, as he’s been doing so far, I’m going to close the comments on this thread.

  • Alex Weaver

    People put their lives on the line for any number of reasons, some decidedly frivolous. There is a steady stream of those who die in sports, especially extreme sports, accidents. Why not ban sports? They’re hardly necessary.

    When the Challenger astronauts died, they were praised by all. Nobody said they were foolish for risking life in a nonessential cause. They “died for science, fulfilling their dream, etc.”

    Not to mention those millions who have died “for their country.” And exactly how have they died? At the hands of others also eager to die for their country.

    the only difference between the JW cause and the others I’ve mentioned is that you don’t believe in ours. In the others you do.

    Uh. Are you sure you aren’t seeing a difference here?

  • James Bradbury

    People put their lives on the line for any number of reasons, some decidedly frivolous. There is a steady stream of those who die in sports, especially extreme sports, accidents. Why not ban sports? They’re hardly necessary.

    When the Challenger astronauts died, they were praised by all. Nobody said they were foolish for risking life in a nonessential cause. They “died for science, fulfilling their dream, etc.”

    Not to mention those millions who have died “for their country.” And exactly how have they died? At the hands of others also eager to die for their country.

    the only difference between the JW cause and the others I’ve mentioned is that you don’t believe in ours. In the others you do.

    Uh. Are you sure you aren’t seeing a difference here?

    Ooh oh! Me! I know! Is it that those things are undeniably real things in the real world, while religious faith is imaginary or at best unproven?

  • http://carriertom.typepad.com/sheep_and_goats tomsheepandgoats

    Ebonmuse

    I did answer your scripture. Twice. It’s back there in the thread. I ignored the last time you brought it up, imagining you were ….well, I don’t know what I imagined.

    You don’t like my answer, apparently. But I did answer it.

  • http://carriertom.typepad.com/sheep_and_goats tomsheepandgoats

    Oh, all right. Time to take my marbles (finally) and go home. The subject is pretty well exhausted.

    But…..and I know I’m at great risk of being thought a sorehead here (and I have taken risks – you’ve got to give me that)…..sniff, sniff, poor me, etc…..but I cite this anti-atheist myth from one of your more current posts:

    In self-righteous fervour, a fanatical atheist is about on par with a religious fanatic.

    Actually, I never thought such a thing before this exchange. On the whole I’d rather, up till now, speak with 10 atheists than with one fundamentalists. But, um, aren’t some of you guys playing into that “myth?” The sarcasm, if not meanness, from some of these comments fairly ooze off the screen, and I don’t think (for the most part) I’ve done anything to provoke them. Just explanin a position, is all I’m doing, as persuasively as I can.

    Of course, I guess sarcasm is always in the eye of the beholder.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    But, um, aren’t some of you guys playing into that “myth?”

    So, he’s the one defending slavery as a good thing and we’re the ones who are making our like-minded comrades look bad. I think that just about sums this comment thread up.


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