June 30, 2020 at 11:23 pm #31998
This maybe TLTR but I will run with it.
@fullermingjr: From an atheist and humanist perspective, is the idea of enslaving other human beings for ones profit and pleasure “wrong” because it hurts the collective social and potentially biological evolutionary development of our species?
We are humans before we are atheists just as you are before you are a Christian.
“Had the Church been against slavery it would have branded it as a wrong, and have set the example of liberating its own slaves. It did neither. Nay, the Church not only held slaves itself, not only protected others who held slaves, but it thundered against all who should despoil its property by selling or liberating slaves belonging to the Church. The whole history of the Christian Church shows that it has never felt itself called upon to fight any sound institution, no matter what its character, so long as it favored the Church. Slavery and serfdom, war, piracy, child labor, have all been in turn sanctioned.” (Chapman Cohen: “Christianity, Slavery, and Labor.”)
The Christian Church has had the audacity, in modern times, to proclaim that it had abolished slavery and the slave trade. It is difficult to understand how any “righteous” man could make that contention remembering that it was not until the middle of the nineteenth century that slavery became illegal in Christian countries, with one exception, Abyssinia, the oldest of the Christian countries, which still maintains slavery. In our own country, a nation had to be embroiled in a civil war before slavery could be abolished. Abolished by Christianity in the nineteenth century, when Christianity has been dominant in most civilized countries since the third century, and when the traffic in human flesh flourished right through those centuries in which Christianity was most powerful!
A reference to the facts shows that this claim is as spurious as many others which the ecclesiastics have boldly affirmed throughout the ages. For not only is this contrary to the truth, but it is an undeniable fact that it was only by the aid and sanction of the theological forces that slavery was able to degrade our civilization as long as it did.
On referring to that legend which has been the source of most of our suffering and inhumanity, the Bible, a direct sanction for slavery is given in the Old Testament. Leviticus XXV gives explicit instructions as to where and from whom slaves should be bought, and sanctions the repulsive feature of separation of the slave from his family. Leviticus XXVII gives the “price” of human beings.
In Abyssinia (Ethiopia), the influence of Christianity has been dominant for a longer period of time than anywhere else in the world. The population of Abyssinia is at least ten million, and of this population not less than one-fifth, probably more, are slaves. In 1929, Lady Kathleen Simon published her book entitled, “Slavery,” dealing with the slave trade of the world. In this work it is pointed out that slave-owning is an integral part of the religion of the country, and that opposition to the abolition of slavery comes principally from the priesthood which considers itself the guardian of the Mosaic law, and regards slavery as an institution ordered by Jehovah.
Slave raids are constant in this country, and are accompanied by the greatest brutality and cruelty. Vast areas are depopulated by these raids and even at this date, gangs of slaves may be seen by travelers, with the dead and dying bodies of those that have fallen strewn along the roadside. “The slave trade in Abyssinia is open, its horrors are well known, and it is supported by the Christian Church of the country. Such is slavery in the most Christian country in the world today, the country which has the longest Christian history of any nation in the world. Its existence helps us to realize the value of the statement that the power of Christianity in the world destroyed the slave trade. Slavery flourishes in the oldest of Christian countries in the world, backed up by the Church, the Old Bible, and the New Testament. It has all the horrors, all the brutalities, all the degradations of the slave trade at its worst. Such is Christian Abyssinia, and such, but for the saving grace of secular civilization, would be the rest of the world.” (Chapman Cohen.)
Thomas Paine, in 1775, when he wrote his article on “Justice and Humanity,” was the first to demand emancipation in a lucid manner. The campaign for liberation of the slaves was therefore inaugurated by a freethinker, and triumphantly closed by another freethinker, Abraham Lincoln. In this manner did the Church abolish slavery. With characteristic disregard for the truth, the religionists have laid claim to Lincoln, which claim has been amply refuted; but we are still awaiting the Church’s claim to Paine as one of her devotees.
“And, truly, the case against Christianity is plain and damning. Never, during the whole of its history has it spoken in a clear voice against slavery; always, as we have seen, its chief supporters have been pronounced believers. They have cited religious teaching in its defence, they have used all the power of the Church for its maintenance. Naturally, in a world in which the vast majority are professing Christians, believers are to be found on the side of humanity and justice. But to that the reply is plain. Men are human before they are Christians; both history and experience point to the constant lesson of the many cases in which the claims of a developing humanity override those of an inculcated religious teaching.
“But the damning fact against Christianity is, not that it found slavery here when it arrived, and accepted it as a settled institution, not even that it is plainly taught in its ‘sacred’ books, but, that it deliberately created a new form of slavery, and for hundreds of years invested it with a brutality greater than that which existed centuries before. A religion which could tolerate this slavery, argue for it, and fight for it, cannot by any stretch of reasoning be credited with an influence in forwarding emancipation. Christianity no more abolished slavery than it abolished witchcraft, the belief in demonism, or punishment for heresy. It was the growing moral and social sense of mankind that compelled Christians and Christianity to give up these and other things.” (C. Cohen: “Christianity, Slavery, and Labor.”)
@fullermingjr – My question is only looking for the basis beyond my gut for the definition of decency. Maybe there is none, and that’s good enough.
That is a very good question and goes to the heart of any question about ethics. Sam Harris addresses it in “The End of Faith”. Some of it below;
The fact that we must rely on certain intuitions to answer ethical questions does not in the least suggest that there is anything insubstantial, ambiguous, or culturally contingent about ethical truth. As in any other field, there will be room for intelligent dissent on questions of right and wrong, but intelligent dissent has its limits.
People who believe that the earth is flat are not dissenting geographers; people who deny that the Holocaust ever occurred are not dissenting historians; people who think that God created the universe in 4004 BC are not dissenting cosmologists; and we will see that people who practice barbarisms like “honor killing” are not dissenting ethicists. The fact that good ideas are intuitively cashed does not make bad ideas any more respectable.
While our ethical concerns are necessarily bound up with the understanding that others experience happiness and suffering, there is more to ethics than the mere knowledge that we are not alone in the world. For ethics to matter to us, the happiness and suffering of others must matter to us. It does matter to us, but why?June 30, 2020 at 11:27 pm #31999
@simon – there’s the religious argument for why slavery is bad.
Will the religious thank the secularists and humanists who had to show them that “slavery is bad”?June 30, 2020 at 11:51 pm #32000
Reg, that was informative. I did not know about the continuation of slavery in Abyssinia. All the shit on cnn, msnbc and fox and to my knowledge this anachronistic travesty is uncovered.
You can find the Catholic Church on the wrong side of every issue: its intransigence in failing to respect autonomy of women, its opposition to universal suffrage, its alliance with Hitler and protection of Nazis on the run, Its persecution of so called heretics, its furnishing and protecting child molesters and rapists…and the list goes on.
Yet theists are so often mystified by atheists and how can they find moral guidance.July 1, 2020 at 12:02 am #32001
@_Robert_, I agree – the founders ” kicked the can down the road”. I also agree that the Southern states may not have signed on and the split would have occurred in the 1770’s as opposed to in the 1860’s. The Union may have never formed. But do you think they could have at least negotiated a path toward abolishing slavery? This county – I think – would be much further along in so many ways – not just racially – if the collective brain-power of the other 15% to 17% of the population and the “melting pot” was truly a melting pot. (Slaves made up about 17% of the US population in 1780).
Welcome and yes, I think that would have helped if the founders provisioned for abolishment with concrete laws and settled it before that institution became so financially valuable. The war really began in congress a decade before shots were fired. What to do with the new territories being taken from the natives? The famous Clay/Calhoun debates. It was already too late by then. Gotta say MAGA is an empty sentiment. How about we Finally Make America Great !July 1, 2020 at 12:09 am #32002
The quotes above, including that of Abyssinia are from references from sources written no earlier than 85 years ago. More on that later.July 1, 2020 at 3:13 am #32003
All, great discussion. I appreciate your responses to my questions. I consider my self a skeptic and a theist and so I am often critical in a technical sense of the word, of the things I read or hear, regardless of its source.
Reg, your “too long to read” post was fascinating. It wasn’t what I was asking, and as you might anticipate, there is much I would question- or minimally explore more deeply. Social and political context is crucial. If this was 1830, I probably wouldn’t be able to read as a black man. If I lived in the Levant in 1500 BCE, my whole view of slavery would be very different! If I was a part of the parliament the was persuaded by William Wilberforce in the late 18th century, as part of the established power of Britain, I may have profited for years from the triangle trade while still voting to abolish it. It’s easy for you and I to pontificate about the evils of others in the past, including the church, but we were not there. (Thus, the Union was formed with the “peculiar institution” in tact).
Regardless of all of that, I am not so much as “mystified by atheists and how can they find moral guidance” as I am curious about the philosophical underpinnings of such. In general, we all are ultimately just human and guided by our own individual conscience. As a theist, I strive to live up to my best understanding of the faith based on a philosophical, or, if you will, a “theological” ideal. I was simply trying to better understand someone else’s view who is probably white and atheist- very different from me.
Finally, Robert, if this was church, I would say out loud “Amen” to your comment about the infamous MAGA. (I do pray for the President but feel sorry for him, too. He too is human and clearly has some real problems that he’s probably not aware of). I really loved your response to my question about the founders setting a pathway to end slavery. In essence, the money (greed) was another powerful factor. Alas, the founders didn’t or couldn’t abolish slavery, our nation killed over 600,000 in a terrible civil war, and here we are, discussing Confederate Symbols. At least we are discussing and not killing each other!
July 1, 2020 at 6:27 am #32009
- This reply was modified 4 days, 7 hours ago by PopeBeanie. Reason: minor/meta: deleted stray html markup
I am not so much as “mystified by atheists and how can they find moral guidance” as I am curious about the philosophical underpinnings of such.
In the case of being anti-slavery, there are norms promoting the dignity and worth of the individual, and norms of justice/injustice.July 1, 2020 at 9:38 am #32011
Also, humans value autonomy. If someone is a slave, they do not have agency, liberty or autonomy.July 1, 2020 at 11:00 am #32012
Christianity certainly has the ingredients to facilitate the master/slave relationship. We are born impure and subservient to a threatening but ‘loving’ boss under threat of eternal punishment and find salvation through suffering, belief without doubt, and human sacrifice.
I would be hard pressed to find a more immoral philosophy. Fortunately there is not one bit of hard evidence that any of it is true and finally secular bible historians have been unleashed and we are getting the picture of how it was all cobbled together.July 1, 2020 at 12:51 pm #32013
But Robert, as I attempt to stay on topic, are you saying that inherently, Christianity promotes the honoring of Confederate Symbols based on its immoral master/slave philosophy? Whould you also say that non-religious philosophical systems don’t have the ingredients to do the same?
I study the faith deeply and strive to be honest in my assessments. Systemically, your point could be accurate based on a given theological approach and application, but it is not inherent to the faith any more than it is in a purely empirical based philosophy. Thus, I would rather evaluate individuals and not a group of 1st century believers and the letters they wrote; that is a different topic altogether.
Slavery and the honoring of Confederates who honored and defended the institution in the name of God should be judged on their own, as individuals. This is why we put people on trial based on their actions not thier thoughts. Even so, I agree – and even as a theist, that sociological systems, be they religious or secular, that objectify other people are wrong and I was simply trying to understand how to better objectively make such a categorical assessment without invoking my own biased supernatural claims. Your condemnation of Christianity is duly noted.
July 1, 2020 at 1:07 pm #32015
- This reply was modified 1 week ago by fullermingjr.
To me the more significant test of Christianity is how it operates rather than how it is philosophically constructed. Stealing precious cash from the poor/indoctrinating the defenseless young and ignorant, fraudulently altering the behavior and lives of its victims with false promises and representations is a consistent theme. If this were not disturbing enough it seeks to augment its power and victimize the greatest number through proselytization. All over the world the missionaries accompanied explorers to spread their filthy lies and corrupt native cultures.
The analogy of Christianity as a virus is apropos. Both the host (explorers, missionaries, settlers) and uninfected but vulnerable populations lacking immunity (indigenous peoples and all others not already infected) played out their roles. In the case of Africans who were kidnapped and taken to various places if they survived the slave ships (an unspeakable horror in itself) they could look forward to a life not fit for living. Their consolation? Christianity! After being body fucked they were brain fucked with the infection. Slaves were taught the notion of sic transit gloria mundi. Accept your role here in this quite temporary station as ALL will receive in the kingdom of heaven. Lies on lies to facilitate the iniquitous rule of oppression through obedience and resignation. The descendants of slaves in a continuation of the travesty are among the most ardent supporters of the virus. A virus unlike natural viruses that continues to give and give and give. Whence immunity? It would be like modern Jews defending the propaganda of the nazis.July 1, 2020 at 1:40 pm #32016
@jakelafort – we are, in essence, saying the same thing. The “test” is how PEOPLE operate. Philosophical constructs don’t do anything. Sure, they may help a person justify their actions in their own psyche, but it’s people who act. You guys (Reg, Robert, and yourself) seem to be trying to pick a fight with me – but I’m just trying to find out (and many have given me some good answers) a non-faith based reason for condemning the Confederacy and American chattel slavery that I can anchor on something other than my own feelings as a black man (which socially run deep) or my faith. Read back through my entries. I’m with you, not against you! I’m not one of those “Christians” trying to condemn you because we differ – yes we differ, but I’m really trying to grow here!
I mean, really – to compare my belief to a virus without finding out where I am coming from? Associating me with people who you probably don’t know and yet accuse them of spreading “filthy lies”? Jakelafort, we are better, aren’t we? Isn’t that the whole point of this discussion thread – that honoring the Confederate Symbols that promote racism is harmful to our society? Will our current challenges of racial tension morph into a religion vs secular blood bath in our nation? I certainly hope not! Rhetoric that inflames can easily justify in ones heart all kinds of passionate actions. But I’m just trying to learn, not fight.July 1, 2020 at 1:55 pm #32017
But Robert, as I attempt to stay on topic, are you saying that inherently, Christianity promotes the honoring of Confederate Symbols based on its immoral master/slave philosophy? Would you also say that non-religious philosophical systems don’t have the ingredients to do the same?
To be a slaveholder is to emulate the Lord. The ‘thought crime’ commandment:
“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant…”
is often shortened when used from the pulpit.
Then we usually have the ” but the bible servant was not the same as the African slave” argument. That does not impress on me at all. I read the biblical rules on slaves.
The antebellum Southerners believed- that they were the chosen people. Chosen to administer to the white man’s burden. To be a stern but not undeservedly cruel master to the ungodly savages, but give them a chance, just like the Father does for us. Therefor we will teach them on their day of rest that this is the way it was meant to be. It’s all right here in this big leather-bound compilation. They are better off than they were, thanks to us. Look how that mammy gets to stay in the house.
I will never forget a fourth of July parade in Savannah. An incredible marching band out of Atlanta was approaching us and I heard from behind “here comes the godamn spearchuckers”. That is why they think they deserve monuments. God’s work is tough. It is that warped.July 1, 2020 at 2:03 pm #32018
fullermingjr, it is astonishing that you seek a non faith based reason to condemn slavery and the confederacy. First of all the faithful who were not slaves were largely in favor of slavery, not opposed to it. Forget all the BS. Just be a human. The golden role as aforementioned makes the issue a no-brainer. I don’t know whether you are attributing golden rule to christianity but it predates Christianity and is in the animal kingdom according to ethologists. It is so fundamental to our existence. Don’t overthink it.
My examination of Christianity is not a personal affront to you . Didn’t have you in mind when i wrote what i did. It is not intended as a personal attack. I stand by what i say and i have only revealed a tiny fraction of my thoughts and contempt for it. I notice you were using moral relativism to excuse its transgressions. i never bought into moral relativism. In my own life i felt at a younger age felt it was wrong to eat pigs and cows etc and so i stopped eating em. I like the taste of meat just as slave owners liked the taste of slavery I thought to myself this is the contemporary issue of most everybody is doing it-doesn’t make it justifiable. It isn’t just rhetoric meant to inflame. It is rancid meat that needs to be discarded. ok that sounded like rhetoric! But seriously i am an antitheist through and through. We can do better as a species.July 1, 2020 at 2:46 pm #32020
No. It is ridiculous to dismiss ethical systems, as described in moral philosophy as having nothing to do with “the real world” (whatever that actually means). Virtue ethics and utilitarian ethics in particular have had a massive influence on contemporary western ethos. Most especially in terms of human rights. I mean, the very idea of inalienable human rights are rooted in these moral systems and they came from philosophers which began the long work of advocacy. It’s hard to make sense of what you are actually looking for. On the one hand you’re asking for a rational explanation. Those exist in moral systems that have been well elucidated and have highly influenced western civilization including our every day behaviour. On the other hand you want some explanation per: “how we act” (whatever that means). As though how we act is some organic human nature divorced of intellectual ideas throughout the ages). So which is it…do you want an explanation via “human nature” or via some rational argument grounded in a reasoned moral systsem? If you want human nature…then there isn’t an argument against slavery. As humans aggregate power structures emerge which are usually extremely unfair, often cruel and frequently involve the dehumanization of others including objectifying and turning humans into property. In a few civilizations, almost entirely through the power of intellectual ideas and economic systems that empower individuals, a greater amount of freedom can emerge which make that make the harshest cruelties, enslavement, servitude etc. difficult. In terms of the history of human behaviour, slavery seems like a high statistical probability when humans aggregate. There’s no argument for or against slavery here. Just what we know about recorded civilization. In terms of a good argument against slavery, well, read up on deonotological, (some forms of) virtue moral systems, utilitarianmoral systems or consequential moral systems. They’re all there. Quite reasonable. Well worth the read. They all entirely make sense within their own moral framework.
In any case…all of this (both in terms of common threads throughout human history, and the intellectual explanations per why slavery is wrong, makes a WHOLE LOT more sense than “GOD SAYS IT’S WRONG”. I mean seriously. Some bronze age rambling book of nonsense mentions a divine being in the sky who says slavery is both right, and under some other interpretation wrong. And that is the framework to go with?
- This reply was modified 1 week ago by Davis.
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