Thursday, June 7, 2012

Is God Just a Human Invention - Chapter 11 Does God Intend for Us to Keep Slaves?

As mentioned previously, I am following a book club type format for this book over on another blog (as I'm writing this that blog seems to be down, I hope it is just a temporary outage). I was going to just participate over there but I have a lot more to say than I want to shove into their comments, so I figured I'd do a normal long form post over here and then just talk about 1 or 2 main points over there. I'm sticking to my normal format of bold for section heading, regular text for summary, and italics for my commentary.



New Atheists such as Dawkins and Harris say that the God of the bible expects us to keep slaves? We explore this idea and naturally come to the conclusion that God does not, in fact, want us to keep slaves. We will take a step back and explore the context in which these ideas are discussed in the bible.

This sounds good to me. I often hear the complaint that I am taking things out of context. I have read a number of verses that certainly seem to condone slavery, I'm curious what possible context could have that as being okay. I'm skeptical here but I will definitely have an open mind.

The New Atheists are far more interested in building up ammunition against Christianity than really learning about it.

Of course they have to throw in an ad hominem attack against the atheists. I'm really tired of this bullshit. If you think our arguments are so poor, then why not attack them directly. When you attack the person all you do is show how poor your arguments really are. If Dawkins criticizes something from the bible (in this case slavery) and your main response is "Dawkins is being a dick", does that mean that you don't have a real answer? It certainly looks that way.

Christianity Did Not Invent Slavery

The author of the book says he remembers a history class where the teacher went off on the bible and christianity for having slavery in the bible. "The unspoken implication was that if there had been no bible there would have been no slavery."

That seems fairly ridiculous. Either the message was misunderstood (you did say it was unspoken) or the teacher was just wrong. I haven't come across this idea (that slavery came from the bible) and I hope it is incredibly rare.

Slavery was just assumed in the world the bible entered in to. There were no critics at the time, and the bible was actual countercultural at the time.

I don't particularly care for where this seems to be going, but I will not get ahead of things here.

We Must Put the Biblical Discussion in its Cultural Context

Slavery was very different in biblical times compared to how american slavery was. This is not to excuse it, but it must be noted that it was different.

I'm not really sure what the point is here. It might have not been exactly the same, but it was still one person owning another.

Israel in the old testament was not God's ideal society. "God began the process of restoration and redemption through the people of Israel." There were laws in the OT books that regulated slavery, the fact  that it was regulated at all is striking given the time and situation.

*sigh* This kind of argument would work if it was just people. If there was a lot of slavery in a country, and the society worked to be nicer to their slaves over time and eventually abandoned slavery altogether the people who started it off were visionaries. If it was an all powerful God, why not just end slavery outright, or tell your people how to get to a place where they don't have slaves.  

War and poverty were the biggest producers of slaves. War produces winners and losers, and the winners had to do something to protect themselves from future retaliation by those they conquered.

So they are justified in making them slaves? What is being said here?

Many people sold themselves into slavery for their families, in Job he acknowledged that slaves are also made in God's image.

That's nice I guess.

God can't just eradicate slavery since he is working with agents who have free will.

Okay, but couldn't he actually tell his people that slavery is no good? He gave all kinds of other commandments that not everyone keeps, why not mention that slavery is a bad thing?

Christianity Tolerated Slavery Until it Could be Abolished

Biblical writers planted the seeds of slavery going away. Paul said "There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus." Also, Paul said that Onesimus should be viewed "no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother."

So what, I can't take things out of context but you can? The first quote is only advocating getting rid of slavery if it is also advocating getting rid of gender. The second one is about a specific person, a person that Paul got to know and didn't want to be a slave anymore. It is a pretty big stretch to say that these are the bible trying to get rid of slavery. (BTW, if you think I'm wrong here please speak up)

Why Was Jesus Silent on the Issue of Slavery?

Sam Harris says that Jesus never objects to slavery, but he skipped physical slavery and jumped to the root of the problem with the following passage "The spirit of the lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed."

Are you kidding me? I thought your position was that taking things out of context was bad. 

Does Atheism Naturally Lead to Human Dignity and Equality?

Atheism only rose after the groundwork was done by Christianity. Some argue that without the bible slavery wouldn't have happened. "Perhaps. But by this line of reasoning, we would also have to say that if there were no physics-if E didn't equal MC^2-then there would have been no atomic bomb."

What. The. Fuck. Does anyone know what they are even saying here? "if there were no physics" is the same to these people as "if there were no bible"? I'm honestly trying my best (it's hard) to be as open minded as possible. Can the authors of this book say the same? They are so wrapped up in their worldview they can't even imagine it being wrong. The bible never being written is the same to them as physics not working? Really?

And to answer the question of the section title, no. Atheist does not lead to human dignity and equality. It isn't supposed to. Christianity is supposed to, and it doesn't. That is the point of saying that slavery is in the bible. Not that atheism would do it better, but to say that Christianity failed at stopping slavery. Which is something you would expect it would do if it was run by and all knowing all loving all powerful God.

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