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Noah's Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery
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The history of slavery in America may not be hidden, but widely unknown is the degree to which Christianity was used to defend not only slavery but also later segregation and discrimination. This secret alliance between religion and bigotry is a largely untold story which more people need to learn about in order to dispel the notion that religion generally or Christianity in particular is necessarily a force for good.

Book of the Week: Noah's Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery

Comments
May 11, 2009 at 10:27 am
(1) Carter says:

I am sure that Haynes’ book is a good one and yes, Christianity has been used to justify many wrongs and much wrong doing… It has also been the source of much good around the world including the motivating force behind William Wilberforce’s drive to get slave trading banned from Britain. I am not aware of any country which outlawed slavery before it had been touched by Christianity. Perhaps some readers of this blog know otherwise.

May 11, 2009 at 1:01 pm
(2) Blackmetalworkshop says:

Carter, you use the words “used to justify” as though wrong doing is not firmly embedded in biblical doctrine. Christianity has not simply “been used”, The bible its self justifies wrong doing, including slavery. Because Wilberforce decided to go against the bible, does not by default, give christianity this “source of much good” status.

May 11, 2009 at 3:52 pm
(3) Carter says:

The study of slavery in the Bible is an interesting and broad subject and needs to be studied and understood within the historical setting. If I remember correctly, the type of slavery which was much apart of the United States was condemned in the Old Testament the people who kidnapped others and sold them into slavery were to receive the death penalty. That being said, Christianity should not be judged by the civil laws of Old Testament Israel.

I do disagree with you when you say that wrong doing is embedded in biblical doctrine and that the Bible justifies wrong doing, but that may be for another post especially since “wrong doing” may imply an objective standard which is true for all people in all times.

While you and I may disagree that Wiberforce went against the Bible, I take your point that his actions alone do not prove Christianity to be a force of good however, even a cursory study of British and American history will show that there are many such people who say it was their Christian faith which informed their actions which in turned changed the societies in which they lived for the good.

Let me mention another, because of his Christian faith, Anthony Ashley Cooper the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, a contemporary of Wilberforce devoted himself to championing the cause of factory, mills and mine workers. He was the force behind many of the child labor laws, education for children, care of the insane and providing adequate housing for the poor.

Again, perhaps someone here may be able to find a nation which outlawed slavery which had not been touched by Christianity.

May 12, 2009 at 12:02 am
(4) Eric (4tunate1) says:

Carter, can you name a country that has outlawed slavery that has not been touched by democracy? What about Humanism?

Also, you say “If I remember correctly, the type of slavery which was much apart of the United States was condemned in the Old Testament the people who kidnapped others and sold them into slavery were to receive the death penalty.” That is not correct. The type of slavery you are referencing was the forced enslavement of jews by other jews and was never regarded as forbiding the kidnapping or forced enslavement of other nationalities or races.

And in defense of Blackmetalworkshop’s statement that “wrong doing is… firmly embedded in biblical doctrine”, he may be referring to the doctrine of scapegoatism which is central to the message of both the New Testament and Old Testament. Most people today regard scapegoatism as immoral and wrong.

May 12, 2009 at 9:21 am
(5) Carter says:

Eric, I will probably end up being one of the least articulate people who make comments on this blog, so please bear with me. What I was attempting to say was that slavery has been the norm for most if not all recorded history, and also that it seems there is a direct although perhaps not a one to one correlation between the demise of slavery with the rise and spread of Christianity. Also, when Christianity took root in a country, laws and programs dealing with other societal problems also seemed to rise as well.

You may be correct about the forced enslavement laws, I was working on memory, but as I said, I don’t think we should equate Christianity and the civil laws of Old Testament Israel. ….. I am not familiar with the doctrine of scapegoatism to which you are referring, therefore I really can’t comment on it.

May 12, 2009 at 9:23 am
(6) Carter says:

Eric, I will probably end up being one of the least articulate people who make comments on this blog, so please bear with me. What I was attempting to say was that slavery has been the norm for most if not all recorded history, and it seems that there is a direct although perhaps not a one to one correlation between the demise of slavery with the rise and spread of Christianity. Also, when Christianity took root in a country, laws and programs dealing with other societal problems also seemed to rise as well.

You may be correct about the forced enslavement laws, I was working on memory, but as I said, I don’t think we should equate Christianity and the civil laws of Old Testament Israel. ….. I am not familiar with the doctrine of scapegoatism to which you are referring, therefore I really can’t comment on it.

May 12, 2009 at 2:27 pm
(7) blackmetalworkshop says:

carter
“The study of slavery in the Bible is an interesting and broad subject and needs to be studied and understood within the historical setting.”
It is neither interesting or broad, and do people not continue to base their lives on the bible today? I guess last Sunday IS history.

“That being said, Christianity should not be judged by the civil laws of Old Testament Israel.”
We are not talking about the civil laws of old testament israel, we are talking about the unbreakable and unchangeable laws set forth by the god of the bible, and until god comes down and changes them I will continue to judge christianity by them.

“I do disagree with you when you say that wrong doing is embedded in biblical doctrine and that the Bible justifies wrong doing” Eric was only partially right, I was referring to scapegoatism, I was also referring to the simple admonition to kill children, women, etc for petty things that are not even crimes, I was referring to all the examples of people killing entire cities full of people sparing none for the ridiculous reasons of an admittedly petty and jealous god. I was referring to the strong currant of evil that runs through the bible from beginning to end.

“While you and I may disagree that Wiberforce went against the Bible, I take your point that his actions alone do not prove Christianity to be a force of good however, even a cursory study of British and American history will show that there are many such people who say it was their Christian faith which informed their actions which in turned changed the societies in which they lived for the good.”
God commanded a set of laws be followed, laws explaining how slavery should be carried out, then humans began to say slavery is evil and they struck down and outlawed those laws, seems pretty clear to me, man said god got it wrong and should not be obeyed. Even a cursory study of history will show their are many more people who say it was not their christian faith that informed their actions which in turn changed the societies in which they lived for the good. Are you still arguing that the actions of a few PEOPLE prove christianity is a force of good?

“Let me mention another, because of his Christian faith, Anthony Ashley Cooper the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, a contemporary of Wilberforce devoted himself to championing the cause of factory, mills and mine workers. He was the force behind many of the child labor laws, education for children, care of the insane and providing adequate housing for the poor.”
Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in america, yet he was a racist. If a person knits blankets for the homeless, because they feel a greater sense of community thanks to the ideology they adhere to, do we then have to rethink our feelings about nazism, because that is the ideology this person follows? All you need to do is delve ONLY a little deeper and you will see the treatment these (perhaps well meaning) people imposed on these groups you mention, and you will see, it was not very pleasant, if not down right cruel.

“that slavery has been the norm for most if not all recorded history, and also that it seems there is a direct although perhaps not a one to one correlation between the demise of slavery with the rise and spread of Christianity. Also, when Christianity took root in a country, laws and programs dealing with other societal problems also seemed to rise as well.”
You are right there is not a one to one here, christianity came to places looong before anything good was being done to bring about change in ares that needed it.When christianity took root in a country societal problems came with it and took root as well, so sure a hand full of christians tried to undo the harm christianity caused, but their were a lot more than a hand full of christians fighting against those reformers, causing those problems to last a lot longer than they should have…even to this very day. Ask the aborigines of australia how christianity changed their lives for the better, or the native americans.

May 12, 2009 at 5:23 pm
(8) Carter says:

Blackmetalworkshop,
It is obvious that you are confused about many things including but not exclusive to:

1) The difference between the civil, ceremonial and moral laws of Old Testament Israel and also their relationship to Christianity. — Both learned Jews and Christians understand the differences and the relationships.

2) The difference between Christianity and the actions of Christians and of those who claim to be Christians. — Mr. Cline makes the distinction between atheism and the actions of atheists and encourages the readers of his blog to do so as well.

Until you understand and actually differentiate between those things your discussion of issues will, at their very core be flawed and thus not very helpful to those who want to learn and grow in their understanding of beliefs that are different from theirs.

May 12, 2009 at 6:51 pm
(9) atheist_Dave says:

Carter,

The difference between Christianity and the actions of Christians and of those who claim to be Christians.

Which set of actions belongs to which category is something that’s far from agreed upon amongst professing Christians. For example, you may very well claim that the abolitionists were true Christians while the slave holders were false Christians. A white supremacist Christian, on the other hand, could just as easily – and no less reasonably – assert the reverse. The question I put to you is: why is either party any more or less Christian than the other?

Mr. Cline makes the distinction between atheism and the actions of atheists and encourages the readers of his blog to do so as well.

Apples and oranges, Carter. You see, Christianity is a religion, an ideology, a worldview, a belief system. It can thus inspire and motivate people in various directions towards certain attitudes and behaviours, some of them benenificial for society, others harmful.

Atheism, on the other hand, is not any kind religion, worldview, ideology or belief sytem. Rather it is a mere lack of belief, specifically a lack of belief that a certain thing exists, namely gods. The point that Austin has made a few times is that, since atheism is not a belief sytem, actions, behaviours and attitudes cannot logically be derived from are caused by it.

May 12, 2009 at 7:10 pm
(10) blackmetalworkshop says:

carter, it is obvious you are confused by this entire discussion. I was never talking about the laws OUTSIDE of the pages of the bible. No confusion here, you attempted to argue that the slave laws IN THE BIBLE, were merely some sort of external state laws of an ancient people, and that is just not the case. You see weather or not I understand the difference between civil, ceremonial etc laws is irrelevant, because I know what the bible says, and that is all I was referring to.

#2 Again you are confused, not me. You said christianity was a force for good, I said it was not.You gave an example of CHRISTIANITY being a force for good by pointing to a PERSON who did some good, so I gave an example of a PERSON who did some good,while their motivating ideology remains a negative one, and is not made better by the actions of a person. The reason I did that is because you had confused a person with christianity, and I was just trying to clarify. I was talking about christianity, not christians… I wonder what you were talking about.
Also remember, those that have done good in the name of christianity during a time when a person could get into a lot of trouble for not being a christian, are just as likely to have claimed falsely to be driven by their religion.

I think it’s quite helpful to call someone on misleading (intentional or otherwise) information. Are you here to learn FROM our beliefs, or learn ABOUT them, In either case The question is why?
It doesn’t seem like you are here to learn anything, your first comment was a substance less complement about a book you have never read, then you proceeded to try to teach a lesson about the benevolence of christianity, then followed that up with an ambiguous unanswerable question. How would you hope to learn anything about the beliefs of others, when the only question you ask, is one about your own beliefs?

May 12, 2009 at 10:44 pm
(11) Eric (4tunate1) says:

Carter,to answer your question about scapegoatism:

The scapegoat was originally a literal goat that was driven off into the wilderness to die after supposedly being burdenned with the sins of people who were thereby cleansed. This was an important part of the ceremonies of the Jewish Day of Atonement. The rite is described in Leviticus chapter 16.

More recently the word “scapegoat” has come to mean a person, often innocent, who is blamed and punished for the sins, crimes, or sufferings of others. The doctrine of scapegoatism is a system of morality that derives from or relies upon the use of scapegoats in some way.

The Bible first introduces this doctrine in Genesis with the damnation of all Adam’s descendants for a crime committed by Adam and Eve. It is reinforced many times throughout the Old Testament (from the introduction of the literal “scapegoat” itself in Leviticus to the oft repeated execution of children for the crimes of their parents). This reaches the ultimate pinnacle of scapegoatism in the New Testament with the crucifixion. Jesus supposedly dies for the crimes of all mankind and frees all subsequent people from punishment and accountability if they only accept this as central to their moral code. This sacrifice is essentially similar to that of the ancient jews who sacrificed the scapegoat sent into the wilderness.

May 12, 2009 at 10:58 pm
(12) Eric (4tunate1) says:

Carter, I would also like to point out that pro-slavery Christians need not rely on the Old Testament for their justification. Paul in the New Testament, for instance, admonishes slaves to obey their masters and wives to obey their husbands.

Furthermore, your assertion that Chistianity always brought societal improvement can be refuted many ways. However, it is not necessary to look further than the Christianization of the Roman Empire. This was accompanied by the introduction of brutal policies and the abolition of many societal goods, such as women’s rights, tolerance of other faiths, and respect for scholarship. Christianity was directly responsible for all these things.

May 13, 2009 at 1:02 pm
(13) blackmetalworkshop says:

The doom and gloom predicted to follow abolition of slavery, civil rights for racial minorities, gay rights, etc., is the same thing predicted to follow the posting of atheist signs and billboards.

Living in the south I see a lot of white and black people who work and even socialize together and remain quite racist. It is not just that they don’t get that they are racist, they actually say nasty things about the people they go to nightclubs and carpool with.

It reminds me of this principal of honor. It is ok to hate black people as long as you don’t say you hate black people. I look forward to reading this one.

February 25, 2013 at 8:13 pm
(14) craig says:

I agree that eurpeanized judaism and christianity was used as an evil force ,but the bible itself is an instrument of understanding and good.Noah got drunk and woke up hung over and embarassed by what ham ahd seen. seeking revenge he curses hams youngest son caanaan. the sin lies with Noah not ham or canaan.Chritianity did not start in europre but in north and east africa and asia minor.

March 12, 2013 at 3:07 pm
(15) Marvin says:

“the bible itself is an instrument of understanding and good . . . the sin lies with Noah not ham or canaan.Chritianity did not start in europre but in north and east africa and asia minor”

I can’t say I really understand your point, but I certainly hope it isn’t as racist as it sounds. Have you had a “special revelation” that no one else yet understands?

March 13, 2013 at 5:33 am
(16) Grandpa In The East says:

Christianity, in one for or another, one name or another, started long before the alleged birth of Jesus.

Please, Craig, try to improve your spelling.

Grandpa

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