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How religion has been used to promote slavery
Moses led the Israelites out of slavery, but he and other religious giants accepted slavery for others, scholars say.
March 29th, 2012
09:19 AM ET

How religion has been used to promote slavery

By John Blake, CNN

Editor’s note: The CNN documentary 'Slavery's Last Stronghold' airs on CNN International TV March 29, 30, 31 and April 22. Check local listings for times.

(CNN) - Which revered religious figure - Moses, Jesus, or the Prophet Mohammad - spoke out boldly and unambiguously against slavery?

Answer: None of them.

One of these men owned slaves, another created laws to regulate - but not ban – slavery. The third’s chief spokesman even ordered slaves to obey their masters, religious scholars say.

Most modern people of faith see slavery as a great evil. Though the three great Western religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – disagree on many matters, most of their contemporary followers condemn slavery.

Yet there was a time when Jews, Christians and Muslims routinely cited the words and deeds of their founders to justify human bondage, scholars say.

At times, religion was deployed more to promote the spread of slavery than to prevent it.

Read about present-day slavery in Mauritania

“The lesson in all this is we need historical humility,” says Daniel C. Peterson, author of “Muhammad, Prophet of God.” “It’s stunning for us to look back now and say, how can people face themselves in the mirror after doing what they did, but they did.”

But what did the founders of the three great Western religions do? Did they have slaves and did they condemn the practice? Or were they, at least on this issue, squarely men of their times?

The answers to these questions are as murky and contradictory as history itself.

What’s a slave?

Part of the problem is historical context. Most contemporary people think of slaves as people condemned to a lifetime of bondage, working on plantations and being whipped like oxen.

That kind of slavery did exist during the lives of Moses, Jesus and the Prophet Mohammad. Many slaves were prisoners of war; concubines, gladiators, laborers in salt mines. They could be killed, raped and discarded at any moment.

Yet there were layers of slavery in the ancient world. Many slaves would be seen today as indentured servants, or people trying to pay off debts; royal bodyguards and entrepreneurs, historians say.

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Sometimes the slaves became masters. In medieval Egypt, Muslim rulers trained and educated slaves to be their bodyguards. One group of slaves grew so powerful that they overthrew the rulers of Egypt and established their own dynasty, says Ali Asani, a professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Languages and Culture at Harvard University.

“Slavery meant different things in different cultures,” Asani says. “There wasn’t always this sense of powerlessness and oppression. In certain forms, it became an access to power.”

In other forms, it became access to freedom, says John Dominic Crossan, one of world’s leading scholars on the life and times of Jesus.

That was the case in the world of Jesus. The Roman Empire was the dominant power of Jesus’ day, and it survived on the backs of millions of slaves. Yet there was only one mass slave revolt against Rome, which was led by Spartacus, a gladiatorial slave, Crossan says.

The reason there were so few massive slave rebellions against Rome was because some of its slaves had avenues for advancement, dim though they may seem to modern sensibilities.

Slaves could buy their freedom. They ran businesses for their masters or tutored their children. Greek slaves, in particular, were often valued because of their education and culture, he says.

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Roman slavery was cruel and capricious, but not all Romans saw slaves as subhuman.

“One of the most extraordinary aspects of Roman slavery,” says Crossan, author of “The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus became Fiction about Jesus,” was that the Romans ended up with a huge number of slaves who were smarter than their masters.”

The uncomfortable historical record

It’s been said that great religious figures transcend history. They rise above the peculiar customs of their day to show a new path forward.

It’s a matter of debate if Moses, Jesus and the Prophet Mohammad did that with slavery. All three seemed to either ignore or tolerate some forms of slavery, some scholars say.

The parables of Jesus, for example, were full of references to slaves. Terms like “servants” or “stewards” are what we would call slaves today. Yet Jesus doesn’t seem to make any moral judgments about slavery in his parables, Crossan says.

The subject may have been irrelevant to him or his audience, says Crossan, the Jesus scholar. Jesus didn’t own any slaves. Neither did his disciples or the crowds Jesus addressed. They were all too poor and lived under desperate economic circumstances.

“It may well be that the people he talked to were small farmers who would not have the luxury of slaves,” Crossan says. “He [Jesus] doesn’t say anything for or against it.”

Still, Crossan says that he believes that Jesus would have opposed slavery, given the nature of his teachings. Scholars aren’t so certain about Jesus’ most influential disciple, the Apostle Paul.

The man whose writings make up most of the New Testament had to deal with slavery. As Christianity spread through the Roman Empire, many slaves joined the church.

At various parts of the New Testament, Paul seems to accept slavery. He tells slaves to obey their masters. At other times, Paul seems to challenge the morality of slavery. In one New Testament letter, Paul intercedes on behalf of a runaway slave and chides the master for calling himself a Christian and holding a slave.

Crossan, along with some other biblical scholars, says there are actually two versions of Paul in the New Testament: the authentic, “radical” Paul who opposed slavery and a “Pseudo-Paul” inserted into the texts by early church leaders who were afraid of antagonizing Rome.

“It’s one thing to say that Jesus is Lord,” Crossan says. “Now if you’re saying a Christian can’t have slaves, then something must be wrong with slaves. So now you’re attacking the Roman system, which is a slave economy.”

Jesus’ apparent silence on slavery and Paul’s ambiguous statements on the issue had dreadful historical consequences. It helped ensure that slavery would survive well into the 19th century in the U.S., some scholars say.

American Christians who owned slaves had a simple but powerful defense in the run-up to the Civil War. The Old and New Testament sanctioned slavery and, since the Bible is infallible, slavery is part of God’s order, says Mark Noll, author “The Civil War as a Theological Crisis.”

“The defenders of slavery said Jesus condemned quite a few things that were standard in the Old Testament,” Noll says. “He condemned polygamy, violence, easy divorce, but he never condemned slavery.”

Let my people go, but keep the others

Neither did Moses, the founder of Judaism, say other scholars.

There’s no record of Moses owning slaves, but the Mosaic laws permitted and regulated slavery, says Peterson, the author of “Muhammad, Prophet of God” and a religious scholar at Brigham Young University in Utah.

Still, under Mosaic law, a master was encouraged to free slaves and forgive debts after a certain period of time that was called the year of jubilee, Peterson says.

“They were not trying to create a permanent underclass of slaves that went from parents to child and child and grandchildren,” Peterson says of the ancient Israelites.

But how could ancient Israelites sanction any form of slavery given their exodus from Egyptian captivity? Didn’t their God explicitly condemn slavery when he ordered Moses to tell Pharaoh to “let my people go?”

The text is not clear on that question, says Brannon Wheeler, a religious scholar.

He says the Exodus stories suggest that the God of Israel was angry at Pharaoh not for enslaving a group of people, but for unjustly enslaving the “Chosen People” - the people God had promised to give their own homeland.

“In order to make that promise stick, He [God] has to get them out of Egypt,” says Wheeler, director of the Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies at the United States Naval Academy in Maryland.

“It’s not like He [God] says slavery is bad and I want to abolish it.”

The Prophet Mohammad never explicitly condemned slavery, and actually owned slaves, some scholars say.

Yet he recognized the humanity of slaves, teaching followers that freeing slaves was an act of piety. He allowed slaves to buy their freedom and demanded that they should be treated with love and respect, says Asani, author of  “Celebrating Muhammad: Images of the Prophet in Popular Muslim Poetry.”

“He himself did own slaves but he treated them as family,” Asani says. “One called Zayd he treated like an adopted son and one of his wives was a Coptic Christian slave.”

The followers of men like the Prophet Mohammad, though, would take a harsher attitude toward slaves.

By the time of the crusades, Christians and Muslims were enslaving one another by the thousands. They cited their faith as justification, says Robert C. Davis, author of “Holy War and Human Bondage.”

“Religion was the defining principle of slavery—this person is another faith and can be enslaved,” Davis says.

Some church leaders preached that enslaving others was an act of evangelism, Davis says.

“One pope said that the justification for slavery was that it was important for spreading the faith,” Davis says. “Once they were enslaved, they would more readily take to Christianity.”

Those kinds of actions may now seem barbaric, but the texts and stories that were used to justify slavery still exist in the sacred texts of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Few, though, would quote those scriptures today, and many don’t even know they exist.

“We shouldn’t be surprised,” says Jonathan Brockopp, a religion professor at Pennsylvania State University. “Religions redefine themselves and people draw on different stories and underplay other stories. This happens constantly.”

It happened with slavery, and, who knows, perhaps it’s happening again in our time. There may be a religious practice accepted today that future generations will look upon and ask the same question we ask about people who enslaved others in the name of God:

How could they?

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Africa • Belief • Bible • Books • Christianity • Church and state • Egypt • History • Islam • Islamic law • Islamic law • Israel • Jesus • Moses • Muslim • Uncategorized

soundoff (3,207 Responses)
  1. pepperoni-dinosaur-pizza

    More indication that those ancient 'religious' texts were thought up by men, not some omni-potent, benevolent supernatural creature.

    I'm a creationist: I believe that man created god.

    March 29, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  2. THE TRUTH OF ISLAM

    This was the justice of Umar THE COMPANION OF THE PROPHET MUHAMED PBUH, and that was his living statement, “When did you enslave people, and their mothers have given birth to them as free-men!?”

    March 29, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  3. Phil

    As Gandhi said, "I like you're Christ. I don't like your Christians. You're Christians are so unlike your Christ."

    March 29, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • tacc2

      "Dear Jesus, please save me from your followers."

      March 29, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  4. Zaximus42

    booboo. I expanded way beyond what was taught. Observation is simply observation not someone teaching. Analysis is not what's being taught either but a logical thought process. Pleae re-read previous comment again.

    March 29, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  5. THE LIGHTS OF ISLAM

    This was the justice of Umar THE COMPANION OF THE PROPHET MUHAMED PBUH, and that was his living statement, “When did you enslave people, and their mothers have given birth to them as free-men!?”

    March 29, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • just sayin

      Islam is an idolatrous cult

      March 29, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • just stay in

      is an idolatrous cult.

      It's a truism. Don't think too hard about it.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • just stay in

      {insert the name of any religion here} is an idolatrous cult.

      It's a truism. Don't think too hard about it.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  6. Diane

    Aren't most of us slaves to religion anyway?????? Especially in the U.S. many people (Churches) take advantage of the "Freedom of Religion" but what about "FREEDOM OF MIND" THE U.S. HAS AN ABUNDANT RELIGIOUS MIND CONTROL CULTS WHO TAKE EVERYTHING FROM A PERSON WHO SINCERELY LOVES GOD. SHOULDN'T THERE BE A LAW AGAINST THAT!!!! RELIGION IS BIG BUSINESS AND WHAT COMES AROUND GOES AROUND. BE WARE!!!!

    March 29, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  7. Ron

    What about Hindus?? They are the only ones keeping slaves today.

    March 29, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • huh

      The artilce was about western religions. And I'm pretty sure that other religions exist that have slaves.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Zaximus42

      Nope. Everyone that buys chinese products indirectly supports slavery. Lot's of god fearing men go to asian "massage" parlors too. That's supporting an even worse form of slavery.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • Mike

      Hindus don't have slave not now and ever.
      Every body is part and parcel of the GOD him self.
      Social injustices may be there but they are not theologically supported one. It's is hard to understand for someone who don't understand spirituality. People have invested life time to understand it and it has 5000 years effort behind it. Also an atheist performing good duties is also qualifies as good hindu. As to be hindu it is not pre requisite to become believer there are many atheist theologies are supported in hinduism.

      March 29, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  8. AtheistDude

    when you think about it all religion does is enslave the mind of its followers!

    March 29, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  9. higgsboson

    all the abrahamic religions have been and continue to be disasters for mankind...they are absolute embarrassments

    March 29, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Kevin

      I would venture to say that the Inquistion, Crusades, Religious terrorism, and other associated religious wars and attacks have been responsible for 4% of all murders in history. The remaining 96%? People practicing the opposite of what religion had taught them.

      Oh and religious charities? VAST majority of help to 3d world countries comes from religious charities. It's those atheist charities whose "check is in the mail".

      March 29, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • higgsboson

      kevin. i do agree that atheists don't directly contribute as much as the religious do (shame on us)...however, they generally tend to vote for politicians and policies that benefit developing countries therefor indirectly "contributing" thru taxes...UN data indicate that the most highly secular countries contribute a higher percentage of their budgets to developing nations than do religious countries

      March 29, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  10. awasis

    Anyone who believes in these myths are slaves, slaves to delusions.

    March 29, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • CK

      Easily led slaves. Easily led slaves with a vote. A danger to everyone's freedom.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  11. sholome

    just wondering why you call Muhammad "The Prophet". "Moses, Jesus, or the Prophet Muhammad"

    Only Muslims believe that Muhammad was a prophet, Muslims and christians believe Jesus was a prophet while muslims christians and Jews believe Moses was a prophet.

    March 29, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Moshe

      Very well said!

      March 29, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • saar

      Religion has brought us nothing than pain, misery, death, unjustice, unwilling to move foward and preventing progress. Religion is the worst invention in history and has killed billions around the world. It must be stopped. An athiest world will save us, a religious world has, so far, only destroyed us.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • Sammy

      Actually, you are wrong. Muslims believe that Moses is prophet. Jesus is a prophet and so is Muhammed (PBUH). But christians believe that Jesus is "God" or "Son of God". If they believe jesus is a prophet, they are then muslims.

      March 29, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • Looter

      Moses and Jesus were prophets. When Prophet Muhammed came and completed God's religion which passed from Adam through Jesus Prophet Muhammed became the prophet of the rest of time. Now Jews and Christians can claim many other things there are atheists who say none of this is true. The fact is all religion points to one true supreme being... who calls that supreme being what is up to them The subject here is Slavery, Prophet Muhammed shown us that freeing slaves erases the sins one committed and it helped a lot of slaves to be freed in that time. There are so called Muslims even this day who keeps slaves.. like Bernard Shaw said.. "Islam is the best religion but with the worst followers"

      March 29, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • Mark Hartley

      Actually, Christians don't believe that Jesus was a prophet. They believe that Jesus was, and is, the image of the invisible God and that all things were created by him and for him. He was not a profit of God. He is God made incarnate. That is a defining difference between Christianity and all other religions including Islam and Judaism.

      March 29, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • John

      To clarify, Muslims believe Moses and Jesus were false prophets, and Christians believe Moses was a false prophet and don't even recognize Mohammed as any kind of prophet.

      March 29, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  12. E0F0G0

    Of course, an atheist would never be able to be a slavemonger. Utterly impossible. Completely. Utterly. Religion really should be squashed. Kill them all. Better yet, ensl–...oh.

    March 29, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • WMoonFox

      I honestly think that's why so many people are seeing this argument in a negative light: they are misinterpreting the assertion that religion has been used to justify atrocities as an assertion that the non-religious are somehow innocent. This was not implied, as far as I can tell.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Kevin

      WMoon – clearly the public is using this article as a reason to get mad at religion. It's a win-win for CNN.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • TR6

      WMoonFox:” they are misinterpreting the assertion that religion has been used to justify atrocities as an assertion that the non-religious are somehow innocent. “

      So how many historic innocents are there of non-religious people burning others at the stake for what they believe? Of course “religion has been used to justify atrocities”

      March 29, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • WMoonFox

      Well, most of what I see from "the public" - in the form of these posts - consists of objectively baseless backlash against a perceived slight. Given that, I would say "the public" is using the article to get mad at the non-religious, rather than at the religious. If indeed the intent was to stir up angst against religion, then I believe the author has failed, as a majority of people prone to such feelings were already aware of these facts.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • CK

      Who here is arguing that "true" atheist would have ever owned a slave? Religion bends society, but society also bends religion, and it was society that mandated that slavery was OK for so long.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • aepervius

      Atheist don't pretend to be the moral compass, the guiding light, and to direct ethic. Religion do pretend exactely that. But if they are not better atb moral or ethic than atheist, which is what your reply seems to imply indirectely by pretending atheistare no better, then they lose that pedestral and are no better than anybody else on the moral pedestral.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • huh

      TR6 – I believe the "they" to whom WMoon is referring are the people who think this article was written to bash religion and prove that non-religious people are better. I agree with Moon that that is not the purpose of this articel. It does not pass judgement on religion, merely states how the western religions interpreted slavery through the years.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • WMoonFox

      TR6: The non-religious have much to answer for, historically speaking. I am non-religious, and I can admit that. People make terrible people, and will use anything, including religion, to justify their ambitions.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • BBK

      Atheists don't necessarily believers burn at the stake. Too much work. Modern ones used guillotines, gulags and bullets. Se French Revolution, Bolshevik Revolution, Mexican Civil War, for starters. Communism has killed more people than all religions combined, and slavery existed throughout the world, whether religious or not. It was the RELIGIOUS abolition movement that finally ended it, an atheist abolition movement did not exist.

      And what is with listing Islam as a "Western" religion? It is no more Western than Hinduism.

      March 29, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  13. Willie

    Religion is slavery. One becomes a slave to the whims of an imaginary god that others can manipulate.

    March 29, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Kevin

      However, you are only a slave to satisfying your personal desires in your isolated world. Religion helps some people, obviously not you – so you should prob leave it alone, be happy. Religion also helps countless people through this thing called charity. Just don't think you should be mocking others' means to happiness, that's all.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • huh

      Kevin – got no problem with others using religion as a means to happiness as long as they don't use it to justify civil laws that infringe upon my rights.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • BobbyTN

      Kevin
      Religion is intended to have a positive effect on people, but sometimes it has a negative effect, usually when people "overdose" on it, but sometimes not. Perhaps pastors should read the dangers of using religion like they do prescription drugs. Things like "may cause judgmental att.itude", or "may cause bigoted behavior." Not everyone is affected like this, but shouldn't those who are be warned to lay off religion?

      March 29, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  14. Pipe-Dreamer

    Please and for Godly sakedness raise one's children righteously lest you want the tincture of desolations' inequities to befall them. Teach them about your parental hell's past and then maybe just maybe they will stay away from hell's kitchen.

    March 29, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  15. Bogus

    lies lies lies...bondage.or true freedom...its true freedom for me...I don't need to be like this phony world and alwaysl dim and evil...be real God is above this world and what you call bondage is not bondage its moral excellence...its actually acting right...and blending Christianity into this subject is stupid...but religion is not of God...God is above the word religion...and as far as I'm concerned I won't go deep into this subject...but stop being so slow to understand God created everything you see and don't see you either accept it or you don't..if you don't than move on...because obviously the believer has a relationship with God...so don't write an article about something that takes a person a lifetime to grasp and keep. Don't write an article that's just spoils information that can send some into an uproar..considering some people who just may lack some sort of sense...but all in all.. don't drag God into this dump called cnn.com

    March 29, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Bogus,,, FREEDOM is nothing but a fallacy of language used to usurp those slaves who demand a hypnotic utopian rationalism in with which to assume their Life's sustanence being but a parlored trickery of seditioned and quagmired entropies.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 29, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • tacc2

      I'm sorry to inform you, but it's been scientifically proven in double blind studies that prayer has ABSOLUTELY no measurable effect. I take it you're probably not much for science and logic though.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • awasis

      Really? What changes when a prayer goes unanswered? What should change is people's minds about praying to some make believe god.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • just sayin

      Science is a gift God gave to mankind, logic would tell an intelligent person God is.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • TR6

      If prayer had any effect the pope would not need a BULLIT PROOF pope mobile

      March 29, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • tacc2

      just sayin: I have a magical god who lives in the tip of my penis. He only shows himself to true believers. But, you'll have to answer to him when you die even if you don't believe. I also have holy writings which detail my phallic god's miracles (He can bring forth life where there was none before!). Now, if we were to look at this logically, there is exactly the same amount of evidence for the existence of my penis god as there is for your god. So, will you become a follower of my penis? Probably not. Even though your interpretation of logic would suggest he must exist.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • Jesus

      Lying is a sin, you've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.! ........

      March 29, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  17. Justin Roth

    The Hebrew Bible's interpretation of "slavery" is more like what we today would call "indentured servitude". As pointed out in this article, they would be freed after a number of years. But the Hebrew Bible gives rules and laws about many things which would today be considered unacceptable, or at least inapplicable. For instance, Abraham, Jacob and King Solomon all had several wives at once. This practice was banned about a thousand years ago by one Rabbi Gershom. The practice of animal sacrifice ended with the destruction of the second Jewish Temple. And the Torah even states certain behaviors for which the penalty was death, like not observing the Sabbath, and if a woman is not a virgin on her wedding day. There are many laws expounded in the Hebrew Bible which would offend most people in today's society. But, we are talking about ancient times here, so they would not have viewed things the way people in modern society do today.

    March 29, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • TR6

      “The Hebrew Bible's interpretation of "slavery" is more like what we today would call "indentured servitude". As pointed out in this article, they would be freed after a number of years”

      The bible only says to let HEBREW slaves go free after 6 years. If you’re not Hebrew your stuck for life. It also says you can beat them as hard and as much as you want just as long as it doesn’t actually kill them

      March 29, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  18. THE JUSTICE OF ISLAM

    This was the justice of Umar THE COMPANION OF THE PROPHET MUHAMED PBUH, and that was his living statement, “When did you enslave people, and their mothers have given birth to them as free-men!?”

    March 29, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  19. mike w

    I don't know why this should surprise anyone. Adults who still have imaginary friends are foolish and dangerous.

    March 29, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Kevin

      Other dangerous people include those who will take advantage of others (slavery), because they don't believe in a higher power. Shameful.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • tacc2

      Kevin: You don't need god to know it's wrong to enslave people. Would you like to be enslaved? No. Me either. Hence, the only logical thing to do is to agree not to enslave each other. No gods required. If your only reason not to enslave your fellow humans is some imaginary god's wrath after you die, you've got some serious problems.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Kevin

      Right – but the purpose of this article is to tie in religion with slavery to get people angry with religion. It's fine, religion has a sordid history in not doing more to condemn slavery. But those without beliefs in a higher power, have just as bad a history. Just want to make sure that's clear. This was a scourge on humanity, by humanity, not as a tenet of religion.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • TR6

      Kevin:” It's fine, religion has a sordid history in not doing more to condemn slavery. But those without beliefs in a higher power, have just as bad a history.”

      I CALL BS ON YOU. Hitler’s army (the ones that actually carried out the atrocities) was made up of Christians. Communism is just another dogmatic religion. Go ahead, name all the atrocities done in the name of atheism

      March 29, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • BBK

      tacc2:

      Actually, you do. If there is no God, no final justice, no afterlife, then by what logic is it "wrong" to do anything? It may be more convenient to do certain things, it may be risky to do certain other things, but if you have enough power, money, influence to get away with something, there is no logical basis to say it is wrong. In fact, the whole justification for slavery was "might makes right," a perfectly atheistic philosophy. The atheist needs no moral justification – he can do anything, simply because he can.

      March 29, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • BBK

      TR6, I have to call BS on you. HItler's army (the one's that carried out the atrocities) was made up of humans. Therefore, ALL humans are at fault. Wait...that doesn't work. Oh yeah, you forgot to mention they carried out those atrocities in the name of NAZISM, not Christianity (in case you forgot, they carried it out against Jews and Christians, and Jews and Christians also fought against them, so you prove nothing).

      Communism is a religion, therefore it doesn't count as atheist? Talk about BS. Atheism is also a religion by those standards. So any examples you link to "religion" include atheism. See how easy that is. And the Mexican Civil war was explicitly an atheistic government trying to rid the counrty of theists.

      March 29, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • BBK

      TR6, you also forgot to read your Nietzsche – an explicitly atheistic philosopher (of "God is dead" fame) whom the Nazis used to justify their genocidal activities.

      March 29, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  20. Wooland Hills

    We have the power to change the world. Let's first work on meeting the basic needs of all water. There are people in this world don't have access to it. I dont think any religion is against saving lives.

    March 29, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.