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. jimtanker

    Why isnt one of the ten commandments, "Thou shalt not own another person"?

    March 29, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • momoya

      Because slavery was commonplace in the society/culture in which the ten commandments were written..

      March 29, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Butch

      Even better, thou shalt not own anything! I doesn't make sense to privately own property.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • William Demuth

      Becase it would make to much sense.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • AGuest9

      No major "public works projects" of that period would have ever been accomplished.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • c

      It is THOU SHALT NOT COVET. period

      March 29, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Hawk

      God was too busy making multiple commandments banning the worship of other gods. He always seems to go into a tizzy about that. You would think that if he were the only actual deity in existence, he wouldn't be so insecure.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Hikerstud

      because we are all slaves either willing to a loving and returning King Christ the Lord or slaves to selfish and corrupt earthly ruler Satan who blinds humans to these facts and decieves us into thinking we know what's best. My eyes are open and the truth has set me free from the bondage of my selfish nature.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Jack

      There is that command in the Ten Commandments. 'You shall not steal' is primarily talking about 'people-stealing'.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Miss Anthrope

      Because god felt it more important to waste the first 4 on his own ego.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Jack

      Bear in mind we moderns have one of the worst forms of slavery ever created. Prison.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  2. momoya

    Religious texts are famous for allowing adherents rights that it does not provide to outsiders.. The christian faith uses the model of fiefdom urging all believers to act as slaves for the Lord, so it's no wonder that westward expansion used slavery as a mechanism for gathering land and wealth.. "King/servants; master/slave" rhetoric isn't just WITHIN the bible, it's the only dynamic that it really offers.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Butch

      Tell it like it is Brother, or Sister. (Can I say "Brother" or "Sister") Is it true that all of that cotton in the south during the time of The Civil War, was owned by Northern Yankees, and investers?
      And what about "Dino" from the "Flinstones"? What on earth will we call him: SPOT, FIDO, DOG, PET??????

      March 29, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • RFBJR

      Yes, I am a slave to Christ. However, it is by choice. Are you not a slave? It is the Christian belief that you choose to be a slave of Christ or you are automatically a slave to sin and death. You can’t choose it, it is inherited at birth.

      Who would not want to serve a perfect master? You can certainly choose to serve yourself, however that does not make you free.

      I serve my Master and he makes me free; free from sin; free from condemnation; free from death. Though my flesh is subject to sin, condemnation and death, my spirit is free.

      This life is simply a whiff of time; however the spirit goes on everlasting. I choose to be a slave in this time; however my spirit, the inner man, will be free forever.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Voice of Reason


      You are deaf, blind and delusional, why don't you just go away now and get it over with, there's nothing here for you?

      March 29, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Brad1

      @RFBJR How has this idea not gone down as some of the dumbest crap ever thought up. Do you actually think about the stuff you believe? Choose to be a slave? Its so scary that people with these beliefs get to make important decisions in life.

      March 29, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Give it a rest. If you don't believe in the Lord, then don't ridicule those who do.

      @RFBJR: Amen. well said. Of course, secular minded people cannot understand heavenly things due to their carnal nature. But i know exactly where you're coming from.

      April 1, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  3. JohnQuest


    Exodus 21:7-11 (sells daughter)
    Exodus 21:20-21 (Beating slaves)

    March 29, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • mr bible

      the english translation uses "slave". A closer translation from the hebrew "avodah" is "servant". Translaters put their own interpretation on the work that is not necessarily the meaning of the original.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      mr bible, that might be true but it does not change anything, according to the text it is acceptable to sell your daughter into bondage and to beat your slave\servant

      March 29, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • Jack

      Congratulations. Get rid of Exodus 21:7-11 ('sells' daughter) and you just got rid of the right of all woman (and men) to divorce their spouses for neglect (and abuse). Get rid of Exodus 21:20-21 and you get rid of the prime scripture that establishes freeman and slave as equal under the eyes of the law.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  4. Voice of Reason

    This whole "interpretation" of ancient words in the bible is seen differently by different people. Intellectually it is nothing more than nonsensical-mysticism-drivel, historically it is chocked-filled with discrepancies, morally it is repulsive but emotionally it is a treasure trove for the weak minded.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Cindy Marsh

      Could not have said it better myself.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • WASP

      @voice: you hear that? it's a standing ovation. (applauding)

      March 29, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Marly

      OUR government and OUR children. Please do not speak for me. While you may object to the evolution of man, some of mans earlier creations have brought us to a better place and religion, as in every creation of man, has its faults but it also has its benefits. But I have to LOL...what would you replace it with that will be better? Governments who stockpile bombs, keep armies, tell us what we can do and when? Great trade-off. Perhaps our forefathers saw a balance was better than to have no balance at all? I suppose those countries that have outlawed religion would be a better environment for our government and children?

      March 29, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • Kafir

      He didn't say anything about outlawing religion.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      "OUR government and OUR children. Please do not speak for me. While you may object to the evolution of man, some of mans earlier creations have brought us to a better place and religion, as in every creation of man, has its faults but it also has its benefits. But I have to LOL...what would you replace it with that will be better? Governments who stockpile bombs, keep armies, tell us what we can do and when? Great trade-off. Perhaps our forefathers saw a balance was better than to have no balance at all? I suppose those countries that have outlawed religion would be a better environment for our government and children?"

      You are a perfect example of someone who speaks without first thinking. If you would only educate yourself on the subject of religion with an open mind you would see the agenda they propose. Talk about control? I guess you really don't have the capacity to think for yourself.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Well alrighty then. Are we done ranting like a foolish one? You use the word "ancient" as if every tick of time off the calendar means that man grows a little smarter than God. What law is that? If you believe that man becomes smarter and greater than God over time (thus your silly "ancient" comment), then so be it. I respect your folly, and you respect mine.

      April 1, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • Kafir

      Except that, lacking any gods, its a moot point, since there's nothing up there to be "smarter than", except ourselves.

      April 2, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  5. Jim

    Of all the writers and authors this man chooses Crossan to espouse his opinion about Christ and decides to use pro islamic writers to talk about Mohammad.

    Now that clearly exposes Blake for who he really is a 'HYPOCRITE' and a coward.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Noos

      You know who is a real hypocrite...you Jim. Please educate yourself and put the self hate aside because its making you look like an ugly person. This article was written beautifully and explained every religions part in slavery. Now go and pick up a book and READ! I hope it opens up your mind but I highly doubt it.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Larry

      Jim-Crossan lives in a fantasy far removed from truth and only a coward will quote Crossan as an authority on Biblical interpretation. Steward means slave???

      March 29, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • LetsThink123

      I agree with Jim's point about the pro-islamic bias in this article. The article says that Muhammed respected and demanded respect from his slaves. What they fail to tell u is that Muhammed after killing and raiding people in villages, FORCED them by the sword to convert to islam or die. When he raided the Jews for instance (who surrendered and did not put up a fight), he killed the jewish tribe leader in front of his 2 daughters, then had s-e-x with them that same day in his tent (read r-a-p-e). Nowhere in the quran does it say that slaves will consent to s-e-x. Muhammed had s-e-x with his slaves without consent which amounts to r-a-p-e. So much for Muhammed respecting slaves (and women for that matter).

      March 29, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  6. JA

    Thanks Mr. Blake, its actually nice to see that someone around here knows the difference between slavery and servanthood.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  7. Colin

    The Bible has, in total, about 600 commandments scattered through it, 99% of which are very specific to Middle Eastern farming and fishing life; such as not mixing crops, letting land lay fallow, leaving some crops for the poor, and not eating shellfish or anything cloven. Even the well known 10 Commandments, such as “thou shalt not kill”, whilst of wider application, are still relevant to an agrarian, late Iron Age Middle Eastern society.

    None of the other thousands of human societies get a mention in the Bible, including all those in Sub-Saharan Africa, India, China, all of North and South America, Australia or Europe. For a god that supposedly made the whole thing, the Christian god certainly seemed obsesssed with the Jews, less than 1% of “his” people at the time.

    Hmmmm, did God make the Jews or did the Jews make God?

    March 29, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • PeterVN

      Great, well-made point, Colin.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Thinker23

      Considering that the single Commandment you've mentioned IS NOT in the Bible you're not well versed in this subject, are you? You see, THERE IS NO "thou shall not kill" commandment in the Bible. There is "Thou shall not MURDER". There is a BIG difference between KILLING (that may happen by accident) that MURDER (that is always DELIBERATE).

      March 29, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • PeterVN

      Thinker23, neither of the words you stated is in said commandments. They weren't written in English!

      However, regardless of your preferred translation, out of the dozens, methinks Colin's understanding of the bible is better than yours.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • W247

      So we have the old testament that talks about the history of the Jewish people, the Mosiac Laws, the Covenants and the prophecy's that point to the coming of Christ Jesus. Then you have the new testament that speaks to both the Jewish believers and the gentiles. So I would think, that the Lord is speaking to everyone.

      March 29, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  8. Levi

    John Blake-According to you, Moses did not boldly speak out against slavery.Can you enlighten us as to what Moses meant by

    Let my people go.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • Colin

      He made this point in the article itslef. Read it.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Brad

      Considering history subsequent to Moses I'd say he was using a modern principle: God grant mercy for me, justice for others.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • JohnQuest

      Levi, that's easy, He was only referring to Hebrew slaves not All slaves, do you really think that all slaves were Hebrews? The Egyptians held many people as slaves. Your God did not call for any of them to be released, I wonder why? Consider this: Jews were about half the number killed in Nazi concentration camps of WWII but they appear to be 100% of the people we think about when that horrible time is considered.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  9. cworr

    This is a loaded discussion and taken completely out of context of history. If you look back and judge people by our standards, you can find all sorts of fault everywhere. Christianity and the Bible do not advocate slavery. These people simply recognized its existence in the context of the time. Jesus' command for slaves to be good slaves was not an endorsement of slavery, but a call for each and every individual to be good and right in their actions. At the same time, he told slave masters the same thing. Also, in context, we still have a form of slavery today. Slavery in the middle east 2000 years ago was not deep South racial enslavement that we associate the term with. When people became indebted, the only thing they had left was their lives and they became slaves. This was often a temporary arrangement. By those standards, those today who file bankruptcy or are deeply indebted would be considered slaves or committed to slavery if not for our bankruptcy laws. Many of Americas first colonists came from debtors prisons in Europe. So despite the fun bashing of Christians, our religious texts do not advocate slavery nor have they ever.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • JohnQuest

      cworr, I'm not certain what your point is? Are you saying that it is acceptable for a person to be held in bondage for defaulting on a car note, mortgage, student loan or some other debt now in 2012? If you think it's wrong now, where did you get the idea that it is wrong, certainly not the Bible? If it is wrong now to own another person, what made it right then?

      I think the author is saying that slavery is wrong now and it was wrong then. Do you not agree that Slavery is immoral and the acceptance of it by the writers of the Bible does call their Morality into question?

      March 29, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Indentured servitude to pay off debts was an option reserved only for fellow Hebrews.
      "If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom."
      – Exodus 21:2

      Foreigners and heathens were sub-human chattel.
      "However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way."
      Leviticus 25:44-46

      March 29, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • JA

      I think I understand where cworr is coming from. Even though Jesus did not speak out against slavery, he did say "Give unto Ceasar what is Ceasar's". If you have a debt to pay, you must pay and most civilians back then of course werent made of money, but were willing to work off their debt.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • William Demuth

      Liar or illiterate? Which is it?

      A basic glance at the book proves you a mad man!

      "When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property."

      Your faith is a bigots paradise, and you sir are an idiot.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • Nii

      JOHNQUEST the writer explained slavery in the time of Christ did you understand it. Just as you have not gone on an Abolition protest you can't expect Christ or Moses to. Most Westerners are intelligent not wise. That is why u r so easy to swindle with a mere blogpost.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • JohnQuest

      Nii, I think I understand what the writer is saying but my question is, do you thing Slavery is right or wrong? If you think is is wrong where did that idea come from?

      I don't see how it came from the Bible so where did we get the idea that Slavery is immoral?

      My point is, it does not matter what's in the Bible we do not get our Morals from the Bible.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Nii

      I don't believe you understood the meaning of the words "obsessed" and "Jew". Were the founding fathers making a Consti.tution for the 13 colonies or the 50 states. Stringing words together is nice if u don't know what they mean. The Romans didnt know u will use their laws in USA were they obsessed

      March 29, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • al

      he said he wanted them to be good slaves as oppose to just be good. Big difference. To be a good master is an endosement of slavery.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Nii

      JOHNQUEST I saw the two verses u gave me but I asked for a single commandment if u understood me. Charitable love allows you to understand while pride blinds. Most types of slavery is wrong since the Bible forbids kidnapping people into slavery on pain of death. Imprisonment is not sanctioned either

      March 29, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Thinker23

      JohnQuest... If the Bible did not explicitly condemned slavery is does not mean that "we do not take our moral from the Bible". It only means that NOT EVERYTHING in our moral code came from the Bible. Maybe, "only" 99.9% did.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      Thinker23, It also could mean that we only accept the Morals we already agree with.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Tom

      Thinker, maybe you want to rework that last statement a bit. It is pretty hard to interpret what you are trying to say.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      Thinker23, what Morals do you think we get from the Bible exclusively? I think none.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • PeterVN

      William Demuth's quote above pretty much nails it.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Nii

      Even then the Roman Empire only tolerated Christianity. It was Justinian Caesar I who made the Emperor a Christian empire. I don't think while dodging lions and secret police they were thinking about pacifying the government. They fought 2 end their discrimination like African slaves of the Americas

      March 29, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  10. Common Sense

    Enslaving lesser primates for manual labor is wrong?

    March 29, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I tried to force a lemur to clean my bathroom, but it just couldn't wield the toilet brush.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • al

      a lemur is not a primate. primates are mammals that stand upright. still it is ok to use horses and oxen to perform work for man. Just have to take good care of them.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Kingdom: Animalia
      Phylum: Chordata
      Class: Mammalia
      Order: PRIMATES
      Family: Lemuridae
      Genus: Lemur

      Lemurs are primates.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Tom

      al: you just got PWNED by Doc.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  11. Nii

    The article fails to mention for instance that there are still socially acceptable forms of slavery like colonialism and imprisonment and less acceptable ones like pimping and labour trafficking.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • waitasec

      you forgot to mention the bible condones beating a slave within an inch of their life and the selling off of their daughters...
      nice logic you got there.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Nii

      The funny thing is that Jesus in the particular language of the Greeks talked about slaves, tenant farmers, servants and stewards. A steward was going to be fired and wriggled his way out. If all slaves wud be fired wudn't every slave just misbehave 4 freedom's sake. I know media space is expensive.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Nii

      WAITASEC-I know the Mosaic Law like the back of my hand. Show me where it says," thou shalt beat your slave nearly to death if they have daughters and sell the daughters". Selective editing and then you attack me for it? Isaiah condemned slavery. He is the second greatest prophet, did you know that?

      March 29, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Nii

      Abraham's slave was going to inherit him till his son Ishmael was born, did you know this? The slavery in the Western Hemisphere was more wickedness than slavery n that is why elements in de Church stood up n condemned it n got it abolished. Sleeping with a slave girl made her ur wife in de OT.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • hippypoet

      NII IS A WASTE OF TIME...it has nothing to add to any conversation but wasted space between those of true note. seek the space between NII'S posts and there you will find more truth then anything Nii could puke up for you.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • William Demuth

      Yes many things that are evil are still acceptable because of brainwashed Christians.

      War, capital punishment, bigotry, racial oppression

      I could go on all day

      March 29, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Nii

      HIPPY are u still smarting from the hiding I gave you yesterday? Don't worry understanding the Bible is simple. Just learn to love your neighbor as yourself( different from loving your neighbor). Then when you read it the sense comes to you. You don't have to be Christian just charitable.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Nii

      William, bigotry u say?

      March 29, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • William Demuth


      You did read the post right?

      I guess owning another human seems somehow not bigotry in your eyes?

      March 29, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • bspurloc

      not to mention the priest to altar boy slavery thing.....

      March 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  12. PrimeNumber

    A brief lesson from Texas history: Before Tejas became a state, Mexico encouraged Americans to settle in northern Mexico. Settlers would be given free land on certain conditions. One condition was that the settlers become Catholic (Mexico was a Catholic country built on Catholic principles. The stipulation to become Catholic is what we call naturalization). Another condition is that the settlers BRING NO SLAVES. CATHOLIC Mexico and Spain had outlawed slavery before the US got around to it.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • PeterVN

      However, this CATHOLIC church that you speak of has its own history of cruelty. There is some debate as to precisely when that church became opposed to slavery, but at one point it was tolerated by the Catholic powers.

      The Catholic church also has spent centuries suppressing science and oppressing women. Sadly, it has carried on both into the present day.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Excellent points.

      @Peter: Sounds like you're relying on anti-clerical historians to tell you the "truth" about their arch enemy, the Church. Does that make any sense to you?

      April 1, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
  13. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    March 29, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • waitasec

      no it doesn't

      March 29, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • stop the spam already

      Can't CNN add some feature to the comment section that will automatically block this unrelated message that shows up on every single opinion page?

      March 29, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • 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 10:40 am |
    • just sayin

      wait another second
      Yes it does

      March 29, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • cnn


      March 29, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • Really?

      "wait another second
      Yes it does"

      Oops second over still proven to be a waste of time.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • just sayin

      God made another second
      Yes it does

      March 29, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • just sayin

      Truth is always relevant. Truth is never spam

      March 29, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Really?

      "God made another second
      Yes it does"

      Thanks for continuing to prove prayers are a waste of time every second.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Jesus

      "Truth is always relevant. Truth is never spam"

      Your truth has been proven false and that you are a LIAR!

      March 29, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • just sayin

      Without prayer a second might cease to be. Prayer is the most effective use of time. Pray without ceasing every second of every minute of every hour

      March 29, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • just sayin

      Pray for pants that can hold up to that much prayer

      March 29, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Really?

      "Without prayer a second might cease to be. Prayer is the most effective use of time. Pray without ceasing every second of every minute of every hour" = accomplishes nothing.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Brad1

      Everyone just report this comment as abuse and maybe a moderator will ban the user for being a non-contributing troll.

      March 29, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
  14. gatordile

    Jesus' main mission was to correct our relationship with God. Freeing slaves in this physical world wasn't a deep enough issue for Him. Jesus sough to free the sins of eternal bondage. Jesus did actually talk about eternal slavery. In John 8:34-36 we read: "Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." So Jesus did indeed care for those who were enslaved. He just just beyond physical bondage and sought our hearts first.

    March 29, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • myweightinwords

      I'm sorry...it wasn't deep enough?

      Are you serious?

      March 29, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • mrklrsn

      So, only Israels suffering was deep enough to merit Gods attention?

      March 29, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • gatordile

      myweightinwords...yes, physical slavery wasn't as bad to Jesus Christ as was slavery to sin. He wanted to free our hearts first. Am I saying that slavery in general (at least how we see it today) was a good thing...no. I'm saying that if you have two major illnesses and one will kill you and the other won't, I hope you are going to try and treat the more severe illness first. Ex. You can live without legs but if your heart isn't pumping blood it really doesn't matter if your legs work or not.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Brother Maynard

      gatordile sez:
      "So Jesus did indeed care for those who were enslaved. He just just beyond physical bondage and sought our hearts first."
      Sounds like the arguement that the slave ownes marketed to their slaves.
      Additionally, what kind of a supreme being IS jesus? I mean c'mon!!! "Oh don't worry about being whipped and beaten within an inch of your life ... your heart is free"
      Some "god" ... bleh!

      March 29, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • W247

      Gatordile – thank you for that insight!

      March 29, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  15. Lance

    Half the story...
    While what is said is true, the article fails to look beyond it's slam against religion. First Jesus came to give freedom in our hearts. One could be a slave, flight attendant or even work for a corporation and still have freedom. Jn 10:10 says he came to give life. As well, the article fails to mention that the end of slavery in America was proceeded by pastors in the pulpit in both the North and South who preached both a strong message of Christ's ownership of us in that we don't live for ourselves but a higher cause. If you research the likes of Charles Finney, the founder of Overland College you find that he laid the seeds to the anti-slavery moment during the 1800's There were many sermons giving reference that God is not a respecter of persons.

    March 29, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Kafir

      So.... reintroduce slavery? because it's not a big deal?

      March 29, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Lance

      Nope, Just stop blaming the church... Some of us have been working working at the problems for years

      March 29, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  16. RMKH

    This is stupid.

    March 29, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • PeterVN

      Apt description of religion, RMKH.

      March 29, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  17. hippypoet

    The bible makes nearly all evil things ok but in A CERTAIN LIGHT! LOL.... the bible promotes evil – done... simple, true, and easier to type then a whole article. 🙂

    March 29, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • 87coog


      March 29, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • PrimeNumber

      Correction required, hippy; People with evil intentions will MISUSE the Bible to promote evil. This doesn't sound like a hard distinction to understand. Another example: Margaret Sanger wanted to use Darwin's ideas to eliminate the impoverished masses. But evolution would be even easier to use than the Bible to justify evil. After all, don't we see slavery and mass "murder" in nature?

      March 29, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • PeterVN

      PrimeNumber, evolution is not claiming to be a moral guide. However, please do consider this about your bible:

      How is it that this apparent divine (or divinely inspired book, depending on which Christian one listens to) is so susceptible to different interpretations? Wildly different, in fact; many readers find instructions for murder and other violence in it, and for some it justifies hate and bigotry, while others claim it to be promoting peace and love. Don't you think that if a god had a hand in it, such a powerful creature would do a better job of making sure that such an important message could not be so open to such varying interpretations?

      Personally, I find the above problem to be one of several good reasons why I do not believe in the Christian god, and why I think the bible is 100% man-made, as is the god that it speaks of. Don't you have similar questions?

      March 29, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • hippypoet


      calling me an idiot is a very clear lack of argument – have you nothing to say or are you just too stupid to form your own opionions?

      @ prime – required? where would that fit in to my post... it would take the word "make" and turn it into "required" and then it makes no sense as to my meaning.
      dude, the bible promotes evil – yes it is used by evil people, but the bible still promotes the use of evil in evil ways for evil ends by evil people! And no we don't see mass murder in nature,but as for slavery – thats a different story – read up on the slaver ants...very cool! But nothing reaching the size and destruction of man towards our own species...that is entirely our doing and is due to our advancements which is only possible thru the evolution of our minds to conceive of such things.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  18. Doc Vestibule

    The abhorrence with which most modern Christians view slavery should serve to drive home the reality of moral relativism.

    March 29, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • PeterVN

      "should". Indeed. I'd guess that most who get that point are no longer Christians.

      March 29, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • Brad

      An alternative to moral relativism in this context would be evolution of moral principles, sometimes driven by ideas derived from religion. Religion has lead many people to positions that are in opposition to slavery and other forms of exploitation. As I read the article I kept thinking of Archbishop Desmond Tutu's assertion that individuals are of infinite worth. Perhaps if we all believed that we would always value each other too much to permit something like slavery to exist.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      "Evolution of moral principles" is simply a re-phrasing of moral relativism.
      If morality changes, it is not divinely mandated by an infallible being.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Call it what you want, moral relativism or evolution, the end result is a change in morals or acceptable behaviour which clearly demonstrates that those that claim religion and The Babble correctly and neccesarily bring us moral absolutes are full of sh!t. Another fail for the god myth and religious cults.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Brad

      If there were an absolute moral standard, people would adhere to it imperfectly. I don't think you can distinguish between that and moral relativism. Evolution would apply in the first case as people learn to conform to the absolute moral standard. In the second case it would simply be the means by which moral standards are adapted to what societies demand.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • PeterVN

      I think Doc did just make precisely that distinction.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  19. AGuest9

    Slavery, but let's not forget about the religious impositions of inequality, illiteracy and poverty, as well.

    March 29, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  20. Levi

    According to Crossan Steward is what was originally referred to Slaves.

    All flight attendants are slaves coz they called Steward/ Stewardess

    March 29, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • Alvin

      What does that make corporations that currently work their labor force mercilessly round the clock in countries like China/Indonesia in such appalling conditions?

      March 29, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • AGuest9

      @Alvin: It makes them capitalists. Ask Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, et al. It's easy to be charitable on the backs of under-paid employees.

      March 29, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • myweightinwords

      Of course, you do realize the difference in the use of the word, I assume and are just being funny?

      March 29, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • mrklrsn

      you don't have to be fabulously wealthy to enjoy the fruits of un or underpaid labor. I would argue that all of us who have the disposable income necessary to access the internet can attribute that income to some form of slavery. Whether it comes in the form of our cheap disposable gadgets, inexpensive food, or low cost energy all of them have multiple steps of literal or practical slavery in the production chain. Just because it isn't in our office or our home doesn't mean it isn't a necessary component of our minute by minute existence. Welcome to reality fellow slave holders.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Alvin

      AGuest-Then according to you is 'capitalism' the new term for slavery? If Stewards can mean slavery why not captialism mean slaves? right?

      The bigger issue with journalists is that they never see a problem for what it is, they never have a real solution for the problem. They think it is very charitable of them to talk about Slavery and poverty without really understanding what are the real causes? how to really address the issue of bonded labor in 21st century.

      Therefore, this article achieves no real purpose.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:45 am |
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About this blog

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.