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. Larry Moniz

    Enslave others but let my people go! Just one of the many hypocritical aspects of organized religions.

    March 29, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • JD

      Yes, agreed. Thankfully, God is not equivalent to religion, as I'm sure 90% of the people reading this blog, and possibly the author too, might erroneously think. The author inadvertently makes the point in the last full paragraph that (paraphrasing) "who knows what atrocities we will look back on in 100 years and blame the Bible on for encouraging our misconduct?" The point here being that as we as a people grow and change the Bible (or Qur'an) doesn't, thereby making something like slavery entirely cultural. I don't know about the Qur'an cause I haven't read it as thoroughly but the Bible obviously doesn't openly propagate slavery and then it obviously doesn't speak out against–as a whole. The point being that it was the cultural context that actually propagated slavery (universally, not just in Christian, Muslim and Jewish nations, I think we should point out). What Jesus (and maybe Mohammed too) points out is that there are rough political situations/realities in which we live (i.e. slavery, poverty, war) but that doesn't give us the excuse to let our morals slide because of them. In a hypothetical world, lets say we abolish all war in 100 years. In 200 years the people will be appalled that the Bible allowed and even encouraged war! But today we see war as a sad yet real part of the fallen political world we live in. Culture changes over time for sure, and our opinions with it, but the Bible (and I suppose Qur'an) don't, and at least with the case of Christ we DON'T see outraged civil rights avocation because "civil rights" weren't even invented by culture yet. But what we DO see is Christ appealing to the morality of the people of the time (be they slaves or slave owners) to live righteously within their paradigm according to their morality, because this doesn't change with time, its absolute (that is to say, apart from human interpretation).

      March 29, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  2. Ana

    How do they know for instance, what Jesus said or didn't say,when all accounts were made by others, supposedly disciples, several years later????? I can't even recall what my husband or kids told me a few hours ago, and will most likely recant their words differently....just saying.

    March 29, 2012 at 7:45 pm |

      people only recal what they want you to hear and believe that fits the story at the time !

      March 29, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • xMoonWitchx

      Not several years, over 100 to be exact.

      March 29, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  3. YBP

    Religion is slavery.

    March 29, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • moonbogg

      Yep. God is supposed ot be timeless yet he didn't have the foresight to warn people of slavery? LOL!

      March 29, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • JD

      really wracking our brains with those arguments...yep, cause if there is slavery, it MUST because GOD ordained, God forbid people be the cause of their own crimes...no, it was God...

      March 29, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
  4. Allen

    Search "William Wilberforce" and "John Newton" (composer of Amazing Grace) before you comment on this article.

    Slavery in biblical times was either one person paying their debt to another (in lieu of debtor's prison or being a prisoner of war) or one strong person taking advantage of a weaker person. Biblical Christianity convicts of the sin of the second type (as Wilberforce & Newton experienced and worked to outlaw) while it acknowledges the reality and social necessity (at the time) of the first type. The Bible never condones slavery based on the evolutionary assumption that it is OK for one race to enslave another.

    The Bible makes it clear that we are all slaves. Either a slave to sin, or a slave to Jesus Christ – Jesus being the most loving slave master of all eternity – take your pick.

    March 29, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • mike w

      Those are crappy options. I think I'd rather be free, and I am.

      March 29, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • plucky

      I'll pick being a slave to no one and no idea.

      March 29, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Lol

      Those are NOT the only options; and Jesus was a deranged jacka/ss.
      You think poorly.

      March 29, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
  5. Twilight Sparkle

    I love everyone one on earth,except if they are differentr and don't beleive in what I beleive.In that case,I dunno if they can be considered a 'person',according to be magaical handbook

    March 29, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
  6. RAK

    As the article highlights, the spirits of slaves were uplifted during the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and he has commanded that the slaves should be fed the same food that masters eat but it's a pity how people draw conclusions about a religion by looking at what it's followers are doing not by referring to the actual teachings of a religion.

    March 29, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  7. Escocesrojo

    Baha'u'llah (1817-1892) is the prophet-founder of the Baha'i Faith. He proclaimed himself to be the Promised One of the world's great systems of belief, His books represent the word of God for this age and can be rightly regarded as a kind of "newest testament." He forbade slavery in his book of laws, the Most Holy Book:

    "It is forbidden you to trade in slaves, be they men or women. It is not for him who is himself a servant to buy another of God’s servants, and this hath been prohibited in His Holy Tablet. Thus, by His mercy, hath the commandment been recorded by the Pen of justice. Let no man exalt himself above another; all are but bondslaves before the Lord, and all exemplify the truth that there is none other God but Him. He, verily, is the All-Wise, Whose wisdom encompasseth all things."

    March 29, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  8. LydssZ

    Some facts
    1. They [Prophets] were in different eras
    2. Slavery was common in those times
    3. They taught their followers to respect slaves and treat them as human beings
    4. Who says today slavery doesn't exist. Just try not paying to banks.. (we are all slaves, directly/indirectly)

    March 29, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • YBP

      Good point. In fact, the Bible and all religious "wisdom" come from another time and place. It has nothing to do with the here and now.

      March 29, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • LuLu

      So therefore all things from the past have no relevance for today??? stupid logic, regardless of what side your on.

      March 29, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  9. Zeta Reticulan

    Our Gods were just Alien visitors, and if they think it's OK to have slaves we're squrewed when they come back!

    March 29, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
  10. hel

    it's one thing to explain how slavery has been different over time for different people. It's quite another to think that owning another human being can ever be an acceptable thing to do. If a god is telling you that you may own slaves, that is not a good god. Clearly if the God of the Bible exists, it is not a good god, but a cruel and foolish one.

    March 29, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  11. Jesus is not healthy for fig trees, pigs, and other living things

    In fact, he will kill you.

    March 29, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  12. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things,.

    March 29, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Children are not healthy for prayer and other stuff

      Atheism: it's what's for dinner.

      March 29, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • just sayin

      atheism is a deadly poison

      March 29, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • just sayin

      still looking for pants...

      March 29, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • just sayin

      still wants to be me

      March 29, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Jim Ryan

      then explain to us how indoctrination of children into delusional dogma is beneficial and moral

      March 29, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • willie

      Discrimination of people without belief in gods is built into Christianity. Everyone who does not believe in the same god does not have a belief in god. Therefore, Christianity teaches discrimination. Let me just remind what the bible says: Psalm 14:1-3 The fool says in his heart, "There is no God".

      March 29, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • John Robertson

      Prayer, like wishful thinking, changes nothing!

      March 29, 2012 at 7:48 pm |

      i pray you go away !

      March 29, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
  13. D'arby Janssen

    Jewish slavery was a means to pay off a debt. Since, in ancient times, there was no "debt consolidating solutions," a man would give himself to those whom he owed a debt and decided on a fixed length of time to servitude. It makes perfect sense.

    The Bible explicitly forbids people-stealing slavery, a la late 19th century American slavery, as well as murdering slaves.

    From this link ( http://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-slavery.html ) : "The Bible does not specifically condemn the practice of slavery. It gives instructions on how slaves should be treated (Deuteronomy 15:12-15; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1), but does not outlaw slavery altogether. Many see this as the Bible condoning all forms of slavery. What many fail to understand is that slavery in biblical times was very different from the slavery that was practiced in the past few centuries in many parts of the world. The slavery in the Bible was not based exclusively on race. People were not enslaved because of their nationality or the color of their skin. In Bible times, slavery was more a matter of social status. People sold themselves as slaves when they could not pay their debts or provide for their families. In New Testament times, sometimes doctors, lawyers, and even politicians were slaves of someone else. Some people actually chose to be slaves so as to have all their needs provided for by their masters."

    March 29, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • Yeah.......

      Why don't you become a slave and tell us how great it is,
      and how a supposedly infinitely good god could condone it.....

      March 29, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • The Cranky Saint

      So when the Bible gives us instructions on how to sell our daughters into slavery, are we only supposed to do it if our daughters have huge debts they cannot pay? And how about foreign slaves? Only Israeli slaves were released after six years. Foreign slaves and their children were property of their owners until death. How is that paying off a debt?

      March 29, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Jim Ryan

      what Bible did you read. The same one where God commands murder and slavery?

      March 29, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • Carl

      Yes, like many horrible things, the bible prohibits it except for when it commands it. Do not kill people!!! ...but DO kill those people over there!

      I notice you said Jewish slavery. That is somewhat true, in that many of the prohibitions in the bible literally do apply to your "neighbors", but not the people in the next city or country. To deny that the bible approves of and even mandates vicious forms of slavery and other crimes is just a lie you are telling to yourself.

      "Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. 45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly."

      March 29, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Carl

      And for everyone else, this is a chance to properly understand the phrase, "the exception which proves the rule". It's not that every rule has exceptions (though most do), and it is not about proving a known rule to be scientifically accurate. Rather, it means that the need to state an exception proves that there is a rule to begin with, even if that rule is not explicitly stated on its own.

      If someone says, "you can have slaves from anywhere, but don't beat the ones from your home country", it is CLEARLY assuming that you are generally allowed to beat your slaves. A person would have to be either a complete fool or a liar to claim that this is not the case.

      March 29, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • D'arby Janssen

      To Yeah....: We are all slaves to the American economic system. I work my ass off at Costco and have nearly nothing to show for it other than that I am alive and can continue to work. Where is the Liberty, when I am forced into bondage by a corporation? What freedom do I have? To watch movies and read the news and get an ice cream or some other trivial nonsense? I live to spread the gospel and to tackle tough subjects with other like-minded men.

      There are no free men, only slaves. Either they are slaves to their own sin or they are slaves to Jesus Christ, as others have said here.

      Religion is not the problem: Religious people are.

      As a Christian, do I believe that we need a Christian America? It certainly wouldn't hurt, but it WOULD hurt if we imposed Christianity on those who did not want it. Rather, it would be much more wise to establish a Christian-led libertarian state that allowed for abortion (because even if it's outlawed, like drugs, or paedophilia, people would still do it), and other sinful activity. It is not God judging society, but rather, the individual.

      As for slavery today? Personally, if a person couldn't pay off a debt I'd rather see them work for somebody and suffer no loss other than their own liberty for a short while than for them and their families to be destroyed by incredible debts. I definitely do not support social Darwinism in that aspect: All people make mistakes. Some mistakes are bigger than others, but that doesn't mean you should allow their bloodline to die out.

      The Bible does not condone murder in the current day. Remember that Christ came to overturn most of the Jewish traditions such as Levitican and Mosaic law. He, being the Word embodied in the flesh, stated very simply in Matthew 19:18-19: ""Which ones?" the man inquired. Jesus replied, "'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'"

      March 29, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  14. RandomHuman

    Maybe religion does more harm than good in the modern world, however back in the old days that was the enlightenment which guided the people by a set of laws and fear of God. Religion helped the human race to advance to the point they could actually realize that there are other alternatives to religious life. But of course without religion, how would they ever come to this point?

    March 29, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • The Cranky Saint

      Moral codes exist among animals, especially the great apes. Did religion do this? And religion has long been the enemy of social and scientific progress. Ask Galileo about his experiences when he started telling people the earth moves around the sun.

      March 29, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • Carl

      This claim that religion was once useful is weak speculation.

      Basic morality actually appears to be an innate function of humans and even some other animals. The horrible nature of humanity is not the default behavior, but is shown to arise in specific incidents due to specific cues (usually fear of others).

      March 29, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  15. William

    Another example of why religion is a virus of the mind. Its excels in its ability to propagate from one generation to the next and mutates itself to fit the time and culture of the moment. It feeds on our most deep seated emotions, such as the need for purpose and fear of death. Unfortunately, despite the fact that religion is relatively easy to dismiss with a simple exercise in logic, those afflicted were almost uniformly indoctrinated at a very young age. This makes it very difficult to rebel against it.

    March 29, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • D'arby Janssen

      People mutate, as we are imperfect. The Word does not. It is every believers job to do the best they can with what they are given, and to not be afraid of being wrong. It is not the raw materials that degrade the decisions but rather the decisions themselves given the materials they have to work with.

      March 29, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Thinker23

      "...despite the fact that religion is relatively easy to dismiss with a simple exercise in logic..."

      Every religion is based on a set of improvable beliefs. An example of such imrpvable (and even improbable) belief is a belief that religion can be "dismissed with a simple exercise in logic" for a simple reason that ANY "exercise in logic" MUST BE applied to something and if this "something" is anything but VERIFYABLE FACTS then the entire logical structure is not worth the paper it is written on.

      March 29, 2012 at 7:45 pm |


    March 29, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • just sayin

      Islam is an idolatrous cult, neither Moses nor Jesus would have anything to do with a false religion.

      March 29, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Henry

      If indeed Moses was a prophet then why are you not upholding the covenant God made to Moses?

      March 29, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Mwaqar


      March 29, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Henry

      What did God command Moses and what covenant did God make with Moses?

      March 29, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • Jackola

      "Islam is an idolatrous cult"? How did you come to that conclusion? Mohammed is known to have destroyed all the idols in Mecca and started a monotheistic religion – Islam . Not a defender of Islam myself but I feel sorry for uneducated people who believe anything they hear.

      March 29, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • Jones

      Any surprises there with those responses to your questions?

      March 29, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Henry

      Not surprised at these responses,Jones. Very typical.

      March 29, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • John Robertson

      All the abrahamic religions are the same, just dressed up in different holidays.

      March 29, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  17. ytuque

    Jesus and Buddha didn't own slaves; Mohammad did. It's that simple!

    March 29, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • Adrian

      Did you not read how it said he treated them as family and encouraged others to do so as well? Imbecile. I'm not trying to be biased either, it's all in the article you just need to open your eyes to the facts and accept them.

      March 29, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Lilith

      Adrian, did he encourage anyone to "free" them? Captivity is still captivity

      March 29, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • ossha

      Actually Zaid ( may allah be peased with him) was a freed slave, but he still chose to stay with Prophet (peace be upon him) to serve him. He was gifted as a slave, but was set free by the Prophet (peace be upon him). So the article is wrong in stating that he was owned as a slave.
      And yes he encouraged other to set them free too. Most of early muslim scholars were freed slaves. Freeing slaves is one of the best acts of worship and carries great rewards for muslims.

      March 29, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
  18. Hanksteroni

    @† In God We Trust †, you are incorrect (at least twice over) and you have resorted to name calling. Yet, you have not surprised anyone.

    March 29, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  19. Wake Up

    I really don't understand this new breed of atheists, the ones that insist on ridicule and asserting their moral superiority. Worse, they don't see (or if they do they don't care) their vampant hypocrisy and just how similar they are in character and their fanaticism to the religious zealots they so despise. They claim the world would be better off without religion and yet present themselves as resounding evidence to the contrary. For all the talk of reason, logic and intelligence the majority of their posts seem void of any of it. They hate the theists for proselyting and brainwashing, yet they feel compelled to make missionaries of themselves. For people who claim they are no longer slaves to gods and religions it seems they're very much still chained to them, unable to leave them behind and live their lives. There is nothing wrong with atheism, but fanatical atheists are every bit as bad as fanatical theists.

    March 29, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @Wake Up

      I agree. Militant atheists are every bit as bad as militiant religious people. Unfortunately, militant christians (at least in this country) are much more vocal and politically in place to enforce changes that would force others to adhere to their own moral code.

      March 29, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • jemzinthekop

      Athiests can be run of the mill jerks like anyone else, having faith or not having faith doesn't excuse someone from being a one. That being said, religion is about willfully suspending any logic and following the allegories and mythologies of bronze aged illiterates and taking those mythologies as doctrine. So if you came on here and said your lord and savior was the great almighty Jack and the way he handled the mighty and evil giant was heroic and must be revered so that we could all live for eternity on the great beastock in the sky you most likely would get laughed at too. It's all sorta the same thing.

      March 29, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Carl

      Yes, how dare these new atheists speak as though raping and murdering is somehow morally inferior! Don't they realize that ridiculing religion is just as bad as beating women with rocks?

      March 29, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • Lilith

      Here here Carl, how can these Athiests think they're superior just because they choose to be good, moral & ethical without the need to be threatened into it with eternal fire!

      March 29, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • bpuharic

      You miss the point about atheism. Religion is wrong. It's false. That's it. That's atheism. It's not 'superior'. It's simply right. You're welcome to project your own insecurities on atheists but religon portrays itself as perfect. How something as pernicious and wrong as religion can be seen as 'perfect' is astonishing

      March 29, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Amlynn

      As an theist myself, I agree with you. Militant anythings generally tend to go overboard. I like being left alone to my own devices, and can respect others beliefs as long as they leave me in peace. I have found that most Christians/Muslims/Jews that I have met generally try to live the same way I do. They just want to be left in peace, and wish to live a fulfilled, happy life with their family. It's the militants that come muck everything up for everyone. They're the one's who think they have the right to interfere in other people's lives. Militant atheists can rail against the intrusion of religion in people's lives, yet they are doing the exact same thing themselves. Pretty hypocritical, in my opinion.

      March 29, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • Thinker23

      Every religion claims that it is "right" and that all other religions are "wrong". Most scientists today agree that the world we all live in started its existence 13.7 billion years ago in an event we refer to as the Big Bang. Most religions teach that it was the Creator who created the Universe. Atheism (which is also a FAITH based on set of unrpovable beliefs) claims that the Universe started all by itself from nothing. It is up to each and every one of us to decide which of these two possibilities is more plausible.

      March 29, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      Here is the thing that gets me. Atheism and evolution are 2 SEPERATE things. Atheism is not contingent upon evolution and evolution is not contingent upon atheism. The same holds true for atheism and the big bang theory, evolution and the big bang theory. Why is this so hard for some people to understand? Another thing is that the big bang theory does not state that the universe started from nothing. It is only a theory of how our current universe started, based on scientific evidence and data that supports that line of reasoning. The big bang in no way addresses what was here before it, and it was never meant to.

      March 29, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  20. quit believing, be happier

    If religious leaders in the past did not condemn slavery, that is just further proof that they were backward primitive. Oh, wait - ANYONE who believes in the fairy tales that make up religion is backward! Slavery is very bad and religion is stupid and useless. Case closed.

    March 29, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • quit believing, be indifferent

      "Slavery is very bad..." Is that a scientific statement? Where and how did you come to that conclusion? Many of Enlightenment philosophers who shared your disdain for religion did not share your opinions on slavery. Were they all stupid as well? Or what evolutionary explanation can you put forward for saying that slavery is "very bad?" After all, if all that exists is nature, it seems to me slavery is a very natural phenomenon that has evolved along with the human species. "very bad" – why not call it "very sinful" – just as meaningless

      March 29, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • CHRIS Ggear

      “…that through death He [Jesus] might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the Devil,

      and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” –Hebrews 2:14-15.

      “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” –Jesus. John 8:36.

      "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound..." -Isaiah 61:1. (Prophecy)

      (Fulfillment) Luke 4:16 And he [JESUS] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
      18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
      19To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. 22 And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.

      March 29, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • team nihilsm

      the use of "oh, wait" and "case closed" make your argument that much more convincing.

      March 29, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
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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.