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.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

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. Nii

    TALLULAH ur parents never had to pay for something you destroyed at a neighbor's house I can see or had to apologise for your untoward behaviour toward someone as a kid. However afterward they taught you to be more mature so that u won't repeat the behaviour. That is the story of Christ.

    March 30, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  2. anon

    You do realize that is has also been proven that this world could not have come to being by ‘a big explosion in the universe’ right? And also, when something evolves, it doesn’t have more creatures that stay like how it was. Humans couldn’t have evolved from monkeys or apes because we still have them, and also four legged animals cannot transform into whales. I do not discourage anyone’s atheism, but think about it, if you are right about you’re religion, congrats, you will still go into a land of nothingness when you die, but when you have lived a life full of death and tragedy like most of Americans, why not hope that something better may come after death? And what if you are wrong about atheism, then you will live in torture for eternity. Why not at least try and hope for something better for your lives? Have you ever watched your own mother kill herself, or your dad get shot in a robbery? No, so can you try to even understand that some people like me, who have experienced stuff like this, or worse, would like to believe that there is a God who loves us, and who will, after we die, reward us for our suffering through our hardships? People need hope to get through things, and you all are not helping. You are pretty much saying, The person you love who has died, is never going to be seen again. The orphans who have lost their parents and are reading this will now be faced with horrible that they will NEVER see their parents again. But there is still a chance that God exists. Whether you want to believe it or not, people rely on God to help them, and you bad mouthing the only hope they have left, is wrong and horrible.

    March 30, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You are an uneducated person.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      "Humans couldn’t have evolved from monkeys or apes because we still have them,"

      If a branch of a tree comes from the trunk, why do we still have the trunk?

      If rap music evolved from, among other things, jazz, why do we still have jazz?

      Epic Logic Fail.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • anon

      How so?

      March 30, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • ella

      We did not evolve from todays monkeys or apes. Please reread your text book.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • TING

      So you're saying slavery is good?

      March 30, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • WASP

      @anon: so you require a punishment and reward system to be a good person? how i feel sorry for you. i'm atheist, i do good things because it makes me feel good and sets good examples for my son. i don't need a reward or threat of punishment when i die to motivate me to help my fellow humans. yes humans evolved from apes, but not all apes existed in the conditions to need to evolve. if an animal is in an enviroment that is suitable to it's build it will become specialized for that enviroment; ie. the giant panda, the koula, they both are specialized for their enviroments, and both come from common mammalian ancestory. human ancestory for reasons unknown as of yet, had to adapt to a changing enviroment, may have had something to do with our migratory nature or our curiousty or hell just dumb luck but our ancestors made slow steps that lead to this marvelous however incomplete design we have today. we have blubber, that serves no purpose. we lack fur that is more beneficial to land based mammals. we have organs, bones and other parts that are useless some can kill us. ie. the appendix.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Point 1 – You, like many fundiots, confound cosmology, abiogenesis, and evolution. This goes to the point of you being ignorant about science.

      Point 2 – You wrote, "You do realize that is has also been proven that this world could not have come to being by ‘a big explosion in the universe’ right? "

      You realize that the Big Bang was neither big, nor a bang, right? There most certainl;y was no explosion. This goes to the point that you choose to be ignorant about science in general, and cosmology in particular. You also realize, don't you, that the initial expansion of the universe was 13.7 billion years ago, and had nothing to do with the formation of the earth, which occurred 9 billion years later? This again demonstrates your ignorance about science in general, and earth science in particular.

      Point 3 – You wrote, " And also, when something evolves, it doesn’t have more creatures that stay like how it was. Humans couldn’t have evolved from monkeys or apes because we still have them,"

      If you evolved from your grandparents, how can you have cousins? Seriously! Why do you fundiots keep posting this drivel? We did not evolve from monkeys are apes. We are apes. We share common ancestry with the other grat apes and further back with monkeys. This again goes to show that you choose to be ignorant about science in general, and biology in particular.

      Your posts, anon, are excellent examples of what happens when you choose to get your "sciency" sounding information from non-science sources like the "Pastor Dave's" of the world. The problem with this approach is that "Pastor Dave" is just as ignorant about science as you are.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  3. anon

    Exodus 13:3
    New International Version (NIV)
    3 Then Moses said to the people, “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the LORD brought you out of it with a mighty hand.

    Deuteronomy 7:8
    New International Version (NIV)
    8 But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

    Nehemiah 5:5
    New International Version (NIV)
    5 Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our fellow Jews and though our children are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.”

    Nehemiah 9:17
    New International Version (NIV)
    17 They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them,

    Galatians 5

    1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

    Are those passages promoting slavery?

    March 30, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Primewonk

      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 NLT)

      When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are.  If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again.  But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her.  And if the slave girl's owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter.  If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife.  If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment.  (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)

      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.  (Exodus 21:20-21 NAB)

      March 30, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  4. Nii

    I guess if I tell prisoners not 2 s.exually abuse their fellow prisoners, listen 2 their prison guards, not 2 riot or mur.der their fellow prisoners I am condoning imprisonment which I absolutely detest. Of course de better behaviour will lead 2 early freedom n better treatment but rebellion is best

    March 30, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  5. clubschadenfreude

    Judaism and Christianity has justified slavery always. There is nothing in their supposedly divinely inspired holy books against it. Not one word in their many pages say that it is against's god's will to own another human being. Indeed, the NT says that slaves should obey even cruel masters which means no escaping. It is only when humans "interpret" that religion, and decide what their god "really" meant that they decide for themselves that slavery is wrong. Religions are always the last to change, dragging their feet, when society decides that owning another person is wrong, decides that women are equal human beings, decides that loving relationships are for everyone.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • closet atheist

      They're having a harder and harder time controlling the sheeple with religious texts that were written in a completely different social context. I'm sure another new religion will spring forth in our lifetime to more harmoniously fit the new social norms. Why on earth is everybody so focused on Mega Millions... we should be focusing on becoming the next prophet!!!

      March 30, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  6. Nii

    Lunchbreaker I didn't say aanything wrong I was responding to a post by a Canadian atheist who asked people to wake up and become Atheist since he did so at 8yo. Needless to say it posted in the wrong place. That is why it seems out of context.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • lunchbreaker

      "the moment u become more emotionally mature than me" is a sentence fragment, as in, not a complete sentence.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Nii

      I wrote
      Subject- SIR
      a complete sentence. Look before u leap.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Language fail.


      Is English your third language or your fourth?

      March 30, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nii, it is not a complete sentence. It's a clause. Get a friggin' clue.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  7. Nii

    Atheism is de 1st stage of becoming a spiritual theist. However some people stop here n feeling they've arrived spew all kinds of nonsense. If u want 2 know where atheism is taught its not in engineering school but theological seminaries. The moment u become more emotionally mature than me, sir.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • ummm

      "the moment u become more emotionally mature than me"

      Emotional maturity is defined as: the ability to express one’s own feelings and convictions balanced with consideration for the thoughts and feelings of others.

      I don't think you've achieve it yet.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • lunchbreaker

      "the moment u become more emotionally mature than me"

      I don't like to point out grammatical errors on message boards, but it is hard to get your point when you write in sentence fragments. "the moment u become more emotionally mature than me... [insert the rest of your sentence here].

      March 30, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Nii

      As I said knowing is not understanding. You know the definition now try to achieve it in your life. You don't have far to go if it is me you are using as your standard so press on. I use Christ as my standard though so I know how far I have to go! Love u as myself!

      March 30, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Nii,,,, Spiritualisms are in the abundencies especially pronounced within the conglumerate agencies of church'd gain-fields. People of religious gatherings are but emotionalized misfits and are bound to a theologicalized emotion-wetting in order to get thru their down-in-the-dumps' dried days.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • NickZadick

      How exactly is living your life according to a fictional character in a mythology book make you more emotionally mature? You are a brainwashed morôn!! Did you meet the people who wrote your book of fairy tales? I became an atheist by using logic and common sense... not by listening to seminars and fools!

      March 30, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Nii

      Pipe dreamer you must understand that everyone's religious experience is unique. You have yours and I have mine. When I learnt to love my neighbor as myself it helped me to avoid the extremes of emotion you talk about. I know some people use religion as a crutch but spirituality is my wings.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • bspurloc

      because the definition of atheism is not partaking in fantasy stories simply not listening to fairy tales and going on with life like it is any other day. and in order to do this u need to be taught it...
      makes sense.... if your a lunatic such as yourself... got any other theories that make no sense? i mean they do to u cuz fairy tales make sense to u too

      March 30, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Nii

      NICK you are very funny. You used logic? Do you understand the meaning of "mythology" as used in Theology. The Bible stories are not fables(check meaning too). I became a Christian after a good dose of Theology in High School. I had an Agnostic father who had previously dabbled in other religions.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • tallulah13

      The moment when you become responsible for your own actions is when you become emotionally mature. Anyone who still needs a scapegoat to be "forgiven for their sins" is not emotionally mature.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Nii

      I wished I was as ignorant of God as you are then I cud deny His existence truthfully. However I took up the challenges in the Speech of the Last Supper(Gospel of St John chapters 14,15 and 16) and I had my confirmation. Your insults are only a proof of your ignorance. As I said I love u as myself.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      The tools uased to "promote" are either of spokenness or of the written, The duality of such does spread itself upon those who masterfully make gains in each tool equally. While most people master just what they need, they become enamored more with visualistically oralizing sightings, (Tv). Praise be to those who do read and write here for they are of a challenging accordance! 🙂

      March 30, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  8. anon

    The movie 'Monumental' can describe how America was founded and why it was founded. The original pilgrims came here for religious freedom. If you would like to see the actual foundation of America, I recommend you watching the movie and going to Plymouth to see a beautiful statue with a recipe of how America should work. I personally have been associated with many different religions and the main one that is the most peaceful and leads to great things is Christianity. God's main rule is to love your neighbor as you love yourself, and Jesus made himself a slave to others. The bible may say you can beat your slave, whatever. Jesus was tortured and murdered in the same day. JESUS. Not a 'slave.' No, the man who wanted to try and create peace was tortured and murdered. Everyone on this blog, including myself is ignorant to this topic. No one knows if there is really a God, it's all faith. If you don't have faith, it's fine. Just don't badmouth others.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • NickZadick

      Believing in god and believing in the fictional stories put into writting by mere men called John, Paul etc about the life of a guy named Jesus who was modeled on at least 10 other people that may or may not of existed, are 2 completely different things! Why not choose Beowulf or Homer's Illiad as source material to fairyman in the sky instead??

      March 30, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • anon

      The writers John, Paul, Matthew, etc, also mentioned King Herod the Great and Pontius Pilate. Did they not live either?

      March 30, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Primewonk

      "Monumental"? Seriously? The movie from that wack-job, ho.mophobic, fundiot, nutter Kirk Cameron?

      Will his "bananas prove evolution is a lie" movie be shown too?

      You do know that in the movie Cameron interviews David Barton. And it has been shown over and over and over how Barton is a liar, making up quotes and attributing them to people long dead – right?

      Sorry – you have a right to be as ignorant as you want, but wearing that ignorance as a badge of honor, is just sad.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • NickZadick

      I never said they didn't live ... only the story they told is full of exagerations, half-truthes and plain lies... their stories were never meant to be historical fact...

      March 30, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • tallulah13

      The government of the United States is based on the Consti.tution, which was framed by men who looked to the example of Europe and knew that a government tied to religion was easily corrupted. To ensure freedom for all, they very deliberately separated church and state, so that everyone could believe or not believe as they chose (as long as they broke no secular laws), without fear of persecution. Our culture may be rooted in christianty (for better or worse) but our government is not.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Primewonk

      @ anon – You know that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were not written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – right?

      March 30, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • closet atheist

      Hello, anon...?? There still...?? Primewonk and NickZadick for the win....!!!

      March 30, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  9. NickZadick

    When I was 8 years old and realized organised religion was a hoax, I noticed that most people my age also realized this and assumed it was a general awakening of free minds and only our seniors still believed in such non-sense... Most churches here in the city of Quebec are either abandoned or are beign converted to condos...it wasn't until I joined a certain gaming forum that I found out that Americans my age where not only a little religious still... but totally gung-ho religious as many of you here are. I cannot for the lifw of me , understand how you can take a collection of books, written 2000 years ago, by people you know nothing about... and take from it that if you join their club... you will be rewarded by an eternity of disneyland in the sky with your fairy daddy! the level of brainwashing you endured must be truly EPIC!! WAKE-UP! Atheists do not want to hinder you!! we want to awaken you !!

    March 30, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • WASP

      @nick: you have no idea how bad the brain scrambling is down here. starts as a child. they teach you all these things about jesus loves you and teach you little songs to sing, then after they've hooked you on jesuscrack, as a teenager they terrify you with eternal damnation and trick you into feeling like you are a horrible person without "god" to protect you from all the evil in the world. it's a really good tactic.....oh almost forgot then while you're an adult they sap your pocket for money to help keep the preacher up in his house that the church owns, so the preacher doesn't have to work. lmfao i figured this all out at about the same age you did. it was a fight telling my parents no, i'm not going to church. then i stood my ground and never looked back.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • PeterVN

      Nick and WASP, good to hear from you. I did a similar escape from religion, although my parents were probably less adamant about it. Once you see through the Christian hocus pocus, it all just seems silly, and it's easy to see how it has perpetuated itself for so long. Christianity is on its way out, even in the US (although the fundies are getting more and more desparate), and that's great.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I think that our education system has been deliberately gutted by people who benefit from ignorance. Not fifty years ago, the U.S. had a man standing on the moon. Now we have the likes of Santorum vying for the highest office in the land, drawing votes not because he offers any solutions to the real problems the U.S. faces, but because he thumps a bible. I never thought that the U.S. would fall so far in my lifetime.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • closet atheist

      On this topic of brainwashing... i'd honestly like some advice. I am unmarried and have a 4 year old daughter. She lives with her mother, but I have her 2-3 weekends a month. I'm worried because her mother (my ex) is a devout catholic. I'm trying to figure out a way to introduce my daughter to "other options" without directly undermining the ex. I'm honestly scared, as I know the brainwashing has begun. I'm afraid that, by the time we can have an adult conversation on the topic, it could be too late. Any suggestions...??

      March 30, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • WASP

      @closet: just treat her how you would like to be treated. sit and discuss the topic of faith with an open mind with her and show her that it is a choice based system. don't try to push atheist thoughts toward her, just give her information and let her figure it out. if she has already figured out that such things as santa clause and the easter bunny aren't real then you can slowly work toward that area of availing to her sence of what is real and what is not real. children are intelligent and more rational then their adult counter parts. show her buddist faith etc etc etc any and all questions she asks answer then honestly and if you don't know an answer, do research together on the computer. if you can't find an answer to say how the universe began, tell her no one knows how the universe began christians may claim to know, but they don't truly know because none of them were truly there when everything happen and their book was written during the bronze age. show her what the bronze age looked like and let her make her own choice, if she chooses religion then support her and accept her choice but if she chooses none belief then you will have to prepare her for the attack that will come from all sides.....including her own mother. i hope this helps. 🙂

      March 30, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • closet atheist

      @ WASP ~~ Thanks for taking the time for a thoughtful response.

      March 30, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  10. Steven

    Where are the references indi-cating that the pope said that slavery was any good? Although i do agree with the point you made about it being one of the ways up "spreading the faith."
    Almost every body turns to religion when they are at the lowest stages in their life.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  11. NJE

    Religion was used to promote slavery, I have no doubt. However, many times, religion is not the only culprit in promoting such a horrid way of life. Some governments (even atheist governments) promote slavery as well. They make and have made citizens dependent solely on the government for the very necessities of life.....afterall, the "Government" knows what's best for its "slaves"...oops, citizens. They will make, and have made, the necessary laws in order to enforce whatever it takes to make and control "slaves".....what to eat, how much one is allowed to own (if anything...afterall, we must all share the wealth...with the exception, of course, for those who are the government), and where to live. They will even provide the "slaves"...oops, citizens with affordable healthcare......though, many will die waiting on a very long line for days, weeks, months just to be seen, and even longer to be actually treated. Indeed, religion doesn't hold a candle to "Big Government" when it comes to promoting slavery.

    March 30, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Anon

      And again with the Stalin/Mao/Pol Pot card.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • just sayin

      If the shoe fits...

      March 30, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • Daniel

      While religon played a big part in slavery as we know in all its various forms. I also agree with the athiest nations and their leaders. Stalin comes to mind right away. So no, one can not place all the blame on religon. This is the ugly side of the human species. We are possibly the worst species nature has allowed on this planet. We will continue to abuse our fellow humans and in the end either we will destroy the planet or nature will rid itself of this parasite called man.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Nii

      Secular atheists know so little about Atheism that they cant fathom that there can be Atheist Xtians. Just as they choose 2 pick de part of their religion they like other religionists do de same cos they r just as intelligent. The main problem is not de religion itself but de religionists.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Nii

      Choosing to love your neighbor as yourself (Agape/Charitable love) rather than just loving people we think love us (Romance) is the key to understanding the Bible. If u've this principle firmly rooted in ur mind then u'll understand de Truth. Any other principle fails to interprete it correcly.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      Stalin was an atheist who killed. Stalin did not use atheism to justify his killings. See the difference?

      Why is this so hard for some people?

      March 30, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • just sayin

      How do you know what Stalin used his atheism for? He didn't detach himself so he could murder, it was a part of who he was and like all the atheist leaders, atheism gave him his justification for what he did. If he had not been an atheist those 24 million souls and their descendants might be with us today.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      If Hitler had been a Buddhist, all of his victims might have lived as well. It doesn't mean that Hitler used religion to justify his atrocities. Logic fail.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • WASP

      @nii-tard: 1) do some history research; stalin,hitler, all the others you christian fruits like to use commited those acts out of lust for power not for any faith or lack there of. 2) if you want to compare numbers of "lost souls" lets compare "atheist" murders to christians murders throughout history. the popes throughout history alone have lead to the deaths of millions if not billions of people all done in the name of "god" so put that in your pipe and smoke it.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • just sayin

      Hitler was an atheist.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You seem to have an unhealthy fascination with Hitler, just sayin.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      @just sayin – proof, please. I'll be happy to refute it.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      just sayin can't prove it has a working brain cell.

      March 30, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      Here's some gems while you're scrambling to find some heresay quotes:

      "My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter."

      "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord."
      -Mein Kampf

      "it seemed to me almost a belated act of grace to be allowed to stand as a witness in the divine court of the eternal judge and proclaim the sincerity of this conviction."
      -Mein Kampf

      "It matters not whether these weapons of ours are humane: if they gain us our freedom, they are justified before our conscience and before our God."

      "I believe in Providence and I believe Providence to be just. Therefore I believe that Providence always rewards the strong, the industrious, and the upright."

      Atheist ... right *eye roll*

      March 30, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oooh, watch out now. You know that anyone who posts the quotes of Hitler is going to be accused of being....something bad. I don't know quite what, because just sayin is too much of a chickensh!t to spell it out.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • just sayin

      I know a liar when I see one Tom,Tom.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • just sayin

      Only a fool or a Nazi would accept the words of Adolf Hitler as truth. Hitler was a proven liar and his "religion" was no exception to the rule. Hitler lied to get the nation to follow him. He was an atheist of the worst kind.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      How does posting a quote prove that one believes that said quote is "truth"?

      March 30, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      " an atheist of the worst kind". Is there an atheist of the 'best kind'?

      March 30, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • just sayin

      No atheist is of any value to mankind, there are those that do not have the opportunity to murder millions.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What have I 'lied' about, just sayin?

      No atheists have ever done any good? Ahhhahhhahhhhhaaaa.

      Oh, wait. You're serious? What a moron.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I see you've failed to respond to my question. I'll post it again. Read it slowly. Move your lips if it helps.

      How does posting a quote equal accepting the content of that quote as "truth"?

      March 30, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  12. Freethinker

    The word "TRUTH" : conformity with fact or reality; a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like; actuality or actual existence. That being said I am often left confused when someone says to me in reference to the Bible "you are ignorant of this truth".

    March 30, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Nii

      I understand that when a christian tells a non-Christian that he is ignorant of this Truth in relation to the Bible the non-Christian is baffled. However the CHRISTIAN CHURCH wrote the BIBLE and they essentially understand what they wrote better than anyone else. The best thing is to ask them then.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Nii

      The knowledge of de Bible is essntially different from de understanding of it. De knowledge is by intense study of its words. De understanding by faithful following of its teachings. Just as u cant understand Chemistry by words alone but by practise also so it is with de Bible.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      @ Freethinker,,,

      Truth about supposed truth means that truths meandor truthfulness. The truth of the matter regarding absolution's Truth requires one to tell the Truth., the wholesome truth and nuttin but the TRUTH!

      March 30, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • bspurloc

      the incas and mayans were ignorant and declared heretics and would have opted to be slaves over being burned alive

      March 30, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  13. Bernadette Myers

    Where are your references? What pope said that slavery was good? I would like to see the context. I can show you plenty of references to popes that say otherwise.

    March 30, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  14. Bill

    What the article conveniently leaves out is that at least in England and the US it was Christians that banded together to end Slavery Wilberforce in England and the Abolitionist movements putting pressure on the politicians in the US

    March 30, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Russ

      That was consp.icuously absent. You would think an article with this ti.tle would at least concede the most glaring point to the contrary: how religion was used to end slavery.

      March 30, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • ¼½¾

      Not conspicuously absent at all. The title is "How religion has been used to promote slavery." Obviously religious morality has changed in modern days.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • Russ

      @ fractions:
      actually, your premise is faulty. Wilberforce & MLK appealed to a primary stream of the Christian faith that is thousands of years old (virtually all of the minor prophets; Jn.8:32; Gal.3:28; etc.).

      The article is claiming that morality has always shifted, & yet it's precisely because Wilberforce & MLK made appeals to the *pre-existing* central beliefs at the core of the faith that they successfully brought about cultural change.

      It's the same approach Jesus had (and one that can't be politically categorized): theological conservatism combined with social progressivism.

      March 30, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 30, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • JFritz

      Seems pretty clear that a lot of people who routinely prayed weren't very good for children and other living things.

      March 30, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • just sayin

      You have the wrong concept of what prayer really is.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • ½⅔¾

      Prayer is pretending to talk to an imaginary friend when in reality you are just talking to yourself.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • NickZadick

      so ..someone, somewhere is praying that 5 chuldren die every minute from starvation? tell them to STOP!!

      March 30, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • lrn


      March 30, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Jesus

      A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died as a result. 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.

      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 30, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • just sayin

      Those children are our responsibility. What are you doing to help them?

      March 30, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  16. The stardust fish man

    The slavery in the Bible isnt really slavery like in the 1700's and 1800's. It was like being an indentured servant, after six years you had a choice to be free.

    March 30, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • *facepalm*

      Is that why the bible says its ok to beat a slave to death as long as the slave doesn't die the same day and that it's ok to have sex slaves?

      Isn't lying a sin?


      March 30, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • TR6

      Typical Christian trying to sugar coat their evil and violent religion. The 6 year rule only applied to slaves that were Hebrew (by birth) and the bible also says you can beat your slaves as hard as you want, just as long as you don’t kill them

      March 30, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • JFritz

      This is a joke, right? Tribalism is tribalism is tribalism, whether it's called religion, nationalism, or political party. Anything that allows us to see our fellow humans as "others" potentially leads us to accept "unholy" treatment of them.

      March 30, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Primewonk

      Actually TR6, that only applied to male Hebrew slaves you bought. If you bought a female hebrew for a slave you didn't need to free her. You got to keep using her for a s.ex slave, or even give her to your sons to use and abuse.

      Can you imagine being the wife of a cretin who sold your daughter to your neighbor, and now you get to hear her scream in pain and agony every night as she is brutally ra.ped?

      What a loving god these cretins choose to worship!

      March 30, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Nii

      Stupid atheist propaganda. In the Bible if you want to sleep with ur slave girl then she must become your wife with all the conjugal rights your other wives enjoy. If you abuse her physically she can divorce you. S.ex slaves were N.American invention. Don't confuse the two. if u don't know ask Jews

      March 30, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • OhPlease

      "Stupid atheist propaganda. In the Bible if you want to sleep with ur slave girl then she must become your wife with all the conjugal rights your other wives enjoy. "

      Really what scripture is that?

      March 30, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • WASP

      @nii-tard:"Stupid atheist propaganda. In the Bible if you want to sleep with ur slave girl then she must become your wife with all the conjugal rights your other wives enjoy. If you abuse her physically she can divorce you. S.ex slaves were N.American invention. Don't confuse the two. if u don't know ask Jews"

      "Herodotus and other ancient historians tell us the Greeks were famous for carting off young women after battles. The human bo-oty was consigned to lives of servitude, either as concubines or domestic servants.
      In Rome, at the height of its far-flung empire, one in every three persons is thought to have been a slave. Like the Greeks, most were captured in foreign wars. While enslaved men toiled as laborers, girls and women were more likely to be channeled into entertainment avenues.
      It’s interesting to note that prior to 4000 B.C., or what has been dubbed “pre-history”, evidence of se.xual servitude and slavery are largely absent from the artifacts of human culture. And following the Indo-Aryan invasions into the Near East at around that time, evidence suggests that the temple se.xual rites common to the Neolithic Age were converted into a practice far less consensual and now involved the payment of money. Hence, the business of prosti.tution was born, not of prosti.tutes, but of pimps."

      this doesn't only prove you to be a complete moron and uneducated, it also proves you are an antisemitic. why is it everytime something comes up nii-tard you feel you have to attack the jews? i have a feeling there is hate in your heart.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Nii

      Atheists seem to have reading comprehension problems. How can asking you to seek better understanding of biblical slave laws from Jews be attacking Jews. I am Messianic Jewish myself. If you want to know about female slaves becoming wives just read the top of the blog someone posted them.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  17. Rene

    I was looking for my second comment...but it is not found. The computer says it is already a duplicate comment. How do I know if it is published? Thanks

    March 30, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • lunchbreaker

      CNN probably screened it out. Happens to me sometimes.

      March 30, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • FYI

      There are certain banded words.

      The moderators of this blog have set up a secret forbidden word filter which unfortunately not only will delete or put your comment in the dreaded "waiting for moderation" category but also will do the same to words having fragments of these words. For example, "t-it" is in the set but the filter will also pick up words like Hitt-ite, t-itle, beati-tude, practi-tioner and const-tution. Then there are words like "an-al" thereby flagging words like an-alysis and "c-um" flagging acc-umulate or doc-ument. And there is also "r-a-pe", “a-pe” and “gra-pe”, "s-ex", and "hom-ose-xual". You would think that the moderators would have corrected this by now considering the number of times this has been commented on but they have not. To be safe, I typically add hyphens in any word that said filter might judge "of-fensive".
      • More than one web address will also activate “waiting for moderation”. Make sure the web address does not have any forbidden word or fragment.
      Two of the most filtered words are those containing the fragments "t-it" and "c-um". To quickly check your comments for these fragments, click on "Edit" on the Tool Bar and then "Find" on the menu. Add a fragment (without hyphens) one at a time in the "Find" slot and the offending fragment will be highlighted in your comments before you hit the Post button. Hyphenate the fragment(s) and then hit Post. And remember more than one full web address will also gain a "Waiting for Moderation".
      And said moderators still have not solved the chronological placement of comments once the number of comments gets above about 100. They recently have taken to dividing the comments in batches of 50 or so, for some strange reason. Maybe they did this to solve the chronology problem only to make comment reviews beyond the tedious.
      “Raison's Filter Fiber© (joking about the copyright)
      1. Here's my latest list – this seems like a good spot to set this down, as nobody's posting much on this thread.....
      bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to post that wonderful argument:
      Many, if not most are buried within other words, but I am not shooting for the perfect list, so use your imagination and add any words I have missed as a comment (no one has done this yet)
      – I found some but forgot to write them down. (shrugs).
      c-um.........as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, etc.
      sp-ic........as in disp-icable (look out Sylvester the cat!)
      ho-mo...whether ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, etc.
      t-it.........const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, etc.
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, (an unexpected one)
      va-g....as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant
      ar-se....yet "ass" is not filtered!
      jacka-ss...but ass is fine lol
      p-is.....as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, etc.
      o ficti-tious, repeti-tion, competi-tion.
      There are more, so do not assume that this is complete.

      March 30, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  18. eyesopened

    Gods perfect law in action its flawless people, judge not lest though be judged by that same standard, or like mom used to say takes one to know one

    March 30, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Wow

      "Gods perfect law in action its flawless people"

      That's why it flooded the earth and murdered everyone but a few, that is not perfection!

      March 30, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • *facepalm*

      "judge not lest ye be judged by the same standard"

      I don't own slaves, nor have I ever justified as such. I have no problems judging the morality of a religion that can be used to justify slavery.

      If gods law is flawless, why did he need to change it? Your god is a moral relativist.

      March 30, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • tallulah13

      Our Muslim laws are built with certain kinds of rules and regulation that actually helps to shield the unweildy from using any kind of discourse in case of slavery protection.I agree with the author that we Muslims follow the Sharia law and abide by it.
      Read the Const.itution and get educated.

      March 30, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  19. eyesopened

    freedom is the word along with justified and liberty, that was gracefully intrusted to the USA. now for all you who are Christians and should know better, and all those who are ignorant of this truth, was founded on truths not opinions. A truth that empowers one to be free from the curse of, or being a slave to your sin. This is the foundation NOT religion that this country the USA we live in was built on, The rock of salvation, He who the Son sets free is free indeed. If you claim to call yourself an american you are under the umbrella of Gods grace whether you believe in Him or not. the only difference is, one choosing to remain a slave to his or her sin, constantly struggling to prove to yourself and the ones around you that you are doing the right thing. This works the same for the hypicritical and selfrightous christian. Dont over think it people listen to yourselves blameing and judging eachother left and right, if you believe in Christ you should not be judging and if you dont believe in Christ you dont have to be a slave in doing so. We are ALL guilty as americans of taking for grandit a glorious Grace of freedoom and liberty and justice, thats alot of pain and suffering on the part of others... to what sit around and spread rumours and lies all day? take a moment and look in the mirror of your mind and heart and take in the true meaning of Faith. it truly is free Jesus payed it all

    March 30, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Wow

      "f you claim to call yourself an american you are under the umbrella of Gods grace whether you believe in Him or not.

      That has got to be one of the stupidest statements on this blog. Take your prejudice bigotry and leave America!

      March 30, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • Anon

      Christianity erodes the mind and these crazies want a theocratic America.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • bspurloc

      u r either with us or u r against us, Christian Taliban. believe as we believe or we will force u to leave

      March 30, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  20. Lucifer

    Not just religion, Khazarian wannabe Jutes.

    March 30, 2012 at 10:32 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.