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. Phllyphan

    Another case of all religions promoting evil.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Jim McDonald

      And all atheists like Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot et al. are all pure and loving...

      March 29, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • BobbyTN

      Jim McDonald
      All atheists are not like Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot just like all Christians aren't like Hitler. Give anyone the power of a dictator and see how they end up treating people should be the historical lesson learned from these people.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Zaximus42

      Jim, those were some mean people. But rare. Feel free to scroll through the global news feeds. Not many Atheists popping up causing a lot of damage. Maybe I'm wrong but it just seems that way to me. Maybe it's because the media is liberal as everyone says. But even still I would believe the social media we have today would bring these cases to light beyond the corporate arms of media. Just a thought.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • ensense

      The number of deaths atheism has caused in its short span of existence is more than all religions combined.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • ensense

      Atheist may have a dictator but most atheist regimes are ruled by a junta, eg Burma, china, Vietnam, Cambodia during pol pot and. soviet union.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • ensense

      And yeah we do expect the commi liberal Atheist media to shine light on atheist atrocities.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  2. ColoMatt

    Native Americans had a history of slavery, as did animist nomads, beloved by the secular left and militant atheists. Just ask Attila, Genghis.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • BobbyTN

      I think the point being made is that slavery came pretty naturally to people, but the great religions who billed themselves as the best way to overcome human vices didn't think it was so bad at the time. Religions have risen above their traditional, original root moralities to oppose slavery nowadays. The liberal advance of opposing slavery is generally accepted as a social and religious good, so perhaps we should encourage them to continue such advances?

      March 29, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • ColoMatt

      I am aware of what the point is. I am also aware that the first arguments in the western world against slavery were made by true Christians, and the greatest progress against slavery has been the result of true Christian thought.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Zaximus42

      Not sure I would credit "christian" thinking as the tip of the iceberg to begin fighting slavery. I would credit the slaves themselves pushing that agenda. I can imagine one thinking "Wow this really sucks. I don't want to be a slave anymore." Just a thought mind you.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • BobbyTN

      So the slave owners, including the Founding Fathers, weren't "true Christians"? What kind of "Christian nation" did they establish, then?

      March 29, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  3. iconoclast1

    This totally changes my reverence for the world's religions. Just kidding. Organized religions have been a force for oppression and aggression over the ages. Why would anyone want to belong to any of the world's dominant religions?

    March 29, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Zaximus42

      Because they were raised to. Simple as that. It's the same for politics. Dems/repubs tend to have dems/repubs for children. It's simply just impressions made at the early age of people's development. Once ingrained in their mental wiring its really hard for them to see any different. Early enough it's very hard for them to think outside those terms or pose questions to what they've been taught. That's why religions are designed around things like doubting is wrong and so on.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  4. Conner

    Religion is a double edged sword when it comes to slavery. Yes there are many passages that whites used to keep blacks in bondage but on the other hand many blacks use religion to justify their need for freedom. Many slaves who had either read or been taught the bible same themselves in a new form of exodus. They saw that it was their god given right to escape this bondage and return to freedom. Also AME churches were really the first places where blacks in America could have a sense of power and worth. These churches helped black slave communties unite together.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  5. older sista

    When Abraham prayed for a son, he had his will all made out to his chief slave in case he never had children. A slave was more of an indentured servant who could leave after a debt was paid off or the year of Jubilee came around. You could be a good master (employer) or a bad master (employer) A 'bond servant' declared their loyalty to you and remained in your
    service after their debt was paid/freedom was earned. But since 'the love of money' eventually shows up, systems get perverted and deteriorate into capturing people in one country and putting them to work for you forever. Then you try to justify your behavior by grabbing at anything you think will persuade people.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • BobbyTN

      If you're trying to sugarcoat biblical slavery as basically the same as modern-day employment then you are forgetting that the masters could beat their slaves severely.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  6. abnbear

    The truth is that NONE of these religions promote bad things against our brothers and sisters. However, Satan also works in mysterious ways. You cannot just google "slavery in bible" and quote one verse and expect to get the truth like that. This is the fork in the road for all of us; you can just shrug it off or delve into some study. Your life may depend on it.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Zaximus42

      Scary. So if I don't research this extensively I may be subject to go to Hell? Which religion should I pick first? I really don't want to go to hell or be associated with this "Satan" character at all. Please advise!

      March 29, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Zaximus42

      Also I would hand you a history book to read through. Maybe even the Bible itself. It's full of twists and turns and floods and fires and stabbings and beatings and fear mongering and....*starts bleeding from nostrils and passes out*

      March 29, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  7. Sabina James

    Christians may have practised slavery but it condemned by God. ALWAYS. Same with polygamy.
    Exodus 21 :16 He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death.

    Just because the Bible records the failings of people doesn't mean it endorses it.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • BobbyTN

      That's what you, as a Christian, feel now, but how would that have been received by the slave-owning Christians of America's past? The same slave-owning Christians who helped establish the nation of the USA. Anyone who argues that the USA was established as a Christian nation is also arguing that it was established as a slave-owning nation too. Lucky for us that we did manage to progress beyond what the Founding Fathers originally intended, eh?

      March 29, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • ensense

      It is funny how you guys argue on one side that the founding fathers as the first atheist Illuminati ect.. If that is the case why dontt you lay the blame for slavery on atheists and illuminant.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • ensense

      because christian Europe did not have slavery like Illuminated USA.

      March 29, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  8. Demaon

    Sorry but you need to go back and do your research again. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did not have any slaves and in fact he bought them from his owners and set them free. He brought them equality and gave them equal rights.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Osama

      well said! I stopped reading after the 1st sentence was obviously made up...

      March 29, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Shi

      This is True

      March 29, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Osama

      Actually he does acknowledge it near the bottom... but sorry... too late CNN, the damage was done...

      March 29, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Chewbacca

      Muhammad was a child rapist though, marrying Aisha when she was 9 years old.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  9. Mike

    Just more CNN Anit Religion rhetoric. CNN is evil and continues its assult faith. Losers

    March 29, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Justin

      You mad?

      March 29, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Zaximus42

      I totally agree. Leave poor faith alone. No one has ever been harmed in the name of faith before so why should CNN post an article citing religious academics posting their research? The horror of it.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Summit Fox

      How is this anti-religion when all it is doing is examining its history? I think it is a very fitting article in coordination with the Mauritania(spelling?) article about modern slavery, and further delves into how those practices became accepted. Maybe you should look into the history of your religions a little more. My only criticism is that he takes the bibles word as the history, for all we know those random people who inherited the judeo-christian religion after their prophets manipulated the texts to make their practices more acceptable, and he does touch on that in relation to the rise of christianity in Rome

      March 29, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Chewbacca

      Faith is for under-educated losers and for the detritus of society.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • ensense

      Atheism is for soulless communist like pol pot, Mao, Stalin etc etc.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • ensense

      Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind – Albert Einstein.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • ensense

      Emil Ludwig’s Jesus is shallow. Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrasemongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity with a bon mot -Albert Einstein.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • blaqb0x

      Staying ignorant of the evils of what one's own group does leads to atrocities.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  10. JB

    CNN still working to promote racial divide. This time trying for 2 birds with one stone. Lets talk about how mass media manipulates people to suit their own agenda.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Chewbacca

      True, blacks are the most religious group in America, therefore they're the least educated and stupid.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • BobbyTN

      What does this have to do with the relevance of this story? Are you really asking how CNN dare criticize religion in any way? You might as well ask how the abolitionists dared do the same thing in their own day.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • JB

      Bobby, some people, ie. you, have drank the koolaide for so long that they are long past having the ability realize they are being manipulated.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Zaximus42

      So true JB. I personally feel that corporate media has gotten together and developed this grand scheme to divide cultures among it's readers to generate sales and tear down religion. It makes perfect sense. Nothing works better than some good ol'fashioned hate and fear mongering to keep people in line...wait...did I just make an anology? No, my mistake. I bet their corparate greedy hands hurt from all the handshaking going on in dark lit rooms full of stale cigar smoke, bad furniture and young boys for entertainment...wait did I do it again? No, silly me.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • ensense

      ChewBacca Jewish people are some of the most religious, highest educated and smartest people around.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  11. bspurloc

    just slavery???
    it promotes VIOLENCE and death... All religions do... I am pretty sure the Incas and Mayans would have chosen slavery over burning to death but that is just my opinion

    March 29, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  12. Jim McDonald

    Do you people even read the stories you post? Slavery is still alive and well in islamic communities in North Africa. Ask George Clooney.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  13. starman

    Every human has built in morality. I look upon you as a another human and imagine the terrible pain you would suffer if I shot you with a gun. I know this by simply thinking to myself what it would feel like if you shot me. This is the basic rule, treat others how you would like to be treated. This is why most atheists hold the moral high ground on Religionists. Religionists have a arbitrary rule book for morality written 2000 years ago in the Iron age, during a barbaric time for most the world. Your basic question is that if God told you to kill your child, would you? 50% of Americans say yes. If your founding moral back ground is not the basic rule, instead its an arbitrary set of rules that you follow for no other reason then it is demanded of you by reward (heaven) or punishment (hell) and this is what drives your actions... You are not moral.... In the exact same way that officers in the Nazi army were killing Jews in ovens because they were following "orders", they sure didn't follow the basic rule. So ask yourself why your bible has to explain to you in 2012 the rules of morality when it comes to beating your slaves, selling your daughter and even your "rules" regarding being forced to marry your rapist (as long as you pay the father well). Reset your morality.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  14. aizen

    religion is the cancer to humanity, there is a reason why jesus christ himself didnt have one or create one..it is based on corrupting, entrapping, controlling and misguiding human beings into more than a millenia years old conspiracy on human being..religions should be abolished. one must be part of a religion to believe in God.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer really changes things,

    March 29, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Concerned Citizen

      Name ONE thing prayer has changed. Yeah, I didn't think so...

      March 29, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Chewbacca

      Name one example you f_ing _moron...

      March 29, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • starman


      March 29, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Healthy Atheist

      I prayed to win the mega millions jackpot, but it didn't work.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • abnbear

      To the atheists who want proof of a “testable” God, first these warnings: The Lord God has said: “You shall not temp the Lord your God.” Luke 4:12; and he further warned that “…all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness…” Mark 3:28-29
      Now, here's a way to "test" if prayer works: Try it. It works for many today and it has worked for many over time.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • There is nothing new under the sun...

      But Healthy Atheist, I prayed that you would NOT win the Mega Milliions jackpot and it did work!

      March 29, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Zaximus42

      Abn. To further the point: "First these warnings..." So I'm going to Hell? Kind of silly don't you think? When you look back on Greek mythology what do you think? I bet you think that whole run was silly, dontcha?

      March 29, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  16. Dan

    The 10 commandments were cool with people having slaves. As long as you didn't covet your neighbor's slaves things were all good.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:40 pm |

    What tripe, this comes from an Islamic scholar albeit one at a Mormon college,The Koran has specific Sura dealing with the distribution of slaves when they are captured in a battle or when taking over Mushriken or non believers. The Islamic hordes enslaved maost of the countries that they conquered . The name Slav was given to the conquered Balkan people and literally means slave. The author of this horse crap attempts to use the TU Quoque argument that all religions are equally at fault,this is not the case the Muslims ran the African slave trade and still do as seen in Mauritania. Islam is a debased religion founded by a pedofile murderous warlord and as such stands out against all three so called Abrahmic religions as the worst of the worst.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Charles Widmore

      Yes, Christopher Columbus was Mooozlem.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • arthurrrrr

      God Bess You.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Lun

      "Mormon College" says enough. Your revisionist history lessons have no doubt made all of that time studying a complete waste.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • bash

      no wonder ignorant people like you still exist in this world who grab every damn oppurtunity to defame islam. Please try to get out of your narrow minded thinking and get facts from authentic source. May God educate you with real facts and make you true believer.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • yeah yeah

      In your Islamic hate-mongering, you failed to understand the article which by the way is hopefully eye opening for ALL religious over zealous types such as yourself.

      But unfortunately for you my blind friend it's not.

      March 29, 2012 at 1:06 pm |

      The African slave trade to the Americas waas terrible, approximately 12 million men ,women and children were shipped across the middle passge in 400 years of trade,with perhaps one quarter of themdying during the pasage. This trade was run out of Islamic ports such as Dar Al Islam which literally means the house of Islam. Less well known was the African slave trade to the middle East. Starting in approximately the 12th century till today in Mauritania and Sudan the slave trade flourished completely run by Muslims. It is estimated that this trade brought perhaps close to 100 million slaves to the middle East during the height of the trade which lasted 600 years. If you go to the middle East today you will be hard pressed to find a country with an indigenous Afriican population,and you may ask with all the imported slaves where did they all go.For reference look at any country in the New world that imported slaves. From Haiti to Brazil to the US each of these countries have large populations of descendants of these original slaves. Here is the dirty little Islamic secret African male slaves were not allowed into the Middle East without being castrated first, before they left Africa all male slaves were sent to castration centers where they were stripped of thei manhood.,the attrition rate was horrific perhaps up to 40 percent due to infection and shock. That did not matter to the wonderful muslims they were asured that an indigenous population of slaves could not prosper in their Islamic paradise.

      March 29, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Wooland Hills

      Do you think Islam was responsible for slavery here as well?

      March 29, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • ensense

      The people who did the capturing and buying of slaves in Africa were Arabs.

      March 29, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  18. randomthoughts21

    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 my Theology class I was told that the Bible is a book of how you should live your life or examples of how you should live yoru life and not considered a history book. Yes it has historical events, but due to its exagerations and the retelling of different accounts (and the exclusion of the hidden books of the Bible) it was composed to show how you should live your life. With that said, just because he only selected to say the "Chosen People" and not all people should be taken into account that it could translate so that slavery in general isn't allowed.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  19. Alex

    There are several biblical errors cited here:
    1. Moses was not the founder of Judaism, Abraham was.
    2. When the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt, they were not yet the "Chosen People". The covenant with G-d didn't come until afterward, during the wandering in the desert to the Promised Land.
    3. During that time period, there was a designated number of years, after which, all servants had to be freed.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • There is nothing new under the sun...

      Your point about Abraham depends on how you define Judiasim - is it a people (starting with Abraham) or set of laws (largely starting with Mosaic law).
      On your second point, if you argue that the religion started with Abraham, why don't you view God's covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15) as the defining moment of creating the Chosen People?

      March 29, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Alex

      Abraham was the first person to "discover" monotheism and a personal relationship to the one, true G-d. Jewish tradition declares him as the first Jew, but there was no Jewish nation yet.
      The Jewish people did not become a nation until they received the Torah from Mt. Sinai. It was in that moment that the Jews were chosen to be a light unto the nations and entered into a convenant with G-d. The Jewish nation is a people whose laws have developed over years through both written law (Torah) and oral law (Mishnah).

      March 29, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  20. rc texas

    The Law of Moses in the Old Testament required that slaves be freed on the sabath year. That was every seventh year. So depending on when they became a slave, the longest a slave could be held under Old Testament law would be seven years. When Paul sent the slave back to his owner, it was only until the next sabath year, not permanently. The Bible never approved of life-long slavery.

    March 29, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave, and they had sons or daughters, then the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master. Exodus 21:2-6

      March 29, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • freeman

      Really? So a 7 year slavery is ok? These three religions themselves are slavery.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • oboltyo

      But still..... did not approve or disprove of slavery and that was the main point of the article...

      March 29, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Sid Airfoil

      Interesting point. But since the Bible didn't condemn slavery AS SUCH, this is not much of a bone. It merely suggests that the Bible demands that slave owners be NICE to their slaves, and can only treat them as property for limited periods. It still doesn't sound very "Christian" to me.


      March 29, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Carl

      Liar. Leviticus says you can keep your slaves forever and even transfer ownership of your slaves to your children. The emancipation was for (big surprise) slaves who shared your religion and were taken from your same area. More tribalism and immorality.

      March 29, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • GetReal!

      Oh, well that makes it better than! Only enslaved for seven years, not a lifetime...sign me up!! I have an extremely hard time believing that any "modern" day Christian, Muslim, etc. would be ok with sustaining seven years of slavery because their religion can justify it, period! Let's go back to that model and see how many reconsider their religion, unbelievable!!!

      March 29, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Commenter

      7 years? What was the average life span in those days? Probably, around 30. So, 1/4 of one's life in slavery would equate to about 25 years in today's world. Nice, huh?

      March 29, 2012 at 1:45 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.