Author Topic: Morality then and now  (Read 1243 times)

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Offline G-Roll

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Morality then and now
« on: November 12, 2013, 09:47:55 AM »
I am starting this thread because of a conversation I had on worthy boards with a Jewish fellow who defended slavery in the bible. He was against slavery but claimed that slavery back then wasn’t as bad as it is today. People could volunteer themselves and pay off debts to be as a slave. Never mind that our whole conversation was started by Jesus giving instructions how to beat a slave yet not kill him immediately. I don’t know how one could get the impression a slave would be a bad career choice if there need be laws to make sure you don’t get beat to death.

Anywho I eventually asked the rhetorical (I thought it would be rhetorical) question of do you think we are more moral now than we were back 4,000 years ago. To my surprise he said we are just as bad. I rolled this around in my brain and threw out the religious nonsense of idolatry and worshiping "false gods" as immoral acts. I will concede that we are still a cruel and corrupt species, yet far removed from those ancient people. Grant it some areas of the world still are pretty much the same as they were 4,000 years ago or just as backwards.

Yet should the grid go down or oil run out do you think we would revert back to the mind set of people 4,000 years ago. Would we start stoning children again? Or do you think we are past that and it is in humanities past? Or maybe we are the very same species just waiting for our release into the wild to unleash our barbarism? Or as the fellow said we are just as crappy now as we were then. Just we hide it better and mask our immorality?

Offline Anfauglir

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2013, 10:39:27 AM »
Yet should the grid go down or oil run out do you think we would revert back to the mind set of people 4,000 years ago. Would we start stoning children again? Or do you think we are past that and it is in humanities past? Or maybe we are the very same species just waiting for our release into the wild to unleash our barbarism? Or as the fellow said we are just as crappy now as we were then. Just we hide it better and mask our immorality?

Sadly, I think we would in general be worse, mainly due to overpopulation and the technological society. 

Way back when, there was space, to move, to hunt, to live, the pressure to rob and kill was a lot less.  If the grid goes down in the cities for more than a day, then as soon as the food runs out its all going to go to heck.

BUT, I don't think that that is because we are morally worse - I think morally we are better, but the world has moved too far away from one in which we can be moral....if that makes sense.
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Offline Wonder Woman

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2013, 11:01:56 AM »
I think worse because there wasn't as much government corruption.  People traded for goods w/o money.  The invention of money is what corrupted this world.  The root to all evil is money.   

Even though there are laws against it people still commit horrific crimes.  The death penalty still exists.  There are people starving while others have more money than they could ever spend.

The most important point I think I can make is that we have the mistakes of our ancestors/history to learn from but yet the need for riches surpasses the needs of society.  I don't think that speaks highly of our generation.

Offline screwtape

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2013, 03:09:23 PM »
I think worse because there wasn't as much government corruption.  People traded for goods w/o money.  The invention of money is what corrupted this world.  The root to all evil is money.   

Even though there are laws against it people still commit horrific crimes.  The death penalty still exists.  There are people starving while others have more money than they could ever spend.

The most important point I think I can make is that we have the mistakes of our ancestors/history to learn from but yet the need for riches surpasses the needs of society.  I don't think that speaks highly of our generation.

Sorry WW, this is a terrible post.  Terrible.

First, what in the world makes you think there was less government corruption 4000 years ago?  How do you measure corruption?  Just the fact that governments were smaller?  Keep in mind, they were mostly monarchies. 

Secondly, to say money created corruption is wrong.  Stuff and desire for stuff created corruption.  There was corruption long before money.  Watch how chimps treat each other over food.  That there is corruption without money.

Third, you didn't even get the quote right.  It is "the love of money is the root of all evil."[1] 

Fourth, the sentiment expressed in the quote is wrong.  Greed is not the root of all evil.  Stupidity accounts for most of it.

That's just the first paragraph. 


As for the OP, it's a split decision.  Our code of morals is much better.  It is far, far better than that of 4000 years ago.  Not even close. 

People, though, have not changed.  We still suck.  I was at Pompeii a few years ago.  What I found remarkable was just how much like us they were.  If you took someone from our group, taught them Latin, took away the cell phone, they would have fit right in at Pompeii.  All of our advancement is from just a few of our best.  The rest of us stand on their shoulders.  We are chimps standing on the shoulders of gods.




 1. 1 Tim 6:10 http://biblehub.com/1_timothy/6-10.htm
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Offline Anfauglir

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2013, 03:18:24 AM »
I call "Wonder Woman" as a sockpuppet of Junebug, attempting to restart.

Same unsupported "its greed what done causes all the problems" assertions, same lack of knowledge of history or culture, same basic fails in quoting.....

Could be they're different people.  Just seems a mighty big coincidence that one poster leaves, and a poster with identical opinions and failings pops up shortly after......
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Offline Jonny-UK

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2013, 07:36:45 AM »
As for the OP, it's a split decision.  Our code of morals is much better.  It is far, far better than that of 4000 years ago.  Not even close. 
I do agree it is a split decision,we have certainly developed much fairer laws to govern ourselves by.
The one big thing that I think has gone the other way is the fact a goverment can press a button,launch a missile, and effectively wipe out half the the planet (I do appreciate the chance of this happening is reducing all the time and that this is to do with the morality of the people in charge and not a member of the public)
« Last Edit: November 14, 2013, 07:42:13 AM by Jonny-UK »
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Online One Above All

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2013, 07:43:02 AM »
As for the OP, it's a split decision.  Our code of morals is much better.  It is far, far better than that of 4000 years ago.  Not even close. 

How do you determine that, given that morality is subjective?
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Offline Anfauglir

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2013, 09:30:17 AM »
As for the OP, it's a split decision.  Our code of morals is much better.  It is far, far better than that of 4000 years ago.  Not even close. 
I do agree it is a split decision,we have certainly developed much fairer laws to govern ourselves by.

I think that's the problem.  We have indeed got fairer laws than we had thousands of years ago (heck, even a few decades ago), but have we evolved as fast in our heads as we have in the courts?  Sadly, I don't think we have.  We've got our family/tribe ethics still, but for the most part still haven't evolved past the fear of the stranger, of the enemy tribe.

So much of society is a fiction, that only works because the majority of people subscribe to it.  If that civilisation breaks down, I see "global morality" (for want of a better term) breaking down very quickly.  In a society with cops and telephones and plenty, most of us will give a sandwich to a beggar, help the guy who has no fuel.  If the power goes off, and the cops are all gone, I strongly suspect we will all retreat into our "tribe" mentality, and help only those in our little groups.  There will still be morality of a kind, but it will be selectively applied.
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Offline Shaffy

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2013, 10:13:04 AM »
I think it is more corrupt now because the pressure for terrorism and thievery is much higher now..due to technology and money.Back then the day probably went pretty simple. Also, keep in mind that they still had corrupt governments and monarchies back then.I just think now the nice innocent people have turned into the hungry ( my son is better than yours) type of people. :laugh:

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2013, 10:55:52 AM »
I call "Wonder Woman" as a sockpuppet of Junebug, attempting to restart.

Same unsupported "its greed what done causes all the problems" assertions, same lack of knowledge of history or culture, same basic fails in quoting.....

Could be they're different people.  Just seems a mighty big coincidence that one poster leaves, and a poster with identical opinions and failings pops up shortly after......
I thought the same thing when I read the posts.
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Offline jdawg70

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2013, 11:01:14 AM »
I call "Wonder Woman" as a sockpuppet of Junebug, attempting to restart.

Same unsupported "its greed what done causes all the problems" assertions, same lack of knowledge of history or culture, same basic fails in quoting.....

Could be they're different people.  Just seems a mighty big coincidence that one poster leaves, and a poster with identical opinions and failings pops up shortly after......
While not conclusive, a check on IP addresses of posts could reveal that.

Does moderator-power grant that ability?
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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2013, 11:06:50 AM »
I lean toward thinking that we're one disaster away from reverting to tribalism, at least in the developed world. We (mostly) have lost the ability to function without technology, and technology is also responsible for our increased awareness of people's bad behavior. I'm not all that sure that people are necessarily better or worse than 4,000 years ago - our bad behavior is different due to the world itself being different.

Scale probably plays a role as well. Take Enron - the specific wrongs committed by the various parties were related to circumventing legal boundaries by taking advantage of loopholes that were largely unrecognized. They were able to impact a significantly larger number of people due to the technology they used to conduct their business. They had access to more, so they were able to leverage that access for bigger returns on their schemes.

Purely speculative opinions.
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Offline Graybeard

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2013, 11:08:38 AM »
It is hard to find those who speak in favour of slavery nowadays. It is generally seen as non-PC and there is some liberals out there who condemn it now and in its past forms as entirely unacceptable.

Like a lot of bleeding-hearts, they have not looked far enough nor have they examined the huge humanitarian benefits of slavery.

The first thing is that slaves are not cheap to buy and are not cheap to run. If you maltreat your slaves and they are injured then they will not be able to work efficiently. This means buying another slave. You want a parallel? OK, never service your car, never put any oil in it, be careless about fender-benders and see how much money it costs you.

In an economy based upon agriculture, trading and a military occupation, there were some things that would not have been affordable if there were no slaves -> food, and raw materials. So, have no slaves and starve or have slaves and live like kings.

In a time when welfare was at a minimum, what do you want, beggars or the same people doing a useful job for which they are fed, housed, clothed, sent to the doctor, and given a socially responsible job – all at someone else’s expense? And some of them received an education and all of them lived in a clean house protected from the elements.

Slavery was a form of taxation. Money had to be put into the economy to support them. Give them all freedom and you have massive unemployment, hundreds starving on the streets and local businesses go under. And who was it who had slaves? The rich – so the rich helped the poor and local business, taxes were raised and aqueducts were built. (What did the Romans ever do for us?)

Let’s move forwards a few hundred years to the 19th century post emancipation: There were still “Hiring Fairs” where people would actively sell themselves to you for a year. Now, this is no more than “private enterprise slavery”. You paid him £5 and you fed, clothed and housed him and you had a field labourer.

What happened next? The demand for a living wage! This is outrageous deception! All it meant was that you paid him a little bit more but he had to pay rent, feed himself and his dependants, clothe himself, etc. But he still did the same job! Basically he was a “wage slave”.

Oh yes, you can say, “But he can do what he wants.” to which I reply, "Huh! Fat chance. If we could do what we wanted to, why aren’t we all lounging on some beach surrounded by the young and beautiful of our choice?"

We are as much restricted as a slave. And who does this restricting? Why, the rich who pay us to work for them.

“Plus ca change c’est la meme chose!”

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Offline Jonny-UK

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #13 on: November 14, 2013, 11:14:37 AM »
We have indeed got fairer laws than we had thousands of years ago (heck, even a few decades ago), but have we evolved as fast in our heads as we have in the courts?  Sadly, I don't think we have.  We've got our family/tribe ethics still, but for the most part still haven't evolved past the fear of the stranger, of the enemy tribe.
I agree, quite often people seem unsure of a new law or ruling (eg. gay marriage has been in the news a bit here in the uk)- it takes a while for a new attitude to be accepted and become "the norm".

Quote
   So much of society is a fiction, that only works because the majority of people subscribe to it.  If that civilisation breaks down, I see "global morality" (for want of a better term) breaking down very quickly.  In a society with cops and telephones and plenty, most of us will give a sandwich to a beggar, help the guy who has no fuel.  If the power goes off, and the cops are all gone, I strongly suspect we will all retreat into our "tribe" mentality, and help only those in our little groups.  There will still be morality of a kind, but it will be selectively applied.
Agreed again.
This is one of the concerns mentioned on the news regarding the Philippines. Aid does not seem to be getting through fast enough. When it comes to life or death situations I'm sure the usual laws come second to finding something to eat or protecting your family etc.
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Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2013, 12:05:03 PM »
Two things:

1) Slavery is more prevalent now that it ever was. It is hidden, but apparently it is also real.

http://articles.latimes.com/2013/oct/17/world/la-fg-global-slavery-20131018

The Wikipedia article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contemporary_slavery

Which means that not enough of us are more moral than in the past.

2) If we are, in general, more moral, it is because we have more examples of things that we can call good or bad. People today seen more airplanes fly into the World Trade Center than people from 1975. And people from 1975 had seen more Bhuddist monks burn themselves in protest than those alive in 1925 had seen. And those people had seen many more millions die in trench warfare then the people living in 1900. So we have gone to a lot of trouble to teach ourselves what is good and what is bad, morally speaking.

We should be doing more to take advantage of our hard-won knowledge. But too many of us are distracted because guarding our slaves takes so frickin' much time.

When we bomb ourselves back to the stone age, we'll find out that we've been living there all the time; that we've just fooled ourselves by having Nintendo's and stuff. That may be the first time that all of what's left of humanity will feel bad about this crap.

Edit: fixed bad wording. At least in one sentence.
Edit: Then I had to edit that!

« Last Edit: November 14, 2013, 12:08:41 PM by ParkingPlaces »
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Offline Anfauglir

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #15 on: November 15, 2013, 04:47:30 AM »
Oh yes, you can say, “But he can do what he wants.” to which I reply, "Huh! Fat chance. If we could do what we wanted to, why aren’t we all lounging on some beach surrounded by the young and beautiful of our choice?"

We are as much restricted as a slave. And who does this restricting? Why, the rich who pay us to work for them.

I'm in agreement with a lot of your post, and I CAN see how a particular type of slavery would make sense, where the master has an investment to protect and I'm sure that in some circumstances the life of a high-price, educated slave could be pretty good - certainly better than dying of hunger on the streets.

But I seriously doubt that - then OR now - the majority of slaves fell into that category.  Then and now, I'm sure that a lot of female slaves were used up and then thrown out once their attractiveness was gone, same as field-slaves would be useless as soon as their fitness began to flag.

So that's a major issue with the ideal of slavery proposed here: that the slave is clothed and housed enough to survive only as long as they are useful - and then, when infirm and unable to support themselves, out they go.  Is/was slavery ever a "whole life" prospect", with the owner bearing responsibility for the slave after their worth was done?  Was the slave able to accumulate possessions, money, or property so they COULD live after their working lives were done?

- - -

Re: your final point about choice.  No, we don't all live where we want, doing what we want, when we want, with who we want.  But I regard that as a pretty facetious argument about wage-slaves and slavery.

Last night, I finished work, and I went out to play games with my friends.  I did not have to report to anyone, I did not have to ask permission, I just did what I wanted to do.  Did "slaves" work a 9 to 5 and then have evenings and weekends off?

Yeah, sure - at my job I have to do what the boss says (though being a Union Rep I do a certain amount of disagreeing  ;D ), but if I decide I don't like this job, then I can say "bye-bye" and walk away.  I can CHOOSE another "master", I can CHOOSE to strive for myself.  Did or does a slave ever have that choice over who their master is?

Nope.  And that's why any attempt to link "slave" with "wage-slave" ultimately fails.
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Offline Add Homonym

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #16 on: November 15, 2013, 05:38:34 AM »
Vote for the Slavery Party and rid the world of every ill!

How hard do I get my arse rooted?

There were a fair few attrocities during the handling of slaves - esp on the trip over from the west coast. When Jews and Muslims raided another tribe, and killed all the men, the wives would be sold as sex objects. I don't think you get many choices about which holes get rooted, what venereal diseases you got, and what you have to dress up in. Some may have had it good.
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Offline Mrjason

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #17 on: November 15, 2013, 06:08:20 AM »
I've got to ask the question, if slaves had it so good why is the history of pretty much every society that practised slavery littered with slave revolts?

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Offline Ipip12

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #18 on: November 15, 2013, 05:06:51 PM »
Yet should the grid go down or oil run out do you think we would revert back to the mind set of people 4,000 years ago. Would we start stoning children again? Or do you think we are past that and it is in humanities past? Or maybe we are the very same species just waiting for our release into the wild to unleash our barbarism? Or as the fellow said we are just as crappy now as we were then. Just we hide it better and mask our immorality?

Definitely the latter. Believers in the myth of "progress" are terribly deluded.

Modern humans are obviously far more ethical than our ancestors, right? Actually, there's a giant pile of skulls in Cambodia that would beg to differ, as would the millions of victims of the ideological wars that plagued the 20th century.

Don't forget, of course, that there are more slaves alive today than at any other point in our history (not proportionally, though). Debt slavery and sexual slavery are still alive and kicking.

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #19 on: November 15, 2013, 10:36:41 PM »
Yeah, I agree that the veneer of civilization is pretty thin in some places, but it does not have to end in the zombie apocalypse unless we let it happen. Just because there are crowded cities and high tech does not make people more greedy and uncaring.

Look at how folks behaved in Japan after the tsunami-- they were organized and orderly, they rescued the elderly, they shared their food, they volunteered to clean up,  etc.  It was very impressive--who knows if they could do that indefinitely if there was no help coming.

(In the US, the guns would be out, the stores would be looted and the streets would be in chaos a few hours after the ATM's stopped shooting out money. People would be bartering their children for ammo and canned goods in a week or so. I am so disgusted with my country right now....)

Slavery still exists, esp. the sexual exploitation of women and kids. But it operates in the shadows, because most of us disapprove. We get angry when we find out that it is happening and vote for laws against it. The global attitude has changed-- and the more secular the country, the more protections people have against sh!t like debt slavery and child exploitation.

I think that is the difference. If you lived in a country where slavery was legal, would you buy some slaves if you had enough money? I would not. I think we are very different from the people of 200 years ago, when everyone had slaves if they could afford them.
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Offline jaimehlers

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #20 on: November 15, 2013, 10:41:38 PM »
Actually, I think that while some people would go nuts, most Americans would at least try to pull together in the wake of a disaster of some kind.  For example, how people reacted after Hurricane Katrina, especially in New Orleans.

Offline screwtape

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #21 on: November 15, 2013, 11:39:25 PM »
How do you determine that, given that morality is subjective?

My standard is fairness.  We recognize a wider swath of people as "people" than biblical times.  That whole "thou shalt not kill" thing only applied to other jews and not goys, obviously.

Plus, PP's post about slavery not withstanding, more people at least know that owning people is wrong.  They did not know that then.  Now, they know it, but they just don't care.
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Offline Graybeard

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #22 on: November 16, 2013, 01:42:39 PM »
In looking for exactly how slaves were treated in Biblical times, I came across "Stoicism in Early Christianity" edited by Tuomas Rasimus, Troels Engberg-Pedersen, Ismo Dunderberg, which can be found at Google Books. http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=lR2kxd17v44C&oi=fnd&pg=PA141&dq=Treatment+of+slaves&ots=u7G-ep6UVI&sig=n_55j2onpWHTGAFrOuQoI15cW1s#v=onepage&q=Treatment%20of%20slaves&f=false

This part describes the Biblical treatment of slaves and explains particularly the strangeness where, God states that you beat a slave and he died a few days later, then there was no offence, but if he died there and then, there was:

Quote
Fifth, ancient laws usually did not protect slaves from masters who beat them, even severely. Indeed, even if the slave was maimed or died” or committed suicide as a result of a beating usually there were no serious legal consequences in Greece and Rome, at least until very late. As Seneca says, “The law allows anything in dealing with a slave” (Clem. 1.18.2).’ For the most part. the main deterrent to severe violence was economic, not legal or moral. The owner who maimed or killed his own slave had damaged his own property. Consequently, if the slave died, the master suffered the loss of the slave as an asset; if the slave survived but was maimed, he suffered a reduction in the slave’s economic value. Even in the Hebrew Bible, the situation is not fundamentally different.

The Book of the Covenant, for example, mandates the manumission of both male and female slaves in cases where the owner has destroyed the slave’s eye or knocked out a tooth (Exod 2 1:26— 27). The owner is punished economically by being deprived of his “damaged property,” and the slaves’ emancipation as a consequence of permanent bodily harm functions as compensation for their injuries. Again, if a master beats a slave with a stick so severely that the latter dies a day or so later, the master is not punished beyond the economic loss that he himself sustains through his slave’s death. The slave is not avenged, and the master, rather than being punished for manslaughter, is fully exonerated. The reason for the exoneration is explicit: the slave is the master’s “money”—that is, his “property” (Exod 21:21). The only exception to this rule is when the male or female slave dies “on the spot,” which indicates that the slave’s death was intentional rather than accidental. In that case, the slave’s death is treated as a capital offense (Exod 21:20)

As you may have gathered from the title, the book is appreciative of the Stoics philosophy which is clearly superior to that of the Christians and Christ in particular. Morality is often cited by Christians as one of the gifts of God. Perhaps they should read the following and cease saying this.

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The world of the Matthew’s Jesus’ parables and teaching, the fatal punishment of the butchered slave in this life and his fate in the afterlife are conflated. As a result of this telescoping technique, the parable’s lens shifts suddenly and seamlessly from the bloody scene of the master’s cleavage of his slave (tantamount to the eschatological last judgment) to a scene in the netherworld, where the slave takes his place with other evildoers. These wretches are doomed to eternal remorse (“wailing and gnashing of teeth” [8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:5 1; 25:30]) for their misdeeds and to eternal punishment (25:46); this is the fate of the punished slave both in this parable (24:51) and in the preceding one (25:30). It should be noted, however, that the savage punishment of the wicked slave in this parable is inflicted by the master himself, who does not delegate the task of inflicting the punishment to another member of his household (contrast 18:34; 25:28_30).

Finally, in the parable of the unforgiving slave (Matt 18:23—35), a king is prepared to sell one of his slaves, along with the slave’s wife, children, and possessions, in order to recover some of the money that the slave owes him (18:24—25). When the slave petitions for more time and pledges to repay the entire debt, the king is compassionate and forgives the entire debt (18:26—27). Yet when the king learns that this pardoned slave has failed to treat one of his fellow slaves with the same mercy that he received from the king (18:28—31), the monarch’s compassion turns to anger, the ungrateful slave’s massive debt of ten thousand talents is reinstituted, and instead of being sold along with his family and possessions (as was the master’s original plan), the wicked slave is turned over to those who will torture him until the entire debt is repaid (18:32—34).

When read against the backdrop of discussions of slave management by Stoics and other  Hellenistic moralists, two shocking features of this parable stand out. First, the king acts in anger (18:34), which was extremely common in dealing with slaves but violated the counsels of both Stoics and Middle Platonists such as Plutarch, which focused on deferring punishment until anger subsided. Second, the angry master subjects the unforgiving slave to torture (18:34), which not only is a more dire punishment than he originally contemplated (18:25) hut also is far more severe than the penalty (imprisonment) to which the unforgiving slave has subjected his fellow slave as debtor (18:30). Without question the slave in this parable is despicable—an ungrateful, vindictive wretch who merits punishment.

But any Stoic who read or heard this parable would have raised the issue whether torture was an appropriate punishment, especially since it was decreed in the heat of the master’s anger, which, along with sheer depravity, was widely regarded as the prime cause of cruel and excessive punishments. Yet far from raising such questions or from criticizing the master’s anger or his use of torture, the Matthean Jesus makes the angry king’s torture of his slave analogous to God’s future action! Like the king in the parable, God will inflict punishment on all those who refuse to grant others the same forgiveness that they themselves have received (18:35; see also 6:12, 14—15).

In addition to raising moral and theological objections to the actions of the master in the parable of the unforgiving slave, Stoics would likely have questioned whether a useless slave who has only cost his master the interest on a single talent should he cast into the outer darkness (25:30). Useless slaves normally were not punished in perpetuity but rather were sold to someone else. In short, from the perspective of many Stoics, the reactions of masters to their slaves’ failures and misdeeds in the Matthean Jesus’ parable would have been deemed extreme, resulting in excessive and cruel punishments. In this sense, the New Testament does not simply reflect aspects of social reality. Far more troubling is the fact that it here endorses by divine analogy precisely those abusive aspects of slave management that Stoics sharply criticized.

One interesting point is that there is a footnote on the above, which, when comparing the above extract from the Bible, starts “Another fictional account of a slave…”
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Online One Above All

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #23 on: November 16, 2013, 01:47:48 PM »
My standard is fairness.
<snip>

Which, again, is subjective. Think, for example, about a murderer. Some people say he deserves to die. Others say he deserves to be put in jail (until he dies or for a limited time). Others might say it was a one-time thing and that he shouldn't be punished, as his own conscience will do it.
To summarize, some people say two wrongs make a right. Others don't. AFAIK there's no way to objectively prove which is true. They're subjective.
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Online nogodsforme

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #24 on: November 16, 2013, 11:48:41 PM »
On the treatment of slaves, it is interesting how the economic incentive trumps what we might think of as basic human kindness.

In the US, indentured servants who would be freed after 7 years were often treated worse than the slaves they worked alongside, but who were owned for life. Since the indentures were most often white (Irish immigrants, for example), if they escaped it would be easier for them to hide their near-slave status. So the masters wanted to get all they could out of the indenture before they left.
 
Brutality, beatings etc, were the norm for indentures, but in the case of slaves, usually reserved for punishing or making an example of a slave for trying to escape or breaking a rule. You would not spend very much on the care and feeding of a slave, but you would spend even less on the indentured servant. It's like how people treat an old car that they own (slave) versus how they treat a rental (indenture).[1] 

I read accounts of female indentures being raped and impregnated intentionally by masters right before their 7 years was up, so they were would be forced to stay on longer. Some recent research on the end of slavery in Brazil also shows that the masters became incredibly brutal as slavery was being outlawed. The last year of slavery was far worse than the years previous. Like, this is your last chance to really mistreat someone before they get to leave, so go for it.

As for morality of slavery being relative, I only have to apply the golden rule. Would I want to be a slave or indentured servant, unpaid, unable to leave and with no control over the most intimate details of my life? Would I want that for my kids?

Hell no.  >:(
 1. I have lost a bit of respect for friends who treated rental cars much worse than they would their own--driving recklessly, saying, "It's just a rental". :P
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Offline MadBunny

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #25 on: November 17, 2013, 12:26:54 AM »
I think that the veneer of society is a lot thinner than we wish.

People ask me: would I own a slave if I could?  Apparently a lot of people think I'm a huge racist for giving them failing grades on their report cards.  Sorry, bit of digression there.  I get asked that rather uncomfortably more than one would expect.  The truth is I'm very opposed to slavery, economic, indenture or physical.

The PROBLEM is, we live in a world where many of us wind up supporting various forms of said slavery without ever knowing about it.  Like a cup of hot cocoa?[1]  Like that lovely silk scarf from India?  How about something even simpler: your 401k, or just regular investments.

If you own stocks in emerging markets in the Pacific then odds are strong that some of the companies you're getting paid dividends by own slaves, or use them as part of their product line.

The problem is that while I wouldn't support this kind of behavior in person, or on an individual level there really isn't an easy way to escape it.  Just grab any five random things within your reach and it's highly likely that they'll be products made in countries with a poor record of human rights violations (ok, China, I'm talking about China).

Here are two that I have investments in: http://www.marketwatch.com/investing/fund/asiax and http://www.marketwatch.com/investing/fund/aceix

I consider myself a fairly moral person, but ultimately I'm also a selfish person.  I will buy the more expensive locally made product if I can, yet I still want to retire at some point, so my investment choices are based on real world returns and risk management.
I guess when the answer comes full circle on whether I would own a slave... honesty compels me to say that I already do, in a way.  Not in the 'do this or I will beat you' kind of way but in a more subtle way by supporting people who do. 

Aside from working to improve conditions, promoting fair trade practice and supporting groups like OWS when possible... I don't know.  Show me products made with fair labor and I'll buy them.  Show me blue chips that perform and I'll buy them (though supporting Walmart, McD and so on isn't all that great either).


 1. http://www.buycott.com/campaign/494/boycott-chocolate-produced-by-child-slaves
« Last Edit: November 17, 2013, 12:29:49 AM by MadBunny »
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Offline Graybeard

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #26 on: November 17, 2013, 09:49:20 AM »
One of the great mistakes when comparing the lot of humans around the planet is to see the problem subjectively. Imagine that instead of a country where slavery is rife being so many miles away, it were so many centuries away in comparison to us - we  once did all that.

Now imagine that we are in a world where time travel is possible, cheap and easy. Would we send troops to prevent the Crusades? Should we send a SWAT team to disrupt the Salem Witch Trials? How do you think such interventions would be seen by the local population? How much interference is necessary or desirable? When we know what is best for people, are we right? In 400 year’s time, what will people say of our civilisation? Would they want to send troops to correct it? Do we know the effects our interference will have in 20, 50 or 100 years?

Are civilisations subject to evolution in terms of society’s behaviour? Can we force civilisations to adopt our model? Is it the best one for them? The situation in Niger is entirely different from the one in up-state New York.

Years ago, I saw a documentary “Murder in Benin.” A policeman had been shot and the camera followed the Inspector investigating. At one point, “the usual suspects” were dragged in and beaten to obtain information. One had his leg broken. None of them turned out to be involved but afterwards, but even the one with the broken leg agreed, “Oh well, the police have a job to do and the murderer was caught, so I suppose it’s OK.”

The point was that at the end, the Inspector said, “I used to be in the police in Paris. There I had telephones, radio, a forensic science lab, cars, and many colleagues. We can’t afford this in Benin, so we do our best. Perhaps is 100 years time…”

If we agree that there are no absolute morals and that each society creates its own, who are we to argue? When someone comes and says “Sharia Law would benefit the West and I would like to impose it.” What is the response? The response is “Piss off! We are happy with our own morals, thank you!”

Slavery, child labour, gross corruption are all things through which civilisations pass, and eventually things change as they changed here. I can think of outrageous things that were practised only 50 years ago, but, at the time they seemed fine and sensible.

Now look at the amount of money, manpower and effort it would take to eradicate the ills of the world. It is truly depressing. You can tinker at the edges, you can decide to not buy a certain brand of something, but nobody is ignorant enough to think this makes any difference in real terms.

We sit in a comfortable house in a comfortable country with our comfortable wife, kids and dog and we criticise people who are on the edge of starvation, with no medical help, no infrastructure, no consumer laws, no access to justice and no way of investigating crime, even if they wanted to.

Lest this sounds a counsel of despair, it is possible to have a very small effect on a very few people in one or two countries – this may aid, or even slightly speed, the evolution of their society… but let’s be realistic about the size of our effort compared with the size of the problem. The vast majority don’t know and/or don’t care.
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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #27 on: November 17, 2013, 02:46:35 PM »
^^^^I agree with much of what you say, Graybeard. In a situation where an extra pair of hands is the difference between having enough to eat and going hungry, who am I to say that it is wrong to have that extra pair of hands be a child who would otherwise starve if the parents had not sold it to another family?

I have lived in situations where I had to condone what I saw as cruelty and gross injustice. The best I could do was to try make the abused person's life a tiny bit less awful. Give them a bit of my food, smile and speak to them by name, see them as a human being, let them know that there was at least one person in the village who would never hit them or speak harshly to them. And I vowed to educate people in the US about their lives when I got a chance, because cruelty survives best in the shadows of ignorance.[1]

One thing does give me hope, and that is what I heard an anti-child-slavery activist say a few weeks ago. She campaigns for fair trade chocolate instead of the kind produced by child slaves. She said we should not give up in despair at how huge and awful the problems of the world are. Instead we should remember that the world we see today is the result of all the small decisions we made yesterday. If we want to see a different world tomorrow, we have to make different small decisions today. Very Buddhist. But I have seen enough positive changes in my lifetime to know it to be true.

When I was a kid, interracial marriage was still illegal in many states. Gay people were not allowed to exist except for routine beatings, particularly by the police. If you were not white, you still had a hard time voting, let alone running for office.  Christianity was openly promoted in public schools. Native Americans got shot by John Wayne on tv while everyone-- even us black and native kids-- cheered. Stray dogs were gathered up and summarily killed with no stop at a shelter with a chance at "adoption". Black cats were set on fire for Halloween.

Everyone over 50 had lost a few or even all of their teeth. There was no treatment for cancer-- you just died horribly. Cancer was the AIDS of my era.  Sex education for girls was "keep your legs closed" and a few old tattered Playboy magazines in the bathroom in middle school--and already too late for some. Tampon use meant you were a whore. True information about sex was as hard to obtain as abortion and birth control, which were both bad things only whispered about. Girls who got pregnant without husbands were whores and their babies were bastards. Adoption was a guilty secret to be kept from the kid at all cost, because it meant their mom threw them away.

And we threw away everything--newspapers, plastic bags, grass clippings, leaves, cans, bottles, old TV's-- all went into the landfill or dump. Nothing was recycled, because we were not in effin' Bangladesh where people pick through the trash. Our parents drove enormous metal yachts full of 18 cents a gallon leaded gas stolen from stupid sand-eating ragheads. Without seatbelts. While smoking unfiltered Camels.

And we were the best thing the planet had ever produced.

Yeah, a hundred years from now we will be the barbarians our parents warned us about. But we are much better barbarians than we used to be.
 1. Ohh, that was good. Maybe it should be "damp, stinking, fetid shadows of ignorance..." I gotta remember that one....or did I steal that from Les Miz? ;D
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Offline screwtape

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Re: Morality then and now
« Reply #28 on: November 18, 2013, 04:23:00 PM »
Which, again, is subjective.

So what?  I think you have to look at what they are for and what they are all rooted in.  That would be "making successful societies" and "equality and fairness", respectively.  On both counts, we win, Iron Age Jews lose.

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