Chapter 13 - Why does God love slavery?|
Frederick Douglass wrote an autobiography in which he described many of his experiences as a slave in graphic detail. He was a person who experienced the atrocities firsthand.
For example, he describes the violence of his master in this way:
[Source: "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas" by Frederick Douglas.]
All of us know that slavery is abhorrent. Slavery involves the loss of free will and the subjugation of one person to another. Slavery is a form of imprisonment. Slavery turns human beings into a type of livestock that can be bought and sold as the property of another person. As described by Frederick Douglass above, slavery is often accompanied by remarkable brutality. No human being would want to be enslaved. This is what makes the concept of slavery so repugnant.
Now that you have a clear image of slavery in your head, here is an important question: How would you imagine that God feels about slavery?
As the all-loving creator of the universe and of each human soul, you would expect God to be violently opposed to the enslavement of human beings. Our all-knowing God would certainly despise slavery in the same way that any normal person does. What other position could a perfect God take?
It is surprising, therefore, to discover that the Bible tells a different story. If we read the Bible, we find instead a God who embraces slavery wholeheartedly. The Bible is so supportive of slavery, in fact, that it was frequently used as a justification for American slavery prior to the Civil War.
What the Bible says about slavery
Genesis chapter 17, verse 12:
Exodus chapter 12 verse 43:
Exodus Chapter 21, verse 1:
Exodus Chapter 21, verse 20:
Exodus Chapter 21, verse 32:
Leviticus Chapter 22, verse 10:
Leviticus Chapter 25, verse 44:
Luke, Chapter 7, verse 2:
Colossians, chapter 3, verse 22:
Here God shows that he is in complete acceptance of a slave's position, and encourages slaves to work hard. This sentiment is repeated in Titus, chapter 2 verse 9:
God loves slavery
If the Bible is written by God, and these are the words of the Lord, then you can come to only one possible conclusion: God is an impressive advocate of slavery and is fully supportive of the concept.
If you are a Christian, I realize that what I am about to suggest is uncomfortable. However, it is crucial to the conversation that we are having in this book. What I wish to suggest to you is that these pro-slavery passages in the Bible provide all the evidence that we need to prove that God did not write the Bible. Simply put: there is no way that an all-loving God would also be a staunch supporter of slavery.
What does your common sense tell you about God? Doesn't it seem that an all-loving, just God would think of slavery as an abomination just like any normal human being does? If any sort of all-knowing, all-loving God had written the Bible, shouldn't the Bible say, "Slavery is wrong -- you may have no slaves"? Shouldn't one of the Commandments say, "thou shalt not enslave"?
As you can see, these slavery passages present us with a paradox:
The intensity of this paradox is remarkable.
The importance of the Bible
Most people in the United States are Christians, and therefore in the United States we take the Bible completely for granted. It is like gravity or the morning sunrise -- the Bible is there all the time, so you don't even think about it.
Because we take it for granted, we tend to forget just how important the Bible is to our lives. Let me give you three examples of just how significant this book is.
First of all, think about Jesus. Everyone in the United States has heard of Jesus. We all know that Jesus was born on Christmas. We know that Jesus died on the Cross and was resurrected three days later. We know that God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). And so on. How do we know all of that? Because of the Bible. If the Bible did not exist, no one would have ever heard of Jesus. Without the Bible there would be no Christianity.
Second, there are the Ten Commandments. According to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, "Ninety-nine percent of Americans believe in the ten commandments." [ref] Scalia has also pointed out that the Ten Commandments are "a symbol of the fact that government derives its authority from God." [ref] Where do the Ten Commandments come from? The Bible. And because they come from the Bible, we assume they come from God. The Bible is God's word.
It really is quite amazing when you think about it. We take Jesus, the Ten Commandments, heaven and hell completely for granted. Nearly every person in America has heard of them, and few would question their existence. The place where these core concepts originate is the Bible. Without the Bible, these concepts would not exist. The Bible has a gigantic impact on the lives of people around the world. The only reason it has this impact is because Christians believe that God is the author.
Let's say that the Bible were not the word of God. Imagine that it was written by a group of random men 2,000 or 3,000 years ago and God had nothing to do with it. Would you believe in heaven and hell? Would you believe in the Ten Commandments? Would you believe in Jesus? No. Of course not. If primitive men wrote the Bible rather than God, no one would care about the Bible. Homer was a primitive man, and 3,000 or so years ago he wrote a book called "The Odyssey." In this book Homer talks about a Cyclops, a goddess named Athena and a place called Hades, along with many other things. Do we believe any of it? Of course not -- it was a fanciful story written by a man. We ignore the Odyssey in our daily lives because the author was human.
The Bible and Slavery
So now we have opened the Bible and looked at it, and inside the Bible -- God's word -- we have found ten extremely clear and outrageous passages about slavery. What these passages indicate, without any question, is that the Bible supports slavery. The Bible thinks that slavery is great. According to the Bible you are free to buy slaves and you are free to beat your slaves. There is no denying that, in the Bible, slavery is perfectly acceptable.
If you are a Christian, you automatically and unquestioningly believe in Jesus, the Ten Commandments, heaven and hell. Why? Because you believe that the Bible came from God.
The problem is that if you support the Ten Commandments and believe in Jesus, you must also support slavery. The same God and the same Bible that tells us about the Ten Commandments and Jesus is also telling us about slavery.
Take a moment right now to ask yourself this simple question: Do you believe in slavery? Having read how God feels about slavery in the Bible, do you now believe that in America and around the world we should repeal all anti-slavery laws and re-open the slave trade? If you are Christian, what choice do you have? God fully advocates slavery in the Bible, and you believe the word of God.
If you are going to believe that the Ten Commandments came from God because they are in God's Bible, then you must also believe that all of these slavery passages came from God. You, Justice Scalia and everyone else who believes that God wrote the Bible should be perfectly comfortable with the slave trade.
An all-or-nothing book
It is when you start thinking about the Bible in this way that you understand something very important about the Bible. Either the entire Bible really is God's Word, or the entire Bible was written by primitive men with absolutely no input from God. Here is the reason for this very strong dividing line:
The Tylenol Scare
Why can there be no middle ground? To understand the problem, simply look at slavery passages in the Bible. Many Christians believe that God did not write these passages, and therefore reject them. These Christians believe that these passages were inserted by primitive men without God's approval. However, these Christians have no way to prove their belief. And by calling the authorship of these passages into question, they call into question every sentence in the Bible.
Pick any sentence in the Bible and ask yourself, "Did God write this sentence, or did primitive men write it without any input from God?" There is no way to know. Since there is no way to prove it one way or another, and since it is possible that primitive men wrote any sentence in the Bible rather than God (i.e. every sentence in the Bible could be a forgery), we must assume that every sentence is the product of primitive men.
An analogy can put a finer point on the problem. Imagine that I tell you that several madmen around the country have inserted capsules containing cyanide into random bottles of Tylenol sitting on store shelves. The poison capsules look identical to normal capsules, and the tainted bottles of pills are indistinguishable from normal bottles. If I now hand you a bottle of Tylenol capsules off of a store shelf, will you take one of the pills? Of course not. Every pill could, potentially, contain poison. There is no way to know which pills do and do not contain poison. Therefore, you must assume that every pill does contain poison. If you do not know who created the pills, you must suspect that every pill came from a madman.
This Tylenol situation actually happened in the United States in 1982, and it is the reason why all bottles of over-the-counter medicine now have tamper-proof seals on them. The lesson from 1982 is simple. Since every capsule of Tylenol could contain poison, we had to suspect that every capsule did contain poison. We threw out millions of capsules because of that uncertainty. In addition, all manufacturers began putting tamper-proof seals on all bottles of over-the-counter medicine to eliminate the uncertainty.
The Bible suffers from exactly the same problem. And the Bible contains no tamper-proof seal. If we suspect that any one sentence in the Bible might have been randomly inserted by primitive men without God's approval, then every single sentence in the Bible now comes under suspicion. It does not matter whether any of the Bible might have been written by God. Because we are uncertain and have no way to prove it one way or another, we must assume that primitive men wrote every sentence of the Bible. Because of the uncertainty, we must throw out all of the sentences, just like we threw out all of the Tylenol capsules. If primitive men could have written any sentence, we must assume that they wrote the entire Bible. We have no other choice. The Bible is an all-or-nothing proposition.
Drawing a conclusion
With this all-or-nothing reality about the Bible now understood, you can see that there are only two possible explanations for the slavery passages in the Bible:
Therefore, what you are left with is the second explanation. And suddenly, the Bible becomes a poisoned book.
Here is the thing that I would like to help you understand: You, as a rational human being, know that slavery is wrong. You know it. That is why every single developed nation in the world has made slavery completely illegal. Human beings make slavery illegal, in direct defiance of God's word, because we all know with complete certainty that slavery is wrong (see also Chapter 28). If God actually had anything to do with the Bible, then the eleventh commandment would be, "Thou shalt not enslave."
What does your common sense now tell you about a Bible that supports slavery in both the Old and the New Testaments? Given the fact that the Bible clearly condones slavery, and given the fact that the Bible is an all-or-nothing book, does it make more sense for you to believe that God wrote the Bible, or that primitive men wrote the Bible without any input from God? Be honest with yourself. Make a choice, and then let's look at another example that is just as outrageous...
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