Secularism

Everybody’s favorite young college student, Jumping from Conclusions, has recently introduced me to the writings of Robert Green Ingersoll.  Ingersoll was a writer and orator, back in the days when public oratory was a form of entertainment.

Ingersoll often spoke on progressive issues of the day: women’s suffrage, anti-slavery, and agnosticism.  His writing often denouned religious belief, and for this he was both popular and extremely controversial for his day.

 On this site, I often accuse Christians of accepting a Church Creed, through which they interpret their Scripture.  While I don’t think Ingersoll actually formulated a Creed, this short speech, entitled Secularism comes mighty close to one.

The next time you hear somebody ask “If there is no God, what is the purpose in life, and the point of living?”, point them to this:

                           SECULARISM.
     SEVERAL people have asked me the meaning of this term.

     Secularism is the religion of humanity; it embraces the
affairs of this world; it is interested in everything that touches
the welfare of a sentient being; it advocates attention to the
particular planet in which we happen to live; it means that each
individual counts for something; it is a declaration of
intellectual independence; it means that the pew is superior to the
pulpit, that those who bear the burdens shall have the profits and
that they who fill the purse shall hold the strings. It is a
protest against theological oppression, against ecclesiastical
tyranny, against being the serf, subject or slave of any phantom,
or of the priest of any phantom. It is a protest against wasting
this life for the sake of one that we know not of. It proposes to
let the gods take care of themselves. It is another name for common
sense; that is to say, the adaptation of means to such ends as are
desired and understood.

     Secularism believes in building a home here, in this world. It
trusts to individual effort, to energy, to intelligence, to
observation and experience rather than to the unknown and the
supernatural. It desires to be happy on this side of the grave.

     Secularism means food and fireside, roof and raiment,
reasonable work and reasonable leisure, the cultivation of the
tastes, the acquisition of knowledge, the enjoyment of the arts,
and it promises for the human race comfort, independence,
intelligence, and above all liberty. It means the abolition of
sectarian feuds, of theological hatreds. It means the cultivation
of friendship and intellectual hospitality. It means the living for
ourselves and each other; for the present instead of the past, for
this world rather than for another. It means the right to express
your thought in spite of popes, priests, and gods. It means that
impudent idleness shall no longer live upon the labor of honest
men. It means the destruction of the business of those who trade in
fear. It proposes to give serenity and content to the human soul.
It will put out the fires of eternal pain. It is striving to do
away with violence and vice, with ignorance, poverty and disease.
It lives for the ever present to-day, and the ever coming to-
morrow. It does not believe in praying and receiving, but in
earning and deserving. It regards work as worship, labor as prayer,
and wisdom as the savior of mankind. It says to every human being,
Take care of yourself so that you may be able to help others; adorn
your life with the gems called good deeds; illumine your path with
the sunlight called friendship and love.

     Secularism is a religion, a religion that is understood. It
has no mysteries, no mumblings, no priests, no ceremonies, no
falsehoods, no miracles, and no persecutions. It considers the
lilies of the field, and takes thought for the morrow. It says to
the whole world, Work that you may eat, drink, and be clothed; work
that you may enjoy; work that you may not want; work that you may
give and never need.

                         The Independent Pulpit, Waco, Texas, 1887.

I like the idea of putting the phantoms away,  and letting the gods take care of themselves.  It fits with the natural world we see around us everyday.  It makes sense of life.  It makes more sense than trying to force a mystery religion, which demands absolute trust and submission to the unknown, into my life.

It is just common sense.

You can read more of Ingersoll’s writings here.



92 Responses to “Secularism”

  1.   Ed Lynam Says:

    Common sense may not be so common. When, in the history of our species has the religion of secularism shown itself successful? Ingersoll’s secularism is a lot like Christianity stripped of its supernatural elements. I see this as an over-reaction against the abusers of those supernatural elements to lord it over people. A bit of common sense: Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath-water.

  2.   jennypo Says:

    There is something natural and noble and clean and down-to-earth wholesome about what you and Ingersoll describe as “secularism”, HeIsSailing. It is the native air of humanity, no less valuable or lovely because it cannot be “all”.
    But it cannot be all for one reason – the great energy it calls forth and employs must be spent on something greater than humanity, else it turns inward and destroys that thing it ought to benefit – humanity. Energy spent on nothing higher than the self becomes selfishness. And it is selfishness that is destroying the humanity – indeed, the whole earth.
    When I read the description you have given, I am struck with the thought that this is exactly how humanity was meant to be employed. For a moment, I can forget that the “secular” in our societies is just as tarnished as what we consider the “spiritual” – just as self-centred, just as tainted with self-interested stubbornness. The theological hatreds and sectarian feuds Ingersoll heralds the absence of in “secularism” are not the result of religion – they are the result of darkness and selfishness within. Until that is replaced by light, everything good and solid and lovely that can be remembered and imagined by the human race is doomed to the same whorl of hatred and ugliness and destruction that we find ourselves in now. It is worship that lifts secularism up and brings it out of bondage to self. The God of the Bible is a secular God. There is no dichotomy between spiritual and secular with him. He says, “whether you eat or drink, do all to the glory of God”. All actions are equal in his sight. Eating is no less a form of worship than meditating. All energies are exercised in secular pursuits, but offered as worship to Love- Light- Truth- God. Thus selfishness is forced out and “secularism” is set free.
    Oh, the idea of secularism, in its reference to the natural, the human, the earth-y, the practical, the touchable – is satisfying and refreshing for its firm simplicity. It appeals deeply to the human in us. We know that we were made for such a life.
    But there is no power in secularism that enables us to live nobly, cleanly, with humanity.
    Only God offers us freedom from the great tragedy of selfishness.

  3.   Heather Says:

    **But it cannot be all for one reason – the great energy it calls forth and employs must be spent on something greater than humanity, else it turns inward and destroys that thing it ought to benefit – humanity. Energy spent on nothing higher than the self becomes selfishness. ** Isn’t there a difference, though, between focusing on humanity and focusing on self? When I see the phrase focusing on humanity, I see that as focusing on other people, which is then the focus on something greater than the self. So I do think there’s power in secularism, sometimes a greater power than religion. Certain aspects of religion can turn one to the self, in the concept of us vs. them, with the ‘us’ being better than the ‘them.’ Secularism can take away that divide and see all as equal.

    Has secularism been abused? Yes. So has any other path of life that has been followed.

  4.   HeIsSailing Says:

    Ed Lyman sez:
    “Ingersoll’s secularism is a lot like Christianity stripped of its supernatural elements.”

    Yes, I think you are right – this is a fair judgement. In your opinion, what do the supernatural elements add to life, to our understanding, to our humanity?

    Note: even though it sounds it, this is not a facetious question.

  5.   HeIsSailing Says:

    Thus saith JennyPo:
    ” Energy spent on nothing higher than the self becomes selfishness. And it is selfishness that is destroying the humanity – indeed, the whole earth.”

    You are undoubtedly correct here, JennyPo – living a life of selfishness does surely corrupt. But I think you are mischaracterizing the point. I don’t think Ingersoll is arguing for a life of ‘eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die’ or selfish nihilism. Rather, it is closer what Ed Lyman described above: the best and most noble aspects of Christianity without the Supernatural element. I don’t think I wrote a single article in which I complained about being lorded over with a Christian ethic that I could not uphold. No, most of them were my failure to grasp or come to grips with the Supernatural element of Christianity.

    I love giving of myself to those are more needy. I love being generous with my time, money and effort, as does my wife, and I don’t think that will change no matter what my vision of God. Yes, I can attribute that to the sound ethical standards that Christianity has given me, and for that I will be always grateful. But if I may quote an old friend of mine, “I would love be a missionary if it wasn’t for all the religion that came with it”.

    JennyPo continueth thusly:
    “The theological hatreds and sectarian feuds Ingersoll heralds the absence of in “secularism” are not the result of religion – they are the result of darkness and selfishness within.”

    Bingo – you nailed it right here. And the Bible teaches this as well, that the Flesh is thoroughly currupt. This is one problem I have with the debates that I hear between Christians and agnostics/atheists. The atheist will inevitably (and rightly) say, “Look at all the death, killing, torture, etcc.. committed in the name of God!” To which the Christian will always (and rightly) counter “Yeah? well look at all the killing done under the name of atheist governments!” Well, they are both missing the point in my humble opinion. Whoever it was who said “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”, was dead on target. Absolute power corrupts whether the powerful are Christians or not. God, whoever God is, is not going to save power-hungry humanity from committing terrible damage and atrocities on each other. It does not matter what name they will do it under, they are going to do it – because we are imperfect, selfish, and sometimes very stupid human beings. Adding God to the equation does not make us any better as far as I can tell.

    JennyPo continues:
    “But there is no power in secularism that enables us to live nobly, cleanly, with humanity. Only God offers us freedom from the great tragedy of selfishness.”

    Here is where we disagree. And my previous paragraph will explain why. All I can add is my own experience – that I know many Christians and non-Christians alike who are thoroughly selfless. Belief in God does not seem to be a variable in that equation. I just see too many Christians who are skunks to say that I see legitimate supernatural freedom in God.

    Here is a quick example – remember the Dawkins video that you and I both put on our sites? There was a section with Dawkins interviewing Ted Haggard. Now I am typing this knowing next to nothing about Haggard, but I have no doubt just from watching that video, that had Haggard had the power, he would have had Dawkins arrested for Heresy on the spot. Maybe I am misreading the man’s face and expressions during that interview, after all I am just an armchair psyco-analyst. But I am pretty certain that if Haggard, one of the most prominent Christians in the entire country, lived a few hundred years ago, and if the Church had the political power it once had, Haggard would have had Dawkins arrested, and dare I say maybe something worse.

    Why am I so certain of that? Human nature allowed it before, even in Christians, and human nature is what it is.

    JennyPo sez:
    “The God of the Bible is a secular God. There is no dichotomy between spiritual and secular with him.”

    JennyPo, I want to understand you, but this just went right over my head. Can you explain a bit here? Thanks

  6.   HeIsSailing Says:

    Thus saith Heather:
    “Has secularism been abused? Yes. So has any other path of life that has been followed. ”

    Yeah, I think you are on target here. See my responses on this to JennyPo – I would like your opinion on that.

  7.   Heather Says:

    HIS –

    I think your responses to JennyPO are correct. I think your disagreement — and I may be misinterpreting Jenny here — are in how secularism is viewed. Jenny, my impression is that you feel once God is removed from the equation, humans immediatly only focus in his/her immediate self. Whereas you’re using secuarlism as people focusing on humanity in general, even with people s/he doesn’t know. Now, secularists can only focus on the individual, and use it as an excuse for selfishness. But as HIS notes, religion can also hugely tap into that, because it brings one into an ‘exclusive’ group. It’s amazing how quickly a sense of belonging can produce a sense of superiority (Note: I’m not saying any religious person who has posted comments has done this. I’m speaking for a general impression — such as Ted Haggard). Both secularism and religion can actually help people tap into the darkness and selfishness of human nature.

    I’ve read a lot of blogs where people rejected Christianty and embraced secularism, and were kinder to strangers and such. To me, I would see that actually embracing God for the first time. Jenny’s discussed this before, such as choosing love over hate is choosing God, even if a person says, “I reject God.”

  8.   Ed Lynam Says:

    Re: Christian skunks. Yep, but consider how many of them would proclaim their Christianity if it resulted in confiscation of their property, imprisonment, or even martyrdom. So, are these the models we need consider in evaluating the power of the faith? I say no, look at those who would be willing to give the last full measure rather than renounce their faith. And, there are such people if you look around.

    Re: Haggard the inquisitor. Actually, I believe the persecution brought in the name of Christianity has been far more politically motivated than religiously-per-se, as least as we conceptualize them today. In many times past, of course, the lines were very blurred.

    Re: Supernatural elements, how do they help? Ritual, like worship meetings, may help ground people in routine and community. Remember, the religious attendee in the US lives 7 years longer than the non-attender. Assurance (the blessed kind) can comfort the sick and dying and also the survivors. Wonder, mystery can stretch ourselves beyond the here and/or the now. Miracles, to the few who benefit, great, to the rest of us, just a nice story to share… For many whose culture contains supernatural ideas (demons, hexes, etc.) the victory of Christ can mean great peace. Holiness and perfection can be better conceptualized by the average person than via esoteric secular metaphysics. As I consider this, all I need do is look upon my daughter with Down Syndrome and mental retardation. The complex worldview of the skeptic would leave her utterly bereft and adrift. The simple understanding offered by my faith is a storehouse of good for her life. And, the complex understanding offered by my faith can be the same to me. There is truly something inclusive about the faith, for those on the poles between simple-complicated, spiritual-pragmatic, process-people, eastern-western, failed-successful, poor-rich, and so on.

    Re: Heather’s comment about saying “I reject God” but doing exactly as God wants and the alternative, saying “I love God” but doing exactly as God does not want. AMEN, I think that is in Matthew 25.

  9.   jennypo Says:

    HeIsSailing,
    I think maybe I misunderstood your question. I think you are asking, “do we need magic, or is ordinary life enough?”
    If this is what you mean, then yes, I agree, human beings were made for the “secular” (non-magical) life. But there are two more things that we need. First, we need to worship. Nope, I don’t think that means we need to feel that we are nothing. Rather, we are not merely animal. There is a spirit within that longs for something more – something that we come achingly near to when we love truly, when we come into contact with nature, sometimes in art and in science. There is something bigger than us in those things that touches us on another level than the physical.
    Second, we need a context for our work and leisure and wisdom – something to work for, something to learn about – that is greater than us. Even serving humanity – though useful because it drags us out of the stinking pit of individual selfishness – is unsatisfactory when it costs more than it gives back in the here and now. If we suffer greatly for Love; if we die to allow the Light to shine in the universe; if we work and strive for Truth – these things, being greater than us, give context to our work and our suffering and save it from being idealistic, naive, childish, and worst of all – pointless. They add purpose and progression to the work of humankind – without this kind of purpose, we are stuck in a kind of “Groundhog Day”, each life, however nobly lived, being swallowed by the great machine, and even while affecting others, not building upon what has gone before.
    Do we need a “superperson” to tell us all what to do and perform magic tricks? Emphatically, NO.
    Do we need a God who is able to lift us out of ourselves – a God who is, in his essence – not just his position – greater than us, as Love and Light and Truth are greater than us? Do we need a Savior who will come and live among us and feel our hurt and our shame and offer us something better? Do we need Love to make our charity more than an exercise in self-congratulation? Do we need a God who is more than we are?
    I feel my need of him.
    I don’t think for a minute that Ingersoll is arguing for “selfish nihilism”. There is nothing lovely in that. What I want to say is that Ingersoll ignores the problem of “selfish nihilism”. He forgets, and allows me to forget for just a moment, that selfish nihilism is destroying all aspects of our society, including the secular. I take no issue with “secularism” – as I have already asserted, it is a high good and deeply appealing, but it doesn’t answer our real problem. What is needed is neither more of the “secular” nor more of the “supernatural”, but a way of dealing with this destructive force.
    If you look at what calls itself “Christianity”, it is understandable that you conclude that God – the supernatural – the spiritual – religion – offers even less of an escape from selfishness than what we may devise on our own as individuals.
    I have two things to say to this:
    First, whether we believe he exists or not, we need the kind of God who is able and willing to save us from ourselves. It is clear that we either cannot or will not.
    Second, if he does exist, he is certainly not the God that the “Christianity” of our world imagines he is.
    That Ted Haggard and hordes of “Christian” skunks say they follow a God who calls himself all that they are not is beside the point. They are, as you point out, not to be trusted. But what do they have to do with GOD? I may say I am a follower of Pavarotti – but is Pavarotti to be blamed for my singing?

    HeIsSailing sez:
    “God, whoever God is, is not going to save power-hungry humanity from committing terrible damage and atrocities on each other.”

    No, but he can and does offer individuals who choose him (notice I didn’t say “who call themselves Christians”!) the power to overcome their own selfishness.

    HeIsSailing sez:
    “I love giving of myself to those are more needy. I love being generous with my time, money and effort, as does my wife, and I don’t think that will change no matter what my vision of God. Yes, I can attribute that to the sound ethical standards that Christianity has given me, and for that I will be always grateful. But if I may quote an old friend of mine, “I would love be a missionary if it wasn’t for all the religion that came with it”.”

    (I agree with your friend.)

    HeIsSailing, you seem like the kind of person I can really admire. I can’t judge you, because I can’t see into your soul. I can’t tell you that you personally need God. But personally, I do. I dream of being a person full of love, ready and able to give without any expectation of receiving; able to sacrifice myself and yet not waste my energies; able to accept pain without having my love weakened by it; able to will no evil; able to control my tongue; able to discipline my life. I imagine these things, but I am unable to even begin them without Jesus Christ. Because I know him, do I always choose to do what he allows me freedom to do? Sadly, no. I am full of selfishness yet. And yet, when I do choose, it is possible!

    Do I seem to be saying that “Christians” are better than non-Christians? Have better ethics? Forgive me, please! My three closest friends in the world (other than my sisters) are all non-Christians. They are better, wiser, and kinder than I am. I admire them and I am better for knowing them. But I know no one, Christian or non-Christian, who is thoroughly selfless. I am amazed if you know even one, HeIsSailing!
    Ethics are no Christian invention. The gentle Buddha offers us in western society an array of ethical perspectives we have barely even considered. But only the God of the Bible even claims to give us the power to overcome selfishness. Whether he exists or not, we need him! We need him to set us free from this endless spiral of hatred and destruction.
    Christians are not better than non-Christians. But God has allowed me the freedom to be far better than I was without him – not because I lack “Christian” ethics, or the ability to imagine the good I should be – but simply because without him, I do not have the power to do what I imagine. He gives me the ability to become more than I am without him.

    The Great Divide (spiritual versus secular):
    “Secularism means food and fireside, roof and raiment,
    reasonable work and reasonable leisure, the cultivation of the
    tastes, the acquisition of knowledge, the enjoyment of the arts,
    and it promises for the human race comfort, independence,
    intelligence, and above all liberty. It means the abolition of
    sectarian feuds, of theological hatreds. It means the cultivation
    of friendship and intellectual hospitality.” (Ingersoll)
    These things are not separate from God. They are the proper pursuits of humanity, within the context of worship. They were meant to BE the means of humanity’s worship of God and the unity of individuals with each other. God is not the one who separates ‘reasonable work and reasonable leisure, the cultivation of the tastes, the acquisition of knowledge,” etc., from prayer and meditation, public worship, spiritual teaching and learning. He is not the one who forces us to choose between them. For him, both are the domain of humanity. Both are equally valuable. Secular pursuits as he meant them to be are just as much a part of knowing him, just as “high” as religious ones. The “secular” is meant to be spiritual, or contextualized; and the “spiritual” is meant to be secular, or brought down into the daily, the mundane, the physical.
    Oh, if I could only pull aside the curtain of “religiousness”, of “Christianity” as you know it, and let you glimpse, for even a moment, who is the God who is Love! Then you would know who it is you hunger for, and why you are so angry at the empty, foolish God who attempts to take his place. Then you would never stop searching for him and dreaming that he could be
    REAL.

  10.   societyvs Says:

    I really liked Ingersoll’s ‘ideal’ state of securalism – I think I agree with Ed on the ‘stripped down religion’ part (just exclude a God image and there ya go). Very idealistic.

    My question for Ingersoll would be the simple basis of morality on various subjects in a secular mind-set? He mentions plenty of great values in his speech but what are the strong under-pinnings for each and every secularist to abide by these values? Is there a common denmoniator (ex: a ‘love every neighbor’ idea) for the whole community?

    “It has no mysteries, no mumblings, no priests, no ceremonies, no falsehoods, no miracles, and no persecutions.” (Ingersoll)

    I would say this Ingersoll is embellishing here on some levels of his definition. No falshoods, come on…as if anyone can say that about their belief system…that’s suspect.

    I would say secularism seems to be something I hear coming out of people like Dawkins and Harris’ mouth in recent years (and Schermer). There seems to be some talk about eradicating religion altogether in this rationale system – which claims extreme tolerance – but when affronted by any religion they seem to away with it’s destruction before calling for it to change. So secularism does raise some concerns for me (of a faith they have ought against).

    Now Ingersoll’s idealism is awesome but it’s not the reality either. Secularism has many faces and some of them are hellbent on religious destruction (and most of the enlightened ones outright oppose any faith as irrational).

    Food for thought from Greg Koukl:

    “If you were walking down a dark street at night in the center of Los Angeles and you saw 10 young men walking towards you, would you feel more comfortable if you knew that they had just come from a Bible class?” Maybe religion isn’t all that bad a thing?

  11.   Ed Lynam Says:

    “Hold those in service in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.”

    But what happens when your society is economically devastated, and a convincing politician makes it clear that it is time to mercifully euthanize the mentally retarded, the demented, the hardened criminals and the severely mentally ill, and sterilize those who seem to be likely to produce such “drags” on the common good? After all, our secular society exists to perpetrate itself: survival and growth in knowledge and mastery over our inner and outer worlds are the point of it all. So, those whose presence serves as a drag and threat can be mercifully set aside: after all, if they were enlightened and able to decide as we can, they’d see it as their duty. No, without the supernatural, most people would have a very hard time not buying that philosophy.

  12.   DagoodS Says:

    Hmmm…whenever “secularism” is brought up, I tend to notice an interesting dichotomy. When we use the term “Christian” we are often referred to the best of the best. The “true Christians.” The ones that demonstrate love for the neighbors. The ones that freely give of themselves.

    Yet when the term “secularist” is referred, the person automatically assumed is the worst of the worst. The selfish, miserly ingrate who refuses to help others. In other words, for “Christian” we mean an equivalent of Mother Theresa, but for “secularist” we must be talking of a person like Ebenezer Scrooge. (Until he became a “Christian” of course!)

    The simple reality is that there are good Christians and bad Christians. Selfish secularists and charitable secularists. From my vantage point, I see neither group as having any “edge” on the other. (Which, for a plug, says a bit of the necessity of a god-belief.)

    Ingersoll is being idealist here—but that is partly the point. That we don’t need a god-belief to have the same idealistic goals, methods and even results as theists. If a theist needs their god belief in order to be altruistic—then more power to them! In fact, if that is the sustaining foundation for their generosity, then the worst thing I could do is provide a means for the loss of that foundation. (Luckily, from my perspective, having lost that foundation, I did not equally lose my sense of helping others.)

    I can recognize how and why a theist would need such a belief. Can the theist equally recognize why I would not?

    societyvs—the short answer is that there are no underpinnings for each and every secularist to abide by the same virtues as listed by Ingersoll. We draw our values from a variety of sources, including Christianity, philosophy, pragmatism, observation and most importantly of all-communication. I would think we actually except our values to be different.

    Instead what we do is argue and debate and attempt to persuade other secularists, based upon comfort, selfishness, and observation as to the benefit and detriment of certain actions. Is this so different from anything else? Why is it that “values” are placed in a special category, whereas other actions are considered more mundane?

    If I saw a friend attempting to “bolster” a bonfire by pouring gasoline out of a can on it—I would attempt to persuade them to do something different. I would attempt, by examples, and logic and reason, to explain the possible bad outcomes as compared to the possible good outcomes.

    In the same way, if my friend was beating his wife, even without some god-belief, I would attempt to persuade them to do something different. Using the same methodology.

    In the same way that I would try and talk my brother out of a bad investment, I would try and talk him into giving to the local rescue mission. Or give blood to the Red Cross. Or be an organ donor.

    Theists are beginning to realize that simply saying “God says it” doesn’t cut it anymore. That no longer imposes the mandate on the world it once did. The question then is—what will?

    Ed Lynam,

    I personally live on a social contract/aversion moral scheme, but the simple answer to your question of what prevents a society from killing the weak would be a combination of selfishness and observation.

    Take a simple example. Assume we prefer intelligence. So we institute a policy to “euthanize” the 10% least smart people—however that is determined. After doing that once, we are still left with 10% of people who are the least smart. Best do away with them, too. If we eliminated the lowest 10% once a month, (assuming a zero population growth) the entire human race would be wiped out in 16 years.

    The reason that we DON’T propose to kill the least intelligent, the least strong, the least communicative, is that it is a greater reflection of who we are, as compared to who they are. We can observe past societies that have done so to their own detriment. The one great thing about humans is the ability to learn from their mistakes. The one terrible thing is that we seem to keep needing to learn.

    I do think you are correct, though, that most people need a god-belief in order to sustain morality. But if they all don’t—what is wrong with a little secularism?

  13.   Ed Lynam Says:

    An example of the “kill the weak” society that showed remarkable success: Sparta. In the context of threat, i. e. economic scarcity due to global climate change and overpopulation, a Spartan society could show itself capable of outcompeting the rest. It could well be the “ideal secular social organization”, and so, why not institute it? We may want to consider this, as our grandkids may be contemplating this in 50 years.

  14.   HeIsSailing Says:

    SocietyVs sez:
    “I would say this Ingersoll is embellishing here on some levels of his definition. No falshoods, come on…as if anyone can say that about their belief system…that’s suspect. ”

    Ingersoll sez No Falsehoods in the context of religious belief, that is, no falsehoods concerning the non-tangible life lived for the Spiritual – “no mysteries, no mumblings, no priests, no ceremonies, no
    falsehoods, no miracles, and no persecutions.” – all in the context of religious belief.

    The Fundamentalist thinks any belief outside of Jesus CHrist is a falsehood, after all.

    More:
    “There seems to be some talk about eradicating religion altogether in this rationale system – which claims extreme tolerance – but when affronted by any religion they seem to away with it’s destruction before calling for it to change.”

    What? Cmon, nobody is talking about eradicating religion. You live in Canada, things may be different up there. I am not saying here that religion is a bad thing – I have lived in the system for over 40 years, and see much to admire. And we still live in a country which cherishes religious freedom.

    Let’s put it this way – I don’t hang out in Secularist or Agnostic/Atheist circles. I still hang out in Christian circles. And if they had their druthers, The United States would be a Theocracy run by Jesus Christ himself – or at least a good righteous representative for Him. Christians are just as liable to establish religious restrictions on a nation as any one else – they have done it before, there is no reason it won’t happen in the future. At the same time, I don’t know what athiests/agnostics want. I DON’T want religious restriction on anybody, anybody can believe as they see fit. I think I can have that viewpoint whether I am a Flaming Fundamentalist, or a Flaming Atheist, can’t I?

    I am not joining a team. This is not a political party that I am joining. I could care less what they are thinking. I just have to respond to what makes sense to me. The articles on this website have shown that the Supernatural makes little sense to me, the Bible as the Word of God has little if any authority, and I really doubt now that Jesus is any kind of Savior from Sin. So where does that leave me?

    Society continues:
    “Now Ingersoll’s idealism is awesome but it’s not the reality either. Secularism has many faces and some of them are hellbent on religious destruction (and most of the enlightened ones outright oppose any faith as irrational). ”

    Not that I don’t disagree with you, but we can easily apply that to Christianity being hellbent on destruction of other religions. I say that any idealism is not reality. Does idealistic Christian philosophy ever work ideally?

    more from SocietyVs:
    ““If you were walking down a dark street at night in the center of Los Angeles and you saw 10 young men walking towards you, would you feel more comfortable if you knew that they had just come from a Bible class?” Maybe religion isn’t all that bad a thing?

    I never once said it was a bad thing – belief in the Supernatural makes little sense to me, that’s all. But to answer your question – yeah I would probably be comfortable knowing 10 young Bible students were headed my way. But I can only speak for myself in a very ethnocentric situation.

    Let’s change the location to Laramie Wyoming, and your name is Matthew Shepard – or any other gay guy. You see 10 people whom you know just studied the last part of Romans 1 in Bible Class, and they take it seriously. Would you feel very comfortable?

    What if you were a Jew walking outside the Ghetto of Krakow in 1940, and you saw 10 people leave Bible Class and walking toward you. Would you feel very comfortable?

    What if you were a Black Minister in 1954 Montgomery, Alabama and you saw 10 White men who just left Bible Class walking toward you. Would you feel very comfortable?

    I could go on, but you get my point. No I don’t think religion is necessarily a bad thing – neither lack of religion, or lack of belief in a Supernatural Diety. Neither is perfect, because we are imperfect. Both are faulty, because humans are faulty. Both have wonderful, humane, charitable people, and Both have scoundrels – because humans are diverse creatures. I don’t see how belief in a Diety makes a difference, or adds any enrichment in life in either case.

  15.   Heather Says:

    **In other words, for “Christian” we mean an equivalent of Mother Theresa, but for “secularist” we must be talking of a person like Ebenezer Scrooge. (Until he became a “Christian” of course!)** I have noticed this, as well.

    I think the basic element of secularism is the betterment of humanity. The basic element of CHristianity is love of God and love of neighbor. In a way, both have the same basic element. The dangerous thing about secularism is that it can, for some people, become all about the survival of self. But one of the dangerous elements of Christianity is that it can reduce someone to doing nothing to help one’s fellow neighbor, because the Christian is all set — when s/he dies, s/he goes to eternal bliss. It’s that view of Christianity that many secularists find repellent and fight against, because that is such a selfish view.

  16.   societyvs Says:

    “The simple reality is that there are good Christians and bad Christians. Selfish secularists and charitable secularists. From my vantage point, I see neither group as having any “edge” on the other. (Which, for a plug, says a bit of the necessity of a god-belief.)” (Dagoods)

    On this point I also agree since we know this is true of both groups. But divergent & different societies is quite the fickle piece of the puzzle and how these notions (of faith and secularism) fit into them is part of the point for me. I will explain this a bit later.

    “In fact, if that is the sustaining foundation for their generosity, then the worst thing I could do is provide a means for the loss of that foundation” (Dagoods)

    I agree. In which I find it weird that this is said because it raises a very important point for me…are you willing to protect my right to believe in God even if you do not? Would you also be willing to speak out against the likes of other secularists who do not think I should have this right? These things are important.

    “Can the theist equally recognize why I would not?” (Dagoods)

    You don’t believe the story of Christianity – cool. I will be more than happy to ‘walk the line’ for your freedoms as a fellow human being.

    “Instead what we do is argue and debate and attempt to persuade other secularists, based upon comfort, selfishness, and observation as to the benefit and detriment of certain actions.” (Dagoods)

    Okay, then is it also true that not each secularist need be an intellectual? Some are I know that (inculding yourself) but are all people of secular backgrounds as intellectual about the use of their ‘actions’?

    “Why is it that “values” are placed in a special category, whereas other actions are considered more mundane?” (Dagoods)

    I think any value we hold is the very pinnacle of any action we may think of doing (what I call a paradigm). Values is no special category – it is the category of which we decide what means a lot to us and what does not – this then makes up the actions we will committ (ex: charity vs. greed, love vs. hate, etc). I think actions are what we do based upon what we believe and thought through. It’s total system of thoughts, experience, emotions, and for some – faith. Then we develop our value (which changes over time) which is the idea we hold highest in a certain situation and we act upon it at will.

    “I would attempt, by examples, and logic and reason, to explain the possible bad outcomes as compared to the possible good outcomes.”
    (Dagoods)

    I have no problem whatsoever with reasoning with someone (i agree and do the same). However, this doesn’t always work in every situation you can possibly face in life. You use the example of your friend beating his wife. Well reasoning with him while the punches reign down isn’t solving the problem then and there. I have this situation happen a lot to me and I intervene. I have a friend who likes to start fights when he is drunk (well a few friends actually). I always step in the middle and stop my friend when all the reasoning fails. There is no good outcome in those situations when fists are flying and I know this – hell I have it reasoned out before hand. But saying some words won’t stop my friend(s) – but getting in the middle will. I’ll ‘walk the line’ for them when they can’t. So I think reason sometimes does take a backseat to reality.

    “Theists are beginning to realize that simply saying “God says it” doesn’t cut it anymore. That no longer imposes the mandate on the world it once did. The question then is—what will?” (Dagoods)

    Well that’s an interesting idea ‘God said it’, it still holds weight for me – however not so much without contemplation on what the words after or before it are. If someone says ‘God wants us to kill all infidels’ – I will persue the idea and likely find it contradicting to something about God saying ‘blessed are the peacemakers’. I still think the gospels are the word of God and place upon them my respect…they’ve more than earned it in my life.

    In the same breath you won’t see me on any site claiming ‘God says this…’why? I don’t speak for God. I merely read the words of Jesus and try to live according to them (as I elaborate them in many situations and what values they proposing). So I get your point about people liberally using the ‘God says’ as a cop-out and for their own personal support of what they teach (or do). I have some reservations on the same thing.

    “The Fundamentalist thinks any belief outside of Jesus CHrist is a falsehood, after all.” (HIS)

    Sorry HIS – for one that talks a lot of context I missed that one – sorry about that…my miff.

    “What? Cmon, nobody is talking about eradicating religion” (HIS)

    Better get reading more Dawkins and Harris then (secularists of our times). They not only want to eradicate it, they find it dangerous – from moderates to fundies – they aren’t making catergories on this issue. But this isn;t Ingersoll I know – but it’s fruit from the same vine…”It means the abolition of sectarian feuds, of theological hatreds…It means the destruction of the business of those who trade in fear” (Ingersoll). I see two words in those sentences that explode off the page – aboltion and destruction. Notice he uses ‘theological hatreds’ as his reasoning. I could use those in a battle of the wits for the absolution of a European State as they colonized many places in pure cruelty – including the America’s – but that’s just silly when used in that sense.

    “I DON’T want religious restriction on anybody, anybody can believe as they see fit. I think I can have that viewpoint whether I am a Flaming Fundamentalist, or a Flaming Atheist, can’t I?” (HIS)

    I agree – I have great respect for religious ‘freedom’ – for the Christian and most anybody else with a faith based system. However when one side is not concerned with that freedom (ie: religion) one has to begin asking the questions which are most pertinent – then what is the solution being proposed? Is there one? I agree, no one should be restricted to ask their questions and hold their beliefs.

    “So where does that leave me?” (HIS)

    It leaves you asking a question apparently. I am not knocking the website or even some of Ingersoll’s viewpoints – I am knocking specific ones which exist until this day in the mind of skeptics – is religion neccesary? I think it is but I ain’t forcing anyone to believe that and neither are most faith groups. Perception is half the beauty in that sentence.

    “Not that I don’t disagree with you, but we can easily apply that to Christianity being hellbent on destruction of other religions. I say that any idealism is not reality. Does idealistic Christian philosophy ever work ideally?” (HIS)

    I questioned the idea of secualrism and it gets turned around onto how this is happening in the faith of Christianity – when the question isn’t even asking this. Just so we both are aware of this – this is very common in hardcore atheistic circles – the old schoolyard thing of ‘look what he/she did though’ in a comparison game which goes nowhere.

    If Christianity is so hellbent on the destruction of other religions – where is your current context of this idea? I am guessing if it is inherent in the faith it would still strongly exist. Now you can use America/Canada/Britain for that example if you want but that’s quite the stretch – since none of them claim being that in the press.

    As for the idealism in the Christian faith I agree – there is problem right now with there idealism and their actual actions (or what they publicly support sometimes). Well, let’s get out there and change that then. I really don’t share their idealism on a lot of issues and I challenge them at a lot of roads on some of their values. But I think that’s part of the responsibility of someone that claims religion can be changed and does not need to be eradicated (myself). I take some of the stuff to heart, digest it, then come back and try to change the idealism into something more realistic (ex: the idea of perfection – highly unattainable). But that’s quite the quest and I propose any Christian who is upset with the current system – speak out and demand some change – it does work.

    The problem for me that is inherent to my very system and community is the idea that ‘there is a God’ – it’s built right into my community’s core values of what the person is (physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual)…that system is indigenous to the America’s (from Indian peoples). And this is where I break down the weirdness of Eurocentric ideals.

    Europeans came over to this continent with their political systems, language, history, enlightenment, and namely religion and colonized the Indian peoples (made them subject to their laws, politics, religion, etc)…even killed a lot of them in the name of the ‘new land’. They forced Indian peoples to ‘assimilate’ to this new system – which included religion and we had no choice but to obey. However, the oral tradition of a people is something hard to erase and we managed to keep aspects of our culture alive. But at that time up and into the 1900′s this system promoted religion hardcore.

    Now we have this same Eurocentric system trying to destroy what they built. They are not sure they were right about religion and now question it’s validity – well it’s their system to question. These ideas are new but they are taking a firm root on this continent. Okay I get it but at it’s core is something that Indian peoples detested all along – colonization.

    It’s just another new brand of colonization being introduced (in some senses). Hey if the European people want to do away with their religion I am more than happy to watch. But if that idea starts to be forced upon a value system of the Indian peoples I am a part of I would have to ask – why? Do we want that? Did we develop either of these ideas? Is this something we will be ‘forced’ to adhere to even if our culture is adamantly opposed to it? If it is forced on us – that my friend is colonization in the 2000 era.

    Now the first colonization is still something my community is struggling to come to terms with and we are still trying to eradicate the problems that developed from it (in Canada). My people have the lowest employment rates, highest penal system rate, highest murder and violent crime rate, lowest education rates, highest suicide rates, substance abuse problems second to none on this planet, poverty that is sometimes considered 3rd world-ish, problems with sustaining the family unit, etc…the list goes on and on. Last thing we really need is the removal of one of the core values from our cultural system that actually helps sustain the less healthy parts of our community.

    So when I hear talk of doing away with God (Dawkins and Harris) I just have to believe they ‘know not what they are saying’. As intellectual as an arguement as they can propose it is like listening to someone proposing more destructive ‘colonization’ of indigenous people groups – as if it was enlightening to think like they do. It would be the exact opposite in my community and I know that full well.

    Meanwhle, we have people in those inner cities and reserves with secular attitudes – and this is such a foreign idea to them – they have no real idea the beauty of a faith in God (which is part of their system and they are within poverty conditions). These same people keep on adding up those statistics I mentioned before since so few of them understand their own culture and have been blinded by more than a century of oppression of that culture. I have seen the ideas of Eurocenticism in my community and they created more lunacy than lucidity. And if my faith can be part of the solution of these kids getting some of their culture back – then I see no problem with that.

    Belief in God isn’t an idea that is controlled by a certain dominant culture and that’s what I believe.

  17.   societyvs Says:

    sorry I got all weird and went on forever on the site. Peace be upon you!

  18.   Ed Lynam Says:

    Societyvs: If you are ever in Ohio, try to see Schoenbrunn. They have a reconstructed village and an outdoor play that tells the story. Just before the American Revolution, Moravian missionaries went to the Delaware tribe, and some of them converted and took on village life, as opposed to hunting/gathering/rudimentary agriculture. This was entirely peaceful and voluntary, many of Delaware did not participate. One of the worst atrocities of the American Revolution occurred when American militia captured a peaceful Christian Delaware village and burned its inhabitants to death, after locking them in their church. Interestingly, the blockbuster movie by Mel Gibson, The Patriot, c 2000, has a scene in which the British do such an act against an American village. What a lie, no such act occurred by the British! My point is that I totally agree that belief in God ought not be controlled by a dominant culture one way or the other. That is one of the reasons the wise writers of the Bill of Rights made clear that established religion, i.e. dominant culture forcing religion upon all was bad; but, also that prohibiting the free exercise of religion was also bad. Unfortunately, the checks and balances have not always been sufficient to prevent many terrible abuses over the years, a testimony to the evil nature of our hearts. In fact, my ancestors were Roman Catholic settlers in Pennsylvania, and were victims of a Protestant majority in their county that manipulated the justice system to impoverish their “papist” neighbors.

  19.   jennypo Says:

    DagoodS sez:
    “I do think you are correct, though, that most people need a god-belief in order to sustain morality. But if they all don’t—what is wrong with a little secularism?”

    I agree with you, DagoodS, that the world could do with a lot of Ingersoll’s brand of secularism. Moreover, I maintain that a god-belief that is based on a lie, though it fool people into a kind of “morality”, will eventually leave society less moral. If the choice we must make is between secularism and empty religion, then a thousand times let us have secularism! God is to be preferred only if he is, as the Bible claims, Love; Light; Truth.

  20.   jennypo Says:

    Heather sez:
    “Jenny, my impression is that you feel once God is removed from the equation, humans immediatly only focus in his/her immediate self. Whereas you’re using secuarlism as people focusing on humanity in general, even with people s/he doesn’t know. Now, secularists can only focus on the individual, and use it as an excuse for selfishness. But as HIS notes, religion can also hugely tap into that, because it brings one into an ‘exclusive’ group. It’s amazing how quickly a sense of belonging can produce a sense of superiority.”

    Heather, I feel that once God is removed from the equation, humans have nothing higher than themselves to direct their energies towards; nothing that collects and amalgamates their energies into a whole that is more meaningful than the sustenance of human society. There is no propulsion; there is no overarching purpose. We become children playing rather than a community working together for what is, in essence, greater than each and all – not love, but Love.

    With your assessment of religion I can only agree – the exclusivity and sense of superiority it engenders is far worse than the circularity of secularism. If God himself offers us nothing better than the likes of this, then it is only hard-headedness and the sense of exclusivity you describe that could keep us from throwing off such a spectacular lie and embracing the fresh air of secularism.

    I am all for secularism and the religious “mumblings” it ties securely and puts out with the trash. But I am not convinced that such a perspective precludes God – only that it precludes the God that is popularly known.

  21.   Jim Jordan Says:

    HIS asked the key question**In your opinion, what do the supernatural elements add to life, to our understanding, to our humanity?
    **

    Answer: everything. In Ingersoll’s materialistic worldview, everything is solved by food and fireside, roof and raiment, etc.. The result is a string of meaningless platitudes. We live in a sinful world yet Ingersoll would have us believe that sin recides only in church organizations, a dangerous denial of reality. No wonder secularism has crashed and burned so many times since then.

    “It (Secularism)has no mysteries”
    Except for when it might actually work…
    “no mumblings”
    For the rest of the sentence anyway. What is “considers the
    lilies of the field, and takes thought for the morrow” but “mumbling”?
    “no priests…no persecutions”
    Sorry, but he must mean NOT YET. Who is Lenin, Stalin, Fidel Castro, Pol Pot…?

    Secularism doesn’t work because it places man’s last best hope in man, and man is hopelessly corrupt. Our only true hope is connecting with a Creator who can lead us to an eternal peace and satisfaction that sustains us in this world and the next. Without the objective, absolute truth of God there is no sense, common or otherwise. Ingersoll’s house is built on the sand, and history has subsequently confirmed that.
    Fascinating discussion. Keep up the provocative posts.

  22.   Heather Says:

    Jenny,

    ** I feel that once God is removed from the equation, humans have nothing higher than themselves to direct their energies towards;** This would probably depend on how one defines God, then. If we’re going with the definition we both agree on — Love, Light, Truth — then in some ways, it’s incredibly hard to ever remove that from the equation. But if someone says, “I’m not doing this for God, I’m doing this because it’s the right thing to do” then the person is in fact doing the action out of response to God. So I would agree with you, based on the definitions of God as Love and Truth.

    Jim,

    **We live in a sinful world yet Ingersoll would have us believe that sin recides only in church organizations, a dangerous denial of reality.** I don’t get this imepression from the article. Rather, the church can be used in a lot of ways for abuse — such as the Catholic Church, and the priests who were molesting the children. Or other Protestant pastors who abused their congretation by stealing money. In some ways, saying that one is religious can give a free-pass for sinful behavior. Those are the type of attitudes that Ingersoll is responding to.

    **“no priests…no persecutions”
    Sorry, but he must mean NOT YET. Who is Lenin, Stalin, Fidel Castro, Pol Pot…?** I would say, and I’m sure most “normal” secularlists would agree with me, is that was secularism abused. Just as Christianity has its own examples of abuse, but you would agree that those forms of abuse can’t be used to showcase Christianity as it should be.

    **Secularism doesn’t work because it places man’s last best hope in man, and man is hopelessly corrupt.** I think what secularism is supposed to do is place one’s hope in the potential of man to better himself, to think of others, and the potential for man’s goodness. Not necessarily man himself, but what man could be. It doesn’t say that man isn’t flawed, though.

  23.   DagoodS Says:

    Oh, my! So much to address, and just one little comment by which to do so. I will attempt to cover some ground, then…

    Ed Lynam,

    I have no idea how to define a “society that showed remarkable success.” How does one define “success”? If it is to get the trains to run on time, then Authoritarianism has shown remarkable “success” regardless of theistic belief.

    If it is about surviving for a period of time, Aztecs did so as well in a theistic society. Would you recommend we claim that theists are desiring to re-institute human sacrifice? We could argue that economically numerous Muslim countries have demonstrated remarkable success. Should I worry about a theocracy?

    To claim that secularism views Sparta as an “ideal secularist society” and is likely to institute mandatory euthanasia on the weak and elderly is a strawperson of Statue of Liberty proportions. Do you know of a secularist that is claiming Sparta as the “ideal secularist society”? Do you have a writing of a secularist that is claiming we should start mandatory euthanasia?

    societyvs,

    You ask a great question in “are you willing to protect my right to believe in a God even if you do not?” The short answer is “Depends on the god.” But it is more complicated than that, so I will have to blog it out. My answer would be far too long for a comment.

    I don’t believe the story of theism. Not just the Abrahamic God. Certainly not just the Christian version of the Abrahamic God.

    What I am seeing (not from you, but in general) is an overall impression that “supernatural” belief of secularism is superior to the “natural” belief of secularism. BUT the overreaching premise is that it must be the CORRECT supernatural. The Islamic treatment of women of secularism (I would hope) would be decried. The U.S. Southern states position of utilizing the Christian God for slavery is equally deplored.

    All theists seem to be saying that supernatural view of humanity is better. Maybe only slightly better, but still better. However, equally there is the view the some views of supernatural are incorrect.

    The perpetual question for us non-believers—how are we to determine which is the accurate depiction? Because they equally say that you are incorrect. While you all battle, we will attempt to move humanity forward. Sometimes hand-in-hand with you. Sometimes (it seems) in direct opposition to you.

    And societyvs, I understand that it is not ALWAYS intellectual discussion. Sometimes it is a hug. And secularist are often strong on laws imposed to protect the weak. Like wives being beaten.

    Jim Jordan,

    To some extent you are correct that secularists pin our hopes in humans. Because that is our sphere of influence. We have little hope that aliens will “someday” come and resolve our energy problems. Or that monkeys will solve global warming. Or that a god will appear and straighten out this perplexing question of whether homosexuals should be in the U.S. Military.

    However, this does NOT mean that we do not recognize humans’ ability to be both good and evil. We still would impose laws. We would still have traffic tickets. We are not some “pie-in-the-sky” belief that all we need is love.

    On a personal note, if I have any regrets of my Christianity it is the belief of total depravity. As a secularist I am free to actually see the good in humans. Humans helping others out of purely selfless intent. Good deeds unrecognized by humans and gods alike. A charitable act that will go unrewarded by all.

    While I understand that your belief requires you to view humans as completely corrupt and unable to perform an act worth more than a dirty tampon, it is an unenviable position. I love being able to recognize the greatness with the horribleness of other humans. To love them for that greatness.

  24.   Anonymous Says:

    Hey Dagood
    Mankind certainly has good points, even great ones. After all, we are all given God’s spiritual image, which is great. We certainly are to love others for their greatness, as you say. The idea that humans are “completely corrupt” based on the Christian worldview is a straw man argument.

    The error in Secularism is that it depends on a mere consensus of humans to justify it. The Christian worldview is much more stable for two reasons: the Word constrains it, and no one except God can be God. We are all subservient to God’s judgment and we cannot usurp that power w/o severe consequences.

    Ed pointed out that politically powerful, organized religion is the problem that skeptics confuse with “religion” or a “religious worldview”. This is where Christianity can be used to abuse others. Does that make it equal or worse than Secularism? No. In Secularism, there is nothing to mitigate evil. In Christianity, there is both the Word (which does not lead anyone to commit evil) that can always be used to expose evil, even among Christian leaders, and there is a living God that limits the reach of evil. An intellectually honest skeptic can’t deny the first principle and cannot disprove the second.
    Peace.

  25.   Jim Jordan Says:

    Oops, I was the “anonymous” post.

  26.   DagoodS Says:

    Jim Jordan: The idea that humans are “completely corrupt” based on the Christian worldview is a straw man argument.

    Wellll…that depends on the Christianity, true? Certainly for some that entitle themselves as Christians that may be strawish. But not all. We could review the following website of Christians that support the concept of total depravity:

    http://www.afcministry.com/Calvinism_total_depravity.htm

    Or, if you prefer a number of articles:

    http://graceonlinelibrary.org/articles/subcats.asp?id=1|4

    Not to mention Isaiah 64:6, of course. See, the difference between my claims of what Christians say, is that I can actually find sites where Christians make such claims. But can we find where secularist state that Sparta was an “ideal” society? Hence the reason I stated “straw person.” I will gladly withdraw that with an apology if I am incorrect.

    Out of curiosity, what would term is the difference between your words of “hopelessly corrupt” and mine of “completely corrupt”? Are you saying that we are still capable for doing good acts? Then how are we “hopelessly corrupt”?

    More: The error in Secularism is that it depends on a mere consensus of humans to justify it. The Christian worldview is much more stable for two reasons: the Word constrains it, and no one except God can be God.

    Yes, we DO depend on humans to justify secularism. (We also recognize that “consensus” may be a goal, but not the sole goal, nor necessarily the primary goal. Disagreement can breed positive development. If we had complete consensus we could never grow!)

    How is this any different than theism? While there may be a claim as to a backdrop of a god, the reality is that the only way in which a god is communicated is by humans. Using Christianity as an example—how was the Bible written? By humans. What does it contain? What humans claim God said. Who determined what was included in the Bible? Humans. Who copied and translated the Bible? Humans.

    Both secularism and theism consists of humans communicating with other humans. The only difference is what we communicate—not that we communicate.

    While a phrase such as “God’s Judgment” sounds awesome in its proclamation, in the end it is one human claiming to another a principle. We have no God stepping forward on its own and informing us of its intentions. What secularism is saying is rather than constantly searching for this perpetually out-of-reach creature in the mist, which other humans claim exists but provide no proof, start living with other humans as if no such creature exists.

    More: In Secularism, there is nothing to mitigate evil.

    Not true at all. Secularism recognizes humans’ ability to do evil acts. I will say it again and again. That is why it is supportive of laws, government, justice, punishment, restitution and recognition. It has every intention to reduce evil, since it sees its existence. Look at what Ingersoll said: “It is striving to do away with violence and vice, with ignorance, poverty and disease.”

    Secularism is NOT repeat NOT “Eat, Drink and Be Merry for Tomorrow we die.” Please, PLEASE–if you desire to be effective in talking to secularists, strive to understand what they say. To continue to paint them with what Christians say they are is discourteous.

    More: In Christianity, there is both the Word (which does not lead anyone to commit evil) that can always be used to expose evil, even among Christian leaders, and there is a living God that limits the reach of evil. An intellectually honest skeptic can’t deny the first principle and cannot disprove the second.

    Hmmm…interesting choice of words. So if I dare deny the first principle or disprove the second, apparently I am either stupid or dishonest. Well…I guess I could be called worse. *wink*

    If by Word, you mean the Christian Protestant Bible, I say that it fails to expose evil and leads people to commit evil. The Tanakh supports the notion of child sacrifice, women and humans as property, genocide and the lack of individual responsibility for evil acts. The New Testament supports wife abuse, women as subservient, slavery, prejudice and tacit approval of the Tanakh. I claim those as evil in themselves, let alone failing to expose them as evil.

    Further these claims have led people to have slaves, be prejudice, and treat women abusively. I equally claim that leads people to evil.

    Secondly, I would disprove the existence of a God that limits the reach of evil. But we would have to set some parameters before I would go any further in that regard.

    Don’t get me wrong, Jim Jordan, secularism is not perfect either. I am not trying to turn this into “Nyah, Nyah, Nyah, Christians do it too.” But if you are going to use Christianity as a superior system to Secularism, I am going to review it.

    There is much good in Christianity. There is charity, and love and community. However, that does not mean we put our blinders on to much evil in Christianity as well. Just as naturalists surmise—since both secularists and Christianity is made up of humans (and ONLY humans) they share many of the same problems.

    There is no god to give Christianity the edge.

  27.   societyvs Says:

    “BUT the overreaching premise is that it must be the CORRECT supernatural” (Dagoods)

    I think so. As you do, I decry the issue of Islam and some of it’s tenets (but I ask Muslims to speak to their own about these same abuses). I also look at many Christian dogma’s and speak against them if they are something that helps to ‘destroy my neighbor’ and not ‘help my neighbor’ (that example of slavery – I would most definitely speak against – and would ask people around them with this condition to outright comdemn this treatment of others). I use condemn in the way (I will never participate and nor should anyone else) and not in a niolent way.

    “The perpetual question for us non-believers—how are we to determine which is the accurate depiction?” (Dagoods)

    I have quite a simple version for an answer on this. Love your neighbor as you love yourself (or as you want to be loved) or do to others as you would like (ideally) done to you. For me, these ideas promote the best in humanity and at the same time reflect a love for God’s creation (or a love for God that is based in a love for others – and is realisitic – based on the human experience). Any values that deviate from this idea within religion need to be questioned altogether as somewhat devious to our fellow humans. For me, this is what I use as the core teachings about faith. SoI can easily say I don’t like slavery, some aspects of capitalism, some aspects of communism, some aspects of Islam, some aspects of Christianity, etc…there are problems and most of them reside in what Irshad Manji calls ‘dogma’. Things can be changed.

  28.   jennypo Says:

    DagoodS sez:
    “Out of curiosity, what would term is the difference between your words of “hopelessly corrupt” and mine of “completely corrupt”? ”

    Try dropping a dead mouse into a bowl full of pudding. It’s not completely corrupt – the pudding hasn’t become dead mouse, it’s still good pudding. But who’s going to eat it?

    DagoodS sez:
    “If by Word, you mean the Christian Protestant Bible, I say that it fails to expose evil and leads people to commit evil. The Tanakh supports the notion of child sacrifice, women and humans as property, genocide and the lack of individual responsibility for evil acts. The New Testament supports wife abuse, women as subservient, slavery, prejudice and tacit approval of the Tanakh.”

    I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you are employing hyperbole as a literary device here, but even at that, I think you have outstripped its reach.

    Do you really believe this? I honestly would like to know, because it changes the whole nature of this kind of a discussion.

  29.   DagoodS Says:

    jennypo,

    To be clear, I am convinced that the Tanakh and the New Testament are solely human efforts to explain human relationships with a God. Neither YHWH or Divine Jesus exist. Unfortunately, included in their explanation we have instances of exactly what I have recounted. Instances that are not easily explained away with a consistent methodology. (If one picks and chooses, obviously, they can easily be ignored.)

    While the authors were doing the best they could within the society and knowledge of their times, subsequent understanding reveals these as the ancient atrocities that they were. But yes, the notions are all there. Either directly stated as approved by God, or if one holds to inspiration– indirectly approved by God.

    (And I was responding only to the “evil” statement of Jim Jordan. Equally there is quite a bit of moral and charitable notions in the Bible as well–as pointed out by societyvs, in things such as “love your neighbor.” I am not trying to say the WHOLE thing is evil by any stretch. Just that there are some parts that it is time to recognize them for what they are.)

    1. Child sacrifice. Gen. 22:2; Judges 11:30-40; Numbers 31:40 (possibly)

    2. Women and Humans as property. Lev. 25:45-46 Deut. 20:12-15, Deut. 22:28-29, Numbers 31:17-18, Judges 21:19-23.

    3. Genocide. Numbers 31, Joshua 10:40, Joshua 11:11-14, Judges 20-21, Deut: 20:16-17. 1 Sam. 15:2-3.

    4. Lack of Individual responsibility. 1 Sam. 15:2-3, 2 Sam. 3:29, 2 Sam. 12:13-14, 2 Sam. 24:15-17,

    5. Wife Abuse. 1 Peter 3:1. (What is “submissive in the same way?” See 1 Peter 2:18-21)

    6. Women as subservient. 1 Cor. 14:34, 1 Tim. 2:11-15, 1 Peter 3:1-6

    7. Slavery. Lev. 25:45-46. Deut. 20:12-15, 1 Cor. 12:13, 1 Peter 2:18-21

    8. Prejudice. Matt. 10:5, Matt. 15:24-28, Mark 4:12-13

    9. Tacit approval of the Tanakh. Matt. 5:17, Luke 24:27.

    I am sorry, but those concepts are clearly contained within. We cannot run from it, or excuse it. If you would not accept these assertions with any other religious claim, you should not with your own.

    I am uncertain how my pointing this out would change the nature of the discussion. I do not hold the Bible as any more divine than the Moabite Stone or the Iliad. It is of no surprise, therefore, to an atheist that the authors attempted to justify actions they believed legitimate by claiming that a God sanctioned it.

    Again, I do not hold the Bible out as an evil work. Nor do I hold it out as a moral work. It is a human work, and just as we are able to perform moral and immoral acts—so to the Bible.

  30.   Heather Says:

    **Try dropping a dead mouse into a bowl full of pudding. It’s not completely corrupt – the pudding hasn’t become dead mouse, it’s still good pudding. But who’s going to eat it?** I don’t think that comparison works, though. As soon as the dead mouse is dropped in, the pudding is no longer good. The entire thing has been contaminated. The pudding itself has been changed, and thus can’t fall into the category of ‘pudding.’

    But when bringing that to a person — with the sin being the dead mouse and the person being the pudding — that would elimnate the person’s ability to commit one single good act. No one would ever do a random act of kindness, or forgive someone who has betrayed them, or pursue the right course of action even if it costs them their life/career/and so on. But when using the phrase ‘hopelessly corrupt’ or ‘completely corrupt,’ that means that no one can ever do one single act.

  31.   jennypo Says:

    Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.
    For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of UNJUST SUFFERING BECAUSE he is conscious of God.
    To this you were called because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
    ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’
    When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he ENTRUSTED HIMSELF TO HIM WHO JUDGES JUSTLY.

    He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

    I Peter 2: 18 – 24

    DagoodS, if you honestly see this as support for slavery, then the discussion is radically changed, in my mind. In order to discuss something constructively, then we need a point of reference on which we can agree. This demonstrates to me that our viewpoints are irreconcilable – any discussion on these terms degenerates into pure argument, rather than a productive exchange of viewpoints, reasons, ideas. We don’t disagree on the conclusion; we disagree on the base premise.

    It is true that I believe the Bible to be the inerrant, inspired word of God and the revelation of that God to the intellect. But I consider that a conclusion, not a base premise. I don’t begin from there, which is why I can enjoy discussing it with people who have vastly different viewpoints from mine.

    I couldn’t see the above passage as a call to slavery even if it had been penned by Salman Rushdie rather than Peter.

  32.   Ed Lynam Says:

    One of the concepts I’ve found very useful in considering the human and divine aspects of scriptures is that, yes, of course the Bible is a human book. It had human authors, it was created by humans at a council called to decide on a canon, and it has been passed on by human scribes and translators. It can be studied as a human book. Some of the most expert people in the world on the Bible don’t believe in its God. Also, the Bible does not contain universal truths for the most part, that is not its primary purpose. The “universal” truths can be condensed into fairly succinct statements of faith. It mostly contains stories and interpretations of events that its authors experienced as they understood them. The Bible becomes divine as the reader or hearer allows the Holy Spirit to help apply it in relationship with God. The relationship is the key. God may have used the passage above in 1 Peter very differently to relate to a Greek slave in a Roman household than he intends to use it with you or me. He may use the concept of hell very differently with a Viking warrior who has tortured his victims, but is about to turn to a new, more peaceful religion than he would use that concept with me. The ordinary, human words of the Bible become divinely inspired as they leave the page and are read or heard by the believer. Each person is unique, and what God seeks is for us to love him, relate to him. If we try to interpret the Bible as a totally divine book, we’ll make the fundamentalist’s error. If we only interpret it as human, then we make the non-believer’s error. The proof is in the pudding (sorry, bad joke) regarding the efficacy of this process in the individual’s life, which is clearly very non-uniform, there being Christian saints and Christian skunks.

  33.   Heather Says:

    Jenny,

    I think many would see the I Peter 2:18-24 passage as support for slavery because it has been used that way so often in the past. And for many people today, I think they find slavery wrong inspite of that passage, not because of it (note: I am NOT lumping you or anyone else into that category and saying you only find slavery wrong because you live today). But for Peter saying for slaves to submit to their masters no matter what, because it brings glory to God … that does look like an endorsement. Paul and Peter in many ways don’t seem to concerned about slavery, given that they don’t speak out against it, and actually use the language to say be a slave for Christ and such. Slavery was seen in those times as an acceptable practice. Yes, slaves were also attracted to early Christianity because of how it was radical in terms of making those who practiced it equal. But that still left many slaves as slaves.

    But you’re also correc that if two people read something in a radically different light, it’s too easy to descend into an argument rather than remain a beneficial discussion.

  34.   DagoodS Says:

    HeIsSailing,

    I love theistic discussion. Because of that love, I have a terrible tendency to not only go down rabbit trails, but ENJOY discussing tangents. If I am taking this blog entry off-track, please give me a (gentle) nudge in the ribs, and I will happily back off to take up this conversation another day.

    jennypo,

    The reality is that our worldviews ARE irreconcilable. I am an atheist. You are a theist. While I hate limiting my options to opposing dichotomies, I am uncertain of where, in-between, you and I can agree on a mutual reference point that there both is and is not a God. I say the Bible is neither divine nor inerrant. You do. Again, I am unaware of some mutual reference point that we can agree it is both inspired and not. Inerrant and not. Whether these things individually are a “premise” or a “conclusion” I will let you decide.

    However, I do think that even within those irreconcilable worldviews, conversations CAN be constructive, as long as we both treat each other with respect, and listen to the other person. We may never agree, but we can each learn from the other, and perhaps give others something to think about.

    You have displayed courtesy and respect throughout the conversations I have observed, I see no reason to think that you would stop now. Why NOT discuss with those of differing viewpoints to “stretch our mental legs”?

    However, there is one item that if we are irreconcilable with no mutual reference point, I would heartily concur the conversation will get absolutely nowhere. That is—if we have differing methodologies. See, I say if the Christian is going to take the Bible as inspired, they are stuck with both the good and the bad. If it is in the Bible, we have to deal with it. We cannot pick and choose the good parts, and ignore the bad ones. We can’t skip verses, merely because they are unpleasant or do not conform to our view.

    Oh, it is O.K. if we come up with a methodology for how or why certain portions may be skipped. I can understand why Mark 16:9-20 can be justified as needing skipping. I am not saying that the KJV Bible I just bought at Wal-Mart is the one and only, and we cannot intelligently discuss why some of that should be excluded.

    But we have to come up with a method—a reason—for doing so. Not simply because it is uncomfortable, or not what we desire.

    And, to be honest in our discussion, that is what it appears to me you are doing in your method. Deciding to not observe portions that would need addressing, at least on their face. What is your method for determining what is applicable and what is not in the Bible?

    So let’s talk about slavery…

    (I presume you were only using slavery as one example out of the other items listed. I do NOT think that simply because you picked just this one, that means you must agree with the others. However, this leaves the troubling prospect that those others would need be dealt with as well.)

    First some background, before we get to 1 Peter. Is there any argument that Mosaic Law provided for the institution of slavery? I would think not. Slaves were considered property. Ex. 21:20-21. As I pointed out, the Hebrews were ordered to take captives as slaves. The Law provided numerous instructions surrounding slaves. Lev. 25:39-55. The Ten Commandments take slavery for granted. Ex. 20:10, 17. See also Ex. 21:27, 32. Deut. 15:12-18.

    I do not have time to go through all the references to Tanakh persons who had servants, without God stating any disapproval to the practice. Included would be Gideon, Boaz, Samuel, David, Solomon, Priests, etc.

    The Tanakh not only allows for slavery, but Mosaic Law gives numerous instructions surrounding the obtaining of slaves, the treating of slaves, and the eventual release of slaves.

    Fast-forward to New Testament Christianity.

    As a general principle, there are items within Mosaic Law which were done away with, due to the new covenant. Food restrictions, circumcision, and special days come readily to mind. However, we do not find a similar removal of slavery in the New Testament. While this is not determinative (I will get to that in a minute) it is illuminating.

    Assume we have a Law that includes items A, B, C, D and E. And a new law comes along, saying, “Nope. ‘A,’ ‘C’ and ‘E’ no longer apply. They are not in the law.” This would leave us with the conclusion that ‘B’ and ‘D’ remain as good law. By delineating some that are not, we are left with the idea that the rest remain applicable.

    So—is this how the authors treat slavery? As if it is still acceptable and applicable? Yep.

    Paul uses slavery as an example. 1 Cor. 7:21-23, 12:13, Gal. 3:28, 4:1-7, Rom, 6:6, 6:16-22, 14:4. If slavery was a sin, perhaps I could see one comparison, but over and over Paul treats it as an institution by which to use an example. Like marriage, or the human body. Further, when Paul writes to Philemon, he asks Philemon to take Onesimus back “as a brother.” Paul says nothing about slavery for Christianity being unlawful or prohibited. If he was asking Philemon to release him, it was as a favor—not a God-given mandate.

    It gets worse.

    The Deutopaulinical books of Ephesians, Colossians and Pastorals do not prohibit slavery–they actual prescribe rules about slavery! Just like Mosaic Law. They not only treat it as acceptable, they give commandments as to how masters are to treat slaves, and slaves respond to masters. Eph. 6:5-9, Col. 3:22-4:1, 1 Tim. 6:1-2, Titus 2:9-10. The author of James and Jude refer to themselves offhandedly as slaves without any trace of embarrassment at the institution. James 1:1, Jude 1.

    Every author to this point treats it as a part of life. Something that is not only acceptable as an institution, but requires regulation within its application!

    Perhaps Jesus prohibits slavery? Not at all! Just like the Epistles, Jesus treats slavery as an institution. He uses slavery as an example and in his parables. He treated slavery as a common occurrence—like fishing or shepherding or counting money. A station in life. See Mark 12:2-4, 13:34-37. Matt. 10:24-25, 13:27-28, 18:23-33, 21:34-36, 22:4-13, 24:45-50, 25:14-30. Luke 12:37-47, 14:16-24, 15:11-24, 16:13, 17:7-10, 19:12-22, 20:9-16. And John 13:16.

    jennypo, I did not list all those verses to look intimidating, nor to impress the world with my Bible knowledge. The reason I listed all of those is to demonstrate that slavery is talked about over and over and over and over and each and every time it is not prohibited. This is not some mere mention in one clause in one verse. It is repeatedly referred to and repeatedly treated as acceptable.

    But since the Bible is made up of various books from different points of view, perhaps, in the face of this daunting mountain of passages, some author takes issue with what every other persons states and prohibits slavery. Bringing me to 1 Peter 2….

    You skipped a verse when you quoted that.

    Why?

    Let’s look at what you stated (your emphasis):

    “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.
    “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of UNJUST SUFFERING BECAUSE he is conscious of God.

    “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps, “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
    “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he ENTRUSTED HIMSELF TO HIM WHO JUDGES JUSTLY.

    See that “…”? That is a skipped verse. When people skip verses, it causes me to wonder why. In this case especially.

    I could see, as you have written it, that arguably one could maintain that the “unjust suffering” of vs. 19 is referring to the institution of slavery as a whole in the previous verse. However, once we insert the missing verse, what the author is claiming as “unjust suffering” becomes clearer:

    “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.
    “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.
    “But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God
    “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps, “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
    “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.

    Notice that the author says it is just to receive a beating for doing wrong. He contrasts that to suffering for doing good. The “unjust suffering” of vs. 19 is referring to the harsh master of vs. 18, as explained in vs. 20.

    Once the verse is re-inserted, the injustice would be a slave taking a beating for not doing anything wrong. There is nothing here that says slavery is wrong. In point of fact, it emphasizes that a slave taking a beating for doing something wrong is just! There is no prohibition to abolish slavery. There is no prohibition for a slave taking a beating for doing something wrong.

    Every single passage either treats slavery as neutral, or supports it, while providing rules on how to implement it.

    jennypo, I truly hope that I have portrayed this in a loving manner as possible. I agree that arguments are not very profitable, but discussions can be beneficial. While I agree to treat the Bible fairly, I cannot see how we can get around all these passages that (to me) clearly provide for slavery. I can’t help wonder why the verse explaining what “unjust suffering” was (notice the same term—“suffering” was used in both) was skipped.

    What I see are people who pick and choose which verses they desire in support of their position. That may work for them; but many, me included, can’t justify it.

  35.   Jim Jordan Says:

    I am an atheist. You are a theist.
    Dagood. In all situations you are an atheist? If you truly believe there is no ultimate judge, wouldn’t you be in a constant vortex of revenge? Most every atheist I know believes that you should “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Yet this Golden Rule is intrinsically theistic. It requires an ultimate judge, or else the person is foolishly trusting in nothing. Woudn’t you agree? Ironically, your complaint with Christians is that many are not authentic, i.e. you’re disappointed that so many Christians are bad theists, or would you call them practical atheists?

    IMO, what Jennypo is saying about suffering is that the believer trusts that God’s ultimate justice will be fair. We then let go of our own wrath and let God be God, which is exactly what we’re doing in observing the Golden Rule.

    Dagood, you are looking at the Bible through a very thick lens. At a glance I see your long list of complaints reflect a desperate attempt to spin contextual truths into outright crimes against humanity. You should also spend a little more than a dollar 96 on your next Bible and get a Life Application Study Bible. As Ed would rightly say, it’s in the application that the activation occurs.

  36.   Heather Says:

    Jim,

    **It requires an ultimate judge, or else the person is foolishly trusting in nothing. Woudn’t you agree?** Why would “Doing unto others as you have them to unto you” require an ultimate judge? Society functions best for all people under that role. It ensures certain stability, and survival and just a relationship based on trust with another person. I don’t think it implies theism. I think I can speak for both spiritual and athiest in that living in a constant state of revenge is unhealthy, and many would agree with me. Hating people is a waste of energy, and gives the other person power over you.

  37.   JumpingFromConclusions Says:

    **Dagood. In all situations you are an atheist? If you truly believe there is no ultimate judge, wouldn’t you be in a constant vortex of revenge?**

    Why would an atheist be in a constant state of revenge? I see absolutely no reason.

    **Most every atheist I know believes that you should “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Yet this Golden Rule is intrinsically theistic.**

    I disagree that it is intrinsically theistic. It is talking about being kind to man, without even mentioning a higher power! And also, the Golden Rule did not even originate with Christianity.

    **It requires an ultimate judge, or else the person is foolishly trusting in nothing.**

    The Golden Rule makes you the judge! Do to others as you would have them do to you! It says it’s up to you! It doesn’t say it’s up to a god! It really does imply a secular mindset.

    **Dagood, you are looking at the Bible through a very thick lens. At a glance I see your long list of complaints reflect a desperate attempt to spin contextual truths into outright crimes against humanity.**

    Genocide is pretty much the definition of a crime against humanity, isn’t it? Not even sparing the infants. . . well check out what the God of the Bible commands Saul to do to the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15 for something that happened previously. It really sounds like the whole revenge thing used to commit a crime against humanity. I think it would be a lot more of a “spin” to make that fit in with an omni-benevolent God than to “spin” it into a crime against humanity.

  38.   jennypo Says:

    DagoodS,

    The verse I omitted was purely an oversight. The Bible I was using has rather fine print and I missed the verse. With respect, I still don’t see even in a vague way how it contributes an ounce to the argument that the Bible advocates slavery.
    It is not that you are an atheist and I am a theist that further discussion is pointless. Theism is not something I assume – that is, I don’t consider the presence of God in the world a place to start discussing – it is a conclusion I draw from many other things that you and I can discuss more or less objectively. We can analyse what aspects of the world we share an experience of and then we can identify where our thinking diverges. If I say the moon shines, and you say the moon reflects, then we can define our terms, discuss our ideas and possibly learn something. At the very least, we can understand each other’s thought process. But if I say that there is no such thing as “reflection”, then what further can be said?
    As I have said before, I do not live in a Christian bubble. Most of my friends, and all of my close friends, (with the exception of my sisters) are non-Christians and agnostics. I enjoy learning about their viewpoints, most of which I can thoroughly understand and sympathise with even while I disagree. But profitable discussion has to be based on a common understanding about something.
    Where you see a call to slavery, I see a call to love. The New Testament rings throughout with a plea for Christians to love, to return evil for good. It never addresses political institutions, because its focus is the individual heart. It never advocates social change of any kind – it advocates individual transformation. Peter is saying nothing different here, just bringing it down “to where the rubber meets the road”. He is a man who has been beaten and imprisoned unjustly, so he is talking about something he knows about.
    Even if I’m a slave being beaten, shall I return love for violence?
    Yes, says Peter. Stop the vicious cycle. Don’t trust in political changes or reformation of the social conscience of the age – trust in God, who judges all things righteously. Commit yourself to him, as Jesus did, and counter hatred with the power of love, as he did. When they hit him, he didn’t hit back. Although he died, he was triumphant. Measure things by God’s yardstick, and be free from the cycle of violence, hatred, fear. Don’t run away. Stand up, accept unfairness and hurt, and give love in return. Like Jesus.
    Even if you didn’t see that, then we could still discuss.
    But you see darkness where I see light. We lack an objective reference point. I am utterly at a loss.
    I still respect both you as a person and your right – no, responsibility- to have your own opinion. But your view is so far removed from my understanding that I have nothing to say to it.

  39.   Jim Jordan Says:

    Hi Jumping
    **Why would an atheist be in a constant state of revenge? I see absolutely no reason.**

    Of course they’re not, because they’re not fully athiests.

    **I disagree that it is intrinsically theistic. It is talking about being kind to man, without even mentioning a higher power! **

    The higher power is clearly inferred.

    **And also, the Golden Rule did not even originate with Christianity.**

    Did the Creator of the universe originate with Christianity?

    **The Golden Rule makes you the judge!**

    Really? With the “Do unto others..” rule wouldn’t your hands be tied? If someone really needed a kick in the back side, you would have to desire that same treatment for yourself!

    **well check out what the God of the Bible commands Saul to do to the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15 for something that happened previously.**

    No, not 1 Samuel 15, I’m melting! My faith is destroyed! Sorry for the humor, friend, but God can do that, you know.

    **I think it would be a lot more of a “spin” to make that fit in with an omni-benevolent God than to “spin” it into a crime against humanity.**

    I used the term “spin contextual truths into crimes against humanity“. First, what the Amalekites reaped in 1 Samuel 15 is a consequence for what their forefathers sowed in Exodus 17. Similarly, the folks in 1600s America set in motion the deaths of over a million Americans 200 years later in the Civil War by ushering slavery in.

    Second, God alone has the authority to take away life. Life is His business.

    Third, 1 Samuel 15 reminds us of how appalled God must be with us. If this computer that I write on started to do whatever it wanted to do and little or nothing that I wanted it to do I would run an anti-virus program [the law and the prophets?]. Then when that failed I would have to throw it out.

    Fourth, God did not choose to throw us into the pit, fortunately. Jesus paid the price that the Amalekites paid under the old covenant.

    Fifth, equality is restored through Christ. Jumping, your complaint on the Amalekites’ treatment is based on the inequality of that sentence of death. Inequality feels instinctively wrong to us. Let us all be condemned to nothingness (the atheist perspective) or let us all be saved (the universalist perspective) are our two natural responses to 1 Samuel 15. But God’s response is quite supernatural.

    In fact, 1 Samuel 15 has a Messianic prophesy in it. See verse 28-29 Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you. 29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.

    God has infinite value and through Jesus He gives us our infinite value back. He pays the price that we could never afford to pay. Sorry for the “Good News” plug, but you’re the one who brought up 1 Samuel 15. :)

  40.   JumpingFromConclusions Says:

    **Of course they’re not, because they’re not fully athiests.**

    I don’t understand how you get this. Are they lying to us and to themselves?

    **The higher power is clearly inferred.**

    In “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” where is there any implication of a higher power?

    **Did the Creator of the universe originate with Christianity?**

    I have my doubts.

    **Really? With the “Do unto others..” rule wouldn’t your hands be tied? If someone really needed a kick in the back side, you would have to desire that same treatment for yourself!**

    I don’t understand your point here. It is up to your own judgment. If I think I would want someone to act a certain way towards me in a certain situation, that is the way I should act toward them in the situation.

    **First, what the Amalekites reaped in 1 Samuel 15 is a consequence for what their forefathers sowed in Exodus 17.**

    Punishing the later generations (even infants) for the sins of their forefathers is just wrong, by our consciences and by basic morality. How does that fit into God’s view (through Jesus) of “love your enemies”?

    **Second, God alone has the authority to take away life. Life is His business.**

    If He exists, then maybe this is true. But His existence is not an established fact here, for one. And the God presented in the Bible appears so contradictory at certain points, that I find it hard to believe that He was accurately described in it, if He exists.

    **Third, 1 Samuel 15 reminds us of how appalled God must be with us. If this computer that I write on started to do whatever it wanted to do and little or nothing that I wanted it to do I would run an anti-virus program [the law and the prophets?]. Then when that failed I would have to throw it out.**

    Well, if God had foreknowledge when He created the Bible, then He knew what was ahead of Him. Also, your computer analogy is very different from God’s situation with us. For one, computers don’t feel pain or suffering. Also, we don’t have the knowledge/power to change the program ourselves to make it work correctly. If we did, I would think we would make it workable rather than destroying it. God has all the power, theoretically. So He could have made them obey.

    **Fourth, God did not choose to throw us into the pit, fortunately. Jesus paid the price that the Amalekites paid under the old covenant.**

    Why would God create us just to throw us into a pit?

    **Fifth, equality is restored through Christ. Jumping, your complaint on the Amalekites’ treatment is based on the inequality of that sentence of death. Inequality feels instinctively wrong to us. Let us all be condemned to nothingness (the atheist perspective) or let us all be saved (the universalist perspective) are our two natural responses to 1 Samuel 15. But God’s response is quite supernatural.**

    See, that’s the thing, though. No matter what the Bible says God did, it would not be immoral. Because He is supernatural. It’s good because God does it. I’m not trying to put words in your mouth here, but that comes across loud and clear. Looking at it that way is not being objective–out the window goes that objective morality that we are supposed to have received from God. With Him, we can’t use it! With Him, anything goes! By any conceivable standards of morality, killing infants for the wrongdoings of their forefathers (or for any reason) is wrong. And some may respond, “God’s ways are above our ways.” But we don’t know that! In fact, in the New Testament, we are even told to love those who don’t love us. That is later followed by “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” So was He not being perfect when He ordered the genocide of that people? He wasn’t loving those who didn’t love Him, like we loathable humans are commanded to do!

    **In fact, 1 Samuel 15 has a Messianic prophesy in it. See verse 28-29 Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you. 29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.“**

    I’m not trying to offend you here, but that reeeeaaaallllyyyy seems like a stretch to make that into some kind of prophecy. The Glory of Israel does not change His mind. . . but the Law changed from “eye for an eye” to “turn the other cheek.” That sounds like a change to me. Also, there are mentions of God in both Testaments sending deluding spirits to people. That may not technically be a lie, but it sure doesn’t seem honest!

    “He is not a man, that he should change his mind”

    I especially do not see how this part could be used as any kind of Messianic prophecy! It says God is not a man! But Jesus was at least part-man! How does that part fit Jesus at all?

    I really do not accept that as any kind of Messianic statement. It is talking about God– it says he doesn’t change His mind or lie. Fair enough (although both statements are debatable). And then it says He is not a man. Fair enough– I mean, He’s God, right? Other than those those points, what is left? Nothing. Where, in there, is the Messianic prophecy?

  41.   Jim Jordan Says:

    Hey Jumping,
    I would suggest you give the “Do unto others..” rule more thought. Unilateral acts of kindness without mandating anything in return either depends on a trust in man’s goodness [unlikely] or trust in a just judge who will ultimately correct inequalities. You are bound to be burned over and over again if you follow this rule. To continue in it is to trust in a higher power or lose your mind IMHO.

    **Punishing the later generations (even infants) for the sins of their forefathers is just wrong, by our consciences and by basic morality. How does that fit into God’s view (through Jesus) of “love your enemies”?**

    Nothing I could say here would move you one iota. Here’s the Christian response anyway. Christians believe that death is not the end and that we are incapable of being good on our own. Without Christ we are in a state of war with God, as were the Amalekites. Today we say that children are automatically innocent until they’re old enough to break the law. That is simply a cultural bias that should not be used as a measuring stick to judge God’s actions. If it makes you feel any better, a supernatural God is not limited to what happens in the natural life, even if it ends in murder. He could draw those Amalekites in to salvation if He so desired.

    **See, that’s the thing, though. No matter what the Bible says God did, it would not be immoral.**

    I would point out that God sending His Son would be a sea change in the world. History can show that Jesus’ work is the most important event ever. So the new covenant must be separated from the Old Testament because the price for those sins has been paid.

    **“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” So was He not being perfect when He ordered the genocide of that people?**

    Not perfect by our standards perhaps, but how does perfection live alongside and accept imperfection and grotesque corruption? Is it more logical that God would accomodate evil or rub it out?

    I don’t expect that any of these points we debate tonight are going to make or break anyone’s worldview. But its good that Christians and atheists and agnostics flesh out their doubts. Faith is a veritable mystery. How can you explain that 1 Samuel 15 offends you but points me to the gospel? One sees darkness and the other sees light. It is a mystery.

    Re; Messianic prohesy in 1 Sam 15:29 – Israel are the direct followers of God, the name coming after Jacob wrestled with God in Gen. 32. Jesus is the ultimate and last king of Israel, “the scepter will not part from his hand” (Gen. 49:10). Saul was blessed by being made king of Israel, but he disobeyed God. Here Samuel declares God will send a man who is not a man to lead Israel. I know I’ve just wasted more time explaining this but I assure you I didn’t pull that out of my…

    I would like most of all that you would consider that point I made about people having duplicitous minds in practice (part theist, part atheist). Going back to Ingersoll’s sermon, he is weaving theistic ideas into an atheistic meta-narrative. He is benefitting from the principle that if only people didn’t act like each one of them was an almighty god the world would be a better place. That is theism, and, in my opinion, the application of theism is why Secularism has any legs at all. That is why I get along very well with most secularists I meet.
    Always a pleasure.

  42.   Ed Lynam Says:

    A couple of points about “an eye for an eye” and “turn the other cheek”. The first is actually a restraint on human nature. It is more common for people, especially those with a tribal mentality, to seek to exact more revenge upon their enemy when wronged than just an equal penalty. The second is actually a statement that when someone strikes your RIGHT cheek, turn to him then your LEFT. When one considers a righthanded aggressor hitting my RIGHT cheek, that means he has either used his weaker left hand or backhanded me with his right. That is the act of a superior upon an inferior. When the Christian turns the LEFT cheek to the aggressor, he is proclaiming, “strike me as an equal”. So there is an element of witness to the equality of people through this teaching as well as the more generally seen pacifism. When you think about how this has been applied by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., it is exactly in this equalizing fashion.

    I think getting too focused on the barbarism of the Old Testament is a good example of the fundamentalist’s error in saying the words of the Bible are God’s dictation, perfectly preserved to this day. If that is the case, I’d rather be an atheist, too, or perhaps follow some other religion with a more consistent diety. The words used are written (and perhaps redacted) by Jewish writers who clearly had a view of their enemies that was colored by their national experience. When we read of the fate of the Amalekites, I see this as a description from the Jewish perspective. Is there a divine message in this? Yes, there is a natural law at work here. God has set up the universe to act in such a way that “he who lives by the sword will die by the sword”. So, in the Jewish perspective, it is God ordering the destruction of their enemies. God has merely allowed the consequences of the Amalekite nation’s ongoing violence to accrue naturally. There may be a lesson for our right wing militaristic politicians in the USA in this, as well as for their Islamic terrorist enemies.

  43.   Heather Says:

    Jim,

    **Unilateral acts of kindness without mandating anything in return either depends on a trust in man’s goodness [unlikely] or trust in a just judge who will ultimately correct inequalities.** It doesn’t depend on trusting the goodness of another person — that would then imply that the person who follows the Golden Rule in turn receives something from the other person. If an athiest wants to live in a society that flurishes, the Golden Rule makes the most sense. Again, most people don’t want to live in a state of revenge, because it’s not beneficial and self-destructive, in the long run.

    **Not perfect by our standards perhaps, but how does perfection live alongside and accept imperfection and grotesque corruption? ** Then we’ve lost any sense of what the word ‘perfect’ means. It’s become abritrary, and God’s actions are perfectly done because God does them.

    ** Here Samuel declares God will send a man who is not a man to lead Israel. ** That seems to be reading an awful lot into that one verse, considering the context. Saul sinned against God, who doesn’t desire burnt sacrifices, but in obedience. In punishment, God will give Israel to the neighbors, who behave better than Saul. Saul pleads with Samuel that he ask for God’s forgiveness on Saul’s behalf, but Samuel says that God doesn’t lie because God is not a mean that He changes His mind. There’s nothing in there about God sending a man who’s not a man to lead Israel.

    **He is benefitting from the principle that if only people didn’t act like each one of them was an almighty god the world would be a better place. That is theism** I’m going to have to disagree, because that doesn’t match the definition of theism.

  44.   JumpingFromConclusions Says:

    **I would suggest you give the “Do unto others..” rule more thought. Unilateral acts of kindness without mandating anything in return either depends on a trust in man’s goodness [unlikely] or trust in a just judge who will ultimately correct inequalities. You are bound to be burned over and over again if you follow this rule. To continue in it is to trust in a higher power or lose your mind IMHO.**

    That’s the thing, though– following the golden rule is not about getting anything in return! It’s about doing what is right, not about getting some kind of reward. There isn’t trust involved at all- you hope they would follow the golden rule with you, but you should treat them kindly regardless. The golden rule isn’t about saying ‘I’ll be nice to this person, and if they’re not nice back, God will judge them for it.’ It’s about doing what is right for the sake of the common good.

    **Nothing I could say here would move you one iota.**

    That comment is out of line. It’s not as if I’m some hard-hearted, truth-hating, darkness-loving guy over here. I’m giving my honest thoughts. I think killing children is wrong. I also said that it does not fit with “love your enemies.” I don’t see how I’m being stubborn for stating this. Also, I obviously can be moved on big ideas– a year ago at this time, I did not hold any doubt that the Bible was Truth. My mind began to change several months ago, and now I’m at a different point in my beliefs. I’m open to going back if I see reason to, I just don’t right now. It’s not as if I am in some absolutely fixed position here.

    **Without Christ we are in a state of war with God, as were the Amalekites.**

    If someone doesn’t know or doesn’t think they are at war with God, are they at war with Him?

    **Today we say that children are automatically innocent until they’re old enough to break the law. That is simply a cultural bias that should not be used as a measuring stick to judge God’s actions.**

    Then there is no measuring stick to judge God’s actions. Also– infants being innocent until they’re older is a cultural bias!!? Sorry, but that’s just ridiculous.

    **If it makes you feel any better, a supernatural God is not limited to what happens in the natural life, even if it ends in murder. He could draw those Amalekites in to salvation if He so desired.**

    But why would He have them killed if He was just going to bring them to salvation? I don’t believe the afterlife was a fully developed concept at this time, so I don’t think that is even in the scope of the writer here.

    **Not perfect by our standards perhaps, but how does perfection live alongside and accept imperfection and grotesque corruption?**

    Not by our standards. . . by the standards given in the Gospels! Look at Matthew 5:43-48. Jesus tells us to love our enemies, and he tells us not to greet only those who greet us. This is how we are to be perfect as God is perfect. So there is a clearly defined way of God’s standard of perfection. Loving enemies. If God doesn’t do this, is He lacking in perfection?

    **How can you explain that 1 Samuel 15 offends you but points me to the gospel?**

    I have not presupposed that the God of the Bible is omni-benevolent, and you have. So you are going to agree with whatever the God of the Bible does. I am not going to do that automatically, as I am not convinced of the Bible’s Truth.

    **One sees darkness and the other sees light. It is a mystery.**

    I suppose that infers that I am part of the darkness. Well, actually, I am speaking out against that darkness, not embracing it whatsoever. I do not hate the light and love the darkness or anything like that. You are looking at it optimistically, while I am taking what I read at face value.

    **Here Samuel declares God will send a man who is not a man to lead Israel.**

    It does not say that at all. It says God is the glory of Israel. It says God doesn’t lie. It said God doesn’t change his mind. It says God is not a man. It repeats that he doesn’t change his mind.

    **Going back to Ingersoll’s sermon, he is weaving theistic ideas into an atheistic meta-narrative.**

    Some of the ideas are shared by theists and nontheists alike, but that doesn’t mean theists are in total control of the ideas.

    **He is benefitting from the principle that if only people didn’t act like each one of them was an almighty god the world would be a better place.**

    Agreed. But it does not follow that there necessarily is an almighty god. People are supposed to act out of love for others, instead of only themselves. That doesn’t necessitate a higher power outside of themselves.

  45.   DagoodS Says:

    jennypo,

    It may very well be that we are irreconcilable in our conversing. That missing verse explains exactly what that author of Peter considered “unjust” in suffering. NOT a slave being beaten for doing something wrong. But rather a slave being beaten for “doing good.”

    The author takes slavery for granted, and prescribed certain actions within that institution. Look, as near as I can tell, one can have three positions on slavery: 1) promote it, 2) prohibit it or 3) be neutral towards it. The best 1 Peter gives you is neutral toward it.

    I listed numerous, numerous verses on slavery in the entire Bible. Every single one either promoted it, or was neutral toward it. There was not a single verse that prohibits it! No one has come up with one.

    If you cannot come up with a single verse that prohibits slavery, yet you still maintain that the Bible does not advocate slavery—well, we do seem to be irreconcilable.

    jennypo: But you see darkness where I see light.

    Ay…. The ol’ canard about how the non-believer is “dark” whereas the believer is “light.” No, jennypo, I am neither dark nor light when it comes to the Bible—I read what is there. I list verse after verse after verse after verse, and how does the believer respond? “I think…” No verses in support of their position. No argument against the verses I provided. Just an opinion.

    Ironically, WE are the ones called relativists…

    I do not see a “call to slavery.” I see a complete, utter and total failure to prohibit a reprehensible practice. I see humans writing about a god that reflects their time and society. Writings that would NEVER be accepted today. And Christians attempting to excuse it away with opinion.

  46.   DagoodS Says:

    Jim Jordan,

    On April 28 you stated “man [sic] is hopelessly corrupt.”

    On April 28 I said, “Humans are completely corrupt.”

    On April 29 you took me to task, stating, “The idea that humans are ‘completely corrupt’ based on the Christian worldview is a straw man argument.”

    On April 29 I pointed out numerous websites that state exactly that. I asked what the difference was between “hopelessly corrupt” and “completely corrupt.” No response.

    On May 1, you stated, “Christians believe that death is not the end and that we are incapable of being good on our own.”

    Color me confused. What is the difference between “hopelessly corrupt,” “completely corrupt,” and “incapable of being good on our own”?

    You also implied that I am apparently either stupid or dishonest by daring to claim the Word leads people to evil. While I don’t mind this (I expect it, frankly, in these discussions) I DID point out numerous verses for the reason I would claim it.

    As you haven’t responded to the issues those verses raise, I am left stupid and dishonest. Sigh. Such will be the lot in my life. *wink* (I ain’t angry as much as amused.)

    Jim Jordan, I may be looking at the Bible through a “very thick lens” but at least I look at it. I have no “complaints.” No “desperate attempts.” I don’t need to. It says what it says. You can label it “spin” all you want—the reality is contained therein. These events occurred with implicitly or explicitly with God’s approval. Some with God’s command (specifically the slavery and genocide.)

    Simply labeling what I state and argue as “spin” demonstrates the inability to address the issues raised. Call it what you want. But at least TRY to address it!

    And I shudder to hear how one “applies” Numbers 31.

    Jim Jordan: In all situations you are an atheist?

    In all situations, I say there is no god—so I guess the answer would have to be “yes.” Although I don’t think about it much when watching my kids play soccer, or ordering at a drive-through, or listening to the radio.

    Jim Jordan: If you truly believe there is no ultimate judge, wouldn’t you be in a constant vortex of revenge?

    Not at all. However, if that is how YOU view the world, then I beg of you will all my being, that you never, EVER give up your belief in an “ultimate judge.” If the only thing keeping you from exacting endless revenge upon all other humans is your belief that you will be rewarded for not acting on those behaviors, I hesitate to discuss much more with you.

    It would appear the worst possible thing I could unleash upon humanity would be convincing you of the non-existence of that “ultimate judge.”

    Jim Jordan—re-read those last two paragraphs. Is that true? Is that really why you are the person that you are? Is that really the only reason you perform a moral act? I sincerely doubt it. I don’t think that about you. (I wrote that to make a point.) Why would you think the same about me?

    I don’t follow the Golden Rule. I follow the Platinum Rule—“Do unto others as they would done to them.” Even Jesus can be improved upon.

    The problem with “Do unto others as YOU would have done to you,” as very aptly pointed out by JumpingFromConclusions, is that it makes YOU the arbitrator of what has to be done. What YOU don’t like YOU won’t do to others. Who gives a flip what THEY want done, if it doesn’t bother YOU, it shouldn’t bother THEM!

    I see this over and over, even in the most minor ways. How many times have we heard, “Hey, that wouldn’t bother me.” Or “I can take a joke—why can’t you?”

    The Golden rule in practice—treating others as YOU would like to be treated. I strive to be better than the Golden rule. (Not always succeeding.) I strive to treat the other person as THEY want to be treated, not how I think I would want to be treated.

    I am uncertain, with Heather and JumpingFromConclusions, as to how the Golden or Platinum Rule is “intrinsically theistic.” In point of fact, there is nothing about the Golden or Platinum rule that has anything to do with a God. As pointed out, it is doing moral for moral sake, not in thought of some reward.

    It is the reason that we DON’T go around exacting revenge, or that we DO practice love toward others—in the realization that it improves humanity as a whole, and causes others to be more inclined to exhibit these behaviors. There may even be a day where someone has the courtesy to be kind back to us, for no reason whatsoever.

    Where is there a God in that equation?

    I found your thought that without an “ultimate judge” performing the Golden rule results in “being burned over and over again.” Is that how you see life? From the view that you are exerting the Golden rule and being burned over and over again? Funny, I do not feel burned “over and over again.” I recognize humans for who they are, forgive them, and sleep well at night.

    All kidding and discussion aside, Jim Jordan—why this focus on “revenge” and “being burned.”? Being honest and straightforward with you here, it almost sounds as if you are reluctant to follow the Golden Rule, and your inner being is repulsed by instants of doing so. Are you keeping track of who “burned” you from following the Golden rule, and if you had your chance, would prefer to exact “revenge”? I am not trying to be some sidechair psychologist—I don’t know enough about you. I am just saying what it comes across (to me) in the words you use.

    I’ll let you in on a secret. As a naturalist, I am free to pull my morals from any source. I can use Christianity. I can use Buddhism. I can use the Sunday Morning Sports section. Many atheists DO follow the Golden Rule. If I point out the Platinum rule, they drop it like a hot potato and grab onto the new thing.

    We can learn, and grow and improve our morals.

    Can Christians do the same? Can you look back at the YHWH that ordered the death of baby boys, and the kidnapping of virgin girls, and the counting of gold and plunder and say, “No, I will not accept that. That was wrong”? Can you do that?

    Or are you stuck attempting to justify the morality of genocide? Oh, I am SO glad to be free to that chain. To be free to say, “No, that was wrong. What can I do to improve?” rather than bound by some horrible apologetic as to why God is justified to kill baby Amalekites.

  47.   joeyanne Says:

    DagoodS says, “I am neither dark nor light when it comes to the Bible—I read what is there. I list verse after verse after verse after verse, and how does the believer respond? “I think…” No verses in support of their position. No argument against the verses I provided. Just an opinion.”

    and

    “I do not see a “call to slavery.” I see a complete, utter and total failure to prohibit a reprehensible practice. I see humans writing about a god that reflects their time and society. Writings that would NEVER be accepted today. And Christians attempting to excuse it away with opinion.”

    DagoodS, In reading your posts I cannot help but see that you do read the Bible not just for what is there, but judge it by what you see “not to be there”. You may think that “Christians” read the Bible with colored glasses on – ignoring what they do not like, I think you read it with the opposite colored glasses on – trying to use it to disprove what others say it proves – and reading into what it doesn’t say. Jesus did not come to advocate social change on ANY issue. He does not address slavery or any other social issue in a political sense. The Bible is written to individuals – to meet them where they are – whether they are on either end of a social injustice. If you ignored what Jesus taught in every moment of His life here on earth, you just might use the fact that the Bible doesn’t prohibit slavery to your end, but it doesn’t prohibit anything else either. The Bible was never meant to be a political book, and we aren’t meant to politicize Christianity. The Bible teaches us how to live in whatever circumstances we find ourselves….and that the only way to truly do that is through Jesus!!

    I am not attempting to claim that Christianity has not become political – and by Christians themselves! But not by God. Not ever. Meeting God is intensely personal and the Bible makes no provision for politics, save to pray for those in power.

  48.   Jim Jordan Says:

    Down Dagood, down!
    Jim’s April 28th quote in fullSecularism doesn’t work because it places man’s last best hope in man, and man is hopelessly corrupt.

    There was a context there. You replied that I was saying that people were completely corrupt, as if there was no way they could serve someone a single cup of coffee without a cockroach in it [note your dirty tampon analogy]. That is what I called a “straw man” argument.

    One aspect looks to our salvation (last best hope) and says we cannot save ourselves. The other says we can’t do anything right period, which obviously isn’t so.

    I’d like to skip to your last question first because I have reconsidered that argument. My point that God had His reasons for calling for the Amalekite genocide was not very helpful, likely irrelevant and certainly sounds obscurantist. The truth is that we are free to disagree with God’s choice of action. I was wrong in giving a flippant answer rather than a fully fleshed one. [A gold star for Dagood] A good biblical example of this dynamic is Genesis 18 when Abraham opposes God’s plan to destroy Sodom. Whereas I would disagree with the genocide, I still would choose to recognize God’s sovereignty in the long run.

    That said, I certainly hope you didn’t go to the trouble of keying in all those bible verses about how the bible supports child sacrifice and women as property et al (your Apr 27 post, 1:30 pm). It sure looks like a copy and paste job from another site or doc. To throw in Gen 22:2 as a true call for child sacrifice is ridiculous. Was it from evilbible.com or the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible?

    You do look at the Bible through a very thick lens [you did agree]. You don’t consider narrative at all. You are putting the biblical God on the docket and judging him by what you would consider right, as if the existence of a Creator depended on your opinion of Him.

    As for the Golden Rule being theistic I’ll let you mull over that one. You can go on being good for goodness’ sake. That’s been known to work for many years at a time.

    This might come as a shock to you but I don’t have to respond to every web link and question you pose. Anyway, I think we’ve left poor Mr. Ingersoll in the dust [i.e. gone off-topic]. Take care and keep blogging.

  49.   jennypo Says:

    DagoodS,
    I may have misunderstood you. If I have, then maybe I am over-reacting at what is simply my own misperception of what you are trying to say.
    Incidentally, I was not comparing darkness with unbelief and light with belief. I was comparing darkness with slavery and light with love.
    I thought you were trying to make a case for the Bible in general, including Peter specifically, promoting slavery. It appears that perhaps you are merely pointing out that the Bible refers to slavery without naming it specifically as morally wrong. If that is the case, then I have misunderstood and misrepresented you.
    The Bible does indeed refer to the practice of slavery without naming it specifically as a moral evil. Actually, it mentions a number of reprehensible practices, some of which you have listed, without accompanying gasps of moral horror tagged to them. I didn’t understand that you were looking at this as a kind of tacit acceptance of said practices.
    I realize that the Bible has been treated as though it is a complete dictionary of morality. If that were so, then I could see how a failure to condemn slavery would appear to be a kind of acceptance. But the Bible as a complete catalogue of ethics is a view that is supported by neither the text nor the context.
    The truth is, DagoodS, you are 100% right that morality is to be found in many places besides the Bible. Buddhist teachings offer us a variety of ethical perspectives that we in western society have left largely unconsidered. There are numerous ethical perspectives found throughout the world, and even outside religion, that have been completely untouched by the Bible or Christianity. Is it necessary for the theist to suppose that the Bible is the only source of ethical knowledge? The book of Romans deals with a sense of morality held by the Gentiles (non-Jews), who had no knowledge of the Mosaic law.
    “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts, now accusing, now even defending them.) (Romans 2:12 – 15)
    Did I miss anything there? :^)
    Sorry, couldn’t resist that. Actually, you were absolutely right to call me on that slip. There is no excuse for intentionally leaving verses out. I agree with you completely that if I claim to accept the Bible as any kind of authority, I have to accept the whole thing, or else sacrifice its authority.
    The Tanakh deals with the relationship between the Israelites and God. It occasionally extends to others, individuals and nations, but this, for the most part, is through their relationship with Israel. Job is perhaps the only exception to this. Israel is given a list of ten commandments which form the essence of the people’s covenant with God. Although the list spans the moral spectrum, I see nothing in the Bible that points to the ten commandments or the larger Biblical teachings as an exhaustive of moral practice.
    The New Testament deals with individuals in their relationship with God, a relationship made possible by God’s dealing with sin through Jesus Christ. When Jesus is asked which commandment is the greatest, he replies:
    “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37 – 40)
    Nope, nothing there about slavery, or abortion, for that matter, or armed robbery, or doing LSD.
    Jesus didn’t come to tell people to elect a Christian government and change the laws. That may come as a surprise to those whose knowledge of God has been mediated by large Christian organisations, however, I would challenge them to find support in the Bible for such a view. God’s law to the Israelites had been put in place to teach them what was wrong with their hearts, and it had proven insufficient to set people free from sin.
    Jesus came to satisfy the demands of sin and selfishness, and give individuals the power to overcome hatred and selfishness in their hearts. Both he, and the New Testament writers are oblivious to the machinery of social change altogether. In light of Jesus’ death and resurrection, exacting moral dues is utterly superfluous.
    But show me a person who loves God with her whole heart and mind and soul, and loves her neighbour as herself, and I’ll show you a person who will never support slavery.

  50.   Heather Says:

    **The Bible was never meant to be a political book, and we aren’t meant to politicize Christianity. ** This, I would disagree with, in a way. We aren’t supposed to politicize Christianity, but the Bible is political. The prophets in the OT addressed the politics of the situation in that it called for social change by attacking the elitism that was in charge.

    **Both he, and the New Testament writers are oblivious to the machinery of social change altogether.** Except Jesus wasn’t. The Sermon on the Mount does have political statements. He was advocating change against the religious policies — ie, the Pharisees — because religion was politics in those times. The ‘turn the other cheek,’ ‘walk the extra mile’ and so on are political statements, because it is using a political statement against itself. The concept of ‘Jesus is Lord’ is a political statement, because it’s contradicting Caeser’s claim to be Lord.

  51.   Heather Says:

    Jim,

    **You replied that I was saying that people were completely corrupt, as if there was no way they could serve someone a single cup of coffee without a cockroach in it [note your dirty tampon analogy]. ** The difficulty here is that the context can be read as though man were incapable of doing good, period. The phrasing ‘it puts man’s last best hope in man, and man is hopelessly corrupt’ does come across that way, because there is a difference between saying ‘man is hopelessly corrupt’ and ‘man does not consistently do good’. Put the phrase ‘hopelessly corrupt’ in any other setting or context, and what will the impression be?

    **You don’t consider narrative at all. You are putting the biblical God on the docket and judging him by what you would consider right, as if the existence of a Creator depended on your opinion of Him. ** But if we are faced with a narrative that orders genocide, or slavery, or rape, we do need to ‘judge’ it. All of those listed above are considered wrong, and if there’s someone/Someone who doesn’t address those actions as being wrong, but actually orders them, what are we left with? These are people that God directly approved of, or whose lives God was directly involved in. To many, God ordering the Amalekite genocide is horrendous (and Saul then dismembering the Amalekite isn’t that great, either). My feelings are that if this were in any other text, the genocide would be used as a reason why the leader is unworthy to follow. And the fact that Christians do offer a reason of, ‘God is above us/God was acting in goodness’ or reasons along those lines do come across as approval/non-questioning of the acts themselves. Or it comes across as excusing the behavior. And that’s troubling. If we’re left with ‘God is always good, even if we can’t understand all His actions right now,’ we’re still left with on what basis to we determine if God is good?

  52.   DagoodS Says:

    joeyanne,

    Firstly, (in addition to what Heather said) Jesus is alleged to have talked on various social issues. He talked about Divorce, (Mt. 5:31-32, 19:3-9), Vows, (Mt. 5:33), Food laws (Mark 7:18), lawsuit resolution (Mt. 5:25) and probably the most important—taxes. (Matt. 22:17-22)

    That last one is significant and should not be skimmed over. The Jews HATED the Romans, beginning with the Census of 6 C.E. The reason for the census was taxes. The tax collectors (called “publici”) were hated and every tax levied was just another reminder of the Roman oppression. (Similar to walking another mile. Mt. 5:41) Caesar claimed to be a god. The Jews did not worship Caesar, obviously, but also had a problem with Caesar’s image being portrayed. (See Josephus’ account of Pilate.)

    Eventually this hatred of the Romans, including the taxing situation, led to the Jewish War.

    While today, we may take taxes for granted, and think of this statement as fairly innocuous, in First Century Palestine, Jesus holding up and image of Caesar and saying “pay your taxes” was a social statement of monumental import. These claims of Jesus may not have much impact on us (eating what we like, oaths being no big thing, divorce being common) but at that time they would have far greater significance. Maybe not revolutionary, but still a dramatic statement on social issues.

    Jesus also broke down traditional barriers as to sinners, women and tax collectors. (Matt. 9:10-11, Mt. 21:31)

    Personally, I think Jesus’ story was all retro-fitted after the Jewish War, of course, but be that as it may, there it is.

    Secondly—my pointing out evil in the Bible.

    If you read my posts, I was responding to Jim Jordan claming the Word did not lead people to evil and exposed evil. By necessity, to respond to that claim, I was focusing on the evil in the Bible. I repeatedly stated that this was not ALL the Bible included, and there was good as well.

    If you think that I am reading it to disprove what others claim it says (and anyone can claim it says just about anything anymore) or reading into it what it doesn’t say–show me! I understand it is quite a bit of work, I try to warn people that discussing with a skeptic takes time, study and more effort than most want to employ.

    But I have laid out the verses. I am not telling you to go look it up yourself, I have given the direction. If I have missed a verse, such as 1 Tim. 1:10 (bit surprised no one brought that up yet)—show me! Lay it out! Demonstrate where I am inaccurate.

    Folks, this is YOUR claim of a divine work, not mine. This is sole written communication from the God you claim to love. Is it too much to ask for a minimum of as much legwork as a non-believer?

    That being said, your comment raised, at least in essence, a very good point—that skeptics tend to focus on the more negative aspects of the Bible (I think in an over-balancing effect to the believers’ lack of doing so) but do not focus on the positive aspects. I have said I find good in the Bible—so in a bit of balancing and to “put my money where my mouth is” I will lay out some of the positive and beneficial bits:

    1. It does an outstandingly great job of unpacking the concept of Love. Matt. 5:43-48, Luke 6:27-38, 1 Corinthians 13.

    2. Sound Marital advice. Eph. 5:22-33.

    3. Great Love stories. Gen. 29:6-30, Ruth 3, 4, Hosea 1:1-3.

    4. Repentance. Gen. 45:1-5

    5. Honor and Respect. 1 Sam. 24:1-22. 2 Sam. 13:14-17

    6. Friendship and Loyalty. 1. Sam. 20:34-42. 2 Sam. 19:5-7

    7. Poetry. Job. Psalms.

    8. Philosophy. Job. Ecc. 3:1-8

    9. Sage Advice. Proverbs. (I apologize for not being specific, but there is just too much to list to start breaking out verses.)

    10. Beneficial rules for cooperating in society. Mt. 5:21-22, 42.

    11. Be humble. Mt. 6:1-8, Philippians 2:3-8

    12. Be positive. Philippians 4:8, Gal. 5:22-26.

    There are more, of course, but perhaps that is enough for penance in not previously pointing out the good in the Bible. *grin*

  53.   DagoodS Says:

    Jim Jordan: Down, Dagood, down!

    Bwahahahahaha! Thanks for the chuckle. I have (more than once) been compared to a pit bull that sinks his teeth in and won’t let go. Your comment was very appropriately stated.

    Aha. The “dirty tampon” thing. My brevity got me in trouble–this is a common apologetic and I presumed (wrongly) that others would realize what I was talking about. Isaiah 64:6 states, “But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.”

    Admittedly I have not done the research on this issue, and hesitate to rely upon Strong’s for just about anything, but having heard this so much, I figured most knew of it. The “filthy rags” is (as the apologetic goes) referring to the rags women would use when menstruating. The Seventh Century BCE equivalent of a used tampon. The verse is hyperbolically stating that all our good works are the equivalent of a dirty tampon to God.

    It wasn’t an analogy. It wasn’t a straw person. I have heard this from many Christians over the years.

    A little illumination has come my way. You read, “completely corrupt” as meaning that every single act we do is immoral. However, you DID state, “we are incapable of being good on our own.” Is this stating that we can only do immoral or non-moral acts? That we are incapable of doing moral acts?

    At least your position on the depravity of humans has become much clearer to me. While (it would seem) you grant us the ability to do non-moral acts, in addition to immoral acts, the one thing that is hopeless is our doing moral acts. I wish I could get you to see the morality in humans, but I understand how, in your worldview, that will not be possible. The only morality (it would appear) you see is by virtue of there being a God.

    That also explains why you see the Golden Rule as “theistic.” You see it as moral; therefore it must be from God. Anything moral comes from God; anything immoral comes from humans. Maybe non-moral is up for grabs for anybody.

    While I vehemently disagree, I think I understand better where you are coming from. (Even as a Christian, I felt that humans had the capacity to do moral, immoral and non-moral on their own—with or without God’s assistance.)

    Hate to disappoint, but all the research on the various verses is my own. Not too difficult. I…er…have had a “few years” or so in the business, ya know, so I kinda know where to look.

    Jim Jordan: You do look at the Bible through a very thick lens [you did agree]. You don’t consider narrative at all. You are putting the biblical God on the docket and judging him by what you would consider right, as if the existence of a Creator depended on your opinion of Him.

    Does it matter what I actually said? The point I was making was regardless of how you want to term it, I LOOK at the Bible to see what it actually says, not what I think or want it to say.

    I would ask how I do not consider narrative at all, but as you point out, you are under no obligation to respond to me. Further, I would ask how I think the existence of the creator depends on my opinion, but equally you are under no obligation to answer that, either.

    Let’s be real, real clear as to what I am doing. I am not—repeat NOT questioning a God. I am questioning a human that is telling me what God is like. A human that claims God is moral. A human that claims God ordered genocide. A human that claims that some instances of genocide must therefore be moral. I am questioning how a human can justify genocide as moral.

    Too many times I enter this discussion and hear how I am questioning God, or judging God. No—I am looking to see the human claim of what this God is or is not. I am weighing that human claim in light of what others say, other theistic beliefs, and my own moral judgment. I’m judging what the human says about God. It is impossible for me to judge God—even if one existed he won’t sit still long enough for me to view him. Or her.

    Heather hit the nail right on the head. If the story of the Amalekites was in the Qur’an, Christians would be decrying the barbaric and immoral nature as an indictment against Allah. (Some day I will tell a tale of how I tested this very theory.) But when it comes to their own YHWH, they become inconsistent and refuse to use the same measuring stick on their own belief.

    I am questioning the human that is doing that.

    Yes, Jim Jordan, the world of the internet is free. You are under no obligation to respond to my questions. However, when you make positive assertions about who I am, or what I am saying, and I question you on it, and you use your freedom to not answer—I am equally free to point that out. That you make claims about me, my beliefs, and my study, but when asked, exercise your freedom to not respond.

    I can only hope that by continuing to point that out, you will either provide support for your indictments against me (there can be no other word for claims of stupidity and dishonesty and plagiarism and “straw man”) or that others will see them for the baseless claim that they are.

    If this is what we are reduced to: “You are reading the Bible incorrectly, but I don’t have to show you how…” then I fear the worst.

  54.   DagoodS Says:

    I am sorry, jennypo, but you were reading me correctly. Alas and alack, I see no other alternative but to claim the Bible promotes slavery.

    In the Tanakh, it deliberately states, “Go out and make those people slaves.” I see no way around that being anything but promotion of slavery. Further, the Mosaic Law does not eliminate slavery, but gives it specific rules, functions and demarcations. It specifically refers to slaves as “property.”

    In the New Testament, Eph. 6:9 and Col. 4:1 have an opportunity to do away with slavery with a, “Masters, free your slaves.” They do not. They give them instructions on how to treat them, but they are still slaves. I see no way around that being anything but promotion of slavery.

    1 Peter 2 tells the slave that it is justice for them to receive a beating if they did something wrong. Again, I see no way to see that as prohibiting, or speaking against slavery. At best, it recognizes the institution in a neutral fashion, and how to survive within it.

    jennypo, you are quite correct that Matt 22:37-40 says nothing about slavery. However, it also says nothing about religious practices, either, yet Jesus goes on in the very next chapter to list all the things the Pharisees were doing incorrectly. The famous “Woe to you” passages. Apparently just saying “love your neighbor” required more explanation. (and I can’t help noticing that Jesus follows up Matt 22 with saying, “the greatest among you will be your servant” in Matt. 23:11, again indicating at least the neutral position rather than a prohibition against slavery.)

    I further think you are correct that taking “love your neighbor” to the level we desire would make slavery a ridiculous notion.

    However…

    The rest of the Bible does not seem to agree with us. It talks of slavery. It promotes it. Do I claim that “love your neighbor” somehow “trumps” those other passages? That introduces a difficult methodology, in that we have to determine what other passages are “trumped” and no longer applicable because of “love your neighbor.”

    I understand that you want to focus on the good—the passages that are beneficial. That speaks well of you as a human. But those passages do not make the other ones vanish. We are left dealing with them. And if we don’t deal with them in the same way, as a consistent front to the world, it appears we are allowing a bias to effect our method.

  55.   Jim Jordan Says:

    I’d like to highlight three statements that speak volumes.

    jennypo**But show me a person who loves God with her whole heart and mind and soul, and loves her neighbour as herself, and I’ll show you a person who will never support slavery. **

    God couldn’t have said it better Herself:).Slavery is incompatible with a Christian worldview. Why then do atheists constantly throw up those verses that “support slavery”. Their disconnect is that they can’t accept that Jesus didn’t come to free the slaves like Abraham Lincoln, but He did it another way. He freed those enslaved to sin.

    Heather**[from an earlier post] Both secularism and religion can actually help people tap into the darkness and selfishness of human nature.**

    This is very true. I would add that secularism is religion: Ingersoll – “Secularism is a religion”. The last thing we need is another religion or more religion. It’s not the religion but the relationship with God and with others. As Jennypo stated, you do A and B, then you can never support slavery, because if you do A and B, you are a Christ follower. What atheists try to do is debunk our religion by citing offending Bible verses and silly traditions when it is our relationship with Christ that makes us Christian.

    joeyanne**Meeting God is intensely personal**

    Amen. This is how the dye is cast with those who believe. It’s not just us convincing ourselves that God exists but God speaking to us saying “I am here, and I am not silent”.

  56.   Jim Jordan Says:

    Dagood
    You write with supernatural speed! Your three posts are two minutes apart – I am impressed. And I do appreciate your challenges. More Christians should dialog with atheists rather than hiding behind the relics.

    you said**The verse is hyperbolically stating that all our good works are the equivalent of a dirty tampon to God.**

    That’s exactly what it says. Thank you. It is a comparison, not a statement solely about human effort. We shouldn’t talk about this point too much – there are women present…

    God supported slavery? Not

    The “God didn’t ban slavery” argument has some problems. As Jennypo noted, if we love our God above all things, and love our neighbor as ourselves, slavery becomes unacceptable. There is no direct call for an end to slavery in Scripture, true, but Jesus’ focus was on the individual, not on the society. The society would pass away, no one would be more aware of that than God.

    Also, what happens after that? Slavery is abolished, but the KKK is born. Anti-semitism flourishes and we have a Holocaust. That is vanquished but then an Iron Curtain falls and the Gulag thrives. The racist wackos are marginalized by the success of the Civil Rights movement, just in time for the old subhuman argument to rise up again in the form of legal abortion. One opprobrium ends, and another takes its place.

    I haven’t seen you make the argument that God invented slavery, and I don’t expect to. God did not create the corruptions of societies, He created us. It is only logical that He would focus on the root cause of all strife. After all, if you pull the top off of a weed, it will grow back. If you yank the whole thing out of the ground, it won’t come back.

    You can’t disprove the Christian God because He didn’t ban slavery because embedded in His blueprint you will find the prohibition of slavery along with the denunciation of racism, abortion, religious hatred, corporate crime, and on and on.
    I’ll respond to the other points you raised shortly. I’m not as fast as you! Take care.

  57.   Heather Says:

    Jim,

    **There is no direct call for an end to slavery in Scripture, true, but Jesus’ focus was on the individual, not on the society. ** Except DagoodS and I have pointed out that Jesus was concerned about society, given how often he made political statements.

    **As Jennypo noted, if we love our God above all things, and love our neighbor as ourselves, slavery becomes unacceptable. ** If it is unacceptable, why isn’t there a call to remove it in the Bible? IT’s not even a matter of Jesus coming to free slaves such as Lincoln did — it’s that there are statements that do show support for the slavery system of that time, in both the OT and the NT. Why isn’t owning another as property listed as a sin? Paul wasn’t shy about listing a variety of behaviors as sinful, such as homosexuality. That has more mention of sinfulness than slavery does.

    I don’t think slavery would’ve lasted as long as it did, nor do I think people would’ve had access to so much Biblical support for slavery itself. Again — if the same verses DagoodS were listed in the Koran, or any other religious text, would this much justification be used for them? Or would they be used as reasons for why the religious text is immoral in certain areas?

    I do agree with Jenny’s statement about someone who loves God with his/her whole heart and neighbor as him/herself is automatically against slavery. But 500 years ago, people did think that part of loving God was following the accepted practice of slavery, because it was also accepted in the Bible. They didn’t see slaves as neighbors, and yet they would still fall under Jenny’s defintion.

    ** His blueprint you will find the prohibition of slavery along with the denunciation of racism, abortion, religious hatred, corporate crime, and on and on.** Racism? There is a story in the NT of a woman approaching Jesus for healing of her daughter, and he makes a comment to her that can be construed as racist. Abortion … the justification for that is somewhat inferred from most of the verses, in God knowing someone while in his/her womb. The one section where there’s a clear mention of a woman losing the fetus is only so people could know what the monetary compensation for that is, which somehwat puts the fetus in the category of property. Religious hatred — that would depend on how it’s defined, because God had quite a bit to say on what to do with those who worshipped elsewhere.

  58.   Heather Says:

    Jim,

    In retroflection, I wanted to clarify that I’m not trying to attack you. I realize that I have opposing comments for much of what you’ve posted. :) But the Bible has been used to justify some horrific acts and practices throughout history, with people who felt with their entire heart that they were doing God’s work. Some of those passages are those that DagoodS has quoted. And it frustrates me when those get glossed over today, or when it’s said that God’s justice isn’t ours, slavery was different back then, or people are simply picking and choosing. The problem is that those practices and that mentality is a very serious element of our history, and I feel that not addressing them does a disservice. Much of the Old Testament comes across as dealing with a tribal God, not an all-inclusive God, or an all-loving God, or even an all-just God. Can it be refuted that I’m judging God? Perhaps. But all I have, and all anyone else has, is our subjective viewpoints.

  59.   societyvs Says:

    “Except DagoodS and I have pointed out that Jesus was concerned about society, given how often he made political statements.” (Heather)

    Even more poignantly, does reading the teachings of Jesus make you want to have a ‘slave’? I think the idea (if it held water in the gospels) would make us want to do it? Did Jesus have a slave of his own? Did his family? I mean it’s good an all to recite the Tanakh like it’s candy – but what was the current Jewish mindframe on this? And then, why don’t Jewish people practice this now (in the 21st century)? Questions to ponder.

    “Why isn’t owning another as property listed as a sin?” (Heather)

    One could almost make this same argument for the business culture – which has it’s own type of slavery. We do what our managers say – no if/and’s/but’s – and guess what – if we don’t we lose our livelihood (in some sense they ‘own’ that part of us). I think slavery is still a condition of the human system irregardless – just has a new cultural context. And if I am wrong on this idea in the America’s – go and check what some of these corporate giants do in other countries – you’d be appalled by their abuses (namely Wal-Mart). Maybe slavery was a business back then? (see cotton fields era in the good ole USA). Maybe slavery just got better than it was (now for the chorus of ‘boo’s’ – and I officially hate myself now – LOL).

    “if the same verses DagoodS were listed in the Koran, or any other religious text, would this much justification be used for them?” (Heather)

    They are in the Qu’ran and slavery does exist in Middle East to African countries…and the same justification asserted Christians use to ‘support’ slavery is actually used to ‘supprt’ slavery in those countries. Problem is, Christians (and I think Jewish systems) have dropped the ideology altogether and outright condemned it.

    “But 500 years ago, people did think that part of loving God was following the accepted practice of slavery” (Heather)

    Which race subjugated which other races? It seems to be when indigenous cultures got hold of this book ‘slavery’ became a practice worth forgetting. A lot of that slavery was political in basis – money grubbing mofo’s – but look and check to see who benefitted from that ‘slavery’ – one might find the beginnings of wealth at the expense of others freedoms and not solely on the basis of ‘religious texts’. Oh they used the texts for justification – doesn’t make it right or accurate in it’s perception.

  60.   jennypo Says:

    Well, DagoodS, it appears that we do, after all, disagree on the facts and not the conclusions. Certainly if the Bible may be read with no more care than the morning newspaper, with the leaping assumption that it comprises nothing more than a collection of various views whose context may be assumed to be the events of the past week and which are in no way required to be in agreement one with another, then yes, the Bible can say anything you want it to. So can any piece of communication.
    And yet, even to determine what our own society says about social issues, the law is interpreted by careful comparison to other laws and precedents in order to ascertain what its import is and how it may be used in application.
    Let’s take a look at the instances of Jesus’ socio-political statements that you point to:
    “Firstly, (in addition to what Heather said) Jesus is alleged to have talked on various social issues. He talked about Divorce, (Mt. 5:31-32, 19:3-9), Vows, (Mt. 5:33), Food laws (Mark 7:18), lawsuit resolution (Mt. 5:25) and probably the most important—taxes. (Matt. 22:17-22)” (DagoodS)

    What Heather said:
    “The Sermon on the Mount does have political statements. He was advocating change against the religious policies — ie, the Pharisees — because religion was politics in those times. The ‘turn the other cheek,’ ‘walk the extra mile’ and so on are political statements, because it is using a political statement against itself.” (Heather)
    Actually, what Jesus means to say by these statements is not up for interpretation, because he says it himself just before giving these examples:
    “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth’. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38-42)
    ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth’ was something that could be administered by the law and was, in the Tanakh. But Jesus is making it clear that individuals are not to judge evil as the law can. To individuals, he says, “Do not resist an evil person.”

    Divorce:
    “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5: 31, 32)
    Jesus is referring to the law given in the Tanakh about giving a certificate of divorce. But he goes on to show that God’s standards are higher than the law – divorce is not a legal issue, but a moral one. Before the law we are social creatures, bound by contracts and agreements. But before God we are moral individuals.

    Vows:
    “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you can not make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’, ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:33-37)
    The vows Jesus is referring to may indeed be as you describe them, taken before the law or the social community and it is God who is the witness, but certainly his own advice is to not to take vows of this sort. He is advocating not an entering into such a social contract, but rather abstinence from it.

    Food laws:
    “So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, ‘Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean hands’?’ He replied, ‘Israel was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
    ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’
    You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.’ And he said to them, ‘You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.’
    Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean’.
    After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. ‘Are you so dull?’ he asked. ‘Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body. (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods ‘clean’.)
    He went on: ‘What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean’. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean.’
    (Mark 5:5-23)

    Sorry for the long quote here, but it seems more or less obvious that if context is considered here, Jesus’ reference to “food laws” is really not about “food laws” at all, but about the individual as he stands before God. Isn’t he actually saying that the meaning of the old traditions has been overlooked in the people’s eagerness for a social contract?

    Lawsuit resolution:
    “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder’, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” (Matthew 5:21-26)
    Now tell me please, is Jesus telling people how to get out of a court battle, or is he telling them to settle conflicts with other people before they come bringing gifts to God?

    Taxes:
    “Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’
    But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’
    They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, ‘Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?’
    ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied.
    Then he said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.’” (Matthew 22:15-21)
    As you have said, Jesus is here making a dramatic statement about social issues. He is saying that those issues don’t matter at all.
    The Bible tells us that the Pharisees asked Jesus this question to trap him in his words. They were trying to get him to make a political statement, to challenge Caesar’s claim to God-like rule or be forced into sanctioning it. Jesus makes evident just how important he thinks politics are in his response: give money to Caesar. Give God worship.

    In every case you point to, Jesus is not leading political rallies; he is addressing questions that he has been asked. And in every case his answer is not one that lends weight to the socio-political issues; instead, he brings the focus back to the individual before God.

    “I understand that you want to focus on the good—the passages that are beneficial. That speaks well of you as a human.” (DagoodS)

    This does not speak well of me as a human. I think you know that if this is true of me, then it says that I am a fool, making a cheap trade of Truth for what makes me feel good.

  61.   Heather Says:

    Jenny,

    **In every case you point to, Jesus is not leading political rallies; he is addressing questions that he has been asked. ** We may be having different impressions of the word political. But he is calling for a change in the current political/social system.

    In this passage: **Eye for eye and tooth for tooth’ was something that could be administered by the law and was, in the Tanakh. But Jesus is making it clear that individuals are not to judge evil as the law can. To individuals, he says, “Do not resist an evil person.”**

    But what made that person evil? The person was using a bad system, such as the Roman being able to demand that a Jew carry his pack for a while. That was a political law, and it’s evilness would be brought to the forefront by the Jew going two miles — which would essentially be having the Roman break his own political law, because he could only demand a mile of service. The one where is someone sues, give them the undergarment. That was another comment on the law, because for most of the Jews, they were paying heavy taxes, and barely had anything worth suing for. The point was to use the law to embarrass the one who was suing, to show that the law should be changed. Both of those lend weight to social-political issues, because those issues affected the individual.

    Caeser’s coins? That would be *huge.* There were times when the Romans would come into areas of Jersulam with images of Caeser and such, and the Jews protested to the point where they, unarmed, would not let the Romans in the temple unless the Romans killed them. Because bringing in Caeser’s images was right up there with idolatry. He is saying those issues matter, by bringing people’s focus to how little it is.

    **But he goes on to show that God’s standards are higher than the law – divorce is not a legal issue, but a moral one.** And he’s trying to put the morality back into the social-political system, because of how easy a man could divorce a woman. And once a man did that, the woman was basically in trouble — and she didn’t have the same recourse in terms of divorce. He was wanted the political system to reflect a system of God, not a man-made system, in order to protect people.

    **Isn’t he actually saying that the meaning of the old traditions has been overlooked in the people’s eagerness for a social contract?** No. He’s focusing on a system that has gotten too rigid, that enforces the ‘little’ laws, such as unclean foods, and yet doesn’t focus on the person themselves, in terms of acting justly. The commands of God insist that those in power do justice to those who are not — that was a big thing for the prophets in the Old Testament. Instead, Jesus is saying the Pharisees have used the system to not enforce any justice for people at all.

    **Now tell me please, is Jesus telling people how to get out of a court battle, or is he telling them to settle conflicts with other people before they come bringing gifts to God?** He is telling people to stop looking in a legalistic fashion, and start looking in a just fashion. IT’s time to use the laws to help a brother, not attack him.

    Back then, religious issues were political, because religion and politics were the same. He was telling an individual to anaylize him/herself. But he was also calling for a political, social and economic change, as well. All of what he mentioned before was bringing the focus back on compassion. Part of helping an individual is ensuring that they have a just political system in which to live. I wasn’t re-interpreting any of these statements; neither was DagoodS. I’m interpreting them as they would be understood in that time-frame.

  62.   Heather Says:

    Society,

    **Even more poignantly, does reading the teachings of Jesus make you want to have a ’slave’?** No. I agree with Jim and Jenny on this, in that if one is truly love God as him/herself, and his/her neighbor, then slavery wouldn’t be an issue. My concern is more along the lines of the Bible was still used to show why slavery was ordained by God. I feel it’s important to understand why this was a mindset, and why the verses in Paul’s letters and the Tanakh were used the way they were. This is a really extreme example, but it’s why I don’t think Hitler should not be portrayed as human as well as a monster — if Hitler is only a monster, it’s like saying that the Holocaust could never happen again and it’s only a one-time example. But if Hitler remains human as well, it’s a warning that circumstances could arise where it would happen again.

    **I mean it’s good an all to recite the Tanakh like it’s candy – but what was the current Jewish mindframe on this?** I believe slavery/servitude was still a practice, based on Jesus’s parables and how he uses ‘Master’ and servent.

    **And then, why don’t Jewish people practice this now (in the 21st century)? Questions to ponder.** I’m wondering their practicies changing has to do with the fact that they were scattered soon after 70 AD, and were considered a second-class citizen for so long. They would have had similiar experiences.

    **They are in the Qu’ran and slavery does exist in Middle East to African countries…and the same justification asserted Christians use to ’support’ slavery is actually used to ’supprt’ slavery in those countries. Problem is, Christians (and I think Jewish systems) have dropped the ideology altogether and outright condemned it.** My point more here was that if the same ‘slave’ verses in the Bible were in the Koran, wouldn’t those verses be used to show why the Koran is the wrong book to follow. So that’s why I don’t think we can just say that the Bible is being ‘mis-read’ in terms of the verses on slavery, especially since many people historically found them valid. We can say that people use these texts out of context to disprove the Bible, or deliberatly look for them. But the people are also using history to see what example has been set by those who follow the Bible, and so to just say that a person is only focusing on slavery because they want to disprove something seems to disprove a huge section of our past where people read the Bible to ‘prove’ slavery as the right thing to do. In the past, it just seems as though it were very easy to find support texts for this. In some ways, I wonder if the anti-slavery movement arose inspite of the Bible, not because of it.

    **Which race subjugated which other races? It seems to be when indigenous cultures got hold of this book ’slavery’ became a practice worth forgetting.** I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at here, because I have a feeling you’re not looking for the simple answer of the Europeans/North Americans subjugating the South Americans/Africans. :) But I don’t think that’s true about the cultures, because African tribes sold other African tribes into slavery. I agree that slavery was a huge financial success, which is why so many people entered the practice, and fought so hard for it to continue. But I also know that when people were starting to say it was inhumane, many ministers and such were using the Bible to show why it was a God-ordained institution.

    The reason why I think this is important and why I’m commenting so much is because I view the slavery, anti-women texts as a warning. If people used those texts in support for some horrific practices back then, then are we still doing the same today, only in different contexts? After all, look at how some Christians use the Second Coming as justification for why they shouldn’t work to improve life for others, or care for the environment. There are some ugly passages in the Bible that people can use to bring out the worst of human nature, and we need to make sure we don’t forget that. We can say slavery back then is nothing like Southern slavery — except the slavery back then led to justification for Southern slavery. It set the groundwork, in a way.

  63.   DagoodS Says:

    Society vs Individual modification

    Believe it or not, I think we may all be on the same page here if we could step back for a moment. There are a variety of ways to change society. One way is from the “top down,” if you will. Change the law at the top and impose it on the people. Another way is from the “bottom up.” Convince the people individually who eventually modify themselves.

    A weak non-theistic example of that is American Prohibition. We first tried it “top down” by imposing the law of no alcohol. That didn’t work, and the society continued to use alcohol. Eventually, from the “bottom up” the law changed back, due to what the society desired.

    The reason that I say I think we all may agree, is that I think we all agree that the stories of Jesus have him working from a “bottom up” concept. If I have given the impression that my problem with how slavery is treated in the New Testament is that Jesus should have been telling the lawmakers to abolish slavery—I apologize. I am not saying that at all.

    What I am saying is that Jesus should have been telling the individuals to stop owning slaves, just like he was telling them to turn the other cheek. Or just like he was saying to not take an oath.

    Do we all agree that what Jesus said was intended to be for large segments of people? Surely we are not saying that Jesus’ statement to the disciples of “Love one another” was designed solely for those gentlemen in the room with him at that time, and not applicable to anyone else. If Jesus’ words were designed to impact numerous individuals within a group—how can that NOT be a society change?

    Isn’t that what a society is—a group of people? And if they all modify their behavior, while in once sense it is numerous individual efforts, by that group effort we have a change in society?

    Perhaps I am missing the big significance between Jesus asking countless individuals to do something as compared to Jesus asking countless individuals, by modifying their behavior, to have a resulting societal impact. If Jesus said, “Do not own slaves,” and every individual modified their own behavior by releasing their slaves, wouldn’t we have a society that changed to having no slaves?

    And even with all that aside—if you are telling me that Jesus was talking to individuals–where did Jesus ask an individual to release a slave? Whether it was intended for the society or an individual, we are still left with the problem that Jesus treated slavery as a reality—not an immorality. Both individually and to the society as a whole.

    Jim Jordan: I haven’t seen you make the argument that God invented slavery, and I don’t expect to.

    You’re right. Humans invented slavery. They just used their god(s) to justify it. Eventually humans abolished slavery. Some, equally, used the same god(s) to eradicate it. What I am more interested in was your claim that the Word could not be used for Evil, but exposes Evil. What I have not seen, yet, is an explanation for the problem for all the passages I listed on April 30 and May 1, which are in the self-same Word.

    We have focused on slavery as one example. (With a side dish of Amalekites.) Everyone seems to agree that slavery is evil. I haven’t seen anyone address all of those passages dealing with slavery. (To be fair to jennypo, she addressed 1 Peter 2.)

    And let’s take a moment on this “Love God; Love your neighbor.” Again, I agree that application of that principle would eliminate slavery. BUT—what hasn’t been dealt with is the fact that slavery is promoted in the Bible. Do the other authors teach “Love God; Love your neighbor”?

    The author of Ephesians tells masters to be kind to slaves. Not to release them. Not that slavery is abhorrent. And most absolutely, positively certainly does NOT say, “Hey slave owners—don’t you know you should be loving your neighbor? Release those slaves!” The author of Colossians tells masters to be kind to slaves. Not to release them. Not that slavery is abhorrent. And most absolutely, positively certainly does NOT say, “Hey slave owners—don’t you know you should be loving your neighbor? Release those slaves!”

    Would you agree with me, then that the authors of Ephesians and Colossians did not exhibit love for their neighbor?

    Paul does not tell people to release their slaves. Does he fail to love his neighbor? The authors of the other Epistles do not tell people to release their slaves. Did they fail? The authors of the Gospels—same problem.

    I find it astounding that we can sit in the 21st Century and loftily state that “Love God; love your neighbor” would so obviously eliminate slavery—when it was clearly not obvious to the Gospel writers, Paul, or the other Epistle writers. Not one.

    It gets worse…

    While Jesus may not have invented slavery, he sure embraced it with enthusiasm. Jesus tells the Hebrews to buy the children of the Canaanites to be their permanent slaves. They are “property” (Jesus’ words) which is to be considered an “inheritance.” (Jesus’ words.) Lev. 25:45-46. Jesus says that you can beat a slave so hard that they will subsequently die from their wounds, and that is acceptable. Because slaves are “Property” (Jesus’ words. ) Ex. 21:20-21

    Jesus ORDERS the Hebrews to take women and children as slaves. They are “plunder.” (Jesus’ words.) Deut. 20:12-15.

    Now—are you going to tell me that Jesus, by doing so, did not exhibit “Love God; Love your neighbor”?

    Oh, I agree that “Love God; Love your neighbor” would abolish slavery. Where I disagree is that any author of the entire Bible claims this same premise. They have their God, and their people doing the exact opposite.

    societyvs: Even more poignantly, does reading the teachings of Jesus make you want to have a ’slave’? I think the idea (if it held water in the gospels) would make us want to do it? Did Jesus have a slave of his own?

    He he. If I lived exactly as Jesus did, I would not have a slave. ‘Course I would not be married, would not have children, would pay my taxes by fishing, and would never, EVER go to a Grocery Store. Water-skiing would be an interesting prospect. And I would have been dead for 8 years.

    On this one, I am a bit surprised, coming from you. The teachings of Jesus would indicate that slavery is acceptable. In numerous parables Jesus uses servants and slaves to make a point. Just like he uses sheep and coins. He never once avoids the subject, or makes the claim that somehow slavery is unacceptable.

    The only reason we would attempt to view Jesus’ words through the lens of abolishing slavery is because that lens has been tainted with our own environment and history. We are raised in a society that says slavery is wrong. As you would say, our “Eurocentric” view is what makes us hate slavery—not the Bible.

    First Century Judaism, and Romans had slaves. Viewing Jesus’ teaching in a society that accepts slavery as non-moral—you tell me: Is there anything there I can hang my hat on that we can state “Here Jesus says, ‘Slavery is immoral.’”?

    jennypo: Certainly if the Bible may be read with no more care than the morning newspaper, with the leaping assumption that it comprises nothing more than a collection of various views whose context may be assumed to be the events of the past week and which are in no way required to be in agreement one with another, then yes, the Bible can say anything you want it to.

    The problem is that people are reading it to smash it into a certain doctrine. Was it intended to be inerrant? That question is considered moot—now it is demanded to be inerrant, and must be read in such a fashion that comports with that doctrine.

    Was it intended to be historical? Again, that question is abandoned in the dogmatic position that Jesus MUST have lived and MUST have done this and MUST have said that. Can you read it with the thought that maybe Jesus didn’t do something that is contained in the Gospels?

    Who is the audience that it was written to? When was it written? Was there an editor or complier who modified the original story? Did copyists modify it? Is it inaccurate? All of these are questions that many people’s doctrine will not allow contemplation. How do we determine what is Inspired? Heck—what IS “God-breathed”?

    Amazingly, to me, once I stopped reading it in a manner that it must conform to some doctrine, and read it for what it was, it became more meaningful, richer and more fascinating. Less divine—true. But that is just me.

    It isn’t a “morning paper” either in construction, intent or audience. I don’t read it as such. Most people I know don’t. It is written by various authors who viewed life and God in a different manner. I thought believers and believers alike agree that, due to that difference, they have various views. Not sure how that is a “leaping assumption.”

    No, the authors do not agree with each other. But as much as I love rabbit trails, inerrancy will need to be discussed at another time.

    jennypo, as you laid out your explanations for the passages, do you understand how that actually supports what I have been saying?

    You point out how under the Torah, “eye for an eye” was the law, but Jesus says, “Do it differently.” Under the Torah, divorce was acceptable, but Jesus says God’s standard is higher.

    You point out how under the Torah, vows were allowed, and Jesus is advocating to abstain from them. I’m not sure what you are saying about “social contract” under the food laws, so I won’t touch it for fear of mis-stating your position. You point out how Jesus was not talking about the law allowing for court, but to settle conflicts with each other. (Not following you on the taxes, either. Jesus did give homage to the government’s right to impose taxes.)

    In these situations, you indicate Jesus pointed out the Torah, and how it was being misapplied. How we should focus on what the individual should really do.

    And then we come to slavery…

    Where is Jesus’ statement that the Torah is incorrect there? Where is Jesus statement to the individual that they are misapplying the slavery laws?

    A long while back, I pointed out this exact problem. If the Torah says “A, B, C, D and E” then Jesus comes along and specifically says, “Not A,” “Not C,” “Not E”—it would seem that Jesus is leaving in place “B” and “D.”

    For every situation in which you point out that Jesus admirably was explaining how the Torah was either no longer in effect or not being applied correctly—I respond with, “So where does he say that about slavery?” “Where does he say that about slavery?”

    Each time you point out how Jesus was so very willing to abolish the Torah, or defy it, is one more instance where Jesus has an opportunity to do away with slavery and fails to do so.

    Alrighty, then. Time to wrap things up.

    I have fivequestions that would shed some light (to me) as to how people are taking this slavery thing. Answer or not; theist or not—your choice.

    1. Are morals absolute?
    2. Is slavery always immoral?
    3. Did God order slavery in the Torah? (Lev. 25:45-46, Ex. 21:20-21, Deut. 20:12-15)
    4. Does the New Testament abolish slavery?
    5. What verse abolishes slavery?

  64.   bruced Says:

    I think some people *want* to be enslaved. Should we deny them their fondest desires?

  65.   societyvs Says:

    “If I lived exactly as Jesus did, I would not have a slave.” (Dagoods)

    Whew…I knew you had to concede that point at the very least. As for the rest of the lines after this – it’s quite the exaggeration. One could say my dad was my role model, he wore size 11 shoes so I should ‘mimic’ that – event though I am a size 9.5. Facetious – a bit.

    “The teachings of Jesus would indicate that slavery is acceptable. In numerous parables Jesus uses servants and slaves to make a point.” (Dagoods)

    And this is inherent justification of the office of slavery? I see no stamp of approval by Jesus (from the disciples writings) about slavery as something to be continued forever – fact is – it’s never touched on. As for ‘servant/slave’ (doulos) this is just used as literary writing to mark the difference in authority between man and god – not man and man – within parables/stories. The idea that Jesus left it out could be taken as either/or – for or against – depending on the view of the reader – or as has been noted by you – ‘neutral’ (you decide on it’s virtues).

    “The only reason we would attempt to view Jesus’ words through the lens of abolishing slavery is because that lens has been tainted with our own environment and history” (Dagoods)

    Well that’s supposition at the very least. I know the Aboriginal peoples of the America’s never had a slave trade or practice – I likely would have been ‘neutral’ on this issue if I lived many years ago (if we could go back in history). So the lens being ‘tainted’ comes from where and what culture – and for what reason? I think we talk about slavery in a purely religious context in here – I don’t think it’s quite that easy (be nice if it was).

    If I am not mistaken didn’t the Jewish Law have some laws about ‘releasing those slaves’ and ‘fair treatment’. Wouldn’t they be far ahead of their rivals of those days in that regards?

    “Is there anything there I can hang my hat on that we can state “Here Jesus says, ‘Slavery is immoral.’”?” (Dagoods)

    I am at work so I can’t check into this with any depth – but I will check into it and see what I come up with.

  66.   Heather Says:

    Society,

    **If I am not mistaken didn’t the Jewish Law have some laws about ‘releasing those slaves’ and ‘fair treatment’. Wouldn’t they be far ahead of their rivals of those days in that regards?** That applied to Hebrew men only. Possibly Hebrew women, though I don’t think so.

    **And this is inherent justification of the office of slavery? I see no stamp of approval by Jesus (from the disciples writings) about slavery as something to be continued forever – fact is – it’s never touched on.** We would not read it so. But in the early 19th century, yes, it probably would’ve been read that way. Slavery was simply a fact of life back then and it wouldn’t occur to people that it wouldn’t continue forever. since there was no clear message to abolish it (for the 19th century), people would not want to disrupt the practice.

    **I think we talk about slavery in a purely religious context in here – I don’t think it’s quite that easy (be nice if it was). ** In a way, I do think it’s that easy, because for so much of history, religion and politics were the same. Look at the stronghold the Catholic Church had on Europe until the Reformation. They had control over kings, through the threat of ex-communication. Religious figures dictated politics, because of the will of God.

    Bruced,

    **I think some people *want* to be enslaved. Should we deny them their fondest desires? ** That depends. Some also want to commit suicide. A five year old would want to jump off the roof in order to fly. Usually, if we see someone who wants to be enslaved, we would say the person isn’t thinking straight. Same with the suicide, or the five year old. So would we let the person fufill the desire?

  67.   bruced Says:

    It just seems like the disciples wanted to be slaves of Jesus.

    I tend to think to that it’s a slavery mentality that drives people to religious institutions. It’s like saying, “I will commit myself to you, if you will (enter psychological need here).”

    Also, if we abandon “self”, does that make us slaves to each other?

    Just thinking out loud here. This seems to be a safe place to do that. Thanks!

  68.   Heather Says:

    Bruced,

    I see what you’re saying now. The concept of slavery has been in the negative aspects for much of this conversation that I took your words in that context, too. :)

    I think how they were using slaves back then, we’d use more along the lines of guided/filled. Because when using the word ‘slave’ today, as we’ve seen from my response, it goes into ‘lack of rights’ area.

    I think the slavery mentality you’re referrnig to is along the lines of the religions that don’t let you think or explore for yourself. They tell you what to believe and how to interpret everything. Then there are other religions where you can embrace freedom, and be allowed to explore the sacred.

    **Also, if we abandon “self”, does that make us slaves to each other?** I would say it has the potential. However, I think the key in loving another as one’s self is that one is abandoning the selfish aspect, but not the ‘self’ itself. Rather, the person has see him/herself in the other. We would be slaves to the other person if we allowed them to dicate our emotional response. If instance, if someone spewed hatred at you, and that produced a hating reponse back, then you’re a slave to the other. But if that person’s hatred doesn’t affect you and you still love them 100%, then you’ve abandoned ‘self’ but aren’t enslaved to the other.

  69.   societyvs Says:

    “We would not read it so. But in the early 19th century, yes, it probably would’ve been read that way.” (Heather)

    So there is 2 interpretations of the bible – who has it right then (us or them)? But the early 19th century does not hold the keys to the ‘interpreting of the bible’ – so they are in the same mess we find ourselves – wrestling with a neutrality within Jesus’ words.

    I, for one, contend slavery of that era was a means of capitalizing on cheap labor for profitable gains (ie: wealth reasoning outweighed the theological basis). Same old question crops up – God or mammon? Isn’t that a teaching also? Either way you look at it slavery will find it’s obstacles with the totality of Jesus’ sayings. Until I see one thing Jesus says to fully support the idea of slavery I have to contend with it (I’d be doing myself a misjustice not to).

    “In a way, I do think it’s that easy, because for so much of history, religion and politics were the same. Look at the stronghold the Catholic Church had on Europe until the Reformation. They had control over kings, through the threat of ex-communication. Religious figures dictated politics, because of the will of God.” (Heather)

    I would say the ‘slavery’ thing served a more political purpose (ex: control of minorities and developing business) than a religious one. I would really like to see what people like Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and any other theologian from Europe’s history in that era had to say on the whole issue. I don’t recall much from those dudes on the premise of slavery (which is so present in the bible)? What about the Catholic views of that era? What did the intellectual people in the faith say about slavery? Did they support it? It’s a good statement Heather and all but do the religious figures of the day support slavery or was it twisted by country and state for cheap labor? I smell ‘the green behind whomever is the fiend’.

    You check and I will too – since I have no clue what 1500-1900 intellectuals/theologians said about slavery – and they would be the one’s helping the state.

  70.   societyvs Says:

    But seriously folks, I wanna post an ad on the subject.

    ‘Married Christian couple, seeking a male slave to add to their new spacious home. They have a 2 storey 2000 sq. foot home and it lacks that personal touch only a slave can bring. The couple just feels doing all the chores in the home (cooking, cleaning, pruning, weeding, planting, cutting grass, dishes, etc) are wearing them out and their faith allows this one convenience, a slave. There will also be some heavy lifitng and requires someone with slight computer skills. Also the extra company would be appreciated as we are home-bodies.

    Looking for a well mannered, groomed, smart, built male to add to the home. We have a spare bedroom for the person complete with tv, dvd, video games, bed, closet space, and full use of the bathroom. We are willing to pay top dollar for this person and will make sure the slave get’s an ear-ring (and not a branding). They will also be asked to make the odd meal but this is not all the time.

    If you are interested apply via e-mail to heisaslaving.com and we are an equal opportunites employer – so make sure to self-identify as part of the cover letter. And bring some warm clothes – gets a little chilly at nights in Canada.’

  71.   DagoodS Says:

    I don’t vouch for these sites (quick google run) but it would seem that Luther and Calvin both supported slavery.

    http://www.bostontheological.org/programs/sermons-by-john-calvin-on-sabbath.doc

    http://freetruth.50webs.org/C4a.htm

    societyvs: Until I see one thing Jesus says to fully support the idea of slavery I have to contend with it (I’d be doing myself a misjustice not to).

    ‘Course Jesus doesn’t say anything to fully support the idea of Abolition, so to be consistent you would contend with that as well? The point being, Jesus doesn’t say anything either way. Except he treats slavery as a fact of life.

  72.   jennypo Says:

    DagoodS,

    I am going to take a look at your questions. I am pretty sure that we are not going to agree, but as you have previously pointed out, that’s not the point.

    1. Are morals absolute?
    The simple answer here is yes. However, that does not mean that moral standards can be applied haphazardly, any-which-way, without regard for context. If we can learn any lesson from the history of cultural domination the world over, it should be this one. Take, for instance, the British gentleman who arrives in 19th century Africa. He is aghast at what he sees to be immoral: men looking at topless women. Isn’t that pornography?
    Nope, it’s not as simple as that, is it?
    I have spent the last few years in a culture that is vastly different from the culture of my birth. At the beginning, there were numerous things that raised feelings of disgust and anger for me. As time goes by, I am learning how difficult it is to judge actions that are mediated through another culture. There are so many things that I didn’t understand. There are so many actions that have a different cultural meaning in my “new” situation. What seems clearly wrong to the people of my birth culture goes completely unquestioned in other cultures. Are they unenlightened? Of course not. Our motivations for the same actions are different.
    Please don’t think I am arguing for complete moral relativity here. What I mean to say is that the morality of actions is often relative to the meaning of those actions within a culture. What remains absolutely constant is the morality of motivation.
    Let me give an example: If I hit a baby to dislodge an item from its throat, my action is moral. If I hit a baby because I am angry, my action is immoral.
    In addition, the context of authority must be taken into consideration. It would be immoral for me to confine another person because I think they have done something wrong. And yet, when the legal system does it, it’s maintaining social order. I cannot “judge” another person’s actions. Yet a judge can, and remain completely moral, because he has the authority to act for the state.
    This is why, when God did give a list of “rules”, he gave them in a situation that already had a context. He gave them to a people who were entering into a collective agreement with him. His “rules” were not a moral catalogue, but a covenant made within a cultural and historical context. He did ask the Israelites to commit to a high moral standard; he didn’t ask them to change their culture, their personalities, or their social understanding. Yes, I know that Christianity as it is known has done this in our world. But God doesn’t.

    2. Is slavery always immoral?
    Slavery as we in North America have known it is always immoral. Any action based on a belief in one race’s superiority over another is always immoral.

    3. Did God order slavery in the Torah? (Lev. 25:45-46, Ex. 21:20-21, Deut. 20:12-15)
    (Thanks for the refs!) Again, the simple answer is Yes, he did. But let’s take a look at the context of culture and authority.
    We have the right to judge our own culture, but we have to be very, very careful when we judge a culture that is far from our understanding in orientation, in distance, and in time. In the time of Moses, slavery was a universal practice among the nations of the world. It was not in and of itself oppressive, but the cultural equivalent to a low-paying but reasonable job in North America, along with vastly greater abuses and none of the human rights protections we have today.
    God didn’t forbid the Hebrew people to “hire at minimum wage”, so to speak, but he did put in place anti-oppression and human rights laws that are unmatched in modern society.
    Slaves of any kind who ran away from their masters were not to be delivered back into bondage. Such fugitives were to be allowed to live how and where they pleased. (Deuteronomy 23:15,16)

    This is a very sensitive issue, and it is difficult for anyone in North America to consider the word “slavery” without linking it to our very shameful past. Please, please, please, don’t anybody suggest that I am trying to say that the slavery we know in North America is the equivalent of working at Burger King! I am ONLY talking about “slavery” as it was known throughout the world in Moses’ time. There is a HUGE difference, which is what I would like to illustrate.

    The Hebrews could not take bondslaves of their own people – only hired servants (Leviticus 25:39, 40) Masters, in this instance, were instructed by God not to “rule over them ruthlessly, but fear your God.” This kind of “slavery” was entered into because of debts a person couldn’t pay (Leviticus 25:39) or restitution (ie. because of theft) that a person couldn’t make (Exodus 22:2,3) A Hebrew hired “slave” could be redeemed at any time by his family, and after six years, had to be set free and given gifts of food and animals. (Deuteronomy 15:12-14)
    Foreign slaves were captured in war (Numbers 31:36, Deuteronomy 21:10) or bought in foreign slave markets (Leviticus 25:44). Foreigners amongst the Hebrews could also sell themselves into service as the Hebrews could. Foreign slaves were entitled to the same religious priveleges given to Hebrews: Sabbath rest (Exodus 20:10); national festival attendance (Deuteronomy 16:10, 11); and the right to gather with others to hear the reading of the Law (Deuteronomy 31:10-13).
    In the context of the Torah, God is dealing with Israel as a nation, and with the rest of the world through Israel. Their influence is to be national and political, not personal. The word “politic” has the word “power” at its root. It is not surprising to me that Israel is found teaching other nations at the end of the sword, since that is the language of power in our world.
    We would do well to note, however, that the power Israel is instructed to exercise over other nations is limited and regulated by God. He never allows personal power or the abuse of power. It is also relevant that God allows his “chosen people” to be enslaved by other nations – the Egyptians, the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Philistines, the Assyrians, the Babylonians. No, he doesn’t remove them from their cultural context. He doesn’t save the best parking spots for them. He isn’t asking for a nation of monks, which brings us back to the original point of HeIsSailing’s post. God’s got his chosen people living – Christians, cover your eyes – secular lives!

    4. Does the New Testament abolish slavery?
    Once again, the simple answer is No, not specifically.
    (However, any history buffs out there will be able to remind us that by the time of Christ, slavery had virtually and uniquely disappeared from Jewish culture, although it still flourished in the more democratic and “enlightened” Roman and Greek cultures!)

    5. What verse abolishes slavery?
    A contextual reading of the New Testament will make it quite clear that it is not the purpose of the writings contained therein, nor was it Jesus’ purpose, to give the world at large a list of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”. Yes, the Hebrews had a clear set of laws given by God, but God spoke to them in a national, cultural context. How could we interpret such a set of laws in our many cultures and nations today, even if Jesus had given them?

    “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17)

    “For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.” (John 12:47)

    If that were the purpose, one might also ask why Jesus did not condemn a host of other vices prevalent at his time. If he were God, and omniscient, he could also have forewarned us against the evils of internet pornography, drug abuse, diamond smuggling, identity theft.
    No, he didn’t name any one of these things, even though he talked about divorce, vows, food laws, lawsuit resolution, and taxes.

    I am glad Jesus didn’t ask Christians to release their slaves. Here’s why: We in North America are very sure that we know the best way of handling things. We tend to be smug, even arrogant in our dealings with people. We like to think that we can “liberate” the rest of the world. Let’s just ask one question: Has it worked?
    We overlook context, but Jesus didn’t. He knew that sin and oppression hadn’t magically disappeared from the world when he came. If he had asked Christians to release their slaves, what would have happened to those slaves? Would they have been free? Check your Roman history.
    Instead, the New Testament asks slave owners to view their slaves as “brothers”. Doesn’t sound as though oppression is being advocated.
    No, if I could point to a verse that said Jesus asked Christians to release their slaves, then I would consider that evidence that he was a forward-thinking idealist, but NOT GOD.
    You identified the main difference in your last post:
    “The reason that I say I think we all may agree, is that I think we all agree that the stories of Jesus have him working from a “bottom up” concept.”

    Not only is Jesus working from the bottom up, he is also working from the inside out. He’s not telling people which actions to embrace, and which to eliminate, he’s telling them that they need to change their whole hearts, their whole motivations. They need to be motivated by love, not selfishness. This will indeed bring about social reform, but first it will bring about personal transformation.

    “Each time you point out how Jesus was so very willing to abolish the Torah, or defy it, is one more instance where Jesus has an opportunity to do away with slavery and fails to do so.” (DagoodS)

    Let me clarify. Jesus is certainly not abolishing the Law. He says that himself. Rather, he is making the statement that while the Law was good, it didn’t go far enough. God’s moral standard is MUCH higher. It doesn’t deal in mere actions – it deals with motives. That’s why lust in the heart is considered the same as a sexually immoral act (Matthew 5:28). Hatred is the equivalent of murder (I John 3:15).
    Jesus isn’t about making new laws for people to live by. He isn’t about issuing lists of abolished activities at all. If he were, then how could we be sure those lists were meant for us in 21st century North America? What Jesus is about changing hearts and motivations to allow all people the freedom of living in LOVE, instead of being slaves to sin and fear. He pointed out the chains on our hearts.

    “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

  73.   Heather Says:

    Jenny,

    **In the time of Moses, slavery was a universal practice among the nations of the world. It was not in and of itself oppressive, ** The only reason why I’d have misgivings about this is because of that verse where Moses tells everyone to only keep the virgins, because of what that implies. There’s also the verse of that one can beat a slave, as the slave is property. If the slave dies, the owner is punished. If the slave lives, no problem. I can’t help thinking of all the ways there are to seriously hurt someone without killing them.

    **If that were the purpose, one might also ask why Jesus did not condemn a host of other vices prevalent at his time. If he were God, and omniscient, he could also have forewarned us against the evils of internet pornography, drug abuse, diamond smuggling, identity theft. No, he didn’t name any one of these things, even though he talked about divorce, vows, food laws, lawsuit resolution, and taxes.** I think part of that, and it sounds like I’ll be agreeing with you, Jenny, is because of the lack of ability to phrase a social ill such as ‘internet pornography (although the looking in lust section would cover that) or ‘drug abuse’ would’ve gone over their heads. When Galileo stated that the Earth went around the Sun, the church said that contradicted the Bible. Now, Jesus could’ve spared people a lot by saying how the universe really worked, and that the Earth wasn’t the center. However, who would’ve believed him? They already thought he was crazy.

    **It doesn’t deal in mere actions – it deals with motives. That’s why lust in the heart is considered the same as a sexually immoral act (Matthew 5:28). Hatred is the equivalent of murder (I John 3:15).** This is a sidenote, but I’ve always found these passages interesting. I’ve seen justification used here that is shows us how sinful we are, but I don’t think the point was to make us ‘feel bad’ or hate ourselves. Rather, I think Jesus is making the listeners understand the causes behind the act — or as you say, motives. It’s placing a person’s interior at the forefront, and showing that murder springs from hatred, and adultery springs from lust. Rather, the Law was in check in order to keep people from acting immorally, because that was all they could handle at that time. And now they’re reading to move beyond just acting properly, so that they can eradicate the source. By lusting after someone or hating them, you are in fact not valuing that person, same as if you actually killed them. So I don’t see it as Jesus saying, “See how sinful you are?” But rather Jesus saying, “You need to go deeper, and see where it starts. An action is both mental and physical.”

  74.   societyvs Says:

    “But rather Jesus saying, “You need to go deeper, and see where it starts. An action is both mental and physical.” ” (Heather)

    I totally agree on this point about those passages in Matthew – yout take is motives – the inner thoughts – and building upon them – same conclusion I came to when reading them (without doctrinal lenses). I had a huge discussion on another blog with a few people about this and in the end I just felt the one who safeguards against every single thought will drive him/herself nuts – not the point of the passage whatsoever. Heather – I always liked your views on things – I think I am along your lines of thinking in a lot of these scenarios. Peace.

  75.   joeyanne Says:

    Heissailing,
    Did you abandon us…to maybe start another blog in peace?….or are you just curious how long we will continue to post on your blog without any input from you? (*wink)

  76.   DagoodS Says:

    Thank you, jennypo.

    Actually, I had ceased posting in this entry. (‘cept for one comment that is “awaiting moderation” as it has links for societyvs regarding Calvin and Luther.) Thought the discussion had reached its end. Then you post this beautiful comment, with what I was looking for—verses, argument and support for your position.

    It would be discourteous to NOT respond after I have whined so hard for this type of response. *grin* So a quick few points.

    As I was reading through it, I thought how your comment was very similar to the secularism as talked about in the beginning entry. I laughed when you said the same thing. Perhaps there is less disagreement between us than you and I think…

    A few points to focus and address for our consideration:

    Absolute vs Relative Morality

    While you initially start off claiming absolute morality, you follow up with a pretty persuasive argument that morality is relative. Whether you realize it or not. One thing I would note—motivations are relative as well based upon the society. There are different motivations in an honor society, for example. Or capitalism as compared to socialism. We look back on American slavery in the 1800’s, and think, “How awful!” yet only a few hundred years previously, slavery was accepted as an economic necessity.

    There were numerous slave owners that had no motivation of oppression—just making a living. Who knows? A hundred years from now the concept of salaried employees will be considered an oppressive practice by which people will look back and judge our motivations as purely selfish.

    Slavery

    I asked if slavery is always immoral, to which you qualified American slavery as always immoral. This qualification would leave me with the impression that there IS slavery that is not immoral.

    If so—why all the argument that the Bible does not prohibit slavery? The reason I asked this question is that I see an interesting parting between genocide and slavery. We (maybe reluctantly) look back on the Tanakh and say, “Genocide is wrong, but there are instants when it is moral—i.e. when God orders it.”

    Why not treat slavery the same way? That as we view it, it is immoral, but there are instances in which it is moral?

    Instead we have spent numerous comments back and forth with the premise that slavery is prohibited in some fashion by the Bible. If it was sometimes moral, (as you answer seems to imply) why care that the Bible must prohibit slavery? It need not.

    Torah

    jennypo: In the time of Moses, slavery was a universal practice among the nations of the world. It was not in and of itself oppressive, but the cultural equivalent to a low-paying but reasonable job in North America, along with vastly greater abuses and none of the human rights protections we have today.

    There are two key points to review:

    1) Where do you get your information as to the wonderfulness of slavery at “the time of Moses.”? (The same is in quotes, as, depending on the Christian, this could be 1500, 1300 or 2500 BCE.) Have you read the Hammurabi Code on slaves? While not necessarily brutal, they were treated as property. Look at what Sarah does to Hagar—“Here, husband—have sex with my slave.” Was Hagar’s thoughts on the matter considered?

    Again, both the Leviticus Mosaic Code and the Numbers Mosaic Code refer to the slaves as property. Who gets to define what it means to be “oppressed”—the slave or the owner? I am uncertain how we could possibly say that slavery at the time of Moses was even remotely the equivalent of a low-paying job.

    I was a bit surprised you uses Numbers 31:36. (Presumably Numbers 31:32-46). This wasn’t oppressive? 15,984 virgin females are given to the soldiers who fought as plunder. Booty. Sex slaves. Oh, you can call them a “wife” (first, second or third) and try to sleep with it, but the simple reality is that they were given to the men as a prize.

    15,984 virgin females are given to the soldiers that didn’t fight. Also as sex slaves. Now, if you read your numbers, you will see that 32,000 virgin females were taken, and if you add up my math, you will find 32 missing virgins. These were “tributes” to God. It has been troubling to determine whether they were human sacrifices or merely slaves. For our purposes, slavery is bad enough. Jesus had slaves.

    WARNING: The following section within the asterisks is graphic. You may want to skip

    ************

    I apologize for the language herein, but the sugarcoating of Numbers 31 must stop. If we are going to say it is not “oppressive” let’s be very clear. Sarah is a 12-year-old girl. Unfortunately, she lives in a war-torn community. One day the Enemy attacks. Her father goes to war, as all the men do, but is killed in battle. The Enemy storms into her house, where her mother, her older sister and her younger brother are huddled in fear. They can hear the screaming in the neighborhood homes.

    One enemy soldier pushes her mother down and snatches her baby brother up. He shoves a sword into the baby’s stomach, the end of the sword pops out his back. There is one terrible cry of pain, and then he goes limp. Sarah’s mother watches as her baby boy’s eyes go blank.

    Another soldier roughly holds down Sarah’s sister. His uniform is greasy with blood and innards from the day’s work. As she is squirming, she is hard to hold down. He shoves his hand up and between her legs to determine whether she is a virgin. Without the appropriate confirmation—her death sentence is assured. He takes his sword and pushes it through her chest. Another terrible scream, and then a whimper as she lays—dying.

    The soldiers grab Sarah’s mother, who has watched her son die, and is watching one daughter die. He brings his sword down on her head so hard, that her head cracks like bad fruit. Mercifully she instantly dies.

    Finally, the soldiers grab Sarah. Roughly they shove their hands between her legs, her brother and sister’s blood smearing on her thighs, and confirm that she is still a virgin. She is informed that she will be given that soldier as a prize. To be his “wife.” Or, if she is one of the “lucky” ones, she will get to work in the Enemy’s place of worship for the rest of her life, helping the Enemy who killed her father, her mother, her brother and her sister. She will never marry. Never have a family. Never have a community again.

    I’m sorry, but if you are going to convince this skeptic that this was a “moral” form of slavery, or that this is the cultural equivalent of a “low-paying but reasonable job” you probably would be best to stay away from Numbers 31. I have far too much imagination to envision what actually happened—and it is atrocious.

    ********

    The Tanakh does not paint a picture of an non-oppressive slave system.

    2) Separation. The fact that other nations do it actually goes against this argument. God says that he was creating a people that were holy; separate–different than all the nations. Deut. 7:6, 14:2, 26:19, 28:9. It was the separation factor for why God created the food laws and the Sabbath laws. Not because there was something “evil” about pork or certain fish—but to have the people be different; holy. Separate from other nations.

    The fact that OTHER nations captured enemies and made them slaves, or OTHER nations had slaves, provided God with a unique opportunity to make the Hebrew nation different as well. They could have been 2000 years ahead of their time—abolish slavery.

    jennypo, one of our disagreements is that I hold God is a human-made concept. Something completely made up. One of the reasons that I say that is because in the course of human history, what I see are beliefs of convenience. Not inconvenience.

    The Torah established laws that were not completely extraordinary. Further, they create things that the Hebrews could do—don’t eat pork. It wasn’t like this would cause them to starve. Where are the laws that would be hard to do? Where are difficulties? Why didn’t God say, “Hey, this is something that will be very hard—No Slaves.”

    Look how the Hebrews act—they are interested in virgin females and gold. What would a God do with virgins and gold? Why would God care that they take gold? If you hear a preacher on TV telling you that God wants you to send him/her money—does this raise questions? That maybe there is some human selfishness at the heart? Yet this is what we see over and over in the Tanakh.

    I don’t think you can establish that slavery during the first half of the first millennium BCE was not oppressive. Or that it was a low-paying job.

    Judaism and Slavery

    jennypo: (However, any history buffs out there will be able to remind us that by the time of Christ, slavery had virtually and uniquely disappeared from Jewish culture, although it still flourished in the more democratic and “enlightened” Roman and Greek cultures!)

    It had? Again, is there any support for this? It is true there was not as much slavery in First Century Palestine, but this was from economic necessity—not religious prohibition. Owning a slave was an investment—but one had to care and feed and clothe that slave. And any resulting slaves from breeding. Most of the Jews would have been far too poor to have slaves.

    The rich would still have slaves. Who were the servants that Peter sat with? Matt. 26:58. But more importantly—Jesus used servants over and over and over in his parables. I would guess you hold to the historical claims of the Pharisees animosity towards Jesus.

    How do you explain the fact they never raise this issue? Why wouldn’t they say, “This guy talks about servants and slaves all the time and we all know that we don’t have slaves and servants—that would be a bad thing”?

    I cannot find a source that claims slavery had “virtually and uniquely disappeared from the Jewish culture” anywhere—can you help me out on this one?

    More: If that were the purpose, one might also ask why Jesus did not condemn a host of other vices prevalent at his time. If he were God, and omniscient, he could also have forewarned us against the evils of internet pornography, drug abuse, diamond smuggling, identity theft.

    Exactly. Instead, as we read the course of history from Genesis to Revelation, what we see are humans dealing with human problems at the time of their writing. When they thought the Earth circled the sun—they wrote as if the Earth circled the sun. When they did not realize that stars were suns far away-they wrote that way. When slavery was an accept mode of labor—they wrote that way.

    The Gospels and Epistles address the problems of their immediate society. Circumcision, holy days, sacrifice, sacrificed meat, vows, divorce, taxes, etc. I don’t ask why Jesus did not forewarn of internet pornography or identity theft. As a human, he would never have foreseen such things.

    And no, I am not saying this is proof that Jesus is not God. I am saying that a human would have made the same statements as Jesus. It is an indication of nothing unique.

    More: If he had asked Christians to release their slaves, what would have happened to those slaves? Would they have been free? Check your Roman history.

    Uh…slaves became freemen (sorry, ladies, but that is term) in Roman society. It was allowed by Roman law, ya know. I did check my Roman history. They would become artisans, workers, and members of society.

    jennypo, I say this with all respect—but where are you getting your history? It sounds (and I could be completely wrong, so show me) as if you have taken claims made from the pulpit as true. After deconverting I attended church for almost a year. I was stunned with what I heard pastors say as “historical fact” that I realized had no basis whatsoever. None. I don’t blame them; they probably heard it from someone else they trusted.

    Slaves were freed under Roman law. They were. I am uncertain what you mean by “Would they have been free?” Why wouldn’t they?

    And I presume then, that you believe Paul was telling Philemon to NOT free Onesimus.

    More: No, if I could point to a verse that said Jesus asked Christians to release their slaves, then I would consider that evidence that he was a forward-thinking idealist, but NOT GOD.

    One thing I love about reading the Bible through the confines of doctrine—whenever we find lemons we can make lemonade. So you are saying that if Jesus said, “Free the slaves” (which would be allowed under the law!) that would be a demonstration he was NOT God? But since he said to keep slaves, this proves he was God?

    At the time of Jesus Stoics and Epicureans felt that people needed to learn to be content in their station and work on their own virtues. Including, by mention, slaves. They equally did not advocate the releasing of slaves. (Cynics would have.) Staying consistent within you method, would you agree, then, that Cynics were idealist, but not God, however, Stoics and Epicureans were God, and not idealists?

    See, jennypo, we have philosophies at the time that were similar to Jesus. If you are saying that what Jesus says was indicative of divinity, then equally, those philosophers must be as well.

    I know I am a pain in the rear. I truly appreciated this comment, though (despite my response here.) I am glad you reviewed the Bible, came up with verses, and presented your position in that light.

    Unless it would be rude, I imagine this will be my last comment on this entry.

    Fire back at will, all!

  77.   Jim Jordan Says:

    One enemy soldier pushes her mother down and snatches her baby brother up. He shoves a sword into the baby’s stomach, the end of the sword pops out his back. There is one terrible cry of pain, and then he goes limp.

    Hi Dagood. Sounds like you’ve seen the script to Mel Gibson’s next movie.:)

    You seem to drag on with this idea that God missed His calling by not decrying the institution of slavery. God’s calling however was to show us a way to abolish sin. God is a little more ambitious than you and your friends.

    What we see in Numbers 31 is how seriously God takes this sin thing. He is capable of wiping out the sinner and all that the sinner cherishes right down to hauling away their Lazyboy and brutally killing their babies. It’s His lives to squash and it’s all His stuff. That’s what it means by “God is sovereign”. If you do not like that or “think that is evil” (Joshua 24:15), so what?

    Here is where the Bible narrative I was talking about is extremely important. The story was still developing. There are dozens of prophecies of the coming Messiah, most specifically Isaiah 53. God’s plan was to pour all His wrath out onto His only Son. The only option was to do the work of salvation Himself, just as He did the work of nature from the beginning. Jesus’s earthly life, death, and resurrection are the ultimate revelation of that plan. So do we look at Numbers 31 or 1 Samuel 15 or Judges 11 to see how we should treat others? Do you really, really think in your heart of hearts that those Scriptures are there for us to do God’s will and imitate their cruelty? It’d be easier to debunk Christianity if that were so, wouldn’t it? But it isn’t!

    You know this is what we believe, but you disagree. No problema. That said, the similarity between secularists and believers is only natural. We are all from the same mold. However, the believer has a hope that inspires them and a role model to live by that is not just some ordinary dude.
    Regards.

  78.   Heather Says:

    HIS,

    You’ve been quiet. Hope everything’s okay.

  79.   societyvs Says:

    I was making a study of the idea of ‘slavery’ in the history of the church and as far as I can tell – the idea of slavery was not something to be enforced within the Christian rule – and this included many church folks from early church history.

    Slavery did exist in their times but was not a case for in-equality within the church (and Aquinas seems big on this idea) – which says ‘too much’ about how fair and equitable this Christian society actually was – being non-political and all. Lots of Christian leaders even took time to ‘pay out of slavery’ some of their contemporaries (including Eustathius – 443). This seemed to be a similar view across the board from Paul’s letters and onwards (from Philemon as an example of equality as long as slavery existed – which was not the ideal state of humankind).

    Idea’s from Genesis are used as examples for ‘man to rule over animal’ but not over another man. James 5:4 “Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.’. This passage was used by one biblical scholar to show James mentioning the ‘slaves’ as being ‘mis-treated’ and God has ‘heard them’. The idea being slavery (as an abused system) was not good in the eyes of God (even fraudulent – the word ‘witheld’) – and this idea of inequality was not a standard.

    After checking through many classic church writings (and I could go on forever in this search – which I will if I have to) has shown me that slavery was not proposed by early church fathers and even later people never saw reason to establish such a system within this faith. Heck, even the Hebrews had laws for the ‘freedom of all slaves’ (unheard of in their time) – by that I mean actual free-person (no longer a slave whatsoever – unless by choice). Even in that system I am seeing a progressive model for the un-doing of the idea of slavery (which mostly happened in acts of war – and still does).

    Slavery was never backed as an idea this faith would condone. It merely lived by the conditions it was presented and still made life equitable and kind (for the slave – which it never justified as a political neccesity). I just don’t see the idea slavery was supported by early church people – and they lived with the notion it was ‘okay in society’ (and this from philosophers of the day). They never saw the treatment of those slaves as property – but if any value – family (ex: brothers and sisters). Now that’s progressive for a people with little political pull.

  80.   Anonymous Says:

    WHOA!!!! 79 comments? Last time I was here this was a brand spanking new blog with like 5 readers. I bow to your excellency! :D LOL Seriously…..great job here. I love this definition of Secularism. Amazing that it was written in 1887!

  81.   Jennifer Says:

    Um, that was me!

  82.   Jim Jordan Says:

    Good work, society
    As I was reading that I thought of how so-called Christian support for slavery has always been politically and economically motivated. Thanks particularly for the James 5:4 reference which directly forbids Christian participation in using unpaid labor. It should also be noted that the aboltion movement arose from evangelical Christianity with the likes of the Quaker preacher Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce.

  83.   jennypo Says:

    “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
    Raise your voice like a trumpet.
    Declare to my people their rebellion
    and to the house of Jacob their sins.
    For day after day they seek me out;
    they seem eager to know my ways,
    as if they were a nation that does what is right
    and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
    they ask me for just decisions
    and seem eager for God to come near them.
    ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
    ‘and you have not seen it?
    Why have we humbled ourselves,
    and you have not noticed?’

    Yet on the day of yur fasting, you do as you please
    and exploit all your workers,
    Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
    and in striking each other with wicked fists.
    You cannot fast as you do today
    and expect your voice to be heard on high.
    Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
    only a day for man to humble himself?
    Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
    and for lying on sackloth and ?
    Is that what you call a fast,
    a day acceptable to the Lord?

    Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
    to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
    to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
    Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter –
    when you see the naked, to clothe him,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

    (Isaiah 58:1-7)

  84.   societyvs Says:

    One might also migth want to check Pslam 81.

  85.   societyvs Says:

    Does this mean that we ‘the bad evil nieve slave defenders’ actually win the right not to be considered that at all? Cause I think Christians are getting bad rap on this one.

  86.   JumpingFromConclusions Says:

    HIS,

    It’s been a while. I hope you’re doing alright!

  87.   Jim Jordan Says:

    HIS – HeIsSleeping
    Hope to hear from you soon. :)

  88.   societyvs Says:

    HIS, we love ya bro – I know you want the 100 comments (heck we all do) – but here’s to thinking about ya!

  89.   heissailing Says:

    Thanks for the kind thoughts everyone. I am humbled that I have attracted a regular readership! I just needed a few weeks off to work out my beliefs on my own.

    I have just read *EVERY SINGLE REPLY* to this article! Just for the record, here are my 2 cents:

    The Bible unquestionably endorses slavery. The Bible never repeals slavery. Many many humans have used The Bible to justify the ownership of other humans. And many of them thought it was doing the poor Negro good, since the belief was that they were not smart enough to fend for themselves. Ever read ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’?

    Jesus also unquestionably taught us that the two greatest commandments were to Love God and Love our fellow humans. I really doubt Jesus, if asked, would have endorsed slavery, but to my knowledge, he never brought up the issue. The Radical Reformers of the 19th century picked up on that actively opposed slavery. I am talking here about Christian groups like The Quakers, the Amish, etc.

    So we have two competing moral values here.

    I end it there. I just see it that the human being, Christian or not, will interpret the Bible any way they wish to fit their own personal morality, even if the issue is slavery. The modern Christian who finds slavery abhorant, but faced with equally abhorant passages int he Old Testament will bend over backwards to harmonize those two competing values.

  90.   Buy Essay Says:

    You are doing a fine job.Keep up the great work.

  91.   Becker22Roslyn Says:

    I had got a dream to start my commerce, however I didn’t have got enough amount of cash to do it. Thank goodness my fellow said to use the business loans. So I used the car loan and realized my old dream.

  92.   How to Buy an Essay Says:

    Stop looking for fellows who can help you with essay papers creating. You can buy Online Essays. You don’t ask anyone else to aid you. Let specialists assisting you.

Leave a Reply