Yahweh is Evil - Slavery
Just when I thought I was done talking about Christianity, the Bible and the monotheistic God I had to get sucked back in. Apparently there are still people on the internet who have either not read their Bibles or who are willing to compromise their own morals and ethics to such a degree that they can justify even the most wicked and horrific deeds spoken of in the Bible.
I wasn't sure what series to make this a part of at first but I feel it is important to explain to those who defend the Bible the level of moral depravity their scripture and their God condone. People continue to defend these scriptures instead of facing the reality that the books are flawed works of man and may contain deception or downright be wrong or making things up. If the Bible is an accurate depiction of the God Christians believe in than that God is evil.
In this hub we will look at Biblical slavery and how flawed and imperfect humans managed to figure out that slavery was wrong when apparently the God of the Bible thought it was perfectly fine.
Slavery is Slavery is Slavery
When it came to weakening my faith in Christianity few verses of scripture did more than the twenty first chapter of Exodus. I can recall sitting with mouth agape when reading through Exodus in its entirety for the first time. Here, immediately after the 10 Commandments that Christians still claim make up the foundation of American Law and society, God himself tells Moses that slavery is okay.
Of course most Christians are aware that slavery is depicted in the Bible and many even know that it was practiced by God's chosen people but I feel as though very few young Christians know that these verses are attributed not to Moses (the supposed writer of the Penteteuch) but to God himself. Yes it is God himself who tells Moses just how hard the Hebrews are allowed to beat their slaves. Here's a hint: ITS VERY HARD. Apparently the God of the Bible does not understand that owning another human being as property is morally wrong.
Apologists have been attempting to get out of this for a while now, especially in the post-slavery civilized world. See human secular morality figured out that slavery is wrong, it deprives a human being of their freedom, their identity and in many ways it was a way of dehumanizing foreigners. In Exodus and throughout the Bible we see prisoners of war and foreigners who are taken as slaves are treated far worse than Hebrews. For example in Exodus 21 God explains that Hebrew slaves are to go free after seven years, but foreign slaves can be your property for life.
The most typical apologetic trick is to claim that slavery as condoned by God is not the equivalent to the sort of slavery we practiced here in the USA up until the emancipation proclamation and the end of the American Civil War. Rather, they argue, it was a “kinder” and more “gentle” slavery. The problems with this argument are numerous but the most obvious is that it is a strawman argument. No critic of the Bible is pointing out that slavery is wrong MERELY because they are familiar with the American and European slave trade. Rather we have an understanding of what slavery means IN GENERAL, even if the slaves in question are being treated more as “indentured servants” as many Christian apologists claim.
Another reason that Biblical slavery cannot be justified by merely declaring it at as a more gentle form of slavery is that the Bible is quite clear that it is NOT gentle. GOD HIMSELF – the all loving and all knowing creator of everything, with abounding mercy and amazing grace, tells Moses that not only are the Hebrews allowed to beat the shit out of their slaves, but that as long as the slave manages to recover from his wounds in a few days time there is no penalty. Let me be clear that even if you believe this form of slavery to be more gentle than that which America once practiced IT STILL PERMITS PHYSICAL ABUSE up to and including injuries that almost result in the slave's death.
Exodus 21 also works as evidence that the God of the Bible has a very low opinion of women, as a Father can sell his Hebrew daughter into slavery but, unlike the male slaves, she doesn't get freed after seven years. That's right, a woman is a slave for life, as long as you properly purchase her from her Father. What reason can there be for this? What excuse can the apologists muster to explain the disparity between what God thinks about women and men when it comes to slavery. The fact that not only does Yahweh condone slavery but that he condones physical abuse of slaves and selling your daughter into lifelong servitude (while Hebrew men get freed after seven years) should make any truly moral person think twice.
This is not a situation where the apologist can merely shrug off the scripture as a description of human depravity for Exodus 21 depicts divine command. It is divine depravity and there is plenty of that to go around in the Bible. If we were to expand the topic to include the sins and barbarism of God's righteous cast of Biblical characters this hub might go on for miles.
The other common apologetic tactic when presented with the horrors of Biblical slavery is for Christians to declare “Who are YOU to judge God's standards?” and “You don't even believe that morals are absolute, how can you say slavery is wrong?”.
I always find it funny when believers ask atheists how we can say something is immoral if we have no absolute morals, as though the only morals that truly matter or truly count or truly stick with us are the ones they declare absolute. This attitude makes a mockery of our ability to discern morals for ourselves, something that we use both on a societal level and as individuals to guide ourselves through the myriad of moral gray areas that believers and their myriad of gods say almost nothing meaningful or helpful about. For example some people believe that homosexuality, marijuana use, and gambling are all wrong, yet they are all legal and, in many other people's eyes, moral. Yet things that the Bible doesn't condemn at all, such as child abuse, are deeply wrong and we understand why.
I understand why slavery is immoral and that is why our ancestors didn't always know slavery was immoral - because it took figuring out, it took understanding, it took breaking free of social norms and social conditioning. The fact that the truth about how immoral slavery was unknown to humans or known to only some humans for centuries and centuries does not in anyway diminish that truth. For how long have humans known that the Earth was round? That truth has appeared in several cultures during several periods of human history and yet it wasn't until it was thoroughly figured out and disseminated that the truth of it became well known and was able to influence society.
The simplistic and barbaric notion of absolute moral truths handed down by some ancient God is an insult to the true complexity of our search for moral truths. Where does morality come from? How do we decide if something is immoral or moral? Reason, empathy, a sense of justice and a desire to be treated fairly ourselves.
The “unerring” and unchanging moral absolutes that we get from religion tend to retard our progress rather than accelerate it. But when we are figuring morality out, determining together what kind of society we want to live in and what behaviors we will and won't tolerate, progress becomes both possible and in some sense inevitable. Yes the system is imperfect but I have yet to have a religious person explain to me why the moral absolutes of a God who condones slavery, commands genocide and demands worship under penalty of damnation are perfect.
Who am I to judge God's standards? If your God is real I am a sentient being capable of free will and making my own moral decisions, and that ability would be GOD GIVEN. Just as Galileo pondered why God would give man an ability to observe and reason and make discoveries unless he intended for us to use them I ponder why Christians, who believe in God, would ask an atheist what gives him the right to use his equally innate ability to reason and empathize in order to make moral discoveries.
Reading through the entire Bible a decade ago is what began my exodus out of Christianity and it started with the realization that the Bible was the work of MAN. Oh I still believed that some higher power, some God, existed, and perhaps had even influenced great men like Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, but now I was almost certain that true God had had nothing to do with the Bible. I had been taught that God was morally better, was better in every way in fact, than us humans. Yet in the Bible we have a vengeful God, an angry and unjust God, whose laws forbid bacon but allow slavery. Whose laws encourage child abuse and the stoning of witches but who forbid a man to touch his wife when she's on her period.
A God whose mercy involves sending an innocent man to die as a scapegoat for the sins of the world? What kind of moral person would allow an innocent man to take the fall for them? I say if Christians really loved Christ as much as they claim to they would cast down their salvation and thus lighten the burden on Jesus' shoulders and take responsibility for their own actions, their own sins, and their own fates.
A God who will damn all those who do not believe in him or love him based upon a single innocent mistake made by the imperfect beings he purposely created with the ability to disobey.
To those who are part of the cult it may be easy to rationalize away even the most heinous and disturbingly immoral aspects of the Bible. But for me, on the outside looking in, having escaped that religion, I see a bizarre death cult worshiping an evil and horrific God. I encourage anyone, believer or not, who might read this, to study their Bible and research how it was written and compiled.
There is a good reason why certain early gnostic sects of Christianity abandoned the Old Testament God believing him a wicked false god that Jesus had come to disown. It was just such a gnostic belief - a belief that there had to be nobler and more moral God above the petty human notion of God as a jealous, genocidal and incompetent buffoon – that I came to after reading the entirety of the Bible and beginning to study its origins.
Of course now I hold the position that Yahweh is entirely fictional for what I believe to be good reasons - and that all gods that humans have ever served are fictional until proven otherwise. Doubt is the first step on the journey to the truth, and the truth is more a journey than a definitive destination. Do not compromise what you understand right and wrong to be for the sake of an ancient book you were taught is true and don't fear that there are somehow dire consequences for your doubts. Any God who would damn you for disbelief, after all, is worthy of neither your fealty, your faith or your worship.
More by this Author
A hub attacking the absurd notion that the Bible is a good book to live by.
An analysis of the Ten Commandments as laid out in the Bible and a discussion on the fundamentalist Christian belief that these commandments apply to them and are morally good.
A brief journey into the bizarre branch of New Age woo called Spirit Science. Can you tell real Spirit Science from stuff I just made up—take the quiz!