Slavery and Christian Irony

I know many Christians who are amazing people, who love deeply and cherish life and seek to end suffering caused by evil in the world. In fact, tomorrow there is a day of solidarity in which many evangelicals will be absent from social media in solidarity with those trapped in the sexual slave trade.

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The irony of this undertaking is that the Christian scriptures do not provide a sensible basis for the abolition of slavery. They never have, and in the schema of modern fundamentalism they never will, as the scriptures cannot be altered. The only way to make sense of abolition is through metaphoric reinterpretation, cherry picking, and wanton disrespect for the text of the scriptures, all of which run contrary to an interpretation of the scriptures as the revealed truth of God.

To explain this point, I turn to Dr. Richard Furman, who was the founder of Furman University and the first president of the Southern Baptist convention. The convention was originally formed over this theological point, and he gives a very strong defense of slavery itself:

“…for the right of holding slaves is clearly established by the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example. In the Old Testament, the Isrealites were directed to purchase their bond-men and bond-maids of the Heathen nations; except they were of the Canaanites, for these were to be destroyed. And it is declared, that the persons purchased were to be their “bond-men forever;” and an “inheritance for them and their children.” They were not to go out free in the year of jubilee, as the Hebrews, who had been purchased, were: the line being clearly drawn between them.*[See Leviticus XXV. 44, 45, 46, &c.] In example, they are presented to our view as existing in the families of the Hebrews as servants, or slaves, born in the house, or bought with money: so that the children born of slaves are here considered slaves as well as their parents. And to this well known state of things, as to its reason and order, as well as to special privileges, St. Paul appears to refer, when he says, “But I was free born.”
“…[Had the holding of slaves been a moral evil, it cannot be supposed, that the inspired Apostles, who feared not the faces of men, and were ready to lay down their lives in the cause of their God, would have tolerated it, for a moment, in the Christian Church. If they had done so on a principle of accommodation, in cases where the masters remained heathen, to avoid offences and civil commotion; yet, surely, where both master and servant were Christian, as in the case before us, they would have enforced the law of Christ, and required, that the master should liberate his slave in the first instance. But, instead of this, they let the relationship remain untouched, as being lawful and right, and insist on the relative duties.

In proving this subject justifiable by Scriptural authority, its morality is also proved; for the Divine Law never sanctions immoral actions.

The Christian golden rule, of doing to others, as we would they should do to us, has been urged as an unanswerable argument against holding slaves. But surely this rule is never to be urged against that order of things, which the Divine government has established; nor do our desires become a standard to us, under this rule, unless they have a due regard to justice, propriety and the general good.

“…Magistrates, husbands, and fathers, have proved tyrants. This does not prove, that magistracy, the husband’s right to govern, and parental authority, are unlawful and wicked. The individual who abuses his authority, and acts with cruelty, must answer for it at the Divine tribunal; and civil authority should interpose to prevent or punish it; but neither civil nor ecclesiastical authority can consistently interfere with the possession and legitimate exercise of a right given by the Divine Law.”

I will also quickly note that Exodus 21 gives instructions for selling daughters into sex slavery, the very thing that is being railed against.

If any Christians are offended, I praise them for recognizing such a despicable stance for what it is. Please, I implore them to understand that I am not the object of your offense. I am not the culprit in their anger.

I am a mirror of Christian beliefs, Christian scriptures, and what the Christian God has said according to holy texts.

Every Christian I know is better than this, and is capable of making a better moral judgement than God or Richard Furman, and I can only hope that more Christians will realize the other ways that god has been terribly, terribly wrong.

I’m not creating a straw man, and I’m not misrepresenting Christianity at all: I am pointing it out for what it truly is, and the reason Christians are offended is simply because they are better than their God.

And the truth is, they wish I weren’t right.

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The Photoshop Analogy

If someone, say a man named Bill, received a picture of his wife having sex with three other men, in all likelyhood he would be visibly shaken.  One of the strongest covenents we make as humans are the pledges of monogamy to one’s spouse, and when these bonds are shaken it drives many to murder, drug addiction, suicide, or other incredibly destructive, suffering-perpetuating behaviors and actions.

But what if the picture was simply the production of a clever Photoshop worker? We know that almost every picture coming to us is manipulated or altered in some way, whether to increase breast size, give men a bigger six pack, or smooth away scars or hair.  We accept that these are not truthful representations of reality.

Image from the Photoshop Troll (Click Picture to Drive Traffic)

Image from the Photoshop Troll (Click Picture to Drive Traffic)

Likewise other people, objects, and unbelievable realities can be achieved through a few mouse-clicks. A family photo was set in space with an astronaut added in the above picture from the PhotoshopTroll.    It is incredibly straightforward to doctor a picture via Facebook’s repository of photos to create the aforementioned adultery photograph.

Reliability is Proportional to Content

From this example, it is not so much the message that is important; it is whether or not the message is true.  In the case of our imaginary photoshop image, the message has a credible object that lends to its belief: Bill’s wife.

Yet the message’s truth does not depend entirely on the message itself; the fidelity, or the resemblance to reality, depends on external factors as well.  If we were in Bill’s shoes, we would want to know the answers to questions like:

  • Where was the picture taken?
  • When was the picture taken?
  • Was this a digital photograph that could have been doctored?
  • Who are the other people in the photograph?
  • Who gave Bill the photograph?

We can also ask internal questions relevant to the content of the message to determine if it is a reliable message:

  • Who are the other men in the photograph?
  • Is there any evidence of doctoring of the photograph?
  • Is the location a likely location that is plausible?

All these questions may not be at the forefront of Bill’s mind when he sees the photograph, but they are immensely important to the truth of the claim presented.  Thereby, the reliability of the message is proportionally important to its content.  As the implausibility of content increase, so should the reliability of the message and the message-bearer.

Religious Texts: Incredible Content with No Reliability

The claim that a theistic, intervening, acting God exists is an incomparably more incredible notion than that Bill’s wife cheated on him.  Some would point out that cultures across time have continually created, invented, and worshipped god, but this no more proves that it is a credible claim than that if Bill believed his wife was cheating on him without the photograph.  The key is comparing the content of the claim (an intervening God exists) to the reliability of the method making the claim.

Snake-Oil Salesmen

As an example, we can think of dozens of examples of people who promised great wealth, health, or happiness at some expense.  Perhaps a miraculous wonder-drug, or a tarot card session, or any number of things that most rational people would not accept.  We can also go to a used car lot and be informed of seemingly miraculous properties of used cars.  Go to any political body on any day and you will find people with an agenda to sell you on some idea that actually benefits them more than you.

Agendas are everywhere, and it is unwise to recognize that people who say they speak on behalf of God are any different than those who speak on behalf of “Energy,” the body politick, or the car with 170,000 miles on it that won’t die for another 100,000.  Pastors have a need to retain members in their flocks, both for sustenance and for the mutual encouragement necessary to believe incredible claims.  This is not to say that they may believe it, but that throughout the ages, many, many people have spoken on behalf of God to (consciously or subconsciously) further their own means.

In the case of the pastor, many people treat their pastor’s claims as absolute truth, while in other areas of inquiry they treat claims with overly-arrogant skepticism. The claim to hear the voice and know the mind of God should meet an almost unachievable burden of proof before they should be believed, and yet it is not.

Holy Texts: Photoshopped Pictures

When talking about intervening Gods, most people refer to ones that are described by various holy texts that have existed throughout the ages: the Bible, the Enuma Elish, the Vedas, the Qu’ran, etc.  Many of these texts posit god-claims, that if true, should create extremely immense reaction from their acceptance.  Yet all too often people fail to look at the core facts about transmission.

The authors of the texts are largely unknown, especially in the case of the Bible.  There were as many as 5-6 different author groups within the Pentatuch alone! Investigative textual criticism, coupled with archaeology, has completely overturned the intelligibility of the notion that Moses wrote the entire Pentatuch as one contiguous document.  The facts instead point to different people with different agendas and conceptions of god, one in which God is all-powerful, all-knowing and unchanging.  However this same God is surprised and angry when things happen exactly as he should have known, and then he changes his mind.  These passages were written in different eras with different authors.

Then we can look to the gospels, whose authorship is anonymous.  Recall the earlier point about snake-oil salesmen; we need only to note that the “Gospel according to Matthew” appears on nearly every bible published today, yet it has been known for centuries that the authorship was anonymous.

When there is a patent lie on every bible published, we should question the reliability of the text.

Additionally, when we see contradictions with the virgin birth or things that appear to be legend, we should begin to doubt the truth and validity of the message, especially when one considers that an all-powerful god would not be so easily befuddled by humans getting his message wrong.  Yet we consistently see contradictions and problems within the bible itself, as well as problems in the transmission.

The Quran does not get off as easily either.  It was written after Mohammad’s death based on the memorization of various verses and sayings.  Unfortunately each of those scribes who memorized the words of the holiest book had competing and conflicting ideas over what was said. This resulted in several versions circulating, which were ultimately collected, some of which were destroyed, in order to make the ‘coherent’ document that exists today.

However, this message still suffers from many of the same problems, with an all knowing god becoming jealous, enraged, or surprised by something he, by all counts, should have seen coming.  There are numerous events that are reported that are not supported by archaeology or other external documents.  There are also fantastical claims contained therein, as well as in the Hadith, that should shake our reliability of the claims made.

Extraordinary Evidence

Whenever we investigate any claim, we should first look at the source and reliability of the message behind the claim.  In the case of Bill, he could have an extremely incorrect but justified belief that his spouse was an adulterer, yet if it is shown to be a photoshopped picture, he would have a very different response (and probably a different object for his anger).  It is here that I rest my case; I believe that each of the holy documents are photoshopped images of truth; that there may be a few real things, but that the unreliability of the message outweighs the content, especially when the content is so implausible as to render it nearly unintelligible.

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Newtown, Hate Speech, and the Insidiousness of Christianity

Everyone is talking about the murder of 26 children and teachers thanks to, what seems to be, a mentally unstable 20-year-old.  And yet in the wake of this indescribable tragedy, Christians have no shortage of hatred and blame to go around:

We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools.  Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? …We don’t have a crime problem, a gun problem or even a violence problem. What we have is a sin problem.

…the murders of Newtown are a warning to me — and you. Not a warning to see our schools as defenseless, but to see our souls as depraved. To see our need for a Savior. To humble ourselves in repentance for the God-diminishing bitterness of our hearts. To turn to Christ in desperate need, and to treasure his forgiveness, his transforming, and his friendship.

[We]  insist that the sovereignty of God and the doctrines of grace be taught and expounded publicly to all men. These doctrines of grace were well summed up by John Calvin in his 5 points of Calvinism: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints.

We’re not talking about a base human passion like you and I might feel… it’s simply God’s fixed determination to punish the wicked in Hell for their sins. Because he can. Because he’s God. Because he’s sovereign…

I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and on God Almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us. I think that’s what’s going on.

Christians know that this is the result of sin and the horrifying effects of The Fall. Every answer for this evil must affirm the reality and power of sin. The sinfulness of sin is never more clearly revealed than when we look into the heart of a crime like this and see the hatred toward God that precedes the murderous hatred he poured out on his little victims.

So now I will pour out my fury on them, consuming them with the fire of my anger. I will heap on their heads the full penalty for all their sins. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken!”

Seven quotes: One from the bible.  Two from John Piper and Albert Mohler, two prominent evangelical leaders.  Mohler is the president of Southeastern Seminary, Piper is one of the post prolific, desired speakers of the Christian movement today. One from Mike Huckabee, a former pastor and republican primary candidate, and another from James Dobson, founder of focus on the family.  Two from Westboro Baptist Church‘s about me section and an interview.

Can you tell the difference? No? Because there isn’t any.  I’ll say it again.

There is no theological difference between Westboro baptist’s theology and Piper’s, Mohler’s, or Huckabee’s, or Dobson’s. They all agree that wanton death is our fault and God’s punishment. Continue reading

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A Response to Ben Stein’s Inaccurate Bullshit.

There’s a set of bogus mashed-together quotes from Ben Stein going around facebook, and I figured I would share my response.

No one is stopping anyone from saying merry Christmas or even putting up Christmas trees. This ‘pushing around’ thing is nonsense. In 7 states, atheists cannot be elected to office, in one, their testimony in court isn’t valid. The last president who was not explicitly christian was ___________. This is simply a manufactured persecution complex; you have mistaken freedom of religion with always getting what you want.

All the ACLU, FFRF, and secularists the nation over want is to stop government endorsement one religion over another. That’s all. That just means either no Jesus-Is-The-Only-Way displays on taxpayer-funded land, or equal representation for all people. Recently one town government denied a pastafarian display next to the nativity; this is a clear example of endorsing one group’s religious beliefs over another’s, even if pastafarianism is a tongue-in-cheek parody of other religions, the fact that it does not receive equal representation amounts to government picking one religion over others. Certainly “there’s probably no god” displays don’t receive equal representation in any case where it’s been at all possible.

God is not out of our schools/work/public. Government-forced prayer is gone, but no one is stopping any human being from praying. This is an manufactured crime with imaginary victims. Churches exist as tax free institutions, break the law by endorsing candidates, proselytize, spend millions on political advertisements, endorse political groups, and more. If anything, I think that this sort of politicking should be reigned in, but this is a country that allows the free exercise of religion, and thus I must respect that (and i would fight to defend that exercise if it were ever actually in jeopardy).

To say that God is punishing a nation with death because the government isn’t forcing religion enough insults both God and the constitution. It is also incredibly ignorant of weather patterns, global warming, and the predictions of thousands of forecasters and meteorologists who accurately predicted the path and existence of the storm.

Furthermore, america is much more christian than norway, sweden, estonia, or the czech republic, and yet God isn’t sending hurricanes at these countries. Maybe because several of them are landlocked, so either god is not omnipotent, god doesn’t care, or the world looks exactly like it would if God didn’t exist. Just a thought.

Blaming terrorism and school shootings on madeline murray o’hare instead of the actual terrorists (who are oftentimes religious, or explicitly Christian: The Klu Klux Klan, Westboro Baptist, the Army of God, Eric Rudolph, etc.) is simply trying to scapegoat and stretch something that isn’t there. There have always been sociopaths, and moving away from “DEMONZ POSSESION” and towards medication has actually improved the condition of these people. Yet another falsehood.

Every psychological assessment done so far shows that assaulting a child is worse for them. Since that time, we have gained more and more knowledge about what does and doesn’t work. Turns out spanking doesn’t work.

Dr Spock’s child didn’t commit suicide. Please quit spreading lies, it doesn’t become anyone.

By all counts, people are more moral than ever before in the US. Crime is down, violent crime is down, white collar crime is down, prison populations are shrinking. Again, lying isn’t very becoming. Just because kids aren’t homophobic bigots anymore doesn’t mean they’ve lost their morals, as much as people realizing that hating someone because of their skin color have lost theirs.

I’ll talk about God’s supposed existence anytime, anyplace, where it’s appropriate. However, proselytizing and condemning people to hell in the workplace is not an appropriate time.

Responding to idiotic mush circulating on facebook, rife with false claims, lies, logical fallacies, misattributed quotes, and seething with ignorance, is.

Funny how the only way Christians can seem to feel better about themselves these days is to manufacture lies to tell each other about how bad they have it in the US, all the while ignoring the commands of Jesus to love the poor, sell all their possessions, love the outcast, help those in need, and pursue truth.

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