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If Christianity were a powerful force against slavery, we would have seen slavery overturned when Christianity became the state religion in Europe, not 1400 years later.

Summary of reply: Slavery defined in the Bible came in two forms, indentured servitude for people in our tribe and slavery for life for people outside our tribe, just like slavery in America. And Christianity doesn’t deserve credit for outlawing slavery in the West two centuries ago—it was Christians who did some of that, not Christianity.

(These Bite-Size Replies are responses to “Quick Shots,” brief Christian responses to atheist challenges. The introduction to this series is here.)

Challenge to the Christian: The Bible condones slavery

Christian response #1: New World slavery was very different than the servitude described in the Bible.

Wrong. They were basically identical.

Slavery in America came in two forms: voluntary indentured servitude of Europeans (people in our tribe) for a limited time and involuntary, slavery for life of Africans (outsiders). Slavery documented in the Bible also came in two forms: voluntary indentured servitude of fellow Israelites and involuntary slavery for life of people from other tribes. European indentured servants served their time to repay the cost of their transport to America, and Israelite indentured servants served their time to repay their debts.

This apologetic wants to imagine that the Chosen People only had indentured servitude, but the Bible says otherwise. God says, “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. . . . You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life.”

Even if we tried to accept this apologetic argument as its author wants, is that the best God can do? He can speak the universe into existence, but he can’t improve the economic condition of one tribe on one planet in one galaxy?

Biblical slavery and American slavery were basically identical. Each had indentured servitude for people like us and slavery for life for Others. [Click to tweet]

Christian response #2: We have Christians to thank for the elimination of slavery in the West. And they grounded their arguments in the Bible.

Christianity is a force against slavery? One wonders why the New Testament mentions slavery a number of times but is never against it. For example, “Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.” The lack of any prohibition against slavery is also a glaring omission in the Ten Commandments.

If Christianity were effective against slavery, we would’ve seen slavery eliminated in the Roman Empire after Christianity became the state religion in 380 CE. True, some of the big names pushing against slavery in the West (William Wilberforce and others) were Christian, but if Christianity were the cause, we would’ve seen this push in the fourth century, not the nineteenth.

Yes, those Christians pointed to the Bible, but so did the Southern pastors during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. With a careful selection of verses, the Bible can be made to say just about anything. Read honestly, the Bible gave stronger support for the Southerners’ stand for slavery.

If Christianity were a powerful force against slavery, we would have seen slavery overturned when Christianity became the state religion in Europe, not 1400 years later. [Click to tweet]

(The Quick Shot I’m replying to is here.)

Continue with BSR 14: A Loving God Wouldn’t Send People to Hell

For further reading:

The difference between art and science
is that science is what people understand well enough
to explain to a computer.
All else is art.
— Donald Knuth

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Image from SHTTEFAN, CC license
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CROSS EXAMINED In his first career, Bob Seidensticker designed digital hardware and was a contributor to 14 software patents. Since then, he has explored the debate between Christianity and atheism for...

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