Has secularism resulted in higher moral standards than religion?

Has secularism resulted in higher moral standards than religion?


Dear reader,

As per my posts on atheist morality, the argument  has now been pushed from “atheism is more moral than religion” to “Secularism has resulted in higher moral standards than religion.”

So I thought it is worthwhile to analyze this argument and see if we can find that “Objective Morality” that atheists claim only exist in atheism, however since they could not prove it conclusively with atheism, they have broadened the term to secularism. I do not think they are playing word games with me rather they naturally think within the limits of atheism that anything but religion can be good.

The purpose of my argument is not to conclude that religion has the sole key to higher moral standards.

My purpose is to find out whether secularism results in any higher moral standards than religion. On a upclose view i find the given statement actually errant, it is based on faulty logic, now don’t think I am trying to evade the question, I will explain it to you.

First for the layman, let us summarize what secularism actually is

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Secularism: The idea that government may exist separately from religion and/or religious beliefs.

now there are types of secularism

1. Soft or Agnostic Secularism: this type claims that since the highest truth/reality cannot be fully comprehended due to lack of empirical evidence therefore tolerance, rationale and logic should be the balancing principle among various groups of people both religious and non-religious. In this, religion is accepted as privatized to its followers and does not interfere in state decision with respect to equality among all groups of faith. This is predominant in western countries and shared with some variation throughout the globe in most countries.

2. Hard or Atheist Secularism: this one claims that the presence of religion is illegal and illogical therefore it should not be tolerated at any costs.

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Please note that hard secularism logically results in extreme atheism and vice versa, producing states like former U.S.S.R and modern China with their a bit less extreme followers like modern France and Turkey.

Secularism in general means moving forward with rationale and shifting away from religious values as a state and society. Its roots can be traced back to the classical roman era which in fact laid the basis of modern secular theory.

The statement is faulty at two points, first it performs a categorical confusion between atheism and secularism and secondly, it implicitly argues that the lack of religion promoted human rights. That is not true, I’ll give you an example. Rome was primarily religious yet it instituted the human rights into its society and law. Modern day United Kingdom’s official religion is the church of England yet it practices human rights in almost full fashion.

Let me explain it in entirety now. First the categorical confusion

Every system within its own laws and morality, works for its followers.

The above is the basic idea of forming a group and how the purpose of a ideology should work for the betterment of those who follow it.

Religion, with its laws and moral standards works for a group of people who are tied by a written, set standard, there is room for individual interpretation but the key ideas remain the same. They are all like minded people who have a specific creed and they all share at least the core of the same. So religion’s moral standards work perfectly fine for its followers because religion is not meant to deal with groups of people, religion always have to have one group of people joined together by faith. That is major reason that religions don’t accept people unless the expressively convert to the religion’s ideals.

Secularism, with its ethics and structure is not for specifically one group of people, there can be many and the whole point of secularism to gather people under a state or society without the filter of religion. So secularism paves the way for democracy as it implies and ensures that everyone will have a say in the matter. Thus modern democracy is born.

Secularism’s ethics and structure works for its followers, but one cant say that it would be logical to compare the two, because even if you compare religions and Secularism, the only difference you get is that in secularism multiple groups of people form a unified group whereas in religion only one does. Does this mean that secularism has a higher moral standard? no, it has a different moral standard. As those who are in the religious group have their own moral structure which works perfectly fine for them.

Let us come to the second fault – the question arises, do natural rights (human rights) always exist exclusive to non-religious societies? An atheist would say yes, but that is indeed not the case, as in the case of Classical Rome and Modern England, I wrote above.

Human rights in their essence have nothing to do secularism (which is state separation from religion). The fact that modern secular states all apply human rights is not the result of secularism itself but the idea of natural rights, what secularism provides is the playground for these rights to be exercised. Secular ethics promotes common good but without set limits and goals, it always needs to identify those to start with. So what Secularism does is that it promotes common good, common good is necessary for global culture condensation as well as trade. The modern world backed up by advance technology demands a connected world and a global economy.

Let me say, secularism is not a “better” alternative to a philosophy nor it is a substitute of religion as it does not dissolve the former rather separates it. As I mentioned above secularism is the idea that state and religion should not co-exist. Secularism in its core doesn’t expel religion from the society but privatizes it and in doing so it can not be confused with atheism. Secularism and atheism are different ideas. Both cannot exist mutually without the need of left hand ideology implemented by force since the religious follower will not be granted equal rights to practice his belief.

Why does the modern world predominantly embraces soft secularism? because democracy is best served in this model. A state like India can have 22 religious faiths within its borders and still be democratic and secular. Representing all instead of one makes micromanaging minorities and majorities equally through law and policies and human rights. In fact Secularism is best for a global platform for communication and trade as it, by law does not discriminate anyone with respect to religion, faith or belief.

Atheists who confuse atheism with secularism offer such errant statements. The fallacy is not in religion or secularism rather than the atheist idea that religion at any rate is not to be accepted, whatsoever. They do not realize that by such admission they themselves force a stipulation upon people, the very sin they accuse religions of (a sort of imperialism, regardless of who proposes it, religious or non religious)

A modern secular society is a classic example of diversity among society – tied by moral law and duty towards self interest and common good. What is moral law – is a largely debated issue, one that still does not hold a concrete set of ideals. Issues like, abortion, homosexuality, same sex marriage,  child labor, admission of evolution or prayer in schools and public expression of preaching (any religion) are among the chief examples that are still being held under consideration and the results are not uniform.

Why is morality not uniform in a secular society? because what dictates morality is something which in a diverse culture is democratically solved and since there are more sets of people involved there are more reasons for self interest that may not be viable for all parties to agree upon. It is common logic and reason. The part that secularism is successful at is that for the common good, it dictates that even though there are no standards to define objective morality, any issue can be broken down and solved with respect to facts. If a issue is not morally acceptable to all parties except one, the rest may observe tolerance. On the other hand in religion such a stance is never required because there is only one group of people and they have a common goal. So religion evades the diplomatic step of deciding what is right in principle to a certain group and not to the other as it has a written path to follow. Thus in religion, common good is restricted to only one group of people and it works for them.

The thing to note is, an ideal secular democratic society will never be extreme – meaning that nothing can be done that by and large will result in a shift from democracy to a totalitarian stance until the objective morality is unified by a single belief and that may not be always democratic or religious. Stalin’s rise to power, The Islamic Revolution of Iran as well as Hitler’s ascending to power with the Third Reich, are prime example to show what I mean.

Secularism is a good thing for religion as it frees the religious entity to serve its own purpose without getting its hands dirty. Secularism also makes sure that everyone stays happy to some extent as there is no absolute morality at stake.

But does this secularism promotes a higher moral order, consider the “League of Nations” and then the “United Nations” both entities were secular, charged to keep world peace, but since its initiation have failed to prevent more wars. I am not implying that secularism is fundamentally wrong or not workable but only implying that secularism will not always result in objective morality.

While in this mode of state – religion separation is ideal for a “global village” however the moral standard remains fragile and ever changing. Modern atheists fuel their argument by adding the fact the dogma controlled world like the pre-reformation age of Christianity barred human rights. Yes they did, and with them the rest of the known world but their actions had political means to assert the church’s control as well as the fact that human rights in the medieval age did not replace the feudal system and monarchy whether it be Christian or pagan.

Religions like Christianity which teaches to forgive and love have the same moral standards that have been around for thousands of years even before there was organized religion. Todays secularism shows no new or higher morals. The same that have always governed logic and reason in the mind of moral man. What secularism in its modern form has done that it has created space for everyone to be under the same roof, in that it aims for harmony but such aim is seldom achieved. The past century is proof enough of all blood shed and the two world wars that were not even religious in nature. Like every other system, secularism has its high points and shortcomings. But for a claim that implies a higher moral order, I will say, NO, only an alternative moral order since the only difference is the categorical difference explained at the start of the post.

Why? an atheist would argue, since on a general view, one finds that our modern world is more free than the old one, human rights have become the norm of civilized culture and everyone is free to express themselves. But this has nothing to do with atheism, let me remind you atheism has not proposed any of the said “higher standards of morality” neither have they proposed any new morals, that fact that human rights are the norm today is not because someone’s religion had inferior moral standards, no. It is because religion is not be confused with a unified world order which exactly is something that atheism hopes to achieve and they have left for us up till now no model of excellence to follow, they have not produced any of the likes of Jesus, Gandhi, Budha, Mother Teresa and anyone else for that matter.

Religion’s moral standards works in its own framework for its own good. Religion is not the global or economical model of the future, it is a purely about finding a higher truth and meaning to life. Secularism on the other hand has a more materialistic approach and is a form of governmental structure rather than a philosophy, they both work to their own ends and should not be compared as the comparing conditions are dependent on different natures and order.

So at the end, atheism miserably fails to accomplish anything of “Higher Morality” as its own. The best they do is to mix them up in various ideologies and then claim influence. I am not saying all atheists are bad people, but most of them are in a delusion, not because they think there is no God but because they think atheism holds all the answers and believe me they are wrong.

Take care

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18 thoughts on “Has secularism resulted in higher moral standards than religion?

  1. I would say that the more inclusive a moral system is the better it is and would consider this self-evident. Liberalism (broadly defined) extends equal rights to non-liberals. Religious systems have always discriminated between believers and non-believers. You do not, however, have to be a liberal to be protected by the same laws as others. This is unquestionably better.

  2. Joe, there is no better, it will only be apparent when one does not belong in that certain group, only then and then would it need an other system. But the “better” would not be any different than “alternative”. as I explained above, rights do not dictate what system is better, they can be abused in any system.

    “Religious systems have always discriminated between believers and non-believers” this is a pretty big claim. and by the way that is the whole point. religion or a single belief system should not be the governmental structure, because then it would implicate certain things not in interest of all but that does not make religious system “less better” it is not supposed to be a government, when it becomes, by man’s own ambitions, then the problem arises.
    and let me correct you, religion doesn’t discriminate the non-believer with respect to rights, Religious institutions do. please do no confuse the two.

    I still can’t see how you keep mixing religion and government together. I have explained above how the categorical difference in relativity would make “better” irrelevant. only when you get a group of more than one set of creeds that you get liberalism, secularism etc etc. that is not the way religious system work you cant compare them to scenarios they do not handle.

  3. The more people benefit from a moral code the better it is. Christianity in the middle ages allowed enslavement of non-Christians. Modern secular thinkers would condemn enslavement of all people. This is an improvement.
    It’s rather unclear what you think religious morality is so I’m not sure what you are arguing.

    Incidentally, I used the word ‘secular’ to distinguish thinkers who do not rely on religion as a basis of morality from those who do. As some of those thinkers were deists or agnostics or even pagans it would not be technically correct to call them atheists but I think that for the sake of this argument their opinions about the existence of a supreme being is irrelevant as none of them accept any kind of divine revelation.

  4. Joesph, saying that Christianity allowed slavery is equal to saying atheism allowed millions to be Butchered. Unless you go to the main root of the problem, you can never conclude why it happened, rather than what happened, from which you are trying so hard to gain an answer. Sorry this type of logic doesn’t provide any useful conclusion rather it only produces biased opinions.

  5. You’re still confusing atheism with an ideology. The Catholic Church, the official voice of European Christianity until the Reformation condoned slavery in its teaching. The Qu’ran also accepts it. These are the official moral positions of these religions. Atheism has no official morality and is in no position to.

  6. This is a very weak argument Joe, and the problem is you are generalizing different things together. You are confusing church behavior with doctrine. This not the moral position of religion. Official stance of Christianity can not be based on the voice of the church if it deviates from the Bible. church has been wrong before. And the Bible condemns slavery and the atrocities it is associated with. FYI a lot of people who advocated against slavery did use the Bible as well and they finally abolished it too.

    In this same spirit I can say that while atheism doesn’t have a set morality, slavery would be accepted as it was accepted in the past in atheist countries as it would be a preference (if not moral, than economical perhaps), killings would be accepted as they were accepted in the past, if it could be a preference. As a matter of fact atheist regimes do so quite efficiently. This stance of yours is literally a suicide attack on your own defense of atheism.

    Atheists have no moral code and therefore everything becomes either a choice or preference and it is not based on morality. Sorry, this is how atheism is, like it or not. If it is beneficial or preferred why not do it, since you lack a moral set code, the code would be defined by what? vote, preference, good (how would you define good, arbitrary choice? elaborate instead of saying?). Don’t try to prove atheism by trying to prove “religion is flawed”, not agreeing to an argument doesn’t automatically holds your argument true. Tell me how atheism could avoid it. It has painfully showed the world in the past how brutal it can be. It can not actually prove something unless objective morality exists but then again it would be subjective to atheism not a universal code. And I think this is one of the main reasons why even in America, despite all of your moral claims, people still won’t vote for an atheist to be a president. What better morals you have?

    1. your argument is flawed, you are saying he shouldn’t be generalizing claims yet you do the same and myself as an atheist can say,i believe slavery is wrong and should never have been allowed and every atheist I know agrees with me on this, and I don’t do this based on preference, I base it on my own morality and by what I believe is right and wrong. And as for accepting it, FUCK no, I would be one of the people shooting at slave owners. There for where is your slavery argument now.

  7. Where does the Bible condemn slavery?
    Until the Reformation the teaching of the Catholic Church was official Christian doctrine in Europe and it still is for the millions of Catholics around the world. This is what makes them different from Protestants.
    The question I think is not of ‘objective morality’ but rational morality, which is only accessible to the non-religious and superior, as in the case of slavery, to the ‘objective morality’ claimed by believers.
    How many times do I have to repeat that atheism is not an ideology. I originally said that I was trying to avoid the usual accusation and counter-accusation that muddies this issue.

    America is a religious country, where immensely rich Christians (something which according to Jesus should be a contradiction in terms) use the media to tell outright lies about anyone with progressive views, hence the electorate’s distrust of atheists, along with socialists, liberals etc.

    1. Hi,
      I think this article may answer your question about the Bible’s stance on slavery (it certainly answered mine…):
      http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/why-did-god-permit-slavery

      These also may help:
      http://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-slavery.html
      http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/slavery_bible.html

      As far as I know, the Bible is pretty clear on every person being equal.
      Paul said that God “has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth…” (Acts 17:26). He also exhorted fellow Christians to treat their slaves as equals, with respect and honour, and he referred to even slaves as “brothers and sisters”.

      Hope this helps.
      Nicholai

      P.S. You are right about “rich Christians” being a contradiction to the teachings of Christ..

  8. Can you please cite where does the Bible condones slavery?

    FYI Atheism is just like any other religion and is a protected “religion” under the First Amendment…. In fact the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on the case Kaufman v McCaughtry. A Wisconsin prison inmate tried to form an atheist discussion group. Prison authorities refused and Kaufman sued. The court ruled that Atheism legally is to be considered a religion.

    And by the way atheism does fulfill all the tenants a religion requires or ideology requires. You may not agree but there are tons of definitions for religion, the best way is to break it down bit by bit and see if atheism fits into the picture or not.

    Anyways, I am not asserting that it has to be one, but just so you know, it is legally considered one.

  9. “(something which according to Jesus should be a contradiction in terms)”

    Have you actually ever read a Bible with proper notes or study bible with footnotes or even tried to go to the original language and see what the words actually mean???

    You are terribly ill-informed about it.

  10. “There is not one verse in the Bible inhibiting slavery, but many regulating it. It is not then, we conclude, immoral.” Rev. Alexander Campbell

    1 Timothy 6

    1Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.

    Leviticus 25:44-46

    44Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids.

    45Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession.

    46And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.

    And on wealth:

    Mark 10:24-25

    25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

    (All from the King James.)

    It is of course literally impossible for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, ergo it is impossible for a rich man to go to heaven or be a Christian. These are Jesus’ words according to the author known as Mark. They could hardly be clearer and certainly don’t need notes or interpretation. Jesus was preaching to ordinary people, not intellectuals and I think we should at least assume that he meant what he said.

    Religions generally have some ritual behaviour and a public aspect. They almost all consider humanity to be special and most believe in some kind of continued existence after death. Legal definitions are not the best basis for philosophy and your example says more about the trouble America has maintaining the separation of church and state than anything else.

    1. Well, Joe, this is going to be a long post and it is not to convince you because that is something, I am afraid I’ll not be able to do. You have obviously set your tone in the manner that clearly tells me what you think. but just so that some of it might have evaded you, i’d like to put down somethings for you to consider. I am not going to give a defense to what yo have said, rather it will be how we interpret and think about what you accuse us of. anyways here it is. History is what it is I can’t change or defend it, it is what it is, you are just looking for the wrong things. And my going to such length to answer some concerns you raised in your posts combined is to give you a complete picture. And please rev Campbell is not the person, i’d like to quote on slavery issue, however I do think it is fair of you since it supports your argument.

      You seem to have produced evidence to back up your claim. and may I ask when you were putting down these, did it never occurred to you that the first reason God delivered Israel out of Egypt was, guess what? slavery. That is huge point you actually forgot mentioning, because it went against your case.

      Oh yes i agree with you that the Bible never explicitly condemns slavery. well you say why not, because it was the custom of the entire world, slavery was global, and please note that the slavery was not the way the american slavery issue was. Even classical Rome had more than 70% of its city population of slaves. Not all slaves were slaves on its own basis, much of it was servitude.

      Then, thousands of years before Abraham Lincoln ever muttered the Emancipation Proclamation, Mosaic Law takes another radical step and bans involuntary servitude altogether in Exodus 21:16: “He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.” Deuteronomy 24:7 states: “If a man is caught kidnapping any of his countrymen of the sons of Israel, and he deals with him violently, or sells him, then that thief shall die; so you shall purge the evil from among you.” Kidnapping and enforced slavery are forbidden and punishable by death. This was true for any man (Ex. 21:16), as well as for the Israelites (Deut. 24:7).

      Timothy 1:10 – For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;

      You can see how people are to be treated, don’t confuse it with what people did, if people beat up their slaves, lynched them, they were never commanded to do in the first place. If you had been a Jew 4000 years ago and you went to war like every other nation, and you win, you end up slaves, your choice kill them or treat them nicely and it was what the Bible said about it. you have to treat them as a household, provide food and shelter to their families, give them rights as long as they don’t go against national favor, it was all written.

      Many people have attempted to use the Bible to fortify positions on both sides of the slavery issue. There is no direct “Slavery is bad” statement. But, in my opinion, the major themes of the NT are contrary to slavery. It’s certainly hard to see how one could attempt to carry out the second greatest commandment “Love you neighbor as yourself” with slaves.

      The Old Testament is replete with reminders that the LORD God delivered the Israelites from slavery. In addition, the delivery of the Israelites into slavery again was depicted as a punishment. For example, Ezra 9:9 says, “Though we are slaves, our God has not deserted us in our bondage.” Thus I do think that there is a general theme that the state of bondage is a harmful or oppresive fate; and if so, it would seem clear that as Christians it would not be acceptable for us to impose that fate on others.

      Where this argument gets difficult is that there were explicit commands made to the Israelites to enslave certain peoples but the other option was killing them, that is just how the ancient warfare was. On the contrary modern slavery was racist. Blacks were viewed as different from other people, or as not really human. That was, strangely enough, a kind of Enlightenment scientific component. It was connected with the modern idea of Progress and with evolutionary theory, which argued that some “races” were inherently inferior. In ancient times, it was the luck of the draw whether you were enslaved. Weak or conquered people ended up as slaves, but not because they belonged to a particular race.

      Also one of the first problems is the meaning of slavery. Jewish slaves had significant rights that included instant freedom if they were beaten, rights to asylum from other Jews simply upon their request and inheritance rights.

      And on the Jubilee year slaves were freed, in this sense, it was servitude rather than forceful slavery. And if the slave or servant wanted to stay with his master he could.

      The slavery practiced in the American South, which often involved Christian masters and Christian slaves, was especially an abomination to God. But any kind of slavery is offensive. Slavery appeared to be tolerated in the Bible, but here’s what God said about it: Matt 19:8 “Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.” The passage applies not only to divorce, but to slavery and other things.

      The term “slave” in the Bible is different from the term we use to mean slave today. In the OT, quite a few people entered into slavery willingly. The owner had as many obligations toward the slave as the slave had toward the owner. The owner was not to separate a family, and was responsible for clothing, feeding and caring for the family. After seven years of service, the owner was to give a slave the option of being set free, and if he was set free, the owner was obligated to also free his family and give him enough sheep, etc, to start his own herd (that’s where the 40 acres and a mule came from). If the slave decided to remain a slave, he was the property of the owner for life. In some respects, many of the “slaves” in the Bible were what you would consider an unpaid apprentice. After seven years, they were given the choice of striking out on their own, or staying with the company, so to speak.

      servitude is not always unjust, such as penal servitude for convicted criminals or servitude freely chosen for personal financial reasons. These forms are called just-title servitude. The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which brought an end to racial slavery in the U.S., does allow for just-title servitude to punish criminals: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Even today we can see prisoners picking up litter along interstates and highways accompanied by armed guards. Also the 1949 Geneva Conventions allow for detaining power to use the labor of war prisoners under very limiting circumstances (Panzer, p. 3). However, such circumstances are very rare today. During biblical times, a man could voluntarily sell himself into slavery in order to pay off his debts (Deut. 15:12-18). But such slaves were to be freed on the seventh year or the Jubilee year (Lev. 25:54). The Church tolerated just-title servitude for a time because it is not wrong in itself, though it can be seriously abused.

      Also, when the OT mentions slaves in many instances, remember that the fact that the Bible mentions something does not mean that God condones it. The accounts of David and Bathsheba and Lott and his daughters being prime examples.

      The base of the abolitionist movement was made up of a lot of Christians because they understood it to be an issue of the rights of man. Do some research on Google about the abolitionist movement. Many whose leaders were preachers and learned theologins, some of them of African descent. You know why because the entire spirit of the scripture is against slavery.

      I wrote in my posts to you that the people who practiced slavery did a hypocrite thing. people who followed the rules that Jews or other nations did 5000 years ago then they were clearly wrong to do it. We all agree on that.

      For the most part Jesus addressed problems within the Jewish culture of his time, and did not mention problems of the Greco-Roman culture (such as slavery, homosexuality, and idolatry). As Paul and the apostles took the Gospel to the world, they addressed these “Gentile” issues based on the Old Testament and the teachings of Christ.
      Read the book of Philemon in the New Testament, along with a good commentary. In this book (actually a letter written to a slave-owning, Greek named Philemon, who became a Christian under Paul’s teaching), Paul says he has found Philemon’s runaway slave (named Onesimus) and, praise the Lord, the slave has become a Christian. Paul sends the slave back, and says to Philemon “by the way, don’t you dare punish him” (runways could be killed by their owners under Roman law), “in fact next time you have communion make sure you include Onesimus. I’ll be by sometimne to make sure you treated him right.” Can you imagine a slaveowner washing the feet of his own slave? That’s what Paul was ordering Philemon to do. Paul knew that slavery could not exist within a society that took Christianity seriously.

      African slavery gradually grew worse, particularly after the invention of the cotton gin, where their labor became an economic necessity for some (or so they thought). It didn’t start out that way. A key factor in this creeping evil was the argument that Africans were not actually human. That is what is happening today in the debate regarding abortion. The pro-life forces hold that life begins at conception; pro-aborts do not. They are using the same argument that earlier generations of slave holders did–that the unborn are not yet human and do not possess souls, just as the earlier folks held that Africans did not posses them. We should see from our own history that that is extremely dangerous territory.

      Now we usually think of slavery in terms of innocent people who were unjustly captured and reduced to “beasts of burden” due solely to their race. This was the most common form in the U.S. before the Thirteenth Amendment. This form of slavery, known as racial slavery, began in large-scale during the 15th century and was formally condemned by the Popes as early as 1435, fifty-seven years before Columbus discovered America. In 1404, the Spanish discovered the Canary Islands. They began to colonize the island and enslave its people. Pope Eugene IV in 1435 wrote to Bishop Ferdinand of Lanzarote in his Bull, Sicut Dudum:

      ...They have deprived the natives of their property or turned it to their own use, and have subjected some of the inhabitants of said islands to perpetual slavery, sold them to other persons and committed other various illicit and evil deeds against them… We order and command all and each of the faithful of each sex that, within the space of fifteen days of the publication of these letters in the place where they live, that they restore to their earlier liberty all and each person of either sex who were once residents of said Canary Islands…who have been made subject to slavery. These people are to be totally and perpetually free and are to be let go without the exaction or reception of any money… [Panzer, p. 8; also pp. 75-78 with original critical Latin text]

      Those faithful, who did not obey, were excommunicated ipso facto. This is the same punishment imposed today on Catholics who participate in abortion. Some people may claim that Pope Eugene only condemned the practice in the Canary Island and not slavery in general. This claim is hard to accept since he does condemn together this particular case of slavery along with “other various illicit and evil deeds.”

      A century later, the Spanish and Portuguese were colonizing South America. Unfortunately the practice of slavery did not end. Even though far from being a saint, Pope Paul III in 1537 issued a Bull against slavery, entitled Sublimis Deus, to the universal Church. He wrote:

      …The exalted God loved the human race so much that He created man in such a condition that he was not only a sharer in good as are other creatures, but also that he would be able to reach and see face to face the inaccessible and invisible Supreme Good… Seeing this and envying it, the enemy of the human race, who always opposes all good men so that the race may perish, has thought up a way, unheard of before now, by which he might impede the saving word of God from being preached to the nations. He (Satan) has stirred up some of his allies who, desiring to satisfy their own avarice, are presuming to assert far and wide that the Indians…be reduced to our service like brute animals, under the pretext that they are lacking the Catholic faith. And they reduce them to slavery, treating them with afflictions they would scarcely use with brute animals… by our Apostolic Authority decree and declare by these present letters that the same Indians and all other peoples – even though they are outside the faith – …should not be deprived of their liberty… Rather they are to be able to use and enjoy this liberty and this ownership of property freely and licitly, and are not to be reduced to slavery… [Ibid., pp.79-81 with original critical Latin text]

      Pope Paul not only condemned the slavery of Indians but also “all other peoples.” In his phrase “unheard of before now”, he seems to see a difference between this new form of slavery (i.e. racial slavery) and the ancient forms of just-title slavery. A few days before, he also issued a Brief, entitled Pastorale Officium to Cardinal Juan de Tavera of Toledo, which warned the Catholic faithful of excommunication for participating in slavery. Unfortunately Pope Paul made reference to the King of Castile and Aragon in this Brief. Under political pressure, the Pope later retracted this Brief but did not annul the Bull. It is interesting to note that even though he retracted his Brief, Popes Gregory XIV, Urban VIII and Benedict XIV still recognized and confirmed its authority against slavery and the slave trade.

      Popes Gregory XIV (Cum Sicuti, 1591), Urban VIII (Commissum Nobis, 1639) and Benedict XIV (Immensa Pastorum, 1741) also condemned slavery and the slave trade. Unlike the earlier papal letters, these excommunications were more directed towards the clergy than the laity. In 1839, Pope Gregory XVI issued a Bull, entitled In Supremo. Its main focus was against slave trading, but it also clearly condemned racial slavery:

      We, by apostolic authority, warn and strongly exhort in the Lord faithful Christians of every condition that no one in the future dare bother unjustly, despoil of their possessions, or reduce to slavery Indians, Blacks or other such peoples. [Ibid., pp.101]

      Unfortunately a few American bishops misinterpreted this Bull as condemning only the slave trade and not slavery itself. Bishop John England of Charleston actually wrote several letters to the Secretary of State under President Van Buren explaining that the Pope, in In Supremo, did not condemn slavery but only the slave trade (Ibid., pp. 67-68).

      It is also interesting to note that pre-christian and Pagan Rome empire had lots and lots of slaves. However by the early dark ages, slavery had just about disappeared from Europe, except in Pagan Scandinavia

      The New Testament argues that all men, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, are equal in the sight of God. LOVING OTHERS AS ONE LOVES ONE’S SELF and DOING UNTO OTHERS . . . would also indicate slavery’s prohibition. And those are cardinal summaries of the Gospel according to Christ, along with Loving God wholly.
      Actually, the NT says that all men are equal IN CHRIST – meaning all believers are equal with no distinctions.
      Galatians 3:28
      “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

      The whole spirit of the these laws was grace and love, if you say why it isn’t explicitly condemned is simple, it was a global system, it was economical system, and I mentioned these points earlier in my posts as well. Cherry picking verses to support your theory is your choice but it isn’t what really happened and you are looking at it from the wrong filter, you are painting with a single brush and you are painting the whole of it all together. proof-texting can lead to easy erroneous results.

      If you can’t see what I’m saying within all of this, I’m sure you will not otherwise get it from me any other way.

      And the thing about wealth, well lets just say, the eye of the needle is no the eye of the needle as you are thinking, you should read a commentary, give it a try at least, you got it all wrong there.

      And the question in context was not that the wealthy can’t enter but those who love their wealth more than Christ. (do give the eye of the needle a try.)

  11. So the conclusion must be that the Bible and the Church have offered contradictory messages and are therefore not be considered as useful guides to morality, and certainly not as divinely inspired.

    I know what the eye of a needle is, it’s the tiny hole through which one attempts to pass the thread. (It has nothing, incidentally, to do with any city gates in Jerusalem.)
    All rich people love their wealth more than Christ. It is not really possible to gain wealth unless you value it highly. Having wealth, the Christian is instructed to give it away. Any rich person has chosen not to give away their money to those who are obviously in greater need. Those in greater need are supposed to be treated as if they were Christ. Ergo, to keep one’s money is to love it more than one loves Christ. I don’t see any way out.

    1. The conclusion is that any system can be abused including atheism as I have been saying in my previous posts. Just because it doesn’t have a moral code doesn’t mean that if it does something bad then it is not accountable. In a court, yes may be it wouldn’t but in conscience it will be. When there was no law, killing a man was indeed a crime not on legalistic grounds but on moral ones. And atheism doesn’t guarantee a system that can’t be abused.

      As for wealth you are free to think what you must. It is indeed not the case and who better to tell you than a former atheist. This type of reasoning is a logical fallacy often known as reductio absurdum. Illustrating extreme positions from the opposite perspective is not justification for extreme positions from the other direction.

  12. My point is not about ‘abuses’ but about official doctrine. The Bible is either the word of God or it’s not. If it is, why is it contradictory on an important moral issue? If not then it has no more authority than any other ancient text.

    Are you accusing Jesus of a logical fallacy? As you haven’t been able to find a flaw in my argument concerning wealth I assume that it must be Christ that you find unjustified. Most Christians don’t seem to pay much attention to Christ’s actual message anyway. How many have you seen turning the other cheek?

  13. “Are you accusing Jesus of a logical fallacy? As you haven’t been able to find a flaw in my argument concerning wealth I assume that it must be Christ that you find unjustified. ”

    You clearly do not understand what it says, so I suppose the onus is on you to you specify why I would think it a logical fallacy. The fact is clear, you are mis-interpreting it and then asserting that you are correct. That is not enough to support an argument.

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