Religion's role in slavery, and other topics

Not sure if this is the right forum, but I need some assistance in a debate. I made the following statement to an atheist/agnostic friend, and his response (in blue) is below.

"I can’t tell you how sorry I am to hear that you support socialism. Not just you, but so many millennials who are buying into what socialists are selling. Had you lived through the Cold War era you might see things differently. I guess it happens from generation to generation. My generation has difficulty comprehending what our parents lived through (Great Depression, World War I and II, etc.), so of course your generation has difficulty understand what we went through. It happens.

Like I’ve said before, if each generation learned from the mistakes of previous generations, it would be a much better world, but unfortunately so many times people think they’re trying something new and better, when in fact it has been tried before, with disastrous results."

“Amazing that you speak of future generations learning from the mistakes of that past. Past generations have been scared by bigotry and hatred beyond measure and thankfully our society as evolved to be more humane. Can you believe at one point in time the Southern Baptist convention spoke for SLAVERY in the south using biblical verses to uphold slavery in the south? That the KKK was founded by southern Baptists on the holy notion that slavery was right by “god”. And until the late 1970s that the religious right was at the forefront of banning “interracial marriages” and the SWBC was a firm believer against interracial marriages. Not only did Christians believe that marriages were between one man and one woman back then they went as far to say marriage between the different races was a sin. Good to think that the “liberal” idea of “equality” meant freedoms for interracial marriages to happen. Just think of that poor Baptist governor of Alabama, Wallace, who using his Christian views to slam integration of blacks into public schools was championed by the religious right of that era. KKK was a major component of the hatred in the south too blacks and their make up was mostly southern Baptists using biblical verses to support their cause. And of course lastly, but probably not the last time conservatives will be on the wrong side of “equality” in history, is the marriage rights of gays. Why is it when society knows its time to heal and move on from hatred the religious right aka conservatives aka GOP feel the need to push back the tide of change and return us to the times of bigotry and hatred. Why are conservatives against “equality” of all?”

“Remember Lincoln was the first republican because he opposed slavery which was a LIBERAL idea at the time since it was ANTI-CONSERVATIVE. Lincoln would not be a republican by much today. He was anti state rights, he was anti discrimination he was pro taxes. He was very pro gvt. Nothing of which resembles todays GOP. Todays GOP is all about the haves and not the have nots. That’s why they love war. They love their corporations raking in the GVT contracts that they were bribed to give. Lincoln would probably be a libertarian today and not republican and he wouldn’t be a democrat, my opinion.”

My advice would be to tackle the debate not from the perspective of the American Liberal vs. Conservative paradigm, but from immutable Catholic Truth. Truth is always on the right side of issues. The Agnostic’s examples used to “prove” the righteous and noble nature of “Liberalism” fall flat because it does not follow that because Liberal ideas have every now and again found themselves on the side of truth (for example, the Liberals were indeed correct in their championing of the abolitionist movement, Civil Rights, interracial marriage, etc.) but not because of their Liberalism, but because their beliefs happened to align with that which is good and true. The God-given rights of African Americans in America were being oppressed by the conservatives of the time who were despicably hiding behind the Word of God. However, in the modern era, Liberals are finding themselves more and more in opposition to the Truth. Gay “marriage” is a perfect example. They will attempt to equate their championing of “marriage equality” with the abolitionist movement or the Civil Rights movement, to show how once again the “conservatives are on the wrong side of history”. They are wrong in this case, just as they are wrong about abortion. Why? Because the fact that African Americans have the right to be free and be treated with dignity and equality is in accord with the Divine and Natural Law. The “rights” to gay “marriage” and abortion are not. It is apples to oranges. Don’t let the Liberals use the good that they did in the past to mask the evils they are championing in today’s society.

Sorry, I rambled in this sentence and didn’t complete my thought. This is what I meant: “it does not follow that because Liberal ideas have every now and again found themselves on the side of truth that Liberal ideology will always be on the side of truth.”

Yes, it is true that the Southern Baptists were pro-slavery and pro-segregation at one time. However, they did not represent the majority of Christians in those views. The abolitionists and civil rights leaders were largely Christians. The Western movement against slavery was largely a Christian invention.

The idea that atheism and state socialism represent the right side of history is a matter of opinion. It is certainly true that state socialism is generally incompatible with individual freedom.

**FOR LARRY 1700
Why are conservatives against equality of all?
Or is it Why are conservatives against equality for all?

Here’s what I’d reply:

Tell your friend that if he likes socialism so much, he should move to, let’s say, Italy.
It’s not even really that socialist anymore - they’re trying to et away from it a bit. But with little luck; it’s so comforting to know the govt will take care of you from cradle to grave.

Yeah. Tell him to give it a try.

Then you could continue your idealistic conversation.

Oh. And my question up there is important. When you have equality for all, the equalizer is always in a downward position, never in an upward position. So when someone tells you they’re socialist, they’re really telling you the think life might be better, but reallys it’s worse.

If I remember correctly (would have to check and make sure because it’s never as easy as it seems) the bible doesn’t say that slavery is right. Slavery existed back then. God appears to the society at hand. If He goes too far into the future, we just wouldn’t understand. The bible says that when you work, as a slave, do it well as unto God. A normal christian concept.

Just my two cents. My thoughts are a bit jumbled because I’d like to ask every atheist this:

Why are you so anxious to get us to believe God doesn’t exist??
Why are they so smart, who have created this mixed up world we live in -
and we’re so simple and dumb (maybe) by believing in absolutes which only God can provide.

Let me go.

God bless you

Yeah, I agree that this is a strong point, and I’ve heard the same point made before I just need to do some research to prove it.

I agree that the bolded part is a good argument. As for the bolded part in blue, was it liberals who did so? Also, wasn’t there a difference in the definition of liberal and conservative XX years ago? Don’t know myself…just asking.

The Southern Strategy

It’s a very long article, Mike. I read perhaps a fifth of it, and skimmed the rest. When I saw the paragraph about Reagan using “racially-coded rhetoric” my “bias-radar” started going off.

What is the point you intended to make? Not sure I can buy into the Wikipedia article as proof of anything, so maybe another, more reliable, source to substantiate your point?

It’s a long article because it’s a complicated subject. You had asked if the definition of liberal and conservative changed “XX years ago” and the article explains when that in-its-own way occurred in the United States (a period between the mid-sixties and early-seventies) and what that all entailed. It also lists some possible causes cited by historians and the latter part of the article lists some counter-claims by those who give different causes.

The point is this political switcheroo you asked about did occur, although what spurred it is not necessarily agreed upon.

What is the point you intended to make?

I’m simply answering your question. It’s an important part of history, this realigning of political parties that tends to happen every several decades, and even if you disagree with the purported causes (and you would not be alone in that) it’s quite useful to understand what the term means. Think of it like the Reformation. You as a Baptist-turned-Catholic may not agree with Protestants as to some of the ideas behind the Reformation, its causes, and its results; but it’s a part of history that people should have some understanding about. Knowledge is power!

Not sure I can buy into the Wikipedia article as proof of anything, so maybe another, more reliable, source to substantiate your point?

You should not just take a Wikipedia article on its face, but I also think sometimes people underplay what information we can gained from it. The references are cited and often debated among users. If nothing else someone interested enough can take that Wikipedia article and do his or her own research. I agree that Wikipedia should not be one’s last stop for learning, but I think it makes an excellent first stop.

Yeah, I use Wikipedia a lot. I kind of think of it as similar to asking a “man on the street,” and then use it as a jumping-off point for more research. (However, I have to admit that I don’t research as often as I’d like due to time constraints.)

Anyway, thanks for the info. I’ll take it into consideration.

Found this in my email this morning after a long period of silence.

Have a bit of time so thought I’d look up Abraham Lincoln since he was against slavery. Learned some interesting things about him I didn’t know.

Don’t know how to do that link thing using Chrome, just google Why Lincoln Was A Whig.

Just my two cents regarding black and white marriages. I lived through the 60’s…

Some people didn’t want their white daughter to marry a black man (or V.V.) because they were prejiduced. Some (as myself) would not have been happy about this, although it would have been accepted, because of the strife they would have encountered in living their life exactly because of societal condemnation. Think of raising a family in that condition, etc…

Now you may say that if we don’t start the change, it’ll never happen. Okay. But we do tend to want to protect OUR children from pain - wherever it comes from.

Just to say that not everybody who didn’t agree with inter-racial marriage was a hater of different races, since the same idea would extend to other races as well. Just think of the cultural differences too.


Atheists like to make you defend “religion” rather than your faith, Catholicism. That works for them, because they can impute every failing of every religion.

I don’t try to defend religion, as I can’t vouch for Mormonism, Calvinism, Islam, or any other religion but my own - Catholicism.

The Catholic Church has a good record on opposing slavery. From our founder, Jesus, who said he came to oppose every form of bondage over mankind (quoting Isaiah), to St. Paul, whose impassioned plea for mercy for an escaped slave is in the Bible (and worked), to St. Peter and St. John the Apostle, who denounced slavery as among the most horrible of sins, to Saint Augustine, whose parish stormed African slave ships and drophouses to free their prisoners and who used Roman law courts and his own funds to free slaves, to St. Patrick, who called out the pagan kings of Ireland for practicing slavery, to St. Nicholas who paid the bridal dowry to prevent poor girls from being sold into slavery in his parish, as well as the numerous papal bulls that condemned slavery and excommunicated slavers and slave holders.

On the broader field of Christianity, Christians did far more to oppose slavery than non-Christians did. While Richard Dawkins’ ancestors were profiting from the slave trade that allows him to live on a luxurious estate now, Christians like William Wilberforce were fighting to end the trade.

You might ask him why David Hume, the darling philosopher of the atheists, supported slavery.

You might also ask him what he, as an atheist is doing NOW to end slavery. Young women are still being held and trafficked in sexual slavery in the streets of America and throughout the world. Faith-based organizations (such as Catholic Social Services and DIGNITY) are an have been in the forefront of rescuing these women from lives of slavery and degradation. Ask him which atheist organizations are mobilizing to end modern slavery. Is the Freedom From Religion Foundation? Is the American Atheist organization?

No? Then aren’t atheists talking the talk without walking the walk?

Great post. A lot went into your 3rd pp.

I just thought that even down south most slave owners were not christian. And even if a christian did have slaves because that’s how cotton was picked bach then, they were treated properly.

Regarding the religion thing. (sorry, I’m limited on time and can hardly think straight) It’s okay for atheists to lump them all together because it’s God against No God. The concepts remaint the same: Absolute truth vs. Relative Truth; Situational Ethics, The Natural Law and all that.

Let me go.


That is most assuredly not true. There were certainly voices within the Church who wished to abolish slavery, but as a whole it failed.

You might also ask him what he, as an atheist is doing NOW to end slavery. Young women are still being held and trafficked in sexual slavery in the streets of America and throughout the world. Faith-based organizations (such as Catholic Social Services and DIGNITY) are an have been in the forefront of rescuing these women from lives of slavery and degradation. Ask him which atheist organizations are mobilizing to end modern slavery. Is the Freedom From Religion Foundation? Is the American Atheist organization?

No? Then aren’t atheists talking the talk without walking the walk?

A great many atheists support anti-slavery groups that are not specifically religious in nature. Here are a few.

You have evidence to support this?

A great many atheists support anti-slavery groups that are not specifically religious in nature. Here are a few.

This list did not exist in the 16th and 17th century. Which atheist groups in those centuries support anti-slavery?


I like! :thumbsup:

You might ask him why David Hume, the darling philosopher of the atheists, supported slavery.


I wasn’t aware of this.


We’ll start with Dum Diversas. It was a papal bull issued in 1452 which gave Portugal the right to enslave pagans at will. There were no limits as far as where they could do this, when they could do this (i.e. this was in effect indefinitely), or how they could do this. The only restriction was the type of people they could enslave: those who were not Christians or Jews.

Majesty in the most sacred intention of this kind, we grant to you full and free power, through the Apostolic authority by this edict, to invade, conquer, fight, subjugate the Saracens and pagans, and other infidels and other enemies of Christ, and wherever established their Kingdoms, Duchies, Royal Palaces, Principalities and other dominions, lands, places, estates, camps and any other possessions, mobile and immobile goods found in all these places and held in whatever name, and held and possessed by the same Saracens, Pagans, infidels, and the enemies of Christ, also realms, duchies, royal palaces, principalities and other dominions, lands, places, estates, camps, possessions of the king or prince or of the kings or princes, and to lead their persons in perpetual servitude, and to apply and appropriate realms, duchies, royal palaces, principalities and other dominions, possessions and goods of this kind to you and your use and your successors the Kings of Portugal.

In 1537, Pope Paul III issued the papal bull of Sublimus Deus (sometimes referred to as Sublimus Dei). He strongly called for an end to slavery in the new world. So why would I include that in a list of items showing the Church’s failure against slavery? Because a year later Paul rescinded the bull at the request of Spain. Here we see the Church having the power to call for an end to slavery (at least in the new world) and then backing down not on principle but at the request of an ally. It’s cowardice and a lack of moral foundation.

Check out this article on Sicut Dudum (which includes the full text of the papal bull).

Again we see a pope calling off/denouncing a portion of slavery as opposed to slavery in general (which as my earlier point stated wasn’t done by the Church until Vatican II). And why was Pope Eguene IV against slavery in the Canary Islands? Because many of them were becoming Catholics. Still then according to this article, Eugene issue a papal bull amending Sicut Dudum to allow King Dulce of Portugal to continue conquering those portions of the Canary Islands not converted and that the protection granted in Sicut Dudum did not protect non-christians. We can even see that in a line from the initial pre-amended bull.

We will that like sentence of excommunication be incurred by one and all who attempt to capture, sell, or subject to slavery, baptized residents if the Canary Islands, or those who are freely seeking Baptism, from which excommunication cannot be absolved except as was stated above.

Instead of stating that enslaving people is wrong, or even saying that enslaving anybody in the Canary Islands is wrong, it makes a point to say that enslave anyone from the Canary Islands who either is baptized or plans to be is wrong.

The Council of Gangra stated

If any one shall teach a slave, under pretext of piety, to despise his master and to run away from his service, and not to serve his own master with good-will and all honour, let him be anathema.

Anathema to him who persuades a slave to leave his master under pretence of religion.

(The link above goes to page 5 where the first quote is at the bottom. This second quote is at the top of page 6.)

The Council of Carthage (via the Catholic Encyclopedia) stated

Canon 129. (Greek cxxx.)

That slaves and freedmen and all infamous persons ought not to bring accusation

To all it seemed good that no slaves or freedmen, properly so called, be admitted to accusation nor any of those who by the public laws are debarred from bringing accusation in criminal proceedings. This also is the case with all those who have the stain of infamy, that is actors, and persons subject to turpitudes, also heretics, or heathen, or Jews; but even all those to whom the right of bringing accusation is denied, are not forbidden to bring accusation in their own suits.

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The Fourth Council of Toledo has several things to say about slavery. It’s a little too much to quote but the page gives us several insights:

  1. Jews are not allowed to own slaves because “for it is not right that the members of Christ should serve the ministers of Anti-Christ.” (Bonus anti-semitism!!)

  2. If a slave is freed by the Church that person is bound to serve the Chruch for the rest of his life because the Church is unending. It’s all about power and not doing what is right. One way or the other the Church was going to get every drop of effort from a person whether as a slave or a freed man.

  3. "Concerning the slaves of the Church, it is allowed to make them priests and deacons in parishes; " Note that it specifically denotes slaves of the Church, as in the Church owned slaves.

  4. When freed slaves die all of their goods belong to the Church. Again it’s all about power and not doing what is right. One way or the other the Chruch was going to get every last possession the person had whether by enslaving them or freeing them.

  5. Freed slaves are not allowed to accuse or testify against the Church. Note there are no exceptions if the Church needs to be accused or testified against.

This article from the Catholic Enyclopedia on the Synod of Melfi notes:

The earliest decree in which the children were declared to be slaves, the property of the Church, and never to be enfranchised, seems to have been a canon of the Synod of Pavia in 1018. Similar penalties were promulgated later on against the wives and concubines (see the Synod of Melfi, 1189, can. xii), who by the very fact of their unlawful connection with a subdeacon or clerk of higher rank became liable to be seized as slaves by the over-lord. Hefele (Concilienge-schichte, V, 195) sees in this first trace of the principle that the marriages of the clerics are ipso facto invalid.

First, it’s important to see that I was responding to Arizona Mike when he asked

You might also ask him what he, as an atheist is doing NOW to end slavery.

He was asking about the 21st century as evidenced by the capitalization of the word “now”. Second, I think you and I can agree that not only were there far fewer atheists then as opposed to now, but that they were not popular. And by not popular I mean everything from chastised to denied employment to beaten or worse. So there wasn’t exactly an opportunity for atheists to get together and fight for a cause. Not only that but they didn’t possess the power. The Church had such power and they failed as I’ve shown above.

It appears that you have accumulated much evidence to bolster your statement. But I am sure you agree that all these need to be read in the context of that document. However, if you have been more balanced in your presentation of evidence, that would have improved the credibility of your statement i.e. that the Church hardly did anything to stop slavery.

  1. I’ll start chronologically with Sicut Dudum, 1435. From EWTN, “Nearly 60 years before the Europeans were to find the New World, we already had the papal condemnation of slavery as soon as this crime was discovered in one of the first of the Portuguese geographical discoveries.”. Christians not in compliance within 15 days will be excommunicated. The fact is the Church tried to prohibit slavery and address “the other various illicit and evil deeds against them”, notwithstanding the reason that you think is not “honorable” enough for you. I didn’t see anywhere that non-Christians will remain enslaved which you alluded. The Church see wrong deeds and tried to fix it. The only issue I see is that you just didn’t like the choice of words which you think insufficiently comprehensive. But that’s your opinion.

  2. Dum Diversas. 1452. This is a document responding to the war between Muslim Saraceans and Christian Europe. As a matter of practice , Muslims killed all prisoners that don’t convert to their faith. The age old problem remains with POW. Either you kill them or you keep them alive. And for obvious reasons you don’t want to set them free so that they can come back to wage war with you again. However, I am not sure whether you are interested in these types of details as they sort of take the punch out from your attacks. In a word the Church permit the Christian countries to deactivate the enemy without killing them. There is no reciprocal treatment from the enemy.

  3. Sublimus Deus 1537. Condemning slavery of Blacks and Indians. The Bull was never rescinded although the Brief was. (I haven’t research enough to understand the history behind it or the differences between Bull vs Brief) But what is missing from your piece is that subsequent Popes continued to teach this Bull’s teachings. From EWTN

Their teaching was continued by Gregory XIV in 1591 and by Urban VIII in 1639. Indeed Urban, in his document , appealed to the teaching of his predecessors, particularly Paul III. The pontifical teaching was continued by the response of the Holy Office on March 20, 1686, under Innocent XI, and by the encyclical of Benedict XIV, , on December 20, 1741. This work was followed by the efforts of Pius VII at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to have the victors over Napoleon outlaw slavery.

  1. In Supremo 1839, Gregory XVI

As you can see, the Church is far from silent in trying to stop the slave trade.

However, you have yet to show which atheists during those centuries put in their effort to stop it. Obviously you know atheist Stalinist Russia record of crime against humanity. Millions in forced labor. Atheist Nazi Germany treatment of the Jews. Atheist Communist China/N. Korea forced labor camps.

I’ll try to respond to your cherry picking from the Church Councils later. It appears to you that any church document with the word “slavery” in it is proof that the Church is supporting slavery.

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