We’ve ben talking about whether the Bible endorses slavery, and ScottInOh wrote last night,
Like Melissa, I feel like I’ve made my point: no one writing on this thread would consider American slavery… morally justified, but … prominent Christian voices endorsed [it], believing God’s Word gave them the basis for doing so.
That’s all I’ve got. If that means you win the debate, so be it. Thanks.
Why does the Bible get the blame?
I’ve taken the freedom of focusing on just part of what Scott said, because it gives me opportunity to ask a different question than the one we’ve been addressing. This is not about slavery per se, but about Christianity and the Bible. Scott seems to believe this statement about “prominent Christian voices” counts as a statement about the Bible. I wonder about that.
It seems to go like this:
- Some prominent voices interpret the Bible to say X, where X is something wrong or evil; therefore
- This supports my belief that the Bible is wrong or evil for affirming X.
Here’s my two-part question: First, Why take these “prominent Christian voices as one’s authority on what the Bible says, when it would make more sense to find out what the Bible says by reading what it says? Second, Is it possible that those prominent voices were wrong?
Subjective beliefs with objective answers
In the course of this conversation, several of us tried to encourage Scott to read what the Bible says. We pointed repeatedly to multiple passages in the Bible showing that chattel slavery in the American south was a clear violation of clear Scriptural principles. Did I say repeatedly? See comments 84, 100, 107, 108, 109, 116, 121, 126, 127 (especially!), 148, 155, and 158. (I skipped some.) It’s very clear that southern slaveholders misused the Bible to their own advantage.
Still Scott held to his opinion that the Bible supports American southern-style chattel slavery.
This is not just Scott. I’m using his comments as the most easily available current sample, but I’ve seen it often, in many places. It’s a strange way to draw conclusions about a source. Let’s take the Bible out of the picture and put it in neutral terms. Scott is essentially saying,
- “Some people have interpreted source S to say X, where something is wrong or evil.”
- “I’m aware of several points of data showing that that interpretation of S is objectively wrong.”
- “Nevertheless, because some people have interpreted S to say X, source S is wrong or evil for affirming X.”
Does that make even the slightest sense?
Let’s try filling in the blanks with an example from the other direction.
- Some people interpreted evolutionary theory as saying that the Aryan race is more highly evolved than all other races.
- I’ve seen all the science that shows that evolutionary theory doesn’t mean that at all, but nevertheless…
- Evolutionary theory is evil for affirming that the Aryan race is more highly evolved than all other races.
Do you see how crazy that is? If I tried making that argument, my keyboard would vibrate off my lap from all the laughter on the Internet—and rightly so, because it’s so silly.
Two or three possible reasons
Still people do that with the Bible, as Scott has recently demonstrated. Why is that? Why is it the Bible’s fault when people misuse the Bible? Why isn’t it the people’s fault?
I’d be very interested to hear what Scott has to say. I have two theories for it, one or both of which might apply to some people, although not necessarily to Scott.
- The Bible is a long and complex book, and it takes some work to find out for yourself what it really means. It’s easier just to assume that whatever someone else says about it must be true.
There is that, and/or this:
- The Bible’s meaning is so ambiguous, no one can say that someone else’s interpretation is objectively false.*
(I really hope it isn’t a third reason: Any opportunity to attack the Bible is a good opportunity, whether it’s true or not.)
As I said, I don’t know if either of those conjectures applies to Scott. Regardless, I’m calling on atheists and skeptics everywhere to give up relying on objectively false Bible interpretations as your source for what the Bible really says. I’m calling you to be honest enough to quit blaming the Bible for teaching what it really doesn’t teach.
Note on this discussion:
This thread is not a thread about slavery. Please go back to the previous one for discussion on that topic. This thread is on the question I raised here: Why should the Bible get the blame when people misuse of the Bible for their own advantage?