How to respond to an atheist who complains about slavery in the Bible

Lets take a closer look at a puzzle
Lets take a closer look at a puzzle

I often hear atheists going on and on about how the Bible has this evil and that evil. Their favorite one seems to be slavery. Here are three things I say to atheists when they push this objection.

The Bible and slavery

First, you should explain to them what the Bible actually says about slavery. And then tell them about the person responsible for stopping slavery in the UK: a devout evangelical named William Wilberforce.

Here’s an article that works.

Excerpt:

We should compare Hebrew debt-servanthood (many translations render this “slavery”) more fairly to apprentice-like positions to pay off debts — much like the indentured servitude during America’s founding when people worked for approximately 7 years to pay off the debt for their passage to the New World. Then they became free.

In most cases, servanthood was more like a live-inemployee, temporarily embedded within the employer’s household. Even today, teams trade sports players to another team that has an owner, and these players belong to a franchise. This language hardly suggests slavery, but rather a formal contractual agreement to be fulfilled — like in the Old Testament.3

Second, inform them that moral values are not rationally grounded on atheism. In an accidental universe, there is no way we ought to be. There is no design for humans that we have to comply with. There are no objective human rights, like the right to liberty (that would block slavery) or the right to life (that would block  abortion). Although you may find that most atheists act nicely, the ones who really understand what atheism means and live it out consistently are not so nice.

Atheism and moral judgments

Second, inform them that moral values are not rationally grounded on atheism. In an accidental universe, there is no way we ought to be. There is no design for humans that we have to comply with. There are no objective human rights, like the right to liberty (that would block slavery) or the right to life (that would block  abortion). Although you may find that most atheists act nicely, the ones who really understand what atheism means and live it out consistently are not so nice.

Dawkins has previously written this:

The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.

(“God’s Utility Function,” Scientific American, November, 1995, p. 85)

When people like Dawkins talk about morality, you have to understand that they are pretending. To them, morality is just about personal preferences and cultural conventions. They just think that questions of right and wrong are arbitrary. Things that are wrong in one time and place are right in another. Every view is as right as any other, depending on the time and place. That’s atheist morality.

What’s worse than slavery? Abortion!

Third, you should ask the atheist what he has done to oppose abortion. Abortion is worse than slavery, so if they are sincere in thinking that slavery is wrong, then they ought to think that abortion is wrong even more. So ask them what they’ve done to oppose the practice of abortion. That will tell you how sincere they are about slavery.

Here’s Richard Dawkins explaining what he’s done to stop abortion:

That’s right. The head atheist supports killing born children.

10 thoughts on “How to respond to an atheist who complains about slavery in the Bible”

  1. Yep, this is the moral conundrum that I could never get past as an atheist.

    There truly is no place to hide from the Moral Argument.

    The “best” the atheist can do, and often does, is to reserve subjective moral values and duties for himself while demanding objective moral values and duties from others. It is the ultimate hypocrisy, but then again, why is hypocrisy wrong on atheism???

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  2. Atheists who use the slavery argument are usually under the delusion that since mankind is evolving into moral beings and the Bible was used to condone slavery, and genocide, and selling one’s own children. We had such an evil past, but now we are good people; don’t consider that there is much more slavery in the world now than anytlme before in human history. How many young girls(and boys) are victims of sex trafficing – that’s a brutal form of slavery that is growing under our noses. The porn industry is fueling the fires for sex tourism, and novels like 50 Shades of Grey legitimize the notion that consenting adults can be as brutal as they want. Freedom from the shackles that the Bible has allegedly
    heaped upon our society is not making us any kinder than plantation owners were to their black slaves.

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    1. Very well put!

      I find that when I bring up the normalization of pedophilia with atheists, they go strangely silent.

      But why is this New Choice, where more powerful humans prey on less powerful ones, really that much different, in a moral sense, from abortion?

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  3. In Black Rednecks and White Liberals, Thomas Sowell explains that slavery was universal accepted throughout history. I simply ask if slavery would have been abolished without Christianity? I point out to the scoffers that it was Christians such as William Wilberforce who led the charge.

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  4. I know I’ve said this before, but here goes:
    On atheism, we are all here by accident. If we are all here by accident, then why can’t the white accidents own the black accidents?
    (BTW, the “slavery” practiced by the OT Hebrews was actually MORE moral than the slavery practiced by so-called Christian America and England for centuries).

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  5. Here’s a great discussion on the issue. Glad to see Dr. Michael Brown represent the evangelical side of the issue. Love Michael Brown. He is like a spiritual grandfather to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Another point is that they had to make a slave Bible with verses removed. Or keep them illiterate, because reading the actual Bible would allow anyone to see their worth and rights to all people

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