Dinesh D'Souza Spreads Dishonest Propaganda…Again

kellym78's picture

 

Original Article

Isn't it remarkable that Christians would like to use atheists as scapegoats for every evil action throughout history instead of admitting their own complicity? After all, they are the ones who are constantly reminding us that the inhumane actions committed by their predecessors don't necessarily reflect upon them, so why can't they just admit that the christians of the past were complicit in some of these atrocities?

I don't know that I need to move beyond the first sentence to prove the absurdity of his assertion. Apparently, Mr. D'Souza has forgotten about the atheists and deists who were the true impetus for ending slavery-like Abraham Lincoln! As far as we can tell from the biographies written about Lincoln, particularly those written by some of his closest friends, he was at best a deist, possibly an atheist, and definitely opposed to organized religion and christianity.1 How about other atheist abolitionists like Fanny Wright, Elizur Wright2 and Ernestine Louise Rose3?

Obviously D'Souza aims to rewrite history, much like his buddies in Congress with HR 888, to make it seem that christians were always paragons of morality and the evils of the world can be blamed on atheists. D'Souza attempts to ridicule Sam Harris by pointing out that everybody already knows that the bible sanctions slavery and that the same bible was used as justification for and against slavery.

I'm sure that we are all equally aware that slavery predated christianity by millennia. We are also aware that slavery was common, particularly for the less fortunate in battle. (Can I yawn here as well?) Nobody has forgotten that the Greek and Roman empires had slaves, and quite a few at that. The difference here is that we realize that the end of slavery was a result of the ethical development of society and not religion. If anything, the inclusion of religion was detrimental to the abolitionists' cause by vilifying their movement-even in the north. As a matter of fact, the term "abolitionist" was often equated with "atheism" due to the fact that they were disobeying a divine edict. The irony is overwhelming. Here's a direct quote from Thomas Smyth, minister of the Second Presbyterian Church of Charleston given on November 21, 1861:

"God is introduced to give dignity and emphasis . . . and then He is banished," said [Thomas Smyth]. It was this very atheistic Declaration which had inspired the "higher law" doctrine of the radical antislavery men. If the mischievous abolitionists had only followed the Bible instead of the godless Declaration, they would have been bound to acknowledge that human bondage was divinely ordained. The mission of southerners was therefore clear; they must defend the word of God against abolitionist infidels."4

Just to prove that he wasn't the only one, here's another example from an 1860 defense of slavery entitled "Cotton is King", by President E.N. Elliott of Planters' College:

The agitation of the abolition question had commenced in France during the horrors of the first revolution, under the auspices of the Red republicans. It is here worthy of remark, that most of the early abolition propagandists, many of whom commenced as Christian ministers, have ended in downright infidelity [i.e., atheism]. Let us then hear no more of this charge, that the defenders of slavery have changed their ground; it is the abolitionists who have been compelled to appeal to "a higher law," not only than the Federal Constitution, but also, than the law of God. This is the inevitable result when men undertake to be "wise above what is written."

"Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, their wresting the Scriptures from their plain and obvious meaning to compel them to teach abolitionism. Finally, the duty of all Christians: from such withdraw thyself." 5

D'Souza is using an obvious red herring here with his claim that atheists have this notion that slavery began with the advent of christianity, not to mention what can only be blatant dishonesty regarding the role of religion in the abolition of slavery.

To add to the list of dishonest rhetorical ploys, he then claims that a statement by Michael Shermer saying that christians were "late-comers" to the anti-slavery movement means that he "probably thinks the christians only got around to opposing slavery in the modern era." Don't light a match guys-we're likely to explode with all this straw around us. In fact, one of the most religious states of the country, Mississipi, just got around to ratifying the 13th amendment in 1995. Yeah-1995. As in 13 years ago.

Unlike D'Souza, though, I will not attempt to trivialize the work done by christians in those times. What I will do is point out his errors, which are numerous this time, such as the next gem; "Slavery was mostly eradicated from Western civilization--then called Christendom--between the fourth and the tenth century." As late as 340 CE, the catholic church issued an edict regarding the treatment of slaves which wasn't overturned until 1965.6

The switch to feudalism was by no means universal, either. Some areas adopted it, but slavery was still a common practice. In the sixth century, Isadore of Seville (later canonized as a saint) decreed that god had seen fit to create different groups of people in a hierarchical structure because they were not fit to be free.7

The Crusades offered another opportunity to enslave prisoners of war, and not only were the traditional Roman reasons for enslavement utilized, the church/government added other qualifying criteria such as being a prisoner, being captured, enslavement instead of capital punishment, being a debtor, selling yourself or your children due to destitution, or having a slave for a mother.8 It sure doesn't seem like slavery ended 600-800 years ago. The only thing that was done to slow the spread of slavery was to outlaw the keeping of Christian slaves. Everybody else was fair game.

For further proof of this, in 1866, the Vatican issued a statement supporting slavery which stated:

"Slavery itself...is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law...The purchaser [of the slave] should carefully examine whether the slave who is put up for sale has been justly or unjustly deprived of his liberty, and that the vendor should do nothing which might endanger the life, virtue, or Catholic faith of the slave." 9

The British outlawed slavery in 1833, followed by the US in 1865. Brazil was the last in the western hemisphere in 1888-an overwhelmingly catholic country.

D'Souza then goes on to claim that the slaves "went to" the bible for comfort. I don't know if he thinks that they had entire libraries at their disposal, particularly since it was illegal to teach slaves how to read in some states, but if they were allowed any book, it was the bible. Why? Because passages like these helped to propagate the slave trade and keep them relatively docile:

Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. (Matt. 24:45-46)

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. (Eph. 6:5-6)

Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to talk back, not to pilfer, but to show complete and perfect fidelity, so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Savior. (Titus 2:9-10)

Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh. For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God's approval. (1Pet. 2:18-29)

Kenneth Stamp wrote in The Peculiar Institution that:

...when southern clergy became ardent defenders of slavery, the master class could look upon organized religion as an ally ...the gospel, instead of becoming a mean of creating trouble and strive, was really the best instrument to preserve peace and good conduct among the negroes.

 

If anything, the bible caused the civil war. Outside of financial issues, the fact that both sides were using the same evidence to bolster their case made it impossible to negotiate.

Led by Mark Noll, a body of scholarship[29][30][29] has highlighted the fact that the American debate over slavery became a shooting war in part because the two sides reached diametrically opposite conclusions based on reading the same authoritative source of guidance on moral questions -- the King James Version of the Bible. After the American Revolution and the disestablishment of government-sponsored churches, the U.S. experienced a massive protestant revival -- the Second Great Awakening. Without centralized church authorities, American Protestantism was heavily reliant on the Bible, which was read in the standard 19th-century Reformed hermeneutic of "common sense," literal interpretation as if the Bible were speaking directly about the modern American situation instead of events that occurred in a much different context, millenia ago.[29] By the mid-1800's this form of religion and Bible interpretation had become a dominant strand in American religious, moral, and political discourse, almost serving as a de facto state religion.[29]

The problem that this caused for resolving the slavery question was that the Bible, interpreted under these assumptions, seemed to clearly suggest that slavery was Biblically justified:[29] (from wikipedia)

I certainly don't disagree that the basis of democracy is that all men are equal, but unfortunately, that didn't come to pass for African-Americans until the 1960's or for women until the 1920's, but D'Souza's assertion that the abolitionist movement was dominated by christians would only be a result of demographics. At that time, people were unlikely to identify themselves as atheists. Deists weren't uncommon, but even so, if 95% of your population is Christian or religious, then naturally any group would have more christians. The quote that he uses from Thomas Jefferson seems to be much more a deist's perspective than a biblical one as D'Souza claims.

To add insult to injury, as I'm sure that more than a few people did the face-slap while reading his article, D'Souza uses the primitive understanding of evolutionary science to falsely conflate atheism with eugenics and racism. He then claims that atheists today still harbor these feelings since they are intrinsic in his mind to acceptance of evolution.

Ultimately, D'Souza is doing nothing more than belated damage control for his belief of choice. In order to achieve that, he uses deception and rhetorical ploys. Apparently Dinesh hasn't discovered that repeating lies to a crowd of bobble-headed lemmings will not make any of this rubbish less ridiculous. What I will do, given the fact that I am not an outright liar, is not deny that christians were involved in the abolitionist movement. There were many. There were atheists and freethinkers as well. For him to pretend that it was all because of the Jesus worshippers, while the atheists "stood by and watched," is nothing short of blatant dishonesty. I honestly pity anybody who believes this load of drivel, and any newspaper that prints it should be relegated to the tabloid section.

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Just for good measure, here's some more of those kind christians opposing slavery and the occasional buy-bull verse...

When a slave owner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner's property. (Exod. 21:20-21)

...Jesus Christ recognized this institution as one that was lawful among men, and regulated its relative duties... I affirm then, first (and no man denies) that Jesus Christ has not abolished slavery by a prohibitory command; and second, I affirm, he has introduced no new moral principle which can work its destruction... -Reverand Thomas Stringfellow

Wesleyans:

"... learned to subdue their critique, in order to grow in membership...Unlike Calvinist intellectuals such as Charles Colcock Jones, Methodists rarely used the Old Testament patriarchs and their hierarchical values to buttress the pro-slavery case. Relying mainly on the letters attributed to Paul, Georgia Wesleyans argued that slavery was scripturally allowable, but not necessarily ideal. In the ante-bellum era their theoretical position was neither proslavery nor antislavery, but neutrality. Christians lived in an imperfect world where slavery was sanctioned by law; therefore, the church should coexist with slavery, just as it did in Paul's day." 1

Dr. Lord - former abolitionist - became an "advocate of slavery as a divine institution, and denounced woe upon the abolitionists for interfering with the will and purpose of the Creator."

The Baptist movement in the U.S. had maintained a strained peace by carefully avoiding discussion of the topic. The American Baptist Foreign Mission Board took neither a pro nor anti-slavery position. An American Baptist Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840 brought the issue into the open. Southern delegates to the 1841 Triennial Convention of the Board "protested the abolitionist agitation and argued that, while slavery was a calamity and a great evil, it was not a sin according to the Bible."

"In 1843, 1,200 Methodist ministers owned 1,500 slaves, and 25,000 members owned 208,000 slaves...the Methodist Church as a whole remained silent and neutral on the issue of slavery."

 

Blind_Chance's picture

I am always amazed by human

I am always amazed by human nature to forgot facts which doesn't fit in his/her point of view.

As well Christians are not immune for that common amnesia. You usually forgot facts like Inquisition rampage,supporting Conquistadors and Church position in matters like: slavery through ages. As you can see below position of Church is not so clear like Mr D'Souza would like to think:

-Circa 400 CE: St. Augustine [354 - 430 CE] speaks of the granting of freedom to slaves as a great religious virtue, and declares the Christian law against regarding God's rational creation as property.

- 595 CE: Pope Gregory dispatched a priest to Britain to purchase Pagan boys to work as slaves on church estates.

Circa 610: Isidore of Seville wrote: "I can hardly credit that a friend of Christ, who has experienced that grace, which bestowed freedom on all, would still own slaves." In his writing "Regula monachorum" which describes the monastic life, he wrote that "God has made no difference between the soul of the slave and that of the freedman."

BUT....

- Circa 600 CE: Pope Gregory I wrote, in Pastoral Rule: "Slaves should be told...not [to] despise their masters and recognize that they are only slaves."

- 655 CE: In an attempt to persuade priests to remain celibate, the 9th Council of Toledo ruled that all children of clerics were to be automatically enslaved. This ruling was later incorporated into the canon law of the church.

-13th century CE: Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) accepted the teachings of the ancient Greek Pagan philosopher, Aristotle, that slavery is "natural."

-1404 CE: After Spain discovered the Canary Islands the Spanish colonized the islands In 1435 Pope Eugene IV wrote a bull to Bishop Ferdinand of Lanzarote titled "Sicut Dudum." In it, he noted that the black inhabitants of the Islands had been converted to Christianity and either baptized or promised baptism. Subsequently, many of the inhabitants were taken from their homes and enslaved. He commanded that all enslaved Christians who were inhabitants of the Canary Islands be freed from slavery. The Pope's concern appears to have been over the enslavement of Christians by Christians, not the institution of human slavery itself.

- 1452/4 CE: Pope Nicholas V wrote Dum Diversas which granted to the kings of Spain and Portugal the right to reduce any "Saracens [Muslims] and pagans and any other unbelievers" to perpetual slavery.

-1519: Bartholomew De Las Casas, a Dominican, argued against slavery. "No one may be deprived of his liberty nor may any person be enslaved" He was ridiculed, silenced and ignored. 3

- 1537 CE: Pope Paul III wrote in Sublimis Deus about the enslavement of persons in the West and South Indies. He wrote that Satan:



"... the enemy of the human race...has thought up a way, unheard of before now, by which he might impede the saving Word of God. ... Satan has stirred up some of his allies ... who are presuming to assert far and wide that the Indians be reduced to our service like brute animals. And they reduce them to slavery, treating them with afflictions we would scarcely use with brute animals. ... Rather, we decree that these same Indians should not be deprived of their liberty and are not to be reduced to slavery." only hostile non-Christians, captured in just wars, could become slaves.



- 1548 CE: Pope Paul III confirmed that any individual may freely buy, sell and own slaves. Runaway slaves were to be returned to their owners for punishment.

-1660: Charles II of Britain urged the Council for Foreign Plantations to teach Christianity to slaves.

-1629 to 1661 CE: Pope Urban VIII in 1629, Pope Innocent X in 1645 and Pope Alexander VII in 1661 were all personally involved in the purchase of Muslim slaves.



Ecrasez l'infame!

Charles Evolution's picture

D'Souza is so annoying. He

D'Souza is so annoying. He certainly needs a good thrashing. Nice job, Kelly. Alvin Plantinga is just as bad, but he's a wizard with words and obscure arguments. He's perhaps the most intelligent and careful creationist thinker ever.

Sapient's picture

Charles Evolution

Charles Evolution wrote:
D'Souza is so annoying. He certainly needs a good thrashing.

 Nice to know we can still agree about this one. 

- Brian Sapient


Buy popular atheist books and support the Rational Response Squad at the same time on Amazon.

Another Orwellian Device...

You quote D'Souza saying "Slavery was mostly eradicated from Western civilization--then called Christendom--between the fourth and the tenth century." There is a fine bit of doublespeak in that.

In the early 4th century the first Christian emperor, Constantine, made it the law that "free" peasants belonged to the land (which means everyone--everyone--renting farm land from a landlord became, overnight, a "peasant" bound to the land, which meant the majority of the population of Europe). By law, therefore, they could never leave their location, and if their landlord sold their land, they were sold with it. This is one of the founding acts of the feudal system, which is in fact slavery. It just wasn't called that. Though "peasants" were called "free" in actual fact they had no recognizable freedoms. They were the property of their landlord, and treated no differently than the buildings on that same land. Many occupations also became at this time compulsory hereditary careers under law, which meant in practice that most farmers could only ever be farmers, with the result that you farmed for your landlord or you starved. You could never leave, never change jobs, and if you tried to exercise any of the liberties recognized now in the Bill of Rights, you were a criminal. In fact, by Christian imperial decree regarding all tenant farmers, "it will be proper for such as contemplate flight to be bound with chains to a servile status, so that by virtue of such condemnation to servitude they may be compelled to fulfill the duties that befit free men."

How's that for Orwellian? They had to be enslaved to force them to act like free men. Say what? Yep.

So when D'Souza says slavery declined in the early middle ages, this disguises the fact that it only declined because it had been replaced with an even more authoritarian form of forced servitude that actually resulted in far more widespread de facto slavery than had existed in the previous centuries. After all, under the earlier Romans, actual slaves could travel, be trained in any job or even educated (which increased their value), and could buy or win their freedom. Peasants could never be freed, not even by their landlords, and were effectively forced into a life of agricultural labor with no real hope of anything else, ever. And under the earlier Romans, slaves were declining in numbers and eventually outnumbered by the free, whereas under Constantine's decree the clear majority of once free citizens became de facto slaves.

In other words, in the 4th century de facto slavery actually increased, and remained that way throughout the middle ages. Simply because these slaves were "called" free men, while men actually called slaves declined in numbers, D'Souza gets to claim a non-existent decline in slavery, thanks to a fine example of ancient Orwellian doublespeak.

Luigi Novi's picture

Kudos

Kelly, I never get tired of seeing you bending that lying bigot over and making him your bitch every time he writes another mendacious rant.  Well done. Laughing

The Responsibility for Slavery

It was wrong of D'Sousa to lay the blame of Slavery solely at the feet of Atheists. Christianity does indeed allow for slavery to exist. However, the Christian rule is that slaves must be treated decently:

1Co 7:21 Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.

1Co 7:22 For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant.

Eph 6:9 And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither,  is there respect of persons with him.

Col 4:1 Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.

It is true, though, that today slavery has been abolished in countries that are predominately Christian in nature. Slavery does still exist in many African countries. Islam also actively promotes slavery - especially among females today. And, if we define slavery as working for another without pay, then we must throw Communism into the mix of slave promoters. I am sure that there are atheists who both promoted and are horrified by the act.

Christians are the only ones who are truly realistic about slavery. They acknowledge its practice, point out that governments, such as Rome, permit it to exist, but they try to curb the abuses found within the system. This is because Christians themselves recognize that they are slaves to Jesus Christ.

As a Christian I would have fought on the side of the North in the Civil War. Because the abuses of the slaves in the South was neither eihical nor responsible according to the teachings of Jesus and His Apostles.

We are all slaves to something: Ourselves, family, friends, our job, money, power, reason, sex. Anything can be made into a "god" in some sense. The question is whose "god" is your "god"?

I am a slave to Jesus Christ. My Master is gracious, and kind, and loving - He even laid down His life for me. He has proven Himself to be the Creator of the Universe, and He was humble enough to serve me. Through His life, death, and resurrection He has proven that He is Lord of all - even over death. Yet, while on earth He was a servant of all. You cannot find a better Master than Jesus Christ.

How can you say that slavery is fine

Don't get me wrong but you just said that slavery is OK as long as you don't horrible abuse the slave. You're completely forgetting the fact that slavery is an abuse. A person is brought into slavery either because of birth of being on the losing side of a war and are then deprived of his/her freedom to live. Sex slaves are fine in the bible, that doesn't get over the fact that rape is one of the worst crimes in modern society. How can you be so blinded and closed-minded to the fact that the bible supports genocide, rape, murder (including children) and a whole mess of other amoral and heinous actions. I hope you can't sleep at night knowing you support that.

A Rational Response to the Film, "Amazing Grace"

A Rational Response to the Film, "Amazing Grace"
by Edward T. Babinski (editor of Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists)

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2007/02/rational-response-to-film-amazing-grace.html