Comparing Foreign and Native Slaves in the Books of the Law

To mark the end of my excursion through Leviticus, I am compiling a list of what I’ve learned so far. This is a comparison between Foreign and Hebrew slaves in the Torah. It is not an exhaustive list and I left out things I was not sure of. However, I think the data is good enough to draw conclusions from.

Note: In writing this, I made an assumption that wherever slaves were mentioned and the instruction was not restricted to foreign or Hebrew slaves, it applied to both. I believe this is a reasonable assumption and I know of no reasons to think otherwise.

Hebrew Slaves Foreign Slaves Source

How They Became Slaves

The slave sold himself or herself Same Deut 15: 12
The slave was sold by a father (in the case of Concubines Same Exodus 21: 7 -11
Not allowed Born to parents who were slaves Leviticus 25: 39 -41, 44 – 46
Stole something and could not repay the owner Same Exodus 22:3b
If he/she was kidnapped and sold as a slave, the culprit was punished with death Same Exodus 21:16; Deuteronomy 24:7

How They Were to be treated

Could Be beaten without punishment for the master Same Exodus 21:20,21
Was to be set free if maimed (e.g. lost eye or tooth) Same Exodus 21:26,27
Could not be murdered Same Exodus 21:20, 21*
Had Sabbath as day of rest Same Deut 5:12 – 15 Ex 23:12
Was to be treated like a hired worker or temporary resident Lev 25: 39, 40
Not to be mistreated or oppressed. To be loved like a Hebrew Lev 19:33, 34; Ex 22:21; Deut 10:17 – 19 Ex 23:9 Deut 24:17, 18
Could eat of the sacred offerings if he belonged to a priest Same. Unless there were restrictions on foreigners. I know of none. Lev 22:10
Were to participate in feasts Same Deut 12:11, 18
Was to be given gifts when he left No such stipulation Deut 15: 13 – 15

How they were to be Set Free

They could purchase themselves or be purchased by someone else Same Lev 25: 39 – 41
During the Year of Jubilee No such stipulation Lev 25: 39, 40
After six years No such stipulation 21: 2 – 6
If he or she ran away from master Same Deut 23:15**
For a concubine: If she was not given her rights (Marital and Otherwise) No such stipulation Exodus 21: 7 -11

* Last I checked, the translation of that verse was not settled but I believe a good case can be made for the translation in the NIV

** Most Commentators believe this verse to refer only to foreign slaves who ran to Israel. However, the text does not force that understanding. Therefore, it might have applied to slaves in Israel too.

Potential Objections

After studying the issue of Slavery in the Bible for the last few months and reading the first three books of Moses, I am convinced that the worst charge that could be brought against the practice are the following:

  1. That it allowed slaves to be beaten. This is hardly a good point, however, because parents could also beat their children (for discipline) and free Hebrews could be punished in that manner. A better charge would be that it allowed masters to beat slaves who had done nothing to deserve it. But the text nowhere supports the practice although it does not explicitly denounce it. I do not know how anyone could get that impression after reading through the endless pleas to be kind to the defenseless.
  2. That the practice of owning another human being is detestable. That might be true. Someone should write a piece making the argument. However, if a man were too poor to feed himself and his family and decided to sell himself as a slave, if he consented to the action and was well treated, I think I would rather have that than have him starve to death. It might not be ideal, but it beats the alternative.
  3. That slaves could be maltreated: e.g. the women could be raped, hurt or maltreated in some way. The text also does not support this. It does insist that slaves (both foreign and local) be treated well. There were checks in place to enforce this (freedom for maimed slaves and deprived concubines) if the owner managed to miss all the places where the law denounced his actions. People can be maltreated in their work places. If it happens, the law takes care of it, but we don’t stop working.
  4. That it did not offer foreign slaves the same rights as Hebrew ones: So what? I’m in the US for College on an F-1 visa and I can’t work in specific places under specific situations. Boo-hoo.


In short, I think the law dealt very well with slaves. During my research, I found numerous places where the Israelites were asked to treat slaves and foreigners well, because they used to be foreigners in Egypt. There is so much more to be said about this issue, but alas, my finals draw near.


Other Resources:

Slavery in the Old Testament by Glenn Miller: This has been of great help to me and is recommended if you want a more thorough and Comprehensive treatment. He also has something on slavery in the New Testament and other topics.

Genesis 1 – Deuteronomy 34: I believe the best way to find out what the Bible says about something is to read it. I don’t mean cherry pick it. Take your time and find out everything it has to say on the topic.

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I’m Tracy

36 thoughts on “Comparing Foreign and Native Slaves in the Books of the Law”

  1. In many ancient cultures the treatment of slaves and POWs was much more humane than how slavery turned out during the colonial period of history. When looking at slavery in the Roman empire in this light one can not escape the thought that when slavery becomes a big business operation, the individual slave as a person is swallowed by the “machine” and the treatment changes from something resembling to a domestic animal to that of a market item.

    However good the treatment of slaves in the law of Moses is in comparisson to some other forms of slavery, it keeps naging at me, that a creator-god that rules the entire universe and is alledgedly benevolent, could and even should have endorsed some other form of social justice, than that poor people have to sell themselves into slavery.

    Whith all that power a god would in my opinion be responsible for coming up whith better laws than what the OT represents. In ethics power equals responsibility. There is nothing in those laws to suggest higher standard of morals or even ethical logic, in comparrison to the human cultures of those days. There is nothing evidently divine about the law of Moses in comparrison to the law of Hammurabi. To us modern people the OT laws are only acceptable through cultural relativism, and that is a dangerous path, to tread on.

    In my opinion if we evaluate the OT laws, we need to make the ethical question, would we be ready to submit to such slavery and should we not feel it was our right to rise against such oppression. If we conclude, that in our days those laws are no longer valid and that a modern person would not submit to such decrading treatment, then we have also come to the conclusion that it is an unethical law for a supreme ruler of the universe to pass on human conduct. People were just as able to suffer from the loss of freedom as they are today.

    1. Hey, rautakky,

      I definitely agree with you that once slavery becomes a business, it changes. Isn’t it the same way with all other businesses?

      “it keeps naging at me, that a creator-god that rules the entire universe and is alledgedly benevolent, could and even should have endorsed some other form of social justice, than that poor people have to sell themselves into slavery.”

      But he did, remember. There were lots of opportunities for poor people in the OT.
      1. If a poor person asked you to lend him something, you had to give him as much as he wanted, ungrudgingly. It was a law.
      2. If they couldn’t pay off their debts by the seventh year, it was cancelled.
      3. You couldn’t reap the crops on the edges of your fields or go back for crops you missed. you were supposed to leave them for the poor.
      4. Every seventh year, when no one as supposed to plant, the poor were allowed to eat whatever grew by itself.
      5. You were not to sell food to a poor person for a profit or charge them interest.
      6. The levitical tithe of every three years was to be shared with the poor.
      7. When making sacrifices, allowances were made for the poor who couldn’t afford expensive sacrifices.

      God did make other ways. Slavery would have been a last resort. What other form of social justice do you suggest?

      And I think these things do make the old testament laws different from the laws of the others of the day. Another thing was that their system of slavery was also different. In the OT, maiming slaves was prohibited by law but in some ANE codes, masters could put out the eyes of their slaves for an offense.

      Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. (Deut 5.13f)
      When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this. (Deut 24.21)

      If you read the Pentateuch, you’ll find lots of verses just like that scattered all over.

      And as an aside, the text itself attests to tits status as better than the others.
      Deut 4: 5- 8 [Moses speaking] “See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?

      I’m sorry I wrote you an essay. My brain goes into overdrive whenever someone makes issues like these. I hope you get to read all of it. 🙂

  2. It is your blog and you have every right to determine how long answers are good. I am gratefull for the time and effort you put on responding to my comment and it was all very educational. It has been such a long time from when I read the Bible, I can not remember it all. I mainly remember the bits that shocked me when I did read it. Thank you for explaining me. 🙂 I too have a tendency of writing rather long comments as I did abowe.

    Now, there are plenty of ways a nation even in the times of Moses could have arranged social justice to help those in need without ever resorting to slavery. For example they could have collected a bit higher temple tithe and contribute that to better the situation of the people who were so poor they had to sell themselves into slavery. I mean that a perfect being as suggested the Biblical god is, could have easily prohibited the entire concept of slavery for all future people to understand how wrong it was. I think the Hebrews would have no trouble understanding this, given that they themselves were in fact escapees from slavery in Egypt. Then the Bible could have not been used to sanctify the kind of slavery, that was commonplace in most of Christianity throughout most of the time during the past 2000, or so years.

    1. I think I see where you are coming from. If there were better alternatives, I too think God should have prohibited slavery. As it is, what he prohibited was the inhuman treatment of other human beings so those who did use the Bible to advocate slavery, if they were actually following the Bible, would have treated their slaves the way the Bible recommended. But they didn’t. That’s why I don’t really think that God not condemning the ownership of another person (despite the fact that he demanded they be well treated) would have prevented the atrocities in the new world. He did prohibit the inhuman treatment for the whole world to know how wrong it was and nothing changed. Paul’s condemnation of slave traders did not prevent the slave trade. We, human beings, aren’t very good at following orders.

      “Now, there are plenty of ways a nation even in the times of Moses could have arranged social justice to help those in need without ever resorting to slavery. For example they could have collected a bit higher temple tithe and contribute that to better the situation of the people who were so poor they had to sell themselves into slavery.”

      I’m not really sure about that. Remember, if you try to raise the tithe to provide more for the poor, you have to keep track of certain things:
      1. You don’t collect so much that people don’t enjoy a good amount of what they worked for.
      2. You don’t collect enough that the poor people become comfortable and lose the desire to work for their own living because if you kill the work ethic, things will only go downhill from there.
      3. You give the more prosperous people the desire to help the less fortunate without giving the less fortunate a sense of entitlement. i.e You work and you have to give some of your
      money to me because I’m poor, so I deserve it.

      I think if people are poor, you need to provide them with a way to provide for themselves, rather than give them more free stuff. If you give too much free stuff, then they might get the idea that they don’t need to work and those who do work might get discouraged.

      This is starting to be a conversation about social justice. The bottom line is that OT slavery, because it was properly regulated, was a good option for those who could not care for themselves any other way.

      P.S. If you only remember those parts of the Bible that bothered you, then you really should read it again. From the three books I’ve read, I’ve learned so much about how good and kind God is and my understanding of it is a lot fuller. Alternatively, you can just enjoy my reading notes.

  3. Well, I see your point, but I have to somewhat disagree. I come from a small Nordic country, that has a working social security system for the unemployed and poor run by the taxpayers money. I do not see it making people passive. That is not much even an argument here. Throughout our political spectrum we only argue how should we fund it, not should we do so. Our system helps people from becoming totally desparate. There are some people who feel help from the society to be indignified, but all the more those people are willing to find a job and living of their own. There might even be some who become passive, since they feel no need to work, but those would be a very small minority indeed and I have reason to suspect they would be passive about their lives even withour such support, only much more miserable and homeles and such (Being homeless here up north is rather deadly in winter). The system raises the worth of work in general and thereby our standard of living and enhances peace within our society. I am not saying our system is perfect, but from a benevolent and omnipotent god one kind of expects something perfect, unlike from human societes. I do expect such a deity would show unquestionable ethics. Is that an unjustified expectation?

    A law that does not outright forbid owning a nother person is a law that promotes injustice and violence, no matter how one puts it. No matter how mild the version of slavery is in comparrison to some other form of slavery. For what is violence, if not owning a nother person? Restricting her/his freedom? Do we not all harbour the will and even a need to be free? The fact that the other person has no options, but to submit to slavery, shows how unethical, that sort of law really is. And beating the slaves? We do not allow prison guards to beat the inmates, do we? Why not?

    I remember the Bible saying something about the Promised land being so fruitfull there should not even be poor, but these laws are passed as just some sort of precaution. 🙂 Though it did not turn out quite that way, did it? To me the Biblical laws seem like a mix of nomadic and sedentary law systems of their date. The harsh parts are aking to the sedentary cultures of that time frame and the practical laws about not segragation from other populations are the nomad parts (just as well as the idea of monotheism, by the way). As someone very dear to me once said: “The Bible is not complicated, nor hard to understand at all, if you do not think it is anything but a complation of stories by men in that part of the world.” Some stories are true, some are invented. The Biblical laws of Moses are a set of rules to an escapee slave “nation” that has for generations learned only to obey their masters and to obey authorities based on violence. That is why there are so many minor laws about stuff a nomadic people would have known and learned by mothers milk. That is also why there is a constant reminder about the former slavery in Egypt, methinks. The ancient Hebrew carried that weight whith them to the so called Promised Land and to their laws also.

    I guess this slavery business is one of those things, that one needs to have faith in the god of the Bible, or otherwise it will not make much sense. I have to add that though I do not share your faith, I respect it greatly, that you find no cause to hate, segragate, or even discriminate other people, but that you seem to find love and compassion the most important parts of your religion. I have nothing against such beliefs, nor against you personally. I only say this so you would see my disagreement about your values, or faith is not intended as a personal attack at you. I am just a fellow seeker of the truth, who happens to appriciate your approach, though I might come to different conclusions.

    I am sorry my comment is once again so long. There is hardly a dignified or meaningfull way to discuss these issues by lakonian one liners.

    1. I should not be replying to comments this late at night, but I won’t sleep unless I do.
      Firstly, the length of your comment is fine. We have both proven our ability to read and understand long passages.

      I know very little about your country, but I find it very interesting that you have been able to implement a welfare system that adequately provides for the poor without getting rid of the need and desire to work. Are there any articles or studies I can read that document this or are you going from your personal experience? In my experience, if people’s every need are provided for, they tend to find out that they do not really need to work (which is true) and then they don’t. I would really like some sources if you can provide them. I would also like to know how this has affected your country in the long run. I know Finland is in debt right now (along with lots of other countries). Eventually, the government might have to cut its spending and lots of free stuff will need to go. In other words, it’s just like you said, your system is not perfect.

      I sense some disagreement in our views of slavery and freedom but let’s ignore that for a moment and focus on what I believe to be your major point.
      “I am not saying our system is perfect, but from a benevolent and omnipotent god one kind of expects something perfect, unlike from human societes.”

      It depends on what kind of control you think God has over those societies. If God’s activities are completely unconstrained, then I would expect him to come up with something perfect (although I don’t expect it to look perfect to me). However, in this situation, how things turn out depends on the human beings in the society too. If God increases the tithe to provide more money for the poor, how will the poor respond to it? How will the rich? What will be the effect of that policy in the long run? You made an important point – that your welfare system is not perfect. So, you are not saying that God should have implemented your system but that he should have come up with some sort of perfect system that you have not yet thought up.
      Well, given the nature of human beings as I have come to know it, I don’t think there is such a system. There will be – when Jesus returns and completes the redemption of our bodies and makes us completely free of sin once again, but not here and now. We just won’t let it happen. Paul did have a point with the ‘all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’ thing.

      Don’t get me wrong, God can implement a utopia. If he wiped out every human being on earth, he would achieve that aim. and he most certainly will achieve it at Christ’s second coming. But if he chooses to keep all of us now, there are some things he has to forgo. He can’t make square circles.

      Now, on to our disagreement:
      “For what is violence, if not owning a nother person? Restricting her/his freedom? Do we not all harbour the will and even a need to be free?”

      God, if he exists, owns us. He created us. we are not free in that situation yet it is not violence. In fact, on my view, since God does exist, we are not free to do whatever we please. I see that it is different when it is between human beings but my point remains that not being free to do as you wish or being owned by another person is not violence in and of itself.

      “The fact that the other person has no options, but to submit to slavery, shows how unethical, that sort of law really is.”
      That confused me a little. Are you suggesting that for the law to be ethical, it must provide a better option than slavery? What if there is no such option like I previously argued?

      “And beating the slaves? We do not allow prison guards to beat the inmates, do we? Why not?”

      I do not know why not. If beating is a legitimate form of punishment, then should it not be allowed? I don’t see why prison guards should beat inmates if they haven’t done anything wrong, but let’s not get into the ethics of corporal punishment. That’s a whole topic on its own. Suffice to say, the issue on whether or not it is wrong to beat slaves (who have done something wrong) depends on whether or not beating is a legitimate form of punishment and I don’t think we should take that tangent right now.

      To end it, yes, God did tell the people that ideally there should be no poor among them.

      However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. (Deut 15.4)

      He also told them that there would always be poor among them. In fact, he promised them poverty if they did not follow his laws. The world is far from ideal and the Israelites were far from obedient.

      I hope you have a wonderful night. I have tried to be as comprehensive as possible because you made a bunch of different points but in subsequent responses, I might only respond to some of them, those I see as important and on track. I don’t want us going off on tangents.

  4. I am sorry for not having any studies in English to provide for you about the situation of my country. What I wrote was based on Finnish politics, news and documentaries I actively follow. I said our system is not perfect, but take just about any average Finn and ask, if they would be ready to change into the OT slavery system for social security, and no matter how many apologetics and explanations you would make about the mild form of slavery in the “Good book”, I do doubt if any would be willing to accept a change to the OT system, regardless if they were dependant on social wellfare systems, or not. If someone did, they would most propably seen by the others as some sort of psychopat or just a mindles zealot. This is in my estimation, simply because we would see our system clearly more ethical, than that of the OT. There is no reason that I can see why a god would not have implemented a better law for the ancient Hebrews. If this god is omnipotent, as frequetnly claimed, then such a simple task would not have been beyond the reach of such entity. If it is true that this god is omniscient, it would have been evident that implementing this sort of bronze age moralism would hurt the cause thousands of years later. That it would make the story so much less plausible.

    I am sorry that I commented about the beating of the slaves allowed by this law, but to me it is part of this issue. I did not realize you would see it as a tangent to the topic. If you are to claim the slaves were treated humanely, then it is notworthy to remember they were allowed to be beaten by the owner. And quite severly too. To me any sort of corporal punishment is immoral and unethical.

    My doubt about Christianity and religions in general is, of course, not based on this single point about slavery. Among injusticies and unethical commands alledgedly by a god in the Bible, slavery is just one example. However, from a modern perspective it is an obvious flaw of ethics. If we the modern people, or let us just say Christendom would have found this system of slavery alledgedly given by a god to humanity as a good sort of system, why is it that Christians have not pushed this model for society all around the Christendom? It seems to me they have strived to find some better form of society and they have often succeeded in doing so. Not even modern day Israel is trying to use the law of Moses in this respect as a social security network. What has changed since the days of Moses in this respect?

    There are international treaties to ban every sort of slavery, including the sort in the OT. Why would that be so? Could it be, because in modern days moral has evolved to a higher level? Cultural evolution leads to more ethical choises as long as the cultures involved do not restrict the amount of information gathered and educated to greater masses. Whith better information it is possible to make better choises. Correct? The ancient Hebrew lived in a cultural environment where taking slaves was commonplace, but if their god was indeed omniscient, then that god had all the knowledge to understand how wrong owning a nother person is, and would be to be seen later. Since god later decided that faith is required from a soul to be saved from an eternal torment, this particular law (among many other parts of the Bible) could have been much more plausible for greater numbers to be saved through faith. We do not choose what we believe, but what we are compelled to find believable. Right?

    I really appriciate the time you have taken to answer me and my silly questions. 🙂 However, I must say that if you do not see what is ethically wrong about slavery, no matter what form, I do not know what to say about this any more… Exept that I do not even agree that a creator owns his/her creations, if those creations are sentient beings. A creator may give advice to such creations, but the creator has no magical right to give any arbitrary orders to other senitient beings. Especially none that are obviously unethical like allowing slavery. It is communities, that make the rules and morals in democrasies. Those rules are better when they are ethical. Using the best possible knowledge to form ethics is to restrict harm to a minimum. That is the reason why we in the Western world value democracy over theocracy, or any other form of government.

    1. You said, “There is no reason that I can see why a god would not have implemented a better law for the ancient Hebrews. If this god is omnipotent, as frequetnly claimed, then such a simple task would not have been beyond the reach of such entity.”

      What do you think of the reply I gave to that yesterday? I said,
      “It depends on what kind of control you think God has over those societies. If God’s activities are completely unconstrained, then I would expect him to come up with something perfect (although I don’t expect it to look perfect to me). However, in this situation, how things turn out depends on the human beings in the society too. If God increases the tithe to provide more money for the poor, how will the poor respond to it? How will the rich? What will be the effect of that policy in the long run? You made an important point – that your welfare system is not perfect. So, you are not saying that God should have implemented your system but that he should have come up with some sort of perfect system that you have not yet thought up.
      Well, given the nature of human beings as I have come to know it, I don’t think there is such a system. There will be – when Jesus returns and completes the redemption of our bodies and makes us completely free of sin once again, but not here and now. We just won’t let it happen. Paul did have a point with the ‘all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’ thing.

      Don’t get me wrong, God can implement a utopia. If he wiped out every human being on earth, he would achieve that aim. and he most certainly will achieve it at Christ’s second coming. But if he chooses to keep all of us now, there are some things he has to forgo. He can’t make square circles.”

      I do not think that the issue of beating slaves is a tangent. I think that if we discuss it, we will have to discuss corporal punishment and that is a tangent (or is likely to lead us on one).

      “If we the modern people, or let us just say Christendom would have found this system of slavery allegedly given by a god to humanity as a good sort of system, why is it that Christians have not pushed this model for society all around the Christendom?”

      I think you misunderstand Christianity there. We do think that God gave the Israelites the best system for them, something that would work and that they could implement. We do not practice it today for the same reason we do not make sacrifices of animals for our sins. Things are different now.

      It’s interesting to see the difference our reasoning.
      we disagree on whether or not our creator owns us. Can you please elaborate explain why you do not think our creator owns us? It seems pretty obvious to me.
      We disagree on corporal punishment (or we sort of disagree. I don’t have any position on it yet).
      We disagree on what God’s omnipotence means.

      I look forward to your reply. 🙂

      Oh, before I forget, are there any finnish studies you can send me on it then? Perhaps I can have them translated.

  5. A Christian person once explained to me, that in her opinion it is because god has no ethical right to own us, why we have to choose to believe, or not. That the reason why the god of Abraham does not interfere in the affairs of the world is precisely why there is evil in the world. Since, this god has made us sentient it is our own business to work out our own problems. I think her view on the Bible and especially on the OT was very much that the stories where god interferes in the actions of Israelites was to give advice, not as much to give orders to the entire humanity.

    Why I would think owning other sentient beings even by a creator is wrong is, because then there is no free will. No freedom. Every sentient being yearns for some level of freedom. We have that within us. To severly restrict it, is violence. We have every right as communities to decide, that what is harmfull to other individuals must be restricted. That is not taking away our liberty.

    Have you seen the film “I Robot”? It is a fictional movie loosely based on ideas by the author Isaac Asimov. The basic idea is, that if humans could develope a robot that had comparable intelligence to ours and as a result also feelings, we could not own that robot like we own a piece of hardware, even though we were the creators of it.

    All said abowe could make perfect sense to me, apart from rather a long list of other questions about why we should believe there even is a god, or many gods. However, the laws and quite big number of unethical commands in the Bible, that a god supposedly gives to men are in contradiction to this view.

    Even though I might not be able to recognize a perfect system for humans to live in, I do think I am capable of recognizing a bad one, and the “command and conquer” policy by the OT god is to me such. It also does not fit in the ethical reasoning about owning a nother person, or a nother sentient being.

    The thing is that morals is an ever evolving set of consepts, but ethics remain the same as long as human beings are as they are. I do not think that humans have changed so much from the Biblical times, we could say it was not against the hope and need for liberty of people in those days to make some of them slaves.

    I do not see that the ancient Israelites were so different people we are today. And the situation they found themselves in was exactly as the alledged omniscient creator and ruler of universe would have set them in. So, slavery would be a direct result of the actions of this god and not conditioned by the circumstances. Culturally it may have been accepted, but with a little employment of compassion even people in those days should have understood that slavery (and beating them) as a punishment for being poor is absolutely wrong. By far most of people today and in Biblical times have the capacity for empathy (like most mammals do) and that is the “moral compass” we have built in. It is not important to this particular issue, wether that is given to us by a god or if it is a result of natural selection, it is the base for the mechanics to decide wether something is right or wrong.

    I am sorry that I do not have even Finnish studies about our social welfare system to offer you out of hand, but I promice I will try and look them up. This might take some time, since I have a rather ardorous working period ahead of me. And though I have very much enjoyed our conversation and though you have explained me some things I had not understood (for wich I sincerily thank you), I may not have the time to respond to you in near future. (I do not work on a computer.) 😉 I can only say that we have had this social security system for decades and I am not aware of any effect it would have caused people to become passive about work. If you are interrested, you might find something about the similar system as ours from Sweden, or Norway in English. They have had it longer than we do, and have propably studied it much more also.

    Translations are a tricky thing and I recommend you never trust an automatic translator robot you can find in the internet, since at least between English that is an Indo-European language and Finnish wich is a Fenno-Ugrian language the machine translations make no sense at all. 😉

    Thank you for your time and meaningfull answers. I shall contemplate what we discussed and what you have taught me about your completely new (to me) perspective on these issues with some time. 🙂

  6. I work on sundays, but I am happy at my work, so thank you very much. I am glad the OT law about stoning to death people who work on sundays no longer applies anywhere. 🙂 A bit odd command from god it was too. It is nice to have a civilized conversation dispite the differences of opinions.

    I still do not have any links for a study you were interrested in, about how social security has no great influence in making people passive. Do you have any info on studies that claim the opposite? I fear it is a very hard subject to study and because there are great ideals at stake and big corporate money has a need to prove that people become passive and lazy, if they are not working no matter at how low salary, there could be studies to suggest either way.

    Now, I know this might be beside the topic, but as a thought it intrigued me and while looking for a study about a passivising effect of the social security, I run into some of my countrymen who were claiming this might become a problem. They were all corporate stooges, who in my opinion had a hidden agenda of undermining the idea of social benefits to diminish the general cost of work. They did not have any studies about the subject either, but were very keen on demanding they personally knew someone abusing the social security system because that person was lazy. I am not accountable for the friends they keep, but of course that is possible. On the other hand I personally have known a couple of sad cases of people who got from the security system exactly what was due to them by the law, in a situation where they were not even capable for most work, but they rather claimed they cheated that money from the system, because they rather wanted to see themselves as clever criminals, than hopelessly poor. I do not think they had become passive because they got the money, but exactly the opposite. But a study that counted how passive a person getting the support from the society is, would have marked them as having social support from the state and being passive. Would that prove the reasons for their passive behaviour?

    In Finland labour is very expensive, but that provides for rather good income for most people and a respectively high standard of living for the vast majority of our people. We have no natural resources, but we have free education. Even universities are paid for by the tax payers, and a little allowance from the government makes it possible for the poor kids to go through any education. As a result we have a very highly educated and innovative nation, but also a high rate of academic unemployement. No human system is perfect. 😉

    After trying to find out more about this and to find a link to a reliable study about the subject, it seems there is some little confusion about the social security. Some people see it only as a some sort of charity, when it is not. Here in Finland it was developed by the Social Democratic party together whith Communists and the labour movement. The point is that when there is a security net for those who become unemployed, they have time to look for a work that pays well enough in comparrison to their professional skill. The markets have a tendency to pay as little for any work they can, because the winnings of the shareholders need to be maximaised. Today even our extreme right wing political parties (wich would count as moderate left in the US), agree that the social security system is good because it counts for a peacefull society (we have more guns per capita than even the US, but hardly anyone ever gets shot), there is less reason for people to become criminals in a society that provides for them in case of emergency and gives almost equal opportunities to all. It does not matter how rich the rich are, if the poor are not starving, or desparate, nor subjected to slavery.

    This reminds me of the texts from during the great plague in Europe, when those who could write were the land owners like clergy and noblemen. Some of them wrote down what they were most horrified about the plague, was not that so many people died, but that because of the high death toll the price of work had risen. That the labourer did not have to take the first offer, but that they might move to a nother area where the nobs were more likely to pay better for their work. In some areas the nobility even made new laws to restrict the land owners from offering more pay for work, that the workers would stay in service of those who paid what they had paid for work when there was an exess of work force.

    There could be a cultural reason for the difference in our thinking in this issue. Here in the Nordic countries work is the measure of a person. People really have a social pressure to do work. This is part of a greater social and cultural heritage we have, that demands people really to obey the rules of the society.

    We value freedom abowe all else, so any kind of slavery seems ultra evil. We value work, since in these harsh conditions our ancestors have lived here, lazy people would in any case would have been a burden for the rest of the people. We value social security, since in these harsh conditions the really poor simply can and could have not managed. In ancient times our ancestors kept slaves. Mostly POW:s and they were treated with equal respect to those in the OT, but our culture has evolved since (in those days the master of the house could not only beat up his slaves, but also his house gods, if they were not obidient). When in Europe most peasants were serfs -slaves bound to land, in the Nordic countries we had none of that. Most of the arable land was not owned by the church and the nobility but independent taxpaying freemen. Lutheran faith was easily accepted here in the 16th century, since it also values rigid working morals and also because it allows suicide, wich has allways been seen as a honourable right of every person to decide to end their days by their own desicion.

    All this of topic stuff just to give you an impression of why I would see this slavery issue totally differently. We have never had such slavery in our history as the colonial slave trade, but still it is utterly wrong in the view of me and most of my countrymen. I guess how we see the Bible also refelects what are our own cultural values and how a culture percieves the world through its own history. It is a bit like the story about the Inuites who did not understand the concept of hell, until the Danish missionaries started to tell them it is an extremely cold place. But the Bible still claims it is an extremely hot place, does it not?

    Sorry about the essay length comment. But it goes to prove you made me think about this issue, I had taken as given, as critically as I can, and that is never a bad thing, is it?

    1. My Dad works on Sundays too – he currently resides in a Muslim country. The command was not to work on the sabbath which would have been a Saturday then. I don’t think it was moved to Sunday until after Jesus’ resurrection. Now, if you lived in a theocracy, where God had personally commanded that no one work on a certain day (Tuesday for instance), so that the everyone including the slaves could have one day of rest, to disobey would be high treason. The punishment would be deserved. However, you do seem to think that we are not subject to God but should be free so perhaps you disagree. Anyway, you do not live in a theocracy so you can work whenever your government permits you to.

      Everyone has motives for presenting arguments to some effect so I try to ignore that and just see whether the argument is a good one. My initial argument was that if one does not have to work to sustain themselves, they may very well decide not to work but just exploit the system (kind of like your friends argued and the example you gave. I believe this because I have experienced it too and because it seems to follow logically, but I’ll see what articles I can find about it and get back to you. A culture that places a high emphasis on working (like you say that yours is) would definitely suffer this less often, but I think it still would.

      I think our culture definitely has some effect on the way we think of these things. My culture values submission – to parents and to elders – so the notion of people needing to be free and lack of freedom as violence is foreign to me. However, I think we can stand outside our cultural differences and think of them rationally and when I do, I can see no logical connection why the one who creates something or someone, should not have absolute authority over them.

      Let me get back to you about that article.

    2. I got help from someone better read than myself and found two.

      The first is a study from 1995 by James Poterba and Lawrence H. Summers titled “Unemployment Benefits and Labor Market Transitions: A Multinomial Logit Model with Errors in Classification”. The abstract reads:

      This paper utilizes validation data on survey response error in the Current Population Survey to generalize the standard multinomial logit model to allow for spurious events that result from classification error. The authors’ basic approach could be used with other stochastic models of discrete events as well. They illustrate their algorithm by studying the effect of unemployment insurance on transitions from unemployment to employment and on labor-force withdrawal. Their results confirm earlier work suggesting that unemployment insurance lengthens unemployment spells and show that correcting for classification error strengthens the apparent effect of unemployment insurance on spell durations. Copyright 1995 by MIT Press.

      You can find it here:

      The second is an article from the Cato Institute arguing that when President Obama increased the length of time for which people could get unemployment benefits, the unemployment rate rose as a result because it meant that people did not have to look for jobs (until the benefits were about to run out). This could be extrapolated to show what would happen that if people got unemployment benefits for life. Here is the link: It makes use of the previously named study.

      I hope this helps you.

  7. Thank you very much for the links to these studies. I will look them up with better time. For now it seems we have run into a classical reason for disagreement, that both of us has an angle on issues and we have both taken our own view as the default position (on both slavery and unemployment), but the objective truth might be somewhere in the middle ground. Or I would surmise that would be the most propable situation, like it so often is in these sort of dilemmas.

    To me ethics is rationalizing our feelings of compassion. I simply can not see a one sentient being having ownership over a nother in any way justifiable, by rational thinking any more than through my feelings of compassion, be the owner a creator of the slave, god, or what ever. I can see special situations where a sentient being makes a rational descision to submit to the command of a nother, but because no adult persons ever can be released from responsibility of their actions ethically, that submission is to be there only for as long as the one taking orders sees the orders as ethical and reasonable. Slavery, however mild, is the complete opposite to that even if the slave submitted her/himself to service (though if it is the result of poverty it is not a willing submission) is never the less wrong and especially so, if there is a law that allows the owner to beat up the slave for not acting according to the commands of the owner.

    If the god of the ancient Hebrews was omnipotent as alledged, then that entity had not only possibility to give better laws, but also a responsibility to do so. You see, ethically thinking, whith power comes also responsibility, doeis it not? And absolute power makes even a creator god absolutely responsible. Or would you not agree? Perhaps our question here is simply about wether the law about slavery was a responsible one by said god. It seem so from your cultural background, but not so from mine. I would still claim it is good we do not have slavery and that, if it would be seen as unethical by the standards of today, this results it was unethical even in those days, though it may have not been morally condmnable in the society the ancient Hebrews lived in.

    Since god reminds the Jews about the slavery in Egypt, the same god could have used that argument to bann all kinds of slavery. And come up with a better plan for the wellfare of the poor. It might be that because of the cultural heritage the Hebrew were carrying as a former slave nation the danger that people become passive at the instant when they are not demanded work might be true. It seems to me that many of the divine orders of submission are results of this problem. They and their ancestors had been taught to submit to the pharaoh and their owners. The working morals of a slave is that when no one is looking one does nothing. There is little within to spur her/him into action. So, Moses deviced a god that was allways on the lookout and gave the law about slavery for the benefit of the poor. It would somehow to me seem as though he was managing damage controll, and not like these rules were some sort of divine order of conduct for humanity.

    Maybe it is the submission logic in the Jewish tradition, that so appealed to the slaves of the Roman empire that caused the spread of Chritianity later on. But when a person is freeborn and works for her/himself, there is no need for such submission. And perhaps that explains why there are so many varying interpretations of Christianity, because there are so many different cultural heritages that this one belief has accumulated.

    1. I’ll try to highlight the areas in which we disagree

      1. Whether one sentient being can own another without violating any moral laws: You have not really given any arguments for that that I can see. You argued that you simply cannot see this as the case because we are sentient and sentient beings should be free. I on the other hand, argued that whoever creates something (or someone) has that thing or person in their power and so has lordship over that thing or person regardless of their sentience and asked you why you thought sentience somehow made this lordship invalid.

      2. Whether God can and should have given the Israelites a system of helping the poor that did not include slavery. You argue that since God is omnipotent, he could have given the Israelites such a system and that since with great power comes great responsibility, he should have given them such a system. I on the other hand, argued that God’s omnipotence does not include the power to make square circles so, the manner if God chooses to let the people’s choices affect outcomes (as he has) then it is possible that whatever he does, the people choices would make it such that there was no better system than the one he implemented.

      So far as I have been following this discussion, those are the points where we have been unable to handle our disagreements. Have you thought about what I said about them? what do you think?

      I find your point about sentient beings being free interesting for a completely unrelated reason. One of the points in a Christian worldview is that although God has authority over us, we as human beings are opposed to that authority. We want to do what we want to do rather than submit to God and his laws, good as they are. This is what the Bible calls sin and credits with being the reason people do so many bad things – they do not want to submit to God’s laws not steal, cheat, lie, etc but wish to be free to do as they wish. Free to be nice to others if they want to and free to steal from someone if that person has something they desire. Free to save the lives of others when they want to and take those lives when they want to. Free to tell the truth when we want to and lie at other times, free to order our own lives. Everyone of us is like that. There’s a Bible verse about it. It’s Romans 8:7,8- “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.” I know this even better from my own experience. I do want to do whatever I like when it suits me.

      However, you can probably see that we are not free in these respects. We are not free to take the life of whomever we choose or to take what belongs to someone else. We are subject to these laws – God’s laws even if we do not wish to be. Even if we had a government that allows us to kill others (like the Indians used to burn widows with their husbands), it would still be wrong. We are obligated to obey these laws and we are to be charged if we do not obey them, convicted and punished. In a way, we are like the slaves – required to obey our master and follow his laws and we can and will be whipped (punished) if we do not do so.

      And the second point that Christianity teaches is that try as we might, we cannot keep these laws – believe me, I’ve tried and I’m pretty certain that you’re not perfect either. 😉 We all know this. We know these laws, we know that we are obligated to keep them and we know that we can’t. That’s where Jesus comes in. His death on the cross helps us to fulfill this law, frees us from the punishment that is due us for all the times we have refused to obey, makes us God’s children as opposed to being just his slaves, and gives us his Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out so we gradually learn to better obey these laws since we are so powerless to do it on out own.

      Romans 8: 1- 4Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

      I’m done with my soliloquy now. 🙂

  8. It was a good idea to strip this down into numbers since there are a number of issues at consideration here. 🙂 I really appriciate it. You really managed to clear up the conversation. I hope my answer will not bog it down again.

    1. Morals is a word, that describes how a society defines what is right and what is wrong culturally. Ethics deals what is right, or wrong by applying our natural ability for empahty and compassion. It is the method to reach as close to objective justice we may ever achieve, or understand. Jesus spoke a lot about compassion, but in the end I think he as a philosopher, was so much connected to his cultural heritage, that he really did not reach a very universal level on that issue. Or perhaps it was his followers who later wrote down what they remembered him saying. Anyway, we humans are all very much the products of our own culture, and evidently by no means was Jesus an exeption in this.

    Moralism is the word, that describes an understanding of what is right for one group of people is not the same for a nother group. It usually bases the idea of right and wrong on authority, or even supreme authority such as a god. In moralism authority, or the concept of right and wrong is not to be ever challenged nor questioned. Moralism does not allow compassion betwee segragated groups. The Bible is a perfect example of moralism in so many ways. The slavery law is not even the worst in this respect.

    Ethics defines that what causes harm is wrong and what is beneficial is right. I state my claim on the modern understanding of harm vs. beneficial in the issue of slavery on such claims as made by the founding fathers of US and many philosophers during history and finally culminated in the UN resolutions where the representatives of so many nations have come to the common understanding, that slavery in all its forms is wrong, because humans have inaliable rights. One of wich is liberty. It is stripping away human dignity to force her/him to become a slave the property of a nother man under any circumstances.

    Instead of human I have used the word sentient being, because it is possible we humans are not the only species, that can be described as such. The ancient hebrew may have thought it culturally moral to force men into slavery for their poverty, but even the poor have the right to be free. I am sorry, that I did not explain my view, why slavery is wrong, but because of the rather universal recognition of it being wrong in todays world, I made the mistake of simply seeing my point of view as the default position. Now do you at least see why?

    2. Because liberty is so highly valued not only in my cultural backround, but in so many cultures, that it has been added as a human right, I think that from human point of view a god should have respected that right when the law to the ancient Hebrews was given. I do not see, what could have tied the hands of an omnipotent creator god not to do so. There could be cultural reasons why it was morally “natural” for the ancient Jews to take care of their poor and POW:s by enslaving them, but that does not make it right, nor does it show why a god would not condenm slavery all together. If a god thought it was right then for those people, why would we today think it would be wrong in our society.

    By applying a little of that compassion, as Jesus suggested, you should see that it would feel wrong having to have to submit to slavery because you are poor. Poverty is rather rarely the fault of the poor. Why should a god want to punish them for it?

    Wether you think your ability to compassion and need for justice is from a god, several gods, or a result of natural evolution, the main thing is that you seek to do the right thing. In my experience adults should seek to do the right thing because they know it to be right, not because they await for reward, or punisment in the afterlife. In a way one of the things I have respected in Jesus as a philosopher is that he demands us to use our compassion. But so do Buddha, Krishna, Kongfutze and so many others – gods, prophets and philosophers alike.

    The right thing is to help your poor neighbour to help himself to overcome that crisis, but that does not give you the right to enslave him.

    Yes, I am the first to admit I am not perfect. Hopefully no-one (not even any gods) have such unrealistic expectations of me. 😉 However, I can live with that and use my liberty and freedom of choose to repair my shortcomings and to do good and right where I can. I do not have a need for some supernatural entity to forgive me any wrong I have caused and I can only apologize to the people whom I have wronged. If I can not reach them it serves me right to carry the burden of my guilt with me. It helps me to focus not to do such ill deeds in the future. It is human to be imperfect, what is good is that we strive for better, because that is the way we cause more benefits than harm.

    The law about slavery is still in my view one of the laws this particular god alledgedly set, that proves the ethical standard of this alledged god is far from one we even should try to follow.

    Terms such as gods and sin are methods the ancient people came up with, when they had no idea why such phenomenons as natural catastrophies happened and concepts like evil exist. Today our knowledge and understanding have grown in these matters. We no longer need gods to explain why an earhtquake, or a tsunami happens. We know they are random natural phenomenons. Similarly there are perfectly natural reasons for such behaviour, that could be described as sin, or evil. It is our human condition and how we have evolved through eons why we have such feelings and motives as greed, envy and hatred. These lower echelons of our emotional scale are the true reasons for the evil men do. To me the mere fact, that we humans tend to project our human emotions both good and bad to our gods and describe them as angry, or loving, is surmounting evidence, that these gods are all products of human imagination. Who made who in his image?

    Regardless of our difference of opinion, I have the highest respect for you, since you are a jewel, for trying to contemplate what is truly right and what is wrong. 🙂

    1. I have found that outlining things in that way does make it easier to think about them but I usually do it because it gives my writing some kind of organization which I need to keep from falling into confusion.

      I find some of your remarks confusing. I do not still understand how you can say that liberty is a basic human right. Why is that so? You say that modern philosophers, the founding fathers and UN resolutions say that we have liberty as a basic human right. But surely that does not make it true anymore than the previous support for slavery made slavery right. Nor does it explain why God should think so – the UN most definitely does not tell God what is right and what is wrong. If anything, it is the other way around. Perhaps you’ve said it and I simply have trouble spotting it. Could you outline it?

      I gave one argument for the idea that we are not free. I said that we are subject to certain laws that we have obligations to obey and that disobeying them is a moral failing. We are not free to do as we wish when it comes to taking another person’s life, for instance. We are obligated not to and to do so is to fail morally. That is what it means for something to be wrong.

      Of course not even the gods could expect you to be perfect if they were intelligent. By that, I mean that they would not be surprised that we keep doing the wrong things. God does know us. However, they would not be wrong in thinking that you had an obligation to do the right thing. Even you admit that we are obligated to be compassionate to others so it is wrong not to be compassionate to others. For this reason, although it would not surprise them that we fail to be compassionate sometimes, the gods should understand that we fail to fulfill our obligations when we do the wrong things.

      People who do wrong things do deserve to be punished for them. I hope you agree because disagreeing would undermine our whole system of justice. So, if God did exist, he should punish us for what we’ve done wrong and we’ve done a great many wrong things. That’s why we need ‘a supernatural being to forgive us’. Because we’re damned if he doesn’t. We don’t just need him to forgive us, we need him to change us because if he doesn’t we’ll keep doing those things and hurting ourselves and those around us. I don’t suppose you’ve been able to stop doing wrong things on your own. After ages of trying, I don’t think anyone has figured it out. That’s why we need God’s help – we haven’t been able to do it on our own. He was kind enough to send his son to do for us what we needed but couldn’t do on our own even though it cost so much.

      You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5: 6 -8

      I hope I do a better job of understanding your reply.

  9. Well, I must admit I was affraid that my last comment was a bit complicated. Now, I try again and hope I can make some sense. 😉

    First of all, there have been countless of men and women who have sacrificed their lives for the well being of others. Symbolically like Jesus, or concretely like Che Guevara. Some of those people have been well known. Others have fallen into oblivion. Some of them were pacifists and others were not. Some achieved their goals, while others did not.

    The UN does not answer to any particular god. For example the three most populous nations in the UN are not Christian. One is completely secular, a nother is mostly Hindu, and the third is Islamic. This just as an example of how the world is, not to make a point about counting noses would show what is right. However, the values represented in the UN declaration of rights are there because the world leaders have found consensus on those issues to be moral. They do not represent the arbitrary rules of any one religion, or culture, but the most universal human understanding of what is right and what is not. What are the rights of a human being. For a god to order what is moral, or not to the nations of the world, it would need to be such a god that all nations accept as a moral base. Such gods do not exist.

    Instead of some arbitrary and ethically questionable system alledgedly given by this or that god, we do have ethics. I tried to describe it abowe. It is logical and overrides any alledgedly divine set of rules. People interprete the religious scriptures and moral codes they give in such a many ways, that they simply do not give ethical grounds to any morals. If a well meaning person seeks she/he might find ethical commands from the Bible, Quran, Torah, and what have you holy books and traditions, but the only way to determine wether any orders in those books are in fact ethical ie. right, is to compare them to ethics. Slavery is an unethical rule in the Bible, because it causes obvious harm to the slave. We all have a desire to be free. Our liberty of bondage and slavery does by no means cause harm to others. If we choose to use our liberty to harm others, that is wrong and as a result the society has a right to limit our freedom. But that is not the case in the Biblical law. The people there whose right to liberty is violated, are the victims of such treatment not because they used their liberty for causing harm, but because they were poor. Correct? What right has any man to take away the liberty of a nother, because the other person is poor?

    If a society has freedom of religion, it can not be bound to the arbitrary rules of any particular god. The rules of conduct between humans have to be secular and secular systems condenm slavery in all its forms today. There may be slaves today, though it has been declared immoral and illegal all around the globe, but then again, that is something we need to act against. It is our ethical and moral obligation to make the world better in this respect. Not because a god tells us to do so in some scriptures (and as you know not too many scriptures even tell us to act thus), but because the ethics and compassion show us how wrong it is. Slavery is oppression, and we need to rise and rise against oppression untill we have ridden the world of it.

    Because we are humans we need to understand by human logic what is right or wrong. People do not choose between gods and religions. Most people are adherents of what ever religion is culturally natural to them according to what part of the world they are born in. There are conversions from Hindu to Christian and from Christian to Islam, but those are a small minority and because the traffic is not limited to one direction, it hardly proves any divine reasons behind these conversions. People seek out new divine help in the most dire situations of their lives and seem to think they find it sometimes from within their cultural sphere and sometimes from outside it. There are religions that claim those people who have not chosen their god, are going to suffer for an eternity. If that is true, then it is by any logic unethical. Actually for someone to suffer for an eternity for anything they did in life, would be an unethical punishment. I would not want, that to the most evil person I know to have existed. Nor would I think it was just. And besides, we have no means to determine wich one of the religions is true. Because what is incommon to all gods, is that they do not make any appearances for people to know wich one is true and wich one is imagined. Instead all gods demand faith – to believe without evidence.

    I hope I cleared up my earlier comments a bit and did not wander on a tangent too far of. 🙂

    1. In few words, no, you did not clear up your earlier comment. What you have said – and I will summarize it – is this:
      1. The UN knows that liberty is a basic human right because they have found a consensus that such is the case.
      2. They know this by using ethics, a purely secular means of deciding what is right and what is wrong using human logic.

      I already said that what everyone agrees on does not determine what is right and what is wrong. The consensus of the world on any issue does not make it true. So, I don’t really care what the UN says because I don’t think they decide what reality is. So, tell me again why you think if God created us, he doesn’t have ownership of us. If you say again that it is because we are sentient and should be free, you’ll be repeating yourself and arguing in a circle. What I am asking you is why we should be free rather than subject to our creator. Answer it in this format:
      “We should be free to chart our own course rather than subject to our creator if there is one because…

      Now, at the risk of taking this conversation to new places, you say again that we have no means of deciding which religion is true and which is false. What a statement! You decide which religion is true and which is false in the same way you decide the truth of any other proposition – you compare them to reality. The claims of a religion are true if they correspond to reality and false if they do not. You say that none of the gods appear to show which one is true but we Christians believe that our God did show up, that he lived on earth and performed miracles to show that he was who he claimed to be, that his actions were recorded for later generations and that this can be clearly shown by history. What do you think of that claim?

      Besides that, Christianity also teaches that we can know that God exists by looking at the world around us.

      For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. – Romans 1:20

      That is why people have been able to come up with arguments for God’s existence using the universe around us – cosmological arguments, teleological arguments, etc.

      Yes, you did go off track but now you’ve sucked me in so you’re forgiven. 🙂

  10. Thank you for being leanient with me. 🙂 I easily get side tracked. Our agreement as humanity on the nature of right and wrong is as close to it we will ever get. But with better information it is possible to make better decisions. Do you value democracy as a good way of government? What makes it better than other forms of government humans have tried out? Or would you prefer theocracy? Would you prefer slavery over freedom? Is the fact that a god tells you not to steal the only reason why you would not steal? Or do you have secular reasons not to?

    I do not think my sentient being argument is circular in any way. It is based on ethics. The simpliest way to know what is right or wrong is by determining is it harmfull, or not. However, this often requires information of the possible results of our possible actions, or inaction. Information about the future is allways difficult to determine. So, there are no easy choises in that sense. But there are less difficult ones and more difficult ones, according to how well we know what will be the results of our decisions. That is why science has a great potential of taking our morals further and why it allready has done so. For example, by methods of philosophy and biology we now know we are all equal as human beings, regardless of our gender, perplexion, origin, wealth, political standing, or even faith. None of these things were clear to the people who wrote the Bible and no god appeared to them to explain this is so. That is why there is bigotry in the “good book” about gender, race and social standing. These rules about slavery being an example of that. Or why do you think there are different set of rules for slaves who are Jews comparing to the others?

    Arbitrary rules by this, or that divine source are not a very good method of deciding what is right, or wrong, because gods are not in favour of explaining to us why they ordered this, or that, other than some things are abominations to to a particular god. People have written tons of apologetics and explanations to the most arbitrary rules of many a religions, but those are interpretations and just like the religions they do not agree. And no one is even claimng there is a divine inspiration behind the apologetics. What is circular is to say that something is right because a god says so, and that a god says so because it is right.

    We should be free to chart our own course rather than subject to our creator, if there is one, because we have a basic need for freedom and taking away our freedom causes unnecessary harm to us. We have a yearning for freedom that should not be taken from us unless we use it unethically.

    Is the Christian “free will” argument not based on this logic?

    Because gods do not walk among men, it is ultimately we as human societes who decide what is moral. Best way to achieve the most objective morals as possible is through ethical process. We sometimes get it wrong, but not because we did not follown this, or that arbitrary and alledgedly divine set of rules, but because we got greedy, jealous, angry, or simply had bad info on the matter and a legion of other reasons. These are obvious hazards in ethics, but since similar hazards infest the attempts to follow religious sets of rules, they do not make the ethical process any less valid.

    If as a humanity had a way to determine what gods are true, and those gods bothered to make it obvious to everyone we would not need faith. The Hindus sincerily and firmly believe the gods of Veda exist, just by looking at the nature around us. Their claim is that their gods manifest everywhere.

    All religions have components of faith that correspond to reality and those that do not. The religions can not all be true because they are (almost all) mutually exclusive. When they present arguments that do not correspond with reality, that is called a miracle, but that is special pleading, because all religions have some sort of miracles. According to historical methodology it is not even sure Jesus existed and even if he was, by no means of historicity may we conclude we have knowledge that the miracles he alledgedly performed were true. It is one of those cases in history where everything is based on non-confirmed hearsay. Same applies to miracles performed by Buddha or Krishna, for that matter.

    An omnipotent god would not perform miracles to be witnessed by some groups of people. Such an entity would only have to confirm us in our hearts and minds, without any sacrificial deeds, healing of the sick, or appearing as a face in someones toast and certainly not by threatening eternal torment in the afterlife, which of the imagined entities in fact exists. For some reason, it seems, if any gods exist, there are just some people who are convinced by this or that god. How could it hurt us to know from our birth wich one is true? By far most people find the gods of their own culture as the most plausible ones. The great world religions have made their mark in history and spread among nations furthest by violence, conquest, colonialism, imperialism, holy war and other unethical means. No gods have interfered in this.

    I am sorry for the tangent, but since you were interrested I tried to address it a bit further here. 🙂 I still have some reading to do on the poverty issue and I will look up your latest link. I know that blog and used to comment there from time to time. But the debates sometimes got a bit heated there, and it felt like I was (not intentionally) just offending some of the readers there. I have no will to spread ill feelings. I only want to discuss interresting matters in a civilized tone. Have I managed here so far?

  11. “I only want to discuss interresting matters in a civilized tone. Have I managed here so far?”

    Since you asked, I have not found you to be uncivil in any way nor intentionally offensive. Of course you do certain things that might upset others just like everyone else. For one, you keep going on tangents and it takes you an awful lot of words to answer one question. 😉 I don’t mind because I’m pretty good at picking out what I want to talk about and forgetting the rest (which is exactly what I am about to do) but some people don’t like it.

    “We should be free to chart our own course rather than subject to our creator, if there is one, because we have a basic need for freedom and taking away our freedom causes unnecessary harm to us.”

    aha! A clear answer. I don’t find it intuitive that taking away our freedom causes us unnecessary harm. Assuming that our creator loves (like it is said that God does) and wants the best for us, then he would only exercise his authority over us for our good. In that case, taking away our freedom would not harm us. On the contrary, it would be good for us. And if a creator exists, he is definitely more knowledgeable than we are so he can probably make better decisions. So, taking away our freedom does not necessarily harm us. Think of parents and their children. Children aren’t free to run their own lives – usually. They are under their parents. Does this necessarily harm them?

    You also have not responded to my argument that we are not free because there are moral laws that we must obey. You certainly believe that there are such laws. How do you reconcile the fact that we are to be free with the knowledge that we must keep these laws (not stealing, etc) whether we want to or not?

    “An omnipotent god would not perform miracles to be witnessed by some groups of people. Such an entity would only have to confirm us in our hearts and minds, without any sacrificial deeds…”

    But don’t you see? Even if he did, those who did not want him could still suppress it. Christianity teaches that he has done so. That what can be known about him is obvious to us and that we only refuse to believe in him because we don’t want to. Because like you have so often demonstrated, we desire to be free to do as we wish but his existence – the existence of a being so much greater than we, who created us – would make that impossible. We do not wish to submit.

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. – John 3:16 -21

    Now, I will answer your off-topic questions. 🙂
    “Do you value democracy as a good way of government? What makes it better than other forms of government humans have tried out? Or would you prefer theocracy? Would you prefer slavery over freedom? Is the fact that a god tells you not to steal the only reason why you would not steal? Or do you have secular reasons not to?”

    I prefer democracy to a dictatorship. I prefer it because I believe all men are sinful and if any one person were to have absolute power, he cannot be stopped when he does something immoral. When Jesus returns and establishes his kingdom, we will have the kind of theocracy in which God is in direct rule with no human intermediaries (as I understand it) and I will love it. I know that stealing is actually wrong because God said so. I do not steal for a host of reasons – I understand that it is wrong and therefore should not be done. I do not want to steal. I do not wish to hurt him or myself or make a mockery of the cross. I do not wish to go to jail, etc. Those are two very different issues.

    Now, no more tangents, ok? 🙂

  12. OK. I try to stay on topic, though in my opinion the reasons for the choise of democracy over theocracy is right on topic, just like my point about reasons for not to steal. But it is your blog and you decide. 🙂

    I do not choose not to believe because I do evil, and would not like to be condemned because of it. I consider myself as one of the good guys. In fact, I do not think I choose not to believe at all. It is more like I am not compelled to believe by what has been presented as evidence to me, nor does the morals behind any religious system convince me of their necessity. On the contrary, most religious systems offer such tribal moralism as moral, that it only serves to increase my skepticism.

    As an example, it is much the same as you are not compelled to believe Allah is the only god and Muhammed is His prophet, I simply reject that notion as much as I reject the idea that Jesus is the son of Yahweh and has risen from the dead to redeem us from the eternal pain in hell. I find neither of them compelling. To me they sound myths. But most people who do find them compelling, do so because of their cultural backround, not as a result of neutral contemplation between these claims. Why should the other group of people be condemned to eternal suffering as a result?

    I do not steal because I would not want to live in a society where taking what belongs to others would be allowed. On that common ethical goal such morals are based on in every human society, not on any arbitrary orders by this, or that divinity. Is that not reason enough? I actually live in such a world, because capitalism is based on few persons stealing what belongs to all of us, as if it was just theirs, but that is a nother issue. I do not steal because I know it would harm the owner of the stuff and would disrupt the harmony in life I seek. I do not steal because I know I would suffer a bad conscious for doing so. In my view, punishments by the law are set for those people who steal regardless of the harm they know they cause by braking the laws.

    People who live in different cultures and who are adherents of a legion of different religions, not because they made a conscious choise to reject your god, but because they were born into cultures where those religions are natural part of life, do not think slavery is acceptable. Most Christians in the world would condemn any form of slavery out right. The UN resolution in this respect is important, because it represents both cultural evolution and the consensus of most of the nations in this world on what is right and what is not. Yet, we have not been able to rid the world of slavery even today…

    Parents do not own their children. At no point are children the property, and should not be slaves, of their parents, because that would surely hurt them. Correct? It would be against their natural need of liberty. Parents are in responsibility of taking care of their children and part of that is not to give them “free will” over all matters, but only before they grow up. If kids start to enslave, or kill each other, parents are ethically obligated to step in and stop the obvious harm by it, because they can. And loving parents will. No gods ever interfere where humans enslave, or kill each other. Instead some gods have given orders for people to enslave and kill each other.

    Thank you for forgiving my uningenious style of writing and getting on tangents. 🙂

    1. I know why you think you do not believe. Have you ever read ‘Till we have faces’ by C S Lewis? He makes an important point in it that I will quote at the end of this comment.

      I understand the reasons you give for choosing not to steal. In fact, I use them myself. In order to understand your reasoning however, consider yourself the dictator of a country. In that situation, where there is no one above you to whom you answer, the only reason for you not to steal is that you do not want to. If you wanted to, what would compel you not to? If stealing would give you what you wanted, why not do it?

      Here is an instance: When I was writing my Junior High School finals, the school administrator were lax. They did not mind if student cheated – told each other answers, used their notebooks, etc. In fact, the teachers encouraged us to. My brother said that someone even got punished for not helping out another student in the exams. The exams were difficult. Our teachers were not good. I didn’t know the answers to a lot of the questions. During my french exam, I had a terrible headache that made me unable to remember even what ‘mademoiselle’ meant. People thought I was stupid for not cheating. I wouldn’t gain anything from failing those exams. No one would punish me if I cheated – on the contrary, they would praise me. If I looked at my notebooks, I might even learn a few things I had missed before.

      The ‘I don’t do wrong things because my society doesn’t allow it or because it would harm me or someone else or because I don’t want to’ fails on two levels.
      1. It does not mean that it is actually wrong to do those things. It simply means that you would prefer not to do those things. Therefore, if I prefer to…
      2. From 1, it does not give you a reason not to do those things if you want to and if you can skirt the consequences.

      I never said that parents own their children. You said we should be free rather then subject to our creator because we have a basic need for freedom and taking away our freedom causes unnecessary harm to us.
      I argued that taking away our freedom does not necessarily harm us using that example. In fact, it might be a good thing. So, let’s try this again. Fill in the blank.
      “We should be free to chart our own course rather than subject to our creator if there is one because___________. If you give the same reason again, try to give some support for it and explain why my rebuttal doesn’t work.

      “People who live in different cultures and who are adherents of a legion of different religions, not because they made a conscious choise to reject your god, but because they were born into cultures where those religions are natural part of life…”

      I assume that this is a response to my quote from John. Christianity teaches what can be known about God is plain to every one. It can be seen in the world he created. And that those who do not see it do not want to see it. For this reason, even if someone is born in a culture where everyone is Muslim, they ought to know the truth if they wish to. Of course they could not be condemned if this was not their fault. You do not need to believe this right now. You just need to understand it. So, do you understand how this would work if it were true?

      I understand that you read the link from sifting reality but you have not replied to the other two links that I provided namely that giving people money to live on while they are unemployed results in their remaining unemployed. Here are the links again:

      That is true even if the government does not give out free phones. 🙂
      My laptop has run down. I’ll be back.

      1. No, I have not read that story from C.S. Lewis though I love his childrens books. 🙂

        Your dictator argument clearly explains why we favour democratically chosen governments over dictatorships. Few of the most horrific dictatorships ever to have existed on earth have been Christian.

        In your school example the system was being corrupt. The options a person in that situation are either to go along with the system, or to fight it. You must have some higher officials to wich to appeal to, when students find their educational system corrupt? As for a singular student the question is even more simple. Does cheating under those conditions hurt your image of yourself more than restraining oneself from cheating? You see, you allways stand to loose something by doing the wrong thing. One of the major problems of modern socities is that kids are not taught any ethics in schools.

        In the Nürnberg trials it was decided that there are such wrong and so harmfull actions a soldier can not avoid legal responsibility for them by appealing to the fact that he was under orders. However, legal responsibility is often the result only if the soldier served on the loosing side. Most horrible war crimes are done by imperialist armies that conquer other nations and their soldiers rarely end up in any trials for the questionable actions they did. The US for example, does not give any of its men to international war crimes tribunal in Haag. But men who have been engaged in atrocities are often broken by the very knowledge of what they have done. Unless they are total psychopats. And no gods appear anywhere. This is just as it is.

        You wrote: “The ‘I don’t do wrong things because my society doesn’t allow it or because it would harm me or someone else or because I don’t want to’ fails on two levels.
        1. It does not mean that it is actually wrong to do those things. It simply means that you would prefer not to do those things. Therefore, if I prefer to…
        2. From 1, it does not give you a reason not to do those things if you want to and if you can skirt the consequences.”

        I agree with the abowe absolutely. For people who have not been brought up to understand basic ethics, so they do not want to do harm to others, the legal system is there to pose a threat for them to consider the bargain between risk of being caught and the possible benefits of causing the harm. Still there are plenty of people who break the law both Christians and others. Some have obviously calculated the system to have better betting chances and some are just idiots. What can you do?

        Most people however, follow the rules of a society (morals) because they want to live in a society where everyone follows those rules. Not because they fear the punishment for braking the rules. Correct?

        We should be free to chart our own course rather than subject to our creator if there is one because there was no point in creating us with a free will, if we are not allowed to use it. And because we have an intuitive need for liberty. Do we not?

        If there is a creator god who has all the power, and if this god has such knowledge, that it is less harmfull to us humans to be controlled by this deity then by ourselves, then why does this god not interfere in the human world when humans engage in the most horrible deeds against each other? With power comes responsibility. Yes? And with absolute power comes also absolute responsibility. The reason can not be that this god values the freedom and free will of oppressors, slavers and murderers more than the lives of those who have been enslaved, abused and murdered. Or is it?

        You said: “Christianity teaches what can be known about God is plain to every one. It can be seen in the world he created. And that those who do not see it do not want to see it.” Well, I am sorry, but this does not make much sense. People do choose their religions by the culture into wich they are born into and only a fragment of people choose voluntarily to convert to some other religion. But there are convertions to Muslim or Buddhist from Christianity and vice versa. Why do people, who were born into Christian culture, reject it and think they find harmony from some other religion? If the truth about gods is plain to everyone what is the point of evangelism? Are humans not all equal in the eyes of your god? Does an average Chinese family end up in hell because they once heard about Christianity, but it was culturally not compelling enough for them to convert into Christianity? You know the same applies by the teaching of Islam? How are the average Chinese to know wich is false? How do you know?

        I must admit that I actully think, that to me, what can be known about a god with the knowledge different gods have alledgedly presented about themselves, is quite plain. That they are all equally drawn from the human imagination. But I do not demand to have the absolute knowledge about this. That is just simply what they appear to me, and I really can not choose not to see it any other way, with what information I happen to have on the subject.

        Oh I did read the other two links, and kind of thought I responded them too, but let me just briefly try again. 😉 In the other text the US situation was compared to the situation of Sweden. “Countries with much deeper declines in GDP, such as Germany and Sweden, have unemployment rates far below ours.” Sweden has a very functional and similar model of social security with Finland. Germany has a different but a working model too. There are programs to make the unemployed active members of the society again in all of these countries. Some of those work better than others, but in comparrison to the OT slavery rules these systems are far superior, if not perfect.

        I still do not see how enslaving people would make them active or be otherwise good for them even in the OT model. The only difference to their state of freedom it serves is that they will not starve to death.What we know about slavery from history is that, if there is one thing that makes people apathetic, it is becoming a nother mans slave. Slaves only become active, if they are thiking of rebellion, or revenge.

    2. I’m going to try to tidy this up. Here’s how we’ve come so far:
      I wrote a post in which I concluded that the slavery in the OT, if the laws were followed, was permissible at the least.

      You commented that if those laws were from God, slavery, however humane, would not have been permitted and gave several reasons
      1. God is omnipotent and so could implement a better system for taking care of the poor. You used your own welfare system as an example of something better than slavery
      2. The practice of owning someone else is morally reprehensible and should not be allowed.

      I responded to your comments:
      1. God’s omnipotence does not include the ability to make square circles. Since God allows our actions to affect outcomes, the kind of systems he can implement depend on how we respond and since we do so badly, we will probably do something wrong with any system he implements. I also pointed out that your welfare system has issues.
      2. I said that God is our creator and owns us. so the practice of owning someone else is not in itself morally wrong.

      You responded:
      1. You said your system did not make people passive but did not produce any studies to the effect.
      2. You said that owning someone else is wrong because it deprives them of their freedom and this harms them.

      I responded:
      1. I gave one study showing that providing people with money to live on while they were unemployed results in their disinterest in looking for more jobs.
      I provided a news article saying that when Obama increased the length of time for which people could claim unemployment benefits, the unemployment rate rose as a result. and that this could be extrapolated and used to argue for the long-term effects
      I provided a blog post with examples both in the comments and in the post itself of how people refuse to work if they can get unemployment benefits: quitting their jobs for it, etc.

      2. I argued that depriving someone of their freedom does not necessarily harm them and used the example of children who are under their parents. Therefore, the reason does not work.

      You responded:
      1. You said our system is flawed and that even a flawed system like that is better than slavery. I suppose this rests on your second point that owning someone else is wrong in and of itself and we still don’t have a working reason for that. You did not respond to links.
      2. You said that parents do not own their children, misunderstanding my point. Your original argument was that owning someone is wrong because it deprives people of their freedom and depriving people of their freedom hurts them. My response was that depriving people of their freedom does not necessarily harm them therefore owning someone can’t be wrong for that reason.

      This is where we currently are. We’ve discussed lots of other things too, but this is the real issue. This is what we need to be replying to

      I promised you a quote from Till we have faces.
      One of Lewis’ arguments in the book was that we sometimes do not know what we mean when we speak so we do not even know why we reject God. We think it is one thing when it is really another. Here is the quote:

      “The complaint was the answer. To have heard myself making it was to be answered. Lightly men talk of saying what they mean […] When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak openly, nor let us answer. Till that need can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”

      I wrote you two replies. In order to respond adequately and without wasting too much time, you’ll have to think of which ones are the most important and address them as concisely as possible. I suggest you focus on the summary in this comment and ignore the rest. Or you can respond to all of them if you wish.

  13. I have no read the links you provided. Thank you for having that insight in your society. 🙂 It seems to me your social security system is much more flawed then ours. My sincere condolances. For example, in Finland we do not handout mobile phones to unemployed people by government money, and certainly not to children.

    After reading your links, I see now how there is a risk that a crappy and uninspiring social security system may make some people passive. But I would see that as a negative side effect, that should be comparrisoned to the positive effects, like the price of work not dropping dramatically so people would need to sell themselves as slaves. So, even a crappy social security system should be better, than slavery wich only works as a weird punishment for becoming poor. But you are right, that a social security system should be supportive of people to seek out new opportunities in their lives. I do not see the slavery system in OT actually having that effect, though.

    Perhaps there is a reason after all, why the UN and most of the countries in Christendom have chosen to condemn slavery, but not social security systems. Though slavery is suggested as a society model by a god and social security based on taxes is not.

    1. “Most people however, follow the rules of a society (morals) because they want to live in a society where everyone follows those rules. Not because they fear the punishment for braking the rules. Correct?”

      I don’t know but I’m willing to bet most people don’t run red lights because they don’t want to get hit by a car, not because they are bothered that the society might fall apart if they do. The second reason, if present at all, is probably secondary.
      you said you agree that neither of the given reasons for not doing wrong things show that those things are wrong. If we both agree about that, then what have we be arguing over? My claim has never been that people need to believe in God to act in the right way – just that they need a motive.

      Being subject to our creator does not undermine our free will just as being subject to teachers or parents does not undermine our free will. We are free to act as we wish in accordance with certain regulations. Disobeying those rules produces negative consequences. I wouldn’t say we have a ‘need’ for liberty but we do have a ‘desire’ for it. We have been here before. A child desires liberty from his parents, but it is probably in his best interest not to have it. Do you have any more reasons why we should be free rather than subject to our creator? It seems to me that the main reason you oppose the idea that our creator owns us is that you want to be free to do as you wish. That is the reason you keep coming back to. You have as yet been unable to show that we should have that desire fulfilled while I have argued that it is sometimes in our best interest if it were not fulfilled especially if the creator is wiser than we are. Certainly, you do not believe that we should have it just because we want it.

      “If there is a creator god who has all the power, and if this god has such knowledge, that it is less harmfull to us humans to be controlled by this deity then by ourselves, then why does this god not interfere in the human world when humans engage in the most horrible deeds against each other?”

      I think you are wrong in saying that he does not interferes. He has given us the moral law and the means of implementing punishments for those who violate those laws. What would you have him do – kill the wrongdoers? Then he would have to kill us all since as even you agree, we are all wrongdoers. It is not murders, oppressors and slavers that have made my life hell, it is the normal people I meet everyday. The people who say hurtful things, lie and cheat and I’m willing to bet that there’s a lot more of them than there are murderers. Shouldn’t they be punished too? Wouldn’t that condemn everyone? Or are you going to say that he should only punish the murderers and slavers? “Punish them. They’re worse than me. All I did was poke fun at the fat boy.” You’ve heard this a million times: he loves us – all of us – and he wants to save us. To accomplish that, he did for us the only thing that would save us from ourselves. He sent his son not just to bear the punishment for our sins, but to make us into new people – people who can learn to avoid things like that. That is a far cry from not interfering. If Christianity is true, then God does interfere. He just doesn’t do it the way you want him to.

      “Summers knows why the US rate is so high. He explained it well in a 1995 paper co-authored with James Poterba of MIT: “Unemployment insurance lengthens unemployment spells.”That is: When the government pays people 50 to 60 percent of their previous wage to stay home for a year or more, many of them do just that.”

      That is the main point of the article – that giving money to people who are unemployed keeps them unemployed – and you have still not responded to that. He mentioned Sweden and Germany, not to undermine his point (obviously) but to point out that the situation should be different. How do you respond to his point?

      Slavery in the OT when compared to unemployment benefits is better in one way – it emphasizes the need to work. That has been the point of my argument all this while. The man who has no job and gets money for free and the man who sells himself to work for someone else because he is poor and needs the money; of the two, the second is not the one likely to become comfortable in his situation. He is the one likely to work hard and find a way to buy his freedom. The man getting unemployment benefits does not need to do this. He gets money to live on even if he does nothing. in fact, he might start to think he has a right to it just because he is poor and the society makes other people pay for those who are poor.

  14. Actually your red lights example sums up my notion about why we follow the rules of society quite nicely. 🙂 We do not stop in the red lights just because we fear collision, but because we are aware of the fact that if everyone follows the trafic lights, that little part of trafic and society will function and there will be no collision. There is no divine rule in the scriptures that tells us to follow the traffic lights. And even if there was, that would not be the thing that compels us to do so.

    We have no knowledge of a creator. I am familiar with the arguments presented in behalf of such an entity, these are often intriguing, but I have not been convinced by them. Most of those arguments are simply about a demiurgi, not about a benevolent god, not to speak about a personal god. Even if we recognize that there is a creator entity (wich I do not), we do not know the character of such a being. There is a lot of wishfull thinking involved in religions describing this entity as good or benevolent, but it is not covincing, though it may compell people who really want that there is a benevolent god. When something good happens religious people attribute that to the good nature of their god, but when something bad happens, they resort to “god is mysterious” notion. Correct? Why should such an ambiguous entity have ownership and rule over us?

    Yes I want to be free to do as I please, but I still do recognize the limitations of my freedom a society sets on me. Yet, I would not accept the idea, that a society owns me. If the society was totally corrupt, then I would have every right to suspect the rules set by such a society. In fact as an adult person I would have a responsibility to do so. If the rules would require me to do something totally unethical, my responsibility would extend to disobeyance. Same goes for any imaginable gods or their arbitrary sets of rules.

    If I own a hammer, I have the right to do with it as I please. I may use it to my own ends, or destroy it at will. Yet, I do not have the right to smash it into someone elses head. Not even if a god would command me to do so. My ownership does not extend to that. Only if that other person would threaten my life or the life of a nother person, would it be ethically right for me to act so.

    If I owned a dog, I have no right to starve it to death, or even beat it. If my dog attacked a child or any other person, I would have the responsibility to stop it. But if any dog, I do not even know, attacked a child, and I could even try to stop it, I would also have the responsibility to do so. The power I could weild in that situation would be the thing that would also make me responsible. I have no right to own a nother person and especially I have no right to hit a nother person unless in self defence or in defence of a defenceless party. Do you see what I mean? Do you not want to be free?

    Now, it seems we did not even talk about the same issue, when we engaged about the ownership a god might have on us. You see it as a teacher and a student relationship, and I did not understand that, because I do not percieve a teacher owning her/his students.

    As I said an omnipotent god would have a responsibility to act on behalf of those who are oppressed or victims of violence. You asked if I wanted all wrongdoers to be killed by god, but no I would not desire that. I do not even see why should I. I am sure you agree, that an omnipotent and omniscient god could have better ways to interfere even in such atrocities as war and slavery. Killing the wrongdoers is not even the best way humans could correct such situations, why would a god submit to that? However, in my opinion, founding just a nother religion among all the others in the world is not a very effective, or even intelligent way a god could act on behalf of those who are enslaved, or otherwise oppressed, not to speak of those murdered. Especially not, if said god first gave some rules for the worshippers of this god, on how to oppress and exterminate other people.

    I am sorry to hear that people have hurt you. I have come to understand, that pain people cause to each other in everyday situations may sometimes become unbearable. Yet, I am happy, that you have not been enslaved or become the victim of other forms of oppression or violence. Because these are more even more serious matters in human conduct. Doing right, or wrong is not all about punishment and reward. The best reward for doing right is knowing that you have done so. The knowledge of having done wrong is enough punishment for most people. Most horrible evil in this world is often done in the firm belief, that it was right, or even that it was something this, or that god wanted.

    Evil must be stopped. Would you not expect an omnipotent god to be able to convince any wrongdoer to see the wrong they are doing and compel them to stop? Yet, such interference is not at least visible anywhere in the world, not even in history or in the most grievous acts of human terror, or violence. I am not asking punishment. Punishment may serve a social need of the social group of humans. Eternal punisment such as hell for temporal crimes is totally unethical and out of all proportions. If that was true, it would show such malice from the alledged all creator, that calling such an entity “benevolent” would be totally disingenious.

    In many religions there are basic humane rules that make sense to all of us. Like your example about stealing, that is seen as an immoral act in most cultures. When these rules make sense in ethics they are fine with me. But many religions also incorporate rules alledgedly from divine sources (and therefore seen as undisputatble) that are not ethical. Slavery in the OT is one of those.

    A simple game of compassion, if you please. If one day you were so poor you would be starving. Would you prefer becoming a slave for few years and give up your corporal integrity, or have the society to support you with just enough money to survive untill you find a decent job? Wich would you find more supportive?

    Historical examples tell us that even in societies where slaves have had the right to buy themselves free, it has been a very rare occasion indeed that they have been compelled even to try. The paradox is much a result of the fact that the owners are reluctant to give up such slaves because they work harder, than the other slaves. Slave work is universally unefficient without constant fear of corporal punishment. That is most propably why the OT law incorporates the licesense for the owner to beat up his property.

    1. Remember that we are still discussing two major points:
      1. Whether the owning of another human being is morally wrong in and of itself
      2. Whether slavery was a better option in Biblical times than your system of welfare
      Anything else is either a tangent or a red herring and I will be ignoring them from now on. (Yes, this is my attempt to get us back on track).

      “If I owned a dog, I have no right to starve it to death, or even beat it.”
      True. You do not own the dog in the way God owns the dog. God created it. You merely adopted it. Besides, it is immoral to be cruel to animals. No one is suggesting cruelty here (unless you think owning someone else is cruelty in principle, a view you still have not provided good reason to accept) I think this is a very simple principle. The creator of a particular thing has certain rights over that thing. You agree with this when about inanimate objects, but you object to it when it comes to living beings (sentient ones in particular). Why? Their sentience does not change this. We’re talking about the creator here – not parents, not teachers, not society. I’m beginning to get the idea that you do not have any reason. You merely reject it because you do not like it. You wish to be free and such a view does not square with your wishes. May I say that is irresponsible? “I want something” does not equal “Any view that says I do not have it is untrue”. Refusing to believe something merely because you do not like it is unwise.

      “A simple game of compassion, if you please. If one day you were so poor you would be starving. Would you prefer becoming a slave for few years and give up your corporal integrity, or have the society to support you with just enough money to survive untill you find a decent job? Wich would you find more supportive?”

      I would pick option 1 if it were properly regulated. It is not about which I find more supportive. It is not about which is more compassionate. It is about which is more prudent and ethical in light of the articles I provided you as to the effects of the second option on society. Lounging around all day and having other people pay for my every need is very nice and supportive, but unethical and imprudent. If people could have the things they ought to work for freely given to them, they would not need to work. In the words of the article, “When the government pays people 50 to 60 percent of their previous wage to stay home for a year or more, many of them do just that.” Those things do not help no matter how ‘compassionate’ you judge them to be.

      I will make one final point about something you keep coming back to. The OT system of slavery did not support the indiscriminate beating of slaves in order to get them to work harder. It implemented the sabbath as a day of rest especially for slaves – a counter productive measure if you want them to work harder. It encouraged masters to treat their slaves well, remembering that they were once in the same position and would have desired compassion too. A slave who was maimed by his master was free. A master who killed his slave go the death penalty. Those are not the laws of a society that cares little for their slaves’ well-being.

      No, the old testament includes the license for a master to beat his slave for the same reason it includes the license for a father to beat his son and the elders to beat a member of the community – not so that the father could beat his son indiscriminately, but because that was how people who had done something wrong were punished. If a slave refused to work although his master provided for him and his family, he was failing to fulfill an obligation and punishment was in order just like in the case of anyone else who failed to fulfill and obligation. The same went for a slave that stole from his master or assaulted his master’s daughter. Allowing punishment does not equal allowing indiscriminate punishment.

      If you wish to discuss the other peripheral issues, we can do that by email but let’s try to keep this about slavery.

      And a good day to you sir.

  15. Well,beating someone up, is not ethical in any sense. Not as a punishment nor for any other reason. In ethics the only thing that allows violence is defence from violence. Slaves were subject to their owners and you can beat a person pretty badly up while not maiming her/him. The beating is a crucial part of what kind of slavery we are talking about, so I take it is well covered by the topic. Saying that it was culturally necessary for the god to give them licence to beat their slaves up is admitting that this god was not showing much omnipotence, nor compassion.

    Ethics is the rationalization of compassion. Compassion is an emotion most mammals and even some other animals share with humans. It is a very effective and usefull emotion for us social animals. We humans have the ability to foresee the results of our actions far beyond most other animals. This causes our ethics to be more complicated than those of apes, but apes also have morals, as do most social animals. Morals is the conduct model inside any society. It is formed by tradition and ethics and by consensus within a society about what is right and what is wrong. Though there are allways people who do not agree about all moral issues, in a democracy the descision of cultural morals is made by the majority. Sometimes morals goes against ethics. People allow all kinds of wrong, all too easily, when it does not concern themselves directly. But they also come to judge wrong often, even if it is not hurting themselves, because compassion tells them something is wrong. Our ethics and as a result our morals evolves as a result of our increased knowledge and information about the potential results of our actions and inaction. With better understanding and information it is easier to make better judgement of situations. However, some ethical conclusions are easy to reach by the minimum amount of info.

    I thought that our cultural ethics had far outgrown the idea of slavery. It is universally accepted that slavery and other forms of oppression are totally condemnable, and as a result there are no countries where slavery was legal (exept North Korea, perhaps 😉 ). So it is not about what I want, so much as what has been seen as universal morals by humanity. But yes, I want it too to be totally abolished and not accepted in any form. My compassion tells me that owning a nother being such as myself is wrong by anyone. It also tells me that punishing a person for being poor by the loss of liberty of that person is wrong. In my notion only those who have committed serious crimes should face loosing their freedom. My compassion and reason tell me also, that it is totally unethical to beat up a defenceless person under any circumstances and that it is especially degrading if you own that person as property.

    I simply cannot fathom, why an omnipotent, omniscient and alledgedly benevolent god did not come up with any better system of “wellfare” than what has been universally condemned by all the nations in the UN resolution as unethical and immoral. There may be flaws in human invented systems of wellfare, but the slavery system is just about as flawed as you can get.

    It all makes sense though, if you do not assume, that this system was from a god, but like all religious arbitrary systems all around the world it was invented by men coming from that culture. Their cultural history reminded them that it is a crappy thing to be a slave, so they were compelled by their compassion to come up with a system they could tell each other was somehow more humane than that implemented on them in Egypt. This is by far not the last time such an event in human history has happened. Jews having escaped the nazi concentration camps in Europe have now incarcerated the Palestinians into refugee camps where they live for generations. The Jews are not systematically destroying the Palestian people, but the palestinian refugee camps are only marginally less bad for people than the Jewish ghettoes under nazi rule. This is not ethical, but it can be sold to people by telling that it is what a god wants and that as supreme supernatural source of morals such a god is beyond all ethics.

    The loss of liberty has a terrible toll on people. When people become enslaved they become apathetic. But they also might become vengefull, they might even engage in terrorist action. As a result the society of the enslaving people becomes militarist. The treshold for violence goes down. Slavery reduces human dignity and the general value of human individuals becomes less in the eyes of all involved. Segragation grows between the two groups. And if there is a legal escape clause from slavery, people who are not slaves start to think it is their own fault that these people are slaves. Such clauses are added to slavery laws to smoothen up the guilty conscious of the owners about the oppression slavery is. About them abusing other people.

    You have the right to think that the particular type of slavery in the OT is, or at least was somehow beneficial and ethical in those days and could be still, but at least you do not have the right to implement it on any other person.

    If you can see that it is even a little bit questionable, that I should brake a hammer I think I own, even if I was the creator of that hammer, then maybe with what has been said before in mind, you can see why I object to the idea of any entity or a nother person claiming ownership over me, or you. If not, then I guess I was just the wrong person to try to explain to you this notion. 😉 If there is a creator god, we are no longer the property of that god, because by giving us our own “souls”, that god has given away our bodies and minds as property and handed these to us. Never mind, if that god ever created us.

    I hope you have understood my point, if not, there is little I can say to change that. I can well accept that you do not see this my way. It would be a strange world if we were all of the same mind on all issues, now would it not? I have said my piece and apologize that I took some stray paths. It was not intended as diversion from the discussion, but rather my mind wandering of… I think I now see your point, though I do disagree. I thank you for the effort you put in to explain your point of view, it has broadened my vision of the world a lot.

    Peace, love and happines to you. 🙂

    1. My response to your point about slavery will be in a blog post. I think other people would benefit from it. It is located here:

      “If there is a creator god, we are no longer the property of that god, because by giving us our own “souls”, that god has given away our bodies and minds as property and handed these to us. Never mind, if that god ever created us.”

      I do not see how that follows. God, the owner of everything in the universe, creates a person, gives them souls and free will and magically, they are no longer his? Do you think you can explain that further?

  16. OK. I try just once more, though if you did not understand my point by now, I am propably not capable of explaining this to you at all. I hope, that if my rambling does not help you see my meaning, you will at least come to understand it on your own some day, even if you still would not agree. 🙂

    I could claim I am one of the last persons ever to think something transformed into anything by means of magic, or other supernatural force. I think the magic part was in the assumption, that there is a god that created anything, but if we assume, that magic is true, then by creating humans as personas, that entity created us as separate beings. As individuals capable of contemplating our social history, to communicate about abstracts (such as gods) and most importantly to make ethical choises and be responsible for them. Personas, that are not inherently owned as property by a nother persona.

    This ownershipthing is of course much reliant on what we mean by that word. But if we think that a god would own people in the sense they could be ordered to kill other people, as is alledged in the Bible, then that order and the sort of ownership it represents is unethical. There are a number of ethically justifiable situations where we can kill people, like in self defence, or in defence of the integrity of a sovreign nation, but demanding people to show they are subjects of a god by killing their own children, as Abraham was demanded to do by “El” (the lord), or to commit a genoside on a nother nation to gain their property, as the ancient Hebrew, were alledgedly ordered to do by the same god, by that time called “Yahweh” (I who am), are not ethical justifications of murder or genoside.

    In the situations where this same god alledgedly caused a natural catastrophy to destroy an etnire nation, such an act is not ethically justifiable by demanding ownership as a creator. Even more so, if the claim that this god is omnipotent is true. The mere fact that people were disobidient to this creator, does not give the deity any right as an owner to destroy them, since in this alledged omnipotent capacity, there must have been more reasonable ways to deal with such a problem. Or does that not seem to you as an overreaction? Our compassion and capacity for emphaty should tell us, that any punishment should be in proportion to the crime. Yes? Destroying man woman and child is hardly in any proportion to any crime. What crimes had the newborn babies committed, that they deserved death? In my view a loving and benevolent god, would have used the immense power it has to convince people to abandon their wicked ways. To make them understand what they did was wrong. Sending a couple of guys to tell them their entire culture was corrupt, was a futile gesture, and the omniscient god should have been able to know it is not going to help. I could predict as much.

    Once again, if you look at these stories from a naturalistic viewpoint understanding human history and a bit about human psyche, they are perfectly clear, and no gods are needed to explain what happened.

    Men explaining their unethical behaviour like a conquest can silence their conscience by appealing to supreme authority to override ethics. Especially men who have escaped slavery in such a civilization as Egypt where everything happened to satisfy supreme authority of the divine god-king the pharaoh.

    In ancient times people did not have the means to know what causes natural catastrophies, so the natural explanation was something originating from the supernatural world. Because of the unpredictability of such events people sought security from the obvious wrath of these deities. Sometimes by sacrifices or other rituals to prevent, that it would not happen to them. It was conforting for them to think such events took place for a reason and that the gods would not inflict such fate upon people unless those people were bad in some ways. Cultural differences in morals served as perfect explanation why the other people were deemed as bad by the gods.

    Ownership demands responsibility. If your dog bites a human being, or a nother dog, you as the owner are in responsibility. Correct? If a god owns people the way you might own a dog, a god would be responsible for the actions of humans. A creator god may only ask to be relieved from the responsibility of the actions of humans, if such a god is not an owner of these humans. That is, if those humans are separate individual beings with freedom and responsibility resulting from that freedom. Otherwise we are talking about a double ethical standard. Do you see?

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