There is not one verse in the Bible inhibiting slavery, but many regulating it. It is not then, we conclude, immoral. - Rev. Alexander Campbell
One of the greatest deceptions inflicted on humanity is the assertion that without laws and moral standards imposed by a “higher power”, human beings would have no basis for prohibiting murder, rape, armed robbery, or other transgressions.
Such an assertion begs the question, how does God decide what is right and wrong? Is it wrong for us to murder innocent children only because it is forbidden by God, or did God have some rational basis for deciding that it is wrong? Depending upon your religion, of course, it is questionable that God thinks killing innocent children is wrong at all, since the God of the Torah and the Old Testament was known to indulge in this practice Himself when the urge hit Him, as is discussed in the “God is a Terrorist” chapter of this book.
Even if it were not for this divine hypocrisy, many of the rules handed down by religions over the years are nonsensical in today's world, and even conflict from culture to culture, sect to sect, and religion to religion. Indeed, many of the rules handed down by the world's “great” religions are highly offensive to most modern peoples' sense of morality.
Exodus 21:1-4, for example, provides the following guidance: “If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself.”
Leviticus 25:44 also expressly authorizes the practice of buying slaves from neighboring countries: “Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids.” The New International Version of the Bible interprets this, and the following passages, as follows: “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.”
Most people today do not condone the practice of buying and selling human beings as slaves. Most religious leaders today also condemn slavery, but why? Do they consider themselves more enlightened than the God of their Bible? If so, why bother consulting His Bible at all?
Of course, other religions do not necessarily fare any better. Verse 9.5 of the Koran advises faithful Muslims as follows: “So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.”
Verse 5.51 of the Koran even prohibits befriending those of other faiths: “O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.”
It thus appears that the rational rules all human societies have implemented (i.e., prohibitions on stealing, murdering, raping, etc.) do not come from religion, but were adopted by religion as necessary to the functioning of a civilization. Along with these common sense rules, religious leaders also added their own self-serving commandments and taboos, as well as other prohibitions that appeared rational at the time, but no longer have relevance. Before it was learned that the thorough cooking of pork prevents trichinosis, for example, religious edicts banned the consumption of pigs. Despite the advent of common knowledge that well-cooked pork can be safely consumed, many religions still insist on boycotting pig flesh.
So if religion is not the foundation of a rational morality, what is? Friedrich Nietzsche observed that two distinct and often contradictory sets of moral standards exist: one pleasing to the sensibilities of slaves, and the other which serves their masters.
Nietzsche's “herren morale”, the morality of the master, is the “morality” of the ruling class. Under this moral code, that which enhances the strength of the ruling class is generally considered good, and that which weakens the ruling class is bad. This type of morality demands obedience and compliance from the lower classes, yet inevitably approves of the exploitation of lower classes or foreigners for the benefit of the powerful. In contrast, Nietzsche's “shklavenmoral”, the morality of the slave, is the invention of the poor, the weak, and the oppressed. That which serves to relieve the suffering of the downtrodden is good, that which worsens their plight is bad. Thus, the ruling class frowns upon lying in the courts it controls, while the persecuted despise those who cooperate with the police.
Where does this leave the individual who rejects not only faith-based manipulations, but refuses to accept the role of slave or master? Attempts to comply with a moral code imposed from any external source will ultimately result in failure and inequities, and will leave the unwitting practitioner subject to manipulation by the author of the code. Any code devised by an individual for himself will also fail to provide a clear-cut answer in murky situations.
There never has, and probably never will, exist an integrated moral code which spells out the “correct” action in all circumstance. Despite the howlings of preachers and other deceivers, there are few absolutes in our complex world. Many shades of grey exist in most human dealings, and the problems of perspective, conflicted interests, and varying sentimentalities prevent human beings from constructing a code with which all people could ever hope to agree.
On the other hand, indiscriminately acting out on base desires will not lead an individual to long-term happiness or satisfaction. Human beings crave love and acceptance, and experience much of their happiness through a variety of relationships and cooperative endeavors. An utter lack of concern for others will not only make it impossible to form and nurture positive relationships, the anger and retribution generated from external sources will overwhelm any individual.
As a base principle, I hold that an action is moral if it contributes to an individual's present and future happiness, and does not harm those who are not deserving of harm. This standard has an admittedly large subjective component, but at least the subjectivity is admitted. Those systems which feign objectivity are, at their core, subjective as well, although most of their proponents are hopelessly blinded to their biases.
Those who are searching for a pre-packaged guide to live by will not find it here. The purpose of this text is to destroy false allegiances and limiting beliefs, not to create new ones. One of the costs of mental freedom is the responsibility to think for one's self, and the loss of easy answers. In his classic novel Women, Charles Bukowski poetically opined that although morals are restrictive, they are based upon centuries of human experience: “Some morals tended to keep people slaves in factories, in churches and true to the State. Other morals simply made good sense. It was like a garden filled with poisoned fruit and good fruit. You had to know which to pick and eat, which to leave alone.”
My advice? Be kind and loyal to those who deserve it, and be true to yourself. Don't allow the deceivers to control you with seductive lies, false promises, empty threats or silly platitudes. Avoid causing harm to the innocent, but don't let others play you for a fool. Respect your own life, don't piss it away in servitude to dogma and institutions. Use your strength and your cunning to defend those unable to defend themselves, not to beat the weak into submission for the benefit of the powerful. Indulge your lusts, but do not let them destroy you or those you love. Above all, think for yourself. A life spent in imitation or servitude is a life wasted.
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