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Mar 12 2012

On Christianity and the slavery billboard…

I loved the slavery billboard and thought the message was clear and good – but Sikivu Hutchinson argues that even when the message is understood, the imagery is unwelcome and that we have badly misunderstood the audience.

On the subject of the billboard and whether or not it is racist, I’ll concede that there’s apparently enough contention that it’s the sort of image we should avoid.

I look at that billboard and I’m outraged – but I’m outraged at the source that sanctioned and supported slavery, not at the individuals who are pointing this out. To me, the billboard is the equivalent of saying “Look, they sanctioned slavery, is this what you want to associate with?”…and that’s the sort of statement that one wouldn’t expect to be contentious.

Perhaps Sikivu is right. Clearly there were some who were more than a little upset about the imagery. I’m not even sure I can comment on that, as my own privilege might be preventing a clear understanding. At the end of the day, though, if the billboard isn’t conveying the intended message and achieving its intended goal, then it failed and we need some other message.

I don’t get to decide what someone else finds offensive, and I can’t easily put myself in someone else’s shoes…so I’ll simply agree that the billboard turned out to be a mistake, no matter what my personal impressions of it were.

But when it comes to the religion in question, I won’t be giving an inch of ground away.

She included this line, in her blog post:

“Douglass prefaced his critique by contrasting the corrupt Christianity of a slaveholding nation and the so-called benevolent “Christianity of Christ” practiced by African slaves in liberation struggle.”

Douglass was, if I’m understanding this summary correctly, wrong.

There’s nothing “corrupt” about a Christianity that endorses slavery. The Bible supports it, in both testaments and Jesus never says a word against slavery. That’s part of the reason that the billboard chose this message and one of the reasons that I continually use it as my go-to point for condemning the Bible.

There were plenty of Christians who were critical to ending slavery, but they were acting in opposition to their own religion; cherry-picking the verses that supported their desires and ignoring the ones that didn’t.

One could argue that this is true for all Christians, which would make it very Christian to come up with one’s own interpretation – and that’s true: there are probably as many Christianities as there are Christians.

But, when one’s holy book explicitly sanctions an act, in great detail and never explicitly rejects that act – those who do reject it are on exceptionally weak footing as long as they’re citing the same book as a primary source for their beliefs.

Slavery, in the United States, was ended by people. Religious people and secular people – working toward an ideal that directly opposes the Biblical view. Implying that slavery was a perversion of Christianity simply isn’t true.

107 comments

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  1. 1
    wholething

    Because so many people in this country were enthralled with a Bible that endorsed slavery, this is the only country that required a war to end the practice of slavery.

  2. 2
    starskeptic

    Nicely said, Matt – I am also of the opinion that the ad was dead-on; the only change I would have made would have been to put it somewhere out of easy reach.

  3. 3
    Matt Dillahunty

    Well, I *was* of the opinion that the ad was dead-on. I can’t hold that opinion any longer, because it clearly didn’t achieve its goals.

    What it has done, I hope, is to promote discussions that point us toward better messages and methods in the future.

    1. 3.1
      starskeptic

      I know – “dead-on” and “effective” not necessarily being the same thing…

    2. 3.2
      Martin Wagner

      Every single time AA does one of these billboards they cock it up and just come off looking like d-bags. I wish Silverman would stop being so focused on getting media attention via shock value and start putting his efforts towards positive atheism for a change. Joe Zamecki with his Atheists Helping the Homeless thing here in Austin is a fine example of that kind of effort, but I guess it lacks the requisite “controversy” that attracts media attention.

      1. Zachariah

        What do you guys think of a billboard that shows a picture of Jesus with his arm around Santa with the caption that reads “now which of your imaginary friends are you still buddies with?”

    3. 3.3
      Zengaze

      I never stop finding uses for this quote: “We train young men to drop fire on people. But their commanders won’t allow them to write “fuck” on their airplanes because it’s obscene!”

      Christian morality is what is offensive, not the billboard that draws attention to it. I will give no succour to anyone who wants to sweep that under the rug for the sake of congenial relations.

    4. 3.4
      greensage

      “I can’t hold that opinion any longer, because it clearly didn’t achieve its goals.”

      Its efficacy is all that concerns you? Why take an ‘ends justify the means’ tack on a thing that so offends a minority group? Perhaps it is white privilege at work. I don’t think it’s coincidence that the atheist community is largely white and male, and you–having discussed on TAE the paucity of black atheists–also appear to be aware of the problem. Have to side with Martin on this one; this was just a more extreme iteration of much better previous attempts. See FFRF’s Butterfly McQueen billboard design.

      1. ChrisB

        If it offends the minority group it was intended as a reach out to, then it falls at being effective, simple as that. It doesn’t seem to be an “ends justify the means” thing at all. The very fact that it did offend them beyond simple controversy (The kind that starts conversations; which this one, certainly, has done, though not the one originally intended) means it failed in being effective.

    5. 3.5
      gwen

      Matt, as an African American atheist, I thought the message was to the point…but what the heck do I know… :/ There was a FB comment from a friend who remarked that ‘they’ were lucky ‘we’ didn’t riot. I’m thinking “dude, if you’re going to riot over THAT, you have bigger problems than you think..”.

  4. 4
    Felipe

    I’m not american nor do I know much about American History, so perhaps I’m mistaken on what I have to say.

    It seems to me, though, that the explicit message of the billboard was something like “do you remember this horrible thing that happened when black people were considered as property? Your Bible says it was actually a good thing”. How is it racist when it just shows something that actually happened? I don’t think you could argue in the sense of reinforcing a “black = slave” stereotype, because at the time slavery was legal in the United States, most slaves were black.

    But again, I’m usually quite ignorant when it comes to issues such as this one, so I’m hoping for some correction on the matter if I’m wrong.

    1. 4.1
      TCC

      I’m not sure how that message could be considered explicit – you certainly have to read between the lines to pull out the intended message, which is as you state, and most people don’t see billboards long enough to analyze them.

      I agree with this post in general, definitely. When I first saw the billboard, my reaction was of mild agreement with the implied message but disapproval with the execution. It’s not that the image is shocking but that the message is obscured somewhat by the presentation. I can see why people would consider the billboard to be unnecessarily offensive.

    2. 4.2
      estevan

      At minimum, it’s using an image representing the struggle and oppression of a community of people in a very careless way. The billboard speaks with a hammer which leads to a failure of message. It may not show proper respect for the subject matter. A level of respect that certain audiences require if you’re trying to appeal to them. I personally don’t mind speaking with “hammers” sometimes but we shouldn’t be surprised when we have poor results.

      By the way I recommend everyone read Sikivu Hutchison’s book, Moral Combat. It’s pretty damn good.

    3. 4.3
      Mary2

      With the benefit of hindsight, I actually agree with those who found the billboard offensive. As a disclaimer, I am also neither Black nor American but to me the ad suggests that not only are we blaming the American slavery on Christians, but we are implicitly suggesting that somehow atheists are the good guys. This to me is the offensive bit – there were no waves of atheists fighting against slavery – slavey was a product of the culture of the time, not a division of Christian versus atheist.

      Of course, the bible does condone and even promote slavery, but I dont think you can justly link that as the cause of slavery in the US unless there was a whole lot of non Christians opposed (and as many of the Africans were initially captured and sold by others Africans, I think we can assume that a lot of non-Christians were involved in the trade.)

  5. 5
    Sigmund

    I think it was a tactical mistake to use a picture of an African slave in the ad. There may have been some sub-saharan African slaves present in Palestine in biblical times but I guess the majority of slaves in that region would have been of local, middle-eastern origin and so using an image of one of these would have linked the text to the biblical slaves of the time.
    The unfortunate imagery the AA used made it possible to simply read the ad as promoting African slavery rather than a reminder of biblical morality.

    1. 5.1
      Zen gaze

      This applies to simon’s post below aswel, slavery is slavery whether it was in the bronze age, or the 19th century. The word of the abrahamic god condones it, and American people relate best to the horrors of slavery through the depiction of the slaves that were commonly used in America.

  6. 6
    simon

    im not sure attacking Christians and slavery is a good method. Attacking the bible and slavery, fair point, but tenuous. The period in question shows the social attitude to slavery of the time.

    It was socially acceptable (by most of the population) at the time. Its seems irrelevant of faith or lack of faith. The societies of the time were built off its back. And i dont think it would have been different if it wasn’t mentioned in the religious text of that society. Pick any time in history that has seen slavery. The times change, the reliance on religious text changes but the reason to use slaves remains the same. Cheap labor to support a system thats focused on profit/wealth.

    Most early societies, and newer ones, that are on the rise use slavery to grow and to also help support an unsustainable environment. Its a common mechanism world wide.

    Even in the U.K. were i live, hordes of immigrant workers do the nasty jobs that we dont want to do and they get less than minimum wage. The out put of that work goes directly into the normal retail outlets that we all use.

    In cities like Liverpool (which was basically built from the sweet of slavery) some of its most iconic historic buildings are adorned with images of slavery. The irony of an illegal immigrant working today under a fresco depicting images of slaves from only a few centuries ago is a sad one.

    Even today, slavery is rife. Its estimated that there are now more slaves world wide than in any other time in history. i dont think religion, or any holy book is to blame for that. They are the unseen back bone of most societies.

    The billboard in question is also ambiguous. It depicts a person of obvious African decent with a quote from the bible. Why use some one who could be Afro-american, english or any other nationality that has a population of African decent?

    The slaves at the time, when the text was originally written, would have been from many places, even the same race and geographical location as the people who wrote that part of the biblical text. And so using an image of an African moves it out of biblical time to some unknow. Could be then, could be a few hundred years ago and it could be now. i thinak that is a mistake. And i think that is maybe why its got a lot of negative responses that are not just from the christians of america.

    1. 6.1
      bricewgilbert

      I’ve always seen the reason for using it to demonstrate to believers that the book they generally consider to be perfect and the word of a moral, all loving God is not so nice. It’s an appeal to their own morality and intellectual consistency.

      1. simon

        That argument fails due to the whole fallen man/earth hokum. christians have had an out for that for centuries.

        i think the image of an African slave was a bad idea. The average person who walks/drives by that billboard isnt gonna make the correct connections between slavery in the bible and the bible being used to make slavery acceptable to americans.

        They just see a quote and a controversial image of an African. Bad idea if you want people to think and not just react.

    2. 6.2
      LykeX

      Attacking the bible and slavery, fair point, but tenuous. The period in question shows the social attitude to slavery of the time.
      It was socially acceptable (by most of the population) at the time

      Which is exactly the point. If the bible really was a document inspired by the all-knowing, all-loving creator of the universe, you’d expect it to teach moral standards that transcended the standards of its time, no?

      The whole point, as I see it, is to demonstrate that the bible is just another book, written by very fallible human beings and containing a lot of crap.

      1. simon

        i agree with you. You would think that a book about mr.nice who lives in the sky and can do anything would not have the things in it that it does. But that only works with people like us. Who arnt indoctrinated with the meme. christians just argue that its man that deals in slavery not god and because of free will he cant do anything about are evil ways.

        If your a christian it doesnt work. The argument fails because of the fall of man. You cant possible believe that such a naive argument is gonna work on a system that has been fending of such arguments for centuries. Memes have inbuilt defenses for such attacks. Thats why its still around.

        Keep in mind that some of the quotes in the bible that mention slavery are not talking about the same slavery as america experienced not so long ago and is referenced in the billboard. A lot of slavery thats mentioned in the bible was a type of employment of the time. Given the choice of starvation (as would happen if your country was invaded and any crops/food was taken and or destroyed) or working under a household name, in harsh conditions, but surviving, most would pick the later.

        1. LykeX

          I get what you’re saying about indoctrination. Indeed, many Christians try really hard not to think about these things. That’s why I think it’s worthwhile to point it out.

          As for this:

          A lot of slavery thats mentioned in the bible was a type of employment of the time

          I’ve heard it before an find it unconvincing. Lev. 25:46:
          You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life…

          Sounds like slavery to me.
          The more lenient verses, like the jubilee rules, apply only to Hebrew slaves, not foreigners. In that case, there might be an argument to be made, but even there there are exceptions, like if a slave fathers children, the children become the (apparently permanent) property of the owner, even if the original slave is later released.

          The “fallen mankind” defense also fails. For one, even if people didn’t follow the ideal, couldn’t god at least have made his position clear? Nowhere in the bible do you find a clear-cut condemnation of slavery.
          God speaks directly on the atrocity of using milk in cooking, the horror of leavened bread and the grave injustice of wearing mixed fibers. You’d think he might have dropped a single sentence about slavery.

          I agree that there are many attempts at apologetics on this point, but I don’t think they hold up. That’s why I’m happy to push for a public discussion on this. I think our case is by far the strongest and even if some choose to ignore it, a few might start paying attention.

        2. Joshua Fisher

          I don’t understand how the fall of man provides an out for God. Maybe you could explain that better. God is supposed to be perfect and part of his “perfect” message conveys the proper way to enslave people. It seems pretty cut and dry. The God of the Bible is a monster and the only way to avoid it is to wear a heavy set of cherry picking blinders.

          1. simon

            The problem is we view slavery with modern eyes. The way slavery is viewed has changed.

            During biblical times in most of the world there was different degrees of slavery. Its not the same as it was with Africans in America.

            Historically a lot slaves where indentured servants. They willing signed a contract to work for a certain amount of time for no money. For the work they did they would get food, lodging and clothes. And given the life expectancy and harsh conditions most would die before the contract was fulfilled.

            Some indentured servitude would last for more than one generation. This had many advantages for the servant. In areas of no employment, famine or disease (which has been rife for a lot of the history of humans) the servant would be sent to another location free of charge and given enough to survive in exchange for labor. Keep in mind a person would die if they coudnt get what they needed. No one would care. You could die at the side of the road.

            This process carried on until the 19th century. Its estimated that 80% of the original immigration to the american continent from Europe were indentured servants.

            in england, until the Victorian period, it was common for a family to be at work for a lord for generations for no pay. They would all sleep in a large room, many many different families together and get the scraps of food left over and rags to wear. As bad as this sounds its still a better option than starving to death in the cold. Its was the way people survived.

            Now you also got slaves that were taken aggressively from invasions and such, but in a place like Rome the majority may have been indentured.

            The problem is when you take passages from the bible that are attributed to god that condone slavery they are more likely to do with indentured servitude.

            Now the problem with the bible condoning slavery is that at the time its what is know as old word slavery (modern description) which was mostly Indentured servitude. The fact that god doesnt specifically speak out against it is therefore no surprise. It was the most common form of employment and the bible reflects the attitudes of its time.

            The bible was then used to justify new world slavery with the Africans in america. so any christian who knows at least a bit about history can say “well god doesnt condone slavery but man used his words to justify modern slavery. Therefore its not gods fault, therefore fall of man blah blah.

            I think saying because god doesnt specifically speak out about slavery he therefore condones it is tenuous because he doesnt speak out about every possible bad thing in the bible. That doesnt mean he condones them. i dont agree to many things but i dont have to provide a full list to prove i dont condone them. its taken that i dont agree with murder until over wise proven.

            again, i agree with whats been said and any attack is a useful one, but some are more useful than others. For instance god specifically states that unruly children should be stoned. He is specifically credited with those words. That is beyond question and to most people is morally wrong. If the billboard had that quote and a picture of a child on it then maybe the point would have been made without the un-nessesary back lash from certain parts of the community.

            Dont forget, if your trying to make a point and the method you choose courses the debate to focus on a different issue then its gone wrong. You have failed to make your point.

          2. Mary2

            Simon, I think your argument has some historical validity but fails when compared to the bible verses. The bible clearly distinguishes between the indentured servitude you mentioned – which could be applied to Hebrews – and the type of slavery where you can beat your slave to death or take a prisoner of war as a sex slave.

  7. 7
    gussnarp

    To me the billboard was an obvious problem from the outset and all you had to do is be someone who’s seen a lot of billboards and think about how you saw them and what you thought about them to understand this. When I read the billboard displayed on my computer I could easily get the point they were trying to make, but that was at leisure on my computer and already understanding where they were coming from. As a billboard on the side of the road, given little time and attention by the general public, it never stood a chance. The fact is that these Bible verses actually were used as a defense of slavery during the nineteenth century. They are still used by racist groups. And most people seeing this sign just see someone using a Bible verse to tell black slaves to obey their masters. It’s a billboard, they’re not looking or thinking any further.

    I think what this whole episode shows is that design and marketing are hard and should not be left to amateurs, or even to less than expert professionals. Particularly in the realm of billboards, which require very specific design principles to be properly applied to have the desired effect. Billboards are great for selling product with a simple concept, but terrible for making a complex philosophical argument. You know who has good billboards? The Creation Museum. Because they just want to get butts in the door and they can trick people with fancy graphics and three dimensional dinosaurs. A simple advertising message that, while deceptive, works.

    All this is simply to say maybe we should consider getting out of the billboard business, perhaps permanently, but at least until we can afford a top notch marketing effort to refine our message and design. That’s just my thought. I’m not saying “absolutely don’t do this”, “you’re wrong”, or “this message shouldn’t go out because it could be offensive”. I’m just asking if this is the best use of limited resources given the difficulty of conveying the desired message.

  8. 8
    Matt Dillahunty

    Billboard:

    “The Bible condones slavery.
    Humanism condemns slavery.”

    Add in the appropriate verses and notes at the bottom. Done.

    1. 8.1
      waspbloke

      Speaking as a UK consumer of US atheism, I did a double-take at Colossians. Maybe my happy-clappy evangelical sunday school teachers were holding back with some of this stuff…?

    2. 8.2
      Theodoric

      It would have been even better if it just said ‘Colossans 3:16′, in exactly the same way those many John 3:16 billboards do. It’ll draw in inquisitive people, and allow them to make their own conclusions. Has a lot more subtlety to it, for one.

    3. 8.3
      Mary2

      That’d work.

  9. 9
    michaeld

    Personally I think the slavery in the bible angle works better in a different format. I’m not sure that billboards which are rarely read in full is the best medium for it.

  10. 10
    mond

    Is the real issue here more to do with the fact that there are a large amount of people who want atheists to just shut the fuck up. So ignoring the rights and wrongs of this specific case then there is always going to be an outcry as a result of these type of campaigns even from groups who are sympathetic to our position.

    1. 10.1
      Timid Atheist

      So ignoring the rights and wrongs of this specific case then there is always going to be an outcry as a result of these type of campaigns even from groups who are sympathetic to our position.

      Considering Sikivu Hutchinson is a skeptic and atheist, I don’t think this works so well as an argument. She points out in her post the reasons that picture and the whole billboard itself are problematic.

      @Matt

      I’m glad to see that you’re willing to set aside your previous thoughts on the billboard in light of what Sikivu has written. This means that there is still hope that atheists can be more inclusive and understanding of marginalized groups.

  11. 11
    Bud

    This is an exceptionally well-reasoned article, Matt, and worth sharing with others as an example of how being a skeptic actually works.

  12. 12
    Kevin

    You need to consider how people view billboards. They don’t take a minute to read everything as it sits in front of them on their computer monitor. They read the big words to find the take home message as they are speeding down the road. I suspect that the actual take home message was too fine a print and was therefore ignored, which makes the billboard design a complete failure.

  13. 13
    Rabidtreeweasel

    I had to give this a lot of thought. I arrived at the conclusion that this could have been done differently in a way that avoided any controversy other than that which AA wanted to present. Why not do a series of billboards listing the ridiculous no-contest OT laws like eating shell fish or mixing fabrics?

  14. 14
    ZachsMind

    According to Alex Haley’s book Roots, there was a time during the enslavement of black people when some slaves would celebrate the death of a loved one and mourn a new child born into slavery. Yet these same people worshiped the same christian god as their white owners. They did not see the disparity.

    Old habits are very hard to break. It takes time, and not everyone will wake up at the same time. A billboard may help bring about awareness, may open a dialogue where it would not have been before, but I doubt anyone is going to look up at that billboard, and suddenly be converted to atheism.

    I find the use of billboards amusing, but ultimately self-defeating. A message that doesn’t offend anyone will not be remembered and will not make an impression on the community in which it is placed. However, a message that will make an impression is no doubt going to offend somebody. So if the plan here is to make an impression and open a dialogue, if you’re not offending somebody, you’re probably doing it wrong.

    If you don’t want to offend anybody, then maybe billboards aren’t the best course of action. I personally hope atheists put up more billboards. Not cuz I think they help. They don’t. If you guys wanna throw your money away like that, go ahead. I enjoy them because they make me laugh.

  15. 15
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    You know, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer (and yes, I openly admit it), and even I could make the connection between the image of the slave and the bible verse. I feel that the billboard has been deliberately “misinterpreted” in order to smear atheists and make the Christers feel better.

    1. 15.1
      estevan

      You know, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer (and yes, I openly admit it), and even I could make the connection between the image of the slave and the bible verse. I feel that the billboard has been deliberately “misinterpreted” in order to smear atheists and make the Christers feel better.

      What reasons do you have to believe that this was some intentional smear favoring Christians? Where are you getting that impression?

      1. WMDKitty -- Survivor

        I don’t have reasons. It’s just a feeling. And it’s a feeling that, in all likelihood, is wrong.

        And, uh, I really don’t see how the billboard is racist. Is it now “racist” to point out America’s history of slavery? Is it “racist” to point out that the Bible does, in fact, condone slavery, and commands slaves to obey their masters? Is it “racist” to convey this message in a striking manner, using the image of a slave?

        I certainly don’t think it’s racist. And yeah, I think that the cries of “racism” are entirely designed to drown out the message of the billboard.

        1. robertbaden

          It might have to do with the facts about slavery in America, and the attidtudes to people from Africa.

          Most of the verses in the bible could also apply to white indentured servants, could they not, so why not use them? Also, those white indentured servants were not considered inherently inferior by other whites.

  16. 16
    Zen gaze

    I think the controversy may very well be the point. See the thing is I believe most Christians don’t have the foggiest idea that the bible sanctions slavery, or if they do they assume wishfully that it was redacted by Jesus when all things were made anew. They have absolutely no basis for this it is just another of example of projection of secular morality upon their god.

    The point being, in order to Bring this reality to their attention the debate must first be sparked. The billboard doesn’t do the educating, it creates the environment.

    Sure it offends. But the enabling of denial, and the propogation of false history, is more offensive. In my opinion.

  17. 17
    mas528

    We spend so much effort to avoid “trigger”effects on people.:
    Rape,suicide, and assault are all warned about.

    Shoot, we even warn about NSFW.

    Could we please not force a trigger effect on black people in mostly black neighborhoods.

    I mean, I had friends whose grandparents (it may have been great-grandparents) had been former slaves.

    the form of the poster was all wrong. the first thing I saw was “slaves obey…” and a drawing of a black slave. that must have really hurt. then you notice the quote is from collossians. but the shock would have made me very angry.

    Would we put up a billboard that says, “Marry your rapist” outside a rape crisis center?

    it could have been handled much better.

    1. 17.1
      Mary2

      Nice explanation.

  18. 18
    Stacy

    One big problem with the billboard is appropriation. Here’s a group of (all? certainly mostly) white folks–a group, let’s face it, not known for reaching out or showing particular interest in the black community and its problems–and it puts up a billboard in a black neighborhood. And that billboard trades on a horror that victimized black people.

    Way to promote yourselves, AA.

    Put it this way, you have a tragedy in your family history? Imagine some group you never heard of suddenly targeting you with ads that say–hey, you know that terrible thing that happened to your grandparents? Sorry about that. But hey, WE’RE AGAINST terrible stuff like that! Yay us!

  19. 19
    pyrobryan

    I think simply omitting the picture of the slave would have been better. Same message, less offensive.

  20. 20
    rrpostal

    I find this to be the first billboard they’ve done where I haven’t completely rejected the idea outright. I’ve heard Silverman discuss the campaign in general and I’m still not sure of his over all intentions. Because people fail to “get it” is a real difficult standard. I agree writing the message out is intriguing, but then you go from many saying they don’t get it to fewer experiencing the message at all (words alone in marketing are pretty well documented), but maybe more of them getting the point. It may be a better “debate starter”, but I’m not convinced I’d green light that either. What many don’t understand is the “year of the bible” part, not the slavery bit. Most run of the mill christians have no idea what that even means and have never heard of it. Remember we are generally more aware of these things than most folks. Maybe that angle should have been nixed.

    Lastly, Martin mentions a Joe’s campaign. I think a billboard campaign and a “helping the homeless” campaign have entirely different purposes. One should not be bringing attention for the sake of attention and the other specifically should. I think I know what you mean, but it may be a better argument to just say forget about attracting attention and billboards. Getting attention and meaningful messages may be diametrically opposed.

    I don’t think I’d have gone with this billboard. But it’s the first one they’ve done where I actually get the message myself, even with the ham fisted approach.

  21. 21
    vman dobbs


    There’s nothing “corrupt” about a Christianity that endorses slavery. The Bible supports it, in both testaments and Jesus never says a word against slavery. That’s part of the reason that the billboard chose this message and one of the reasons that I continually use it as my go-to point for condemning the Bible.

    This is a vacuous claim in many regards without showing how the Bible supports slavery. And saying that Jesus never says a word against it is an argument from silence.


    There were plenty of Christians who were critical to ending slavery, but they were acting in opposition to their own religion; cherry-picking the verses that supported their desires and ignoring the ones that didn’t.

    One could argue that this is true for all Christians, which would make it very Christian to come up with one’s own interpretation – and that’s true: there are probably as many Christianities as there are Christians.

    On one hand, the original post says there are as many “Christianities” as Christians, “cherry picking” from the Bible to support a particular position. Yet at the same time, the original post makes some pretty definitive statements about what the Bible says concerning slavery. What makes the position in the original post so special? There does not seem to be anything special, rather just a case of special pleading.

    1. 21.1
      Zengaze

      That was just horrible.

      “This is a vacuous claim in many regards without showing how the Bible supports slavery. And saying that Jesus never says a word against it is an argument from silence”

      Haven’t read the bible? The first one is my favourite, sums up yahweh’s law regarding human worth succinctly:

      Leviticus 25:44-46 “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. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.”

      Deuteronomy 21:10-14 “When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the Lord thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her.”

      When you say that implying Jesus supported slavery because he did not say anything about it, is an argument from silence, last I heard you thought Jesus was god and so was responsible for the old testament too, that means according to you he said that shit.

      As ,for your nonsense remarks about special pleading! The point is that Christians Either will fully ignore the evil shit in the book, reinterpret it beyond recognition or engage in bullshit apologetics such as being a Hebrew slave wasn’t such a bad thing, at least you got to hear about Yahweh.

      The book says what the book says, you can make up as much bulshit as you like. You would think Christians would want to obey yaweh, and be shit scared of reinterpreting him, but the don’t actually believe in yaweh, they believe in their own personal sky daddy

      1. vman dobbs

        How is that an endorsement of slavery? You still have some interpretive work to do to show how laws governing slavery serve as an endorsement of the practice.

        1. Mary2

          You have to be joking! Laws governing slavery didnt mean He endorsed it? He spends plenty of the rest of the book banning things that are an abomination, like trimming your facial hair and boiling a goat in its mothers milk. Are you truly suggesting that God thought these were more important than stopping slavery?

          1. vman dobbs

            This is nothing short if a blatant red herring…

          2. jacobfromlost

            It’s not a red herring because god has no problem simply telling people not to do things. He could have added slavery to the list, but he instead gave rules governing its practice.

            The alcohol example doesn’t work, as those are HUMAN laws governing human behaviors, and thus can be flawed, incomplete, mistaken, etc. Moreover, HUMANS have come up with “thou shalt not hold slaves” all on their own–a morality superior than that of a god who gives instructions on how to hold slaves. We don’t give instructions on how to hold slaves. We pass laws that say you cannot hold slaves. Why couldn’t god do what people can?

          3. vman dobbs

            It’s not a red herring because god has no problem simply telling people not to do things. He could have added slavery to the list, but he instead gave rules governing its practice.

            The alcohol example doesn’t work, as those are HUMAN laws governing human behaviors, and thus can be flawed, incomplete, mistaken, etc. Moreover, HUMANS have come up with “thou shalt not hold slaves” all on their own–a morality superior than that of a god who gives instructions on how to hold slaves. We don’t give instructions on how to hold slaves. We pass laws that say you cannot hold slaves. Why couldn’t god do what people can?

            You connected it, which would make it otherwise not a red herring.

            But this really is not any better. You suppose that the human capacity to come up with a law that says “thou shalt now own slaves” is some how better because a god lacks such a law. Then you go on to speculate about what “could” by have been. This is a classic case of an argument from silence.

            And even if the alcohol example doesn’t work, it still does not answer the divorce example — something that is permissive yet looked down upon in the Bible. Following the general line of thinking presented here in the post, because it is permissive it is “endorsed”. But it is clearly not…

          4. Bruce Gorton

            Luke 12:45-48: “The lord [owner] of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”

            Servants, in the King James Bible, was another way of saying slaves.

            According to the Bible that sick fucking piece of shit Jesus not only sanctioned slavery – he sanctioned beating slaves for not following instructions they didn’t know about.

          5. jacobfromlost

            vman: You connected it, which would make it otherwise not a red herring.

            Me: But it was already connected! You just didn’t want to see the connection.

            vman: But this really is not any better. You suppose that the human capacity to come up with a law that says “thou shalt now own slaves” is some how better because a god lacks such a law.

            Me: No, not that god lacks such a law. Because god BOTH lacks such a law and gives laws on how to hold slaves properly.

            vman: Then you go on to speculate about what “could” by have been. This is a classic case of an argument from silence.

            Me: And you are arguing as if anything god does must be moral, even when what he has said is clearly not moral. That’s special pleading.

            vman: And even if the alcohol example doesn’t work, it still does not answer the divorce example — something that is permissive yet looked down upon in the Bible.

            Me: And drunkenness is not looked down upon in the bible? Moreover, it doesn’t matter, as the only way it CAN matter is if you are making a special pleading case. Are you REALLY saying slavery is something that is permissive, but only looked down upon, in the grand scheme of things (because god says so)? That is not a moral stance, but an appeal to authority where the authority is correct no matter what. If that is your position–that god is right no matter what–why bother arguing with us? God could say ANYTHING in the bible and you would say it is moral.

            vman: Following the general line of thinking presented here in the post, because it is permissive it is “endorsed”. But it is clearly not…

            Me: It clearly is as the option was available to not only prohibit it, but MAKE IT A SIN. God does neither. Which goes directly to the case that the “inalienable rights” do not come from god per the Murray/Dillahunty debate in the other thread. Individuals do not have the inalienable right to liberty in the bible, god tells people exactly how to hold slaves properly in extensive detail…and yet he DOESN’T endorse slavery? He just “frowns” upon it while telling people exactly how to do it properly? How could god be any weaker morally? Short of ordering old men, old women, boys, and mothers to be slaughtered in the neighboring town–let’s call them Midianites just for fun–I don’t see how god could become more immoral. If we just call these heinous acts “moral” (including instructions on how to hold slaves) because god said so, there is no moral element involved. It’s just special pleading and appeal to authority.

          6. vman dobbs

            Already connected in what sense? What did the original potshot remark concerning God having laws for other things but not slavery have to do with my allegation?

            My original allegation to your response was that you were special pleading concerning a difference between laws given by God and laws given by man which I didn’t buy. But in any case, even if you’re not special pleading, you’re still perpetuating the argument from silence created in the original posts. Any speculation as to why there is no “thou shalt not own slaves” in the form given here is still an argument from silence, even if there is an “option” to “make it sin.” There is at least one clear example were something is permissive but not necessarily morally astute, namely divorce. If I follow the reasoning of the original post, the permissiveness of divorce implies an endorsement of divorce, but this is clearly not the case.

            The morality or immorality of slavery is not what I’m arguing against. If you must know, I think it is an immoral act. But I also think that of divorce, tobacco abuse, and debauchery too. My gripe is against the faulty reasoning used to arrive at the conclusions that so many here seem to be using: that permissiveness implies an endorsement. The point of bringing up debauchery, divorce, and tobacco abuse was to show that the permissiveness of such things serve as an “endorsement” of these practices.

        2. mas528

          Oh goody. You can cut and paste from google.

          Every one of your arguments were special pleading or equivocation fallacies.

          Sorry to break it to you but calling someone a troll is NOT an ad hominem.

          1. Ace of Sevens

            It is if you use it to dismiss arguments without addressing them, but that’s not what happened here. By this standard, does God endorse anything? There aren’t a lot of places where God says, “I love X.” This is like trying to say God wanted us to live in a moneyless society, he just never mentioned it and made lots of laws about how much stuff should cost.

        3. mike

          @ vman dobbs – How is this an endorsement of slavery? I would say that this Jesus guy knew of slavery going on at the time, which means he looked around and saw humans keeping other humans as property and didn’t put a stop to it. Now in your mind this guy was some sort of god so he surely had the power to stop it or instruct them to stop it in the bible, and chose not to. In my mind this would make Jesus an asshole. Think about it, if you could go back in time and free these slaves, you would probably do it(I know I would), yet your god (something you worship) did not?! It makes me sad how indoctrination has de-humanised you like this, your adherance to this dogma forces bizarre twisting of your logic.

      2. vman dobbs

        Essentially, this is creating a false dichotomy in saying that because the Bible has laws that govern the practice of slavery that this is an endorsement of the practice of slavery. The Bible has laws that make divorce permissible (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). If I apply the line of thinking to these laws, then the Bible (and thereby Christianity) endorses divorce.

        1. Zengaze

          This is a blatant example of the bullshit dishonest immoral apologetics of a woo head. To make this short and simple for you: The book of bs, and therefore by your assertion, god, definitively permits slavery. Any other interpretation is wilfull misrepresentation.

          If I tell you when I think it is permissible to rape a women, such as when she wears a dress with the hem line above her knees, it informs you that I do not think that there is something inherently wrong with raping a woman. That I believe that rape as an act is acceptable. Your god tells his cultlings when they can enslave other human beings, thereby demonstrating that it does not see anything inherently immoral in the practice of slavery.

          Your god concept is immoral, and any person who believes human beings can in any circumstance be taken as property is also immoral. Your attempted defence of the concept is abhorrent, but unsurprising.

          1. simon

            The problem is you view all this with modern eyes. Thats not a criticism we all do, we are of our time.

            But is that morals are not fixed and what you/we now deem wrong hasnt always been the case.

            If you look at the subject of rape, then its now wrong and immoral (rightly so i think we can all agree) but you dont have to go far back to see thats not always been the case.

            For example in medieval england a lord could take any woman (or man) in his servitude when and how he wanted. In some areas of england and Scotland a lord would have the virgin bride on the night of the wedding before the husband was allowed to sleep with her.

            The arguments you use are all related to how things are seen now. you cannot do this if discussing things in historical documents, they have to be interpreted with the moral frame work of the time they where written, or you are miss-interpreting them.

            No-body is arguing that modern slavery is wrong. what is being argued is that the slavery of the bible is not the same as the slaver on the billboard.

          2. Zengaze

            @ Simon, YaY for the evolution of secular morality, and how it is making us more and more enlightened people as generations pass. Everything you say is fine unless you assert that the code of law in the bible came from a god incapable of immorality. Admit it to be man made and we don’t have an argument. Balls in your court..

          3. Zengaze

            And no I can’t let you away with that actually, I was going to in order to keep this on track. But rape and slavery was always fucking wrong, we just realise it now.

          4. simon

            Zengaze says:
            March 14, 2012 at 3:07 pm

            “@ Simon, YaY for the evolution of secular morality, and how it is making us more and more enlightened people as generations pass. Everything you say is fine unless you assert that the code of law in the bible came from a god incapable of immorality. Admit it to be man made and we don’t have an argument. Balls in your court..”

            I think its man made, of course. im not a christian m8. im an atheist. also, why “Admit it to be man made and we don’t have an argument” im not arguing. im discussing a subject from a neutral point of view. the minuet i think its become an argument im out. im not a child.

            Dont patronize yourself into thinking we have become more and more enlightened with time. there are now more slaves in the world (actual new world slaves) than at any time in history. so good work on the enlightenment. big pat on the back for humanity’s moral advancement.

            Zengaze says:
            March 14, 2012 at 3:19 pm

            “And no I can’t let you away with that actually, I was going to in order to keep this on track. But rape and slavery was always fucking wrong, we just realise it now.”

            you have a very infantile and naive perception on reality. are you quite young?

            if you are an atheist then you will know that the universe has no right or wrong, no good and evil. they are human concepts. therefore, they change over time to fit the current world we live in and are not stationary. things have not always been wrong.

            you criticize the christian belief that god gave a never changing moral code that is set in stone and want to use it against them, which would indicate (partly) that you believe morals can changes overtime. then you assert that rape and slavery have always been wrong. which is correct? never changing or changes with time.

            also the fact that you seem unable to discuss without foul language indicates you are unable to remove yourself from what you feel and look from a reasoned perspective. if you cannot do that discussion is pointless.

          5. Zengaze

            Firstly I use argument in the sense of a presentation of a case.

            Secondly the argument you were presenting sounded awfully like the argument from context,to justify slavery in the bible I hear regularly from Christian apologists.

            Thirdly I am obviously not discussing morality from atheism. But I am not a moral relativist! I derive my morality from logic and reason. That is why if I reason something to be wrong, it always was wrong, I just didn’t know It to Be wrong before I Reasoned it to be!

            Example: if I use corporal punishment to discipline my child, and have it explained to me why corporal punishment is not acceptable, and accept the tenents of The argument given, therefore I change my behaviour. I was never right to use corporal punishment, I was unaware I was wrong. The corporal punishment as an act was always wrong.

            Fourthly, you misrepresent my argument. I do not criticise the Christian belief that god gave a never changing moral code set in stone. I highlight that the code given is blatantly immoral, and is paradoxical to the concept of an unchanging moral law giver. According to orthodox Christian theology, if god knows now that slavery is wrong he knew it in biblical times.

            Fifthly, My “yay for the evolution of secular morality” was sarcastic, the YaY was supposed to convey that but obviously didn’t, failure of the medium, or my use of it. Societies evolve morally, but morals in my view do not, I redirect you to point three. I am not a moral relativist. You make a good point about the current problem of slavery in our society, but society generally deems it to be immoral.

            Are you going to assert that the North American slave trade in the 19th century was moral? Or is it not far enough removed in history for you to be a relativist about it?

            Lastly, my foul language, is not as abhorrent as apologies for the rape, subjugation, and torture of countless millions of my fellow humans throughout history, and I shall decry the labelling as property of a child to be used as a sex slave in the first century CE, as loudly as I will do it with regards to a modern child.

        2. vman dobbs

          You still failed to demonstrate how the Bible endorses slavery…

          Why do I have any reason to believe that your interpretation is any better than anything I have to say. What’s to prevent me from saying that your interpretation is the product of “wilfull misrepresentation”. This is no less a case of special pleading that the original posts.

          1. Zengaze

            Firstly where exactly in my post did I use the term “endorse” but if you want to play silly semantic word swap games, then let’s play, it’s the most Basic form of dishonest Debate.

            You have extrapolated when I use the term “permits” slavery that I actually Mean the bible endorses slavery. Your extrapolation is correct, but it is that, an extrapolation. My extrapolation that the bible endorses slavery comes from the same extrapolation of the term “permits”.

            Unless you want to redefine endorse, I will use it to mean supports. Any system of law that permits a practice, in operation acts to support the existence of such, therefore by definition endorses the practice. If a practice is regulated under law, it has the endorsement of that law whilst practiced within the defined limitations, and therefore the endorsement of the law maker/s.

            Finally, you are a troll. I have thoroughly demonstrated the bible permits the treatment of human beings as property, you sir have nothing.

          2. vman dobbs

            You seem to be getting a little dodgy here…

            My use of the word “endorse” was from the original post, not your replies. My original allegation was that the original post was vacuous without showing how the Christianity endorses slavery. You took it upon yourself to post two texts from the Bible in response to that allegation. I then said that you failed to show how this was an endorsement in reference to my allegations. No “extrapolation” was needed: either you were replying to my allegations or your were posting a red herring. But you reply, saying you did not use the word “endorse”, as if that was some response. No, you didn’t use the word, but that is completely beside the point and doesn’t even begin to answer the allegation — a blatant red herring.

            But even so, you still have a false dichotomy. Does that mean that the permissiveness of divorce in Bible makes it some sort of endorsement of divorce? I could also say the same thing about alcoholism, the abuse of tobacco, or other such things in reference to modern day permissiveness. Do laws that allow for such things mean that such things are endorsed? To be consistent, you have to answer “yes”.

            And labeling me a “troll” is an ad hominem…

          3. Zengaze

            I conceded your point that you were asking for an elaboration on how the bible endorses slavery from the original post.

            I have demonstrated to you how the bible endorses slavery, in reference to your question about whether divorce is endorsed because it is permitted the answer is obviously yes! I think you are failing to understand endorsement within law. If the law directly permits something, it by consequence endorses it, i explained this above.

            I called you a troll because you are not contributing to the discussion in any meaningful way. You are hung up on the term endorse with your own very narrow definition of it, which from your sub text I assume you mean something like “cheerleads”.

            So contribute. Is Yahew capable of immorality? If not demonstrate such.

          4. vman dobbs

            You say, “Any system of law that permits a practice, in operation acts to support the existence of such, therefore by definition endorses the practice.” You’re still creating the same false dichotomy. How are laws that permit alcohol and endorsement of alcoholism? Or how are laws that permit the consumption of tobacco an endorsement of the use and abuse of tobacco. And back to divorce: how is permitting divorce an endorsement of it. Jesus in Mathew 19 appeals to the creation of man in Genesis: what God has joined together, let no man separate. Divorce was permitted by Moses because of their hardness of heart. It seem to me that the act of divorce is not endorsed at all — rather it is discourage. Permissiveness can simply allow for the existence of particular things without the alleged endorsement.

            But you allege that I don’t understand what endorsement by law is. So what exactly do you think it means?

          5. Martin Wagner

            You’re still creating the same false dichotomy. How are laws that permit alcohol an endorsement of alcoholism?

            Ah-ha, I see what you did there. Such laws are not an endorsement for alcoholism, of course, because it is possible to drink alcohol without drinking to excess or being an alcoholic.

            Or how are laws that permit the consumption of tobacco an endorsement of the use and abuse of tobacco.

            I see what you did there too, that clever little sneaking in of the weasel phrase “and abuse”.

            By your examples, you seem to be implying pretty clearly that it is possible for there to be a non-abusive, morally acceptable form of slavery, and that those were the ones God’s laws meant to cover, and if humans “abuse” the practice, you can’t blame God or God’s laws.

            Won’t wash, but an A for effort anyway.

            And back to divorce: how is permitting divorce an endorsement of it.

            Did it again, you clever chap! Are you telling us that divorce and slavery are on a similar moral plane then? Because that’s what it sounds like.

            All this brings to mind what George Smith once wrote: There is simply nothing a Christian will accept as evidence of his God’s evil, even when you draw that evidence from scripture itself.

          6. jacobfromlost

            You are conflating human laws with god’s laws.

            God has no problem in the bible saying some things are absolutely wrong and to never do them.

            God telling people exactly HOW to hold slaves properly is an endorsement because the very purpose of the laws is to organize the activity so it continues. And it isn’t just HUMANS coming up with these things, according to the bible, but god.

            So why no commandment, “Thou shalt not hold slaves”? It’s very simple, and would not cause so much confusion. If you argue that slavery would have happened anyway, so god had to offer laws governing it, then it seems god was thinking more like a human law maker than a god–ie, “If I simply tell them to stop holding slaves, they won’t do that…so I’ll just give them laws to govern it.” Not a very powerful god, and makes him look just like a human making up laws to govern the times. What a weird coincidence.

          7. mas528

            Wow.

          8. vman dobbs

            Humans have and have had laws that explain how to hold and humans have no problem about making laws against what humans believe are absolutely wrong. How is this any different from a god’s laws? This sounds to me to be a bad case of special pleading…

            Furthermore, you are perpetuating your argument from silence here by speculating as about the lack of a “Thou shalt not hold slaves” law.

          9. Zengaze

            Because by your assertion your god is incapable of immorality, I really hope someone struggling with this paradox reads this and recognises the idiocy required to perpetuate it. Because attempting to reason with you is akin to banging your head against a wall, and my head is now too sore.

          10. vman dobbs

            All I see is a false dichotomy based on a faulty reasoning about permissiveness being an endorsement, and reject it. That’s pretty simple.

          11. Zengaze

            Vman said;
            I can point to something and call it what it is without having to give an explanation why it is what is, especially when it is blatant

      3. Zengaze

        You are defining terms to suit your argument. Your failure to understand how permission within law is endorsement, after It has been explained to you is not my failure to explain, but rather your wish to shoehorn endorsement into your own specific as of yet undefined definition.

        Declaring something a red herring doesn’t mean it is a red herring until you demonstrate it as such. Engaging in the practice of declaring red herring and false dichotomy is an example of somebody who firstly doesn’t understand the fallacy they are invoking, and secondly misuses them when they don’t like the answer they get.

        Lastly you didn’t answer my question so for a second time, is yaweh capable of immorality?

        1. vman dobbs

          Your allegations are misplaced. You criticize me for not understanding, “permission within law is endorsement”. I understand perfectly, nor am I redefining anything — I just don’t agree with it. I’ve provided counterexamples that result in permissiveness resulting in the “endorsement” of harmful practices such as alcoholism and have shown at least one instance where something is permitted, yet discouraged. I have good reason to think that there is a middle position: permissive without endorsement.

          I declared things as red herrings that have nothing to do with the allegations I made. You’re allegation about me quoting you as using the word “endorse” was shown to be a red herring. And dropping potshot remarks about God has laws for this but not that was completely off topic. I can point to something and call it what it is without having to give an explanation why it is what is, especially when it is blatant. jacobfromlost at least attempted to provide some linkage, which makes it relevant, and I answered it accordingly.

          But your question: “Lastly you didn’t answer my question so for a second time, is yaweh capable of immorality?” No. But you probably already knew the answer to that….

          1. Zengaze

            Your examples are false equivalences.

            Slavery is a concept/ human construct.

            Vman said; I can point to something and call it what it is without having to give an explanation why it is what is, especially when it is blatant

            You win the internets.

            Since you believe that god is incapable of immorality, it follows that anything that god commands or permits must by definition be moral. That means you believe slavery is moral, murder is moral, child rape is moral, in fact it means there isn’t anything that is immoral as long as the permission comes from authority. You are immoral and further to that your warped thought processes are a threat to the advancement of society.

          2. vman dobbs

            Slavery is a human construct, but alcoholism, tobacco use, and divorce aren’t? It sounds like you’re special pleading for slavery.

            In any case, you are creating a straw man out of God, then getting mad at the straw man. I perceive you have real hang-ups with God’s judgements, and you are labeling such things what are not or making accusations that are based on your continuously perpetuated false dichotomy. To that end, you have given me no good reason to doubt God or even consider that he may be immoral.

            I don’t have anymore to add here, really… it is apparent to me that we are at an impasse, so I’ll let this rest…

          3. mas528

            You do realize that you have not understood “false dichotomy”, “red herring”, “ad hominem”, or “special pleading” at all, right?

            Don’t use those terms without understanding what they mean.

            Even you definition of the word “endorse” is limited to pure approval, which the collossians quote does. Express support openly or sustain the practice. Which Saul does.

          4. vman dobbs

            Ad Hominem: a fallacy of irrelevance that is constituted by an attack at the person rather than the person’s argument. Accusations of trolling would fall into this category.

            Special Pleading: Unexplained or spurious exemptions for what ever one is addressing. It has happened a couple of times here with by saying that laws from God were some how different from laws from man and that slavery was a human construct, as if alcoholism and other such things are something other than that.

            Red Herring: Red herrings are fallacies of irrelevance. Making arguments that do not apply are red herrings. There’s been a lot of these…

            So yes… I do believe I know what they are.

          5. mas528

            I posted this earlier and incorrectly in the thread, but I cannot delete so I will put it here.

            Oh goody. You can cut and paste from google.

            Every single one of your arguments were either special pleading or equivocation fallacies.

            Oh, and sorry to break it to you but calling someone a troll is NOT an ad hominem.

  22. 22
    Ace of Sevens

    There were apparently several black people on the committee for the billboard. I don’t think the problem here is racism per se. Objects can’t be racist. Only people and ideas can be racist. The problem is that the ideas that the people who make an object put into it are not always going to be the same as the ones that the people who see an object take out. This is just the latest in a long line of stories about how doesn’t get billboards. THis is the most disastrous one yet. Maybe there was a way to make this idea work on a billboard. Matt has a feasible suggestion above. This definitely isn’t it, though. Check out the video below for instance. Not only did they not think through the design, they seemed completely ignorant that placement matters.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lODHHe5hbK8

    I think they need to just not put up anymore billboards until they get someone who understands the medium.

  23. 23
    Joshua Fisher

    The Bible Says:

    Should 2012 really be The Year of The Bible?

    Dress it up with some nice design aesthetic and that should do. I think that conveys the intended message without relying on the viewer to pick up on billboard sarcasm.

    1. 23.1
      Joshua Fisher

      Darnit, stupid tags. That should say:

      The Bible Says:

      Insert Horrible bible quote here

      Should 2012 really be The Year of The Bible?

  24. 24
    mas528

    This is the AA problem played out again.

    AA wanted to show people that the bible sucks morally.

    What they did was put up a picture of a black slave with the words “obey your masters” from the bible in a predominantly black neighborhood.

    It was a stupid move, that comes only talking to people that more or less agree with you.

  25. 25
    Rebekah

    It is a very dangerous precedent to back down on your opinion just because people are offended. The level of offense actually speaks to the billboard’s efficacy: it got people talking on an international level and people (at least in private) cannot deny the truthfulness of the message. You will not change people’s minds in private with weak, inoffensive statements when dealing with an entrenched, privileged ideology like religion.

    In turn an accusation or feeling is not the same thing as evidence or a reasoned argument. While the opinions like Sikivu Hutchinson’s are worth considering, they should be taken with a grain of salt. At some point people who define their politics as being against a given prejudice will manage to find that prejudice in an inordinate number of places (because finding it keeps their politics relevant). Take people who have had visceral reactions to the word “niggardly”: do we go with their reaction to phonetic similarity or do we go with what the word actually means?

    1. 25.1
      Martin Wagner

      Well, I think the question is not so much “Do we worry about offending people?” because that will happen when any controversial group posts a controversial message anywhere, but rather “Did the point get across?” If the point did get across and the reason people are offended is that they’re being faced with an inconvenient truth, that would be one thing. But if they’re offended because you did not communicate your point well, that’s another. Those critical of this billboard (like me and Sikivu) understand that AA was making a valid point, but that they didn’t make it as effectively as they could have.

  26. 26
    Rilian

    People probably initially think that the billboard is trying to justify slavery by quoting the bible. That’s my guess as to where their “offense” comes from.

  27. 27
    Anton

    Just replace the black slave with a blonde female and a new headline.

    “Feel lucky you weren’t born black!”

  28. 28
    jacobfromlost

    Also, trying to make a point/argument that backs people into a corner (perhaps SHOVES them into a corner) emotionally is always a bad idea. They will not only reject you, but reject your entire view–and angrily.

    If someone calls you for money to support a charity for children with cancer, it is not effective for the caller to berate you with questions about what BETTER use you could possibly have for your money than giving it to children with cancer. “What? You gunna buy some candy bars? Pay your cable bill? Go to a movie? Huh? Huh? How is any of that better than helping children with cancer! Do you agree to give me $1000 dollars right now, or are you a horrible person who hates children with cancer? You don’t hate children with CANCER, do you? Answer now!”

    Doesn’t work.

    1. 28.1
      Zengaze

      You sounded very catholic there jacob, reminded me of the priests from my childhood and a church roof appeal.

      1. jacobfromlost

        At least with a priest in a church, you already have an emotional connection with the entire context. Ultimately I think that approach will fail in that case as well, but it may take longer. (It’s not like the Catholic Church today hasn’t been forced to soften its approach, as the heavy handed approach in a free society seemed to drive people away.)

        But when a stranger, or a group buying a billboard, tries to force you into a position with charged emotions…it’s just going to get charged emotions ricocheting back.

    2. 28.2
      NH

      Also, trying to make a point/argument that backs people into a corner (perhaps SHOVES them into a corner) emotionally is always a bad idea. They will not only reject you, but reject your entire view–and angrily.

      The problem with that is that the only way to show logically that something cannot possibly be true is to “back it into a corner”. It’s true that this is less effective when people are emotionally tied to the idea. But in that case there often is no way you can refute it that is fully effective as those people have essentially made themselves immune to logic.

      As to the billboard, I think it’d have been more effective without the image. Strangely, since it still has the quote and only the image was defaced, it may actually have improved it.

      1. jacobfromlost

        The key word was “emotionally”. You can logically back them into a corner, but usually they’ll just reject the logic.

        If you emotionally back them into a corner, they will just lash out. Just look at what happens when callers tell Jeff Dee to believe in god or go to hell. :-)

  29. 29
    jacobfromlost

    The whole “endorse” vs “permit” thing really bothers me.

    If god only permits slavery, then is it moral to PERMIT slavery?

    If one thinks yes, I don’t think we are any longer talking about morals. (And it seems if the argument is that god permits slavery, then it IS moral to PERMIT slavery, no? The same way it is moral to permit divorce, permit alcohol consumption, permit tobacco consumption?)

    If one thinks it is NOT moral to permit slavery, then you are imposing a morality that goes beyond god’s morality.

    Is it better NOT to hold slaves than TO hold slaves? If it is better NOT to hold slaves, and god permits slavery, and humans decide they will not permit slavery because not permitting it is better than permitting it, THEN HUMAN MORALILTY JUST SURPASSED GOD’S MORALITY. And the word “endorsement” doesn’t matter. It’s just semantics that all amounts to the same thing.

    Trying to substitute “permissive of slavery” rather than “endorsement” of slavery really smacks of divine negligence. If a mother watches as one of her older children beat her younger child bloody, many times over years, but never says a word about it to either of them (or anyone else), she can’t go to court and claim she didn’t endorse the beating, she only permitted it…and have that argument make any sense to any reasonable person.

    And if the judge happens to be reasonable, and point this out (permitting IS endorsing when you are the person in charge!), the woman can’t then say to the judge, “You are making an argument from silence! I never said it was ok to beat my child bloody! I just never said NOT to do it! Although there was that one time long ago where I told the older child exactly HOW to beat the younger one–what kind of objects to use for the beating, how many times to beat for which offense, how much blood was permissible, etc–but that is NOT an endorsement because I never said it was ok to do it! Jeez, these liberal judges now days just don’t understand logic!”

    1. 29.1
      Zengaze

      Pretty much boils it down good job. Vman is bound to call you on the red herring and special pleading though. (for anyone who doesn’t recognise sarcasim, that was).

  30. 30
    anthonysaviano

    It’s pretty amazing that anyone would be offended by that billboard, other than Christians who have an emotional investment in the defense of their religion.

  31. 31
    M. A. Melby

    If the point was to create a provocative art piece = epic win.

    I was especially impressed with the poetic way the billboard was vandalized. The pictures of the people in the billboard were ripped to shreds and the bible verse wasn’t touched.

    If the point was to make friends = epic fail.

    It’s generally a bad idea to use traumatizing issues to make a point.

  32. 32
    PA Year of the Bible

    I find it amazing that nobody (that I could find here) mentioned that this billboard dealt with a purely Pennsylvania issue (the PA House of Representatives’ Year of the Bible resolution). The billboard was placed here in Harrisburg, PA, just a couple of miles from the state capitol where that resolution passed 193-0 on January 24. The controversial resolution was already widely in the news here in Harrisburg. One would THINK that people who live here would be REASONABLY aware of the events happening a mile away. Right? Also, the billboard was placed in a commercial area where, if, for some reason, you can’t read the full sign while waiting at the traffic light a few feet away, you can park in one of the many auto sales lots and stroll right up to the billboard and read it at your leisure. The people who tore down the sign certainly had time to read the full board, but were clueless nevertheless. Also, a black slave was chosen for the artwork because the Year of the Bible resolution extolled the positive effects that the Bible has had on AMERICA (not on the Middle East thousands of years ago). Harrisburg has a SERIOUS crime problem, and the black Christian mayor prefers to PRAY for solutions, and to PRAY that atheists find Jesus. The city is in receivership, being 100s of millions of dollars in debt. Why is the black community in Harrisburg so upset about the billboard, but NOT upset about the criminals who tore it down? Yet the black ministers are all up in arms about an image that ACCURATELY portrayed one of the worst aspects of AMERICAN slavery. But I guess it’s okay to LYNCH a billboard in Harrisburg. It’s one of the least violent things in a long while.

    One major mistake on the part of American Atheists was jumping the gun by issuing a press release about the billboard BEFORE it was confirmed that the billboard was correctly printed and actually installed. There was a typo found when the graphic arrived, so they had to delay installation for a few days while a new graphic was shipped in. In the meantime, the local black clergy, as well as the black politicians saw a preview of the billboard in the local newspaper and had time to plan their “racism” response, in order to deflect attention from the real message of the board. NEVER issue a press release about a billboard until it has been installed!

  33. 33
    vman dobbs

    It is still the same sort of argument from silence to say that because Jesus did not do something that he was endorsing the practice of slavery. Also, saying that I am the way that I am because of indoctrination and dogma and to suggest that it has “de-humanised” me is making naked assertions about how I think and arrive at the conclusions I do, not to mention that it is yet another ad hominem. Nor is my logic twisted. I’m merely pointing out a blatant fallacy. What is illogical to me is persistence and number of people who use the same sort of argument from silence over and over….

    1. 33.1
      Ace of Sevens

      If you think Christianity is just based on Jesus’s teachings and we’re supposed to ignore the rest of the Bible, that’s fine. However, this isn’t a mainstream view. If you think Jesus’s teachings wwere in line with Paul and the Torah, they do endorse slavery. If you think the Bible in general has scriptural status, it also endorses slavery.

  34. 34
    Steven

    I did a crappy looking comic of a conspiracy once. Basically black suits escorted Obama into a dark room at gunpoint, sat him on a chair and showed him the JFK assassination from the view of the sniper (Whose outline was oddly shaped, you’ll see why). Then an ambiguous voice asked

    “Any questions Mister President?”

    Then it panned to Obama saying “Just one”

    Then it panned to an Evil Gatorade and Obama said “What’s my mandate”

    http://imgur.com/lO31m

    - Funny only if you believe the theory that Gatorade is trying to destroy the world.

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