How can you bring people to reason without a whip?

I’ve been doing a little research lately into the use of common, happy atheist terms, like “reason”. Here’s a truly hideous example of how the vague word “reason” can be used as a tool to advocate for great evils. Did you know that kidnapping, torturing, and murdering people is the only way to get others to recognize the virtue of rational thought?

Bonus points for treating reason and religion as equivalent enlightened phenomena.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    I dunno. Mitch McConnell wouldn’t find any flaw in the text. Obviously everything was the abolutionists’ fault.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    Typo “abolitionists “.
    And logic shows everyone including the n****rs would have been better off without the war of northern aggression. And rock music.

  3. John Harshman says

    That’s so far out that to me it reads like satire, a “modest proposal”. Doubtless I don’t have the proper 1854 context and what could loosely be called a mindset.

  4. robro says

    John Harshman @ #3

    That’s so far out that to me it reads like satire…

    It reads like my childhood to me.

    What might be interesting to learn is whether the Virginia and North Carolina slave breeders wanted to reopen the Atlantic slave trade in 1854. I suspect they had mixed feelings about that idea since they had become a source of slaves in the “Black Belt” migration into Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas. The were, of course, rich from the business.

  5. John Harshman says

    robro #4

    Quite aside from that it was a ridiculous idea from the start. It would have required a constitutional amendment that would never have been ratified, and it would have resulted in war with Britain, the main enforcers of the prohibition.

  6. springa73 says

    robro @ #4

    From what I’ve read on mid-19th century US history, most slaveowners in the slave “exporting” states like Virginia and North Carolina were strongly opposed to reopening the international slave trade, for precisely the reason you suggest – it would lower the price of slaves and mean less profit for them. Demand for reopening the slave trade was almost entirely from the Deep South and western states where demand for slaves still exceeded supply.

  7. springa73 says

    In addition, pressure to reopen the international slave trade to the US in the 1850s came at a time when southern slaveholders in general, whether they supported reopening the trade or not, were becoming increasingly aggressive in their insistence that slavery was a “positive good”, and were pressing to expand US slavery into new territory. The efforts at expanding slavery’s reach ranged from attempts to establish a proslavery government in the territory of Kansas, to attempts to either buy or conquer Cuba, where slavery was legal and widespread, from Spain. These aggressive proslavery political and propaganda moves led to a backlash in the non-slaveholding states that ultimately led to the formation of the Republican Party as a strong political movement opposed to the expansion of slavery.

  8. robro says

    John Harshman @ #5

    Reopening the slave trade in 1854 would not have required a constitutional amendment. The Constitution merely banned Congress from passing laws restricting slavery until 1808. As it happened, Congress passed a law banning the importation of slaves and Jefferson signed it in 1807 effective January 1, 1808. However, Congress could have repealed that law.

    This event happens to correspond to the time when Britain passed laws against the trans-Atlantic slave trade and began treating it as piracy. Whether they would have gone to war over slavery is another matter.

  9. jenorafeuer says

    Well, the British treating the trans-Atlantic slave trade as piracy, and using that as an excuse to inspect American ships (and often re-drafting escaped British sailors in the process) was almost certainly one of the things that led to the War of 1812, so in effect they already did go to war over it.

    And, of course, the big plantation-owners of the American South, the ones who wanted to see themselves as the new Barons, had actually agreed to the ban on the slave trade for exactly the reasons you stated earlier: it would make their ‘breeding stock’ more valuable. The slave trade was largely being run by the folks the big owners were trying to squeeze out of operation. Yay capitalism. /s

  10. tacitus says

    Pretty depressing that 167 years after that editorial, the argument that slavery “vastly benefitted” the “poor barbarians of Africa” still holds currency among American conservatives.

  11. says

    I don’t see the problem with “reason”. Yes it is used to justify some evil stuff. Just like science was used to justify Eugenics.

    So what word should we be using to counter the magical thinking of religion????

  12. birgerjohansson says

    Jeff Bezos certainly consider himself “reasonable”. Just see how his system of disposable workers is superior to traditional slavery. The peons even have to provide their own diapers.
    And if they collapse and die on the warehouse floor – which has happened- it is up to the authorities, not the owner to arrange for waste disposal/burial.

  13. unclefrogy says

    wage slavery is superior to chattel slavery because it is cheaper to put the majority of the cost external to the operation it is also far more versatile and easier to implement because of that.

  14. Pierce R. Butler says

    And here I thought our esteemed host intended to request a few classroom tips from his fellow educators…

  15. KG says

    So why is it that slaveowners were not clamouring to free their chattel slaves and subject them instead to “wage slavery”?

  16. snarkrates says

    KG, In part, it was because wealth, in the antebellum south was measured in slaves. Even in Colonial times, slave owners were griping about the expense of supporting the slaves. The invention of the cotton gin and subsequent reign of King Cotton breathed new life into the nearly moribund trade–and the expansion westward increased demand for slaves as new land was brought under cultivation. However, slavery would have collapsed under the weight of its own cumbersome apparatus eventually. It was abolished in Brazil in 1867 by Imperial decree–with plenty of protest, but without a shot being fired. “Freed” slaves, both in the old South and in Brazil were still treated worse than animals even after emancipation. After the end of Reconstruction, things got even worse. Repeatedly, wherever black citizens were successful, white citizens eventually burned them out and took whatever they could. In Brazil, the sugar-cane-to-alcohol-fuel trade still depends on the cheap labor of the descendants of slaves.

  17. KG says

    The fact that “wealth was measured in slaves” was because slaves actually were wealth – they could be sold, as well as being “productive capital”, yielding income like land and machines.

    Even in Colonial times, slave owners were griping about the expense of supporting the slaves.

    Let me know when employers stop griping about the expense of paying wages.

    However, slavery would have collapsed under the weight of its own cumbersome apparatus eventually. It was abolished in Brazil in 1867 by Imperial decree

    Actually, slavery was not abolished in Brazil until 1888. As for the claim that it would have collapsed under its own weight, well, that’s a little difficult to prove, and the whites in the South did their best to make the status of blacks approximate to it as closely as possible.

  18. KG says


    It’s also worth noting that there are still plenty of slaves in the world, even without the imposition of that status being legal anywhere. Slavery is highly profitable to the slaveowner in many circumstances, and has been a part of capitalism throughout.