Pious racism

Bruce Gerencser has up a post that sets out the Biblical defense of American slavery and racism, and recounts some of his own encounters with it as an IFB/Southern Baptist preacher. Well worth reading.

As a young Independent Fundamentalist Baptist, I was taught that Genesis 4 clearly revealed to any racist who wanted to know why blacks had dark skin. Genesis 4:15 says:

And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him. [emphasis in original]

Growing up in Detroit, toward which many southerners migrated in search of work, I also heard Genesis 4 cited as a justification of racism. I didn’t hear it at home, however; unusual for that time and place, my dad outspokenly ridiculed such talk.

There were slaves before there was a Bible, of course, so the evils of slavery and racism can’t be blamed wholly on Christianity. It is certainly the case, however, that slavery in America was defended by quoting the Bible and, as everybody knows, the inexhaustibly odious Southern Baptist denomination was founded in support of slavery.

It puts me in mind of a famous lecture by Robert Green Ingersoll, About the Holy Bible. Here is a portion of it:

Ministers wonder how I can be wicked enough to attack the Bible.

I will tell them: This book, the Bible, has persecuted, even unto death, the wisest and the best. This book stayed and stopped the onward movement of the human race. This book poisoned the fountains of learning and misdirected the energies of man.

This book is the enemy of freedom, the support of slavery. This book sowed the seeds of hatred in families and nations, fed the flames of war, and impoverished the world. This book is the breastwork of kings and tyrants—the enslaver of women and children. This book has corrupted parliaments and courts. This book has made colleges and universities the teachers of error and the haters of science. This book has filled Christendom with hateful, cruel, ignorant and warring sects. This book taught men to kill their fellows for religion’s sake. This book funded the Inquisition, invented the instruments of torture, built the dungeons in which the good and loving languished, forged the chains that rusted in their flesh, erected the scaffolds whereon they died. This book piled fagots about the feet of the just. This book drove reason from the minds of millions and filled the asylums with the insane.

This book has caused fathers and mothers to shed the blood of their babes. This book was the auction block on which the slave- mother stood when she was sold from her child. This book filled the sails of the slave-trader and made merchandise of human flesh. This book lighted the fires that burned “witches” and “wizards.” This book filled the darkness with ghouls and ghosts, and the bodies of men and women with devils. This book polluted the souls of men with the infamous dogma of eternal pain. This book made credulity the greatest of virtues, and investigation the greatest of crimes. This book filled nations with hermits, monks and nuns—with the pious and the useless. This book placed the ignorant and unclean saint above the philosopher and philanthropist. This book taught man to despise the joys of this life, that he might be happy in another—to waste this world for the sake of the next.

I attack this book because it is the enemy of human liberty—the greatest obstruction across the highway of human progress.

Let me ask the ministers one question: How can you be wicked enough to defend this book?


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