About a year and a half ago, I was fiddling on the meme-generator site imgflip.com when I decided to put this image together. It was an instant hit. To this day, I see it come across my newsfeed on various atheist Facebook pages. It tickles me when that happens.
It’s the closest thing I have to a claim to fame as an atheist. But there has been some pushback, usually from Christians who try (and fail) to point out the logical flaws in the statement.
So I thought I’d take this opportunity to clear up a couple of things.
First, this is a joke. It is not meant to be taken seriously as theology. That is, I am not arguing that God really had a choice between banning slavery and shellfish. I mean, he’s God, right? He could have banned either, neither or both. It wasn’t one or the other. (Believe it or not, this is not a strawman argument. Someone really criticized the meme on the grounds that God was never faced with such a choice).
But I think the more important counterargument that needs to be addressed is the ridiculous notion that the God of the Bible does not condone slavery. That’s just apologetic nonsense. Of course the God of the Bible condones slavery. If he didn’t, he would have banned it, just as surely as he banned the consumption of shellfish. Unequivocally.
The argument made by apologists is that slavery in the Bible is not the same as slavery in America in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The Bible does explicitly condemn forcing people into slavery by kidnapping them. But that’s only one way to become a slave. The Bible specifically allows for slavery under a host of other conditions, debt being the most prominent. You could become a slave by being born to a slave. You could become a slave by being a prisoner of war (assuming you weren’t killed in one of the God-mandated genocides that accompanied certain military campaigns).
Here’s a good example: In the Bible, if you own two slaves, a man and a woman, and you give the woman to the man as a wife (because that’s Biblical marriage: giving one of your slaves to the other), and they have a child, when the time comes for the man to go free (after seven years of service), he cannot take his wife and child with him. His wife and child are still owned by the slaveowner.
If the man wants to stay with his wife and child, he must commit to a lifetime of slavery under that owner. (Exodus 21:1-6)
In other words, the slavemaster had Biblical justification to hold the wife and child of his freed slave hostage unless the freed slave committed to slavery for life.
Yes, I am willing to acknowledge that slavery in the Bible wasn’t exactly the same as slavery in the United States prior to the Civil War. But that does not make Biblical slavery any more moral. It remains reprehensible on its own terms.
Efforts to defend Biblical slavery fall flat, ironically for the very reasons cited by the apologists who engage in such efforts. They fail to allow the Bible to speak for itself about what slavery is and what is allowed.
Now, I don’t really think God had a choice between banning slavery and shellfish, yet chose shellfish. That’s silly.
PEOPLE chose to ban shellfish but only regulate slavery. Flawed people. They eventually outgrew it, but unfortunately, they pretended their laws came from a God who never changes. If that’s true, that their laws came from a God who never changes, then that God endorses slavery and chose to regulate it instead of banning it.
Yahweh is, of course, not guilty of any of this, by reason of nonexistence.