Discussions on the religious and moral aspects of slavery have been and remain relevant social topics. In order to evaluate individual opinions regarding this area and compare the ideas of past centuries with those promoted today, two primary sources will be reviewed. The letter by Foster included in the cycle entitled “The Brotherhood of Thieves” and the work “Slavery and the Bible” by an unknown author are the subjects of analysis of this work. In the context of the proposed theme, both texts raise the urgent issues of the relationship between church representatives and the population and address the problems of slavery in the framework of this interaction. Both works are critical and raise deep topics, although Foster’s letter is harsher and tougher in nature than that of the anonymous writer.
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Role of Religion and Morality in the Debate over Slavery
In both these works, the authors resort to a religious context when analyzing slavery and its objectivity as a social phenomenon. However, the texts have a different message and nature, although they were written and published in approximately the same period. Foster calls the representatives of the church, as well as clergy who acted together, “thieves, adulterers, man-stealers, pirates, and murderers” (8). This position is due to his reasoning on the topic of false morality, which the representatives of these classes adhered to and, in particular, the issues of slavery. The text of “Slavery and the Bible” is less rigid and has a different direction.
In it, the unknown author refers to the Bible as a basic source and gives some extracts from it, arguing that the context is unambiguous if this book is accepted as unconditionally true (“Slavery and the Bible”). The example of Abraham is central, and by using it, the author seeks to show that compulsory service is a biblical phenomenon, and it cannot be perceived as a true vice (“Slavery and the Bible”). This is the key difference between the texts in question.
The theme of morality in the context of slavery as a sin is raised in both of the works under consideration. Nevertheless, Foster considers this aspect the aggregate of all the aforementioned crimes and notes that these “villanies” are unacceptable in nature (9). Moreover, the author mentions not only traditional forms of slavery but also other manifestations of personal violence, for instance, the coercion of women and their submission (10).
In this case, the religious background is implied as a key incentive that encourages such coercion and defines the church as a criminal sect. The text of “Slavery and the Bible” also reveals moral issues in the context of slavery, but its main thesis is the admission of the suppression of human will. In the Holy Scriptures, this aspect of human relationships is not considered moral guilt (“Slavery and the Bible”). As a result, the authors hold different views on the role of the church and its provisions regarding slavery and moral obligations.
Impact of the Arguments on Contemporary Racial Discussions
Today, when the issues of racial inequality and bias are discussed at the global level, both the texts considered are significantly less relevant than at the time of their creation. Firstly, the class division of society with the privileged authority of the clergy is not supported today, and although Foster compares baptism with piracy, modern morals are freer than earlier ones (11). The text “Slavery and the Bible” is even less relevant in the modern world since its unknown author discusses the divine essence and its absolute impact on human existence, calling God “the father of the faithful.”
Modern people are less attached to church dogmas and laws than before, and any remnants of the era of slavery are more likely a consequence of social rather than religious problems. Therefore, both works cannot be regarded as documents characterizing contemporary racial prejudices and affecting the perception of the issues of inequality.
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However, even in the context of changing values and social trends, some significant aspects of the discussions may be cited. As a possible impact on contemporary issues associated with racial bias, Foster’s letter can be relevant as the text that decries one person’s forced dominance over another one. The author argues that no manifestation of possible pressure on liberty is acceptable, and “he who enslaves another” is a criminal (Foster 12). The position in the text of “Slavery and the Bible” is less rigid and even ambiguous because its author writes as if he or she admits the possibility of slavery from a biblical perspective. Therefore, both the primary sources cannot be considered documents influencing modern racial discussions significantly, but they can be utilized as evidence of individual positions and ideas.
The two primary sources considered raise the urgent issues of human liberty and slavery and present unique arguments, although one of the works is more categorical, tough, and unambiguous than the other one. The role of religion and morality is evaluated in both documents, but in terms of content, these resources are different. In relation to modern racial discussions, these works do not have a significant impact, although the arguments of the letter look more convincing than those presented in the text of the unknown author.
Foster, Stephen Symonds. The Brotherhood of Thieves, or, a True Picture of the American Church and Clergy: A Letter to Nathaniel Barney, of Nantucket. Parker Pillsbury, 1884.
“Slavery and the Bible.” DeBow’s Review, vol. 9, 1850. Web.