An introduction to the issue of forced religion in the new world

Over centuries in Iberia, Muslims had enslaved Christians, and with the Christian reconquest, the victors enslaved the Moors.

An introduction to the issue of forced religion in the new world

The Bible and slavery Genesis narrative about the Curse of Ham has often been held to be an aetiological story, giving a reason for the enslavement of the Canaanites. The word ham is very similar to the Hebrew word for hot, which is cognate with an Egyptian word kem, meaning black used to refer to Egypt itself, in reference to the fertile black soil along the Nile valley.

Although many scholars therefore view Ham as an eponym used to represent Egypt in the Table of Nations[1] a number of Christians throughout history, including Origen [2] and the Cave of Treasures[3] have argued for the alternate proposition that Ham represents all black peoplehis name symbolising their dark skin colour; [4] pro-slavery advocates, from Eutychius of Alexandria [5] and John Philoponus[6] to American pro-slavery apologists, [7] have therefore occasionally interpreted the narrative as a condemnation of all black people to slavery.

Slaves were to be treated as part of an extended family; [20] they were allowed to celebrate the Sukkot festival, [20] and expected to honour Shabbat. This 7th-year manumission could be voluntarily renounced, which would be signified, as in other Ancient Near Eastern nations, [35] by the slave gaining a ritual ear piercing ; [36] after such renunciation, the individual was enslaved forever and not released at the Jubilee [37].

Non-Israelite slaves were always to be enslaved forever, and treated as inheritable property. Jewish views on slavery More mainstream forms of first-century Judaism didn't exhibit such qualms about slavery, and ever since the 2nd-century expulsion of Jews from Judea, wealthy Jews have owned non-Jewish slaves, wherever it was legal to do so; [18] nevertheless, manumissions were approved by Jewish religious officials on the slightest of pretexts, and court cases concerning manumission were nearly always decided in favour of freedom, whenever there was uncertainty towards the facts.

The costly and compulsory giving of gifts was restricted the 7th-year manumission only. Verbal declarations of manumission could no longer be revoked. Fear of apostasy lead to the Talmudic discouragement of the sale of Jewish slaves to non-Jews, [63] although loans were allowed; [64] similarly slave trade with Tyre was only to be for the purpose of removing slaves from non-Jewish religion.

Introduction: Towards a Religion of World Politics?

While slaves are considered the owner's property, they may not work on Sabbath and holidays; they may acquire and hold property of the own. Indeed, they argued that the biblical rule, that slaves should be freed for certain injuries, should actually only apply to slaves who had converted to Judaism; [18] additionally, Maimonides argued that this manumission was really punishment of the owner, and therefore it could only be imposed by a court, and required evidence from witnesses.

According to the traditional Jewish law, a slave is more like an indentured servant, who has rights and should be treated almost like a member of the owner's family.

Maimonides wrote that, regardless whether a slave is Jewish or not, "The way of the pious and the wise is to be compassionate and to pursue justice, not to overburden or oppress a slave, and to provide them from every dish and every drink.

The early sages would give their slaves from every dish on their table. They would feed their servants before sitting to their own meals Slaves may not be maltreated of offended - the law destined them for service, not for humiliation.

Do not shout at them or be angry with them, but hear them out. Christianity and slavery Slavery in different forms existed within Christianity for over 18 centuries. Although in the early years of Christianityfreeing slaves was regarded as an act of charity, [74] and the Christian view of equality of all people including slaves was a novelty in the Roman Empire, [75] the institution of slavery was rarely criticised.

Indeed, inthe Synod of Gangra condemned the Manicheans for their urging that slaves should liberate themselves; the canons of the Synod instead declared that anyone preaching abolitionism should be anathematised, and that slaves had a "Christian obligation" to submit to their masters.

Augustine of Hippowho renounced his former Manicheanism, argued that slavery was part of the mechanism to preserve the natural order of things; [76] [77] John Chrysostomregarded as a saint by Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicismargued that slaves should be resigned to their fate, as by "obeying his master he is obeying God".

For you are all one in Christ Jesus". And in fact, even some of the first popes were once slaves themselves. The approval of slavery under these conditions was reaffirmed and extended in his Romanus Pontifex bull of Along with other priests, they opposed their treatment as unjust and illegal in an audience with the Spanish king and in the subsequent royal commission.

The 18th century high-church Anglican Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts owned the Codrington Plantation, in Barbadoscontaining several hundred slaves, branded on their chests with the word Society.

The seventh century Saint Eloi used his vast wealth to purchase British and Saxon slaves in groups of 50 and in order to set them free. In the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade was formed, with 9 of the 12 founder members being Quakers; William Wilberforcean early supporter of the society, went on to push through the Slave Trade Actstriking a major blow against the transatlantic slave trade.

Leaders of Methodism and Presbyterianism also vehemently denounced human bondage, [91] [92] [93] convincing their congregations to do likewise; Methodists [94] and Presbyterians [95] subsequently made the repudiation of slavery a condition of membership.

In the Southern United Stateshowever, support for slavery was strong; anti-slavery literature was prevented from passing through the postal system, and even sermons, from the famed English preacher Charles Spurgeonwere burned due to their censure of slavery.

Despite the general emancipation of slaves, members of fringe Christian groups like the Christian Identity movement, and the Ku Klux Klan a white supremacist group see the enslavement of Africans as a positive aspect of American history.

Slave Christianity[ edit ] In the United StatesChristianity not only held views about slavery but also on how slaves practiced their own form of Christianity.

An introduction to the issue of forced religion in the new world

Prior to the work of Melville Herskovits init was widely believed that all elements of African culture were destroyed by the horrific experiences of Africans forced to come to the United States of America. Since his groundbreaking work, scholarship has found that Slave Christianity existed as an extraordinarily creative patchwork of African and Christian religious tradition.

Beyond that, tribal traditions could vary to a high degree across the African continent. During the early eighteenth century, Anglican missionaries attempting to bring Christianity to slaves in the Southern colonies often found themselves butting up against not only uncooperative masters, but also resistant slaves.

An unquestionable obstacle to the acceptance of Christianity among slaves was their desire to continue to adhere as much as possible to the religious beliefs and rituals of their African ancestors.

Missionaries working in the South were especially displeased with slave retention of African practices such as polygamy and what they called idolatrous dancing. In fact, even blacks who embraced Christianity in America did not completely abandon Old World religion.

Instead, they engaged in syncretism, blending Christian influences with traditional African rites and beliefs. Symbols and objects, such as crosses, were conflated with charms carried by Africans to ward off evil spirits. Christ was interpreted as a healer similar to the priests of Africa.

In the New World, fusions of African spirituality and Christianity led to distinct new practices among slave populations, including voodoo or vodun in Haiti and Spanish Louisiana.

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