Saturday, March 21, 2009

Frederick Douglass on American Christianity

I have always been fascinated by the life of Frederick Douglass. I am reading his first biography (I believe he wound up writing 3) written around the age of 27 (he never knew for sure how old he was because slaves were often separated from their mothers early on and never told). 

I flipped to the appendix of this book and read a most glorious rant that should have been included in Christopher Hitchens' "The Portable Atheist", though Douglass was not technically an atheist. 

"....between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference--so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clearer case of "stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in." I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me. We have men-stealers for ministers, women whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus. The man who robs me of my earnings at the end of each week meets me as a class-leader on Sunday morning, to show me the way of life, and the path of salvation. He who sells my sister, for purposes of prostitution, stands forth as the pious advocate of purity. He who proclaims it a religious duty to read the Bible denies me the right of learning to read the name of the God who made me. He who is the religious advocate of marriage robs whole millions of its sacred influence, and leaves them to the ravages of wholesale pollution. The warm defender of the sacredness of the family relation is the same that scatters whole families,--sundering husbands and wives, parents and children, sisters and brothers,--leaving the hut vacant, and the hearth desolate. We see the thief preaching against theft, and the adulterer against adultery. We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the POOR HEATHEN! ALL FOR THE GLORY OF GOD AND THE GOOD OF SOULS! The slave auctioneer's bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together. The slave prison and the church stand near each other. The clanking of fetters and the rattling of chains in the prison, and the pious psalm and solemn prayer in the church, may be heard at the same time. The dealers in the bodies and souls of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other. The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his in fernal business with the garb of Christianity. Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other --devils dressed in angels' robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.

"...Dark and terrible as is this picture, I hold it to be strictly true of the overwhelming mass of professed Christians in America".......

And little has changed. Slavery has ended, and the Christians take credit for it, of course. 


Anonymous said...


I'm proud of you. You're seem to have turned the corner and gotten frivilous political events that only amplify the absurdity of the human condition out of your system, to focus on high-quality posts that are interesting and that matter. This is the real Aaron that I know, and I'm glad to see that he's back.

I've always said that you had a powerful mind and a strong moral conscience. As Carl Jung said, the greater the light, the darker the shadow, but for the moment, those two have been inverted.

You're far better than you think. Keep posting great stuff. It matters far more than you know.

In the future, when time permits, I'll endeavor to inject my own thoughts, such as with reviews of Owen Flanagan's The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World and Fyodor Dostoevsky's Memoirs From the House of the Dead.



Anonymous said...


Do you suppose that Mike Jackson will successfully be able to "perform" in London over the course of a single date, never mind fifty? And, if so, exactly what do you believe that such a performance would entail?

Will Mike hire an actor (or actress) to play him? Who will sing? Will it be an audio track that simply plays while the performer--whoever that might be--lip-syncs to it?

Will all fifty performances be held? If not, what will the fallout be? After taxes, how much money can Mike take home with him when all is said and done?

Let us imagine a most unlikely scenario. Mike, himself, tries to perform at the debut concert. What would happen? All evidence suggests that he cannot sing, and fifty year olds aren't generally known for being limber, so I don't expect much movement.

I have an alternative proposal to his fifty dates in London. Why not try something less arduous, such as being a backup singer (the difficulty of not being able to sing notwithstanding) on one of Toufik Benedictus Hinn's crusades?

Perhaps Toufik's wife would personally administer a Holy Ghost enema right up Mike's rear end.

What do you think?


upinVermont said...

Excellent read, Aaron. Thanks for posting this.

Aaron said...

This is a great story. All throughout the book he describes the incredible duplicity of slaveholding Christians. His nicest masters were least religious.