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The belief in some higher presence, other than our own, has existed since man can recollect. Religion was established from this belief, and it can survive and flourish because of this belief. Christianity, one of several forms of religion that exist today, began sometime during the middle of the first century. Christians believe in a higher presence that they call "God." This belief in God is based on faith, not fact; faith is "unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence." (Webster's New World College Dictionary, 1996, p. 487). The belief in God exists primarily for two reasons: It answers the question of why we exist, and it is used to exert moral control over society (religion). The reasons for believing in God hold no true validity.
Answering the question of man's existence is irrelevant; it simply cannot be answered. No one knows when life first began on Earth, nor in what form this life took. We simply exist; as far as we know, we always have existed, and we always will exist. (Wallace, 1994). The church claims God is the reason we exist, and this gives the church cause for exerting unnecessary moral control over society. All societies must have a set of rules, or laws, by which they are governed, to prevent anarchy. We must have some form of government, but our laws must come from the people up, not from God down. The government provides necessary control over society; morals should be left to the individual. The church has always failed to realize this. To suppress individuality is to suppress freedom, and never in our nation's short history was the power of the church and the suppression of freedom more evident than during the era of slavery. Had the church detached itself from slavery, sl!
aves could have been freed without a civil war. (Barnes, 1969).
There was not enough power outside the church to sustain the institution of slavery. Scotland, Germany, and Great Britain allowed slavery to exist until the church began to speak out against slavery. Only after the church detached itself from slavery, did slavery end in these three nations. (Barnes, 1969). This proves the power of the church in exerting moral control over society! If the churches in America had spoken out against slavery, could slavery have been abolished without war? It is possible, but it must be noted that the Civil War began in hopes of preserving the Union, not abolishing slavery. However, slavery was the biggest problem dividing the North and South. It is possible that had slavery ended before the Civil War, the other problems dividing the nation could have been worked out peacefully. Therefore, the church failed in fulfilling its "moral obligation" to society. This began long before the Civil War took place.
Between 1740-1778, the South went through a period of moral discovery; this is the time when Christianity began to flourish in the South. (Mathews, 1980). During this time, the message of the church was for people to free themselves from whatever enslaved them personally, but not for freeing other people. This was why it was so difficult in coming up with an anti- slavery consensus among the Christian South. (Mathews, 1980). There was a great debate that developed in the South during the last quarter of the 18th century concerning slavery.
In 1780, a Methodist conference ordered all preachers to free whatever slaves they owned; the Wesleyans, in 1784, threatened to expel any member of the church who had been a slaveholder for more than two years. The following year the Baptist General Committee of Virginia claimed slavery was "contrary to the word of God." During 1786, the Black Creek Baptist Church of Virginia, along with the Presbyterian General Assembly in 1787, declared slavery to be "unrighteous." (Mathews, 1980, p. 212). Although there was a strong anti-slavery sentiment in the South among some churches at this time, pro-slavery churches were still in the majority. While this debate raged on, economic conditions would finally force a peaceful consen...
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