In The Narrative of Frederick Douglass, the slaveholders use theirreligion to justify their actions.
Using their Christianity/religion is veryhypocritical considering what the Bible is all about. Douglass demonstrates inhis book how religion negatively affected the slaves and the masters. “He madethe greatest pretensions to piety.
His house was the house of prayer. He prayedmorning, noon, and night.”1 Thisquote proves how hypocritical the slaveholders are. They pray morning, noon,and night, but in between are beating up and starving slaves.
Many of theseslaveholders are the ones who take an interest in religious activities, howeverfrequently are the ones who treat their slaves more awful. In the book itdemonstrates how slaveholders became crueler after their conversions toChristianity. Douglass thought that Master Thomas being involved with religionwas going to improve his character. Douglass states in the story that theconversion affected Master Thomas in a bad way, “If it had any effect on his character, it made him morecruel and hateful in all his ways; for I believe him to have been a much worseman after his conversion than before.
“2After his conversion Thomas would use his religion to justify the awful thingshe would do. That is ironic because a Christian should be nice totheir slaves, but as stated in the story the non-religious slaveholders werenicer to their slaves than religious ones.Slaveholdersare quick in punishing slaves for the smallest violations of the bible, but arewilling to twist scripture around to justify their own horrendous actions. Notlong after Douglass started living with Mr. Wilson in St. Michaels, he beganpartaking in religious exercises and Douglass starts to see change in Mr.
Wilson. The book shows how Mr. Wilson used the bible to justify hisdehumanizing actions towards the slaves. “I have seen him tie up a lame youngwoman, and whip her with a heavy cowskin upon her naked shoulders, causing thewarm red blood to drip; and, in justification of the bloody deed, he wouldquote this passage of Scripture — “He that knoweth his master’s will, anddoeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes.”3 Slaveholders claim they’re Christian, butdon’t allow their slaves to participate in the learning of the New Testament.
“Wemet but three times, when Mr. West and Mr. Fairbanks, both class-leaders, withmany others, came upon us with sticks and other missiles, drove us off, andforbade us to meet again.”4This quote shows how the white men are very hypocritical when it comes to theirChristianity. Slaveholders should want their slaves to partake in religiousexercises or to be Christian. However, since they twist around the words of theBible to justify their actions; they don’t want them to learn the Bible or tolearn how to read at all. The slaves studying the Bible can be threateningbecause it can enable them to act out.
So the quote also shows that the whiteChristians were selfish in destroying the Sabbath school because they don’twant anything to mess with slavery. Adding to the hypocrisy, there wereslaveholders like Mr. Covey. “Addedto the natural good qualities of Mr. Covey, he was a professor of religion — apious soul — a member and a class-leader in the Methodist church.”5Based on this quote, Mr. Covey is portrayed as a good man, but he was one ofthe worst, he was known to break slaves. Douglass was already being whipped aweek after he had been with him.
Mr. Covey was a man focused on religion, yethis actions didn’t look like those of a man who is supposedly religious.On the whole, the slaveholders have twistedtheir religion to rationalize their awful behavior causing them to be veryhypocritical. Frederick has some very strong points in justifying this.
Hisbook really shows the selfishness of some of these cruel white men and howreligion negatively affected both the masters, by making them crueler, and theslaves, by being punished harder than before by the masters.1 FrederickDouglass. 2017. “Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an Americanslave.” Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave1. Points of View Reference Center, EBSCOhost (accessed November30, 2017) page 47.2 Douglass, 47.3 Douglass, 48.4 Douglass, 48.5 Douglass, 50.