Slavery abolished by Christians, not the “Enlightenment”

Robert Kenny

Having for most of my life believed that our acceptance of equality — racial, class, gender — was the result of the overthrow of past superstitions and prejudice by reason, I was perplexed: why had the fight against slavery, and the concern for aboriginal peoples, been so overwhelmingly the province of religious? … Hume, Voltaire, and Kant saw the African — the non-European, generally — as beyond the category of human to which the European belonged; race concerned them (particularly Kant) only to the extent that it could show the superiority of the European. It was not the philosophies of Paris or Edinburgh or East Prussia who fought slavery, but the evangelical Christians and Quakers who drew their inspiration not from philosophy but from “superstitious religion”. It was from the Evangelical Revival that the loudest claims for what we now call racial equality came.1


  1. Kenny, R., The Lamb Enters the Dreaming, p74, Scribe, 2007. Kenny is a non-Christian historian. Return to text.

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