Dan Savage Says Bible is Pro-Slavery, Right Goes Ballistic

The anti-bullying activist Dan Savage (‘It Gets Better’) is the subject of massive right-wing media criticism because he called those who use the Bible to denounce gays “hypocrites.”

He gave a speech two weeks ago, which you can watch part of below, about bullying to the JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention. The convention was ironically titled “Journalism On The Edge.”

In the speech, Savage correctly pointed out how the Bible is used as a reason for bullying of LGBT kids in schools — which, as part of the right-wing evangelical Christian pushback against the fight against anti-gay bullying, some states plan to protect as ‘religious free speech.’

He explained how the Bible was used to justify slavery in exactly the same way, yet this caused some of the prospective journalists to clutch their pearls and walk out.

“Then he started going off about the Bible,” one said. “He said somehow the Bible was pro-slavery. Iím really shy. Iím not really someone to, like, stir up anything. But all of a sudden I just blurted out, ĎThatís bull!í”

Those comments were in an April 18 report — which characterizes the ‘It Gets Better Project‘ as ‘encouraging teens struggling with same-sex attractions to embrace homosexuality’ — and were picked up over the weekend by a Fox News website, then the Drudge Report and are now echoing around the echo chamber, the subject of nine front-page articles at Breitbart.com. The themes being ‘Savage Attacks Christians’ and ‘Advocate Becomes Bully.’

Here’s some of what Savage actually said:

The Bible. We’ll just talk about the Bible for a second. People often point out that they can’t help it — they can’t help with the anti-gay bullying, because it says right there in Leviticus, it says right there in Timothy, it says right there in Romans, that being gay is wrong.

We can learn to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people. The same way, the same way we have learned to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation. We ignore bullshit in the Bible about all sorts of things. The Bible is a radically pro-slavery document. Slave owners waved Bibles over their heads during the Civil War and justified it. The shortest book in the New Testament is a letter from Paul to a Christian slave owner about owning his Christian slave. And Paul doesn’t say “Christians don’t own people.” Paul talks about how Christians own people.

We ignore what the Bible says about slavery, because the Bible got slavery wrong. Tim — uh, Sam Harris, in A Letter To A Christian Nation, points out that the Bible got the easiest moral question that humanity has ever faced wrong. Slavery. What’re the odds that the Bible got something as complicated as human sexuality wrong? One hundred percent.

The Bible says that if your daughter’s not a virgin on her wedding night — if a woman isn’t a virgin on her wedding night, she shall be dragged to her father’s doorstep and stoned to death. Callista Gingrich lives. And there is no effort to amend state constitutions to make it legal to stone women to death on their wedding night if they’re not virgins. At least not yet. We don’t know where the GOP is going these days.

People are dying because people can’t clear this one last hurdle. They can’t get past this one last thing in the Bible about homosexuality.

Um, one other thing I wanna talk about is — [chuckles] — so, you can tell the Bible guys in the hall that they can come back now, because I’m done beating up the Bible. It’s funny, as someone who’s on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible, how pansy-assed some people react when you push back.

I apologize if I hurt anyone’s feelings. But. I have a right to defend myself. And to point out the hypocrisy of people who justify anti-gay bigotry by pointing to the Bible, and insisting we must live by the code of Leviticus on this one issue and no other.

Savage has apologized for the “pansy-assed” remark. But he is not withdrawing his critique of Biblical literalism as an excuse for anti-gay bullying and bigotry. The exact same critique made by many Christians including, in this classic clip, by President Bartlett to a demagogic preacher in The West Wing.

Watch a section of Savage’s remarks:

One has to wonder how these supposed journalists are going to survive out in the big, bad world without having constant fainting fits if they cannot stand to hear the word ‘bullshit,’ never mind have their beliefs criticized.

The National Scholastic Press Association said:

Some audience members who felt hurt by his words and tone decided to leave in the middle of his speech, and to this, we want to make our point very clear: While as a journalist itís important to be able to listen to speech that offends you, these students and advisers had simply reached their tolerance level for what they were willing to hear.

Related stories:

Louisiana Upholds the Right to Bully Gays in School

Bullied Gay Iowa Teen Committed Suicide After Alleged Death Threats

ĎDonít Say Gayí One Step Closer in Tennessee


Photo credit: screengrab of audience reaction from trailer for Paranormal Activity


Huber F.
Huber F.4 years ago

Thought the more you save someone the better you become at serving a flock..

Don H.
Don H.4 years ago

Ron G said:

"Blah blah blah blah"

Michael G.
Michael T.4 years ago

@Ron coughs god means nothing to many people and do not see the connection between themselves and him.

Thankfully people are wise enough to refuse to see this.

@Ron tries again But they are connected and are accountable.


@Ron blows They are simply reinforcing what I have written here.

Only you are reinforcing what you are writing here.

@Ron missed it again completely in trying to redicule what the buybull says.

I have repeatedly told you Ron that the word is spelled RIDICULE not redicule.

Michael G.
Michael T.4 years ago

@Ron belches The heart of man is decietful above all things and desperately wicked.

Yes Ron they are talking about you and your heart.

Michael G.
Michael T.4 years ago


Matt L.4 years ago

At best, the Bible may be neutral on slavery, but telling slaves they should be obedient to even their "harsh" masters seems difficult to justify. Telling masters to immediately release all their slaves, and pay them back wages would have given it some moral credibility at least.

Lol Micheal, yeah a few accurate predictions or scientific knowledge that nobody knew at the time would go along way to providing some plausible evidence of God. Nukes would not be too hard to describe for example, even with the language of the time.

Pat B.
Pat B.4 years ago

One thing that no one can ever be to adequately explain or justify is why, if this all knowing, all powerful god made people in his image and he loves all of us, then tell me how it would countenance men who brutally rape and kill small children. And don't give me crap about free choice or free will -- a 4 year old, or 6 year old has a choice.

So tell me, god apologists, explain to me why your god made pedophiles and allows them to flourish, many times never being caught?

Michael G.
Michael T.4 years ago

My favorite parts are where god tells the Jews about building motors for Noah's pleasure craft, and about electricity, and how to make gas ovens, tampons, rifles, better clothing, printing presses, looms, steam engines, how to forge steel in the Iron age, cars, rubber tires, telephones, cell phones and how to build better housing. I also like the chapter on astronomy where god teaches the Jews about the all the planets, even the ones the Greeks knew and later forgot about, and how the sun was the center of the solar system, telescopes, the galaxies and the universe. As I recall buy bull claims this imaginary friend is all knowing and had to be aware of these things invented later by humans. This imaginary friend could have told them about the hindus, and chinese, about australia, about how to make the best calendars. Instead this god tells them about how to see people in Leviticus as evil and how they should be punished by stoning and burning, about how filthy women are when they are experiencing menses.

Pat B.
Pat B.4 years ago

So it says in Leviticus 25:44 "Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves."

Leviticus... Leviticus... oh, right, that's the book that endless religious right homophobes use to claim god is dead set against gays, hates them in fact. Well, if Leviticus 18:22 says that and the faithful must obey god's word, why aren't they obeying 25:44? It's like someone went through the bible with a fine tooth comb to find the few passages that support their hatred for gays and pretend the others don't exist. THAT'S what Savage was saying. How can people keep saying god didn't approve of slavery? Is it because if they acknowledge the passages exist and no one approves of slavery today, they'd have to admit Leviticus passages are nothing more than quaint historical documents and they'd have to stop waving around one particular passage as proof it's okay to hate gays.

Matt L.4 years ago

Most of those are from the New Testament too. It's not just the Old Testament that is nasty and unethical.