How did Frederick Douglass think religious beliefs affected the way that people treated slaves?
One of Douglass's central claims in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is his distinction between what he regards as true Christianity, which is ultimately irreconcilable with slavery, and the Christianity professed by slaveholders. He recognized that the abolition movement for which he became a symbol and a leader was motivated by a Christian spirit of reform. But he also argued that slavery was upheld, justified, and given some sort of moral sanction by another, perverted form of religion.
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.’’
Slavery was not contrary to this form of Christianity, indeed it went hand in hand with it. Douglass repeatedly emphasizes the fact that his most brutal owners were Christians, and he does so for a purpose. Captain Auld, in particular, actually becomes a much more brutal master after discovering religion, as it gave him "religious sanction and support for his slaveholding cruelty. Auld often quoted the line from the Book of Luke that claimed that "he that knoweth his master's will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes." Douglass observes that his master misinterprets the passage, but the point is clear that Southern slave owners used religion to buttress their claims to superiority and hegemony over their slaves.