In the 1800's, the battle between slavery and emancipation of the blacks raged between the north and the south. Abolitionists in the north used religion as a basis for condemning slavery. In the south, however, religion was used as a tool to sanction slavery. In the narrative, Frederick Douglass evinces how religion was used as a sanction to beat slaves and, in the "Appendix," describes his feelings of true Christianity while labeling the slaveholding religion as fraud.
Throughout the narrative, Douglass illustrates the detrimental role religion played among slaveholders. Douglass, as a young slave, hoped that religion would restrain his master's cruelty and maybe enlighten him to the point of emancipation. Contrarily, religion intensified the malicious acts of slaveholders. When Master Auld attended a Methodist camp-meeting, Douglass, "indulged a faint hope that his conversion would lead him to emancipate the slaves . . . at any rate, make him more kind and humane"(43). However, it had the opposite effect on Master Auld's character, ". . . it made him more cruel and hateful in all his ways"(43). Douglass, analyzing how this occurred, explains that previous to the Methodist meeting, Auld used his, "own depravity to shield and sustain him in his savage barbarity"(43). After the religious conversion, Auld found religious sanction and foundation for his cruelty. Douglass proves his point explaining that, to justify tying up a young woman and whipping her until the warm blood trickled down her back, Auld quoted scripture, "He that knoweth his master's will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes"(43). Later in the narrative, Douglass states his case for all religious slaveholders, "For of all slaveholders with whom I have ever met, religious slaveholders are the worst . . . meanest . . . most cruel and cowardly, of all others"(57). .
Douglass, although establishing religion as an unfavorable characteristic of slaveholders, does not abhor Christianity.