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World religions make use of the scripture to justify their actions, which are ultimately deployed in the context of war and peace (Almond 45). It is arguably evident that scriptural passages have been quoted as the guiding principles for the engagement in warfare and the establishment of peace.
This implies that scriptural knowledge is vital when analyzing the religious values on war and peace, especially in societies whereby religion is used as a motivation and justification of war and peace (Daryl 85). This paper bases on comparative religious studies in order to have a comprehensive overview of the justifications for war and peace basing on the religious scriptures.
The fundamental argument that forms the basis of the paper is that all religions in the world have within themselves the seeds that can be result to the establishment of either war or peace. It is also vital to take into account the viewpoint that factors that determine peace and war in the world religions are based on the divine commandments, teachings attained from the scriptures and the divine interpretations of the scriptures by the believers (Gopin 100).
Basing on the scriptural comparisons of the various world religions, this paper discusses their respective religious views with regard to the elements of war and peace.
A consensus among all the world religions in relation to war and peace is the opposition to use of force that is deemed lethal or killing. There are exceptional cases where killing and the use of force is justified, but only under particular circumstances (Hertog 74). A comparative review of the scriptures of the various world religions reveals that there is a fundamental rule against killing although there is a variation relating to the strength of the applicability of the rules.
In the context of Buddhism, every person usually trembles during the times of violence owing to the fact that life is cherished by every individual. According to Dhammapada 10.130, putting oneself in the place of another individual, a person is not required to kill. In addition, an individual is not required to compel another person to kill (Super 145).
With regard to Christianity, killing is condemned in the bible. Matthew 5:21-22 clearly states that “thou shall not kill; and whoever kills will be in danger of judgment…” This clearly indicates the stance of killing with regard to the taking of another person’s life (Irving 147). It is believed that an individual has no authority of taking another person’s life. Hinduism also lays emphasis on the respect for another person’s life as a core requirement for the establishment of peace.
As outlined in their scripture at Bhagavad Gita 16. 1-3, the supreme personality of Godhead outlines three transcendental individual qualities including fearlessness, having self-control, nonviolence, having a compassion for all living things and being free of anger (Hertog 96).
These qualities are needed for the development of divine nature. In addition, their stance against violence is emphasized by the fact that the religion is against the use of attacks, even for those who are deemed most despicable. Furthermore, attacks should not be directed at those who are peace-making (Daryl 78).
Islam is also against the taking of human life, which they perceive as made sacred by Allah, except in circumstances that call for just cause. This is stated in the Quran 17:33, and indicates the stance of the Muslims against killing. Jainism is also against the use of violence and people should avoid being involved violence as much as possible (Hertog 102).
From its scriptures, Purushyartha Siddhyapaya 60, states that “having precisely understood the meaning of violence, its outcomes, the victims and the executor, individuals who embrace the values of the religion should restrain from violence, to the best of their capacity. The guiding principles of Judaism are somewhat similar to those held by the Christian faith; the doctrine prohibits individuals from committing murder, as stated in Exodus 20:13 (Gopin 125).
It is arguably evident that all the world religions oppose the taking of another person’s life, which has been emphasized using commandments for the Abrahamic religions; moral standards and virtue in the case of Buddhism; and an advocacy for the establishment of peace and non violent activities in the case of Sikhism. Jainism does not have any exceptions and killing is prohibited for all forms of life (Gopin 126).
Causes that can give good reason for the use of armed force
In cases whereby force is deployed, all the world religions except for Jainism attempt to rationalize the use of armed force for just causes. Jainism emphasizes on the rule of non-killing. The different religions in the world have diverse conditions and scenarios that justify the use of force, with an emphasis on just causes and right motives.
In the context of Buddhism, killing is only justified when protecting the Dharma by the kings, lay men and the upasakas as outlined in Mahaparinirvana Sutra, Chapter 5. Hinduism justifies the use of killing basing on the religious duty of fighting (Daryl 100). Armed force is also justified in Buddhism when an individual’s life is threatened, for the case of self- defense and protecting the people.
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Hinduism prohibits the use of war for the purpose of conquest and a person has the authority of killing an assassin who has shown his/her intents of murder, such an acts results to no guilt, which is justified by their scriptures that state that “ fury recoils upon fury” as outline sin the Manu Smrti 8.348-350. In addition, armed force is justified in cases whereby a person is administering punishment to a person who rightly deserves the punishment, provided that they are under the due process of justice (Hertog 148).
Islam justifies the use of armed force when fighting for the cause of Allah, especially for those individuals who are against you. However, limits are not supposed to be transgressed because they are prohibited in Quran 2:190 (Irving 145). Armed force is also justified to ensure that there is prevalence of justice and faith in the context of Allah.
Fighting is also justified against the people who do not believe in Allah and for defending one-self. The religion of Jainism does not justify any sort of killing whatsoever. Judaism on the other hand justifies killing for just causes of the Lord, as evident in Numbers 32:20-22. Justification also bases on penalty for taking someone else’s life vests on the life of the killer; that is life for life and an eye for an eye (Almond 147).
It is arguably evident that the justifications for the use of armed forces and fighting are many including protecting the religion and righteousness, as the case of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism; protecting the innocents, as in the case of Hinduism and Islam; fighting to end oppression, as in the case of Islam and Sikhism; administering punishment to the performers of evil, which is the case of Christianity and Islam; self defense as in the case for Hinduism and Islam and acquisition of the promised land of God for Judaism.
Jainism on the other hand does not justify any form of killing, even for the case defending one-self and protecting other people (Gopin 100). It is also important to note that self-defense is not viewed widely as a religious cause, resulting to its rejection in some religious scriptures such as the New Testament (Hertog 147).
The intent motive behind using force
The motive underlying the deployment of force is also an important aspect outlined in the doctrines of the various religions in relation to war and peace (Daryl 47). Even in cases where there is a justification of the cause, the values of most religions emphasize on the view that armed action must be undertaken with the true motives and attitudes.
A comparative scriptural analysis reveals that Buddhism and Christianity stress on the importance of love and compassion for the enemies and those individuals who are receiving punishment. In the context of Hinduism, proper motive is determined by the undertaking of one’s duty; this implies that using violence with wrong motives and unjustified killing results to negative consequences on oneself, as outlined in the principle of Karma (Gopin 78).
The Islam scriptures outline the consequences of not acting with the right intent, which includes hell for any person who kills a believer purposefully. In the religious values of Islam and other religions such as Judaism, the right intent should aim at the fulfillment of the will of God. Sikhism on the other hand encourages their fighters not take think of their own lives and that self-sacrifice is case of martyrs. Jainism does not justify any intent for the case of killing, and a thought about killing constitutes a sin (Irving 74).
With regard to the authority to use force, Buddhism gives the king the power to punish. Christianity on the other hand gives the ruler the power of the sword and considers it as a right that is God ordained. Hinduism authorizes the kings and warriors to use armed forces when in a righteous battle.
The Quran on the other hand lays emphasis on the going to war for the cause of Allah; it does not offer authority to specific people to wage war. Such authorities are allocated to the imams and Muslim leaders (Gopin 78). When deploying force as the last option, Buddhism lays emphasis on the soft approach, Christianity emphasizes on forgiveness, while Islam states that those in the quest for peace shall receive peace while those engaging treason shall be thrown back.
This paper has discussed the values of various religions towards war and peace. It is arguably evident that engaging in war needs a strong justification and that taking human life is only permitted under specific scenarios for important causes outlined in the doctrines. A general consensus across all the world religions is the opposition towards taking another person’s life.
The religious scriptures offer an important indication on the levels to which war and violence are embraced in a particular religion. The limitation is that it is subject to different interpretations, which has resulted to misrepresentation of the religious values relating to war and peace.
Almond, Gabriel. A String Religion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.
Daryl, Charles. War, Peace, and Christianity: Questions and Answers from a Just-War Perspective. New York: Crossway publications, 2010.
Gopin, Marc. Between Eden and Armageddon: the future of world religions, violence, and peacemaking. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Hertog, Katrien. The complex reality of religious peacebuilding: conceptual contributions and critical analysis. New York: Lexington Books, 2010.
Irving, Horowitz. The idea of war and peace: the experience of Western civilization. New York: Transaction Publishers, 2007.
Super, John. Religion in world history: the persistence of imperial communion. New York: Routledge, 2006.