Friday, December 11, 2009

". . .no Holy War can ever be a just war"

Obama's Nobel prize acceptance speech was unusual. Why? It was sufficiently thought-provoking to cause me to intently listen to the entire speech.

Here is a quote that I'd like to ruminate on: "A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies."

It interests me because this one sentence provides a major challenge to the ideal of pacifism. I have considered many times, prior to hearing this statement, the challenge Nazi Germany/the Holocaust presents to those (like myself) who feel an attraction to pacifism. However, this statement raises an important question: is it truly impossible for a movement that is commited to non-violence to halt the advance of evils comparable to Nazism?

Here's another quote that I greatly enjoyed: "But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war. For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint -- no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or the Red Cross worker, or even a person of one's own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but I believe it's incompatible with the very purpose of faith -- for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us."


  1. Nazi Germany definitely poses quite a challenge to pacifism. On one hand, we can kill millions of possibly innocent, conscripted soldiers; on the other, we can let millions of thoroughly innocent civilians die when their only "crime" is being Jewish. Both options are pretty brutal, though I think the latter is a bit worse. But a nonviolent way to solve it? That would be nice, though perhaps not possible. And if Obama thinks that there was a nonviolent way to solve WWII, I wonder why he isn't seeking a nonviolent solution to Afghanistan?

  2. Caitlin,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree that it's extremely difficult to determine the correct course of action in situations similar to that of Nazi Germany. Pacifism definitely seems like a cop out when faced with the egregious crimes of the Nazis.

    At the same time, we must not forget the indiscriminate bombing that was carried out by the Allies resulting in the destruction of many innocent lives.

    It's clear that violence very rarely remains confined to those directly involved in a conflict. This reality could serve as a legitimate basis for an individual's
    pacifism. . . in most cases. However, when confronted with the Holocaust it seems like a very puny justification for inaction.

    Anyway, I guess any utilitarian defense of absolute pacifism ultimately is insufficient. Although this is true, I still feel inclined towards pacifism, because I value the teachings of Jesus. . .

    P.S. Obama didn't say that there was a nonviolent solution to WWII. Sorry if my original post was confusing.