Religion, Peace and Justice


Holy War

  • Christian teachings support both the Holy war and 'just war' theory
  • Holy war --> an argument that it can sometimes be necessary and right to use physical violence in order to defend a religion
  • Examplesof Holy war:
    1. The Crusades:
         -largely based on the beliefs that Christian Europe should take back the Holy Land and in particular, Jerusalem from the Muslims who ruled it

    2. Joshua and the Battle of Jericho (Bible example)

  • Most of the Christian churches would not now support a Holy war 
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Just War Theory

Thomas Aquinas wrote about the theory of a just war:

  • Just cause
  • Controlled violence (only military involved)
  • Authority - start the war
  • Proportional 
  • Prevent greater evil
  • Last resort
  • Good chance of success
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Attitudes Towards Violence and Pacifism

Pacifism --> belief that all fighting is wrong
Nuclear pacifist --> use of an atomic weapon can never be justified but do not rule out the use of force in other ways 

  • Christian pacifists argue that the Christian principle of agape (selfless love) means that violence is never acceptable
  • Best known group of pacifists- Quakers who believe any type of violence is wrong as they see God in everybody and to harm anyone harms God
  • New Testament:
    'Blessed are the peacemakers'
    'For all who draw the sword will die by the sword'
    'Love your enemy'

Violence --> a destructive force used to achieve goals

  • Jesus seemed to be acting in a violent manner when pushing over tables in anger
  • Importance of order in society being the will of God and as a consequence violence is justified 
  • Example:
    George Bush in allowing the torture of terror suspects after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre 
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Justice and the Aims of Punishment

Justice --> fair behaviour or treatment

  • created 'in the image of God'
  • important role of the government upholding the rule of law- Christians should support

Aims of Punishment:
1. Deterrence --> punishment designed to persuade other people not to do the same thing
2. Protection --> when a criminal is put in jail so the public are kept safe
3. Retribution --> when the criminal is punished as to bring a sense of justice to the injured party
4. Reformation --> punishment which will allow the criminal to become a better person
    ^Christians believe in this because of agape
     Example of this:
          -Quaker Elizabeth Fry worked to improve prison conditions so they were treated better and therefore given a better chance in life
          -Parable of the Sheep and Goats

-Jesus told Peter to forgive 'seventy times seven'- meaning always forgive, help them to reform
-All human life treated as sacred, never right to take a life as a punishment 

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Capital Punishment

Capital punishment --> state sanctioned killing or execution of a person because of a crime they committed 

  • Some Christians believe this is the only way to deal with the most serious crimes such as murder
  • 'Life for a life'
  • Good deterrent
  • Justified if it is the only available option to protect society

However, most Christians disagree with capital punishment:

  • Sanctity of Life
  • The criminals have no chance to reform
  • Believe in forgiveness 'seventy times seven'
  • The person might not actually be guilty of the crime- capital punishment taking an innocent life 
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Social Injustice

Social Injustice --> unfair of people in society. It refers to issues such as racism, ageism, sexism, poverty, disabilities etc

  • Christian teaching --> social injustice is wrong
    -created 'in the image of God'
  • Christians may respond to social injustice by working with organisations:
    -Salvation Army
    -Campaigns against racism etc
    -^Example of a Christian doing this- Martin Luther King, Civil Rights Movement- non-violent protests, marches and speeches
  • Positive actions against social injustice:
    -joining organisations such as Amnesty International

    Liberation Theology --> the movement, principally in South America, which tries to help the poor who are opressed by social injustice 

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