The Justifications for War and Peace in World Religions
Part III: “Comparison of Scriptures from Seven World Religions”
Defence R&D Canada – Toronto, Contract Report CR 2010-036
One of the most important decisions of any nation or armed group is when, if ever, to wage war or apply armed force. Such life-and-death judgements are informed by and sometimes determined by ethical principles and religious beliefs. World religions all provide guidelines on when armed force is justified. Are the permissions and prohibitions similar among religions? The present work seeks to map out the range of religious approaches to armed force, as expressed in the scriptures of the world’s largest religions. Though the interpretations of religious scriptures vary considerably, the texts themselves provide a sense of each religion’s approach to the important issue. Covering values from absolute pacifism, where armed force is not permissible under any circumstances, to strong militancy, where armed force is readily adopted, this research compiles, compares and contrasts important scriptural passages. Along with the associated DRDC reports, it presents a tour d’horizon, surveying scriptures from seven world religions. The previous reports analysed the three Abrahamic religions (Part I: Christianity, Islam and Judaism) and religions of Indic origin (Part II: Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism). The important scriptures from each religion were briefly introduced and the relevant verses were extracted, categorized and summarized. This makes possible, in each religion, the juxtaposition of passages justifying the use of force with passages suggesting the opposite. More broadly, a comparison is presented here, in Part III, in both a descriptive and a schematic fashion to illustrate the differences between the scriptures within each religion and the differences between the religions. The religious approaches are compared by examining how they answer basic questions about war: Why? Who? When? Where? What? How? This variance is illustrated in this report by locating religious scriptures along a spectrum of force.