Pacifism denotes a spectrum of strategies used by people who want to minimize unjust conflict and war. These include promoting beliefs that international disputes should be peacefully resolved, and rejecting of any form of personal or social oppression for political, economic, or social goals, save those absolutely necessary for survival. Pacifism may call for abolishing military institutions, opposing societal organization through governmental force (anarchist or libertarian pacifism), and (rarely) opposition to destructive violence under any circumstance, even in defense of oneself or others.
- The right way to requite evil, according to Jesus, is not to resist it. This saying of Christ removes the Church from the sphere of politics and law. The Church is not to be a national community like the old Israel, but a community of believers without political or national ties. The old Israel had been both — the chosen people of God and a national community, and it was therefore his will that they should meet force with force. But with the Church it is different: it has abandoned political and national status, and therefore it must patiently endure aggression.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Nachfolge (1937), translated as The Cost of Discipleship (1959), p. 141
- Distinction between person and office is wholly alien to the teaching of Jesus. He says nothing about that. He addresses his disciples as men who have left all to follow him, and the precept of non-violence applies equally to private life and official duty.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Nachfolge (1937), translated as The Cost of Discipleship (1959), p. 143
- All that a pacifist can undertake — but it is a very great deal — is to refuse to kill, injure or otherwise cause suffering to another human creature, and untiringly to order his life by the rule of love though others may be captured by hate.
- Vera Brittain, in "What Can We Do In Wartime?", Forward (9 September 1939)
- Every government that intends war is as much our enemy as ever the Germans were...the safeguard of peace is not a vast army,but an unreliable public, a public that will fill the streets and empty the factories at the word War, that will learn and accept the lesson of resistance. The only way to stop atrocities is to refuse to participate in them.
- Alex Comfort, Peace and Disobedience, in Peace News (1946), pp. 6-7
- My pacifism is an instinctive feeling, a feeling that possesses me because the murder of men is disgusting.
- Albert Einstein, statement in Berlin, 1920, as quoted in Einstein : His Life and Times (1947) by Philipp Frank
- If there is any human activity which should be approached with caution, or rather which should be avoided by all possible means, resisted and shunned, that activity is war, for there is nothing more wicked, more disastrous, more widely destructive, more persistently ingrained, more hateful, more unworthy in every respect of a man, not to say a Christian.
- Desiderius Erasmus, "Dulce Bellum Inexpertis" in Adages (1515)
- Colonialism is not a thinking machine, nor a body endowed with reasoning faculties. It is violence in its natural state, and it will only yield when confronted with greater violence.
- The colonialist bourgeoisie is aided and abetted in the pacification of the colonized by the inescapable powers of religion. All the saints who turned the other cheek, who forgave those who trespassed against them, who, without flinching, were spat upon and insulted, are championed and shown as an example.
- What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?
- Mahatma Gandhi, Non-Violence in Peace and War, 1942, Vol. 1, Ch. 142
- Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. ... Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.
- Hermann Göring, as quoted in Nuremburg Diary (1947) by G. M. Gilbert, p. 278
- Pacifism, therefore, is not just an attitude about war, but it entails the belief that God, through Jesus Christ, has inaugurated a history that frees all people from our assumption that we have no moral alternative to war.
- Stanley Hauerwas, Against the Nations: War and Survival in a Liberal Society (1985), p. 173
- The only way to abolish war is to make peace heroic.
- James Hinton, Philosophy and Religion: Selections from the Manuscripts of the Late James Hinton, ed. Caroline Haddon, (2nd ed., London: 1884), p. 267; this is sometimes misattributed to John Dewey, who quotes Hinton in Human Nature and Conduct: An Introduction to Social Psychology (New York: 1922), p. 115
- Inquiry shall likewise be made about the professions and trades of those who are brought to be admitted to the faith. ... A gladiator or a trainer of gladiators, or a huntsman, or anyone connected with these shows ... must desist or be rejected. ... A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill men and to refuse to do so if he is commanded, and to refuse to take an oath; if he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected. A military commander or civic magistrate that wears the purple must resign or be rejected. If a catechumen or a believer seeks to become a soldier, they must be rejected, for they have despised God.
- Hippolytus of Rome, Apostolic Tradition, in Readings in World Christian History (2013), p. 17
- Pacifists ought to enter more deeply into the aesthetical and ethical point of view of their opponents. … So long as antimilitarists propose no substitute for war's disciplinary function, no moral equivalent of war, analogous, as one might say, to the mechanical equivalent of heat, so long they fail to realize the full inwardness of the situation. And as a rule they do fail. The duties, penalties, and sanctions pictured in the utopias they paint are all too weak and tame to touch the military-minded. … Inferiority is always with us, and merciless scorn of it is the keynote of the military temper.
- If a man were truly brave he wouldn't have to be always proving it to himself. So therefore I am forced to consider bravery suspect, and ridiculous, and dangerous. Because if there are enough young men like that who feel strongly enough about it, they can almost bring on a war, even when none of them want it, and are in fact struggling against having one. (And as far as modern war is concerned I am a pacifist. Hell, it isn't even war anymore, as far as that goes. It's an industry, a big business complex).
- James Jones, in The Paris Review No. 20, (Autumn-Winter 1958-1959)
- Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought. Strike against manufacturing shrapnel and gas bombs and all other tools of murder. Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to millions of human beings. Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction. Be heroes in an army of construction.
- Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. ... The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.
- Martin Luther King Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1967)
- As I refuse violence, I refuse to serve the violent.
- All breathing, existing, living, sentient creatures should not be slain, nor treated with violence, nor abused, nor tormented, nor driven away.
- Non-violence and kindness to living beings is kindness to oneself. For thereby one's own self is saved from various kinds of sins and resultant sufferings and is able to secure his own welfare.
- Mahavira as quoted in Religion and culture of the Jains (1975) by Jyotiprasāda Jaina, p. 187.
- Kill not, cause no pain. Nonviolence is the greatest religion.
- Mahavira as quoted in Let's Celebrate! (1987) by Caroline Parry, p. 127.
- "It was military might, not pacifism, that defeated Hitler". Not exactly. Examples abound, both large and small, in Denmark, Holland, Norway, France, and elsewhere, in which nonviolent resistance defied the Nazi onslaught. In those places, Gene Sharp writes in The Politics of Nonviolent Action, “patriots resisted their Nazi overlords and internal puppets by such weapons as underground newspapers, labor slowdowns, general strikes, refusal of collaboration, special boycotts of German troops and quislings, and non-cooperation with fascist controls and efforts to restructure their societies’ institutions.” The defiance tended to be hastily organized and was not widespread. If the opposite were true—if Hitler had been resisted in the late 1920s and the early 1930s, not the early 1940s, and in more places—the war’s death toll might have been much lower.
- War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
- John Stuart Mill, on the US Civil War, in "The Contest in America", Fraser’s Magazine (February 1862)
- Since pacifists have more freedom of action in countries where traces of democracy survive, pacifism can act more effectively against democracy than for it. Objectively the pacifist is pro-Nazi.
- George Orwell, in "No, Not One", Adelphi (October 1941)
- When every young man refuses to go to war, you will have peace. As long as you fight for gain and greed, there will be no peace. As long as one person commits acts of violence for the sake of peace, you will have war. Unfortunately it is difficult to imagine that all the young men in all of the countries will refuse to go to war at the same time. And so you must work out what violence has wrought. Within the next hundred years, that time may come. Remember, you do not defend any idea with violence. There is no man who hates but that hatred is reflected outward and made physical. And there is no man who loves but that love is reflected outward and made physical.
- Jane Roberts, in The Seth Material, p. 274
- It is war that wastes a nation's wealth, chokes its industries, kills its flower, narrows its sympathies, condemns it to be governed by adventurers, and leaves the puny, deformed, and unmanly to breed the next generation.
- I think in the past I was like a lot of people who said I've got pacifistic inclination but I'm not a pacifist because what I couldn't find in my own mind was the answer to that perennial question: 'Ah, yes, but what would you have done when the Nazis were coming?' And as someone with Jewish blood I've always found that difficult to answer, but the thing with this war which makes it so wrong in so many different ways is that it exposes that argument about the Nazis as a specious argument, in that it assumes a conditional assumption i.e. that you are in 1939, because it can be answered with a similar kind of conditional question: 'But hang on a minute, if everyone had been a pacifist in 1914 then the Nazis would never have come to power.'
- You know, Dude, I myself dabbled in pacifism once. Not in 'Nam of course.
- Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski (1998)
- There is no ground for assuming that the fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie can achieve decisive successes in battles, or in governing the country, without the active support of Social-Democracy. There is just as little ground for thinking that Social-Democracy can achieve decisive successes in battles, or in governing the country, without the active support of the fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie. These organisations do not negate, but supplement each other. They are not antipodes, they are twins. Fascism is an informal political bloc of these two chief organisations; a bloc, which arose in the circumstances of the post-war crisis of imperialism, and which is intended for combating proletarian revolution. The bourgeoisie cannot retain power without such a bloc. It would therefore be a mistake to think that "pacifism" signifies the liquidation of fascism. In the present situation, "pacifism" is the strengthening of fascism with its moderate, Social-Democratic wing pushed into the forefront.
- Joseph Stalin, "The Period of Bourgeois-Democratic Pacifism" (1924), reprinted in,Marxists in Face of Fascism : Writings by Marxists on Fascism from the Inter-War Period (1984) by David Beetham, p. 154.
- In all history there is no war which was not hatched by the governments, the governments alone, independent of the interests of the people, to whom war is always pernicious even when successful.
- Leo Tolstoy, in On Patriotism (1894)
- War is a crime against humanity. We, therefore, are determined not to support any kind of war, and to strive for the removal of all causes of war.
- War Resisters' International, official statement of the international pacifist organisation, (c.1925), as quoted in Peace/Mir : An Anthology of Historic Alternatives to War (1994), edited by Charles Chatfield and Ruzanna Mikhaĭlovna Iliukhina, p. 252.
- The tragedy is not that nonviolence did not work against the Nazis, but that it was so seldom utilized...The churches as a whole were too docile or anti-semitic, and too ignorant of the nonviolent message of the Gospel, to act effectively to resist the Nazis or act in solidarity with the Jews.
- Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992, p. 254-256.
- What would happen if everyone did it? If everyone gave their wealth away what would we do for capital? If everyone loved their enemies who would ward off the Communists? This argument could be met on other levels, but here our only point is to observe that such reasoning would have been preposterous in the early church and remains ludicrous whenever committed Christians accept realistically their minority status. Far more fitting than "What if everybody did it" would be its inverse, "What if nobody else acted like a Christian, but we did?"
- John Howard Yoder, The Priestly Kingdom (1984), p. 139.