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Religion: Diluted Pacifism

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Pacifism, as a religious belief, seems to be declining in the U.S., according to Vernon H. Holloway, associate professor of religion and philosophy at Ohio’s Denison University.

The traditional peace sects regarded pacifism as a Christian commandment, to be followed regardless of the consequences. It became diluted between World Wars I & II, says Holloway, by the social thinking of liberal Protestants who hoped to use Christian ideas to reform society. Up until Pearl Harbor, denunciations and renunciations of war “as an instrument of national policy” rang out from many church conventions. But when war came, most churchmen gave it their support.

Writing in the current issue of Religion in Life, Holloway thinks that the old, nonresistance type of pacifism may survive in a few sects. “But modern pacifism, which endeavored to substitute morals for politics, or to equate Gandhi’s political shrewdness with the Cross of Christ, may expect to meet greater difficulties.”

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