Search Results for Just War
The Just War doctrine relates to the notion that, in certain circumstances, war may be ethically justified for reasons of personal, national or religious self-defense. This has nothing to do with a disturbed individual taking on the role of “savior” of humanity through horrific and irrational acts of violence, as we’ve recently seen, for instance, in Norway.
With no direct New Testament scriptural support for the idea of a Just War, Catholic Tradition endorses it. St. Augustine supports the Just War on the basis of numerous holy wars portrayed in the Old Testament. The Middle Ages endorsed it in the Inquisitions. And the most recent Catholic Catechism cites St. Thomas Aquinas, who condones killing as a legitimate form of self defense, be that personal or national (1995: p. 604).
The contemporary understanding of the Just War speaks to the organized killing, when absolutely necessary, of other human beings on the wrong side of the religious or political fence. All peaceful solutions have failed, the enemy poses some kind of grand scale threat and there’s a reasonable expectation of victory. Most theologians, for instance, would agree that Hitler and the Nazi’s simply had to be stopped.
Similarities and Differences in non-Christian Religions
In Islam, the notion of Jihad might point to a uniquely Islamic understanding of a kind of ‘Just War’ doctrine (although it would not be called a Just War because that is a uniquely Christian concept). And in Hinduism, the Baghavad-Gita endorses killing in keeping with one’s moral duty to uphold the apparently sacred dharma. While it may be hard for many to see what these two forms of war have to do with self-defense, an intellectual argument could probably be made within each religion to try to convince others that these kinds of war are about self-defense. One, of course, doesn’t have to agree. And God knows the truth of the matter.
Meanwhile, Buddhist scriptures speak of peace and non-violence, and Buddhism is often hailed as a non-violent path. But Moojan Momen points out that scriptural, philosophical and folkloric justifications for violence exist in the Buddhist tradition (Moojan Momen, The Phenomenon of Religion: A Thematic Approach, Oxford: Oneworld, 1999, p. 410). Bernard Faure also says that Buddhist doctrine has often been adapted to justify war (Bernard Faure, “Buddhism and Violence,” Sangam.org, December 6, 2003). And John Ferguson draws on scripture, legend and history to outline five justifications for war in the Buddhist tradition (War and Peace in the World’s Religions, London: Sheldon Press, 1977, pp. 55-57).
- Religion and War (epages.wordpress.com)
- Killing The Buddha (samharris.org)
- What are different between Japanese buddhism and Chinese Buddhism (wiki.answers.com)
- Idolatry: Can the blind lead the blind? – Part 2 (1joh4.wordpress.com)
In Christianity justification has been the focus of much debate and controversy within the traditional Christian circles.
For the Protestant Reformers, justification refers to the idea that sinful human beings may be saved by God’s grace alone. The shortened phrase “justification through faith,” which we often hear in religious debates, more completely means “justification by grace through faith.”
The Catholic interpretation of justification emphasizes a total conversion of the sinner who comes to receive sanctifying grace, this being conferred and increased by the sacraments of the Catholic Church.
Some Protestants and Christian fundamentalists regard most of the Catholic sacraments as human fabrications, possibly leaning towards superstition, magic, paganism and the devil. For Catholics, however, the Protestant notion that one may be certain of one’s personal salvation is misguided and, technically speaking, heretical.
- Calvinism vs. Arminianism: a Debate on Faith and Freewill (prweb.com)
- Where are the Lutherans, revisited (geneveith.com)
- Justification & Sanctification (pjcockrell.wordpress.com)
- UMC Doctrine: Justification (johnmeunier.wordpress.com)
- Not Faith, but Christ (inchristus.wordpress.com)
- Weekly Communion (christophermichaellofton.wordpress.com)
- Assurance of Salvation (godshammer.wordpress.com)
- Hauled Aboard the Ark – The Spiritual Journey of Peter Kreeft (onecatholicnews.wordpress.com)
- Michael Servetus (justificationbygrace.com)
- Catholics and the Saints: Part Three (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
The Bhagavad-Gita [Sanskrit: The song of the Lord] is a central scripture holy to Hindus that belongs to book VI of the epic Mahabharata. Believed by many scholars to be a more recent insert within the Mahabharata, the Gita synthesizes different, previously existing forms of yoga.
The main plot line revolves around Krishna urging Arjuna to fulfil the dharma (sacred duty) appropriate to his warrior caste (kshatrya). Taken literally, in the Gita this means Arjuna must slay kith and kin in the battlefield.
Krishna outlines additional dharmas appropriate for other castes, but Arjuna’s sacred task is to kill. Krishna further instructs Arjuna that his relatives will not really perish because the soul (atman) is eternal.
A gentler, psychological interpretation of the Gita sees the ‘killing’ in terms of the destruction of bad karma accumulated over past lives. These attributes manifest as outward aspects of the personality in the present life, not unlike that which Carl Jung terms the persona. Thus the ‘killing’ could be seen as the elimination or, perhaps, redirection of superficial and negative personality components that obscure awareness of the immortal soul (atman)
Because God’s grace is said to be central in overcoming negative past karma, some scholars believe that the Gita was written as late as 2nd-century CE, influenced by the teachings of Jesus Christ. Regardless of the precise date, Arjuna’s dharma seems to lie somewhere between Old Testament ideas concerning the problem of social justice (“an eye for an eye”) and the New Testament emphasis on spiritual salvation (“turn the other cheek”).
While some Christians may argue that the Gita’s message is clearly inferior to the New Testament’s prescription to love one’s enemies, this claim is complicated by the additional teaching of the so-called “Just War,” a teaching which is explicit or, perhaps, implicit to many Christian belief systems.
Having said that, it seems that a valid distinction may be made between what Jesus of the New Testament says we ought to do vs. what will happen.
Jesus of the New Testament says his followers ought not to be violent, nor to even think violently, even though conflict and war will inevitably break out among some members of the population. By way of contrast, the Krishna of the Gita essentially says killing is okay in certain circumstances. And this is something that Christ never advocates in the New Testament.
- Shrimad Bhagavad Gita in Hindi (full) (manishkamat.wordpress.com)
- #Review# : Bhagavad Gita (physicaln3dj6.wordpress.com)
- #Buy# : Jnaneshwari: Bhavartha – Dipika Commentary on the Bhagavad Gita (physicaln3dj6.wordpress.com)
- Everyday Bhagavad-Gita. ~ Vrindavan Rao (elephantjournal.com)
- Bhagavad Gita Post #1 – The background (pflead73.wordpress.com)
- #Buy# : The Bhagavad Gita or The Message of the Master (physicaln3dj6.wordpress.com)
- Mahabharata for a Yogi (artoflivingsblog.com)
- Rahul invokes the Gita, Buddha at CII meet (news.in.msn.com)
- Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 7 – Knowledge of Ultimate Truth (Gyan Vigyaan Yoga) (bhuwanchand.wordpress.com)
- Ahimsa: The Way of Nonviolence (thelastteahouse.wordpress.com)
Cults and Religions – What’s the difference?
Many debate the differences between religion and cults. Some say there’s no difference. In other words, religions are cults and cults are religions. But this kind of thinking arguably doesn’t do justice to the complexities of faith and the supernatural.
One difference seems to be that, in a cult, a charismatic leader is undeservedly glorified. Some say that this would make Abraham, Jesus Christ, Mohammad, Buddha and Mahavira cult leaders. But cults also display a relatively short longevity (after the leader dies, the cult dwindles away). This didn’t happen in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or Jainism. So they can’t be called cults by that standard.
Another difference is that cults typically isolate new members from their families and unbelievers. Religions tend to be less drastic, with most (not all, mind you) accepting interfaith relationships.
Steven Hassan, an expert on cults, says
Since all destructive cults believe that the ends justify the means, they believe themselves to be above the law. As long as they believe that what they are doing is “right” and “just,” many of them think nothing of lying, stealing, cheating, or unethically using mind control to accomplish their ends. They violate, in the most profound and fundamental way, the civil liberties of the people they recruit. They turn unsuspecting people into slaves. ¹
Others say the difference between religions and cults is a matter of degree, especially with those religions and cults that attract, institutionally legitimize and reproduce authoritarian personality types and the legalistic beliefs and structured practices that these individuals participate in.
In these instances, religious or cultic affiliation apparently provides a convenient means for the psychologically immature to overlook unresolved emotional issues. Accordingly, some critics of religion maintain that religious affiliation provides a safe but essentially cowardly means for unleashing centuries of culturally and perhaps genetically inherited anger onto those who don’t wish to sacrifice their free will to the dictates of an institution. These critics say that most religious institutions must incorporate (or reject) new developments within the context of their limiting teachings and traditions.
This too, seems somewhat simplistic. For religious believers will often say they are fully choosing to cooperate with God’s will as progressively revealed to them within their particular religious organization. Apparently there’s a richness in their spiritual life that the secular critics just don’t get. And individuals belonging to orgqanizations seen by outsiders as cults often say the same thing. “You don’t understand…”
This can make it difficult to tell the difference between a religion and a cult. Meanwhile, many new religions are cropping up. And some say they’re nothing more than cheap covers created by creepy masterminds aiming to get tax breaks on donations made by gullible believers.
When in doubt, draw a chart
One of the definitions for “cult” in Merriam-Websters dictionary is: “a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents.”
The following chart compares some of the main beliefs and practices found within religions and cults. This is not the final word. The items in each column don’t universally apply and many of the distinctions made in this chart are debatable. In keeping with the classical sociologist Max Weber, however, this chart offers ideal types.
Ideal types are generalized constructs. They don’t provide precise definitions and they’re not comprehensive. But they are thought-provoking. And that’s their main purpose.
Above chart elaborates on many sources, including Gregg Stebben’s Everything You Need to Know About Religion (The Pocket Professor, Denis Boyles ed., New York: Pocket Books, 1999: 25-26).
¹ Steven Hassan, Combatting Cult Mind Control, Rochester: Park Street Press, 1988, p. 36.
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Dharma is the idea of sacred duty in Hinduism. The concept originates from India’s ancient legal texts, so it’s not surprising that “doing the right thing” within this belief system is usually bound up within specific caste and gender biases, which many today would see as hopelessly backward.
As a Hindu ideal, dharma is doing one’s divine duty in an apparently impersonal manner. In essence, the mind is said to be fixed on God while correct action is performed without care for the personal “fruit” of those actions.
The belief that one’s actions may be entirely untainted by personal biases and desires seems questionable. And this is no scholarly quibble. Orthodox Hinduism, for instance, advocates killing as the appropriate dharma for members of the kshatriya caste. And in domestic affairs, the dharma of the wife is often marked by servitude to her husband and family, a position widely held to be sexist.¹
The idea of surrendering to God is nothing new but each religion tends to define the notion of appropriate surrender differently. Despite the obvious problems with the idea of dharma, recent social movements within India are compelling the middle classes, especially, to become increasingly aware of the often conflicting distinction between the idea of universal human rights and this ancient view of religious duty.
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¹ India, where 80.5 % of the population say they’re Hindu, has recently been labelled the worst place to be a woman, with Canada being the best. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/13/us-g20-women-idUSBRE85C00420120613
- Dharma (energymuse.wordpress.com)
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- what is Dharma? (simplemeditation4health.wordpress.com)
- Merit or Duty Part 2: Breaking out of the imaginary caste system at work (balancedaction.wordpress.com)
- Attacks against the Vedic Agama connection – Vijaya Rajiva (bharatabharati.wordpress.com)
- Krishna, Buddha and Christ: The same or different? (Part 2) (epages.wordpress.com)
- The Golden Rule… (thedailysisterhood.wordpress.com)
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The definition of evil is informed by one’s core beliefs, and different kinds of arguments try to explain its existence.
Some materialists and scientists scoff at the idea of evil as if it were an antiquated legacy from a superstitious past.
Violent criminals are usually described in the news in psychiatric terms. Murderers are often reported as having a mental illness instead of being possessed by the devil. However, sometimes callous murderers are called “monsters” so the idea of evil can creep in to our essentially scientific worldview.
Meanwhile, savage tyrants and warlords are often viewed through a historical or, perhaps, political lens.
Evil in Christian theology
A basic theological distinction exists between natural evil and moral evil. Natural evil includes “acts of God” such as floods, earthquakes and avalanches. Moral evil is a conscious human choice to turn away from God’s will and participate in some action harmful to self and possibly others.
Duns Scotus classified “intrinsic evil” as acts that are inherently evil and accordingly prohibited. But intrinsically evil acts are not evil because they are prohibited.
In Christian theology evil is often seen as a necessary component of God’s plan of salvation. Here one accepts as an article of faith that God permits evil for some greater good, beyond the comprehension of mere mortals (see Isaiah 55:8-9).
A Christian school of thought, begun by Irenaeus and popularized by John Hick, argues that evil is permitted, but not caused, by God. Why, one might ask, would an all-powerful God permit evil? According to the Irenian school, the answer lies in the idea of ‘soul making.’ A soul freely choosing to abstain from evil is of greater value than one that automatically avoids evil like a programmed robot. The free soul apparently better glorifies God than would a sinless automaton.
Although evil may ravage, test and torment good souls living on earth, the true goal of our finite, earthly life is to be made worthy of eternal heavenly life. According to this perspective the evils of the world act as a crucible. Souls not succumbing to but resisting evil are purified and strengthened toward the good. Evil, then, is necessary. It acts as a kind of hammer that pounds out the soul’s impurities.
God permits some evils lest the good things should be obstructed.
Another Christian argument, influenced by Plato‘s idea of the Forms, is given by St. Augustine. Augustine sees evil as a privatio boni—the absence of good. According to this view, since God is good, evil must be where God is not present. Therefore God doesn’t create evil. It’s a choice. But the theological debates get complicated here, and some ask whether Augustine’s theodicy holds up for both natural and moral evil.
Different branches of Christianity hold different views about what happens to evil souls in the afterlife. Some Churches damn sinners eternally. Martin Luther, for instance, believed that some souls are predestined for hell. Meanwhile, some contemporary Christians pray for the liberation of souls in hell while others do not.¹ And the Catholic Purgatory is neither heaven nor hell, but a difficult preparation for heaven.
Evil in non-Christian religions
Evil in Islam is similar to that of Christianity. But for Muslims it is evil to suggest that Christ is one with God (John 10:30). And the prohibitions in the Koran differ from those of the New Testament. Notably, killing is permitted in the Koran in some circumstances (see http://www.yoel.info/koranwarpassages.htm and http://www.islamreview.com/articles/jihadholywarversesinthekoran.shtml), whereas the very thought of killing is denounced in the New Testament. Many branches of Christianity do, however, entertain the idea of a Just War.
In Hinduism a different view of evil is presented. Evil is permitted to maintain a proper balance of sacred heat or power (tapas) within the universe. Aspects of Hinduism speak to the reality of hell for evildoers. But evil in Hinduism is mostly viewed in terms of personal ignorance and spiritual development, making hellish punishments temporary instead of eternal.
According to this perspective, the evil soul reincarnates on earth until it is cleansed of the ignorance that influenced it to commit bad deeds. This differs dramatically from the Catholic view that souls in hell are eternally damned and, strangely enough, would never want to leave. Unlike the Christian, the Hindu aspires to transcend apparently relative ideas about good and evil through an experiential knowledge of universal truth.
Accordingly, the goal of Hinduism differs from both Christianity and Islam. For the Hindu, heaven is a halfway house on the road to ultimate realization. The reincarnating soul may enjoy periodic visits to different heavens but, though the round of rebirth, it eventually transcends all heavens and ultimately achieves the greatest good of the Brahman. A similar but in some ways different view of evil is presented in Taoism.
An interesting but often overlooked question is whether Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Taoist and Hindu heavens and hells are identical in character. The celebrated Romanian scholar Mircea Eliade notes that heavens and hells are described differently among world religions. But do they all feel the same? We can’t really know but my guess is NO.
Most cultures around the world at some point in history have seen evil as a cause of mental or physical illness. This view is prevalent in Shamanism. And some religious writers, such as the Catholic, Michael Brown, say they feel the presence of evil almost anywhere.
And on the inferiority of evil as compared to good, W. H. Auden writes in A Certain World:
Good can imagine Evil; but Evil cannot imagine Good.
¹ See this excellent discussion: http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=329730
- The freewill defense (St. Augustine of Hippo): Part 1 (thatreligiousstudieswebsite.com)
- One’s Good and the Other is Evil (conservativetickler.wordpress.com)
- Why God Won’t Allow Me to Heaven (ichosethebluepill.wordpress.com)
- A Scene from “Doctor Faustus” (alyssajmammano.wordpress.com)
- Medieval Good (ideasandotherstuff.wordpress.com)
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Islam [Arabic: surrender] is the religion of Muslims, based on the text of the Koran (or Qur’an).
Islam contains 5 pillars of fundamental belief and practice:
- Ash-Shahada – the belief in only one God.
- Salat – daily prayer, with body facing Mecca, taking place at sunrise, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nighttime.
- Sawm – fasting that is obligatory at puberty and also during the 9th month of the Islamic year (Ramadan), believed to be the period when the Koran was written. Eating and drinking is prohibited from dawn to sunset during Ramadan.
- Zakat - giving alms to the less fortunate, the amount being 2.5% of one’s total income.
- Hajj – the pilgrimage to Mecca that all Moslems are obliged to take at least once in a lifetime. Hajj ideally is taken on the eighth day of the twelfth month of the Islamic year.
The Sunni branch of Islam is comprised of about 85% of contemporary Muslims and is often regarded as orthodox form of this religion.
The Shi’ite branch, mostly in Iran, Persia and partly in Iraq, represent about 10% of today’s Muslims.
Historically speaking, the Shi’ites and Sunnis split over a disagreement about the legitimacy of Mohammad’s successors (Caliphs)—not entirely unlike the Protestant refusal to recognize the authority of the Catholic Papacy.
The mystically based, unorthodox branch of Sufism arose partly as a reaction to the beliefs and standardized practices of orthodox Islam. In response, aspects of orthodox Islam have been critical of Sufism, especially in regard to the Sufi belief that a person can be “one” with God.
- The Muslim Next Door (thechristianpundit.org)
- Stephen Schwartz: Islamic Sufism and Jewish Kabbalah: Shining a Light on Their Hidden History (huffingtonpost.com)
- ANALYSIS: Seeking a Spiritual Guide (thinkaloudtoday.wordpress.com)
- Why are Pakistan’s ‘moderate’ clerics defending Salman Taseer’s murderer? | Hamad Ali (guardian.co.uk)
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- Ibn al-Rwanadi’s concluding thoughts on the history of Islam. (paulmarcelrene.wordpress.com)
- Reblog: Saudi Arabia: Anticipation of Hajj (americanbedu.com)
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The legal tests for determining heretics were both irrational and in many cases, predetermined by ludicrous experimenter bias. And in many cases the authorities of the day were legally permitted to seize property formerly owned by someone branded as a heretic.
Under Torquemada (1420–1498) a horrific total of 2000 heretics were burnt at the stake, all on one occasion.
The Inquisition began around the 12th century and extended in various waves within Europe until finally abolished in Spain in 1834.
- The Holy Inquisition: Dominic and the Dominicans (insightscoop.typepad.com)
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Gordon D. Newby, however, suggests that this definition is simplistic. The jihad, he says, can be divided into two types—the lesser and the greater jihad.
While the lesser jihad may involve armed conflict against evil†, it doesn’t always. Different Muslim groups have different views about the necessity of violence. And some see jihad more in terms of missionary activity.
The greater jihad, Newby says, involves a personal struggle against the evil influences within oneself. Just as in other religions we hear about “spiritual warfare,” this type of jihad is about combating evil within the self.
A third type of jihad, mentioned at Wikipedia, involves the struggle to make society better. And some say that any kind of righteous struggle can be a “jihad” of sorts. For instance, some called Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle against British colonialism a “jihad.”
For more on this controversial concept, see Newby’s entry for jihad in A Concise Encyclopedia of Islam (pdf).
† Newby doesn’t qualify this idea. But most would say that the understanding of “evil” is something that can be influenced by human bias.
- The Doctrine of an-Nasikh wa’l Mansukh: Abrogation in the Qur’an and the Idea of a Hijacked Religion (everythingislam.wordpress.com)
- New, Free Egypt: Prominent Cleric Says Financial Problems Can Be Solved By Conducting Jihad Raids To Capture “Slaves, Women And Children To Sell Like Groceries”… (atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com)
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A Kshatriya is a hereditary member of the warrior caste, as outlined in the Hindu Veda.
The whole concept of the Kshatriya raises concerns among some thinking people because in the Bhagavad Gita it justifies killing on the basis of this being some kind of sacred duty (dharma).
This idea is comparable to the Catholic notion of the “Just War,” but not equivalent because Catholicism, and Christian scripture in general, clearly advocates “turning the other cheek” and “loving one’s enemies” as the ultimate ideal–an ideal not found in the Bhagavad Gita.
Some Hindus maintain that Krishna only advocates war after all attempts at obtaining a peaceful solution to a family conflict have failed (not unlike the Just War concept). But these peacemaking attempts certainly are not emphasized in the Bhagavad Gita, itself, as they are in the New Testament. While the New Testament predicts that wars will occur in the future, at no place does it advocate them nor claim that a war can have a holy status, as we find in the Bhagavad Gita.
- Krishna (earthpages.wordpress.com)
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