Peace and Nonviolence: What All Religions Say About War

This is part of a weekly series of over 50 common themes across religions. Stay subscribed to read about next week’s theme!

Previously, we highlighted “Peace and Nonviolence” as a common theme across religions.

In light of recent events, we wanted to revisit this important theme, with particular emphasis on what religions say about war.

All religions denounce war as foolish and evil, accomplishing nothing but an increase in human suffering. Invading armies force peaceful people into fighting when they do not want to, causing so much unnecessary pain on both sides.

Some wars have been waged in the name of religion, but these were distortions of the original messages from prophets and scriptures, which are all about peace.

If people knew about all the common themes across religions, it would lead to a greater recognition of our common humanity and there would be less war and more peace on Earth.


“In administering your
government, what need is there for you to
kill? Just desire the good yourself and the
common people will be good.”
— The Analects (12:19), Confucian text


“Those who have been attacked are permitted to take up arms because they have been wronged.”
— The Qur’an (22:39–40), Islamic scripture


“Weapons are not auspicious tools
[The ruler] wields them when he has no choice […]
When you kill another
Honor him with your tears
When the battle is won
Treat it as a wake”
— Tao Te Ching (Ch. 31), Daoist text


“When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace.”
— The Hebrew Bible, Jewish text


“Ashoka renounced conquest, horrified by the event that had preceded and triggered his conversion to Buddhism — his own bloody conquest of a neighboring region. ‘The most important conquest,’ he announced, is ‘moral conquest.’”
— Robert Wright, journalist and religion writer


“God laughs again when two brothers divide their land with a string, saying to each other, ‘This side is mine and that side is yours.’ He laughs and says to Himself, ‘The whole universe belongs to Me, but they say they own this portion or that portion.’”
— Sri Ramakrishna, Hindu saint


“So let us try, as an experiment, peace, and if the results of peace are bad, then we can choose if it would be better to go back to the old state of war! […] We have passed many centuries in darkness, let us advance towards the light.”
— ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i leader

Modern Psychology and Philosophy

“There is a state of mind, known to religious men, but to no others, in which the will to assert ourselves and hold our own has been displaced by a willingness to close our mouths and be as nothing in the floods and waterspouts of God.”
— William James, psychologist and philosopher

Check out our previous newsletters: Peace and Nonviolence part 1

And visit our website to read about more common themes across religions!

Foundational Article More on Peace and Nonviolence



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