Leaders from several religions have spoken out against nuclear weapons. In various forms, the Golden Rule is the base for many religions: “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself”. The possession of nuclear weapons is not compatible with the Golden Rule.
Already at its first meeting ever in 1948, the World Council of Churches (WCC) proclaimed that nuclear weapons are “a sin against God and a degradation of man”. WCC and African church leaders promoted the nuclear free zone in Africa that was established in 2009.
In 2014, WCC stated that to use nuclear energy in a way that threatens to destroy life is a sinful misuse of God’s creation.
“Nuclear weapons cannot indeed be reconciled with real peace. They inflict unspeakable suffering with blast, heat and radiation. They wreak destruction which cannot be bound by space or time. Their power is indiscriminate and their effects cannot be matched by any other device. As long as nuclear weapons exist, they pose a threat to humanity.”
The former Archbishop of Sweden, Dr K G Hammar, said in 2011 that Sweden should criticize NATO in a clear and articulated way to take a stand for nuclear disarmament, in order to show that we are not hypocritical.
Islam is often considered as a violent religion by Western media and its peaceful messages are forgotten. The only Muslim country with nuclear weapons is Pakistan. The country has secular and religious parties and a powerful military sector with an ambivalent view of Islamism and the religious leaders and parties have usually backed Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Opinion polls have shown that the nuclear weapons are supported by a majority of the population in India and Pakistan where Hinduism and Islam are the predominant religions.
Many claim that Iran seeks to acquire nuclear weapons. In 2014, a group of catholic bishops from the US travelled to Iran and met with religious leaders. The top religious leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that he had issued a fatwa stating that Islam bans the ownership, development and use of nuclear weapons. (A fatwa is an Islamic legal pronouncement, issued by an expert in religious law, mufti). That means that to use nuclear weapons is a great sin. The official attitude in Iran is that the fatwa should be obeyed and the nuclear energy program should not result in nuclear weapons.
Physicists with Jewish background, who had fled to the US from the Nazis in Europe, developed the first US nuclear weapons. One of them where the man who came to be called the “Father of the Atomic Bomb” – Robert Oppenheimer. Later, several of them worked against the nuclear armaments. They were often non-practicing, ethnical Jews, but they didn’t have faith.
A rabbi and law teacher in the USA, Michael Broyde, thought that nuclear weapons are so terrible that they should not be used. Talmud (Shavuot 35b) prohibits wars that kill more than 1/6 of the population. But according the Jewish doctrine, a threatened country may have nuclear weapons and threaten to use them – under the condition that it’s just a threat and the country never would use them.
India has the second largest population in the world and 80 % of the population is Hindu. Mahatma Gandhi was Hindu and pacifist, we therefore often connect Hinduism with pacifism. But that’s not always true. There are more militant branches of Hinduism and India is a secular country where religion does not determine politics.
Hindu leaders and grassroots have largely accepted the Indian nuclear tests. The domestic protests against nuclear weapons do not come primarily from religious groups, but rather from intellectual groups.
The first nuclear weapon of India was called “the smiling Buddha”. But as opposed to Hinduism, Buddhism is a peaceful, pacifistic religion. Leaders within Buddhism work for elimination of all nuclear weapons and an international law which outlaws nuclear weapons, i.e. a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC).
In April 2014, a conference was held in the US with representatives for Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity who worked for an elimination of nuclear weapons and asked religious leaders to work for this goal.
Last update: March 30, 2015