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The Religious Concept Of Pacifism, Pacifism And Resistance To War, Conscientious Objection Based On Pacifist Principles

The issues summoned up by the term pacifism are complex and varied because different concepts, traditions, and definitions exist throughout the world, often creating misunderstanding and confusion—sometimes intentionally so. For example, the term may be used pejoratively in political debates by individuals seeking to portray opponents who refuse to support a specific military action, or by those who prefer nonviolent approaches to a problem or conflict while not being principled pacifists. The term underwent a bifurcation, redefinition, and narrower specification with the watershed years of the so-called Great War of 1914. The distinction between absolute pacifism and "pacific-ism"—the latter a term coined by the modern historian A. J. P. Taylor and used by his successors—or other less ethically rigid "pacifist" positions emerged then. Before 1915 the term pacifist was employed as a more general term to describe one who opposed war as an institution, rejecting violence in favor of turning "swords into plowshares." But the earlier definition of pacifist did not necessarily exclude violence—still less all force—as a means to an end, for example, in opposing slavery.

This more general understanding of pacifism did not necessarily imply a refusal to support, or indeed fight in, a war once it broke out. The more rigid position became defined as "absolute" or "pure" pacifism, identifying those whose stance in 1914 or from 1915 to 1916 was based on consistent principles. The terms pure or absolute have been dropped from the political debate since then, and the term pacifist now tends to mean rejection of all and any war—especially since the 1960s, when some "pacifists" remained equivocal on violence in Indochina.

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