Pacifism and religion
Such radical behaviour as pacifism is often induced by religious beliefs. In particular, many Buddhists are pacifist, as are members of the Religious Society of Friends, Mennonites, Church of the Brethren, Amish, and some other Christian groups.
Opinions are divided among Christians over whether Jesus Christ advocated pacifist teachings. Certain Christian denominations, known as peace churches, have tave taken the position that he did do so, and believe further that early Christianity was essentially pacifist in nature. The Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy advocated what has come to be known as anarcho-pacifism or Christian anarchism. He argued that Christians were obligated to be pacifists, and that pacifists, in turn, were obligated to be anarchists — since government is based on the use of force. Tolstoy was influenced by Henry David Thoreau's writings on civil disobedience. Tolstoy's own writings on pacifism and non-resistance converted Gandhi to pacifism.
Non-pacifistic religions, including Judaism, many variants of Christianity, and Islam, have usually made no pretense of meaning "pacifism" by their messages concerning the great obligation to pursue peace: typically constructing rules, sometimes very elaborately defined, under which the use of aggression for the establishment and maintenance of justice may be legitimate. Non-pacifist Christians typically interpret Christ to have taught patience under even extreme religious persecution, but do not directly extend the teaching as a rule for the governance of nations or the strategies of police forces. Most, including the Roman Catholic Church, adopt some formulation of a just war doctrine, by which the use of violence or force is deemed legitimate and necessary under certain circumstances, on which occasions non-participation may be judged morally wrong.
While usually emphasizing the inherent limitations of aggression toward accomplishing these ends, and typically warning of the risk that aggression often works contrary to its aim, force is not a fundamental contradiction of their religious principles. However, it is almost universal among these religions to absolutely reject violence as a means for spreading their religion to uncoverted peoples — a principle for which their adherents are often chastised, from within and outside their communities, on account of the occasions upon which it has been ignored. Even some of the pacifist religions and philosophies have sometimes approved the use of force in apparent contradiction of their principles, although not always by stooping to take up weapons themselves. Buddhism, for one example, has repeatedly embraced bloodshed in its generally pacific history (through hired armies or government intervention) as a "Final Solution" against heterodox opponents. During World War II some Quakers put aside their pacifist beliefs and did fight.
Followers of pacifist religions must often go to great lengths to be able to effect change. This does not mean it cannot be successful, as in the case of Mohandas Gandhi's application of the Jainist religious concept of Ahimsa, which played a major role in India's independence. Gandhi relied on his followers' committing acts of non-violence with the specific purpose of setting a perfect contrast with the violence used by the British against them, in order to sway public opinion.