Chair East London Humanists Paul Kaufman argues humane values rather than over reliance on religion is the way to achieve world peace


- Credit: Archant

Violent conflict has been in the headlines again this summer. All decent people were shocked by the chemical attack in Syria. But is that so much worse than using explosives? For example, US drones have also killed many innocent civilians.

Settling disputes by killing and maiming is not lawful between citizens, so why should it be acceptable between countries? We should be striving for a world in which war is outlawed. This may sound hopelessly naïve. However, only a few centuries ago slavery and torture were the norm in this country, despite, incidentally, the strength of religious belief at the time.

So how can world peace be achieved? Many who are religious argue that what is needed is more faith. Peace and goodwill are at the heart of many religions. Unfortunately, faith continues to be a factor in many of the worst conflicts.

However, there is cause for some optimism. A common theme in just about every ethical world view, whether religious or non-religious, is that we should not do to others something we would not wish done to ourselves. Education, international travel and ease of communication have increased understanding and empathy between people of diverse backgrounds. Normal people don’t want to see members of their own family hurt. It becomes much harder to inflict suffering on people in other countries when we realise we are all brothers and sisters under the skin. This increase in understanding and empathy has helped drive the advance of humane values.

Achieving peace may be a distant dream, but if it is to come about it will be through the will of men and women making the right decisions. We cannot rely on divine intervention. Perhaps a good start would be to end the arms fair at ExCeL, used again this September to showcase drones and other tools of war. It is a blemish on east London. We might also question, particularly in these times of austerity, the government plan to spend £10bn on Trident, our own nuclear weapon of mass destruction.

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