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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

To church with Einstein on Remembrance Sunday

During the years following the First World War Albert Einstein was a committed pacifist, campaigning for universal disarmament and encouraging conscientious objection. In 1933, however, he immediately recognized the Nazi regime in Germany as a threat to peace which could only be countered by the threat or use of force. He appealed to the democracies to take preventive action before it was too late.

In a speech in 1940 Joseph Goebbels taunted the defeated French with their failure to march into Germany and overthrow Hitler as soon as he had come to power. They had avoided conflict until German rearmament had put them at a decisive disadvantage. It was exactly what Einstein had said.

To many of his former comrades in the pacifist movement Einstein was a traitor. But who really did more for the cause of peace?

In fact his commitment to peace was undiminished, as demonstrated by the final decade of his life, during which he campaigned for the prevention of nuclear war by bringing all nuclear weapons under the control of a world government.

If Einstein could have shared a pew with me at my church's Remembrance Day service on Sunday, he would have heard many reminders of the pity of war and the imperative of peace-making, and unquestionably he would have approved. But I suspect he might have missed the note of gratitude towards those who, when fighting was the least evil, gave everything that others might live. He might have sensed a certain halfheartedness about the proceedings, as if we resented the annual invasion of our space by these uncouth outsiders with their uniforms and medals and flags (in fact most of our regulars simply didn't show up). He might have wondered at the Christian left's reluctance to acknowledge that, if there is ever such a thing as a just war, there are therefore times and places in which the martial virtues become Christian virtues.

(my information on Einstein comes from an article by Prof. Wolfram Wette of Freiburg University in the September issue of the German history magazine Damals)


SnoopyTheGoon said...

That was one superb post, Mr Grumpy.

Anonymous said...


As Einstein argued for world government
To cover nuclear devices, so
Let it be done, and all men give assent,
Though there may be a risk of further woe.

Clearly rogue nations as possess their bombs
And armaments, cannot be shown to have
Used them responsibly: mini-Sadaams
Ubiquitous make world´s dilemma grave.

Yet such a superpower--behemoth
Of these United States--has proven not
Worthy world´s trust, exploitative by sloth
Of greed by which the world seems nearly caught.

Heed Einstein then, for all these armaments
Not merely arsenals of nuclear warheads--
Of all fissile material, ladies and gents,
Belong in world-hands: get that through your foreheads.