Changing Attitudes About War

16 Apr

Dr. Geo. A. Barton, the distinguished historian of early religions, has somewhere pointed out, for instance, that the word Hebrew originally meant “robber” and was applied by the settled peoples of Canaan to the wandering desert tribes who invaded their lands and disposed them of their property and despoiled the passing caravans.  No doubt the term was to their suffering neighbors one of strong disapproval, but to the tribesmen themselves and to be proud of, because it testified to their capacity to survive in difficult situations and outwit their enemies.

A similar attitude is to be observed in practically all other prehistoric and preliterate peoples.  The Iliad and the Odyssey abound in praise of fraud and sharp dealing when they are performed by the narrator’s own partisans.  There are numerous examples of both in the older writings of the Bible itself, which indicates that those who told or heard these stories approved of the practices.


The Romans never ceased to be proud of their ancestors’ rape of the Sabine women and their spoliation of the more civilized adjacent Etruscan cities. Indeed as long as the robbery and rape were successful, the modern Italians gloried in applying the same tactics to the relatively defenseless Abyssinians in our own generation.  The Nazis went even farther and imposed these same primitive forms of exploitation upon almost the whole of Europe in the early years of the Second World War.

However, the reversions of Mussolini and Hitler and their peoples to savagery and barbarism in the twentieth century have not met with the approval of the rest of mankind.

Unfortunately the expressed opinions of mankind have advanced farther than their practices with respect to these matters.

L.L. Bernard; War And Its Causes;   6. Changing Attitudes Toward War (New York: Henry Holt and Company Inc ©1944)  pp. 115-116

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