BECK index

Einstein and Schweitzer on Peace in the Atomic Age

Einstein on Peace and World Government
Schweitzer's Reverence for Life

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Every thoughtful, well-meaning and conscientious human being
should assume, in time of peace,
the solemn and unconditional obligation
not to participate in any war, for any reason,
or to lend support of any kind, whether direct or indirect.
Albert Einstein to War Resisters' International, 1928

Mankind's desire for peace can be realized
only by the creation of a world government.
Albert Einstein, January 1946

Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived
by those possessing the power
to make great decisions for good and evil.
The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything
save our modes of thinking,
and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.
Albert Einstein, May 1946

What can we do in the prevailing situation
to bring about peaceful coexistence among all nations?
The first goal must be to do away with mutual fear and distrust.
Solemn renunciation of the policy of violence,
not only with respect to weapons of mass destruction,
is without doubt necessary.
Such renunciation, however, will be effective
only if a supranational judicial and executive agency
is established at the same time, with power to settle
questions of immediate concern to the security of nations.
Albert Einstein, February 1950

Strengthening the United Nations requires admission of all nations,
irrespective of their internal organization;
for averting the danger of war
is the supreme and most immediate interest of all.
Albert Einstein, June 1953

The highest insight man can attain is the yearning for peace,
for the union of his will with an infinite will,
his human will with God's will.
Albert Schweitzer

The peace of God is pulsating power, not quietude.
Albert Schweitzer, Sermon October 13, 1918

The laying down of the commandment not to kill
and not to damage is one of the greatest events
in the spiritual history of mankind.
Albert Schweitzer, Indian Thought and Its Development

Only a humanity which is striving after ethical ends
can in full measure share in the blessings
brought by material progress
and become master of the dangers which accompany it.
Albert Schweitzer

Only such thinking as establishes the sway
of the mental attitude of reverence for life
can bring to mankind perpetual peace.
Albert Schweitzer, Civilization and Ethics

The renunciation of nuclear weapons is vital to peace.
Albert Schweitzer, Peace or Atomic War?

Einstein on Peace and World Government

Albert Einstein, the renowned scientist whose theories of relativity led to the development of atomic energy and weapons, was a dedicated pacifist and advocate of world government. He was born March 14, 1879 in Ulm, Germany. He grew up in Munich, where he attended strict schools in which he performed poorly. His mother insisted he take violin lessons, and his uncles introduced him to mathematics and science. At the age of five he wondered why a compass always pointed north, and at twelve he began a quest to understand the mystery of the "huge world." He continued to have difficulty in school until he moved to Switzerland, where in 1900 he graduated in physics from the reputable Polytechnic Academy in Zurich. He gained Swiss citizenship and got a job in the patent office in Bern examining inventions.

In 1905 Einstein began to publish important papers in theoretical physics, particularly on the special theory of relativity, which synthesized the law of the conservation of the mass with the law of the conservation of energy into an equivalence in terms of the speed of light squared: E=mc2. The three-dimensional coordinates of space and the one of time were also joined into the four-dimensional continuum of space-time. Einstein gained some recognition from eminent physicists and began teaching at universities in Switzerland and Germany. He moved his family to Berlin in April 1914 to accept a position with the Prussian Academy. His wife and two sons were vacationing in Switzerland when the war broke out, and the enforced separation foreshadowed a later divorce. Einstein hated the war and criticized German militarism, but he devoted himself to his scientific work. He published "The Foundation of the General Theory of Relativity" in 1916. Using the space-time continuum concept, he postulated that gravity is not a force as much as a field shaped by bodies of mass. His theory was proved correct when he accurately predicted that even light from stars would bend when passing near the sun; this was measured and verified by Arthur Eddington during a total eclipse in 1919.

Einstein was now internationally acclaimed as perhaps the greatest scientist of the twentieth century. In 1921 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics. Einstein spent the rest of his scientific career working on his unified field theory, attempting to find the mathematical relationship between the electromagnetic field and the gravitational field. However, quantum theory and the uncertainty principle thwarted his efforts to find a formula which could predict subatomic events. Einstein clung to his belief that the universe is comprehensible, saying that God does not play dice with the world.

As a world-famous celebrity, Einstein's statements on peace were given considerable publicity. When the First World War began, Einstein and two others signed a statement by Georg Friedrich Nicholai, the "Manifesto to Europeans," which challenged the "Manifesto to the Civilized World," a blatant promotion of German militarism that had been signed by ninety-three prominent Germans. Nicholai's statement warned that every nation in the war would pay a heavy price, and he suggested a League of Europeans to achieve unity. During the war Einstein was a founder and supporter of the New Fatherland League, which sought to establish after the war a supranational organization to prevent future wars. He gleefully smuggled pacifist literature to his friend Nicholai in prison. In 1915 he signed a declaration by this League criticizing annexationist policies of the Chancellor. In a letter to the French pacifist writer, Romain Rolland, Einstein compared the "insanity of nationalism" to the religious fanaticism of three centuries earlier which had caused so many useless wars. In 1917 he wrote again to Rolland, suggesting a military arbitration pact involving the United States, Britain, France and Russia, which any democratic nation could join.

Although Einstein was not religious in the traditional sense, he was proud of being a Jew. Within the war atmosphere that swept up so many around him, on February 24, 1918 he wrote to an academic,

I prefer to string along with my compatriot, Jesus Christ,
whose doctrines you and your kind consider to be obsolete.
Suffering is indeed more acceptable to me than resort to violence.1

Late in 1918 when Germany was undergoing revolution, Einstein gave a speech at the Reichstag, suggesting to the revolutionary committees, "Our common goal is democracy, the rule of the people," but warning them,

Do not be lured by feelings of vengeance to the fateful view
that violence must be fought with violence,
that a dictatorship of the proletariat is temporarily needed
in order to hammer the concept of freedom
into the heads of our fellow countrymen.
Force breeds only bitterness, hatred and reaction.2

After the war Einstein favored the publication of the war crimes committed by the German High Command in Belgium and France to communicate to Germans how the others felt in order to "prevent the emergence of a spirit of vengefulness."3 In 1922 he made a trip to Paris to discuss with political figures methods of preventing wars, and after returning to Germany, he spoke again in the Reichstag at a meeting of the German Peace Federation, calling for goodwill between peoples of different languages and cultures. In a German pacifist publication Einstein explained how war blocks international cooperation and culture by destroying intellectual freedom, chaining the energies of the young to the engines of destruction, and causing economic depression.

Einstein supported the League of Nations, but he resigned from the League Committee on Intellectual Cooperation in 1923 when France did not agree to arbitration concerning Germany's war-reparations payment. He felt that the League was merely a tool of the dominant nations. In 1924 he was re-elected to that Committee and decided to "let bygones be bygones" and accept the position, hoping that the League would "live up to its great mission of creating a world of peace."4

In 1928 Einstein began recommending that individuals refuse military service and any participation in war activities. During this period Einstein's pacifism was absolute, and he believed that any killing of a human being, even during war, is murder. He saw how science and technology were changing warfare, and he believed that international conventions to limit the applications of science did not solve the real problem, which was how to end war by establishing international justice. In pleading for disarmament, Einstein felt that its risks and sacrifices were less than the risks and sacrifices of war. People ought to refuse to kill other innocent people. In a letter to a friend Einstein warned,

In a Europe which is systematically preparing for war,
both morally and materially,
an impotent League of Nations will not be able to command
even moral authority in the hour of nationalist madness.5

He suggested that a country could assume the risk of not defending itself as a sacrifice for human progress. Surely it would not suffer as much damage as Germany did in four years of war. Otherwise the preparations for war along with fear, distrust, and selfish ambitions would lead again to war. He believed we could not wait until the governing classes give up their sovereign power. Public personalities can influence people. He asked how can decent and self-respecting people wage war, knowing that innocent people will be killed? Finally, the welfare of humanity must take precedence over one's country.

Einstein believed that the production of armaments was damaging not only economically but also spiritually. In 1930 he signed a manifesto for world disarmament sponsored by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). The same year Einstein warned the Zionist movement that he would not continue to support them unless they made peace with the Arabs. On December 14, 1930 Einstein made his famous statement in New York that if two percent of those called for military service were to refuse to fight and were to urge peaceful means of settling international conflicts, then governments would become powerless since they could not imprison that many people. He struggled against compulsory military service and urged international protection of conscientious objectors. He concluded that peace, freedom for individuals, and security for societies depended on disarmament; otherwise, "slavery of the individual and the annihilation of civilization threaten us."6

As part of his work for intellectual cooperation, Einstein wrote an open letter to Sigmund Freud in 1932, asking him to discuss the causes and cures of war. In his letter Einstein suggested that an international legislative and judicial body was needed to solve conflicts and maintain security. In his carefully reasoned response Freud came to the same conclusion that Einstein had intuitively grasped. Later that year Einstein supported the French Premier Herriot's proposal for "a police force which would be subject to the authority of international organs."7 Early in 1933 Einstein warned that powerful industrial interests, which produce arms, were trying to sabotage efforts to settle international disputes peacefully.

When Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power in 1933, Einstein left Germany for good and settled at Princeton, where he joined the Institute for Advanced Study. He saw that Germany was "secretly arming at a great pace," and noticing "the desire for revenge among the educated," he predicted "the sacrifice of a terrifying number of human lives and untold destruction."8 Being realistic about this danger, he ceased to be an absolute pacifist; although he still recommended a supranational organization of force, in its absence he felt that the democracies ought to prepare to defend themselves. He was criticized by some pacifists, but Einstein felt that it would be foolish to close one's eyes to the Nazi menace. He tried to communicate the dreadfulness of Fascism and the Nazis' fanatical drive toward war. He encouraged the United States to join the League of Nations and to make it an effective instrument of international security. By 1935 he estimated that war would come in two or three years. He reiterated the need for world government:

First, create the idea of supersovereignty:
men must be taught to think in world terms;
every country will have to surrender a portion
of its sovereignty through international cooperation.
If we want to avoid war,
we must try to make aggression impossible
through the creation of an international tribunal
having real authority.9

Second, Einstein believed we must understand the economic causes of war, the selfish desires that put profit before humanity. In 1937 he declared that true pacifism works for international law, while neutrality and isolation practiced by a great power contribute to international anarchy and consequently to war.

Einstein's famous formula E=mc2 indicates that a very small amount of matter may be converted into a tremendous amount of energy. In July 1939 Leo Szilard told Einstein about the work under way which showed that through nuclear fission a chain reaction might be started. This was a shock to Einstein. Four and a half years earlier he had discounted the likelihood of releasing energy from a molecule, saying, "It is something like shooting birds in the dark in a country where there are only a few birds."10 Now he immediately realized the danger if Germany were to get uranium from the Belgian Congo, and he agreed to contact the Belgium government through his friend, Queen Elizabeth.

Alexander Sachs, one of President Roosevelt's unofficial advisors, suggested to Einstein that he address a letter directly to the President. On August 2, 1939 Einstein wrote to President Roosevelt explaining how nuclear chain reactions in a large mass of uranium could generate large amounts of power and radium-like elements. In fact, in the immediate future, a powerful enough bomb could be built to destroy an entire port. He pointed out that the best uranium is found in Canada, the former Czechoslovakia, and especially the Belgian Congo, and he had heard that Germany had stopped the sale of uranium from the Czechoslovakian mines. He added that the son of the German Under-Secretary of State was attached to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institut in Berlin, and they were repeating some of the American work on uranium. The letter, with a memorandum by Szilard, actually was not delivered to the President by Sachs until October 11. President Roosevelt immediately appointed an Advisory Committee on Uranium. Later Einstein considered the writing of this letter the one great mistake of his life; at the time he felt justified because of the danger that the Germans would make atom bombs. This was the extent of Einstein's role in nuclear energy; he did not know an atomic bomb had been developed by the United States until he heard of the Hiroshima blast.

For the rest of his life Einstein emphasized the need for a supranational organization with the authority and power to maintain international security. With the unleashing of the atomic bomb in 1945 his pleas became even more fervent. As a knowledgeable scientist he felt that it was his responsibility to inform the public of the enormity of the danger. The United Nations was a step in the right direction, but from the beginning Einstein believed that it was "a tragic illusion unless we are ready to take the further steps necessary to organize peace."11 There must be effective world law with a federal constitution and a permanent world court to restrain the executive branch of the world government from going beyond peacekeeping. National military power must be abandoned in favor of the supranational authority. Otherwise war preparations inevitably lead to war, and in the atomic age there is the danger of pre-emptive war and the possibility of total annihilation. Einstein supported efforts to strengthen the United Nations and give it the powers it needs. Survival, he felt, must be the first priority, and survival depends on world government. There is no defense against nuclear weapons. Einstein evaluated every nation's foreign policy by one criterion: "Does it lead us to a world of law and order or does it lead us back toward anarchy and death?"12 He said, "We need a great chain reaction of awareness and communication."13

Einstein criticized as political exploitation the policy of stockpiling atomic bombs without promising not to initiate their use. In 1947 only the United States had atomic weapons. However, the cold war had already begun, and the Soviet Union was developing them also. Both sides refused to consider supranational control, and Einstein lamented that the victors of the second world war had degraded themselves to the low ethics of their enemy and remained at that level after the war. In 1948 Einstein predicted that the arms race would increase tension between the United States and the Soviet Union, undermine the democratic spirit in America, impose heavy and unnecessary economic burdens because of the unproductive work, and generate that militaristic spirit which Toynbee said is fatal to civilizations. For Einstein, the problem of peace and security was far more important than the conflict between socialism and capitalism.

Einstein worked with the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists to educate people about the dangers of atomic war and the necessity of effective world government. By 1949 the Soviet Union had atomic weapons, and the United States had begun working on the hydrogen bomb. Einstein's prophecy that the cold war would threaten democratic principles in the United States came to pass with the operations of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). He recommended that intellectuals use Gandhi's method of non-cooperation by refusing to testify. Einstein believed that Gandhi held the most enlightened political views and that his method of nonviolent revolution is the only way of bringing peace to the world on a supranational basis. With this method the small countries together could become a decisive factor in the world. Nevertheless he felt that a responsible statesman would not use Gandhi's methods unilaterally until there had been a period of transition.

In the last week of his life Einstein collaborated with Bertrand Russell on a manifesto that concluded with a resolution to be presented to a world convention of scientists which read:

In view of the fact that in any future world war
nuclear weapons will certainly be employed,
and that such weapons threaten
the continued existence of mankind,
we urge the governments of the world to realize,
and to acknowledge publicly,
that their purposes cannot be furthered by a world war,
and we urge them, consequently, to find peaceful means
for the settlement of all matters of dispute between them.14

When Einstein died on April 18, 1955, he left a piece of writing ending in an unfinished sentence. These were his last words:

In essence, the conflict that exists today is
no more than an old-style struggle for power,
once again presented to mankind in semi-religious trappings.
The difference is that, this time, the development of atomic power
has imbued the struggle with a ghostly character;
for both parties know and admit that,
should the quarrel deteriorate into actual war, mankind is doomed.
Despite this knowledge, statesmen in responsible positions
on both sides continue to employ the well-known technique
of seeking to intimidate and demoralize the opponent
by marshaling superior military strength.
They do so even though such a policy
entails the risk of war and doom.
Not one statesman in a position of responsibility has dared
to pursue the only course that holds out any promise of peace,
the course of supranational security,
since for a statesman to follow such a course
would be tantamount to political suicide.
Political passions, once they have been fanned into flame,
exact their victims15

Schweitzer's Reverence for Life

After Einstein's death, Albert Schweitzer wrote to Einstein's niece that he and the great physicist understood each other and that they had the same ideals. Schweitzer was born four years before Einstein on January 14, 1875 in Alsace, which at that time was part of Germany but now is part of France. His father was a Lutheran pastor, and Albert studied and gained doctorate degrees in both philosophy and theology. He was an accomplished organist, and he wrote a comprehensive book on Johann Sebastian Bach and later edited Bach's complete works. His theological books combined his deep religious convictions with a scholarly search for historical truth. Beyond the historical considerations he found the essence of Jesus' teachings to be love and preparing the heart for the sovereignty of God. He concluded Quest of the Historical Jesus with Jesus' call for people to follow him.

He commands. And to those who obey Him,
whether they be wise or simple,
He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts,
the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship,
and, as an ineffable mystery,
they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.16

At the age of thirty Schweitzer decided to become a physician so that he could dedicate himself to practical missionary work. He resigned from his university teaching position and attended medical school full-time. His theological views were considered controversial by the mission officials. However, by making personal contacts with each of them to assure them he was going as a doctor rather than a preacher, he was granted the opportunity to serve in French Equatorial Africa at Lambaréné. His wife trained as a nurse, and by 1913 they were prepared. His farewell sermon was on "The Peace of God," which comes when our will is absorbed in the infinite. This, he said, must be our active search, and those who experience God's peace can face any eventuality. Sensing a coming war, he had their money converted into coins before they left.

Schweitzer quickly gained the trust of the Africans in his medical practice; but when the World War began, Schweitzer, as a German, became a prisoner of the French authorities. The native Africans could not understand such a terrible war. One old man, hearing that as many as ten people had died, wondered why they did not negotiate a settlement since such great losses could not be paid back. According to their tribal customs they reimbursed the opposing tribe for those they killed. Also as cannibals they felt that the Europeans must kill out of cruelty if they have no desire to eat the dead. Schweitzer was a prisoner for three years, although much of the time he was allowed to continue his work at the hospital. He began working on his Philosophy of Civilization, and while paddling down the Ogowe River in the midst of a herd of hippopotami the concept "reverence for life" suddenly occurred to him. He was taken to France, and while imprisoned at Saint Remy he realized that he was in a room that Van Gogh had painted.

At the end of the war Schweitzer's first sermon at St. Nicholai's Church in Strasbourg was again on peace and also on the future of mankind. He repeated that we must place our will in God's infinite will and look for that, not only in individual affairs but also in the concerns of nations and mankind. The will of God is a spiritual intention toward perfection, and people as a whole must be united by spiritual goals. In another sermon on December 1, 1918 he said,

Those millions who were made to kill,
forced to do it in self-defense or under military orders,
must impress the horror of what they had to endure
on all future generations
so that none will ever expose itself to such fate again.
Reverence for human suffering and human life,
for the smallest and most insignificant,
must be the inviolable law to rule the world from now on.17

The huge waste of life during the war terribly grieved Schweitzer, and he was deeply depressed for several years. The war, he believed, was proof that religion was not a real force in the spiritual life of the age. Looking back on his first visit to Africa, he considered his work there not benevolence but rather atonement for a tiny part of the guilt the white race bears for all it has done to the colored races. Schweitzer hailed the League of Nations but was afraid that it would fail; he remained apolitical.

In The Decay and the Restoration of Civilization Schweitzer examined the problems of civilization and their solution through ethics. Nationalism has helped to bring about the decay of civilization because of the spirit of barbarism. Even the economic difficulties can be solved only "by an inner change of character."18 Revolutionary change is needed without revolutionary action. When the collective body dominates the individual's spiritual and moral worthiness, the constriction causes deterioration. The individuals must rise to a higher conception of their capabilities and produce new spiritual-ethical ideas. A new public opinion must be created to counteract the press, which is under the influence of political and financial forces. This requires independent and strong personalities, who are free of the prevalent conditions. Nationalistic patriotism must be replaced by the noble "patriotism which aims at ends that are worthy of the whole of mankind."19 This idealism encourages people to focus on the values of civilization even amid the increasing absorption in material concerns. Nothing less than a reconstruction of the world-view can bring about such changes. The lack of a positive and life-affirming world-view is pathological to societies as well as individuals, because there is no true self-direction. Schweitzer declared,

From the ethical comes ability to develop
the purposive state of mind
necessary to produce action on the world and society
and to cause the co-operation of all our achievements
to secure the spiritual and moral perfection of the individual
which is the final end of civilization.20

The second book in his Philosophy of Civilization, Civilization and Ethics, reviews the history of ethics and its relation to civilization. For Schweitzer ethics is the key to peace.

All those who in any way help forward our thought about ethics
are working for the coming of peace and prosperity in the world.
They are engaged in the higher politics,
and the higher national economics.21

His ethical philosophy is based on reverence for life and the will-to-live, which affirm both life and the world and through activity then produce values. The thinking person feels the need to revere every will-to-live and experience that other life as one's own. Being good is preserving life, promoting life, and raising life to the highest value it is capable of developing. Being evil is destroying life, injuring life, and repressing life that is capable of development. This universal ethic widens to include all that lives, and it seeks to relieve all suffering. One joins in the mysterious infinite will of all Being which acts for life through the person, giving meaning to existence from within outwards. To attain peace the ethic of reverence for life must be applied to the state so that collective interests will not overshadow the human feelings of empathy and cause interpersonal conflicts. The illusions of national interests must be criticized and replaced by moral and spiritual values, by concern for humanity as a whole.

Schweitzer advised people to put an end to the illusions that the modern state cherishes about itself. He believed that things would not get better until a majority took up a critical attitude. The spirit of the state must become quite different. Progress will come when we demand that the state become more ethical. He suggested that we must look beyond peoples and states to humanity as a whole. He criticized the well intentioned Kant for believing that rules for treaties could bring lasting peace. Schweitzer believed that only the mental attitude of reverence for life could bring peace to humanity.

In a world of violence Schweitzer still had faith that truth, love, peacefulness, meekness, and kindness could overcome all violence. When a sufficient number with purity of heart, strength and perseverance think and live out the thoughts of love, truth, and peace, then the world will be theirs. Violence produces its own limitations, but kindness works simply and effectively without straining relations. A question Schweitzer posed was whether the spiritual will be strong and create world history or be weak and suffer world history. He believed that we will either realize the sovereignty of God or perish, and the sovereignty of God begins in our hearts.

Schweitzer returned to Africa in 1924 and spent most of the next four decades working there. Occasionally he visited Europe, and in 1934 he vowed never to enter Nazi Germany. He was in Lambaréné throughout World War II. Hearing of V-E Day, he quoted Lao-zi's teaching that the victors ought not to rejoice in the murder of war but rather mourn as at a funeral. Following the war, Schweitzer expressed concerns about the danger of nuclear war. He said that Africans could solve their own problems if the "civilized" nations of Europe and America did not blow up themselves and Africa first. In 1953 he was given the Nobel Peace prize; he used the money for a building at the Leper Village he had established in Lambaréné.

In 1955 Schweitzer corresponded with Albert Einstein concerning atomic weapons and the hazardous tests of atomic bombs. He also conferred with Bertrand Russell on the same problem. In April 1954 Schweitzer had suggested that the protest against the H-bomb should be initiated by scientists.

Hoping for a statement by the renowned Schweitzer on the nuclear weapons issue, Norman Cousins traveled to Lambaréné to discuss the idea with the aging but vital doctor. Schweitzer said he was always reluctant to make public statements, preferring instead to make his life his argument. However, because of the overwhelming importance of the issue, Schweitzer agreed to consider it. The result was a series of three radio broadcasts from Oslo, Norway in 1958 and a letter to President Eisenhower.

In the first broadcast Schweitzer called for the renunciation of nuclear tests. He explained to the general public the harmful medical effects of radiation in the bones and blood and how this continues for generations, causing birth defects. He referred to the declaration that was signed by 9,235 scientists throughout the world and given to the Secretary-General of the United Nations by Linus Pauling in January 1958. This, he stated, refutes the propaganda that scientists do not agree on the dangers of radiation. He criticized the concept of "a permissible amount of radiation." He asked who permitted it and if they had any right to permit it. He appealed especially to women to raise their voices against the nuclear tests that cause deformed babies. He asked why international law and the United Nations have not done anything about this. He cited the Soviet tests in Siberia and the American tests at Bikini Atoll that contaminated the Pacific Ocean and Japan. Humanity is imperiled by the tests. "Mankind insists that they stop, and has every right to do so."22

The second talk discussed the danger of an atomic war. Schweitzer recounted the first decade of the nuclear arms race and concluded that as a result of the arms buildup neither side could be victorious in an atomic war.

Those who conduct an atomic war for freedom will die,
or end their lives miserably.
Instead of freedom they will find destruction.
Radioactive clouds resulting from a war between East and West
would imperil humanity everywhere.23

Missiles equipped with H-bombs have radically changed the situation. The United States and the Soviet Union threaten each other from a distance, and there is the danger of their war occurring on European soil. The United States is arming countries, which may use the weapons for defense against the Soviet Union, which in turn might defend itself. These countries include Turkey and key nations in the Middle East, where both the US and USSR seek alliances by giving financial and military aid. Conflicts between these smaller countries could endanger the peace of the world. The technology required and the short time intervals involved mean that war could originate from a mere incident or even an error. He pointed out that these quick decisions are being "entrusted to an electronic brain" which may become faulty. He criticized America for terrifying her opponent "to maintain peace" and for attempting to pressure NATO countries into acquiring weapons in spite of adverse public opinion. "The theory of peace through terrifying an opponent by a greater armament can now only heighten the danger of war."24 He supported the recent proposal to establish an atom-free zone in Europe and re-affirmed the public opinion in Europe "that under no circumstances is Europe to become a battlefield for an atomic war between the Soviet Union and the United States."25

In the third broadcast Schweitzer proposed negotiations at the highest level for complete nuclear disarmament with international verification. There is no justification for nuclear weapons or tests because they threaten the health and very existence of mankind. He suggested that America withdraw its forces from Europe, for the Europeans, east and west, must learn to get along with each other. The Soviet Union should also agree to reduce her army and agree not to attack Germany. We must rid ourselves of the paralyzing mistrust of our adversaries and approach each other "in the spirit that we are human beings, all of us."26 He saw two choices: one is a mad atomic-arms race with the danger of an unavoidable atomic war; the other is a mutual renunciation of nuclear weapons in the hope that we can manage to live in peace. Because the first is hopeless, we must risk the second.

Albert Schweitzer continued his medical work until he died at the age of ninety. Even in 1965, his last year, he was deeply upset about the Vietnam War, the tensions in the Middle East, and relations between the United States, Russia, and China. He died in Africa among the people he had served.


1. Einstein on Peace, p. 22.
2. Ibid., p. 25.
3. Ibid., p. 32.
4. Ibid., p. 68.
5. Ibid., p. 100.
6. Ibid., p. 164.
7. Ibid., p. 205.
8. Ibid., p. 224.
9. Ibid., p. 260.
10. Ibid., p. 290.
11. Ibid., p. 340.
12. Ibid., p. 385.
13. Ibid., p. 387.
14. Ibid., p. 635.
15. Ibid., p. 639-640.
16. The Quest for the Historical Jesus by Albert Schweitzer, tr. W. Montgomery, p. 403.
17. Reverence for Life by Albert Schweitzer, p. 104.
18. The Philosophy of Civilization by Albert Schweitzer, tr. C. T. Campion, p. 36.
19. Ibid., p. 47.
20. Ibid., p. 58.
21. Ibid., p. 104.
22. Peace or Atomic War? by Albert Schweitzer, p. 19.
23. Ibid., p. 27.
24. Ibid., p. 32.
25. Ibid., p. 32-33.
26. Ibid., p. 44.

Copyright © 2003-2005 by Sanderson Beck

This is a chapter in World Peace Efforts Since Gandhi, which is published as a book. For ordering information, please click here.

Gandhi's Nonviolent Revolution
Wilson and the League of Nations
United Nations and Human Rights
United Nations Peacekeeping
Einstein and Schweitzer on Peace in the Atomic Age
Pacifism of Bertrand Russell and A. J. Muste
Clark-Sohn Plan for World Law and Disarmament
King and the Civil Rights Movement
Lessons of the Vietnam War
Women for Peace
Anti-Nuclear Protests
Resisting Wars in Central America
Gorbachev and Ending the Cold War
Mandela and Freeing South Africa
Chomsky and Zinn on US Imperialism
Protesting the Bush-Iraq Wars
Nonviolent Revolution for Global Justice
Appendix: My Efforts for World Peace


Chronology of Peacemaking

BECK index