Nuclear Weapons and Weapons of Mass Destruction

Nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction have been used by some countries in battle.

Task: Find the definitions of the following terms.

  • Nuclear weapons
  • Biological weapons
  • Chemical weapons

There are some commonly accepted benefits of weapons of mass destruction, such as:

  • a stronger and quicker way to win a war
  • minimal losses are incurred on the side of the attackers
  • a threat to deter other nations from starting a war

However, there are clearly many problems with using weapons of mass destruction:

  • there is a HUGE moral question of whether the mass devastation caused is ever justified
  • there are dangers with stockpiling weapons of mass destruction
  • conditions of having a just war would not be met by using weapons of mass destruction

In 1945, the USA dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which caused widespread death and destruction. This was in response to the Japanese refusing to surrender. It is believed that around 140,000 people died, with most of those being in the first day following the bomb being dropped. The vast majority of these people were innocent civilians, women and children.

Task: Watch this video clip of the bomb being dropped on Hiroshima.

There have been numerous nuclear accidents. Countries store nuclear weapons as a deterrent, or use nuclear energy. However, storing these components can be hugely dangerous.

On April 26, 1986, a sudden surge of power during a reactor systems test destroyed Unit 4 of the nuclear power station at Chernobyl, Ukraine, in the former Soviet Union. The accident and the fire that followed released massive amounts of radioactive material into the environment. Emergency crews responding to the accident used helicopters to pour sand and boron on the reactor debris. The sand was to stop the fire and additional releases of radioactive material; the boron was to prevent additional nuclear reactions. A few weeks after the accident, the crews completely covered the damaged unit in a temporary concrete structure, called the “sarcophagus,” to limit further release of radioactive material. The Soviet government also cut down and buried about a square mile of pine forest near the plant to reduce radioactive contamination at and near the site.

The Chernobyl accident’s severe radiation effects killed 28 of the site’s 600 workers in the first four months after the event. Another 106 workers received high enough doses to cause acute radiation sickness. Many children and adolescents in the area in 1986 drank milk contaminated with radioactive iodine, which delivered substantial doses to their thyroid glands. To date, about 6,000 thyroid cancer cases have been detected among these children.

Task: Watch this video clip of the nuclear accident that occurred in Chernobyl.

Task: Do you believe that the use of nuclear weapons could ever be justified? (This may help you)

Religious responses to Weapons of Mass Destruction

Most Christian accept that the problems of weapons of mass destruction outweigh any benefits. Christians always focus on peace and achieving peace. There could always be a huge loss of life, especially of innocent civilians.

In Islam, the Qur’an was recorded long before the weapons of mass destruction were created. However, there are passages in the Qur’an that could still be applied. Muslims believe, most importantly, that innocent life should never be threatened.

Task: Read the following quote and explain how it relates to the use of weapons of mass destruction. Remember that this quote is often taken out of context and used to justify violence.

And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.

Surah 9:5
A note on the quote above: This verse is referred to as the Sword Verse and is used to justify violence towards non-Muslims by extremists. It was revealed towards the end of the revelation period and relates to a limited context. Hostilities were frozen for a three-month period during which the Arabs pledged not to wage war. Prophet Muhammad was inspired to use this period to encourage the combatants to join the Muslim ranks or, if they chose, to leave the area that was under Muslims rule; however, if they were to resume hostilities, then the Muslims would fight back until victorious. One is inspired to note that even in this context of war, the verse concludes by emphasising the divine attributes of mercy and forgiveness. To minimise hostilities, the Quran ordered Muslims to grant asylum to anyone, even an enemy, who sought refuge. Asylum would be granted according to the customs of chivalry; the person would be told the message of the Quran but not coerced into accepting that message. Thereafter, he or she would be escorted to safety regardless of his or her religion. 

Task: Read the following quote and explain how it is different.

And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace.

Surah 25:63

Task: Explain two religious beliefs about the use of nuclear weapons. Refer to sacred writings or another source of religious belief and teaching in your answer. (5 marks)

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