How many does it take to metamorphose wickedness into righteousness? One man must not kill. If he does, it is murder…. But a state or nation may kill as many as they please, and it is not murder. It is just, necessary, commendable, and right. Only get people enough to agree to it, and the butchery of myriads of human beings is perfectly innocent. But how many does it take?
~ Adin Ballou, The Non-Resistant, 5 February 1845
There have been periods of history in which episodes of terrible violence occurred but for which the word violence was never used…. Violence is shrouded in justifying myths that lend it moral legitimacy, and these myths for the most part kept people from recognizing the violence for what it was. The people who burned witches at the stake never for one moment thought of their act as violence; rather they thought of it as an act of divinely mandated righteousness. The same can be said of most of the violence we humans have ever committed.