Culture, Psychology, Religion

Leo Tolstoy: The Greatest Speech Ever Made

Quoted from Leo Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God Is Within You (Wikipedia, Archive.org)

In the year 1884 I wrote a book under the title “What I Believe,” in which I did in fact make a sincere statement of my beliefs.

In affirming my belief in Christ’s teaching, I could not help explaining why I do not believe, and consider as mistaken, the Church’s doctrine, which is usually called Christianity.

Among the many points in which this doctrine falls short of the doctrine of Christ I pointed out as the principal one the absence of any commandment of non-resistance to evil by force. The perversion of Christ’s teaching by the teaching of the Church is more clearly apparent in this than in any other point of difference.

I know—as we all do—very little of the practice and the spoken and written doctrine of former times on the subject of non-resistance to evil. I knew what had been said on the subject by the fathers of the Church—Origen, Tertullian, and others—I knew too of the existence of some so-called sects of Mennonites, Herrnhuters, and Quakers, who do not allow a Christian the use of weapons, and do not enter military service; but I knew little of what had been done by these so-called sects toward expounding the question.

My book was, as I had anticipated, suppressed by the Russian censorship; but partly owing to my literary reputation, partly because the book had excited people’s curiosity, it circulated in manuscript and in lithographed copies in Russia and through translations abroad, and it evolved, on one side, from those who shared my convictions, a series of essays with a great deal of information on the subject, on the other side a series of criticisms on the principles laid down in my book.

A great deal was made clear to me by both hostile and sympathetic criticism, and also by the historical events of late years; and I was led to fresh results and conclusions, which I wish now to expound.

First I will speak of the information I received on the history of the question of non-resistance to evil; then of the views of this question maintained by spiritual critics, that is, by professed believers in the Christian religion, and also by temporal ones, that is, those who do not profess the Christian religion; and lastly I will speak of the conclusions to which I have been brought by all this in the light of the historical events of late years.

L. TOLSTOI.
YASNAÏA POLIANA,
May 14/26, 1893.

He had me right until the end. I don’t do war. There’s no room for anyone but God and his celestial crew to do any finishing according to the prophecies of the Hebrew and Christian Greek scriptures.

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