Friday, June 10, 2005


I'm reading a Tolstoy book, "The Kingdom of God is Within You." This seems like a spiritual-motivational book (and "sweet") from its title, but it is actually very anti-establishment, especially with regard to traditional religion.
6/28 update: I found the early parts interesting, then I got tired of him talking about arguments against non-resistance, so I went to a later chapter. I was still tired of the tone of the book, so I took it back to the library.
Here is an excerpt, with a little introductory text, by me:
Tolstoy is saying why Christians should not participate in armies, because it is against grounding principles of not killing anyone, and feeling love and compassion for all, without judgement. In the excerpt he is discussing Christian leaders who have criticized his writings on this. The "first" argument was that the Christian leaders would pull quotes, out of context, from the bible, in order to base their claims that violence against someone is just.

"The second, somewhat less gross, form of argument consists in declaring that, though Christ did indeed preach that we should turn the left cheek, and give the cloak also, and this is the highest moral duty, yet that there are wicked men in the world,and if these wicked men mere not restrained by force, the whole world and all good men would come to ruin through them. This argument I found for the first time in John Chrysostom, and I slow how he is mistaken in my book "What I believe."

This argument is ill grounded, because if we allow ourselves to regard any men as intrinsically wicked men, then in the first place we annul, by so doing, the whole idea of the Christian teaching, according to which we are all equals and brothers, as sons of one father in heaven. Secondly, it is ill founded, because even if to use force against wicked men had been permitted by God, since it is impossible to find a perfect and unfailing distinction by which one could positively know the wicked from the good, so it would come to all individual men and societies of men mutually regarding each other as wicked men, as is the case now. Thirdly, even if it were possible to distinguish the wicked from the good unfailingly, even then it would be impossible to kill or injure or shut up in prison these wicked men, because there would be no one in a Christian society to carry out such punishment, since every Christian, as a Christian, has been commanded to use no force against the wicked.

I find these arguments especially compelling in our times, because this (the first Tolstoy paragraph) contains the major arguments for US violence against Iraq and other countries.

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