This mini-story, part of the grand masterpiece The Brothers Karamazov, is a thought provoking inquisition into God and Religion.
What makes Dostoevsky’s writing brilliant is it’s honest and clarity. Although he is a Christian himself, he has no qualms exploring the difficulty of accepting the religious institutions. This is partly why, Dostoevsky is probably the least acknowledged “Christian” author.
If you are thinking of reading The Brothers Karamazov, but aren’t sure about sinking the time into it, read this first to give you a great test tasting of what is to come.
- “For the secret of man’s being is not only to live but to have something to live for.”
- “Thou wouldst go into the world, and art going with empty hands, with some promise of freedom which men in their simplicity and their natural unruliness cannot even understand, which they fear and dread — for nothing has ever been more insupportable for a man and a human society than freedom. But seest Thou these stones in this parched and barren wilderness? Turn them into bread, and mankind will run after Thee like a flock of sheep, grateful and obedient, though for ever trembling, lest Thou withdraw Thy hand and deny them Thy bread.” But Thou wouldst not deprive man of freedom and didst reject the offer, thinking, what is that freedom worth if obedience is bought with bread?”
- “For these pitiful creatures are concerned not only to find what one or the other can worship, but to find community of worship is the chief misery of every man individually and of all humanity from the beginning of time. For the sake of common worship they’ve slain each other with the sword. They have set up gods and challenged one another, “Put away your gods and come and worship ours, or we will kill you and your gods!” And so it will be to the end of the world, even when gods disappear from the earth; they will fall down before idols just the same.”
- “Dost Thou know that the ages will pass, and humanity will proclaim by the lips of their sages that there is no crime, and therefore no sin; there is only hunger? “Feed men, and then ask of them virtue!” that’s what they’ll write on the banner, which they will raise against Thee, and with which they will destroy Thy temple.”
- “Choosing ‘bread’ Thou wouldst have satisfied the universal and everlasting craving of humanity — to find someone to worship.”
- “So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to worship.”
- “Nothing is more seductive for man than his freedom of conscience, but nothing is a greater cause of suffering.”
- “There are three powers, three powers alone, able to conquer and to hold captive for ever the conscience of these impotent rebels for their happiness those forces are miracle, mystery and authority.”
- “Thou didst not come down from the Cross when they shouted to Thee, mocking and reviling Thee, “Come down from the cross and we will believe that Thou art He.” Thou didst not come down, for again Thou wouldst not enslave man by a miracle, and didst crave faith given freely, not based on miracle.”
- “There have been many great nations with great histories, but the more highly they were developed the more unhappy they were, for they felt more acutely than other people the craving for world-wide union.”
- “For who can rule men if not he who holds their conscience and their bread in his hands?”
- “Freedom, free thought, and science will lead them into such straits and will bring them face to face with such marvels and insoluble mysteries, that some of them, the fierce and rebellious, will destroy themselves, others, rebellious but weak, will destroy one another, while the rest, weak and unhappy, will crawl fawning to our feet and whine to us: ‘Yes, you were right, you alone possess His mystery, and we come back to you, save us from ourselves!'”
- “We shall allow or forbid them to live with their wives and mistresses, to have or not to have children according to whether they have been obedient or disobedient — and they will submit to us gladly and cheerfully. The most painful secrets of their conscience, all, all they will bring to us, and we shall have an answer for all. And they will be glad to believe our answer, for it will save them from the great anxiety and terrible agony they endure at present in making a free decision for themselves. And all will be happy, all the millions of creatures except the hundred thousand who rule over them. For only we, we who guard the mystery, shall be unhappy. There will be thousands of millions of happy babes, and a hundred thousand sufferers who have taken upon themselves the curse of the knowledge of good and evil.”