Tolstoy's Search for the Meaning of Life

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Paidion
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Tolstoy's Search for the Meaning of Life

Post by Paidion » Wed Aug 24, 2011 11:03 pm

Tolstoy's Search for the Meaning of Life

..I studied Christianity both from books and from the people around me.
Naturally I first of all turned to the orthodox of my circle, to people who were learned: to Church theologians, monks, to theologians of the newest shade, and even to Evangelicals who profess salvation by belief in the Redemption. And I seized on these believers and questioned them as to their beliefs and their understanding of the meaning of life.
But though I made all possible concessions, and avoided all disputes, I could not accept the faith of these people. I saw that what they gave out as their faith did not explain the meaning of life but obscured it, and that they themselves affirm their belief not to answer that question of life which brought me to faith, but for some other aims alien to me.
I remember the painful feeling of fear of being thrown back into my former state of despair, after the hope I often and often experienced in my intercourse with these people.
The more fully they explained to me their doctrines, the more clearly did I perceive their error and realized that my hope of finding in their belief an explanation of the meaning of life was vain.
It was not that in their doctrines they mixed many unnecessary and unreasonable things with the Christian truths that had always been near to me: that was not what repelled me. I was repelled by the fact that these people's lives were like my own, with only this difference — that such a life did not correspond to the principles they expounded in their teachings. I clearly felt that they deceived themselves and that they, like myself found no other meaning in life than to live while life lasts, taking all one's hands can seize. I saw this because if they had had a meaning which destroyed the fear of loss, suffering, and death, they would not have feared these things. But they, these believers of our circle, just like myself, living in sufficiency and superfluity, tried to increase or preserve them, feared privations, suffering, and death, and just like myself and all of us unbelievers, lived to satisfy their desires, and lived just as badly, if not worse, than the unbelievers.
No arguments could convince me of the truth of their faith. Only deeds which showed that they saw a meaning in life making what was so dreadful to me — poverty, sickness, and death — not dreadful to them, could convince me. And such deeds I did not see among the various believers in our circle. On the contrary, I saw such deeds done by people of our circle who were the most unbelieving, but never by our so- called believers.

Confession by Leo Tolstoy
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

Avatar shows me at 75 years old. I am now 83.

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TK
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Re: Tolstoy's Search for the Meaning of Life

Post by TK » Fri Aug 26, 2011 6:25 am

This sounds pretty Ecclesiastes-ish. It took a couple of reads for me to understand what Tolstoy was saying.

I am still not sure if he is simply expressing his disillusionment in Christians, or in Christianity. He might be stating that Christianity, the religion, is not very effective at producing Christians. I could see how such a view could be disheartening.

TK

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Paidion
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Re: Tolstoy's Search for the Meaning of Life

Post by Paidion » Tue Dec 06, 2011 5:01 pm

Thanks for your comment, TK.

At the time Tolstoi wrote this he was not a Christian, but was looking for something REAL, and he didn't find it in the churches. It seemed to him that Christians were not living what they professed, for Jesus said, "Unless you forsake all you have and follow me, you CANNOT be my disciple." When Tolstoi finally became a disciple (around age 60, I think), he did exactly what Jesus said. He was a rich count, but he shared all his wealth with the peasants around him, and lived as a peasant himself!
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

Avatar shows me at 75 years old. I am now 83.

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