Meet us on:
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "Man has to suffer. When he has no real afflictions, he invents some."

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Chapter 8

    • Rate it:
    • 5 Favorites on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 9
    Previous Chapter

    Christianity is Not a System of Rules, but a New Conception of
    Life, and therefore it was Not Obligatory and was Not Accepted
    in its True Significance by All, but only by a Few--Christianity
    is, Moreover, Prophetic of the Destruction of the Pagan Life,
    and therefore of Necessity of the Acceptance of the Christian
    Doctrines--Non-resistance of Evil by Force is One Aspect of the
    Christian Doctrine, which must Inevitably in Our Times be
    Accepted by Men--Two Methods of Deciding Every Quarrel--First
    Method is to Find a Universal Definition of Evil, which All Must
    Accept, and to Resist this Evil by Force--Second Method is the
    Christian One of Complete Non-resistance by Force--Though the
    Failure of the First Method was Recognized since the Early Days of
    Christianity, it was Still Proposed, and only as Mankind has
    Progressed it has Become More and More Evident that there Cannot
    be any Universal Definition of Evil--This is Recognized by All at
    the Present Day, and if Force is Still Used to Resist Evil, it is
    Not Because it is Now Regarded as Right, but Because People Don't
    Know How to Avoid It--The Difficulty of Avoiding It is the Result
    of the Subtle and Complex Character of the Government Use of
    Force--Force is Used in Four Ways: Intimidation, Bribery,
    Hypnotism, and Coercion by Force of Arms--State Violence Can Never
    be Suppressed by the Forcible Overthrow of the Government--Men are
    Led by the Sufferings of the Pagan Mode of Life to the Necessity
    of Accepting Christ's Teaching with its Doctrine of Non-resistance
    by Force--The Consciousness of its Truth which is Diffused
    Throughout Our Society, Will also Bring About its Acceptance--This
    Consciousness is in Complete Contradiction with Our Life--This is
    Specially Obvious in Compulsory Military Service, but Through
    Habit and the Application of the Four Methods of Violence by the
    State, Men do not See this Inconsistency of Christianity with Life
    of a Soldier--They do Not even See It, though the Authorities
    Themselves Show all the Immorality of a Soldier's Duties with
    Perfect Clearness--The Call to Military Service is the Supreme
    Test for Every Man, when the Choice is Offered Him, between
    Adopting the Christian Doctrine of Non-resistance, or Slavishly
    Submitting to the Existing State Organization--Men Usually
    Renounce All They Hold Sacred, and Submit to the Demands of
    Government, Seeming to See No Other Course Open to Them--For Men
    of the Pagan Conception of Life there is No Other Course Open, and
    Never Will Be, in Spite of the Growing Horrors of War--Society,
    Made Up of Such Men, Must Perish, and No Social Reorganization Can
    Save It--Pagan Life Has Reached Its Extreme Limit, and Will
    Annihilate Itself.

    It is often said that if Christianity is a truth, it ought to have
    been accepted by everyone directly it appeared, and ought to have
    transformed men's lives for the better. But this is like saying
    that if the seed were ripe it ought at once to bring forth stalls,
    flower, and fruit.

    The Christian religion is not a legal system which, being imposed
    by violence, may transform men's lives. Christianity is a new and
    higher conception of life. A new conception of life cannot be
    imposed on men; it can only be freely assimilated. And it can
    only be freely assimilated in two ways: one spiritual and
    internal, the other experimental and external.

    Some people--a minority--by a kind of prophetic instinct divine
    the truth of the doctrine, surrender themselves to it and adopt
    it. Others--the majority--only through a long course of mistakes,
    experiments, and suffering are brought to recognize the truth of
    the doctrine and the necessity of adopting it.

    And by this experimental external method the majority of Christian
    men have now been brought to this necessity of assimilating the
    doctrine. One sometimes wonders what necessitated the corruption
    of Christianity which is now the greatest obstacle to its
    acceptance in its true significance.

    If Christianity had been presented to men in its true, uncorrupted
    form, it would not have been accepted by the majority, who would
    have been as untouched by it as the nations of Asia are now. The
    peoples who accepted it in its corrupt form were subjected to its
    slow but certain influence, and by a long course of errors and
    experiments and their resultant sufferings have now been brought
    to the necessity of assimilating it in its true significance.

    The corruption of Christianity and its acceptance in its corrupt
    form by the majority of men was as necessary as it is that the
    seed should remain hidden for a certain time in the earth in order
    to germinate.

    Christianity is at once a doctrine of truth and a prophecy.
    Eighteen centuries ago Christianity revealed to men the truth in
    which they ought to live, and at the same time foretold what human
    life would become if men would not live by it but continued to
    live by their previous principles, and what it would become if
    they accepted the Christian doctrine and carried it out in their

    Laying down in the Sermon on the Mount the principles by which to
    guide men's lives, Christ said: "Whosoever heareth these sayings
    of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, who
    built his house upon a rock; and the rain descended, and the
    floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it
    fell not, for it was founded upon a rock. And everyone that
    heareth these sayings, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a
    foolish man, who built his house upon the sand; and the rain
    descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon
    that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it" (Matt. vii.

    And now after eighteen centuries the prophecy has been fulfilled.
    Not having followed Christ's teaching generally and its
    application to social life in non-resistance to evil, men have
    been brought in spite of themselves to the inevitable destruction
    foretold by Christ for those who do not fulfill his teaching.

    People often think the question of non-resistance to evil by force
    is a theoretical one, which can be neglected. Yet this question
    is presented by life itself to all men, and calls for some answer
    from every thinking man. Ever since Christianity has been
    outwardly professed, this question is for men in their social life
    like the question which presents itself to a traveler when the
    road on which he has been journeying divides into two branches.
    He must go on and he cannot say: I will not think about it, but
    will go on just as I did before. There was one road, now there
    are two, and he must make his choice.

    In the same way since Christ's teaching has been known by men they
    cannot say: I will live as before and will not decide the question
    of resistance or non-resistance to evil by force. At every new,
    struggle that arises one must inevitably decide; am I, or am I
    not, to resist by force what I regard as evil.

    The question of resistance or non-resistance to evil arose when
    the first conflict between men took place, since every conflict is
    nothing else than resistance by force to what each of the
    combatants regards as evil. But before Christ, men did not see
    that resistance by force to what each regards as evil, simply
    because one thinks evil what the other thinks good, is only one of
    the methods of settling the dispute, and that there is another
    method, that of not resisting evil by force at all.

    Before Christ's teaching, it seemed to men that the one only means
    of settling a dispute was by resistance to evil by force. And
    they acted accordingly, each of the combatants trying to convince
    himself and others that what each respectively regards as evil, is
    actually, absolutely evil.

    And to do this from the earliest time men have devised definitions
    of evil and tried to make them binding on everyone. And such
    definitions of evil sometimes took the form of laws, supposed to
    have been received by supernatural means, sometimes of the
    commands of rulers or assemblies to whom infallibility was
    attributed. Men resorted to violence against others, and
    convinced themselves and others that they were directing their
    violence against evil recognized as such by all.

    This means was employed from the earliest times, especially by
    those who had gained possession of authority, and for a long while
    its irrationality was not detected.

    But the longer men lived in the world and the more complex their
    relations became, the more evident it was that to resist by force
    what each regarded as evil was irrational, that conflict was in no
    way lessened thereby, and that no human definitions can succeed in
    making what some regard as evil be accepted as such by others.

    Already at the time Christianity arose, it was evident to a great
    number of people in the Roman Empire where it arose, that what was
    regarded as evil by Nero and Caligula could not be regarded as
    evil by others. Even at that time men had begun to understand
    that human laws, though given out for divine laws, were compiled
    by men, and cannot be infallible, whatever the external majesty
    with which they are invested, and that erring men are not rendered
    infallible by assembling together and calling themselves a senate
    or any other name. Even at that time this was felt and understood
    by many. And it was then that Christ preached his doctrine, which
    consisted not only of the prohibition of resistance to evil by
    force, but gave a new conception of life and a means of putting an
    end to conflict between all men, not by making it the duty of one
    section only of mankind to submit without conflict to what is
    prescribed to them by certain authorities, but by making it the
    duty of all--and consequently of those in authority--not to resort
    to force against anyone in any circumstances.

    This doctrine was accepted at the time by only a very small number
    of disciples. The majority of men, especially all who were in
    power, even after the nominal acceptance of Christianity,
    continued to maintain for themselves the principle of resistance
    by force to what they regarded as evil. So it was under the Roman
    and Byzantine emperors, and so it continued to be later.

    The insufficiency of the principle of the authoritative definition
    of evil and resistance to it by force, evident as it was in the
    early ages of Christianity, becomes still more obvious through the
    division of the Roman Empire into many states of equal authority,
    through their hostilities and the internal conflicts that broke
    out within them.

    But men were not ready to accept the solution given by Christ, and
    the old definitions of evil, which ought to be resisted, continued
    to be laid down by means of making laws binding on all and
    enforced by forcible means. The authority who decided what ought
    to be regarded as evil and resisted by force was at one time the
    Pope, at another an emperor or king, an elective assembly or a
    whole nation. But both within and without the state there were
    always men to be found who did not accept as binding on themselves
    the laws given out as the decrees of a god, or made by men
    invested with a sacred character, or the institutions supposed to
    represent the will of the nation; and there were men who thought
    good what the existing authorities regarded as bad, and who
    struggled against the authorities with the same violence as was
    employed against them.

    The men invested with religious authority regarded as evil what
    the men and institutions invested with temporal authority regarded
    as good and vice versa, and the struggle grew more and more
    intense. And the longer men used violence as the means of
    settling their disputes, the more obvious it became that it was an
    unsuitable means, since there could be no external authority able
    to define evil recognized by all.

    Things went on like this for eighteen centuries, and at last
    reached the present position in which it is absolutely obvious
    that there is, and can be, no external definition of evil binding
    upon all. Men have come to the point of ceasing to believe in the
    possibility or even desirability of finding and establishing such
    a general definition. It has come to men in power ceasing to
    attempt to prove that what they regard as evil is evil, and simply
    declaring that they regard as evil what they don't like, while
    their subjects no longer obey them because they accept the
    definition of evil laid down by them, but simply obey because they
    cannot help themselves. It was not because it was a good thing,
    necessary and beneficial to men, and the contrary course would
    have been an evil, but simply because it was the will of those in
    power that Nice was incorporated into France, and Lorraine into
    Germany, and Bohemia into Austria, and that Poland was divided,
    and Ireland and India ruled by the English government, and that
    the Chinese are attacked and the Africans slaughtered, and the
    Chinese prevented from immigrating by the Americans, and the Jews
    persecuted by the Russians, and that landowners appropriate lands
    they do not cultivate and capitalists enjoy the fruits of the
    labor of others. It has come to the present state of things; one
    set of men commit acts of violence no longer on the pretext of
    resistance to evil, but simply for their profit or their caprice,
    and another set submit to violence, not because they suppose, as
    was supposed in former times, that this violence was practised
    upon them for the sake of securing them from evil, but simply
    because they cannot avoid it.

    If the Roman, or the man of mediaeval times, or the average
    Russian of fifty years ago, as I remember him, was convinced
    without a shade of doubt that the violence of authority was
    indispensable to preserve him from evil; that taxes, dues,
    serfage, prisons, scourging, knouts, executions, the army and war
    were what ought to be--we know now that one can seldom find a man
    who believes that all these means of violence preserve anyone from
    any evil whatever, and indeed does not clearly perceive that most
    of these acts of violence to which he is exposed, and in which he
    has some share, are in themselves a great and useless evil.

    There is no one to-day who does not see the uselessness and
    injustice of collecting taxes from the toiling masses to enrich
    idle officials; or the senselessness of inflicting punishments on
    weak or depraved persons in the shape of transportation from one
    place to another, or of imprisonment in a fortress where, living
    in security and indolence, they only become weaker and more
    depraved; or the worse than uselessness and injustice, the
    positive insanity and barbarity of preparations for war and of
    wars, causing devastation and ruin, and having no kind of
    justification. Yet these forms of violence continue and are
    supported by the very people who see their uselessness, injustice,
    and cruelty, and suffer from them. If fifty years ago the idle
    rich man and the illiterate laborer were both alike convinced that
    their state of everlasting holiday for one and everlasting toil
    for the other was ordained by God himself, we know very well that
    nowadays, thanks to the growth of population and the diffusion of
    books and education, it would be hard to find in Europe or even in
    Russia, either among rich or poor, a man to whom in one shape or
    another a doubt as to the justice of this state of things had
    never presented itself. The rich know that they are guilty in the
    very fact of being rich, and try to expiate their guilt by
    sacrifices to art and science, as of old they expiated their sins
    by sacrifices to the Church. And even the larger half of the
    working people openly declare that the existing order is
    iniquitous and bound to be destroyed or reformed. One set of
    religious people of whom there are millions in Russia, the so-
    called sectaries, consider the existing social order as unjust and
    to be destroyed on the ground of the Gospel teaching taken in its
    true sense. Others regard it as unjust on the ground of the
    socialistic, communistic, or anarchistic theories, which are
    springing up in the lower strata of the working people. Violence
    no longer rests on the belief in its utility, but only on the fact
    of its having existed so long, and being organized by the ruling
    classes who profit by it, so that those who are under their
    authority cannot extricate themselves from it. The governments of
    our day--all of them, the most despotic and the liberal alike--
    have become what Herzen so well called "Ghenghis Khan with the
    telegraph;" that is to say, organizations of violence based on no
    principle but the grossest tyranny, and at the same time taking
    advantage of all the means invented by science for the peaceful
    collective social activity of free and equal men, used by them to
    enslave and oppress their fellows.

    Governments and the ruling classes no longer take their stand on
    right or even on the semblance of justice, but on a skillful
    organization carried to such a point of perfection by the aid of
    science that everyone is caught in the circle of violence and has
    no chance of escaping from it. This circle is made up now of four
    methods of working upon men, joined together like the limes of a
    chain ring.

    The first and oldest method is intimidation. This consists in
    representing the existing state organization--whatever it may be,
    free republic or the most savage despotism--as something sacred
    and immutable, and therefore following any efforts to alter it
    with the cruellest punishments. This method is in use now--as it
    has been from olden times--wherever there is a government: in
    Russia against the so-called Nihilists, in America against
    Anarchists, in France against Imperialists, Legitimists,
    Communards, and Anarchists.

    Railways, telegraphs, telephones, photographs, and the great
    perfection of the means of getting rid of men for years, without
    killing them, by solitary confinement, where, hidden from the
    world, they perish and are forgotten, and the many other modern
    inventions employed by government, give such power that when once
    authority has come into certain hands, the police, open and
    secret, the administration and prosecutors, jailers and
    executioners of all kinds, do their work so zealously that there
    is no chance of overturning the government, however cruel and
    senseless it may be.

    The second method is corruption. It consists in plundering the
    industrious working people of their wealth by means of taxes and
    distributing it in satisfying the greed of officials, who are
    bound in return to support and keep up the oppression of the
    people. These bought officials, from the highest ministers to the
    poorest copying clerks, make up an unbroken network of men bound
    together by the same interest--that of living at the expense of
    the people. They become the richer the more submissively they
    carry out the will of the government; and at all times and places,
    sticking at nothing, in all departments support by word and deed
    the violence of government, on which their own prosperity also

    The third method is what I can only describe as hypnotizing the
    people. This consists in checking the moral development of men,
    and by various suggestions keeping them back in the ideal of life,
    outgrown by mankind at large, on which the power of government
    rests. This hypnotizing process is organized at the present in the
    most complex manner, and starting from their earliest childhood,
    continues to act on men till the day of their death. It begins in
    their earliest years in the compulsory schools, created for this
    purpose, in which the children have instilled into them the ideas
    of life of their ancestors, which are in direct antagonism with
    the conscience of the modern world. In countries where there is a
    state religion, they teach the children the senseless blasphemies
    of the Church catechisms, together with the duty of obedience to
    their superiors. In republican states they teach them the savage
    superstition of patriotism and the same pretended obedience to the
    governing authorities.

    The process is kept up during later years by the encouragement of
    religious and patriotic superstitions.

    The religious superstition is encouraged by establishing, with
    money taken from the people, temples, processions, memorials, and
    festivals, which, aided by painting, architecture, music, and
    incense, intoxicate the people, and above all by the support of
    the clergy, whose duty consists in brutalizing the people and
    keeping them in a permanent state of stupefaction by their
    teaching, the solemnity of their services, their sermons, and
    their interference in private life--at births, deaths, and
    marriages. The patriotic superstition is encouraged by the
    creation, with money taken from the people, of national fêtes,
    spectacles, monuments, and festivals to dispose men to attach
    importance to their own nation, and to the aggrandizement of the
    state and its rulers, and to feel antagonism and even hatred for
    other nations. With these objects under despotic governments there
    is direct prohibition against printing and disseminating books to
    enlighten the people, and everyone who might rouse the people from
    their lethargy is exiled or imprisoned. Moreover, under every
    government without exception everything is kept back that might
    emancipate and everything encouraged that tends to corrupt the
    people, such as literary works tending to keep them in the
    barbarism of religious and patriotic superstition, all kinds of
    sensual amusements, spectacles, circuses, theaters, and even the
    physical means of inducing stupefaction, as tobacco and alcohol,
    which form the principal source of revenue of states. Even
    prostitution is encouraged, and not only recognized, but even
    organized by the government in the majority of states. So much for
    the third method.

    The fourth method consists in selecting from all the men who have
    been stupefied and enslaved by the three former methods a certain
    number, exposing them to special and intensified means of
    stupefaction and brutalization, and so making them into a passive
    instrument for carrying out all the cruelties and brutalities
    needed by the government. This result is attained by taking them
    at the youthful age when men have not had time to form clear and
    definite principles of morals, and removing them from all natural
    and human conditions of life, home, family and kindred, and useful
    labor. They are shut up together in barracks, dressed in special
    clothes, and worked upon by cries, drums, music, and shining
    objects to go through certain daily actions invented for this
    purpose, and by this means are brought into an hypnotic condition
    in which they cease to be men and become mere senseless machines,
    submissive to the hypnotizer. These physically vigorous young men
    (in these days of universal conscription, all young men),
    hypnotized, armed with murderous weapons, always obedient to the
    governing authorities and ready for any act of violence at their
    command, constitute the fourth and principal method of enslaving

    By this method the circle of violence is completed.

    Intimidation, corruption, and hypnotizing bring people into a
    condition in which they are willing to be soldiers; the soldiers
    give the power of punishing and plundering them (and purchasing
    officials with the spoils), and hypnotizing them and converting
    them in time into these same soldiers again.

    The circle is complete, and there is no chance of breaking through
    it by force.

    Some persons maintain that freedom from violence, or at least a
    great diminution of it, may be gained by the oppressed forcibly
    overturning the oppressive government and replacing it by a new
    one under which such violence and oppression will be unnecessary,
    but they deceive themselves and others, and their efforts do not
    better the position of the oppressed, but only make it worse.
    Their conduct only tends to increase the despotism of government.
    Their efforts only afford a plausible pretext for government to
    strengthen their power.

    Even if we admit that under a combination of circumstances
    specially unfavorable for the government, as in France in 1870,
    any government might be forcibly overturned and the power
    transferred to other hands, the new authority would rarely be less
    oppressive than the old one; on the contrary, always having to
    defend itself against its dispossessed and exasperated enemies, it
    would be more despotic and cruel, as has always been the rule in
    all revolutions.

    While socialists and communists regard the individualistic,
    capitalistic organization of society as an evil, and the
    anarchists regard as an evil all government whatever, there are
    royalists, conservatives, and capitalists who consider any
    socialistic or communistic organization or anarchy as an evil, and
    all these parties have no means other than violence to bring men
    to agreement. Whichever of these parties were successful in
    bringing their schemes to pass, must resort to support its
    authority to all the existing methods of violence, and even invent
    new ones.

    The oppressed would be another set of people, and coercion would
    take some new form; but the violence and oppression would be
    unchanged or even more cruel, since hatred would be intensified by
    the struggle, and new forms of oppression would have been devised.
    So it has always been after all revolutions and all attempts at
    revolution, all conspiracies, and all violent changes of
    government. Every conflict only strengthens the means of
    oppression in the hands of those who happen at a given moment to
    be in power.

    The position of our Christian society, and especially the ideals
    most current in it, prove this in a strikingly convincing way.

    There remains now only one sphere of human life not encroached
    upon by government authority--that is the domestic, economic
    sphere, the sphere of private life and labor. And even this is
    now--thanks to the efforts of communists and socialists--being
    gradually encroached upon by government, so that labor and
    recreation, dwellings, dress, and food will gradually, if the
    hopes of the reformers are successful, be prescribed and regulated
    by government.

    The slow progress of eighteen centuries has brought the Christian
    nations again to the necessity of deciding the question they have
    evaded--the question of the acceptance or non-acceptance of
    Christ's teaching, and the question following upon it in social
    life of resistance or non-resistance to evil by force. But there
    is this difference, that whereas formerly men could accept or
    refuse to accept the solution given by Christ, now that solution
    cannot be avoided, since it alone can save men from the slavery in
    which they are caught like a net.

    But it is not only the misery of the position which makes this

    While the pagan organization has been proved more and more false,
    the truth of the Christian religion has been growing more and more

    Not in vain have the best men of Christian humanity, who
    apprehended the truth by spiritual intuition, for eighteen
    centuries testified to it in spite of every menace, every
    privation, and every suffering. By their martyrdom they passed on
    the truth to the masses, and impressed it on their hearts.

    Christianity has penetrated into the consciousness of humanity,
    not only negatively by the demonstration of the impossibility of
    continuing in the pagan life, but also through its simplification,
    its increased clearness and freedom from the superstitions
    intermingled with it, and its diffusion through all classes of the

    Eighteen centuries of Christianity have not passed without an
    effect even on those who accepted it only externally. These
    eighteen centuries have brought men so far that even while they
    continue to live the pagan life which is no longer consistent with
    the development of humanity, they not only see clearly all the
    wretchedness of their position, but in the depths of their souls
    they believe (they can only live through this belief) that the
    only salvation from this position is to be found in fulfilling the
    Christian doctrine in its true significance. As to the time and
    manner of salvation, opinions are divided according to the
    intellectual development and the prejudices of each society. But
    every man of the modern world recognizes that our salvation lies
    in fulfilling the law of Christ. Some believers in the
    supernatural character of Christianity hold that salvation will
    come when all men are brought to believe in Christ, whose second
    coming is at hand. Other believers in supernatural Christianity
    hold that salvation will come through the Church, which will draw
    all men into its fold, train them in the Christian virtues, and
    transform their life. A third section, who do not admit the
    divinity of Christ, hold that the salvation of mankind will be
    brought about by slow and gradual progress, through which the
    pagan principles of our existence will be replaced by the
    principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity--that is, by
    Christian principles. A fourth section, who believe in the social
    revolution, hold that salvation will come when through a violent
    revolution men are forced into community of property, abolition of
    government, and collective instead of individual industry--that is
    to say, the realization of one side of the Christian doctrine. In
    one way or another all men of our day in their inner consciousness
    condemn the existing effete pagan order, and admit, often
    unconsciously and while regarding themselves as hostile to
    Christianity, that our salvation is only to be found in the
    application of the Christian doctrine, or parts of it, in its true
    significance to our daily life.

    Christianity cannot, as its Founder said, be realized by the
    majority of men all at once; it must grow like a huge tree from a
    tiny seed. And so it has grown, and now has reached its full
    development, not yet in actual life, but in the conscience of men
    of to-day.

    Now not only the minority, who have always comprehended
    Christianity by spiritual intuition, but all the vast majority who
    seem so far from it in their social existence recognize its true

    Look at individual men in their private life, listen to their
    standards of conduct in their judgment of one another; hear not
    only their public utterances, but the counsels given by parents
    and guardians to the young in their charge; and you will see that,
    far as their social life based on violence may be from realizing
    Christian truth, in their private life what is considered good by
    all without exception is nothing but the Christian virtues; what
    is considered as bad is nothing but the antichristian vices. Those
    who consecrate their lives self-sacrificingly to the service of
    humanity are regarded as the best men. The selfish, who make use
    of the misfortunes of others for their own advantage, are regarded
    as the worst of men.

    Though some non-Christian ideals, such as strength, courage, and
    wealth, are still worshiped by a few who have not been penetrated
    by the Christian spirit, these ideals are out of date and are
    abandoned, if not by all, at least by all those regarded as the
    best people. There are no ideals, other than the Christian ideals,
    which are accepted by all and regarded as binding on all.

    The position of our Christian humanity, if you look at it from the
    outside with all its cruelty and degradation of men, is terrible
    indeed. But if one looks at it within, in its inner consciousness,
    the spectacle it presents is absolutely different.

    All the evil of our life seems to exist only because it has been
    so for so long; those who do the evil have not had time yet to
    learn how to act otherwise, though they do not want to act as they

    All the evil seems to exist through some cause independent of the
    conscience of men.

    Strange and contradictory as it seems, all men of the present day
    hate the very social order they are themselves supporting.

    I think it is Max Müller who describes the amazement of an Indian
    convert to Christianity, who after absorbing the essence of the
    Christian doctrine came to Europe and saw the actual life of
    Christians. He could not recover from his astonishment at the
    complete contrast between the reality and what he had expected to
    find among Christian nations. If we feel no astonishment at the
    contrast between our convictions and our conduct, that is because
    the influences, tending to obscure the contrast, produce an effect
    upon us too. We need only look at our life from the point of view
    of that Indian, who understood Christianity in its true
    significance, without any compromises or concessions, we need but
    look at the savage brutalities of which our life is full, to be
    appalled at the contradictions in the midst of which we live often
    without observing them.

    We need only recall the preparations for war, the mitrailleuses,
    the silver-gilt bullets, the torpedoes, and--the Red Cross; the
    solitary prison cells, the experiments of execution by
    electricity--and the care of the hygienic welfare of prisoners;
    the philanthropy of the rich, and their life, which produces the
    poor they are benefiting.

    And these inconsistencies are not, as it might seem, because men
    pretend to be Christians while they are really pagans, but because
    of something lacking in men, or some kind of force hindering them
    from being what they already feel themselves to be in their
    consciousness, and what they genuinely wish to be. Men of the
    present day do not merely pretend to hate oppression, inequality,
    class distinction, and every kind of cruelty to animals as well as
    human beings. They genuinely detest all this, but they do not
    know how to put a stop to it, or perhaps cannot decide to give up
    what preserves it all, and seems to them necessary.

    Indeed, ask every man separately whether he thinks it laudable and
    worthy of a man of this age to hold a position from which he
    receives a salary disproportionate to his work; to take from the
    people--often in poverty--taxes to be spent on constructing
    cannon, torpedoes, and other instruments of butchery, so as to
    make war on people with whom we wish to be at peace, and who feel
    the same wish in regard to us; or to receive a salary for devoting
    one's whole life to constructing these instruments of butchery, or
    to preparing oneself and others for the work of murder. And ask
    him whether it is laudable and worthy of a man, and suitable for a
    Christian, to employ himself, for a salary, in seizing wretched,
    misguided, often illiterate and drunken, creatures because they
    appropriate the property of others--on a much smaller scale than
    we do--or because they kill men in a different fashion from that
    in which we undertake to do it--and shutting them in prison for
    it, ill treating them and killing them; and whether it is laudable
    and worthy of a man and a Christian to preach for a salary to the
    people not Christianity, but superstitions which one knows to be
    stupid and pernicious; and whether it is laudable and worthy of a
    man to rob his neighbor for his gratification of what he wants to
    satisfy his simplest needs, as the great landowners do; or to
    force him to exhausting labor beyond his strength to augment one's
    wealth, as do factory owners and manufacturers; or to profit by
    the poverty of men to increase one's gains, as merchants do. And
    everyone taken separately, especially if one's remarks are
    directed at someone else, not himself, will answer, No! And yet
    the very man who sees all the baseness of those actions, of his
    own free will, uncoerced by anyone, often even for no pecuniary
    profit, but only from childish vanity, for a china cross, a scrap
    of ribbon, a bit of fringe he is allowed to wear, will enter
    military service, become a magistrate or justice of the peace,
    commissioner, archbishop, or beadle, though in fulfilling these
    offices he must commit acts the baseness and shamefulness of which
    he cannot fail to recognize.

    I know that many of these men will confidently try to prove that
    they have reasons for regarding their position as legitimate and
    quite indispensable. They will say in their defense that
    authority is given by God, that the functions of the state are
    indispensable for the welfare of humanity, that property is not
    opposed to Christianity, that the rich young man was only
    commanded to sell all he had and give to the poor if he wished to
    be perfect, that the existing distribution of property and our
    commercial system must always remain as they are, and are to the
    advantage of all, and so on. But, however much they try to
    deceive themselves and others, they all know that what they are
    doing is opposed to all the beliefs which they profess, and in the
    depths of their souls, when they are left alone with their
    conscience, they are ashamed and miserable at the recollection of
    it, especially if the baseness of their action has been pointed
    out to them. A man of the present day, whether he believes in the
    divinity of Christ or not, cannot fail to see that to assist in
    the capacity of tzar, minister, governor, or commissioner in
    taking from a poor family its last cow for taxes to be spent on
    cannons, or on the pay and pensions of idle officials, who live in
    luxury and are worse than useless; or in putting into prison some
    man we have ourselves corrupted, and throwing his family on the
    streets; or in plundering and butchering in war; or in inculcating
    savage and idolatrous superstitious in the place of the law of
    Christ; or in impounding the cow found on one's land, though it
    belongs to a man who has no land; or to cheat the workman in a
    factory, by imposing fines for accidentally spoiled articles; or
    making a poor man pay double the value for anything simply because
    he is in the direst poverty;--not a man of the present day can
    fail to know that all these actions are base and disgraceful, and
    that they need not do them. They all know it. They know that
    what they are doing is wrong, and would not do it for anything in
    the world if they had the power of resisting the forces which shut
    their eyes to the criminality of their actions and impel them to
    commit them.

    In nothing is the pitch of inconsistency modern life has attained
    to so evident as in universal conscription, which is the last
    resource and the final expression of violence.

    Indeed, it is only because this state of universal armament has
    been brought about gradually and imperceptibly, and because
    governments have exerted, in maintaining it, every resource of
    intimidation, corruption, brutalization, and violence, that we do
    not see its flagrant inconsistency with the Christian ideas and
    sentiments by which the modern world is permeated.

    We are so accustomed to the inconsistency that we do not see all
    the hideous folly and immorality of men voluntarily choosing the
    profession of butchery as though it were an honorable career, of
    poor wretches submitting to conscription, or in countries where
    compulsory service has not been introduced, of people voluntarily
    abandoning a life of industry to recruit soldiers and train them
    as murderers. We know that all of these men are either
    Christians, or profess humane and liberal principles, and they
    know that they thus become partly responsible--through universal
    conscription, personally responsible--for the most insane,
    aimless, and brutal murders. And yet they all do it.

    More than that, in Germany, where compulsory service first
    originated, Caprivi has given expression to what had been hitherto
    so assiduously concealed--that is, that the men that the soldiers
    will have to kill are not foreigners alone, but their own
    countrymen, the very working people from whom they themselves are
    taken. And this admission has not opened people's eyes, has not
    horrified them! They still go like sheep to the slaughter, and
    submit to everything required of them.

    And that is not all: the Emperor of Germany has lately shown still
    more clearly the duties of the army, by thanking and rewarding a
    soldier for killing a defenseless citizen who made his approach
    incautiously. By rewarding an action always regarded as base and
    cowardly even by men on the lowest level of morality, William has
    shown that a soldier's chief duty--the one most appreciated by the
    authorities--is that of executioner; and not a professional
    executioner who kills only condemned criminals, but one ready to
    butcher any innocent man at the word of command.

    And even that is not all. In 1892, the same William, the ENFANT
    TERRIBLE of state authority, who says plainly what other people
    only think, in addressing some soldiers gave public utterance to
    the following speech, which was reported next day in thousands of
    newspapers: "Conscripts!" he said, "you have sworn fidelity to ME
    before the altar and the minister of God! You are still too young
    to understand all the importance of what has been said here; let
    your care before all things be to obey the orders and instructions
    given you. You have sworn fidelity TO ME, lads of my guard; THAT
    TO ME BODY AND SOUL. For you there is now but one enemy, MY
    you are bound to obey my orders without hesitation."

    This man expresses what all sensible rulers think, but studiously
    conceal. He says openly that the soldiers are in HIS service, at
    HIS disposal, and must be ready for HIS advantage to murder even
    their brothers and fathers.

    In the most brutal words he frankly exposes all the horrors and
    criminality for which men prepare themselves in entering the army,
    and the depths of ignominy to which they fall in promising
    obedience. Like a bold hypnotizer, he tests the degree of
    insensibility of the hypnotized subject. He touches his skin with
    a red-hot iron; the skin smokes and scorches, but the sleeper does
    not awake.

    This miserable man, imbecile and drunk with power, outrages in
    this utterance everything that can be sacred for a man of the
    modern world. And yet all the Christians, liberals, and
    cultivated people, far from resenting this outrage, did not even
    observe it.

    The last, the most extreme test is put before men in its coarsest
    form. And they do not seem even to notice that it is a test, that
    there is any choice about it. They seem to think there is no
    course open but slavish submission. One would have thought these
    insane words, which outrage everything a man of the present day
    holds sacred, must rouse indignation. But there has been nothing
    of the kind.

    All the young men through the whole of Europe are exposed year
    after year to this test, and with very few exceptions they
    renounce all that a man can hold sacred, all express their
    readiness to kill their brothers, even their fathers, at the
    bidding of the first crazy creature dressed up in a livery with
    red and gold trimming, and only wait to be told where and when
    they are to kill. And they actually are ready.

    Every savage has something he holds sacred, something for which he
    is ready to suffer, something he will not consent to do. But what
    is it that is sacred to the civilized man of to-day? They say to
    him: "You must become my slave, and this slavery may force you
    to kill even your own father;" and he, often very well educated,
    trained in all the sciences at the university, quietly puts his
    head under the yoke. They dress him up in a clown's costume, and
    order him to cut capers, turn and twist and bow, and kill--he does
    it all submissively. And when they let him go, he seems to shake
    himself and go back to his former life, and he continues to
    discourse upon the dignity of man, liberty, equality, and
    fraternity as before.

    "Yes, but what is one to do?" people often ask in genuine
    perplexity. "If everyone would stand out it would be something,
    but by myself, I shall only suffer without doing any good to

    And that is true. A man with the social conception of life cannot
    resist. The aim of his life is his personal welfare. It is better
    for his personal welfare for him to submit, and he submits.

    Whatever they do to him, however they torture or humiliate him, he
    will submit, for, alone, he can do nothing; he has no principle
    for the sake of which he could resist violence alone. And those
    who control them never allow them to unite together. It is often
    said that the invention of terrible weapons of destruction will
    put an end to war. That is an error. As the means of
    extermination are improved, the means of reducing men who hold the
    state conception of life to submission can be improved to
    correspond. They may slaughter them by thousands, by millions,
    they may tear them to pieces, still they will march to war like
    senseless cattle. Some will want beating to make them move,
    others will be proud to go if they are allowed to wear a scrap of
    ribbon or gold lace.

    And of this mass of men so brutalized as to be ready to promise to
    kill their own parents, the social reformers--conservatives,
    liberals, socialists, and anarchists--propose to form a rational
    and moral society. What sort of moral and rational society can be
    formed out of such elements? With warped and rotten planks you
    cannot build a house, however you put them together. And to form
    a rational moral society of such men is just as impossible a task.
    They can be formed into nothing but a herd of cattle, driven by
    the shouts and whips of the herdsmen. As indeed they are.

    So, then, we have on one side men calling themselves Christians,
    and professing the principles of liberty, equality, and
    fraternity, and along with that ready, in the name of liberty, to
    submit to the most slavish degradation; in the name of equality,
    to accept the crudest, most senseless division of men by externals
    merely into higher and lower classes, allies and enemies; and, in
    the name of fraternity, ready to murder their brothers [see

    [Footnote: The fact that among certain nations, as
    the English and the American, military service is not
    compulsory (though already one hears there are some
    who advocate that it should be made so) does not
    affect the servility of the citizens to the government
    in principle. Here we have each to go and kill or be
    killed, there they have each to give the fruit of their
    toil to pay for the recruiting and training of soldiers.]

    The contradiction between life and conscience and the misery
    resulting from it have reached the extreme limit and can go no
    further. The state organization of life based on violence, the
    aim of which was the security of personal, family, and social
    welfare, has come to the point of renouncing the very objects for
    which it was founded--it has reduced men to absolute renunciation
    and loss of the welfare it was to secure.

    The first half of the prophecy has been fulfilled in the
    generation of men who have not accepted Christ's teaching, Their
    descendants have been brought now to the absolute necessity of
    patting the truth of the second half to the test of experience.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 9
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a Leo Tolstoy essay and need some advice, post your Leo Tolstoy essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Want to read

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?