War & Peace / Philosophy & Religion

My good friend @neuroticblog has a great website, in which she discusses literature – classical and contemporary.  She invites discussion, which has led me to a spend hours trying to learn something new about War & Peace. No, I have not read the long fictional saga by Leo Tolstoy, but I think I ought to.

I recalled reading about some of Tolstoy’s commentaries on religion, and since that’s my field, I discovered some new info – new for me. Tolstoy wrote many articles and books, notably, A Confession and other Religious Writings (1879 – 82), Philosophy of True Religions,  and Gospels in Brief, focusing on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, particularly the Sermon on the Mount, and five of the ten commandments given to Moses.

Tolstoy was baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church and obediently attended church with his parents until his first mini-crisis of faith, not surprisingly during his teen years. Through the years he pondered, reflected, researched, did “field work” among the poor people, wrote, and rewrote.

In Confessions, he wrote: “I realised that the essential meaning of faith lies not only in the ‘manifestation of things unseen’, and so on, or in revelation (this is only a description of one of the signs of faith); nor is it simply the relationship between man and God (it is necessary to define faith, then God, and not God through faith); nor is it an agreement with what one has been told, although this is what faith is commonly understood to be. Faith is a knowledge of the meaning of human life, the consequence of which is that man does not kill himself but lives. Faith is the force of life. If a man lives, then he must believe in something. If he did not believe that there was something he must live for he would not live. If he does not see and comprehend the illusion of the finite he will believe in the finite. If he does understand the illusion of the finite, he is bound to believe in the infinite. Without faith it is impossible to live.” In other words, what he had been taught was not true religion.

This was Russia, and Tolstoy did not enjoy “freedom  of religion;” he was a public figure; he was not hesitant to share his views. So he was excommunicated from the Church, but only when he began to disagree with the right of the state to execute men, and the right of the state to send soldiers to kill other men. “As I turned my attention to what is done in the name of religion I was horrified and very nearly repudiated Orthodoxy. A further thing was the Church’s attitude to life with regard to war and executions.”

So I think I will go to War & Peace, and see if it is reflective of a writer immersed in wondering how we are related to the divine and why the church with its riches, allows the poor to die of starvation.  Check out http://theneuroticblogger.com/


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