I haven’t ever written a book review, this is my first go at one. I’ve placed it on Goodreads and they kindly provide the auto-blog html code below.
Although the author doesn’t state it, the book is clearly divided in 3 different tones.
The first covering more than 2/3 of the book goes through the contradictions between later 19th century religiousness, the growing armies of the nations and the Christian message.This book predicted WWI as eminent.
The author preaches peace, love and universal truth and it is enlightening in is own merit. Nevertheless, even though it contains some very interesting thoughts, it sounds demagogic and angry. The author preaches forgiveness but he clearly cannot forgive neither his government nor organized religion, leading him to use any kind of argument to induce his point.
The second part is a beautifully written narrative of events that the author observed while he was 2 years into the book. It appears has if the author simply appended this onto what he had already written before, nevertheless its the nicest part of the book.
The final part was a sort of redemption, where the author after writing most of the book and observing the events on the second part, then regains hope in humanity and his preach style changes.
I read this book after reading Gandhi’s recommendation in his auto-biography and am still divided on my feelings towards this book.
It is mostly disorganized and sounds more as a rant than a dissertation. In my opinion the message passed by Gandhi including his interpretation and execution of Tolstoy’s message come across much more powerful, true and real. Reading this book feels a bit like hunting for the occasional nuggets of gold that are too far apart to be worth a higher rating.
Below is a selection of quotes that I’ve highlighted as I read the book.
“The Kingdom of God Is Within You” / Christianity Not as a Mystic Religion but as a New Theory of Life (Tolstoy, Leo)
Highlight on page 12: “One man may not kill. If he kills a fellow-creature, he is a murderer. If two, ten, a hundred men do so, they, too, are murderers. But a government or a nation may kill as many men as it chooses, and that will not be murder, but a great and noble action. “
Highlight on page 35: “how could the notion occur to any one that all that has been repeated from century to century with such earnestness and solemnity by all those
archdeacons, bishops, archbishops, holy synods, and popes, is all of it a base lie”
Highlight on page 90: “One need only compare the practice of life with the theory of it, to be dismayed at the glaring antagonism between our conditions of life and our conscience.”
Highlight on page 99: “”to decide disputes, not by discussion, but by murdering one another. That is the accepted method for deciding disputes among Christian nations.”
Highlight on page 198: “Neither the increased nor the diminished severity of punishment, nor the modifications of prisons, nor the increase of police will increase or diminish the number of criminals. Their number will only be diminished by the change of the moral standard of society.”
Highlight on page 212: “The answer is like that of the wise man who, when asked whether it was far to the town, answered, “Walk!””
Highlight on page 270: “Devoting his life to works of the flesh, a man busies himself with actions depending on temporary causes outside himself. He himself does nothing really, he merely seems to be doing something. In reality all the acts which seem to be his are the work of a higher power, and he is not the creator of his own life, but the slave of it. “
Highlight on page 272: “Hardly could any revolution be more disastrous for the great mass of the population than the present order or rather disorder of our life, with its daily sacrifices to exhausting and unnatural toil, to poverty, drunkenness, and profligacy, with all the horrors of the war that is at hand, which will swallow up in one year more victims than all the revolutions of the century.”