5.0 out of 5 starsAre you on a quest for absolute Truth? A higher moral ideal? Then this is a must read.
19 February 2016 - Published on Amazon.com
Amazing book! Tolstoy's book and the arguments he makes are nearly as controversial today as when he made them over a hundred years ago. Since that time, we've mostly come to recognize two of Tolstoy's very lucid points: that conscription is unjust, and that ever greater tools for war do not create a more peaceful world. However, Tolstoy's writing on funding and support of a violence-oriented nation-states, nonresistance to evil as a way of life, and the divine potential for changing the world by taking Jesus literally at his word are still radical ideas (for some evidence of this fact, just do a search for a full text online version of this book, and note that the first website that comes up is The Anarchist Library.) This book changed my life, and presented me with solutions to difficult moral dilemmas I had considered impossible to resolve. Be warned though, this book will open your mind up to actual Matrix-like-blue-pill-red-pill possibilities you've probably never seriously considered, and, as Tolstoy describes in this book, will bring your life to a fork in the road, where once "there was one road, now there are two, and [you] must make your choice."
Both this copy and the Wilder publication are fraught with bizarre type set anomaly. Purchased the cheaper version first and it was space set between words like an editor's draft, first chapter lines off horizontal at slant. This one does not have that space between words problem but the margin is 7/64" at outer edge or just less than an 1/8 of an inch. No room to hold and read except at the bottom of the book. I must recommend read/print online as for my experience with this title 2 out of two down that is 0% and about $30 after S/h for both . Very dissed with sorry print formatting. Great author
5.0 out of 5 starsthe way we love, and why we live
28 April 2015 - Published on Amazon.com
Tolstoy calls us to a Christianity that impacts the way we live, the way we love, and why we live. I'm so grateful for everyone of Tolstoy's works, short stories included, they've changed my outlook on life!
"The Kingdom of God is Within You"--at least, the Timeless Classics Books version I bought--is a maddening edition of a book that's at once flawed and necessary, a critical look at how human institutions have interpreted (or misinterpreted) the Gospel message.
In it, Tolstoy focuses on what's perhaps Jesus' most often overlooked statement--the admonishment to offer no resistance to evil. It's an admirable task, to take a clear look at a statement that many pretend is blurry, to try and make simple a message that is complicated in spite of its clarity. And Tolstoy's passion and originality make for an unforgettable read, even as his sweeping generalizations make it easy to put down in frustration.
He claims, for instance, that there are only three ways to view life--the animal, the pagan, and the divine. In the former, one is only looking for fulfillment of one's own desires; most societies recognize this as potentially harmful, and set out laws so as to corral the human animal. But, as Tolstoy puts it, this still leads to allegiance to "the tribe, the family, the clan, the nation," and that ultimately leads to conflict. The answer, as he sees it, is for human society to keep evolving towards the divine ideal set down in the Gospels, wherein one treats everyone well, regardless of (and even in spite of) their past behavior.
In looking at the middle level--that of human society--Tolstoy latches on to something Chairman Mao would later express far more cynically: political power ultimately rests on force. Laws that aren't enforced are basically just suggestions, so no matter how noble-minded the government, or how good its intentions, it ultimately must either use or threaten violence--the very word "enforcement" acknowledges this. So, for instance, pacifists who are waiting for governments to renounce the use of war will be waiting forever. As Tolstoy points out, "One might as well suggest to merchants and bankers that they should sell nothing for a greater price than they gave for it, should undertake the distribution of wealth for no profit, and should abolish money, as it would thus be rendered unnecessary." For war is but the extreme end of an ill-defined spectrum of force that starts at a much lower level, that of police and criminals; no government will (or can) ever give that up, so once one acknowledges and buys into the implicit relationship between political power and force, the question of its upper limit is a matter of quibbling. As Tolstoy mentions, only the weaker nations will suggest with a straight face that international matters should always be subject to arbitration. The stronger countries have nothing to gain by limiting themselves, and no one to compel them to do so.
Tolstoy uses Jesus' words amply. He points out that many believe that Jesus' teachings "can have no other significance than the one they attribute to it." But that only adds to the irony elsewhere, when he suggests that Jesus' words against resistance should be used as an excuse to stop paying taxes. Jesus was quite clearly of a different mindset, and said "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's" to those who asked whether it was lawful to pay taxes. The point's pretty simple, and it's one Tolstoy completely ignores: the government literally makes the money in the first place, so if the government wants part of their money back, that's their business.
Elsewhere, too, Tolstoy's generalizations invite argument, not agreement. "We do know by prolonged experience that neither enemies nor criminals have been successfully suppressed by force," he says, obviously speaking without the benefit of World War II as a historical example, although one ends up surprised that he didn't make more reference to Napoleon's defeat, a topic which he obviously covered at far greater length elsewhere. A better argument, perhaps, would rely on the moral consequences to the victors, rather than the physical outcomes. (Perhaps the best illustration of this, oddly enough, was near the end of "Return of the Jedi," where Luke finds himself transformed by the mere act of resisting the Emperor.) It's hard to claim that resistance is wrong because it doesn't work; there are those who will always argue that it does. The bigger issue, perhaps, is that it makes you similar to what you're resisting. (The Timeless Classics Books edition of this work further distracts from Tolstoy's already problematic arguments with egregious and occasionally humorous inconsistencies in font and errors in spelling. Particularly funny was a mangled transcription Tolstoy had set down from a pacifist group that recommended THAT THE THIRD SUNDAY IN DECEMBER BE SET APART FOR THA PURPOSE. Either Tolstoy was the first gangsta, the real O.G., or somebody was sloppy to the point of negligence in proofing this.)
Tolstoy's long-winded. He departs from the Gospel message in at least one key regard. He relies on evidence for some assertions but also makes plenty of unsupported allegations and blanket generalizations. (Some of these do seem oddly timeless and apropos of our current age, as for instance when he says that scientists see Christianity "as a religion which has outlived its age" and that "[t]he significance of the Gospel is hidden from believers by the Church, from unbelievers by Science.") Yet the many areas where he amplifies Jesus' teachings make for a thought-provoking read that also might cause some soul searching, whatever one's religious or political persuasion.