This book was simultaneously an apologetic defense of the Christian faith and an anarchist theory book rolled into one. Tolstoy follows the patterns of most anarchists as he perceives the governmental hierarchy as setting a bad example in establishing in the mindset of people acceptance of violence. He accuses military people of being murderers and has little attachment to them. He proposes that the solution to this is in what he considers to be “true Christianity” as opposed to “false Christianity”. It really is an intellectual work on the horrors of violence, war, and how we tend to go along with whatever the culture says even when it goes against our consciousness.
Tolstoy continuously emphasizes the uselessness of violence and provides a detailed historical account on how religious belief developed into Christianity but then Pagan attitudes still remained alongside this creating the political system we see today. Tolstoy then spotlights the various different acts of violence that go on unjustly in Russia and refutes arguments that go in favor of violence. He believes that if all people were to give up on violence, the world would be better. He has high expectations but is certainly correct. He also argues that we can give up our violent tendencies.
If you are not familiar with anarchy, this book will be jibberish and too complex for you. You would need to get familiar with more of the overall anarchist theories before reading this work of Tolstoy’s. If you are familiar with anarchy or think that you are familiar with anarchy (especially those who pretend to know what anarchy is when they dismiss it as “confusion and disorder”), then this book will either change your mind about anarchy, introduce you to a new theory of anarchy that you never thought up before, or affirm your beliefs about anarchy.
All in all, Tolstoy is very smart, knows precisely what he is talking about, and no one escapes his judgments and pronouncements on the world’s violence. Christians, secularists, and pagans are all included. And he hits the nail on the head when he assaults the flagrance of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is living a lie. We need to stop living a lie if we are ever to work toward annihilating all of the violence which exists prominently within our society. It is a great book that will make your head explode. It even made my own head explode.