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Letters on the Personal Christian Life

Leo Tolstoy, 1900

Christian teaching does not lay down laws for everybody, and say to people:
"You, all, for fear of punishment, must obey such and such rules, and then you will all be happy";
but it explains to each individual his position in relation to the world, and lets him see what results, for him individually, inevitably flow from that relation.
Christianity says to man (and to each man separately) that his personal life can have no rational meaning if he counts it as belonging to himself, or as having for its aim worldly happiness for himself or for other people.
This is so because the happiness he seeks is unattainable:

  • 1.for as all beings strive after worldly advantages, the gain of one is the loss of others; and it is most probable that each individual will incur much superfluous suffering in the course of his vain efforts to seize unattainable blessing;

  • 2.because even if a man gets worldly advantages, the more he obtains the less they satisfy him, and the more he hankers after fresh ones;

  • 3.and chiefly because the longer a man lives, the more inevitable becomes the approach of old age, sickness, and of death, destroying all possibility of worldly advantages.