Leo Tolstoy on the harmony between religion and science

  1. Lemma
  2. Л. Н. Толстой о гармонии религии и науки
  3. Russian
  4. Asliturk, Miriam
  5. Ethics - Concepts of knowledge and modes of reasoning - Scientific theories and disciplines > Psychology-Psychoanalysis - Ecumenism and dialogue > Westernism and anti-westernism - Orthodox theological tradition and practice > Status of theology
  6. 02-01-2017
  7. Шмелев, В. Д. [Author]. Л.Н. Толстой о гармонии религии и науки
  8. Вестник Оренбургского государственного университета
  9. Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - Reforms - Alexander II - Russian Orthodox Church - Religion - Tolstoy, Leo - Science - Philosophy - Evolution
  10. Click Here
    1. <p>Шмелев, В. Д. (2009). Л H Tолстой о гармонии религии и науки. <em>Вестник Оренбургского государственного университета. Retrieved from:</em> <a href="http://cyberleninka.ru/article/n/l-n-tolstoy-o-garmonii-religii-i-nauki">http://cyberleninka.ru/article/n/l-n-tolstoy-o-garmonii-religii-i-nauki</a> </p>
    1. The author argues that society needs dialogue between religion and science. For him both the Church’s monopoly on knowledge in Russia before 1917 and the monopoly of Marxism after the Revolution represent extreme and negative approaches. During the period of reforms of Alexander II (1855-1881), Russian intelligentsia made important reflections on the relationship between science and religion.

      Three main groups dominated Russian public opinion at the time. Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) represented the most respected group whose main idea was love for all living beings. His ideal of human life was that of an ascetic living outside big cities. Dostoyevsky thought Russians had a particular role in the world – the achievement of spiritual revival and the unity of humanity. Professor V. S. Soloviev (1853-1900) represented the second group that believed in the necessity of the transcendental, spiritual in science. This group propagated Schopenhauer in Russia.

      Unlike the first two groups that did not have conflicts with the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), the third group represented by Leo Tolstoy faced severe criticism from the Church. For the ROC Tolstoy’s idea was too radical. Tolstoy thought that the Church must teach people the purpose of actual life and inspire them to progress spiritually through serving society. But with this approach the ROC would lose its function of a pastor and mediator between this life and life after death. The ROC had to become a medium of God’s will only for this present life. Tolstoy’s research of different religions brought him to the conclusion that the role of religion everywhere was to show how a man should grow spiritually and live more righteously during the earthly life. According to Tolstoy, religion must reveal the problems of human existence and science must help to improve people’s relationship with nature and with each other.

      For Tolstoy a conflict between science and religion is possible when one unjustly intervenes in the other’s territory. Tolstoy supported the division of sciences into social and natural sciences. For him it was a disaster when science tried to explain the purpose of human life. For example Darwin (1809-1882) could not explain the purpose of human life, only how it appeared. Tolstoy also criticised Auguste Comte’s (1798-1857) positivist sociology that saw biological evolution as the driving force of society. He claimed that this approach justified division of people into the poor (burdened by physical labour and the rich (who work only intellectually). In other words, Comte’s philosophy serves the rich. Any serious philosophical tradition, according to Tolstoy, has to admit at the end that it is not capable of explaining the meaning of human existence. Socrates for example said that he knew he didn’t know anything. Kant admitted this as well.

      Thus for Tolstoy the solution to the question of the meaning of life is within the realm of religion, faith, and spirituality. As to science, it has its own place. Tolstoy thought that the ROC of the 19th century was still burdened by archaic ritualism of the Middle Ages and was not convincing enough for an educated modern person. Tolstoy considered that the ROC used people’s trust instead of inspiring faith.