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The late 1870s is usually described as a period of crisis in Tolstoy’s life. Indeed, thereafter, he renounced many of the parts of his life that used to occupy him and give his life structure, if not meaning: his fiction, for starters.During this period, Tolstoy started to complain about his marriage and family life and ask whether it was an obstacle to his living a life that was more in keeping with the teaching of Christ. During this period Tolstoy recognized this teaching as the only thing that could give his life meaning. He would bluntly criticize institutional religion:
I witnessed members of the Church, her teachers, monks, and ascetics condoning the killing of helpless, lost youths. As I turned my attentionto all that is done by people who profess Christianity, I was horrified. (Confession, 1988, p. 76)
In the later years, Tolstoy wrote out on a number of issues: nonviolent resistance, Christ’s teachings, vegetarianism, chastity, and abstention from tobacco and alcohol. He was critical of the state, whose policies and power were founded on violence. He was also outspoken about certain practices and dogmas of the Russian Orthodox Church, and was eventually excommunicated. But many of his followers were inspired by his interpretation and formulation of the teaching of Jesus and by Tolstoy’s efforts to practice what Jesus preached.
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