"This is the reason why those who believe in the happiness of an individual life cannot believe in the doctrine of Christ." - What I Believe, by Tolstoy
The novel part of this work is the notion that there is no literal, bodily resurrection of the individual. Tolstoy further claims that Jesus never taught the doctrine of any bodily resurrection, and he proceeds to dismiss all the statements that indicate Jesus did teach bodily resurrection as being figurative. All the remaining new testament statements on this subject are ignored, while Tolstoy claims that Jesus was correcting the Pharisees in their erroneous notion of resurrection, which he deems to be a holdover from the most primitive and barbaric forms of religion. The faith in a resurrection and heaven are mocked as a heretical perversion of the Christian religion and there is apparently no need in Tolstoy's religion to even speak of a judgment or hell. In his view, we only have the now to do good and any energy expended in a hope for the hereafter will only distract from doing good in the present and, perhaps worse, tempt us to believe that we needn't give everything now in our struggle for good when there is a future in which we will be made perfect. Instead, death is simply a state when our soul is assimilated into the collective oneness of God, as happened to Christ on the cross.
I see this as an attempt to merge an atheist theology with a pseudo Christian morality in a mix that more or less follows Mainline Christianity. Since Tolstoy doesn't claim to have discovered this "correct" teaching of Christ until he was 55, it becomes much easier for him to imagine that he could fulfill the requirements. Yet why bother? His claim is that by following Christ's commands in detail we should have greater personal happiness. Yet he ignores what Jesus really said, "take up your cross and follow me", as if this were to be a source of joy without the hope that Tolstoy denies nor the work of a Holy Spirit, which has not yet been mentioned in this work. And if a madman deems that he will find personal satisfaction in robbing and killing his neighbor, he will never face a judgment, which is really where this religion is hopelessly defective.
One thing I did like that Tolstoy mentioned was the need to literally understand Christ's teaching regarding adultery. He doesn't dwell on this like he does the other, unfortunately. Today, the mainliners who follow this line of rhetoric have pretty much abandoned any attempt to restrain immorality and completely committed themselves to a doctrine of perversion. Doing good to others is all about using someone else's money. I still have a few chapters to go, so we will see what else is exciting here. Will resistance be futile? I can't be sure yet, but Tolstoy has accused the church of resisting Christ's teaching for 1,800 years.