Did you hear Ivan argue that the church should absorb the state, and become the earthly authority for all mankind? I was amazed when he said that the state’s practice of punishing criminals is really no punishment at all, and that if the church were in charge, criminals would receive the true punishments – first, the punishment of their own consciences, and then the punishment of excommunication. What a marvelous thought. Do you think that the absorption of the state into the church is possible? Is it desirable? Or is Ivan proposing Catholicism all over again?
I refuse to take Ivan’s argument seriously. How are we to reconcile it with his more disturbing argument that a man without conscience is obligated to do evil in the world? Didn’t he say that “there is decidedly nothing in the whole world that would make men love their fellow man; that there exists no law of nature that man should love mankind, and that if there is and has been any love on earth up to now, it has come not from natural law but solely from people’s belief in their immortality…so that were mankind’s beliefs in its immortality to be destroyed, not only love but also any living power to continue the life of the world would at once dry up in it. Not only that, but then nothing would be immoral any longer, everything would be permitted …” (69). What do you make of this insanity, gentlemen? How can two such contradictory ideas exist in the same soul?