It's God that's worrying me. That's the only thing that's worrying me. What if He doesn't exist? What if Rakitin's right -that it's an idea made up by men? Then, if He doesn't exist, man is the king of the earth, of the universe. Magnificent! Only how is he going to be good without God? That's the question. I always come back to that. Who is man going to love then? To whom will he be thankful? To whom will he sing the hymn? Rakitin laughs. Rakitin says that one can love humanity instead of God. Well, only an idiot can maintain that. I can't understand it. Life's easy for Rakitin. 'You'd better think about the extension of civic rights, or of keeping down the price of meat. You will show your love for humanity more simply and directly by that, than by philosophy.' I answered him: 'Well, but you, without a God, are more likely to raise the price of meat if it suits you, and make a rouble on every penny.' He lost his temper. But after all, what is goodness? Answer that, Alyosha. Goodness is one thing with me and another with a Chinaman, so it's relative. Or isn't it? Is it not relative? A treacherous question! You won't laugh if I tell you it's kept me awake for two nights. I only wonder now how people can live and think nothing about it. Vanity!
The cold logic of mid-twentieth-century atheism has now given way to an era of renewed 'spirituality,' but it is an awakening more thrapeutic than pious, more attuned to self-expression than self-denial. It is now fashionable to talk about God, though it is still deeply unfashionable to believe in him.
I do not have it in for relativism. In many respects I find it a fascinating, even attractive, alternative. It engenders epistemological humility, defeats an arrogant pomposity in belief, even promotes a sort of democratic ideal in matters of knowledge. Perhaps its most comforting feature is that it requires no hard work at all in the matter of justifying beliefs.
Insularity is the foundation of ethnocentrism and intolerance; when you only know of those like yourself, it is easy to imagine that you are alone in the world or alone in being good and right in the world. Exposure to diversity, on the contrary, is the basis for relativism and tolerance; when you are forced to face and accept the Other as real, unavoidable, and ultimately valuable, you cannot help but see yourself and your 'truths' in a new - and trouble - way.
During the next hundred years, the question for those who love liberty is whether we can survive the most insidious and duplicitous attacks from within, from those who undermine the virtues of our people, doing in advance the work of the Father of Lies. There is no such thing as truth, they teach even the little ones. Truth is bondage. Believe what seems right to you. There are as many truths as there are individuals. Follow your feelings. Do as you please. Get in touch with your self. Do what feels comfortable. Those who speak in this way prepare the jails of the twenty-first century. They do the work of tyrants.