It was Stavrogin in The Possessed who put that general notion into Kirollov's mind, but Stavrogin influenced another friend, Shatov, in the opposite direction. The title of the novel hints that such ideas (for the novel offers many) are the demons in question. Stavrogin hangs himself at the end of the novel, after publishing a confession of his sins and his spiritual bankruptcy.
But the idea involved is this (by my light): the absence of God leaves man at the top of the food chain, and the individual man that can free himself from moral prejudice is at the top of the intellectual food chain. He's still a mortal man, but he at least has the pleasure of looking down on everything.
Nietzsche has moments like this. It connects with the Satanic-Byronic hero of Romanticism. Nietzsche and probably Dostoevsky read Byron. Probably all of them read Milton, whose Satan is a classic (and I mean classic) example of this. Of course the character Satan believes in God but he questions his eternity and omnipotence.
The Possessed is an amazing book.
The phrase 'If there is no god than I am a God' comes from 'the devils'/'the possessed' etc, but the scenario I have drawn up is extrapolated from the main plot of 'crime and punishment' and 'the brothers karamazov.
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All of those websites stating than in america the divorce rate amongst atheists are lower than amongst the religious are taken from one survey if you look, carried out by the christian evangelical group 'the barna group' it was then (rather typically) pounced upon by the militant atheists and of course shouted from the rooftops. The Barna Group - New Marriage and Divorce Statistics Released
this is the adress of the actual survey. Also if you look, only 269 atheists or agnostics actually took part in the survey, and I'm sure that number contains far more agnostics than atheists. And also if you look, people who describe themselves as 'liberals' have the very highest divorce rate amongst anyone.
Also it clearly states that atheists are far less likely to get married in the first place, so all in all, ONE rather supect survey carried out in ONE country, (the country that has one of, if not the highest divorce rate in the world anyway) still does not back up your statement that 'atheists are more likely to be in stable marriages' does it?
Nevertheless, it may even be true for america, where atheists are a very small minority, and almost exclusively come from wealthier more educated backgrounds who would have lower divorce rates anyway.
I can find no divorce rates that compare relious beliefs for the UK or europe, where the demographic for people who have religious beliefs is far different than for the united states. But how exactly could you possibly dispute the fact that the growing secularisation in europe over the last century which you refer to has nothing to do with the simultaneous disintegration of the institution of marriage as a whole, and also of the instituation of the family? Just think about - to a genuinely religious person marriage is a deep sacred vow, and this was what most people considered it 100 years ago. Now, because so few people are religious it means very little indeed. If you can find me statistics for europe or the UK, then I'm willing to be proved wrong, but I don't think I will be - you can just look at the history, and of the present condition of the institution of marriage and the family in general.
A case of lies, damn lies, and statistics I'm afraid.
Technically you're right, but it was you who originally extrapolated something significant about 20th Century european history from his character's words.
So I think it's very relevent to point out that for most of the 20th century - most of (old) europe underwent an unprecedented period of internal peace - despite growing abandonment of religion.
Dostoyevsky's novel 'the devils' is about some nihilistic atheists who are attempting a revolution in russia. The novel has widely been described as tremendously prophetic:
Devils (Wordsworth Classics of World Literature): Amazon.co.uk: F.M. Dostoevsky: Books
for instance read the product description...
Also near the end of 'crime and punishment' we also get a stunning moment of prophecy. Let me give a short synopsis of the novel first.
A student Raskolnikov, dreams to himself that he can become a great man. In his mind he has an image of Napoleon. He is a student, and tremendously poor, so poor he cant even afford to go back to his university and continue his studies. He knows a vicious old pawnbroker woman, who is a nasty usurer, and who beats her simple-minded sister who lives with her, is her only friend and carer. Raskolnikov convinces himself, that if he were to kill her, get back to university and sorts himself out with the money he steals, not only will he be ridding the world of a nasty 'louse', but when he becomes a 'great man' the amount of good he will be able to do would easily balance out any wrong his action might cause. So he does it, and then basically falls ill, treads the borders of insanity wondering around petersburg for the rest of the novel in a state of near madness before deciding to hand himself in, realising that his atheistic utilitarian ideas were just wrong. The first person he tells his crime to, is a destitute prostitute who is a christian, whos story we also follow through the novel, who has been forced into it, to help her family. At the end Raskolnikovs journey to the police station mirrors that of christ carrying his cross to golgotha, complete with the mary magdelane character following from a distance (the prostitute sonya).
In the epilogue when he is serving his time in prison in siberia, we see him turning over his ideas in his head, and to cut the story short, he basically decides to turn his back on his old nihilistic ideas, and even picks up a copy of the new testament, and ponders over becoming more like sonya, and adopting her view of the world. But at this time he also has a dream, which has been quoted in any quarters as being a stunning prophecy of the 20th century:
'He was in the hospital from the middle of Lent till after Easter.
When he was better, he remembered the dreams he had had while he was
feverish and delirious. He dreamt that the whole world was condemned
to a terrible new strange plague that had come to Europe from the
depths of Asia. All were to be destroyed except a very few chosen.
Some new sorts of microbes were attacking the bodies of men, but these
microbes were endowed with intelligence and will. Men attacked by them
became at once mad and furious. But never had men considered
themselves so intellectual and so completely in possession of the
truth as these sufferers, never had they considered their decisions,
their scientific conclusions, their moral convictions so infallible.
Whole villages, whole towns and peoples went mad from the infection.
All were excited and did not understand one another. Each thought that
he alone had the truth and was wretched looking at the others, beat
himself on the breast, wept, and wrung his hands. They did not know
how to judge and could not agree what to consider evil and what
good; they did not know whom to blame, whom to justify. Men killed
each other in a sort of senseless spite. They gathered together in
armies against one another, but even on the march the armies would
begin attacking each other, the ranks would be broken and the soldiers
would fall on each other, stabbing and cutting, biting and devouring
each other. The alarm bell was ringing all day long in the towns;
men rushed together, but why they were summoned and who was
summoning them no one knew. The most ordinary trades were abandoned,
because every one proposed his own ideas, his own improvements, and
they could not agree. The land too was abandoned. Men met in groups,
agreed on something, swore to keep together, but at once began on
something quite different from what they had proposed. They accused
one another, fought and killed each other. There were conflagrations
and famine. All men and all things were involved in destruction. The
plague spread and moved further and further. Only a few men could be
saved in the whole world. They were a pure chosen people, destined
to found a new race and a new life, to renew and purify the earth, but
no one had seen these men, no one had heard their words and their voices.'
If you look under 'symbolism' and then 'the dreams' you'll find stuff about this passage:
Crime and Punishment - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia