The Grand Inquisitor Addresses Jesus

Jesus and the Grand Inquisitor

And now, do You see those stones in this parched and barren desert? Turn them into loaves of bread and men will follow You like cattle, grateful and docile, although constantly fearful lest You withdraw Your hand and they lose Your loaves. . . . You thought, what sort of freedom would they have if their obedience was bought with bread? You replied that man does not live by bread alone. . . .

So, in the end, they will lay their freedom at our feet and say to us, “Enslave us but feed us!” And they will finally understand that freedom and the assurance of daily bread for everyone are two incompatible notions that could never co-exist! . . .

They will marvel at us and worship us like gods, because, by becoming their masters, we have accepted the burden of freedom that they were too frightened to face, just because we have agreed to rule over them — that is how terrifying freedom will have become to them finally! . . .

I tell You once more that man has no more pressing, agonizing need than the need to find someone to whom he can hand over as quickly as possible the gift of freedom with which the poor wretch comes into the world. . . .

We have corrected Your work and have now founded it on miracle, mystery and authority. And men rejoice at being led like cattle again, with the terrible gift of freedom that brought them so much suffering removed from them. . . .

They will tell us the secrets that most torment their consciences, they will tell us everything, and we shall solve all their problems, and they will trust to our solutions completely, because they will be rid of the terrible worry and the frightening torment they know today when they have to decide for themselves how to act.

— Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

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