Fyodor Dostoevsky was a fantastic and brilliant author. His books explored the depth of human morality and the human psyche. Admittedly, he’s not easy to read. But if you can slog through, its worth it.
Crime and Punishment is the story of a man, Raskolnikov, who commits a brutal murder. Why? Well, in a meaningless and godless universe, why not? More than that, one theme Dostoevsky wrestles with in his work is freedom. Do humans have freedom? If we are mere natural creatures, guided by our natural instincts, can we act free? Or, as one character in his novel Demons argues, if there is no God then human will is ultimate. But to prove this he must kill himself, demonstrating he has no fear of death.
For those of us who struggle with faith, we wonder at the silence of God in the face of human suffering. Perhaps God is silent because God is not there? Many atheists would affirm this, even encouraging us to give up belief in God. People like Dostoyevsky point out that eliminating God does not solve the problem. Or, at least, it solves some problems while creating others. In Dostoyevsky’s world, there are no easy answers. Both theists and atheists must confront darkness, the darkness of the world and in their own soul.*
For a glimpse of this, journey with Raskolnikov as he is consumed with the punishment his crime brings on.
*Note – this makes me think of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age where he looks at belief in our world and how we all, theist and atheist, face cross pressures. In other words, no matter what you believe, you believe in the midst of doubting your beliefs.