To Defy Power Which Seems Omnipotent God is dead; but considering the state that the species Man is in, there will perhaps be caves … in which his shadow will be shown. This was written in 1882 by Friedrich Nietzsche, who took a lot of inspiration from Dostoyevsky.
In the “Grand Inquisitor” portion of The Brothers Karamazov there is discussion of where the Catholic Church is going, why it is going there, and where this push is coming from. He uses the Catholics as an example of all religions, and brings up the question of what is most important to a man. In the case of the Inquisitor, he is conflicted by the question of whether he wants his power and the power of the church preserved, or does he want to help make the religion a better force in the world.
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In the end he decides that he would rather damn all of society rather than relinquish his authority. The first of the conflicting forces is that of self-preservation. The Inquisitor feels that if he does not do his duty, Jesus will make him obsolete. The Inquisitor is correct in that assumption. The Catholic Church claims that there is only one way to speak to god, and that is through the clergy. That is why there is a homily in Catholic mass, so the priest can explain what god is telling them. If god made his prophetic return to earth, the Church would loose it’s foundation for power. This applies on a slightly smaller scale to the Inquisitor.
He is used to his lavish lifestyle, he is used to his status in society, but most of all he is used to his ability to control the lives of so many while having to answer to so few. He has gotten to the point that he has disillusioned himself to believe that he is the last vanguard for all morality. “You object that man does not live by bread alone, but do you know that in the name of this very earthly bread, the spirit of the earth will rise against you and fight with you and defeat you, and everyone will follow him exclaiming: “Who can compare to this beast, for he has given us fire from heaven!”(Dostoyevsky 420.30). The Inquisitor knows that if he allows this proclaimed Jesus to go and perform that there will be uprising against everything, because the absolute power of all Western Europe has fallen.
There is also the problem of what happens when he falls. “And so we took Caesar’s sword, and in taking it, of course, we rejected you and followed him” (426.4). If the pope and cardinals are ousted, they are no longer the ones who decide dogma, and therefore are not able to control their environment. They cannot ensure their entry to heaven because they cannot decide what god is saying.
These are two strong motivators in the Inquisitor forcing Jesus to be burned at the stake for heresy and blasphemy. The thing that is contradicting the need for self preservation is his wanting to better his faith, the faith of his church, and the world in general. As a upper echelon.