Tolstoy's religion can be divided into two parts: pre and post conversion. He was baptized into a life of privilege and wealth in Czarist Russia. Since "The Death of Ivan Illych" was written in post conversion we decided to use his own words to describe pre-conversion. In his 1884 book Confession he wrote:
"I cannot recall those years without horror, loathing and heart rending pain. I killed people in war, challenged men to duels with the purpose of killing them, and lost at cards; I squandered the fruits of the peasants toil and then had them executed; I was a fornicator and a cheat. Lying, stealing...promiscuity of every kind, drunkenness, violence murder- there was not a crime I did not commit Thus I lived for ten years."
In the late 1870's, Tolstoy underwent a profound spiritual crisis. He stated in A Confession that he found insights in the daily life of Russian peasants who told him that everyone must serve God rather than living for themselves.
He emerged from his spiritual crisis as what some have described as a Christian Anarchist He was an anarchist to the extent that he considered wrong all organizations based on the premise of force, including both the government and the church. Tolstoy was very skeptical. Although he mad pilgrimages to monasteries, he denounced certain dogmas such as the virginal conception and Jesus' bodily resurrection. He held fast to logical and rational faith, but without any belief in immortality. To Tolstoy Jesus was simply a man teaching that he was what all people were and potentially could be.
Tolstoy gathered a big following as he dedicated most of the 2nd half of his life to writing essays, pamphlets, didactic short stories like "The Death of Ivan Illych" and plays. His novel published in...