“So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to worship.”

In Chapter 5 of Book 5, Dostoevsky attempts to explain how free will feels like a burden for many individuals. The ability to makes one’s own decisions, on the surface, seems appealing. However, the knowledge that one must face the consequences of these decisions is often too overwhelming or daunting to maintain the appealing nature of free will. Because of this, Dostoevsky argues, individuals often seek God or another higher power in order to have an entity onto which one can pass the blame. If one believes in God and therefore makes a decision in the name of God, one feels less responsible for the consequences of that decision, as they were simply following their faith.

“If you were to destroy in mankind the belief in immortality, not only love but every living force maintaining the life of the world would at once be dried up.”

This quote from the sixth chapter of the second book exemplifies the idea that God acts as a buffer between individuals and free will. Because those of Christian faith, who believe in Heaven and Hell, are concerned with their placement after death, they tend to act out of love and kindness more often. Dostoevsky argues with this quote that, without God, the burden of free will would be too strong for many individuals and the world would lack the same frequency of love and kindness. 

“A beast can never be as cruel as a human being, so artistically, so picturesquely cruel.”

This quote from Chapter 4 of Book 5 compares humans, or beings who possess free will, with animals. Dostoevsky argues that cruelty is only made possible by the possession of free will, as cruelty must be backed by a motive of desire. Animals operate solely on instinct and survival. When a predator kills its prey, it does not do so out of free will but out of the need to survive. Therefore, the predator is absolved of cruelty. Humans, however, do not instinctually enact cruelty on their neighbors—they can only do so out of a desire to be cruel. This passage suggests that free will, while enabling kindness and love for one another, also enables this cruelty.