“What is ‘The Church’?” asked Beelzebub severely, reluctant to believe that his servants were cleverer than he.
“Well, when people tell lies and feel that they won’t be believed, they always call God to witness and say, ‘By God, what I say is true!’ That, in substance, is ‘The Church,’ but with this peculiarity: that those who recognize themselves as being ‘The Church’ become convinced that they cannot err, and so whatever nonsense they may utter they can never recant it.
‘The Church’ is constituted in this way: men assure themselves and others that their teacher, God, to ensure that the law he revealed to men should not be misinterpreted, has given power to certain men, who, with those to whom they transfer this power, can alone correctly interpret his teaching. So these men, who call themselves ‘The Church,’ regard themselves as holding the truth, not because what they preach is true, but because they consider themselves the only true successors of the disciples of the disciples of the disciples – and finally of the disciples of the teacher, God himself. They accepted sixty-six different books as being the sacred exposition of the law of God, and declared that every word in those books was the production of the Holy Ghost.
Over the simple and easily understood truth they poured such a heap of pseudo-sacred truths that it became impossible either to accept them all or to find among them the one truth which is alone necessary for man.
Leo Tolstoy – Restoration of Hell