Law and Religion

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Law and Religion
From the early periods of human civilization, the concepts of law and religion have
developed to regulate many aspects of life. Initially, the principles of natural law influenced the
decisions made by the traditional forms of authority. The making of law derives its power from
the people through the application of the social contract theory. Consequently, the law and
religion govern the duality of reality and morality. Due to the geographical and cultural
differences, people subscribe to different beliefs and legal methods. Despite the disparity, both
concepts aim to control all the facets of human life. As a result, the law and religion are in
constant competition for jurisdiction and authority. However, the role of either is denied by a
section of the community based on personal or theoretical foundations. The novel, Crime and
Punishment by Dostoevsky, explores the various religious issues through the psychological lives
of the characters. Throughout the book, the dichotomy between the law and religion is evident
and the role they play in each system.
Primarily, the novel develops the themes of morality and crime in the society. The main
protagonist, Raskolnikov, is a former student with a conflicted state of mind (Dostoevsky 1).
However, he is a strong and intelligent young man. Due to his tribulations, including failing to
pay his rent, he decides to commit a crime. In the process, he goes to the residence of a
pawnbroker to collect money to plan his illegal objectives. Afterward, Raskolnikov passes
through many drinking bars where he learns of the various challenges afflicting other parties
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including prostitution, corruption, and disease. Significantly, he overhears a person claiming that
the plight of the town would improve if the pawnbroker died. Subsequently, he plots the best
method to kill the old lady and proceeds to murder her as well as her sister who had witnessed
the incident.
After the murders, Raskolnikov experiences mental anguish due to his recollection of the
killings. As a result, many people suspected him of the crimes due to his apprehensiveness when
the victims are mentioned. In brief, the behavior continues throughout the set as the police
question the many suspects. Moreover, due to the guilt arising from the murders, he asks Dunya
to read the story of Lazarus from the Bible. It is imperative to note that the part highlights the
miracles of Jesus in which he raised a dead man from the grave. Therefore, the novel, Crime and
Punishment, raises many fundamental issues on the role of law and religion in the society.
The relationship of the law and religion is influenced significantly by the different views
on morality. In early times, there was little distinction between morality and the law. However,
with the development of human civilization, the legal expectations outweighed religious
teachings (Petrazycki 34). For instance, people are compelled to follow the law or face the
consequences including a jail term. On the other hand, the legislated statutes may fail to respect
religion, but they are binding. In the present case, Raskolnikov committed murder which is
shunned in both fields. In many instances, many criminal acts are considered to be legally and
morally wrong. Religious books and practices outline the conduct to be adhered to by their
members. However, they lack the legal means to enforce a variety of punitive actions. On the
other hand, the law through police officers and courts can effectively regulate human conduct
that is prescribed by the statutes and the Constitution. For example, the story of Raskolnikov
ends with him being in jail in Siberia serving a long sentence.
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Secondly, the conception of what constitutes a crime is important in the development of
the law and religion. In all civilizations, the law developed from the deity and religious beliefs of
the people. For instance, the natural-law theory indicates that nature endows the rights enjoyed
by human beings (D'Entreves 6). Central to the theme, advocates argue that the power is derived
from God. As a result, the behavior of the society must respect the creation of humankind by
God. Consequently, most of the outlawed criminal activities are based from religious teachings
including murder and theft. However, with time, positive law developed; and it failed to consider
the impact of morality on the law. Despite these differences, both the law and religion seek to
protect the primary values of life. The conduct of Raskolnikov is against the religious beliefs he
practices and the law of the land. Murder is prohibited in Christianity as well as the country’s
criminal codes. Nevertheless, the church or its leadership lacks the mechanism to demand neither
compliance nor the means to punish the wrongdoers. While he feels remorseful due to his guilty
conscience, the courts still punish him for his crimes. It is imperative to note that because he
confessed to the murders, Raskolnikov avoided the death sentence and was sentenced to a jail
In addition, the enforcement of laws is a significant aspect discussed in Crime and
Punishment. The setting of the story highlights the many challenges encumbering the society
including poverty, gambling, and disease. As mentioned earlier, the social contract theory
contributed to the growth of organized civilizations. The people believed due to the inherent
virtue of being evil, the formation of a political government will protect them. The surrender of
some rights to the ruler enabled them to enjoy protection and performance of the remaining
freedoms. Moreover, due to the increase in competition, people were more likely to turn violent
and deprive others of the properties and life. Consequently, the adoption of political power led to
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the establishment of early civilizations. In the present case, the exercise of the power is limited to
the government. However, Raskolnikov aimed to bring social order into the society by exercising
the power individually. The murder of the pawnbroker was influenced by what he had overheard
from others that the community will be a better place without the old woman. Evidently, in the
end, he was imprisoned because of his unlawful actions.
While the components of religion and laws are to a great extent similar, the
conceptualization of punishment is significantly different. At the end of the story, Crime and
Punishment highlights the predicament of the protagonist. The operational method of the law
requires the law enforcement officers to collect enough evidence to convict a person (Sandberg
139). As mentioned earlier, while he escaped from the crime scene, some people were able to
identify him although not positively. For instance, despite the fact that many people suspected
Raskolnikov of the murders, they could not arrest him on mere suspicion. After the murders, he
went to great lengths to conceal the crime by hiding the weapons used in the homicide. The
availability of evidence determines whether a crime can be prosecuted. Further, due to the mental
anguish that engulfed Raskolnikov, he offered to confess for his actions. Consequently, the
judges convicted him to jail to serve time.
Conversely, religion lacks punitive criminal punishments. In many religious, followers
are absolved of all their indiscretions if they appeal to the deity. For example, Christians believe
in confessions and prayers to deal with the liability arising from their actions. Hence, the novel
applies the law to enforce acceptable behavior. Despite the differences in the application of the
law and religion, the fundamental underlying principle is justice. However, the concept is
abstract like the foundations it is based on. Many communities have different measures of the
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theory of fairness. Imperatively, both laws and religion aim to ensure similar conduct among all
people. Nevertheless, in practice, the results are different from the theoretical conceptualizations.
In conclusion, the character of Raskolnikov highlights the interplay of religion and the
law in the society. Due to human nature, people are predisposed to engage in outlawed activities.
For instance, religion relies on diverse holy books and practices to enforce positive behavior
while the state uses the constitution and statutes. In the present case, the commission of murder is
prohibited in both categories. While Raskolnikov initially confesses to his friends, he was only
convicted after his confession was admitted to the court. On the other hand, religion lacks the
means of enforcing punitive measures to guilty persons. Despite the differences, the goals of
both religion and the law are largely similar in demanding justice and the well-being for all
members of the society. Therefore, both concepts complement each other in regulating human
conduct in the community.
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Works Cited
D'Entreves, Alexander Passerin. Natural Law: An Introduction to Legal Philosophy. Routledge,
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. Penguin UK, 2014.
Petrazycki, Leon. Law and Morality. Routledge, 2017.
Sandberg, Russell. Law and Religion. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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