Ever since Nikolai’s death, Levin has pondered life and death; he is afraid of his ignorance of death. Though marriage at first muffled these thoughts, after Kitty gave birth and while he was living in Moscow with nothing to do, he has been facing these existential questions. If he does not accept Christianity, thinks Levin, what does he accept? Levin pores through philosophy books for answers. Everyone around him is a believer. Even the people who are also unbelievers are not tackling the large questions he grapples with. Levin is also unsettled by his instinctive prayer during Kitty’s labor.
Levin feels completely torn between his rational beliefs and his irrational instincts. He’s a staunch unbeliever, but how can he continue to claim that he’s an atheist when he apparently prays to God in his moments of greatest need? Levin is deeply against any kind of hypocrisy and so needs to be able to reconcile these apparently warring principles within himself. Further, he senses that there are great questions that his worldview does not provide him with any way of answering, and he desperately wants those answers.