Religion is an ever-present theme in the novel Master and Margarita. Many of the characters neither believe in heaven nor hell, and they also refute the existence of God or the Devil (Satan). Throughout the novel, religion is used for characters to make sense of their realities. When Woland, the Devil himself, confronts some of the characters chaos ensues, and truth becomes unclear.
In the beginning of the novel, two men by the names Mikhail Berlioz and Ivan Nikolayevich (whose pen name was Bezdomny) have a conversation about Jesus Christ. Berlioz attempts to prove that a man such as “Jesus, as an individual, had never existed on earth at all and that all the stories about him were mere fabrications, myths of the standard kind.” [Bulgakov, 5] As the men continue their conversation, Woland, who appears as a mere foreigner joins the conversation. He tells the men that he met Pontius Pilate, and the two believe Woland to be crazy. Without knowing about Woland’s true identity, Berlioz denies the existence of God or Satan, and explains that a large portion of his population is in fact atheist. Woland predicts Berlioz’s death at the end of the conversation, and he continues on, wreaking havoc amongst many other people.
This theme of religion and religious imagery continues throughout the story, such as the glimpse we get into the mind of Pontius Pilate before Jesus (Yeshua Ga-Nostri) is sentenced to death. Bulgakov portrays a side not often seen of Pilate in religious and historical accounts. Later on, Woland is creating chaos in other character’s lives. He draws out people’s flaws and evil tendencies that already existed within them, and he makes a mockery of those flaws. Woland himself is proving that he exists.
As the story progresses, we meet the Master, a writer who mental state is unstable. He wrote about Pontius Pilate, and his writing was severely criticized. He burns his manuscripts hoping to never see them again, however...