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Spinoza, Baruch (1632-1677) Dutch
Philosopher

The greatest of the modern philosophers brought rational approach to the enquiry of great questions like God and human destiny. He laid the groundwork for the 18th century Enlightenment. His masterpiece Ethics never found light of the day in his lifetime. The reason was simple. He was excommunicated* for his heretical thinking from the Jewish community in Amsterdam and the odium of it had preceded his brief life; however stoicism of his race was in his blood as a result of persecution running through centuries, and made him think his own thoughts and make a living by an useful trade of polishing lenses. If he, despite all odds became the greatest ( Frederick Hegel on one occasion speaking to his contemporaries said thus: ‘You are either Spinozit or not a philosopher at all.’) it still owed to his Jewish identity. The fact that he was born a Jew was both a curse and a blessing.
All his works were put on the proscribed list (index librorum prohibitorum) by the Roman Catholic Church. He was greatly influenced by Bruno (1548-1600) whose dictum, ‘all reality is one substance’ naturally would make him oppose Descartes’ mind-body dualism. Bruno perished under inquisition and if the Catholic Church proscribed Spinoza the reason was obvious.
Spinoza’s thinking however latched on to an idea of Descartes that all forms of matter had a ‘homogeneous’ substance, and it propelled him in the direction his precocious mind was taking, and served as light clearing many dark recesses of doubts on way. In 1656 he was excommunicated on charges of heresy and the upshot of it was his father refused to receive him and his sister tried to cheat him out of a small inheritance. (He contested the case in court and won. He duly handed the bequest over to his sister.) Rejected by his family and friends, an assassination attempt on his life made him leave Amsterdam. He changed his name to Bernard de Spinoza and disciplined his life to extreme thrift. He was happy living within his modest means and many influential men of his day found him stimulating and his company congenial. Some of them offered help but he refused stipends and money saying, ‘Nature is satisfied with little; if she is, I am also.’
He finally settled in The Hague in 1670 economically secure and surrounded by rich and powerful friends who looked up to him with great respect.
As a person he was of middle size, his face pleasing, and skin somewhat darker and his hair curly and eyebrows dark and long stamping his Portuguese ancestry in his looks.
Spinoza chose not to found a sect and he founded none and yet philosophy after him was permeated with his thought. The great German polymath Goethe was converted after one reading of Ethics and also was cured of wild romanticism of his past. Spinoza supplied what his yearning soul had sought, dass wir entsagen sollen-‘that we must accept the limitations Nature puts on us.’
There is a statue of him at The Hague erected from public subscription collected from every part of the educated world. At the unveiling of it (1882) Ernest Renan made a moving speech at the conclusion he said thus.’ This man from his granite pedestal, will point out to all men, the way of all blessedness which he found; and ages hence, the cultivated traveler, passing by this spot, will say in his heart, ‘the truest vision ever had of God came, perhaps, here.’

*Excommunication
In 1656 the 24-year old Spinoza was summoned before the elders to answer the charges of heresy. One of the sticking points was his doubt regarding the belief in another life. The Synagogue was concerned such a view, contrary to the essence of Christianity would seem inimical to the community that had welcomed them into their midst. For their security in the host country the Dutch Calvinists had to be appeased and no cost was to be reckoned too little. The same mindset that had prompted Caiaphas to say about Jesus was alive in the elders of his time. (‘It was expedient that one man should die for the people’- Jn.18: 14) If the Synagogue had not spared Jesus or Uriel a Costa it was not going to spare the young Spinoza either.
The young skeptic was offered $500 in annuity for his silence and outward loyalty to the Synagogue and his faith. He refused.
On July 27, 1656, he was excommunicated with all the somber formalities of Hebrew ritual. During the reading of the curse, wailing of the great horn was heard and lights were put out one after the other, indicating the quenching of spiritual life of the man under curse. Spinoza took it under quite courage. He did not join another sect for comfort and determined, as he was to seek his own salvation. The form of the Synagogue and shape of elders that guided it was a mode far from the ‘substance’ of God that moved him. Mode pandered to circumstances and compromised wherever it suited while his soul was ever fixed. His life was his proof to his thought.
(ack: Will Durant- The story of Philosophy: Pub. The Washington Square Press-1964)

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Religion is for man. Quality of religion is such an abstract quantity that makes no sense unless it is shown in practice.

Religion requires a base from which anyone may show off the merit of belief-systems that he subscribes to. Man is one such. He or she may demonstrate its color and other qualities. It is said of Cicero that even as a child his fame was such parents of his schoolmates came to see for themselves the pupil who carried such an excellent  report. Religion is now debased that each one chatters the quality of his or her religion and we see no one ever showing the proof in their lives. Megachurches hold thousands of listeners where the preacher gives his performances. One would think he has some serious personality problems that he requires so many lights on him and he needs to show his best side, in terms of his looks and morals, in order to keep the crowd’s attention. Take any religion and you see those who preach too loud so often are farther from demonstrating the merits. Speaking doesn’t mean proof. Love thy neighbor as thyself. One may speak of it every hour and it doesn’t demonstrate one is proving love that he so vigorously declaims. Praying five times a day  for this reason means nothing.

Idiots are everywhere in churches or in mosques and they are degenerate idiots who preach in order not to fulfill the very demands of their religion.

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Man as a social animal needs to belong and he often continues the traditions of his parents without questioning whether the merits of their belief were proved in their own lives. Churches over the years have been getting leaner. Is it because people have found religion had not filled their pockets with cash or larders with goods? No. Those who were placed in positions of trust to lead the children of men into ways of righteousness have misled their flock. Out of their own personal ambitions or out of their stupidity. He who preaches his infallibility and also hides evil priests is a Satan’s disciple.  Protestant and Catholic churches are not freed from this. How can such evil men lead the men to better themselves? Or Mullahs who preach hate and use children in the name of Jihad to pull chestnuts from fire for their own ends? Christianity and Islam alike have failed in their practice.  Take religions from all over the world. Do they make the Earth a better place?

It is not the fault of religion which are ideas but men who have lapsed in their thinking. They have fouled up the earth with their stupidity. No more proof is needed as to this than seeing the environment pollution around us. Recently an astronaut seemed to have observed the Earth has changed for the worse. In Hebraic tradition of Creation God gave Adam domination over the Earth and the Rule is still valid. Aren’t we all guilty of flouting it? Christianity has always given an undue emphasis to man, his soul and his obedience to body of men whose merits for commanding such honor have not been always proved beyond doubt. Think of all the witch hunts throughout history. How the Church has treated women for witches? Their sins? They loved the earth and worshiped the spirits they didn’t understand. We say we understand our spirits and yet we do not follow them. What difference is then between organized religion and paganism? Will slaughtering suspected members of the cults help? If pagans let nature cure their ills the Churches relied on their own cure miracles and their members, the so called  physicians try their cure.  In a way it has been detrimental in developing a respect for environment.

Now the Earth cults are gaining ground but how much responsible are they? Many of them may have genuine desire to live close to the nature but do they have a cohesive and positive plan based on universally acknowledged facts to reclaim the Earth from deteriorating  any further? I do not see any such body that holds the credentials. There are many cult groups each flexing his  muscles in his own fashion. Private revelations and gifts are not the answer but a clear scientific temper that can enthuse all men to respect his own hearth and backyard; who dares to claim his or her moral soundness for the good of all. Neither Pope nor a shaman has it in himself to speak of religion without his credentials of humanness. Science speaks for discipline and education.  If these cannot make a man to think for himself what is the purpose of science?

Religion is for man. Is man for such religions that are short of proving with deeds?

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Overheard: Thank God! I am an atheist!

An atheist is a silly man who denies God but cannot understand how close to Him he is nevertheless. It is to be proved with his life and from his context with all things living.  If his humanness cannot make him rise above some contrary beliefs or atheism he is foolish indeed. Merely mouthing the tag of his non-belief proves his foolishness.  Religion and lack of it should not hold unearned influences. Neither should Science.

benny

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