Leaders of Secular Reason

Baruch Spinoza—Moral “Prince of Philosophers”

Throughout history, little time has been free of the trials of religion. The exact time when humans first became religious remains unknown; however, due to certain signs of behavior in non-human primates and first humans alike, it’s thought that psychology of adaptation, genes, and physiological “dopaminergic functions” are responsible. The idea being primarily that religion “either evolved due to natural selection and has selective advantage, or that religion is an evolutionary byproduct of other mental adaptations”.

Rationalist thinkers that are critical of the practices of religion have lent invaluable leadership in light of their own nontheistic inspirations, from whence they came. The secular can be open to wherever that might be, and lean purposefully in the direction of reasoned analyses of any intuitive moments of inspiration. As anyone, they do the best they can.

If we think about it, the visions of the secular philosopher shouldn’t be regarded by the religious as any less than divine if the ones making the judgement are in fact religious people, for although a thinker uses human reason to decipher behavior, they also are inspired to do so by very much the same perceived responsibilities of life as the believer who should only believe that even an atheist is serving their purpose. Case in point:
Baruch Spinoza.

Western Rational Mind-Body Dualist

Baruch Spinoza

Baruch Spinoza was a Jewish-Dutch philosopher who rationalized his way out of the Jewish community, ultimately, when he was ostracized and shunned for speaking his mind. Spinoza was excommunicated on July 27, 1656. Within the communique that officially ousted Spinoza, his congregational community of such devotion were instructed that “no one should communicate with [Spinoza] neither in writing nor accord him any favor nor stay with him under the same roof nor within four cubits in his vicinity; nor shall he read any treatise composed or written by him.”

Spinoza was a secularist at heart and perhaps a seeker as well, intent on understanding the nature of existence, nonexistence, or other. To what degree he may’ve used divinity language under social duress is something any secularist and attentive community member has to wonder.

As a rationalist, Spinoza would have believed that certain principles exist that are so fundamentally true that denying them causes one to fall into contradiction. Intuition to Spinoza would have been akin to intuition as perceived by a theist who credits a named God for their intuitive moments, believing that they have been “designed on a different scale than the plant or animal kingdoms“.

The main difference, seems, is where biblical followers claim “intuitive suspicions” about things they may “know very little about“, whereas a rationalist’s intuition is claimed to be “a form of rational insight” supported by a system of deduction.

Through the “spirit” the devout believe they can intuitively discern right and wrong. We have a conscience that bothers us when we choose wrongly. And we have intuitive suspicions about things we know very little about.

“What does the Bible say about intuition?”. Got Questions?, Got Questions Ministries. Feb. 14, 2019. Retrieved March 13, 2019.

Spinoza openly challenged the fundamentals ofrevealed religion, received ideas, tradition, morality, and what was everywhere regarded, in absolutist and non-absolutist states alike, as divinely constituted political authority“.

Israel, J. (2001) Radical Enlightenment; Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650–1750, Oxford, Oxford University Press, p. 159 via Wikipedia

Despite a lifetime of some social difficulty in relation to his controversial beliefs, Spinoza became as well respected as any religious man for being perceived of moral character . . . “saintly”, even, unto his adversaries. It’s said Spinoza had actually been one to appreciate intellectual love or knowledge of “God/Nature/Universe”. Working in openness to the possibility of such an end, Spinoza was a determinist who didn’t believe humans had free will, that “humans think they are free but they ‘dream with their eyes open’. More, that “men are conscious of their desire and unaware of the causes by which [their desires] are determined”.

Regardless his spiritual beliefs, Spinoza was often thought atheistic, and was decidedly secular in official matters, particularly advocating for secular government in a time when it wasn’t accepted. Both prior to and after his excommunication, Spinoza argued for a greater liberty of people and was influential in the Enlightenment attitudes that led to our secular experience today.

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