Saturday, August 12, 2006

Spinoza revisited: A response to a letter to the editor of the Globe

With all due respect to Rev. Joseph M. Hennessey's critique of the great Jewish philosopher Spinoza in his letter to the editor July 31, 2006, I believe Rev. Hennessey is in significant error. Among others, Spinoza ushered in the 17th century ideas of the Age of Reason. It is said he "prepared the way for the 18th century Enlightenment." Rev. Hennessey's criticism claimed that Spinoza was responsible for the undermining of religion and indeed he even unbelievably says he can see why Islamic Fundamentalists "do not wish this same poison to infect their faith-filled world." Emphatically, it is certainly not reason or the Enlightenment (profoundly influencing our Founding Fathers and the construction of our own Constitution) which is at fault for worldly chaos. Rather, it is man's inability to escape the shackles of irrational religious superstition and intolerance which has sentenced mankind to a life of perpetual conflict. Religion for thousands of years has been at the root of bestial barbaric killings everywhere. If more people understood Spinoza and developed more rational thought, think how many lives would have been saved. Really, Rev. Hennessey, look to fundamentalist religious orthodoxy for the cause of the instability and horror of the world. The elders of Spinoza's community who eschewed and excommunicated him did not know him at all. Their ostracism of him was, in my opinion, a stain on all mankind. The fault dear Rev. Hennessey is not in Spinoza it is in uncompromising and irrational religious beliefs.

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