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[1939] Of a major revolution in secularism

I now understand a step in the history of evolution of secularism. Though I think it is ultimately irrelevant to why I subscribe to secularism, it nevertheless enlightening to see how the school of thought evolved.

Ethics is the work that provided the energy for a quantum leap in the area.

Public domain

Baruch Spinoza completed Ethics in 1676 and it was published posthumously in 1677.

Reading these giants makes me feels small. Not only do they make me realized that I am not the first to hold whatever I hold, they had given thought to many other things which I have yet to think of independently.

I am not reading Ethics in Latin of course. Rather, I am still reading The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World by Matthew Stewart.

It is through Stewart and later Wikipedia and other sources that I learned that Spinoza considered that God and Nature are two of the same entity. As a result, God is everywhere while bounded to the law of physics. God bows to the law of Nature. With that as the premise, he elegantly went on to create a system to explain how everything is a manifestation of God.

The implication is that unlike religion — in this context the Abrahamic religions, specifically, Christianity — which assumes that God is an active participant of this world, Spinoza’s God is removed and irrelevant to the workings of the world.

“In that event, what would be left for God to do?” Stewart wrote that in a different context but the same sentence is applicable to the implication of the idea that God is Nature.

I do not subscribe to Spinoza’s reasoning but how he arrived at the inevitable need to create a secular state is most ingenious. It nothing less than shocking to me when I began to comprehend the gravity of his ideas.

One may wonder why Spinoza considered God and Nature as one. I am still struggling to understand that at the moment.

Besides secularim, Spinoza holds an enlightening view on social contract. I believe, those that are all to eager to talk about the Malaysian social contract  — especially those who believe that a social contract is written in stone  — should give Spinoza a go.

By Hafiz Noor Shams

For more about me, please read this.

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