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Synopsis

The Theologico-Political Treatise
by Benedict de Spinoza

"Written by the philosopher and pantheist Baruch Spinoza, the Theologico-Political Treatise or Tractatus Theologico-Politicus was an early criticism of religious intolerance and a defense of secular government. In particular, it was a preemptive defense of his later work, Ethics (published posthumously in 1677), for which Spinoza anticipated harsh criticism. It was written in New Latin.

In the treatise, Spinoza put forth his most systematic critique of Judaism, and all organized religion in general. To Spinoza, all "revealed" religion had to be analyzed on the basis of reason, not simply blind faith.

He reinterpreted the belief that there were such things as prophecy, miracles, or supernatural occurrences. He argued that God acts solely by the laws of "his own nature". He rejected the view that God had a particular end game or purpose to advance in the course of events; to Spinoza, those who believed so were only creating a delusion for themselves out of fear.

Spinoza was particularly attuned to the idea of interpretation; he felt that all organized religion was simply the institutionalized defense of particular interpretations. He rejected the view that Moses composed first five books of the Bible, called the Pentateuch by Christians or Torah by Jews, in their entirety. He provided an analysis of the structure of the Bible which demonstrated that it was essentially a compiled text with many different authors and diverse origins; in his view, it was not "revealed" all at once.

The treatise also rejected the Jewish notion of "choseness"; to Spinoza, all peoples are on par with each other, as God has not elevated one over the other. Spinoza also offered a sociological explanation as to how the Jewish people had managed to survive for so long, despite facing relentless persecution.

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