Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Spinoza - Reason in an Age of Religious Intolerance

Philosophers do have some very relevant things to say. For example, a very easy and interesting read perfect for the layperson, is Making Sense: Philosophy Behind the Headlines by Julian Baggini. He dissects a handful of contemporary issues such as abortion, euthanasia, cults vs religion, and even the Clinton Lewinsky affair (public vs. private sphere).

Spinoza's reaction to the religious intolerance he saw around him was to try to think his way out of all sectarian thinking. He understood the powerful tendency in each of us toward developing a view of the truth that favors the circumstances into which we happened to have been born. Self-aggrandizement can be the invisible scaffolding of religion, politics or ideology.

Against this tendency we have no defense but the relentless application of reason. Reason must stand guard against the self-serving false entailments that creep into our thinking, inducing us to believe that we are more cosmically important than we truly are, that we have had bestowed upon us — whether Jew or Christian or Muslim — a privileged position in the narrative of the world's unfolding.Spinoza's system is a long deductive argument for a conclusion as radical in our day as it was in his, namely that to the extent that we are rational, we each partake in exactly the same identity.

Spinoza's faith in reason as our only hope and redemption is the core of his system, and its consequences reach out in many directions, including the political. Each of us has been endowed with reason, and it is our right, as well as our responsibility, to exercise it. Ceding this faculty to others, to the authorities of either the church or the state, is neither a rational nor an ethical option.

Found here

I wish we'd see a lot more reason and a lot less extremism and intolerance. Want to listen to an interesting program about religion? Is Religion Dangerous?

More Philosophy & Reflection, Religion

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