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    • One of the most interesting philosophers I studied was Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), who was born and raised in the Netherlands. What makes Spinoza an interesting figure is that he is considered to be the first modern Jew and his philosophy as also very logical, following from a series of proofs and axioms. Being the first modern Jew means he identified as a Jew in a secular, but not religious sense. What made him go secular was his excommunication from the Jewish faith for his controversial ideas about God that followed from a series of proofs and axioms. 

      In a nutshell, Spinoza taught that God has infinite attributes and that God is in all things and/or that all things are in God. That is the conclusion of his proofs and axioms. This has led to some confusion about whether or not Spinoza was a pantheist (all is God) or a panentheist (God is in all things).

       The distinction is that pantheism teaches that everything we see is God or a mode of his existence: The tree is God, the rock is God, the butterfly is God, each human being is God, etc. As for panentheism, the belief is that not only is the tree God, the rock God, the butterfly God, etc. It also teaches that God is beyond what we can see and that there is something about God that is beyond our understanding. In other words, he’s in all things and beyond. 

      But there is a third door that one can also go through when it comes to addressing Spinoza: Atheism. Is it really best to say that Spinoza was an atheist? The reason being is that Spinoza’s ideas of God are so controversial that one has to wonder whether or not he really believed in God at all. At the very least, if he did believe in God, God to him was not an anthropomorphic being as Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe. If his concept of God is so radically different from what everyone thought of God, might it be better to say he was really an atheist using pantheism/panentheism as a shield? 

      I always contended that Spinoza was not an atheist, but that he was either a pantheist or a panentheist. I don’t think it matters which one he is as they’re both in the same zip code. But, if I had to pick one, I would say panentheist because I believe Spinoza leaves room for there to be substances not yet discovered or known, which would also be God. He also leaves room for the possibility of substances that not yet are to enter into being as a result of God.

      But regardless, I don’t think he was an atheist for one simple reason: He called his infinite, all powerful substance “God.” If Spinoza was truly an atheist, I don’t believe he would have used God in his axioms and proofs. He would have called it something different or just said that everything we see is in all things, not mentioning the name God. 

      I don’t feel you need to be a Baruch Spinoza expert to weigh in on this. I personally don’t think Spinoza was an atheist, but there are some who do for the reasons I mentioned above. Namely, that he was using pantheism/panentheism to shield what he really believed: That there is no God. 

      So, what do you guys think? Was Baruch Spinoza an atheist? Does he sound like one to you? I have attached below a link to his axioms and proofs from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy for those that want to read them. As I said, I think his use of the name “God” is indicative that he was a religious person. Just not one in the Judeo-Christian sense. 

    • Hmmm...well, a lot of people think he is really saying God is Nature. By using God instead, it perhaps makes his philosophy more appealing. At least for his time period. Excellent point/question.

    • I think the importance of such conversation is in understanding perception of reality in the context of illusory man made imagined fiction. In the end, whom does it really matter to, and why? I have to agree that the deity version feels infinitely more beautiful, but why do we like beauty, how can we tell it when we see it? Beauty is a human concept.

    • If, as I believe, God exists then any attempts to grok Him by finite beings is futile. Mathemeticians attempt to work with multiple dimensions but any attempt to grok on a practical level more than five or six dimensions is doomed to failure. Topology delves into concepts such as Tesseracts and Klein bottles but once one attempts to ask what would that be like in the non-theoretical paradoxes and ignorance causes the mind to flail. God is beyond man's comprehension and what we can know of God (other than the awesomeness of his power manifested in His handiworks) are those things which He has chosen to communicate to us.

      We simply do not know many things about our own existence. For all we know, our "universe" may be a "Matrix" construct of God's making.

      Those who believe in the books of the New Testament believe that Chronos (Time) has not always existed and that God existed "πρὸ χρόνων αἰωνίων" and that He created Time and is not subject to it.

      What is the physics of an existence prior to time and outside of time? How can all of time be perceived at once and yet be dynamic? I don't know. I cannot grasp it. Yet I believe it because God asserts it.

    • What is "nature"? If one views nature as simply the ecological environment of planet earth, then one's "god" would be a puny weakling. If one views "nature" as a clockwork mechanism then one's "god" would be less dynamic than humanity.

      God exists outside of the universe and does not possess any of the limitations found within the physical realm.

      Further, unlike the universe, God has no beginning and no end.

      God, also is morally upright and is the author of the concepts of "justice," "love," "goodness," and all the many concepts which most humans in all places believe in but for which there is no physical proof.

    • You are like a man born in a world of the blind who seeks to argue that color does not exist.

      Like the character A Square in Flatland could not explain A Sphere to his fellow inhabitants because they were unwilling to accept their own limitations so also attempting to communicate with those who claim that Length, Width, Height, and Time are all that exist and all that can exist is futile.

      Your inability to grasp that outside of the 3 or 4 dimensions in which we live that even in the physical multi-dimensional our ignorance is not evidence.

    • First of all, I so wish you were right, and I wrong! Yet I still can't "see" (pun intended) what makes you more clairvoyant than I. I'd love to appreciate a more down to earth explanation.. other than a simple, yet baseless, statement of what my perception abilities may or may not be.

    • The only way that "A Square" can accept the existence of "A Sphere" is to either have a personal encounter with "A Sphere" or to accept the testimony of those who have. God has not chosen to visit every human being since Adam and Eve. He has His reasons and has stated what those reasons are. But if one rejects His chosen communication then one is just like the inhabitants of Flatland or like the man who said
      "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."

    • Very true. That’s the essential question of aesthetics. What is beauty and how is it defined? I do think Spinoza factored aesthetics into how he presented his philosophy. No doubt.

    • Based on what you are saying, it sounds like you agree with me that Spinoza was not an atheist then. He was instead asserting a belief that God is beyond anything we can comprehend, making him a panentheist.

    • That’s where the whole infinite attributes comes in. Spinoza was saying God had infinite attributes, perfection, etc. All modes of existence and concept can be attributed to God, who is perfect.

    • Your answer only asserts an opinion that a certain god exists and is quite discriminate with whom it communicates. While that may be very convenient as argument, it's also empty of any value as far as conversation logic, as it could be made up. I'm quite disappointed. And just for the record, I'm not debating the existence of sacred nor any deity. You do not know me or what I believe and why.

    • In your original post, you wrote:

      At the very least, if he did believe in God, God to him was not an anthropomorphic being as Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe.

      I would like to contest that proposition.

      The Bible teaches that God is not anthropomorphic.

      Deuteronomy 4:12-16

      And Jehovah spoke unto you out of the midst of the fire: you heard the voice of words, but you saw no form; you only heard a voice. And He declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even the ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone. And Jehovah commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and ordinances, that you might do them in the land whither you go over to possess it.Take therefore good heed unto yourselves; for you saw no manner of form on the day that Jehovah spoke to you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire; lest you corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female,

      Luke 24:39-40

      Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit has not
      flesh and bones, as you behold me having. And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

      When Jesus came to this earth He took upon Himself the morphe of a servant and became in the homoiōma of a man. The idea is that Deity is not shpaed like the outwards shape of a man.

      When Genesis speaks of God making man in his own image, it is not speaking of the outward carcasse of man but rather that God gave to man a spirit which was unlike the animals. When God breathed into man the "breath" of life, the Hebrew word is "spirit" and Malachi says that God gave unto man and woman both an apportionment of the spirit. It is this spirit that is in the likeness of God not the outward tabernacle of flesh.

    • My LDS theology teaches God the Father and Jesus Christ both have a body of flesh and bone. That’s unique to my faith, but the rest of Christianity does teach that Jesus Christ is God in human form, which is anthropomorphic. I’m Judaism, God spoke to man as if he were a person. So, I think there are some anthropomorphic aspects to God that Spinoza was rejecting. If that makes sense.

    • I would also contest your claim that the Bible teaches God is NOT anthropomorphic. When God said let’s make man in our image, that could be interpreted as God being anthropomorphic. Same with the martyrdom of Stephen in Acts in which he saw God and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. There’s definitely stuff in the Bible that can be interpreted as God being anthropomorphic.

    • Little more on Spinoza: What I really respect about him is how thoughtful and logical his philosophy is. If you start from his first premise and follow his proofs all the way through, it’s pretty air tight. Dude really thought things through.

    • There are many things in the Bible which "can be interpreted" in a way which is inconsistent with the rest of the Bible. The Bible teaches that those whose minds are carnal-minded cannot understand what the Bible means. 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 Further, we have the example of those who for three years followed Jesus and yet who never understood what the word "kingdom" meant until Acts 2.

      "Standing" does not indicate shape. Furthermore, spirits often manifested in many ways which were not indicative of their spiritual shape. 2 Kings 6:17 is one example. The burning bush is another.

      Also, if Stephen's vision and other similar visions were intended to communicate what beings in heaven really look like then 1 John 3:2 would be incorrect.

    • God chose how He would make reference to Himself. I respect His choice of the masculine pronoun. Spirits have no physical biology but I use the pronoun "He" because God uses that pronoun. Respecting God's choices and being content to remain within His choices is one of the things which separates the sheep from the goats.

    • One can interpret the Bible in multiple ways, but I do think what’s safe to say is Spinoza’s concept of God, pantheistic view, is very different from the Judeo-Christian view. At least as I and those who excommunicated Spinoza interpret it.