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Lecture 2

HUMA 1825 Lecture 2: 5. study questions 2

Course Code
HUMA 1825
Neil Braganza

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Rana Peiravi
Huma 1825
Neil Braganza
October 26, 2018
Study questions #5
Baruch Spinozas Theological-Political Treatise
The numbers in square brackets refer to paragraphs/sections.
1. What are the causes and characteristics of superstition, and how does it become viewed as
religion? See the Preface, [1] [9]
Key ideas to note: Preface:
[1] hope, fear, doubt, judgment
A lot of times people are reduced to a very low and desperate times in their lives which
brings them uncertainty and makes them incapable of making any solid judgments. This
desperately, makes them believe anything and in a state of any doubt the slightest impulse is
capable of changing their mind which brings a shift between hope and fear. This will cause
superstition because members of a society will hold an uncertain belief and make it their goal
to wildly spread this belief. This will be practiced so often within the society that it will
eventually be viewed as a religion.
[2] guidance (advice), omens, nature
When things are going well, most people will find it disrespectful and offensive to be
offered any advice. However, when things go wrong, they will seek advice from anyone. At
that moment when they do not know where to turn to, no advice will seem unwise,
ridiculous or absurd to them. During this time, people tend to be reminded of their good
and bad things in the past and it is believed that this will be used as a prediction of an
outcome which is referred to as omen. This will turn into superstition and will be viewed as
a religion since, people will develop an infinite number of such practices and invent
extraordinary interpretations of nature as if the nature was as careless as they were.
[3] uncertainty, desire, reason, imagination, God

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In such a case, it is uncertainty that derives people and makes people more prone to
superstition of every kind. This usually happens in people who find themselves in danger and
are unable to support themselves. Such people believe that reason makes them blind because
it does not show them the way to achieve what they want. Furthermore, they believe that
delirious wanderings of the imagination, dreams and all sort of childish non sense are divine
replies. Moreover, it is believed that God works unfavourably to the wise by writing the law in
the intestines of animals for the fools and madmen to reveal them by inspiration and
impulse. Forces men to be irrational. This becomes a common practice because in order to
know the laws it is believed that men need to be irrational therefore, to satisfy God people
will practice this act.
[4] prophets, false religion of the fearful mind
Fear is known to be the main cause of superstition. When people are swayed by
credulity and are in fear that all the things they have ever worshiped was under the
influence of false religion which is nothing but the fantasies of despondent and fearful
minds and that prophets have been the most influential to the people and the kings when
the kingdom was in its greatest distress.
[5] loyalty, instability, war
Dread is the cause of superstition therefore, everyone is naturally prone to it. This
creates an instability in peoples lives which later follows with anger and deception. Since
instability rises from passion it is easy for people to adopt to a superstition and hard for
them to stay loyal to it because it is always changing. Such instability has been the cause of
many disturbances and ferocious wars due to people changing their beliefs often from
adoring their kings as gods to cursing them.
[6] pomp (external ritual), arguments about religion, prejudice
In order to deal with this difficulty, a lot of effort has been put into adoring religion,
whether true or false, with a pomp and ceremony in order to make it more impressive and
engaging for others. Also, when arguing about religion, they fill the minds of every
individual with so many prejudices that they have no room for reason or doubt.
[7] monarchy, republic, free judgment, persecution of belief

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The monarchial government keeps the fear that sways the people with the specious
name of religion, in order for them to fight for their servitude as if they were fighting for
their deliverance. However, in a free public it is contemporary contrary to the common
liberty to restrict the free judgment of the individual with prejudices or constrains of any
kind. This results in an illegal subversion that arises only because beliefs are subjected to
prosecution and condemnation as if they were crimes and those who supported these
beliefs are sacrificed for hatred and cruelty of their enemies.
[8] happiness, freedom, peace, piety
Being able to live in a republic gives us the advantage of enjoying rare happiness. In
such a society, a persons liberty to judge for himself is respected, everyone is permitted to
worship God according to their own mind and beliefs. There is peace and a sense of
freedom that comes with such utilized religion adopted by common people.
[9] ambition in the Church, speculation about mysteries (theology), love
The christian religion was known as the religion of love, joy, peace, moderation and
good will to all men while giving daily expression to the bitterest mutual hatred. This made
knowing ones religion much easier. In such religion, serving the church has been regarded as
a worldly career, what should be its unpretentious offices being seen as lucrative positions
and its pastors considered great dignitaries. As soon as this abuse began in the church, the
worst kind of people came to fill the sacred offices and the impulse to spread Gods religion
degenerated in into ambition. Churches turned into theatres where people would go to hear
ecclesiastical orators rather than to learn from teachers. Pastors goal changed from teaching
to winning reputation for themselves. This created a great deal of conflict, rivalry and
resentment which no passage of time could heal. Religion was then reduced to ridiculous
mysteries. They couldnt highlight what is divine in the scripture. They showed they believed
such mysteries and Scriptures without assenting to it.
2. What does Spinoza mean when he claims that the Bible teaches only obedience, and that
the knowledge of God is a gift, not a command?
Key ideas to note: Preface:
[10] What the prophets have authority over; who can know the lessons
of scripture; what was revealed to the prophets
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