Updated: Jul 15, 2020
Tired of worshipping a rock? Is chanting prayers in dead languages beneath you? Do fasting, abstinence, and animal slaughter as a token of sacrifice seem outrageous? Can’t
believe in a self-obsessed, megalomaniac who promises eternal bliss through his worship?
Well, I might have a religion that may be perfect for you. Spinozism. But Spinozism
can’t be categorized and labelled as just a religion. It can be seen as a thought experiment, a distinct way of perceiving life.
Baruch Spinoza was a 17th-century Dutch philosopher who tried to reinvent religion and the
conventional image of God, moving it away from holy texts, practices, and beliefs based on
superstition and taboo. “God is dead, and we have killed him.” These famous words by Nietzsche are not a joyous declaration by an atheist, but instead a warning. Humans have always had a personified image of God, an image of a person who watches over us, listens to our prayers and performs miracles. Religion has made our relationship with God transactional. The promise of heaven, the light at the end of the tunnel in exchange for unconditional devotion. A relationship not based on love, but instead based on fear.
Spinoza, despite having a traditional Jewish upbringing, propagated that God should be thought of as the energy which created this universe. The substance which is impersonal and indistinguishable from nature, and in everything that is and can be. For Spinoza, the Almighty is the entire universe and its laws. He is all the knowledge and the truth. Spinoza argued that everything is a derivative of God, interconnected with all of existence. Every representation of God as a person is just a projection of our imagination. For Spinoza, whatever is, is in God and nothing can exist or be conceived without God. However, Spinoza’s God is apathetic to human needs, desires, and suffering. It’s blind and doesn’t hold any expectation from us. God doesn’t judge and it neither rewards nor punishes anyone. It did not create the Earth for us. We aren’t anyone’s chosen species. We’re just a temporary stage in a history going back over a billion years.
Throughout the text of his magnum opus, Ethics Spinoza staunchly undermined the concept of praying. When one prays, he or she expects God to change how the universe works for their individualistic and personal gains. Spinoza declared, “Whosoever loves God cannot strive that God should love him in return.” Only a self-centered narcissist would expect the creator of the entire universe, the Alpha and the Omega, to take an interest in bending the laws of existence for an insignificant speck of dust.
For ages, we have tried to fathom God through traditional holy texts. But these texts have
transformed their disciples into obedient, unquestioning sheep, instead of transmitting any
insightful knowledge. Spinoza suggested his own unique way of ‘worship’. For him, the best
way to stay connected with the supreme was by unraveling the mysteries of life and the universe.
Only by having a command over the disciplines of psychology, philosophy and the natural
sciences can one can attempt to comprehend God. When we discover the laws of physics or gain a deep insight into the functioning of the human mind, we’re just appreciating and discovering God in our own special ways. Spinoza deviated from traditional religion by expounding that a person who truly loves God unconditionally, would try to understand God and it’s will. Accepting that the universe has its own plans and designs, it becomes our job to interpret and understand these projects so that we can “participate in eternal totality.” Due to our illusion of a self, our consciousness, our ego, we perceive life selfishly from our subjective, partial and time bound view. For Spinoza, there is happiness involved in aligning our will with that of the universe. For him, a truly ethical person is one who tries to understand the miracle of existence, study’s its aspects and its functioning, and accepts the will of this deterministic universe with open arms.
To truly appreciate the portrait of God painted by Spinoza, one must look at life objectively, instead of viewing it subjectively from our limited and narrow vantage point. Spinoza’s canvas for God is boundless, coherent only to the ones with a comprehensive and universal view of the cosmos. It's colors too bright for those who have for too long, relied on the crutches of traditional religion.
Written by Pragun