A Short Study on Spinoza's View of Religion

In Roman Dorczak, Christian Ruggiero, Regina-Lenart Gansiniec & M. Ali Icbay (eds.), Research and Development on Social Sciences. Kraków, Poland: Jagiellonian University. pp. 225-232 (2018)
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It is a matter of philosophical debate whether Jonathan Israel’s assessment of Spinoza’s notion of ‘state religion’ can be interpreted as an atheistic and Marxist reading of Spinoza. Contrary to the widely accepted view, Spinoza has a peculiar understanding of religion; and thus, his views cannot, simply, be equated with atheism. By relying on this fact, in this article, I am going to shed light on the issue and try to show to what extent Israel’s interpretation goes beyond what Spinoza himself claims and whether or not Spinoza’s views can make him an atheist. Another concern of the text will be elucidating Marx’s critique of Bruno Bauer’s argument for the abolition of religion and laying bare if there is any continuity between Marx and Spinoza on the problem of religion. After Israel’s interpretation is restated, both Spinozistic view of religion, as he puts forward in the Theological-Political Treatise [Tractatus Theologico- Politicus, 1670] and Political Treatise [Tractatus Politicus, 1676] and Marx’s arguments on the same issue in “On the Jewish Question” [in Deutsch-Franzosische Jahrbucher, 1844] will be examined in detail. Depending on these investigations, it will be argued that what Israel defends in his text Radical Enlightenment [2001] does not make Spinoza an atheist; on the contrary, although Spinoza is not an advocate of the commonsensical view of religion, he defends his own understanding of religion—which causes him to be regarded, prejudicedly, as an atheist. Furthermore, it will be pointed out that Israel’s interpretation cannot be a Marxist interpretation either because Marx’s critique of religion is generally misunderstood and mistaken with that of Bruno Bauer. Neither Spinoza’s views on religion nor that of Marx are completely compatible with what Israel defends in Radical Enlightenment; nevertheless, this does not mean that Israel tries to make an atheist or Marxist out of Spinoza through his appropriation of the philosopher.
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