A Theologico-Political Treatise

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The present edition of Spinoza’s Theologico-Political Treatise was originally published as part of a two volume set titled “The Chief Works of Benedict de Spinoza”. The translation is by R. H. M. Elwes. The Tractatus Theologico-Politicus is an eloquent plea for religious liberty. True religion is shown to consist in the practice of simple piety, and to be quite independent of philosophical speculations. The elaborate systems of dogmas framed by theologians are based on superstition, resulting from fear. The Bible is examined by a method, which anticipates in great measure the procedure of modern rationalists, and the theory of its verbal inspiration is shown to be untenable. The Hebrew prophets were distinguished not by superior wisdom, but by superior virtue, and they set forth their higher moral ideals in language, which they thought would best commend it to the multitude whom they addressed. For anthropomorphic notions of the Deity as a heavenly King and Judge, who displays His power by miraculous interventions, is substituted the conception set forth in the Ethics of an Infinite Being, fulfilling in the uniformity of natural law the perfection of His own Nature. Men’s thoughts cannot really be constrained by commands; therefore, it is wisest, so long as their actions conform to morality, to allow them absolute liberty to think what they like, and say what they think.

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