Margins: A History of Christianity (781)

I’ve blogged before about my own personal atheism. I mention this by way of contextualising why I found the following quote from the 17th Century Dutch philosopher Spinoza very powerful: in short, because I think it applies to all kinds of dogmatic regime based on or around unthinking hero worship.

Organised religion has many times taken on this character, and in some places still does, but it need not. As Diarmaid MacCulloch writes in his constantly fascinating A History of Christianity, ‘doubt is fundamental to religion’; the Old Testament is chock full of it (usually punished by God’s wrath, but still). Anyhow, over to Spinoza and his godlike mind:

The supreme mystery of despotism, its prop and stay, is to keep men in a state of deception, and with the specious title of religion to cloak the fear by which they must be held in check, so that they will fight for their servitude as if for salvation, and count it no shame, but the highest honour, to spend their blood and their lives for the glorification of one man.

You don’t need me to point out that the above applies to fascist and communist regimes as much as the Spanish Inquisition.


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