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View Diary: Books That Changed My Life--Which book was so far over your head you almost didn’t come up? (254 comments)

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  •  Spinoza was a lens grinder (11+ / 0-)

    a very meticulous and exacting science. Given the age he was writing in, I have always been surprised his work ever saw the light of day. The Catholic church regarded pantheism as heresy.

    It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

    by se portland on Fri Mar 01, 2013 at 06:33:15 AM PST

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    •  Se portland, this does not surprise me (4+ / 0-)
      The Catholic church regarded pantheism as heresy.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Mar 01, 2013 at 06:46:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well, he was Jewish (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Chitown Kev, OtherDoug

      but the rabbis of his day weren't so crazy about him either :-)  

      The thing about quotes on the internet is you cannot confirm their validity. ~Abraham Lincoln

      by raboof on Fri Mar 01, 2013 at 07:24:01 AM PST

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      •  Yep. (6+ / 0-)

        Spinoza was excommunicated from the Jewish community in Amsterdam.

        •  I don't think he cared much (3+ / 0-)

          He really was not a religious person at all. At his excommunication hearing he was shown a shofar, a ram's horn, which is used during the High Holiday services and asked what he saw. He refused to give it any particular status other than as a piece of a dead animal (or so I have read in various places). From what I recall he spent a good portion of his life in a non-Catholic monastery, not as a lay brother but because they provided him with shelter and didn't ask questions.

        •  You prompted me... (7+ / 0-)

          to consider something. As a kid I was told repeatedly that Judaism no longer practices excommunication and that it during the Middle Ages and up to the time of the Napoleonic emancipation of Jews and other minorities, it was used by local Jewish communities mainly as a means for them to insulate themselves from "troublemakers" and Spinoza was evidently considered to be one of those.

          So I did a little poking around and apparently the practice still technically exists. It differs greatly from the form of excommunication practiced by the Catholic Church particularly in that it is often temporary in nature. More to the point it is exceedingly rare but can be done for a prescribed list of reasons, 24 in all. Many of those are transgressions nobody would give much weight to these days (such as...um...self-abuse) and some are just weird, like transacting business with one's former wife or selling land to a non-Jew without some form of indemnification. You see where this is going surely. It's the sort of thing that even the mainstream Orthodox would not consider worthy of mention, far less of official sanction.

          But there was an incident that took place just after WWII that I hadn't known about previously.

          Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan was a professor at the Conservative movement's Jewish Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He propounded quite a few views that were controversial when given official acknowledgement by a rabbi even if they reflected the experience of many American and Canadian Jews of the time. A group of Orthodox rabbis performed the excommunication, which is additionally interesting since they had no authority over him in the first place.

          The action was viewed more than anything as an attack on the Conservative movement which was at the time, I believe, far larger than it is nowadays. Ultimately it led not only to the Orthodox movement having less and less influence among American Jews, but in addition, to the founding, based on Kaplan's views, of the Reconstructionist branch of Judaism. Reconstructionism founded its own seminary in 1968 and was the first branch of Judaism to sanction the ordination of gay and lesbian rabbis, well over a decade before the Reform movement was willing to make that move.

          So...excommunicate at your own peril.

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