— Baruch Spinoza Dutch philosopher 1632 - 1677
Matthew Stewart, The Courtier and the Heretic (2006)
Contesto: According to the seventeenth-century way of thinking, an atheist was by definition a decadent. If there was no God (or, at least, no providential, rewarding-and-punishing God of the sort worshipped in all the traditional religions), the reasoning went, then everything is permitted. So a non-beliver would be expected to indulge in all manner of sensual stimulation... to lie, cheat, and steal...
Spinoza, according to all seventeenth-century interpreters, rejected all the traditional ideas about God; he was indesputably a heretic. Yet his manner of living was humble and apparently free of vice. Then, as now, the philosopher seemed a living oxymoron: he was an ascetic sensualist, a spiritual materialist, a sociable hermit, a secular saint. How could his life have been so good, the critics asked, when his philosophy was so bad?<!--p.73