Selection from – Ethics – Part I. Appendix (Page 9)

Spinoza's Words: (humans imagine a creator and so create religion)

Before moving on to Book II Spinoza adds a long interesting Appendix to Book I. He begins by addressing the ideas that prevent people from seeing the reality that appears so strongly before him. He says...

All such opinions spring from the notion commonly entertained, that all things in nature act as men themselves act, namely, with an end in view. It is accepted as certain, that (Deus sive Natura) directs all things to a definite goal.

Spinoza knew that this was Aristotle's view, widely accepted as true. All animals seem to act in a purposeful way and we get accustomed to think that all things must have a purpose. It is still prevalent today when we hear people say of something in nature "Yes, it is pretty but what is it for?"

I assume all men... have the desire to seek for what is useful to them, and that they are conscious of such desire. Herefrom it follows that men think themselves free inasmuch as they are conscious of their volitions and desires, and never even dream, in their ignorance, of the causes which have disposed them so to wish and desire.

Human beings think that know what they want but they are really ignorant of the deep causes of their actions

Thus it comes to pass that they only look for a knowledge of the final causes of events, and when these are learned, they are content... Further, as they find the search for what is useful they come to look on the whole of nature as a means for obtaining such conveniences... Now as they are aware, that they found these conveniences and did not make them, they think they have cause for believing, that some other being has made them for their use.

A thing that is useful, such as sunlight, comes to be seen as a gift to men by some purposeful creator.

As they look upon things as means, they cannot believe them to be self–created; but they are bound to believe in some ruler or rulers of the universe endowed with human freedom, who have arranged and adapted everything for human use. They are bound to estimate the nature of such rulers (having no information on the subject) in accordance with their own nature, and therefore they assert that the gods ordained everything for the use of man, in order to bind man to themselves.

Gods are imagined to be like men, giving gifts and expecting gratitude in return.

Hence also it follows, that everyone thought out for himself a different way of worshipping (Deus sive Natura), so that (Deus sive Natura) might love him more than his fellows, and direct the whole course of nature for the satisfaction of his blind cupidity and insatiable avarice...

Consider, I pray you, the result: among the many helps of nature they were bound to find some hindrances, such as storms, earthquakes, diseases, &c.: so they declared that such things happen, because the gods are angry at some wrong done to them by men, or at some fault committed in their worship. Experience showed by infinite examples, that good and evil fortunes fall to the lot of pious and impious alike. Still they would not abandon their inveterate prejudice. It was more easy for them to class such contradictions among other unknown things of whose use they were ignorant, than to destroy the whole fabric of their reasoning and start afresh. They therefore laid down as an axiom, that (Deus sive Natura)'s judgments far transcend human understanding. Such a doctrine might well have sufficed to conceal the truth from the human race for all eternity, if mathematics had not furnished another standard of verity in considering solely the essence and properties of figures without regard to their final causes.


What a fine analysis of the origin of the relationship between man and his gods! What a judgment against religion! The critics were right. Here is a heretic whose thoughts threaten their faith. He sees behind their hypocritical excuse for bad things that (Deus sive Natura)'s judgments far transcend human understanding. And he foresees that science (mathematics) will break down the facade of purpose in the universe.