On July 27, 1656, senior leaders of the Jewish community in Amsterdam issued a writ of cherem— the Hebrew term for expulsion and excommunication.
Their target was a young, 23-year old Dutch/Portuguese intellectual named Baruch Spinoza, himself a Jew, whose dangerous crime was questioning the unquestionable teachings of the faith.
The Jewish elders proclaimed that “The Lord will rage against this man and… blot out his name from under heaven” and ordered that no Jew should communicate with him, offer him shelter, give him money, or read any of his writings.
A few years later, the Catholic Church followed suit and added all of Spinoza’s works to its Index of Banned Books. This makes Baruch Spinoza one of the few people in history to be banished from both the Jewish and Catholic religions.
His philosophy was widely misunderstood at the time. Everyone accused him of being an atheist, which was one of the worst things you could call someone in the 1600s.
But he wasn’t actually an atheist. Spinoza’s works were an attempt for him to reconcile his faith with certain religious teachings that were illogical, self-contradictory, or refuted by science.
He wrote extensively about his “intellectual love of God”. But simply for expressing intellectual independence, Spinoza was expelled from his own Jewish community.
Now, Novak Djokovic is hardly a Baruch Spinoza. But it is truly bizarre in the year 2022 to see someone be expelled from an advanced western democracy simply for expressing intellectual independence.
Just to catch you up, Novak Djokovic is a professional Tennis player from Serbia who is considered one of the all-time greats in the sport. He’s currently ranked #1 in the world and holds an incredible number of records in professional tennis.
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