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In September 1675 Albert Burgh sent Spinoza a long and passionate letter, imploring him to convert, as Burgh himself had recently done, to the Catholic faith. Spinoza was initially reluctant to reply, but when he did so, his response was generally temperate, concise, and tinged with sadness at his friend's conversion. This chapter examines this correspondence, to see what it can tell us about the reception of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (TTP), and about Spinoza's philosophy as it appears in that work. Spinoza did not convert to Christianity, much less to Catholic Christianity. In fact, Burgh's letter provoked Spinoza to be more openly critical of organized religion than he had been in the TTP itself, demonstrating that aggressive proselytization can backfire. The Preface to the TTP suggests a reason why Spinoza may have thought it desirable for the state to sponsor a religion he regarded as superstitious.
Politics and organized religion are each branches of the persuasive arts. With the invention of the press, the printed word was immediately seized upon by the Church as a rapid and effective means of disseminating doctrine, and seeking support and money. The first monarch to make regular use of printed propaganda, was Henry VII. The papal dispensation allowing his marriage to Elizabeth of York on 18 March 1486 was printed in an English translation by William de Machlinia. The Ordenaunces of warre, printed in May 1492, is the first extant printed document to bear the royal arms. The political agenda during 1512-13 effectively made the press an extremely useful and controllable mechanism of government. Probably at the end of 1512, the impressor regius printed a charter of a bull of Julius II which announced the formation of the Holy League, declared Louis XII an enemy of the Church, and absolved his subjects from allegiance to their monarch.
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