Richard Marshall in 3:16 AM:
3:16: You’ve written about Spinoza and religion. I thought he was anti-religious but you see him as a religious reformer and read him as a radical theologian. So was everything grounded in God for Spinoza and not a sly atheistic metaphysics dressed in borrowed theism?
CH: Yes. I’m not sure atheism, as we now know it, was generally available as an option for 17th-century thinkers. By “atheism” I mean a total rejection of any sort of divine being. There may have been a few real radicals who proclaimed such a belief, but encountering them in those days must have been like meeting someone today who denies the existence of electrons. Some sort of divinity metaphysics was woven into the very fabric of metaphysics back then – maybe the biblical God, maybe a less specific divine person, maybe an impersonal divine force, maybe something falling between these notions. But to think that there wasn’t some sort of special being ushering into existence the world with its laws of nature must have seemed like a non-starter. Even Hume, in the next century, couldn’t shake the idea that there probably was some sort of Big Designer, if we take the conclusion of his dialogues to represent his view. It’s not until the 19th century, with the postulation of deep time, that atheism in our sense becomes really thinkable.