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Hebrew philosophy as history: "The Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem" (1638-39) by Nicolas Poussin

Four centuries before the crucifixion of Jesus, the philosopher Socrates was also condemned to death (by an Athenian court), also for alleged impiety and his corrupting teachings. Socrates is widely heralded as the father of Western philosophy, that intellectual discipline which pursues wisdom by means of unaided reason.

Shortly after the death of Jesus, his followers were advised by the apostle Paul to turn their backs on philosophy. Since all truth that really mattered had been revealed by Christ, he argues in Corinthians I, to seek it by any means but faith in him was only liable to result in befuddlement and being led astray. Paul's advice was to be repeated a couple of centuries later by the early Church Father Tertullian, in his famous question, "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?" The former of these two cities was repudiated and philosophy was neglected in early Christian Europe. 

A rapprochement between reason and religion was achieved during the Middle Ages, when philosophy became a handmaiden to theology. However, with the recovery of Greek learning at the Renaissance, and the ensuing scientific revolution and subsequent period of Enlightenment, the fissure between the two was reopened.  

As reason steadily gained ground through advancing science, the sea of faith correspondingly retreated. The result today is that, while Westerners know more about the world than at any time previously, many have seemingly lost any reliable moral compass or sense of how best to live or what life's meaning and purpose might be. 

Religion has plenty to say on these matters. However, to accept its teachings seems to many to demand their suspension of disbelief on a scale so forbiddingly grandiose as to be too high a price for the consolations and guidance that it provides. As history's first quite openly atheistic philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer put it: "One cannot serve two masters; and so it must be either reason or holy scripture." 

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