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Uriel da Costa
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    (1585-April 1640)
    Born in Porto, Portugal
    Birth name was Gabriel Da Costa Fiuza
    Also known as Uriel Acosta
    Freethinking rationalist, philosopher
    Belonged to a family of 'converso' (or 'Marrano') Jews during the Portuguese Inquisition
    Fled Portugal, along with his family, for Amsterdam, where he attempted to reclaim his Jewish identity
    Evolved into an outspoken critic of the Jewish religious leadership, and later of organized religion as whole
    Writings included 'Propostas contra a tradição' (Portuguese for Propositions against tradition; 1616), 'Exame das tradições farisaicas' (Portuguese for Examination of Pharisaic traditions; 1623), and 'Exemplar humanae vitae' (Latin for Example of a human life; 1640)
    He was a mama's boy.
    He was expelled from the Jewish community three times.
    He circumcised himself and all male family members after 'reconverting' to Judaism.
    He misinterpreted several major Talmudic texts and based his criticism of Judaism on those readings.
    He was known for using harsh, bordering on anti-Semitic, language in his pamphlets (e.g. referring to the local Jewish leaders as 'Pharisees' who tell nothing but lies).
    He publicly recanted after his second seven-year excommunication - out of loneliness (which he referred to as 'becoming an ape among apes').
    The deciding factor in his third excommunication came when two Christians consulted him about possibly converting to Judaism. He turned them away.
    He became so demoralized from the experience that he plotted to kill his cousin in an act of murder-suicide.
    When his cousin eventually did arrive for a visit, Uriel tried to shoot him but misfired. He then completely broke down and turned the gun on himself.
    His (sometimes incoherent) writings strongly suggested he suffered from a form of mental illness; a likely diagnosis today would be schizophrenia or a bi-polar disorder.
    He could never have met Baruch Spinoza, but a famous portrait depicts him coddling a an effeminate-looking Spinoza on his lap while flipping through a Biblical text (for real - he looks like a woman in the painting).
    His books and pamphlets were publicly burned by the local Jewish communities.
    He was an indirect victim of the Inquisition (his parents' forced conversion obviously affected him profoundly).
    His friction with Jewish leadership has been chalked up to his being several generations removed from the Orthodox Judaism his family had left when he was a child.
    His second excommunication came on very harsh terms: he was not only shunned by the entire community, but also by members of his own family.
    When he recanted for a second time, he was publicly humiliated at his local Synagogue, which involved being flogged by the officiating Rabbis.
    After receiving 39 lashes, he was then made to lie on the floor while the congregation trampled him.
    His autobiography was written allegedly within hours of his death, and gives a compelling account of his experiences as a victim of religious persecution in his own community.
    He was light years ahead of his time in the areas of free thought and modern Biblical criticism.
    His written works (clearly) played a role in the development of Spinoza's own ideological critiques of organized Jewry.
    He was the basis for Karl Gutzkow’s play, ‘Uriel Acosta,’ which chronicles his final excommunication.
    The play would become the first German play translated into Yiddish, and would be widely staged in communities throughout Europe into the 20th-century.

Credit: BoyWiththeGreenHair

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