Spinoza was one of many Europeans who began to question the old ideas and who relied on reason above all else. The new ideas of the time, now known as the Age of Enlightenment or the Age of Reason, affected the way people in the West came to view religion, and the Jewish community was affected as much as its Christian neighbors.
The Enlightenment, which came into full swing in the eighteenth century, allowed the emergence of liberal democracy, helped start the scientific revolution, and began the movement toward secularization (less emphasis on religion). The proponents of these ideas sought to establish universal principles governing humanity, nature, and society. With less importance assigned to religion, which became a personal concern rather than the official dogma of the state, the Jews were no longer seen as enemies. Consequently, the Jews emerged out of the ghettos, becoming full citizens in the countries in which they lived. Unfortunately, many were becoming too secularized and were giving up the strict beliefs of orthodox Judaism in return for full assimilation.
The Jewish communities in western and central Europe were not immune to the ideas of the Enlightenment. Try as they might, the rabbis and councils could not keep new thoughts at bay. An encounter between Judaism and secularism was inevitable.