I've not gotten around to reading Spinoza, myself, but I've read of him, and find him to be a fascinating figure. Benedict de Spinoza (1632 - 1677) was described by Bertrand Russell as:
the noblest and most lovable of the great philosphers. Intellectually, some others have surpassed him, but ethically he is supreme. As a natural consequence, he was considered, during his lifetime and for a century after his death, a man of appalling wickedness.As Russell coyly alludes to, it is easy to see why Spinoza was hated by the authorities of his day when one considers his philosophy. Spinoza was a naturalist, skeptical of the supernatural, who believed that there was no personal God. For Spinoza, "God" was the reason of the universe, a sum of matter and logic (see pantheism); he believed a godly life was one devoted to reason, to trying to understand our nature in a deterministic universe (in which there is no free will), while advocating the seperation of church and state. In addition, Spinoza believed that the human mind is an affect of the human body. These are positions that the authorities of Spinoza's day rejected, and as a result his work was censored or banned through most of Europe.
In Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain, Antonio Damasio writes that because Spinoza's work was banned or censored in most of Europe philosophers could not openly acknowledge or cite Spinoza, so that although his ideas lived on to influence the Enlightenment, his reputation did not. For example, he (Damasio) writes that Montesquieu, one of the intellectual fathers of modern democracy, was denounced for Spinozism and was made to publicly deny Spinoza's influence on his views.*
I'm not in the mood to review Damasio's book further, but I think I'll conclude by saying that it is a somewhat personal and humanistic effort to "find" the lost meaning in the work of a philosopher who Damasio views as a protobiologist who anticipated by several centuries the research in neurobiology that Damasio now does, and whom Damasio believes still offers valuable insight into how a human life might best be lived.
*One will notice in the Goldstein interview that she also sees a link between Spinoza and secular democracy, linking the publication of the Tractacus to the Declaration of Independence.
UPDATE: I was looking for a review of Goldstein's book and came across a Salon review which provides a more detailed look at her book, Betraying Spinoza, than the interview linked above. It's a bit amusing to see that the reviewer, Laura Miller, and I must have been on a similar wavelengths, because in her opening sentences she makes mention of both Russell's description of Spinoza and Damasio's book, while she also makes the protobiologist reference at the end of her review.