I am a woman born 1949 and my quest is to find a mindmate
to grow old together as a mutually devoted couple
in a relationship based upon the
egalitarian rational commitment paradigm
bonded by intrinsic commitment
as each other's safe haven and secure basis.

The purpose of this blog is to enable the right man
to recognize us as reciprocal mindmates and
to encourage him to contact me:

The entries directly concerning,
who could be my mindmate,
are mainly at the beginning.
If this is your predominant interest,
I suggest to read this blog in the same order
as it was written, following the numbers.

I am German, therefore my English is sometimes faulty.

Maybe you have stumbled upon this blog not as a potential match.
Please wait a short moment before zapping.

Do you know anybody, who could be my mindmate?
Your neighbour, brother, uncle, cousin, colleague, friend?
If so, please tell him to look at this blog.
While you have no reason to do this for me,
a stranger, maybe you can make someone happy, for whom you care.

Do you have your own webpage or blog,
which someone like my mindmate to be found probably reads?
If so, please mention my quest and add a link to this blog.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

421. Was Epicurus A Concealed Atheist?

Was Epicurus A Concealed Atheist?

This is a continuation of entry 418

According to this quote from Epicurus' letter to Menoeceus, Epicurus was not an atheist as we understand it today.
"First believe that God is a living being immortal and blessed, according to the notion of a god indicated by the common sense of mankind; and so believing, you shall not affirm of him anything that is foreign to his immortality or that is repugnant to his blessedness. Believe about him whatever may uphold both his blessedness and his immortality. For there are gods, and the knowledge of them is manifest; but they are not such as the multitude believe, seeing that men do not steadfastly maintain the notions they form respecting them. Not the man who denies the gods worshipped by the multitude, but he who affirms of the gods what the multitude believes about them is truly impious. For the utterances of the multitude about the gods are not true preconceptions but false assumptions; hence it is that the greatest evils happen to the wicked and the greatest blessings happen to the good from the hand of the gods, seeing that they are always favorable to their own good qualities and take pleasure in men like themselves, but reject as alien whatever is not of their kind."

In this quote, he completely rejects the deities of his culture, who were the representation of the most evil, most dangerous, most destructive behaviors of what humans were considered as capable of, in addition of having immortality and the power and ruthlessness to harm.  

These gods were a kind of super-jerks.   
They were positive role models of acceptable behavior for those having political, military, financial or religious power.    
They were negative role models for the average people, who compared themselves with the gods.  This enabled them to excuse their own evil behavior as relatively less outrageous.  

But I wonder, if Epicurus' explicit claim of the existence of special gods, who are very different from those actually believed in in his culture, is his true conviction or if he has told this for a purpose.      

To me it seems plausible, that Epicurus' claim of gods was made for external purposes only.

1.  In his letter to Herodotus, his explanation of nature is completely materialistic.   
While in his entire letter the word 'god' does not occur, not even once, the gist is clearly a view, in which there is neither a function nor a place for a god.    While assuming a god does not seem to contradict, he is just obsolete.  

2.  From what I have understood, the community lived in Epicurus' garden exactly like atheists in the sense, that they lived, as if there were no gods,   They were not bothered about any gods, who may or may not have been hidden somewhere outside the walls.  

3.  Epicurus background is a world, where inexplicable and incomprehensible experiences and effects are a frequent part of everyday life.   Nobody could explain lightning, eclipses, solstice, earthquakes, sickness.   Living with the inability to explain such experiences, assuming the impact of an unknown deity as the cause of incomprehensible phenomena was not as irrational then as it is today to people, who from early childhood on are more informed.   Therefore no matter what Epicurus believed himself, he had much less reason to include the existence or non-existence of gods as something of importance into his philosophy.   He was concerned about the impact of the belief in gods on the human behavior, not about gods without an impact.

4.  Life at Epicurus' time was both, more really dangerous and more appearing dangerous than today.   But there was no modern therapy, neither psychological nor pharmaceutical, against fear, anxiety, phobia and paranoia.   The most powerful remedy was the placebo effect of bribing the gods to benevolence by sacrifices and rituals.    While Epicurus did encourage people to not fear the gods, he probably considered it as wise of not depriving people of the placebo effect.  

5.  In Epicurus' time, some of those, who had acquired political, military, financial or religious power were cruel without limitation, and provoking them meant risking death, incarceration, mutilation or torture.   I consider it at least as possible, that by accepting publicly the existence of gods, Epicurus protected his garden community from prosecution.