Palm Sunday and the “Epicurean Paradox” is Solved

 

“The gods can either take away evil from the world and will not, or, being willing to do so cannot; or they neither can nor will, or lastly, they are able and willing. If they have the will to remove evil and cannot, then they are not omnipotent. If they can but will not, then they are not benevolent. If they are neither able nor willing, they are neither omnipotent nor benevolent. Lastly, if they are both able and willing to annihilate evil, why does it exist?” ― Epicurus

 

Just a few centuries before the first Palm Sunday, Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 B.C.) promoted to his followers the notions of another ancient Greek philosopher, Demetrius (c. 460 – c. 370 B.C.). Demetrius’ had proposed the theory of Atomism to account for the change he saw around him.

The theory in brief: random, unguided ‘atoms’ (as he called them) smash into each other, thereby creating the world and life as we know it. Such a hypothesis turned philosophy by Epicurus gave Epicurus the ‘means’ to do away with a personally involved god and remove human accountability. He went on to tweak Demetrius’ theory. He said that atoms do not always go in straight lives but can “swerve”. As such, his philosophy was then able to avoid atomism’s inherent determinism and to allow for man’s free will.

“What was most important in Epicurus’ philosophy of nature was the overall conviction that our life on this earth comes with no strings attached; that there is no Maker whose puppets we are; that there is no script for us to follow and be constrained by; that it is up to us to discover the real constraints which our own nature imposes on us.” ― Epicurus, The Epicurus Reader

Epicurus also taught that nothing should be believed, except for that which was tested through direct observation and logical deduction – believed via the sensate and reason. Hence, the beginning of the fact/value split so prevalent in man’s thinking today. Epicurus formed this dichotomy when he decided that he had to fend for himself.

He taught that the ‘gods’ were off angry somewhere upstairs. The Roman and Greek ‘gods’ were distant and uninvolved and therefore unrelated to ‘thinking’ and ‘sensing’ man’s life. Man had to make do with the atoms he had. So, too, Deism, began to take root.

“It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain by himself.” –Epicurus

 

Palm Sunday. Enter Jesus. Divine glory is riding on a donkey weeping over Jerusalem and the people who rejected their vocation. He is riding on a donkey to meet evil head on and to put the world right. The “Epicurean Paradox” had been addressed and solved. On Palm Sunday, every theory about God had been proven false. Jesus would be everything you need to know about God.

Epicurus didn’t see this “swerve” coming, but the prophet Zechariah did.

 

 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!

   Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!

See, your king comes to you,

   righteous and victorious,

lowly and riding on a donkey,

    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

I will take away the chariots from Ephraim

    and the warhorses from Jerusalem,

    and the battle bow will be broken.

He will proclaim peace to the nations.

  His rule will extend from sea to sea

   and from the River to the ends of the earth.

As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,

   I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.

Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope;

   even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

Zechariah 9: 9-12

 

Coincidental fact:

“Epicurus’ school, which was based in the garden of his house and thus called “The Garden”, had a small but devoted following in his lifetime.”

 

 

More about Epicurus:  Aren’t You a Bit Epicurious?

The Atheist Delusion and the Art of Incomprehensibility

The Moral Mixups of an Angry Atheist

The Moral Mixups of an Angry Atheist

“The “New Atheism” movement was launched as a direct consequence of the attacks of September 11, 2001.”

This is the opening statement of the Prologue from Why Science Does Not Disprove God by Amir D. Aczel, PH.D.

According to Dr. Aczel, religion and the acts of militancy creating the carnage of the 9-11 attacks are the raison d’etre for the New Atheists and for their haranguing believers in a God:

“New Atheism is combative, aggressive, and belligerent against people of belief. Its proponents hold that religion is evil, and they state this belief loudly and clearly. Whether they are scientists or not, the new atheists frequently employ science as their tool.”

If you have listened to talks or read the books by the New Atheists Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens, among others, you might come away with the conclusion that science had disproved a need for God.

Restating Dr. Aczel in a familiar art format, the New Atheists have created a collage of “supporting” scientism. First they used bits and pieces of biology and evolution that were familiar to them. Then, they pasted on clippings of quantum mechanics theories. And now they are using a splatter technique, throwing infinite unknown universes with their infinite probabilities at the canvas to finish their collage.

All together I would call this hodgepodge work of Pop Art “The Atheist Delusion”.

The New Atheist’s debate diatribes, their dysfunctional use of science, their avoidance of archeological findings and their animus towards believers in a God are addressed by Dr. Aczel in his book.

From the Introduction, we read of Dr. Aczel’s authenticated cri de coeur:

“The past few years have seen the rapid growth of the idea that God and Science cannot possibly coexist….The purpose of this book is to defend the integrity of science.” (emphsis added)

Dr. Aczel knows first-hand the New Atheist’s agenda via debating with them:

“And these New Atheists—Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, the late Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett”—are bound together under a powerful common purpose, and continually reinforce each other. The problem with the science in the books and lectures of the New Atheists is that it is not pure science—the objective pursuit of knowledge about the universe.” Rather, it is “science” with a purpose” [I call it “scientism,” as do others]: the purpose of disproving the existence of God.” (emphasis added)

~~~

 

Something to think about:

What do the ancient Greek “atomist” philosophers (circa 460-270 BC) like Epicurus and Democritus and the On Origin of the Species author Charles Darwin and the New Atheists have in common?

There are at least three issues that frame the writings and dialog of each subset:

1-All of them had the notion that no Supreme Being would exist that would allow judgment and eternal punishment. For example…

Charles Darwin: “I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as divine revelation”; “The plain language of the [biblical] text seems to show that men who do not believe and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.”  -Chapter Eight, “Triumph and the Reversal of Natural Selection”, Darwin: Portrait of a Genius by Paul Johnson

The New Atheists, speaking as gods, posit that no Supreme Being would ever judge mankind or let evil enter our world. (They are OK, though, with an Epicurean “free will” attenuated by evolution and Social Darwinism and with ignoring murderous dictators, genocide, eugenics, abortion, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, etc.-all the “damnable” by-products of atheism and Social Darwinism.)

2-All of them used unscientific analogs and personal anecdotes (feelings) to create their “empirical” disavowal and disapproval of God’s existence. There are too many references to list all of them here.

From Paul Johnson’s biography:

“The trouble with [Darwin’s] Descent [of Man] really starts in chapter 5, “On the Development of the Intellectual and Moral Faculties during Primeval and Civilized Times.” It is a mass of generalizations.”

According to historian Paul Johnson, Charles Darwin made statements in The Descent of Man and elsewhere that would be considered highly racist, chauvinistic and speculative today.

“Like Dawkins, Hitchens also uses anecdotes from his own life to illustrate the overwhelming viciousness he sees in all religions:” (Dr. Aczel goes on to quote Hitch’s church memories.)

Feelings and sentimentality do not a scientist make.

The New Atheists, from railing on and on about the Crusades and Catholic Priest child abuse to denigrating Mother Teresa to childhood church memories, hope to poison the well of Living Water that a Samaritan women would drink from.

3- None of the above studied anthropology, metaphysics, archeology and mathematics. Instead, they read the tabloids. They wanted to know what people thought about them. Darwin held off publishing On Origin of the Species due to his concern over public opinion.

For your consideration:

Dr. Aczel states that atheism began with the “Atomist” philosophers. This is not so. Atheism is a post-Christian phenomenon. The Epicureans mentioned above believed in Roman and Greek deities, to be sure, but they felt that those deities where busy off somewhere else and were always angry with mankind anyway. So, they chose to ignore those gods.

One final note about the book:

Dr. Aczel, as his book clearly reinforces, reasons scientifically that there is a God-in the “broadest possible sense.” But, Dr. Aczel makes no claim saying that God is a personal God or, say, as Francis Schaeffer, founder of L’Abri said in his writings and lectures that, “God is Infinite-Personal”. Dr. Aczel’s book, one could say, is purely academic…and scientifically supports Theism.

Amir D. Aczel holds graduate degrees in mathematics. He is also the author of Fermat’s Last Theorem. In Why Science Does Not Disprove God he notes a significant array of distinguished scientists interviewed in the process of writing his book. And, here are the chapter titles to pique your interest:

Prologue: The Birth of the New Atheism

1-The Coevolution of Very Early Science and Religion

2-Why Archaeology Does not Disprove the Bible

3-The Revolt of Science

4-The Triumphs of Science in the Nineteenth Century

5-Einstein, God, and the Big Bang

6-God and the Quantum

7-The “Universe from Nothing” Deception

8-And on the Eighth Day, God Created the Multiverse

9-Mathematics, Probability, and God

10-Catastrophes, Chaos, and the Limits of Human Knowledge

11-Between God and the Anthropic Principle

12-The Limits of Evolution

13-Art, Symbolic Thinking, and the Invisible Boundary

14-Engaging the Infinite

15-Conclusion: Why the “Scientific” Argument for Atheism Fails

 

~~~

Added 9-26-2015:

Below, the Hebrew King David (c. 1040–970 BC) speaks about a morally perverse person, an ungodly person, and one who disregards God and any thought of moral adjudication (see above for the modern folly version by the New Atheists). David is not talking about theoretical atheism. The Apostle Paul later references Psalm 14 in his letter to the Roman church (Chapter 3) when talks about the nature of sin:

“For the choir director: A psalm of David. Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!” Psalm 14:1

~~~

Cartoon from: http://www.christianpost.com/news/the-moral-mixups-of-an-angry-atheist-125221/

Humanity Thrives on Moral-Guided Free Market Economics and Acts of Creation

In response to the collectivist ideologies of Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren and their proposed free market epitaph “You didn’t build that…” I offer two videos that provide insights about our humanity, creation, transcendence and economics. Epicurus, by the way (see previous posts regarding Epicurus), knew about humanity at a base level. Epicurus withdrew from transcendent.
The first video includes an interview with Rev. Robert A. Sirico of the Acton Institute. I first heard this interview while watching Fox Business’ Varney & Company. It contains a surprise ending.

In the second video Rev. Robert A. Sirico speaks at Creighton University about his conversion from Marxism and socialism and his reckoning of justice with a God-given humanity and transcendence. He speaks of going on to embrace a morals-directed free market economics which in the act of creation produces a bigger pie for all to share in.
Transcendence takes acknowledgement and submission to the Sublime. It takes one to be faithful in small things. .And, what you create-“build”-transcends all the output of man-made ideologies and political jingoisms. Grab some coffee first before you sit back and enjoy truth.

Epicurus “High-Horse” Mal-Ware v. 2.015

As my last post noted Greece, the home of the ancient philosopher Epicurus, rejected fiscal restraint and austerity in exchange for “Hope is coming” debt finagling.

Epicurus sans hammock

Epicurus sans hammock

 “Syriza” or “Let the Good Times Roll Without Repercussions Party” has won a short-lived victory in Epicurean Greece: “Avoid pain or at least spread it around. Give it to someone else. Let us work a few hours a week and then let us seek our pleasures. Let us surround ourselves with good friends and good drink. Forget the creditors. Those fools believed we would pay them back”. And so it goes in ancient modern Greece.

 Well, back in the day Epicurus had an even bigger dilemma than a fiscal crisis. But it was a problem that he was able to philosophize or finagle away with even bigger denial than today’s Greeks. I am talking about the problem of evil.

 The problem of evil–whether viewed as a man being burned alive or as a Roman crucifixion or as someone stealing cigars from a mini-mart or as one neighbor lying to another neighbor-is in our face daily. This enormous topic can only be glanced at in this post. I will give you a perspective to consider. First, let’s see what Epicurus foisted on his followers from his hammock ‘high horse’.

 From Wikipedia Chapter One, verse two:

Logical problem of evil

The originator of the logical problem of evil has been cited as the Greek philosopher Epicurus and this argument may be schematized as follows:

  1. If an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent god exists, then evil does not.
  2. There is evil in the world.
  3. Therefore, an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God does not exist.

This perspective of the problem of evil is held by many in the world. It is a perspective which atheism willing points to and one that bothers agnostics. It is a perspective that lends itself to the myopic religion of scientism where everything can only be validated through scientific proofs or, basically, through one’s senses (a more refined Epicurean philosophy). Yet, the above logical problem of evil is self-defeating. It assumes knowledge of good and evil.

One has to ask, how did Epicurus determine good and evil and the truth that defines them? Did he feel their effects via his physical senses? Did he and his friends determine what is good and what is evil via their collective senses? Did Epicurus make up ‘truth’ about good and evil by what his friends let him get away with saying? Or did Epicurus as a proto-Foucault define ‘regimes of truth’ as “the historically specific mechanisms which produce discourses which function as true in particular times and places”? Or, did Epicurus, as President Obama has recently done at the 2015 National Prayer Breakfast, use moral equivalency or relativism (in this case, high horse lecturing Christians with historical error) as a basis to decide what is a good and what is a bad by comparison (with God as a rubber stamp). It should be noted that none of these premises and perspectives is based on a perspective outside ones’ self or on an Absolute reference point. At the epicenter of these premises is self-serving man, ergo the likes of the American Humanist Association and their motto: “Good Without God“.

 If you believe as pre-Darwin-pre-Enlightenment-pre-scientism Epicurus believed-that humans are just randomized atoms (as he called them) that “swerved” and collided to form the materialistic world-then how did a rational concept of good and evil enter our gardens of random atoms? Remember, in Epicurus’ worldview god had been expelled from the garden of good and evil.

 This early formulation of the logical problem of evil, as I see it and now describe it, is when the Epicurus “High-Horse” Mal-ware began its download hactivism into the software of our networked psyche creating a down-through-the-centuries botnet. This Mal-ware put God in the “Recycle Bin” and made Him inaccessible. It also redirected our boot up executable file to scientism, making it our default root drive. Social manipulation by amoral hactivists and humanists keeps the botnet going.

 The Epicurus “High-Horse” Mal-ware searches for any thought of God and seeks to delete it from your consciousness. It causes doubt spam and creates a zombie-like effect with regard to outside-your-senses thinking. You are made subservient to a ‘regime of truth’, to those who now have the power to control truth. And, there are many who would desire to do so in this present age. And remember, Pontius Pilate asked Jesus “What is truth?” as if Pilate could willy-nilly define truth through his earthly power.

 For the sake of brevity I think you will agree with me that the logical problem of evil comes down to premises and perspectives. You may also agree with me that there is a need to wipe clean the hard drives of our minds of all Epicurus “High-Horse” Mal-ware.

 Here is a proper perspective from Dr. Ron Rhodes regarding the existence of evil:

 …it is impossible to distinguish evil from good unless one has an infinite reference point which is absolutely good. Otherwise one is like a boat at sea on a cloudy night without a compass (i.e., there would be no way to distinguish north from south without the absolute reference point of the compass needle).

The infinite reference point for distinguishing good from evil can only be found in the person of God, for God alone can exhaust the definition of “absolutely good.” If God does not exist, then there are no moral absolutes by which one has the right to judge something (or someone) as being evil. More specifically, if God does not exist, there is no ultimate basis to judge the crimes of Hitler. Seen in this light, the reality of evil actually requires the existence of God, rather than disproving it.

If Epicurus had read the even more ancient book of Job perhaps he would not have been so clueless and the “High-Horse” Mal-ware would never have been downloaded with its intent on hacking into our truth files.

One more perspective regarding truth, good and evil and moral equivalency:

C.S. Lewis has a few words to say about the matter, too:

“If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”

 “Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.”

 “There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him.”

Epicurus Wins Greek Election or Pain Must Be Shared to Be Fully Enjoyed

My last two posts took you for a ride in the “Wayback Machine”. The ride, with no cost to you and minimal effort on your part, took you back to the time of Epicurus, the Greek philosopher. Then I forwarded the machine to our present time, the age of the Angry Atheists. Today’s post will take you for a ride in the “Lean Forward” Machine.

 The “Lean Forward” Machine is not like the “Wayback Machine”. Whereas the “Wayback Machine” records and regards history in its travels as an annotated time line worthy of informing present decision-making regarding morals, social concerns, spirituality, politics and economics the “Lean Forward” Machine says “phooey with all of that”:

 “Let’s go full steam ahead to the future. “We have the omniscient and omnipresent being-‘perfected’-as-we-speak-with-your-tax-dollars Government (of Titanic proportions mind you) to pilot us (in ad hoc fashion mind you) to the Elysian Fields of the Brave New World.”

 At this point you should know that the “Lean Forward” Machine is regarded by some as a religious temple. Some even call it by the sacred name of its goddess-“Progress”.

 But, before we “Lean Forward” into unreality let us take at quick look at Epicurus’ homeland today to get a reality check on effects of his philosophy:

 

Epicurus' party pic

Epicurus’ party pic

Left-Wing Syriza Party Wins Big as Greece Rejects Austerity

ATHENS — Greece’s left-wing Syriza appeared on course to trounce the ruling conservatives in Sunday’s snap election and could win the absolute majority it wants to fight international creditors’ insistence on painful austerity measures.

Tsipras’ campaign slogan “Hope is coming!” resonated with voters, weary of austerity after six years of constant crisis that has sent unemployment over 25 percent and threatened millions with poverty.

“Hope is coming!” Wait! Where have I heard that before?

 Anyway, Greece, the land of the ancient philosopher Epicurus, has rejected austerity and forsaken posterity!: “My friends, let us make Epicurean lifestyle the epicenter of things! Eat, drink and be merry with impunity! Run up the tab! The gods don’t care. Why should we?”

 There you have it my friends. Sorry to say but it appears that the ticket for the “Lean Forward” Machine return trip would cost you everything. And, if you did go, you would not see your children and grandchildren flourishing. Rather, you would not find them at all, having vanquished in the Farmworkers’ Grape Pickers Camp; having been cast into the great winepress of the wrath of Progress.

 

I’m not going with you to look for my future in the “Lean Forward” Machine. I have not lost the Spirit or my faith in God. I have the Kingdom of God here on earth to tend to whether or not my belly is full. The Kingdom of God is my vocation, my calling, my camp.

 

“Instead, make your top priority God’s kingdom and his way of life, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew’s Gospel 6, verse 33

Aren’t You A Bit Epicurious?

Little did he know at the time (341-270 B.C.) that he, Epicurus, a Greek philosopher, would be a founding father of the atheism sect, a sect which began its angry resistance movement when Jesus Christ appeared on the scene claiming to be God incarnate. Or, that he, Epicurus would be the gardener who would plant the seeds of the Enlightenment’s now perennial social Darwinism, seeds embedded with the DNA of Democritus’ dictum of random Atomism. Or, that he would be considered an ancient agnostic theologian who preached that the gods were out-of-the picture and the Roman gods were way too bossy. Or, that his philosophy would become an eponymous link with shameless pleasures.

an allegory of five senses. Still Life by Pieter Claesz, 1623. The painting illustrates the senses through musical instruments, a compass, a book, food and drink, a mirror, incense and an open perfume bottle. (via Wikipedia)

An allegory of five senses. Still Life by Pieter Claesz, 1623. The painting illustrates the senses through musical instruments, a compass, a book, food and drink, a mirror, incense and an open perfume bottle. (via Wikipedia)

Epicurus had concluded that any idea of the ‘gods’ had to be put upstairs in the ‘attic’-out of sight, out of mind. Not seen. Not heard from. They should be not be given any consideration much less be feared. Epicurus had an alternative universe to offer his disciples.

Epicurus lived and taught a moderate lifestyle, keeping to himself and to his close friends. He believed and taught that one could learn everything through one’s senses. He counted the senses as trustworthy.

Epicurus spoke of natural desires in life such as food and shelter which one could not live without (a no-brainer). And, he spoke of the natural desire for sex which one could live without (a no-boner). In practice, unlike today’s hedonistic Epicureans, Epicurus was pleasure-passive but not in the sense that he would waste away his time in Margaritaville.

Epicurus also taught that wealth and fame should be avoided because they are intrinsically narcissistic and appeal only to vanity. These things were to be considered ephemeral. (Al Sharpton and a host of politicians and Hollywood stars would not be examples of true Epicureanism.)

As Epicurus was a proponent of living a quiet and peaceful life, unnoticed by the world I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s missive to the church in Thessalonica (circa Ad 52). Paul’s letter was likely written from Corinth the home of Aphrodite’s temple-a hedonist hangout. He encouraged the Christians in Thessalonica to “… make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you,” (I Thess. 4:11 )

Epicurean philosophy, detached from its sedate founder’s teaching, would later become associated with extreme pleasure seeking. Per Wikipedia, a “hedonist strives to maximize net pleasure (pleasure minus pain)”. And, with the angry ‘gods thought of as remote, unconcerned and out of the picture a hedonist could unleash and unlock the Animal House within him. But, Epicurus was not a Caligula in pursuit of untold ‘pleasures’. There were no toga parties at Epicurus’ home.

“Seek pleasure in peace and pursue it” was his cart’s bumper sticker-right next to his “COEXIST” bumper sticker.

 Due to his compartmentalizing, putting god upstairs and putting earthly pleasure as a priority, Epicurus can also be considered as one of the founding fathers of the fact/value split, a split where science and religion and politics and religion are deemed to have no common ground-in heaven nor on earth. This Epicurean dichotomy would eventually cause Americans to exile God from their thinking. To fill the vacancy America would welcome all manner of European philosophical and psychoanalytical nonsense as well as all manifestations of statistical ‘science’. (See my post “How Shall I Then Live” regarding the fact/value split.)

Sadly it was with an Epicurean mindset already in place that America’s founding fathers including Thomas Jefferson wrote the U.S. Constitution as the divorce papers to be served on God –God was not to be part of our nation’s public’ life: And though our currency reads “In God We Trust”, that has come to mean “God is our fall back position”. “You may worship God up there but just don’t bring him down from the attic into our Novus ordo seclorum” (see your after tax currency of the New World for both mottos).

It probably could be said that the Epicurean philosophy was the origin of Freud’s Pleasure Principle. The Principle simply stated, is that man’s default modus operandi is to pursue pleasure and avoid pain. Here it would appear that neo-Epicurean philosophy influenced at least Christopher Hitchens, a well-known provocateur atheist given to well-documented habits of smoking, strong drink and other ravishing appetites, a raison d’etre for a pleasure seeker like Hitchens-but only in his previous life.

Mr. Epicurus, on the other hand, took his afternoon delight in hammock contemplation of Atomism, the dictum of his day: life is reducible to invisible atoms which swerve and smash randomly into each other without a defining purpose. This dictum could well define the “angry atheists” Atomistic arguments against the existence of God. (During Epicurus time you had to walk by faith to believe in invisible atoms and no God. Later quantum physics via the LHC and other nuclear colliders would provide us with the silhouettes of nuclear particles including bosons but many scientists chose not to see God as Creator of this “Atomism”)

 Today, “angry atheists,” one such is Richard Dawkins, continue to swerve and smash their Atomistc-like arguments against God’s apologists but their pro-atheistic arguments never coalesce into anti-God anti-matter. And, when everything else they have said fails to discharge God from the universe these angry fellows and their devoted followers resort to ad hominem and strong drink.

Epicurus is the man for all reasons today. Here is someone who can say it better than I.

 N.T. Wright, a New Testament scholar, notes Epicurus’ influence on modern man in his recent book “Surprised by Scripture.” Here are some quotes from Chapter One “Healing the Divide Between Science and Religion”.

 “You could sum up Epicurus’ philosophy, at least in its desired effects, with the slogan Richard Dawkins and his associates put as an advertisement on London buses two or three years ago: “There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life….

 So, for Epicurus, there was nothing to worry about. Draw a direct line from him to John Lennon: imagine there’s no heaven, no hell beneath us; now get on and live for today. The image of Epicurus as a hedonist is true, but it was a very refined hedonism, since he taught that the more obviously bodily pleasures didn’t last and produced less pleasurable effects.”

Wright goes on to say that

“The philosophy of Epicurus was given a major new lease on life by the Roman poet Lucretius, who lived about seventy years before Jesus….In Lucretius it all become clear and straightforward. The world is what is it is because of (what he called) atoms, which, free-falling through space, collide with one another, sometimes combining and sometimes bouncing off…major changes are caused by the inexplicable “swerve” that sometime happens to atoms so that they veer off in new directions and produce different results. But the main point is essentially what we would today call the evolutionary thesis: life in the world has developed under its own steam as the random by-product of chance collisions and combinations of atoms and the more complex life-forms they produce….

The second point I want to make about the rise of Epicureanism at the dawn of modernity, and particularly in the origins of the Enlightenment, is that it was seized upon not least because of it political implications. That is clear already in Machiavelli and Hobbes, but it comes to fore in the eighteenth century.”

 The Epicurean endorsed idea that random free-floating atoms made the world what it is ‘swerved’ into the mix of political ideologies which rejected monarchy and a ‘bossy-guy-upstairs’ rule. “Vox populi vox Dei is the cry-but then Deus himself disappears off into the far beyond, and vox populi is all we’re left with.” N. T. Wright, and again:

 “…Democracy can generate new forms of tyranny, and once we have sold our souls to a particular voting process there no way back. We need to return to the drawing board and think more clearly about whether the natural and proper human passion for freedom and the natural and proper need for order and stability are best served by the kinds of democracy we have developed, without the aid of the divine or monarchial intervention from above, on the model of the Epicureanism that has proved so popular and influential.” (I would add that it appears that radicalized Islam seeks to place their false god Allah on the world’s throne. N. T. Wright is referring to the One True God-YHVH-“I Am That I Am”.)

 The threads of Epicurus philosophy are woven throughout our life’s fabric. As Wright notes, “Basically, the American dream is that if you get up and go, you’ll succeed; the egalitarian hope is that the fittest will survive the economic jungle”. And, as I noted above Epicurean philosophy began the fact value split that modern man uses as his template for all of life’s questions, whether personal or political.

 Do I look to God or to some form of science for life’s contextual meaning? Am I a random mix of atoms evolved into a human form? Is life only meant for pleasure seeking and pain avoidance and at any cost to me and to my fellow man. Should I vote to obtain pleasure? And so on…

 For Christians (for all, really) what does it mean that the Kingdom of God has been established on earth? N.T. Wright, in his book referenced above, goes on to explore the current thinking and a Christian response to an Epicurean worldview. For now, there is way too much of Wright’s insight to post today. Except to say that sadly the world now divides science and religion into separate rooms –one downstairs and one upstairs. This should not be. I am convinced that science and properly tuned philosophy support God’s existence, Scripture and the work of His hands. As Francis Schaeffer of L’ Abri once wrote, “He is there and He is not silent.” I’ll save that for other posts.

 

Final thoughts. As mentioned above Epicurus treasured his close friends. They were very important to him. And I would imagine they would be.

 In a universe where god is perceived as remote, uninterested, detached and at best considered as always-looking-down-on you angry and bossy it feels good to have close like-minded friends to commiserate with: “Dionysus my friend, pass the wine and let us sing ”Don’t Worry, Be Happy””.

 Now, you should know from previous posts that I accept the theory of theistic evolution with its old earth creationism. (BTW: after learning about Epicurus you should know that the Atomism dictum that he promoted well preceded any Darwinian theory of evolution.) Having said this I would offer the following friendly apologia.

 Each of us as God formed evolved humans can ‘recognize’ another person, the ‘other,’ via our evolved senses. Can we agree that this was done at a prehistoric man level? And, when one cave man was hungry and another cave man was also hungry they may have then formed a hunter/gatherer tribe to fulfill their basic need for food. Again, this was done at a prehistoric man level.

Now fast forward millions of years and hold on. Epicurus understood his friends at a basic human level-through his basic five senses. The fact the he held them dear meant that he looked outside of himself and considered the ‘other’ as worthy, perhaps starting from a place of tribalism. (I hope I’ve made you epicurious.)

Certainly myriad mutations have made our basic senses ‘alive’ and aware that another being in our presence is either friend or foe. But it is only God’s likeness incarnated into the once primate-now human form that can bring about an embrace, a love for the ‘other’. Human friendship and human love was born out of a different tribe, a tribe not of the Epicurean worldview-the Dancing Embrace of the Trinity Tribe.

“Joy to the World, the Lord has come, Let earth receive her King”:  The Kingdom of God is heaven and earth, science and religion and you and me in one eternal embrace with the Trinity.

At the beginning of Kingdom of God on earth and during his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus-I AM That I Am-reminds us that we are being watched over with love and care. Jesus nullifies Epicurean philosophy, if we let Him.

 

 

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Here’s an interesting recent snapshot of modern Epicurean thought: Raising Kids Without God (But Maybe Not Without Religion)

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Added 1-25-2015. Epicurean science dismissing fact becomes a fanatical ‘faith’ to avoid fantasy-future owies:

MIT Climate Scientist: Global Warming Believers a ‘Cult’