Any Application of Epicurean Theology to the Christan God(s)

  • I've been mulling over questions around how to approach Christianity with my children and wanting to lighten my own ill-feelings about the religion, and I am wondering if there is any sort of Essays on an Epicurean re-envisioning of the Christian God(s) in the same way Epicurus did to the Greek Gods (tranquil, unconcerned and beings to model in these respects). Thanks for any replies!

  • Root304 , *that* would be an interesting exercise. The Greek gods were just as supernatural as the Christian god and theology is, and as embedded in the modern culture. The omnipresent cultural milieu in the US and other nations is Christianity.

    "lighten my own ill-feelings" Good luck with that... And I'm not trying to be sarcastic or tongue in cheek. Honestly, that's not necessarily easy (speaking from personal experience).

    But an Epicurean reimagining or mental approach to the cultural gods could be an interesting discussion :/

  • Gassendi supposedly produced a critical apparatus of Book X of Diogenes Laertius, with a view toward finding some level of compatibility with Christianity.

    I would probably start there, although I cannot say what you will find--I haven't read his books.

  • I think the fundamental problem is going to be this; while Christian Humanists have been quite happy to import Epicurean Ethics, they haven't been very interested in adopting his view of the gods. Epicureans and their fellow travelers, by contrast, have had little interest in the Christian God, and even less interest in Christian morality.

    So you're looking for someone with one foot squarely planted in both worlds. The closest you're going to get to that (and it's far from a good fit) is probably the expelled and denounced Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza. He really was prepared to adopt materialism, at great personal risk, and to reject the supernatural entirely. His God is completely natural--nothing less than the sum of Nature and all her laws.

    So I will amend my previous suggestion, and say: I'd start with Spinoza.

    You may find this book useful; with the caveat, again, that I have not read it!

    Spinoza, the Epicurean: Authority and Utility in Materialism

    by Dimitris Vardoulakis

  • Gosh Joshua's post reminded me of something I can't believe I forgot.

    Root304, you may also be interested in Thomas Cooper:

    So far as i can find Cooper never wrote about Epicurus, but his writings include "The Scripture Doctrine of Materialism" which argues that "materialism" is the true doctrine of the old and new testaments, and gives lots of cites from the Bible in support of the point!

    He also wrote: A View of the Metaphysical and Physiological Arguments In Favor of Materialism which makes the same arguments but not from a scriptural point of view.

    I feel sure that Cooper was a closeted friend of Epicurus, but he held a very public teaching position at the top of a very public university in a very Christian state (South Carolina) so I feel sure his absence of mentioning Epicurus was self-censorship to try to survive in his teaching position. But regardless of that his arguments are very Epicurean-compatible IMHO.

  • So many great suggestions! Thanks everyone!

    Joshua Spinoza keeps coming up every time I get into philosophical conversations with people and I bring up my affections for Epicurus. I definitely need to read him, after I've knocked out my Epicurean reading list.

    Cassius Thanks so much for these suggestions! Sounds right up my alley with this question.

    Don Yes! It's a practical, Epicurean approach to the Christian cultural Gods that I am wanting to develop. I have a lot of mixed and troubled feelings about the atheist sub-culture and the sort of bitterness and righteousness I feel when engaging with that line of thought. That is matched only by the uneasiness and queasiness I feel when engaging with Christianity. A lot of displeasure all around. It seems prudent to me to avoid the psychological, and perhaps social, effects of transgression of the psycho-social phenomena of gods, and I think changing my perceptions and emotions I have about these concepts (gods) and the thought is that it will affect me positively in an unconscious sort of way. I'm probably wrong, but I sort of see this as one part of the move Epicurus was making in viewing the Gods in a state of ataraxia. Putting out the fury of an angry god in the students/patients mind.

  • Also is there a strong need to "approach christianity" at all, if you feel such uneasiness?

    I'm telling my children that we there is nothing supernatural and no life after death. I am also telling them about Christian, Buddhist, Hindu beliefs, but in third person. "There are some people who believe X, y, z".

  • Also is there a strong need to "approach christianity" at all, if you feel such uneasiness?

    Probably depends strongly on cultural context and circumstances - it is amazing how they differ even within the USA.

  • I guess I currently have lapses in confidence in my own ability to help my kids navigate the philosophical/religious/political/spiritual/social, terrain in an artful way. I feel like I have a decent grasp of the pitfalls and advantages to the various paths out there to be a decent guide, an advantage I have from trying and learning a lot of different things, but clearly formulating the goals and curating the experiences brings in a feeling of anxiety as taking the first steps means committing. Haha, I feel like all my philosophizing over the past 6 years since I have been a dad, has begun with philosophizing about parenting and reflecting on my own childhood. So forgive me for always mentioning that I am thinking about my kids in every post. :/

  • Root304 , if you're interested in exploring "spiritual" outlets for your kids: Do you have any Unitarian Universalist churches in your area. We attended one when our daughter was young. My only misgiving(?) was that they were almost too welcoming. Anything goes. That was during my Buddhist period, too. So, they'd be more than open to an Epicurean. But it gave structure for our daughter and she had fun.

  • Don Yeah, I've been exploring online UU spaces over the pandemic when I started getting back into reading philosophy and religious material again. That renewed search is what led me to Epicurus! I've been flirting with joining the local UU congregation since they've opened up again as a sort of commitment to developing Epicurean practice and other more Naturalist spirituality, and just attempting to be more socially presentable haha. Anyway, maybe I'll drop in tomorrow.

  • Anyway, maybe I'll drop in tomorrow.

    If you do, keep us posted on your experience. I for one am curious. I've seen some mention of UUs having Epicurean dinners for philosophical conversation and eating. Ex.

    A second "Epicurean Gathering" and a little bit of it's history
    Update 26 June 2014. Please click on this link to go to a page where you will find the most recent revision of the Epicurean Liturgy and a...

    The Swerve: How the World Became Modern | Unitarian Universalist Church of Canton

    Epicurus Archives - Cambridge Unitarian Church
    A Non-Prophet Organisation

  • I would be very curious if anyone else has had any experience with Unitarian Universalist congregations and Epicureanism. I haven't personally, just using those links as background.

  • Kalosyni , in another thread in the Gallery, made the important point that it depends very much on the individual UU congregation and pastor as to whether they would be open to exploring Epicureanism within their organization. Fully agree! My intent for bringing them up was that they were the only organization that came to mind that would seem to be receptive - if the interest is in exploring the "spiritual" aspects (for lack of a better term than "piety") of Epicurus's philosophy if we don't want to start from scratch.