…If the dead are not raised,
“Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.”
1 Cor. 15:32
People delight in looking into their genealogy to tell them where they came from and their ancestral background. But, what about the genealogy of our thoughts and our beliefs that are passed down? Continuing with the theme of my previous post, man as logos and centerpiece of the universe, man considers himself left to his own devices and to fend for himself. The “dead are not raised” has been passed down to us. Also passed down, la dolce vita, the Epicurean worldview prevalent today.
The originator of Epicureanism, the Greek philosopher Epicurus, and many others since, decided that God was not good at being God so man must take his place. In terms of the evil man encounters, this thinking is restated in the Epicurean paradox.
Per the Oxford Dictionary, Epicurus (341-270 B.C) was a “Greek philosopher, founder of Epicureanism. His physics is based on Democritus’ theory of a materialist universe composed of indestructible atoms moving in a void, unregulated by divine providence”.
According to several accounts, Epicurus lived and taught a philosophy of the unnoticed good life. He posited that man, a collection of particles he called atoms, would return to the earth when he died. From atoms to atoms you shall return, he postulated. When you are dead you are dead and while you are alive, as Epicurus advocated, seek pleasure and avoid pain.
Epicurus was not a political nor a spiritual man. He was more of a homebody given to a small circle of friends. Per Epicurus, everything to be trusted and believed came through the senses. And so, he deemed that God was remote if at all. And friends were real and to be trusted.
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. It is likely that Epicurus formed this worldview when he decided that God was uninvolved and impersonal at best and that he had to fend for himself.
Epicurean thought was embraced by some and passed down through the centuries. The Roman poet Lucretius, a disciple of Epicurus’s teachings and someone who lived about 70 years before Jesus, promoted the “god is angry” meme along with the theory of atomism formulated by Demetrius (460-370 B.C.), who died 29 years before the birth of Epicurus.
The atomic theory of the cosmos in brief: random, unguided ‘atoms’ smash into each other, thereby create the world and life as we know it. Such a hypothesis turned philosophy by Epicurus offered the ‘means’ to do away with a personally involved god and remove human accountability to God. Lucretius went on to tweak Demetrius’ theory.
Demetrius 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
Unlike the innocuous passing-on-sex Epicurus, the Romans took Epicureanism to new lows. The name of the Roman Emperor Caligula is associated today with unbridled decadence. Licentiousness continues today as the justification for the avoid-pain-seek-pleasure self.
The Enlightenment furthered Epicurean acceptance. As many began to claim science as the explainer for things being as they are and man as the interpreter of things as they are, the Enlightenment augmented the fact/value split. With science being claimed as the only arbiter of truth and reality, the transcendent was eschewed, as being unreasonable to ponder. Materialism and utilitarian atomism replaced the transcendent and facilitated the self-made man as the imago homo. An honest look around today would reveal that the worldview from the days of Epicurus down through the Enlightenment has been passed down to us.
“It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain by himself.” –Epicurus
As I see it, underlying cultural Marxism, secular humanism, Progressivism and the American Dream is the philosophy of Epicurus: extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one’s feelings, desires, etc.; egoistic self-absorption, aka, solipsism. It is the worldview of safe spaces. It is the philosophy behind the Progressive’s push for acceptance of multiculturalism whereby all cultures are deemed equal including the dehumanizing ones so that individual culture has a larger safe space to operate in. The philosophy promotes universal healthcare as another safe space in the form of insurance against financial suffering as paid for by others so one can live an Epicurean lifestyle without pain. It is the worldview of the virtue-signaling relativist social justice warriors – I want a safe space for me to live my life as I see fit so I will serve up my self-justifying, self-righteous viewpoint of high-sounding humanitarianism. Epicureanism is the doctrine of the Religion of Humanity and the paean to mind and matter as savior.
Epicureanism underlies identity politics and individual rights. It promotes a circling of the wagons around your ersatz ‘friends’, your tribe, to protect your values and your territory for further self-satisfaction. It promotes dehumanization with its message that life has no meaning other than what you give it; life is only material and sensate. So, grab yours while you are alive. Out of this dehumanizing process comes the art, music, literature, media and architecture which degrade human existence and the imago dei in humans. But, Modern Man, man as God, left to his own Epicurean devices, comes up short.
The narrator in C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy novel That Hideous Strength tells us about one of the central characters Mark Studdock. He is a young academic, a sociologist, and a member of the Progressive Element at Bracton College. He is an ambitious, self-centered and shallow intellectual who has come into the service of the National Institute of Coordinated Sciences (NICE). He believes NICE will serve the best interest of humanity through progress at any cost. Once he stopped hemming and hawing about joining the organization he is welcomed into the inner circle. But he soon finds that he has committed himself to a hellish organization which plans to re-do humanity by force so that only the best humans (in NICE’s view) remain. He is made aware that the tentacles of the organization are growing.
Studdock is told in no uncertain terms that the organization wants his wife Jane to join him. He is ordered to bring her in. With no moral depth and no moral base outside himself to guide him, Mark is perplexed and now in great fear for his life. Pain and death are the only things that are real for him.
It must be remembered that in Mark’s mind hardly one rag of noble thought, either Christian or Pagan, had a secure lodging. His education had been neither scientific or classical – merely “Modern”. The seventies both of abstraction and of high human tradition had passed him by: and he had neither peasant shrewdness nor aristocratic honor to help him. He was a man of straw, a glib examinee in subjects that require no exact knowledge (he had always done well on Essays and General Papers) and the first hint of a real threat to his bodily life knocked him sprawling. And his head ached so terribly and he felt sick. Luckily he now kept a bottle of whisky in his room. A stiff one enabled him to shave and dress.
What is your genealogy of thought and belief? Is it a genealogy of strawmen?
The opening quote is from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church. He is countering the embedded Epicureanism active in the church in Corinth. He does so with the resurrection.
To be continued.