I no longer have a religion, but if I did it would be Epicureanism. Heathenistic Hedonism would be a more accurate descriptive title and it sounds cool, but it might be considered a joke or some sort of oxymoronic widdlewaddle (is that a word?). “What religion are you?” “Oh, I’m a Heychie.” But some of the UUies thought of it first.
Omar Khayyam was a Muslim (so that’s a no), but given the right circumstances, perhaps I could be a philosophical Omarist. There is that sweet A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, and Thou message that so many folks like. Who does not know that line from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam? The man’s poems are all about the here and now. According to his writing, he liked women, wine, and good food. Omar’s poems are even in Hitch’s atheist anthology, The Portable Atheist. I can hear The Byrds singing Pete Seeger’s Turn, Turn, Turn.
I dig the epicurean idea that there’s a time for all things; and the ‘eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we…’ conflation seems honest enough. It’s very Epicureanesque, if you ask me. Life can be a bitch, and once you’re mort, you’re dead. So, do it now.
After entering the world of retirement, I classified myself as a leisure aficionado and pleasure seeker. Well, don’t we all pursue things that give us happiness and pleasure? Apparently, some people interpret pleasure seeking as always immoral. Many of them believe (thanks to religion) that only misery and suffering bring eternal happiness (speaking of oxymorons). Right? Admittedly, leisure and things that please us get some of us into a lot of trouble. But, there’s always pizza, beer, and rock ‘n roll music.
I am Epicurean. It’s a philosophy or way of looking at life, perhaps a bit of a world view, but it’s not a religion. There is the health and wealth wing of Christianity, but that nonsense is a whole other series of blog posts.
While the origin of Epicurean thought has it as admitting that the gods exist in a material way, it also claims that the gods don’t care about humans and we should reciprocate (as in the definition of deist). So, fuck them. It’s also not exclusively about food and drink, as modernists might define it, although those things are indeed on our pleasure lists.
Epicureans are supposed to be disciples or students of the Greek philosopher Epicurus. In the more modern sense, we are people devoted to sensual enjoyment, to living the best life we can, while we can. Perhaps the exact opposite of religious orders such as Trappist monks or Trappistine nuns, or Capuchin Franciscan friars or nuns.
Synonyms for epicureans include hedonist, sensualist, pleasure-seeker, sybarite, voluptuary, bon vivant, and bon viveur. Related words are epicure, gourmet, gastronome, connoisseur, and gourmand (see the link with chow?). I like the idea of me being a generous, life-loving epicurean (back to Omar’s quote).
Of course, there are problems with virtually any excess. Health factors such as weight gain, allergies, addictions, and waste leading to environmental damage can be consequential. I read this morning that one can even exercise too much. But those problems are about excess, not pleasure or the relief of pain. Epicureans are not opposed to common sense and we applaud evidence-based solutions to the problems of life. Yay, science. Yay, research. Yay, logic and empirical evidence. Boo, religion and other woo-woo.
I’m in good company with my pleasure seeker philosophy. Other adherents to the teachings of Epicurus included the poet Horace, whose famous statement Carpe Diem (“Seize the Day”) illustrates the philosophy quite well, in my opinion.
So, the next time someone asks you if you believe in a god (and you don’t), simply respond with, “I’m a practical Epicurean. Some of us have claimed the gods are all real. We believe in life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, the relief of pain, and enjoyment of this life, as we know it.”