How Religion is Bad for Ataraxia

Among the many, ehem, curiosities that emerged from the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage, I stumbled upon a crazy Christian lady who posted a hysterical yelling and crying video on facebook saying that Obama is a radical Islamist (because everyone knows radical Islam is soooo for gay marriage, right?) and calling on people to “take a stand for Jesus”.

I think the video is hilarious, and I would have posted this just for the fun of it.

However, I think the video–in addition to its comedic value–also demonstrates the dangers of superstition, and why it’s so important to heed the advice of the Epicurean Masters. She breaks many Epicurean taboos, and in doing this she shows the many ways in which religion can be degrading and evil:

  • Epicurus warned us against fear-based belief in general and fear of Gods in particular, and helped us to understand that gods do not intervene in our lives and do not send earthquakes and the like. In the video, we see this poor soul trembling in fear of her God, whom she imagines as a monstruous, grotesque sort of cosmic Saddam Hussein, a dis-embodied Cthulhu who is about to awaken and destroy or swallow us all. This produces a paranoid state of perpetual existential and imaginary emergency where no peace of mind is possible for herself, and probably for some of her loved ones.
  • Polystratus warned us that virtue without the study of nature degenerates into arrogance and superstition: she exhibits all the symptoms of what happens when people try to do good, or be good, without grounding their views on empirical evidence. We see how her virtue went to nothing, just as Polystratus said it would, because she neglected the scientific worldview in favor of “Adam and Eve” and replaced the study of nature with fables. Instead of tranquility, joy, cheer, and instead of being happy when others are happy, we see that she is sad because others can be happy, and it’s clear that she would be happy if gays were unhappy. We see irrational, baseless anger against imaginary enemies and problems.
  • Philodemus warned us that, if gods do exist, they are in a state of ataraxia, abiding in perfect imperturbable pleasure and bliss, and are unconcerned with mortals or with the government of the cosmos, and that they’re certainly not vindictive or evil as this would be an impious accusation and not in line with their nature. True virtuous piety is, therefore, not fear-based but based on a desire to imitate the perfect equanimity and bliss of the gods. The purpose of this piety is to cultivate a similar quality in the character: in the video we do not see equanimity, or pleasure, or bliss. We see how a devotee of a raging God becomes a raging, imbecile mortal, and we see that beliefs do have a real effect in one’s character and that we should “only have the purest beliefs”, as Epicurus taught.

Ataraxia requires that we protect our minds from these false beliefs, and it requires that we cultivate virtue and serenity while at the same time grounding all of our views in the study of nature. Supernatural claims may seem innocent at first, but they easily degenerate into the dispositions that led this woman to post her video. For everyone like her, there are thousands or probably millions of individuals who lead terrified lives of degradation because of religion, who may not be as outspoken as she is.

 Further Reading:

Westboro Founder’s Son Taunts Church Over Gay Marriage

About hiramcrespo

Hiram Crespo is the author of 'Tending the Epicurean Garden' (Humanist Press, 2014), 'How to Live a Good Life' (Penguin Random House, 2020), and Epicurus of Samos – His Philosophy and Life: All the principal Classical texts Compiled and Introduced by Hiram Crespo (Ukemi Audiobooks, 2020). He's the founder of, and has written for The Humanist, Eidolon, Occupy, The New Humanism, The Secular Web, Europa Laica, AteístasPR, and many other outlets.
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3 Responses to How Religion is Bad for Ataraxia

  1. Equating the Westborough Baptists with religion in general and Christianity in particular is gross violation of one’s own intelligence.


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