Zeus for Atheists

If you’ve studied cosmology, you know that, the weakness and overconfidence of many popular “fine-tuning” arguments notwithstanding, there are amazing, unanswered questions about the origin of order in physics, the “Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics,” etc.

The ancient Stoics believed there was a rational order (logos) to the universe. They called this order or purpose “God.” The Stoics were naturalists and materialists who claimed no divine revelation—but they were also pantheists who believed that physics has a lot to say about ethics.

Most modern Stoics are atheists—they discard or reinterpret the Stoic idea of an ordered, semi-conscious universe.  The modern Stoic philosopher Lawrence Becker, for instance (whom Massimo Pigliucci has just finished posting a number of interviews with), is very frank about his atheistic cosmology:

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Discussing Death with an Uber Driver

What is death?  A “tragic mask.” Turn it and examine it.  See, it does not bite.  The poor body must be separated from the spirit either now or later, as it was separated from it before.

—Epictetus, Discourses II.1, 2nd century C.E.

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Me: I’m going to pick up a rental car.

Driver: Ah, is your car in the shop?

Me: No, but my fiancée needs our car tomorrow, and I need to go out of town for a funeral.

Driver: Ohh…

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