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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Holy Saturday — The Day Jesus went to Hell and Kicked A$@

Let’s be honest, the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is the most boring part about Christianity’s most important holiday.  The whole Jesus narrative just kind of goes on pause at the end of Easter Week.

Yesterday we remembered the Crucifixion — a mad drama with unjust villains, angry crowds, torture, tears and forgiveness.  Oh, and don’t forget the earthquakes, thunder and zombies!

But today we’re all just kind of holding our breath, waiting for that moment when Christ bursts forth from the tomb like an unkillable badass and knocks out a bunch of Roman soldiers.

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Are you Team Brutus or Team Caesar?

2056 years ago on this day — the Ides of March — Julius Caesar was killed in full view of the Roman Senate by some two dozen conspirators.  Depending on who you ask, the killers were motivated either by jealousy, or by a patriotic desire to save the Republic from devolving into a tyrannical monarchy.

If you know anything about the Ides of March, you know that in Shakepseare’s telling of the story, Caesar called out to his friend “et tu, Brute?” before collapsing.  But the story of Caesar’s death was already a juicy, enthralling piece of drama before Shakespeare got to it.

Nearly all the crazy, inane sh!4 that goes down in Shakespeare’s play — from the fake letters Cassius leaves on Brutus’s chair to stroke his ego, to the portentous dream Caesar’s wife has the night before, to the conspirators’ strange fascination with making sure they all bathe their arms in Caesar’s blood, to the ghosts that haunt Brutus, to their dramatic suicides — is taken, unmodified, from Plutarch’s detailed Greek account written just a few generations after the event:

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