It is seemingly at times a very difficult task for many to understand the huge difference that is between saying that something is the best possible answer just now and that something is the only possible answer. This is naturally the main difference between science and religion, but this divider is extremely important in matters concerning ideologies too.
To lead a happy and fulfilling life a human simply must have goals that are at least a little bit larger than life. These goals can well be unreachable in practice. However, the very act of striving towards them could lead to improvement in any area of the human enterprise.
This normally requires a commitment to some ideas and ideals that humans have developed when they have been thinking on how we or our societies could be improved and developed further. There is one great alternative already on offer, but more of it later.
The idea of real ideological pluralism needs to be applied in religious matters too. Christianity has, in fact, never been able to cater for all spiritual needs of even those people, who think that they need a source of spiritual guidance in the form of a formal religion.
This group of dissatisfied customers of Christianity has been growing and it has been growing fast during the last few decades. There will without doubt always be a big market for religious ideas. However, one could well bring more rational systems of thought to compete with the existing religions. One should not forget that they are still quite universally based on irrational claims of 'divine' origins of their central dogmas.
Ancient Rome was a magnificent example of a well-working open marketplace for religious ideas. Very different religious ideas competed fiercely for audiences until the rise to power of the extremely intolerant Christianity did finally put on end to this intellectual freedom.
In the Western world, we have had of course a very similar open marketplace for a while. This happened after most forms of Christianity were slowly and painfully forced to accept a certain level of religious freedom. Of course, it has had the force of tradition and in many nations also the schooling system to prop it up and give it a major and solid advantage in its quest for souls.
In the Roman world, one size did not really fit all in religious matters. There were different kinds of religions on offer for different kinds of people. Epicureanism was at those times the choice for many of those people who preferred rational and logical thinking in this veritable supermarket of religious ideas that was Rome at its best.
Epicureanism is not a real religion at all in the modern sense of the word, even if it is a tightly-knit and comprehensive philosophical system of thought. Epicureanism does not claim to have any kind of divine inspiration as its source. However, the important thing is that it also offers a very clear-cut set of ethical and moral rules which so many people are looking for in religions.
Epicureanism is basically a practical philosophical solution for achieving greater mental stability and even happiness. It was born in a society where securing the basic needs of life did not require much effort anymore, and where people could finally afford the luxuries of weltschmertz and angst.
Epicureanism was the 'religion' of choice for the many of the more educated in the ancient Greece and Rome. Pronouncing oneself to be an Epicurean gave one a religious identity in a society where such labels were expected from all. However, the followers of Epicureanism did never aim at converting the whole of the population. In Epicureanism it was clearly seen that one needs personally really want to start a personal search for greater peace of mind to become an Epicurean.
In the religious freedom of Rome those who were drawn to tradition could choose to worship the old Roman gods, and those were more inclined to mysticism could choose Mithra or cult of Isis and the more logical and rational ones Epicureanism or also its old adversary Stoicism. Btw. Stoicism did introduce a taste of deistic way of thinking to the Epicurean base, However. many Epicureans managed well without any kind of ideas of supernatural entities.
There are a lot of people who are searching for ideas and basic rules that could give them guidance on how to live their lives. Rational and logical Epicureanism would and could still be a very usable answer for many. Epicureanism just should be brought out again into open so that in could compete in the modern open marketplace of religious ideas.
The important point for a modern man is that Epicureanism really can give results in the form of increase in peace of mind. It can even be a source for general happiness and satisfaction with life. If these results fail to materialize, as inevitably will for some (as one size does not really fit all), in an open it is society very easy to discard it and try something else.
Epicureanism is just a human invention among many similar inventions. Still, it offers a rather convincing and very helpful system for understanding the very basic things that are important in human life. However, Epicureanism can never be the ONLY possible answer and it can suit all people.
It seems that some level of life-experience and even some familiarity with philosophical thinking is required so that a person really can be able to appreciate the Epicurean way of thinking. In any case, Epicureanism I do not think that should never be taught as the only possible way to think to infants or even to young people in schools. However, giving all people at least a taster of Epicurean ideals could not be a bad thing at all.
However, the central ideas of Epicureanism also could well be presented as part of a grand tour of all great human ideas. This kind of grand tour of ideas should, of course, be part of curriculum of every school in the worl. However, it is sadly lacking in most.
It could well be possible to invigorate the rational Epicurean school of thought and in my mind it really can compete with the newer theistic religions. Epicureanism was admittedly once defeated and utterly destroyed by Christianity. However, this defeat was not inflicted on the fair battlegrounds of the original open marketplace of ideas.
It happened only after Christianity finally achieved the status of ideological monopoly. It did happen after the force of state was behind it after the dictatorial rulers of Rome did finally choose it as their preferred religion.
In a modern open society, the clearly defined but basically very rational system of thought that is offered by Epicureanism could just be the right thing for many people. It would be useful to people who find the theistic systems of though unsatisfactory, and who seek for other sources of moral and ethical guidance.
I do not, however, know how this revigoration of Epicureanism could be achieved in the real world, but there already is a solid base of individual Epicureans all over the world. They have often had found this rational system of thought through individual explorations to history of philosophy. The very existence of this quite spontaneously born community speaks volumes of the value of Epicurean system of thought for also a modern person.
I have presented and tried also to explain (according to my limited abilities, of course) the basic ideas of Epicureanism also in this blog, see:
More info on Epicurus and Epicureanism at:
(This piece was completely re-written on 20th of Ocotober, 2012)