I have been a dedicated follower of the Epicurean ideals for a long time. This is true even if Epicureanism is not the only possible solution for our core mental problems in the extremely complex and many-faced modern world. However, I think that Epicureanism could attract a lot more followers and have much more influence if it could be forwarded in a way that Christianity is forwarded.
I do not except that Epicureanism could ever become any kind of major force in a modern world. It is a set of ideas that can attract only people who have a certain basic disposition to life to start with. I am simply referring to the way HOW Christian ideals are used and not on the scale of the action.
Almost none of the core teachings of Jesus are followed in practice by Christians anywhere. Nobody sells off all of their property and gives all their money to the poor. Very rarely do Christians give their other shirt to the poor. Almost nobody really turns the other cheek, and nobody really loves their real-life enemies.
The Christian higher ideals are just that: higher ideals that are set as an example. However, most people are in the real world quite aware of the fact that these ideals are quite impossible to reach.
Similarly, the requirements that are set by Epicurus seem often rather extreme in an affluent and democratic modern society. Epicurus says, for example, that one should abstain wholly from politics or one should not seek positions of power.
Most of all, one should refrain from collecting possessions. According to Epicurus all of these things will tie one down. Most of all they will diminish one's possibilities to find real peace and serenity and through them real, sustainable happiness.
These demands are rather taxing in our modern world. Even men of modest means (by the standards of Greece of Antiquity) will have possessions that would be greater than a man at the time of Epicurus would have ever dreamed to be possible even for a king.
Few would be willing to give up their houses or laptops. They are now similar basic necessities of life as a straw mattress were in the time of Epicurus. However, this situation is dilemma only as long as one is unable to realize that the ideals that were set by Epicurus should be seen as higher, but in practice often quite unreachable ideals. They do set the ultimate goals one to strive for, even if one is quite aware of the fact that these goals can be just dreams in real life.
Why would then a person have ideals that he or she well knows to be unreachable? The main point is that just possessing a set of higher ideals can change the way we look at the world and. It can change the way in which we respond to it even in a major way.
The ideals of Epicureanism can well be combined with the modern ideals of secular humanism. This mixture can be used as a basis for a good life. It can be a life where one's life is NOT shaped by securing maximal personal advancement on the expense of others. There really are ideals that can make one see the world and most of all fellow humans in a new light.
We also can strive for only a little more tranquility and only a bit more peace of mind also. We do not need make any kind major upheavals in our own minds. When more people realize that striving just for more possessions and more power over ones fellow humans is not the only way forward, also our world can become a better place bit by bit.
This change needs not to be universal or even widespread for it to have an effect on the zeitgeist or the spirit of the time. There just cannot be an Epicurean state or even majority. However, there can be a world where also Epicurean ideals can exist in peace. It can be offered as a possible way of life for those whose lives will be made better by it.
Talk like this is very hard to understand for any keen follower of a modern ideology. Most ideologies just are shaped so that they quite automatically seek power and majority positions. However, Epicureanism is not like that. It is about seeking personal peace and happiness. This is often achieved with avoiding and withdrawing from situations that can cause conflicts with others.
However, chancing the current zeitgeist even with a the tiniest little bit away from its current path of idolization of greed and personal advancement at all costs can be a worthy goal. This is true even if nobody would ever attain the highest Epicurean goal of reaching a state of ataraxia or a state of complete calmness and happiness.
(This piece was completely refurbished on 9th of February 2013)