The older I get the more I value the Epicurean ideals of moderation and controlling one’s needs and wants to achieve a better life. However, lately I have realized that there are added bonuses in declaring oneself as an Epicurean in public. Even the word "atheist" is a threatening one for all too many people. Many religious people have been listening to their pastors who tell them eagerly how terrible people atheist are. Even many less religious people seem to harbor images of atheism and atheists as something scary and threatening.
However, when I can tell these people that I am an Epicurean, they will be more at ease. Of course, they do not know whom Epicurus was or what Epicureanism is. However, at least these words do not carry the enormous ballast which the words "atheist" or "atheism" do carry in so many people’s eyes.
This does not mean that I am surrendering on the face of the enemy. Declaring myself as a follower of a religion-like philosophy can naturally also be seen as sinking to the level of the religious people. However, Epicureanism is a fully rational and even empirical system of thought or philosophy. Embracing it does not mean that I would give an inch away from my atheism and humanism.
Words just are so powerful beasts. Going into a situation with the word “atheism” at the front just can be much more difficult as going in as an “Epicurean”. Of course, most people would not know what you are talking about when you bring up Epicureanism. However, the terrible and fearful word "atheism" can be brought up at a later stage (if needed). It will have less impact when people have learned to know you and can understand that you are a quite similar human being as them, even if you are an atheist.
Epicureanism is admittedly used here as a camouflage, but I think that it is quite allowed. Of course, one needs to familiarize oneself with the central teachings of Epicurus to be a true Epicurean. However, that is not a difficult task. The teachings of Epicurus are, after all, extremely straightforward and rational.
Of course, there is the widespread misconception of Epicureanism having something to do with food or fine eating. This is based on the slurs that the Christian (and Stoic) competitors of Epicureanism did throw at Epicureans. This did happen before the Christians succeeded in eradicating this philosophy that they hated from the bottom of their heart.
Just now much is happening in the world of Epicureans after this philosophy has been laying rather dormant for 1 500 years. There has been very little development after the ruling Christians of Rome suppressed and destroyed Epicureanism completely in the fifth and sixth centuries.
There has been occasional revivals of Epicurean ideals after that, as in United States of 18th century, where even Thomas Jefferson declared himself as an Epicurean. Also in France of roughly the same time there was a short-lived Epicurean revival.
However, there are just now quite realistic ideas and plans for reviving the Epicurean philosophy again as a working and organized entity. If this happens, this fellowship of Epicureans could also offer a haven to all of those who find existing superstition-based religions as just too much for themselves.
If something like “The International Society for the Friends of Epicurus” is formed at some point, there could be a real revival for this philosophy that has so much to offer most of all to modern atheists and secular humanists.
Things are happening also in Finland, a group of Epicureans have been meeting regularly since last autumn. Their next meeting is in Helsinki at 23th of February: see http://www.facebook.com/events/473312979396808/
If you are interested, there is an easy way to get to know what Epicureanism is about. Epicurean central teachings are concentrated in the 40 Principal Doctrines. Reading them will give one a good picture of what Epicureanism is.
The 40 doctrines are to be found here: http://www.epicurus.net/en/principal.html or here http://www.epicurus.info/etexts/PD.html#1
If you want to delve a bit deeper, there is the collection of Epicurean sayings that was found from the library of Vatican. They are called the Vatican Sayings for this reason. However, they really have nothing to do with the Vatican or the Catholic Church. They can be found here: http://www.epicurus.net/en/vatican.html
The classic “Letter to Meneoceus” does contain many of the central ideas of Epicurus. It is here: http://classics.mit.edu/Epicurus/menoec.html
I have written extensively about Epicurus and Epicureanism in this blog; see:
Active Facebook-page for Epicurus is to be found in http://www.facebook.com/epicureanphilosopher
I must admit that I am the founder and the other admin of this site. I have also founded the discussion-site “Garden Of Epicurus” in Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/groups/gardenofepicurus
However, I have been happy to observe that this site has lived a life of its own for a long time without my active participation.