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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Roman Forum

In Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe, Greg Epstein (2007) offered Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud as the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" of their time. Massimo Pigliucci characterized the Pre-Socratics as a "intellectually wild" bunch in his (2010) book Nonsense on Stilts How to Tell Science from Bunk.  Here I propose the Four Horsemen of the Roman Empire.

The goal of this series is to trace the evolution of four core arguments against God's existence in the words of four prominent figures from each period. Unlike in the previous posts, none of the Roman Horsemen are contemporaries. Each is separated from the next by a century or two. They provide, however, what is arguably the most elegant formulations of their respective ontological arguments.

The argument from evil- If the gods are real, they have a lot of explaining to do. Lucretius knew that evil was not divine retribution.

Lack of empirical evidence- Discovery trumps revelation. Sextus Empiricus argued forcefully that the incorporeal is immaterial.

The argument from inconsistent revelations- Cosmopolitan doubt: All religions can't be right, so they're probably all wrong. Marcus Aurelius advocated living according to secular values.

The argument from reasonable nonbelief- If the existence of gods were self-evident, everyone would believe. Hypatia stands as a historical reminder of the dangers of compulsory belief. 

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