The ancient philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BC) struck upon a novel idea for attaining happiness. Pagans typically lived in fear of the gods and scrambled about like so many unabashed brown-nosers placating the deities at every opportunity. Epicurus drew the conspicuous conclusion that such a life-orientation was the mother of all sorts of misery. Little argument from anyone on that point, but what was a pagan to do?
Epicurus proposed two ideas to sidestep this misery. First, he insisted that although there were indeed many gods flitting about the supernatural realm, they had no interest in the natural realm. His point: Don’t waste your life appeasing the gods when they broker utterly no influence.
But what about the afterlife? Won’t we face an angry phalanx of gods then? Allaying this fear, Epicurus proposed his second idea: that the human soul ceases to exist at death; which is to say we are free of accountability to the gods in this life and the next. Thus Epicurus liberated pagans to eat, drink, and be merry because there was nothing to lose and all sorts of temporal happiness to gain.