The First Atheists
Circa 300 B. C., Theodorus the Atheist of Cyrene denied the existence of any gods and believed in a this-worldly purpose to life. Theodorus argued that the goal of life was to pursue joy and escape grief, rather than seeking to worship any gods or obtaining any kind of afterlife. Theodorus made the connection between prudence and joy as well as between folly and grief - suggesting that it is our own wise conduct that leads to our joy, and our own foolish conduct that leads to our grief. Later writers, including Cicero and Plutarch, gave Theodorus the name Atheus, whence he became known as Theodorus the Atheist. For his freethinking ways, Theodorus was banished from both Cyrene and Athens and - as an ambassador - apparently offended a few rulers with whom he tried to share his ideas. Through his book, On the Gods, Theodorus inspired the great philosopher Epicurus, who further developed Theodorus's orientation toward pursuing happiness and avoiding grief.
Epicurus himself, while not an explicit atheist, formed a philosophy of life that atheists would have no problem with. If there were gods, argued Epicurus, they had nothing to do with human affairs and left people to fend for themselves - a point of view resurrected by the Deists of the 18th century.
Atheism was unfortunately stifled in the Western world by the rise of fanatical and intolerant strains of Christianity during the late Roman Empire. In 381 A. D., the Roman emperor Theodosius I issued a decree banning any religious or non-religious views departing from his official interpretation of Christian doctrine. Explicit atheism did not fully revive until the late 18th century, with such thinkers as the Baron d'Holbach and the Marquis de Condorcet.
G. Stolyarov II is an actuary, science fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, contributor to Enter Stage Right, Le Quebecois Libre, Rebirth of Reason, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Senior Writer for The Liberal Institute, former weekly columnist for GrasstopsUSA.com, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. Mr. Stolyarov’s blog, The Progress of Liberty, offers a combination of commentary, multimedia presentations, educational materials, and suggestions for effective activism in favor of individual freedom. Mr. Stolyarov also publishes his articles on Helium.com and Associated Content to assist the spread of rational ideas. He holds the highest Clout Level (10) possible on Associated Content and is one of Associated Content's Page View Millionaires. Mr. Stolyarov has also written a science fiction novel, Eden against the Colossus, a non-fiction treatise, A Rational Cosmology, and a play, Implied Consent. You can watch his YouTube Videos. Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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