Our Interests and Our Religion

Thus encumbered by these mistaken notions, if I am able to change externals according to my wish, I change them. But if I cannot, I am ready to tear out the eyes of him who hinders me. For the nature of man is not to endure deprivation of his wants and needs. Then, at last, when I am neither able to change circumstances nor to tear out the eyes of him who hinders me, I sit down and groan, and abuse whom I can, Zeus and the rest of the gods. For if they do not care for me, what are they to me? "Yes, but you will be an impious man." In what respect then will it be worse for me than it is now? To sum up, remember this: that unless piety and your interest be in the same thing, piety cannot be maintained in any man. Do not these things seem necessary?

If we do not guard against believing in the unreal, we are led in a downward spiral that soon destroys us. If we cannot change the things affecting us, we try to destroy anyone standing in our path preventing the fulfillment of our base desires. When this fails we curse our fellow man and curse God himself. But, as Epictetus points out in the last sentence of the paragraph, when our religion and our interests are aligned, we are saved from this self-destruction. Yet we cannot align our religion with our desires and thoughts, rather it must be the other way around, for it is these desires which deceive us into seeing things wrongly. We must conform our desires to our religion, which is the true reality. The true reality for Epictetus - who always returns to the same theme - is that we truly only can control our own will and must rely on God for the rest.

Chapter 27:

  1. On Appearances
  2. Bad Habits (27a)
  3. The Undiscovered Country (27b)
  4. Our Interests and Our Religion (27c)
  5. Epistemological Skepticism (27d)
Stoicism and Christianity Index

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This is a translation and explanation of the first book of the Discourses of Epictetus. His words are in regular text, comments are in bold.

Biographical Information on Epictetus

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