not as triumphant
Above is the statue at Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio, seen before and after a recent dose of lightning. The $300,000 dollar masterpiece, dubbed by amused locals as “Big Butter Jesus”, tastefully called to mind the wailings of Creed frontman Scott Stapp. As you can see the heavenly fire left it a little worse for wear. More than anything the statue's untimely end reminded me of the Roman poet Lucretius and his epic poem De Rerum Natura (“On the Nature of Things”), a sprawling work full of praise for that famed philosophical scoundrel, Epicurus. It also has a wealth of hilarious and insightful lines criticizing religion.
Epicurus, who Marx had called “the greatest representative of Greek enlightenment”, was one of the earliest thinkers to encourage a fully materialist view of the world. Epicurus claimed that even if the gods existed they were little more than ineffectual phantoms who had no interaction with the world itself. He elaborated on the theories of Democritus- you know, that outlandish notion that the world was made up of tiny, indivisible pieces called “atoms” (yes, clearly a bunch of crazy talk)! Having revealed religion to be mere myth and humans to be fundamentally free Epicurus then built a rather beautiful piece of ethical philosophy. If only it had become widespread before the disintegration of Rome rather than the dour self-flagellations and persecutions of Christianity...
The reason I'm reminded of Lucretius is that in De Rerum Natura he makes some brilliant observations about Jupiter's lightning, thought to be used by the grumpy god to smite his enemies. After asking why most of the divine bolts are wasted out in the ocean or in rocky wastelands, he concludes
And, lastly, why, with devastating bolt
Shakes he asunder holy shrines of gods
And his own thrones of splendor, and to-breaks
The well-wrought idols of divinities,
And robs of glory his own images
By wound of violence?
Some of the atoms that once made up the mind and body of Lucretius are now riding the updrafts above Monroe. We must imagine them richly amused.