Before Darwin and the fundamentalist backlash he continues to provoke in this country. Actually, much that divides the two sides in the modern United States was already a major source of debate in classical antiquity, pitting theistic and teleological Platonists and Stoics against anti-teleological Epicurean atomists. 1 Greek philosophers did not have this strongly monotheistic conception. Instead, they tended to speak indifferently of god or gods. Their notions of divinity (the term I shall use here) varied greatly, in accordance with their highly divergent cosmologies and systems of value. Yet, no ancient philosopher of the leading schools was atheist or even agnostic. All posited the existence of divinity, and all accepted the following quartet as divinity’s essential properties: (1) everlasting, (2) blissful, (3) supremely intelligent, and (4) paradigmatically excellent, meaning living a life that serves as the ideal standard for human beings to emulate.
Plato’s demiurge, for example, is transcendent and non-physical, the maker of the best of all possible worlds, motivated by providential goodness, and directly interested in human behavior. Moreover, Plato’s human world is going somewhere, in the sense that he supposes us to have further lives after our present ones.