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You Choose a Philosophy or One Will Be Chosen for You

In addition to the relaxation responses induced by supportive community, faith in a higher power may also induce positive emotions, which counteract stress and contribute to the state of physiological rest necessary for the body to repair itself. People with faith in a higher power are also likely to experience better health because they are better able to find meaning in the face of loss or trauma. One study showed that religious parents who lost babies to sudden infant death syndrome were better able to cope 18 months later than nonreligious parents.20 Religious people are also more apt to forgive, which alleviates negative emotions such as anger and resentment that trigger the stress response. (Location 1713)

You can choose a religion (philosophy) or one will be chosen for you

The philosophers associated with these schools were unapologetic about their interest in philosophies of life. According to Epicurus, for example, “Vain is the word of a philosopher which does not heal any suffering of man. For just as there is no profit in medicine if it does not expel the diseases of the body, so there is no profit in philosophy either, if it does not expel the suffering of the mind.” (Location 105)
But even though schools of philosophy are a thing of the past, people are in as much need of a philosophy of life as they ever were. The question is, Where can they go to obtain one? If they go to the philosophy department of the local university, they will, as I have explained, probably be disappointed. What if they instead turn to their local church? Their pastor might tell them what they must do to be a good person, that is, what they must do to be morally upstanding. They might be instructed, for example, not to steal or tell lies or (in some religions) have an abortion. Their pastor will also probably explain what they must do to have a good afterlife: They should come to services regularly and pray and (in some religions) tithe. But their pastor will probably have relatively little to say on what they must do to have a good life. Indeed, most religions, after telling adherents what they must do to be morally upstanding and get into heaven, leave it to them to determine what things in life are and aren’t worth pursuing. These religions see nothing wrong with an adherent working hard so he can afford a huge mansion and an expensive sports car, as long as he doesn’t break any laws doing so; nor do they see anything wrong with the adherent forsaking the mansion for a hut and forsaking the car for a bicycle. And if religions do offer adherents advice on what things in life are and aren’t worth pursuing, they tend to offer the advice in such a low-key manner that adherents might regard it as a suggestion rather than a directive about how to live and might therefore ignore the advice. This, one imagines, is why the adherents of the various religions, despite the differences in their religious beliefs, end up with the same impromptu philosophy of life, namely, a form of enlightened hedonism. Thus, although Lutherans, Baptists, Jews, Mormons, and Catholics hold different religious views, they are remarkably alike when encountered outside of church or synagogue. They hold similar jobs and have similar career ambitions. They live in similar homes, furnished in a similar manner. And they lust to the same degree for whatever consumer products are currently in vogue. (Location 300)
It may seem paradoxical, but having a coherent philosophy of life, whether it be Stoicism or some other philosophy, can make us more accepting of death. Someone with a coherent philosophy of life will know what in life is worth attaining, and because this person has spent time trying to attain the thing in life he believed to be worth attaining, he has probably attained it, to the extent that it was possible for him to do so. Consequently, when it comes time for him to die, he will not feel cheated. To the contrary, he will, in the words of Musonius, “be set free from the fear of death.”2 (Location 2342)