Dealing with dvinity in De rerum natura
Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura has as one of its main goals the extermination of traditional conceptions of the gods, but gods pervade the poem in a variety of roles, beginning with the very first line, invoking Venus. This report seeks to analyze the ways in which Lucretius exploits popular notions of the divine while remaining true to both his Epicurean beliefs and his anti-theistic agenda, as well as the reasons behind these decisions. We begin with an exploration of the role of the poetic medium in this situation, followed by a close examination of the entire proem. Lucretius’ negative views about religio are brought to light and are contrasted with his supportive views regarding religious metaphor, partly through an investigation into Lucretius’ representation of Epicurus as divine. The final section of this report identifies some of the same dynamics at play in Lucretius in modern atheistic discourse and draws more general conclusions about the nature of anti-theistic discourse in a world dominated by theistic assumptions.