Religion in Late Stoicism and the Place of God in Philosophy In Late Antiquity, Stoic philosophy started to experience a heavy influence of religion. Stoics and other philosophers began to believe in an ultimate god who was omniscient and omnipotent. Stoics believed that such God was the cause of everything that occurred, and that philosophy was a way of approaching God. These Stoic beliefs would ease the spread of Christianity throughout the empire due to their many similarities.
In his book To Himself, the Stoic Marcus Aurelia’s mentions several times that men have an eternal soul. It seems to be a main idea in his work, since it appears in many of his points. His emphasis could be easily compared to that of many contemporary Christians, who endured the pain and strife of life in this world in exchange for a good afterlife. Marcus Aurelia’s even admits that the Christians of his time displayed an admirable readiness to meet death, though they may do so “from mere obstinacy’ (Marcus Aurelia’s, peg. 75). The fact that Marcus Aurelia’s chose order and Providence instead of atoms and chaos is another proof of the religious influence on philosophy, since it is placing trust on a supreme being and assuming there is order in this world instead of the chaos that involves the theory of atoms. Another clear example of the growing role of religion in Stoicism is his predilection of “the City of God” over the “City of Athens” (Marcus Aurelia’s, peg. 474).
Athens, the capital of philosophy throughout most of Antiquity, represented the rower of reason and rational thinking; the fact that Marcus Aurelia’s preferred the City of God communicates a bigger emphasis on religion than rational thinking. When paganism and Christianity are compared, it seems remarkable that an empire accustomed to such a different kind of religion converted so quickly to the latter one. However, the idea of an ultimate and supreme God was not unknown to the Stoics, and had in fact existed since the time of the Sophists.