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Drugs and Religion

by Jake Colton

Drugs and Religion

All religions have expressed positions on what is acceptable to put into human bodies as a means of intoxication for spiritual, pleasure, or medicinal purposes. Many modern religions are opposed to drug use for intoxication.

Has religion had any effect on your opinion and/or knowledge of drugs? If so, how?

  • Hinduism and Cannabis
  • Drugs – What is the Buddhist stance?
  • Judaism and Drugs
  • Drugs – What do Catholics Say?
  • Mormon Stance on Drugs
  • Islam and Drugs
  • Native American Church – Peyote

Hinduism and Cannabis

  • Historically, Cannabis has been associated with the god Shiva (a major Hindu deity) who is said to have rested in the shade of a cannabis plant on a very hot day. Shiva gave the plant to humanity in thanks.
  • Some Hindu mystics still use cannabis as an aid to spiritual experience.
  • Among those that use is spiritually the proper usage is debated – “One should not begin to smoke before the age of fifty. Such experiences are for those who have already completed their work in the world.“ (Ganesh Baba) – vid smoking ganja
  • Hinduism generally disapproves of the use of non-pharmaceutical drugs. Vid Mooji

Buddhism Stance on Drugs

  • One of the Five Precepts in Buddhism warns against taking intoxicants causing “heedlessness” (careless, thoughtless, unmindful thoughts/actions).
  • Precepts are NOT commandments.  Buddhists are expected to approach them with spiritual maturity and self-honesty.
  • Some Buddhists refrain from alcohol and drugs altogether, and some are casual/social drinkers.
  • The meaning of “intoxicant” is broadened to include anything that distracts a Buddhist follower from the path, not just alcohol and drugs.

Judaism and Drugs

  • There is no general prohibition against drugs in Judaism, as long as they don’t interfere with one’s ritual duties and don’t cause definite harm.
  • The use of drugs is permitted for legitimate medical purpose (e.g. to combat disease or to control pain).
  • Most Rabbis prohibit the use of drugs for recreational use and denounce claims for spiritual benefits of drug use.

Christianity and Drugs

  • Many Christian denominations permit the moderate use of socially and legally acceptable drugs like alcohol, caffeine and tobacco.
  • Some denominations prohibit the use of alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco (e.g. Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses).

Christianity – Catholic Perspective

  • Drugs that are used for medical reasons are accepted as long as the use is for legitimate medical reasons.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse is sinful. Alcohol use is accepted if consumed in moderation.
  • “The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine. The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense. Clandestine production of and trafficking in drugs are scandalous practices. They constitute direct co-operation in evil, since they encourage people to practices gravely contrary to the moral law.” – Catechism

Mormon.org | “Freedom to Choose”

  • Imagine going out to eat and ordering a salad, only to have the waiter tell you that you may not have it, that you must have the soup instead. How would you feel?
  • God gave us our agency and will always respect our freedom to make choices. While we are “accountable” for our choices (Doctrine and Covenants 101:78) and there will always be consequences for those choices both good and bad, God has never approved of using force.
  • It requires discipline to choose the right. The ironic thing is the more disciplined we are and the more righteous our choices, the more freedom we have. Sin limits our future choices: drugs, alcohol, infidelity quickly become addictions that become very difficult to break free from. The addiction becomes the master and we its slave.
  • It’s important not to trample on other people’s freedoms in pursuit of our own. Even when we feel our way of thinking may be for someone else’s “own good,” it’s important that everyone has the right to their own opinion and beliefs.

Islam and Drugs

  • Amongst Pre-Islamic Arabs alcohol was generally accepted.
  • “Every intoxicant is like alcohol, and every type of alcohol is prohibited.” – prophet Muhammad
  • Islam prohibits all drugs that are not medically prescribed.

Native American Church – Peyote

  • The American Indian Religious Freedom Act became law on August 11, 1978 to protect and preserve Native American religion and culture.
  • It granted them the right to use peyote for “sincere religious practices,” not as a recreational drug.
  • For some chapters of the Native American Church, the peyote ritual begins at sundown on a Saturday and continues through the night.
  • The ritual includes prayer, the eating of peyote, peyote songs, water rituals, and contemplation.
  • Peyote is used extensively in the treatment of alcohol dependence.

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