Spirituality Wars: Religion’s Attack On Psychedelics

By Austin Dixon | Updated February 9, 2023 | Psychedelics
Psychedelic spirituality landscape of the cosmos and universe

I can still remember the inner turmoil I felt the last time I stepped foot in a Christian church.

It was 2016 and I had recently quit my job in pursuit of finding my purpose here on earth.

Through a close friend, I found myself attending Sunday service on a somewhat regular basis to explore my spirituality.

After spending 4 years at a small, liberal arts college, I found myself feeling disappointed and further away from my faith than I ever imagined.

Little did I know that nearly 5 years later, thanks to the help of psychedelics, I’d found out why.

Attempting To Walk With “God”

Before I get too deep into the rabbit hole of religion, I figured it may be helpful to provide a little context about my experience with formal “religion.”

I’m aware that this article is going to spark a lot of emotions β€” anger, denial, hatred, and (for some of you) a breath of fresh air.

So, here’s a few relevant points so that you can understand where I’m coming from:

  • I grew up in a non-practicing family despite my dad’s family being Catholic
  • I attended Vacation Bible School several times as a youth
  • I struggled a lot mentally my junior year of high school, so I sought out a small faith-based college to attend in order to explore my faith
  • After 4 years at this university and an honest attempt at Christianity, I felt further away from “God” than ever before

After my parent’s marriage failed and I quit my job, I gave one last desperate attempt to find “God” by attending church service regularly with a close friend from home.

There were times I felt so alive during worship.

Feeling submerged in the music and harmony of those singing around me.

It was invigorating.

Yet, something deep down never sat right with me.

I’d leave the service with a strong heart and pure intentions.

But, the same people I worshipped each Sunday…

The same people who were helping me “walk with God”…

Were the same people who’s morals I found myself questioning outside of the church walls.

That’s when I started realizing some harsh realities about the church and religion as a whole.

The Glaring Issues With “Religion”

If you look at any “Why did you leave the ____ religion?” post on the internet, there’s glaring commonalities among the responses.

Here’s a few trends that I find repeatedly:

  • “I started digging deeper and found they were playing fast and loose with facts to push their own agenda.”
  • “I’ve had major problems with the anti-science aspect since I was a kid.”
  • “Anti LGBTQ+ sermons full of insults and horrible comments.”
  • “I became a Christian because I was born into a family (and extended family) of Christians, and this was the default option.”
  • “I don’t conform very well if something doesn’t make sense to me. I felt like I couldn’t be honest. Felt like I had to be fake.”

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to you or me.

People who leave the church often times feel confused, alone, and at war internally.

For me, I couldn’t comprehend why the people sharing the gospel with me were the same people regularly making racist, sexist, and fat-phobic comments.

According to a 2021 article from Gallup,

“Currently, 31% of millennials have no religious affiliation, which is up from 22% a decade ago. Similarly, 33% of the portion of Generation Z that has reached adulthood have no religious preference.”

In my opinion, this “spiritual awakening” stems from the above issues.

Strict teachings. Strict rules.

A “holier than thou” mentality that bleeds outside the confines of the church into the seams of society.

From my experience, the church tries to wedge itself between “insiders” and “outsiders.”

I experienced this at college.

I experienced this in adulthood.

Eventually, I got tired of it and quit.

And it seems like many others are quitting too due to these issues with the church.

A Real Threat To The Church

As younger adults continue to distance themself from religion, a new type of spirituality has blossomed.

Enter psychedelics.

What was once an unorthodox way for “hippies” to explore altered states of reality has quickly sprung back onto the scene and provided younger generations an outlet to explore spirituality in new ways.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, “1.2 million 18 to 25-year-olds admitted taking [a psychedelic] in 2019 compared with 317,000 in 2004 β€” almost a fourfold increase.”

While correlation does not imply causation, I find it telling that as psychedelic usage increases so does the amount of people leaving the church.

In my own experience, psychedelics have been responsible for the most significant spiritual moments in my life.

Thanks to magic mushrooms, I felt a deep sense of self-love for the first time in my life.

Thanks to magic mushrooms, I discovered what it means to truly love others.

And thanks to magic mushrooms, I find myself living with more radical honesty to myself and to other than ever before in my life.

The cool part?

I’m not alone.

A 2008 double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine revealed a not-so-shocking truth about the potential spiritual benefits of psilocybin.

After having participants use psilocybin in a controlled environment, “More than a year later, two-thirds of participants ranked their trip in the top five most spiritually significant moments in their lives.”

While there’s a variety of factors that may account for the results, the point I’m trying to make for those who have never used a psychedelic is simple:

Psychedelics aren’t becoming increasing popular because they make you “trip out” and hallucinate.

Psychedelics are becoming increasingly popular because they allow you to explore universal truths about humanity, existence, and the depths of your inner soul.

The same universal truths that any “doctrine” tries to preach and teach.

Unfortunately, the traditional church has recently launched an attack on this spiritual awakening.

This unnecessary attack threatens us “outsiders” who have finally found peace and love through psychedelics.

Demons, Spirits, & The Devil

In an age where fake news runs rampant, I believe it’s our responsibility as consumers to do our due diligence when sourcing new information.

This means it’s crucial to use critical thinking when seeking what’s fact versus what is fiction.

When it comes to health and wellness, one well-known (and well-educated) influencer I’ve enjoyed following over the last few years is Ben Greenfield. You can check out Ben’s site here.

Recently, Ben published a thoughtful piece about plant medicine titled, “Why I Am No Longer Going To Be Using β€œPlant Medicines”

After reading this post in full and being truthfully open to Ben’s viewpoints on psychedelics, there was something deep down inside of me that didn’t sit well with the piece.

And I realized it was the same feeling I had back in 2016 during my last visit to church.

As I dove deeper into the article, I was greeted with the same “insider vs. outsider” mentality that pushed me away from the church.

At one point the article reads,

“The problem is that when you are in a drug-induced altered state of consciousness, you are directly at risk of being heavily influenced, or even possessed, by not just good spirits such as angels, God, or Jesus, but also by bad spirits, such as Satan and demons.”

To me, this blatant conjecture is nothing more than a pure-hearted, influence-wielding churchgoer using fear tactics to further the divide between the church and its “outsiders.”

It’s simply a clever way to say, “If you use psychedelics, you are WRONG and must turn to God.”

I’m not convinced.

Diving deeper into the article, I found this video testimony from a pastor who details a recent psychedelic experience he had.

In the video, he goes on to describe how he took magic mushrooms on a whim in an uncomfortable setting. Then, he proceeded to have a horrific experience that “God” saved him from.

Do I doubt the experience? Not at all.

Not every psychedelic experience is a “good” one and not everyone should use psychedelics.

However, there are a few things from the video I find unsettling:

  1. The subject, Joshua, ingested an unknown amount of magic mushrooms
  2. He was in an unfamiliar, uncomfortable setting during his trip
  3. He ended up coming out of the trip in a better spiritual headspace than he was before

When it comes to psychedelics, there’s years of research needed to be had before we know exactly how to best use them for personal growth.

However, any experienced user can tell you that “set” and “setting” are two of the most important aspects of any psychedelic journey.

It’s imperative to be educated about how much you’re ingesting and also the environment in which you’re taking psychedelics in.

Without these two fundamental aspects, psychedelics can be very overwhelming and fear-inducing.

As for Joshua’s experience?

I think he got out of it what we’re all looking for:

A way to get closer to the love of this unknown “God” that governs the universe.

After reading Ben’s article and watching Joshua’s testimony, I started to worry that the church’s attack on psychedelics has really just begun.

The Church’s Attack On Psychedelics

As I stared at the 944,643 views on Joshua’s testimony, I couldn’t help but be reminded that we’re at a tipping point in psychedelic healing.

As new laws and regulations are being shaped, there’s plenty of smart people in powerful positions doing the necessary research required to ensure psychedelics have a safe place in society.

The last thing I want is for personal anecdotes of unexperienced users (myself included) stunt this evolving field.

What worries me is the motives of these types of videos about “bad” psychedelic trips.

Calling a spade a spade… the church, at the end of the day, is a business.

According to Health Research Funding, “The average weekly giving amount per churchgoer is $17 per week.”

That’s $884 a year per giver for a whopping $5.2 trillion that US Christians make annually.

To put that into context, religion in the US is the 15th biggest economy in the world.

Take a quick look at “mega churches” and you’ll quickly be reminded of the financial benefits a church can offer.

As a big believer in business myself, I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing that the church is a business.

The church being a business is why they’re able to provide a safe space for their congregations to worship and why they’re able to charitably give in the ways they do.

What I am saying, however, is that we need to be weary of why “religious types” feel the need to attack a form of spiritual healing that’s helping loads of people like myself.

Psychedelics have helped me and many others become better humans overall.

Is that something we should be shying away from?

Can’t We Both Exist?

While I try to stay away from writing opinion pieces, I felt called to write this article as a way to have an open dialogue about psychedelics and their role in society.

As more positive research comes to light, I find it troubling that religious groups are waging war on such a sacred medicine that grows naturally all around us.

If the church feels threatened that psychedelics may sway churchgoers to find their faith elsewhere, I understand.

But I’m here to remind them that we can both exist.

It’s time to stop pushing our agendas on other people and finding ways we can coexist on this tiny, beautiful spec of planet that we inhabit.

Psychedelics have a place.

Religion has a place.

Let’s not blur the lines and limit our potential as a human race.

If you found this article insightful, helpful, or absolutely terrible, I invite you to share it with a friend, family member, or social media audience that may find it helpful. Thanks for reading!

Austin Dixon

About the Author

Austin Dixon is a recently converted psychonaut with a newfound interest in psychedelics and their affects on mental health. After thinking psychedelics were "weird hippie drugs" for 28 years, his mission is to now help educate others who are new to psychedelics.

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