Drugs as the origin of religion

I have a theory that Drugs more specifically psychedelics are the origin of religion. If not the origin, it has at very least had an large influence on them. Let me give you a known example.

The Stoned reindeer and the Siberian

A long time ago a Reindeer ate some Amanita Mushrooms. Then some Siberian for some reason decided to drink its piss. As a result he must have saw some crazy shit as drinking stoned reindeer piss became part of the religion of some Siberian tribes. The Soviet Union actually tried and failed to get rid of the practice.

So whose to say the origin of most religions today are not the result of people long ago consuming psychedelics? Personally I think its a better explanation than to say they simply went mad. Now I am not saying its the only explanation but I think its part of the answer along with other factors.

Sounds like the ravings of Terence McKenna:

Now that was a cool dude

You have a theory??? It is a well known fact that many early religions used drugs.

" The notion that hallucinogenic drugs played a significant part in the development of religion has been extensively discussed, particularly since the middle of the twentieth century. Various ideas of this type have been collected into what has become known as the entheogen theory. The word entheogen is a neologism coined in 1979 by a group of ethnobotanists (those that study the relationship between people and plants)."

" In the just-released Immortality Key (St. Martin’s Press, 2020) Muraresku, a former classics major turned lawyer, travels the world talking to archaeologists, academics, priests and farmers about ancient ecstatic experiences." …“So, we have some good reason to think that at least some Christians were drugging communion wine, though we do not know with what.”

" Judaism maintains that people do not own their bodies – they belong to God. As a result, Jews are not permitted to harm, mutilate, destroy or take risks with their bodies, life or health with activities such as taking life-threatening drugs. However, there is no general prohibition against drugs in Judaism, as long as they do not interfere with one’s ritual duties and don’t cause definite harm, though most rabbis generally prohibit drugs, in order to avoid social, legal and medical problems in their community.

Spiritual use of various alcoholic beverages, sometimes in very large quantities, is common and well known. In some Jewish communities there is a tradition to drink enough on Purim to not be able to distinguish between the Hebrew phrases for “Cursed is Haman” and “Blessed is Mordechai”, which signified reaching the spiritual world, Atzilut, where all opposites unite. In many Jewish communities it is customary to drink on Simchat Torah as well. Drinking in small quantities as a mind-altering practice is commonly used during the Farbrengens of the Chabad Hasidim. A large body of Chabad literature refers to the spiritual dangers of drinking, but a few anecdotal references refer to the spirutal power of alcohol, when used for the sake of connecting to God and achieving brotherly love among fellows Jews.[ citation needed ] The Lubavitcher Rebbe forbade his Chassidim under the age of 40 to consume more than 4 small shots of hard liqueurs.[25] Wine plays a prominent role in many Jewish rituals, most notably the kiddush. Hasidic Jews often engage in a gathering called a tisch in which beverages such as vodka are drunk in a group. Drinking is accompanied by singing and the study of the Torah."

There is a book, Terence McKenna “Stoned Ape theory of human evolution” and many more like it if you do the research. A couple quite famous that I read in my youth and that I no longer recall the titles of. Drug use and language, creativity, evolution, and even physical development along with religious and spiritual bullshit have long been linked together by scholars.

Not even close to “Your Theory.”

I misspoke, Its just an Idea I wanted to discuss and no It is not my own idea but it does make sense in my mind.


Fascinating post, thanks

I’ve long thought the authors (?) of the Book Of Revelations were probably high on something. Possibly the result or ergot poisoning.

:Latterly, I read that Revelations is really an allegory about the Roman Empire.

What do you think?

I’ve mentioned several times before that imo religion is virtually universal because it meets important human needs. It is my understanding that some kind of religious /spiritual belief has existed at least since the neolithic .

I think that first religious beliefs were probably formed using the same logical fallacy used today by believers in regard to miracles and god answering prayers. Viz “Post hoc ergo propter hoc” (after this therefore because of this. ) EG bloke does rain dance and it rains shortly after. Curses an enemy and said enemy gets stomped on by a mammoth the next day.

There are still African tribes who believe that all misfortune is caused by witchcraft. The seminal work by E Evans-Pritchard “Witchcraft Oracles and Magic Among The Azande” (1937) is still worth reading to get an understanding of the logic they use.,

Given the ubiquitous nature of religion, I’m unconvinced that all or even many have their genesis in drug taking. Have no idea how one would prove any hypothesis about the origins/cause of any religion(s).


"DR. E. E. EVANS-PRITCHARD, already well known in anthropological circles for some penetrating studies of the manners, customs and mental constitution of certain peoples of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, has by this book placed himself in the front rank of British anthropologists. Europeans who have visited primitive people have always been attracted by the notions which they think they have found concerning witchcraft, oracles and magic; but most of them have attempted to interpret these notions mainly in the light of their own, or what they consider to be their own, habits of thought. Consequently, these topics have been treated as if their main interest lay in their curiosity, their oddity; and not infrequently they have been taken to indicate that there is some sort of primitive logic exceedingly different from that of the Western world. Dr. Evans-Pritchard is no mere curiosity hunter; he realizes that many of the Azande notions about witchcraft, and the ways in which the people use them, are not far removed from some of our own current ideas and practices about medicine and the chances of life; and he knows perfectly well that though his book is entirely concerned with witches, witch-doctors, magicians and sorcerers, it covers only a very small part of Azande activity: “Most of their talk is common-sense talk, and their references to witchcraft, whilst frequent enough, bear no comparison in volume to their talk about other matters”.


No idea. Leave that to some of the guys doing the Inanna connection research. People read all sorts of stuff into prophetic books like Revelation “after the fact.” In my mind… “That’s just the way prophecy works.” I have never met a good prophet who was not a great con man.

Mankind has a long history of mixing mind-altering drugs with superstition and the supernatural. If it was not the Oracles or some shaman, it was the Bearsarkers, high and drunk.

Personally, I do not believe drugs were the gateway for religion, people have questions that need answers, no matter how foolish. But drugs allow people to trip out mightily, see gods, wander the forests with fairies, all kinds of hallucinations.

In the early-mid1970’s “everyone” was reading Carlos Casteneda, often preceded by lots of weed, acid and mushrooms if they could get some. Don’t know about cactus. Yes I read him. Meh.

I also remember Timothy Leary “Tune In , Turn on, Drop Out”. At the time he I thought he was dangerous lunatic. It was during those years that I realised that a goodly proportion of university students (in arts at least) were not mentally swift.

What do you call an arts major?

“Hey waiter …”

And how do you call a psychology major?
“Bartender, over here!”
I know this for a fact…


IN The toilets of the main university library, next to the toilet paper, a wit had written “BA’s please take one”.

I think people misunderstand the original meaning of a bachelor’s degree in arts. It was to round off a gentleman’s education. It was never intended to to provide a qualification. If that was what one wanted one studied a profession. In the nineteenth century, and into the twentieth, Oxford and Cambridge churned out middling level colonial administrators for the vast English Empire. One might haver read classics and been fluent in Latin and/or Greek, or perhaps French Literature or The History Of The Fertile Crescent

A BA was not mean to be useful. It just meant a chap was literate. Much of one’s time at university was spent becoming part of the crucial old boys network needed if a chap wanted to say work ‘in the city’, on the board of several large companies or simply be accepted in ‘society’.

In practical terms, my BA was worth bugger all 30 years go, and is worth even less today in any material sense.

I went to university part time while I worked full time and loved it. The discipline I chose (Social Anthropology) fascinated me then and still does. Because I truly wanted to be there, I worked quite hard and actually learned a bit about other cultures, religions and mythologies. Most useful was probably learning to use the Dewey system, how to research and how to think a lot more rationally than I had before.

----Before going to university in 1979, I was a victim of Catholic education of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. It was a wonder I learned to read,.

Hmm, based on all the posts, I’m now aware someone has at least suspected the concept of drug influences on religions. My idea only occurred to me ‘lately.’

My suspicion struck me when I looked at the English poet Samuel Coleridge and his addiction to opium. He stated that while high or inebriated, he had his visions that inspired him to write “Kubla Khan.”

Upon reading his comments of those visions and then his poem, it seemed to me these delusions had similarities to the fantastic images in the book, “Revelation,” written by John, who’s been called, ‘The Beloved,’ ‘John of Patmos,’ and claimed by some as the apostle John. Another vision I recall is “Jacob’s dream of a ladder to heaven.” I’m sure many other visions and miracles mentioned in the ancient Jewish texts could be considered as similar delusions.

When I did a quick check up on the history of opium, I found that historic texts state that it has been utilized in regions from India to the Middle East including the Sumerians and ancient Greeks. So in essence poppies and opium have been utilized and consumed by various tribes and nations for thousands of years. Greeks mention it in their histories. And since this John, the author of ‘Revelation,’ was residing, perhaps in exile, on the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea, my suspicions piqued.

So my latest suspicion for what could have influenced or incited the wild and fantastic visions in “Revelation” is Opium, most likely boosted or altered by alcohol.

I’ll have to do some research and see if any accounts from other early societies insinuate the use of any hallucinogenic drugs, which in turn could have had an impact on the development of their religions.

I’ll be happy to hear/read anyone else’s input on this concept.

Welcome to AR

Yeah, I read that.

You might be interested in 'Confessions Of An English Opium Eater" by Thomas de Quincey. (1821)

It’s in the public domain so should be available free from The Internet Archive.


Hello Huckster, welcome to Atheist Republic.

Pot had it’s beginnings in Mongolia/China over 6,000 years ago, making it one of man’s longest cultivated crops. It appears the Scythians spread it all over Asia, even bringing it to the shores of the Mediterranean.


Revelation?? Try reading some of the non-canonical stuff.
The Apocalypse of Peter; Bel and the Dragon, The Gospel of Mary, The Gospel of Judas, There is some really weird shit out there.

Just a few general thoughts towards drugs & religion:

  • I know that fermentation (alcohol) and marijuana has been around for a very long time, (older then most of the popular religions practiced today.) Opium is pretty old, but which drugs were available to the writers/organizers in and around the areas abrahamic based religions got their start? Be an interesting question to research. Perhaps someone here already knows?

  • I have consumed plenty of both pot and alcohol, I do not get religious experiences from them, instead, if anything religious related, I get quite philosophical on how ridiculous the various popular religious/god notions are. From the very limited test pool of one, it would seem drugs heighten whatever the person likes to think about perhaps adds to the bias towards an idea and not necessarily soley leads to “religion.”

Indeed, most of organized religion do not want people to learn how to read at high level, with critical thought. Because then their bronze age mythology falls apart pretty quick, if large portions of the group can read at such a level and start discussing amongst themselves.

Look at my previous post on the drugs used by the ancient Jews.

Looking at your post, they used alcohol. Do you think based on your research alcohol was the major drug of choice in the formation of abrahamic religions?

Sorry, I thought I included some information that was not in the post but may be found in the link. Drugs “may have been” added to the drink. Also there is this " In Judaism , there is debate that cannabis may have been used ritually in ancient Judaism, and the use of cannabis continues to be a controversial topic in modern Judaism."

" However, in 2020 it was announced that cannabis residue had been found on the Israelite sanctuary altar at Tel Arad, suggesting that cannabis was a part of some Israelite rituals at the time.[3]

The primary advocate of a religious use of cannabis plant in early Judaism was Sula Benet (1967), who claimed that the plant kaneh bosem קְנֵה-בֹשֶׂם mentioned five times in the Hebrew Bible, and used in the holy anointing oil of the Book of Exodus, was in fact cannabis,

Ancient Israelites burned cannabis as part of their religious rituals, an archaeological study has found.

A well-preserved substance found in a 2,700-year-old temple in Tel Arad has been identified as cannabis, including its psychoactive compound THC.

Breakthrough ‘sensory archaeology’ research reveals a 3,000-year-old ritual culture of mind-altering substances in Israel

This is just a topic that a friend and I go over now and again so I read articles on it when I can find them… I have also read several books but I just don’t take the information as seriously as my friend does. He sees direct links everywhere and I see some people getting high and starting cults that don’t seem to last or have lasting effects that can be substantiated.