Cannabis and religion

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Different religions have varying stances on the use of cannabis, historically and presently. In ancient history some religions used cannabis as an entheogenic, particularly in South Asia where the tradition continues on a more limited basis.

In the modern era, religions with prohibitions against intoxicants, such as Islam, Buddhism, Bahai, Latter-day Saints, and others have opposed the use of cannabis by members, or in some cases opposed the liberalization of cannabis laws. Other groups, such as some Protestant and Jewish factions, have supported the use of medical cannabis.

Bahá'í[edit]

In the Bahá'í Faith, use of alcohol and other drugs for intoxication, as opposed to medical prescription, is prohibited,[1] see Bahá'í laws. But Bahá'í practice is such laws should be applied with "tact and wisdom".[2] The use of tobacco is an individual decision, it is yet strongly frowned on and not explicitly forbidden.[3] Bahá'í authorities have spoken against intoxicant drugs since the earliest stages of the religion, with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá writing:

Regarding hashish you have pointed out that some Persians have become habituated to its use. Gracious God! This is the worst of all intoxicants, and its prohibition is explicitly revealed. Its use causeth the disintegration of thought and the complete torpor of the soul. How could anyone seek the fruit of the infernal tree, and by partaking of it, be led to exemplify the qualities of a monster? How could one use this forbidden drug, and thus deprive himself of the blessings of the All-Merciful? Alcohol consumeth the mind and causeth man to commit acts of absurdity, but this opium, this foul fruit of the infernal tree, and this wicked hashish extinguish the mind, freeze the spirit, petrify the soul, waste the body and leave man frustrated and lost.[4]

Buddhism[edit]

In Buddhism, the Fifth Precept is frequently interpreted to mean "refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to heedlessness", although in some direct translations, the Fifth Precept refers specifically to alcohol.[5] Cannabis and some other psychoactive plants are specifically prescribed in the Mahākāla Tantra for medicinal purposes.[6]

Christianity[edit]

Catholicism[edit]

Prior to assuming his position as leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis had spoken against recreational cannabis. He stated in 2013 in Buenos Aires: "A reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction will not be achieved by a liberalization of drug use."[7] The Catholic Church has no official stance on marijuana use, although it is generally discouraged within the Church.[citation needed]

Orthodoxy[edit]

The Georgian Orthodox Church has resisted legalization of cannabis in that country.[8]

Protestantism[edit]

The Arkansas Baptist State Convention voted to discourage medical marijuana in 2016.[9] In 2016, the executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention, Tommy Green, also said that congregations should be encouraged to vote against expanded legalization of medical marijuana in Florida.

The Assemblies of God USA, as well as other Pentecostal and holiness churches, have historically advocated abstinence from all alcohol, tobacco, and narcotics. Supporters of this view generally cite biblical passages enjoining respect for one's body as well as forbidding intoxication.[10]

Other Protestant churches have endorsed the legality of medical marijuana, including the Presbyterian Church (USA), United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ, and the Episcopal Church.[11]

Hinduism[edit]

During the Indian and Nepalese festival of Holi, people consume bhang which contains cannabis flowers.[12][13] According to one description, when the amrita (elixir of life) was produced from the churning of the ocean by the devas and the asuras, Shiva created cannabis from his own body to purify the elixir (whence, for cannabis, the epithet angaja or "body-born"). Another account suggests that the cannabis plant sprang up when a drop of the elixir dropped on the ground. Thus, cannabis is used by sages due to association with elixir and Shiva. In Hinduism, wise drinking of bhang (which contains cannabis), according to religious rites, is believed to cleanse sins, unite one with Shiva and avoid the miseries of hell in the future life. It is also believed to have medicinal benefits. In contrast, foolish drinking of bhang without rites is considered a sin.[14]

Although cannabis is an illegal drug in Nepal, many Nepalese people consume it during festivals (like Shivaratri), which the government tolerates to some extent.[citation needed]

Islam[edit]

The Quran does not directly forbid cannabis; however, cannabis is deemed to be khamr (an intoxicant) by many religious scholars and therefore generally believed to be haraam (forbidden).[15][16] A hadith by the prophet Mohammed states: "If much intoxicates, then even a little is haraam."[17] Despite these prohibitions, cannabis is consumed in many parts of the Islamic world, even sometimes in a religious context particularly within the Sufi mystic movement.[18] In 1378 Soudoun Sheikouni, the Emir of the Joneima in Arabia, prohibited cannabis, considered one of the world's first-attested cannabis bans.[19]

The Sufi tradition attributes the discovery of cannabis to Jafar Sharazi (Sheikh Haydar), a Sufi leader in the 12th century.[20] Other Sufis attribute its origin to the apocryphal Khidr ("Green Man").[21]

Some modern Islamic leaders state that medical cannabis, but not recreational, is permissible in Islam. Imam Mohammad Elahi in Dearborn Heights, United States, declared: "Obviously, smoking marijuana for fun is wrong... It should be permissible only if that is the only option in a medical condition prescribed by medical experts."[22]

Judaism[edit]

Though the argument has not been accepted by mainstream scholars, some writers have theorized that cannabis may have been used ritually in early Judaism, though these claims "have been widely dismissed as erroneous".[23][24] Sula Benet (1967) claimed that the plant kaneh bosm 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,[25] although lexicons of Hebrew and dictionaries of plants of the Bible such as by Michael Zohary (1985), Hans Arne Jensen (2004) and James A. Duke (2010) and others identify the plant in question as either Acorus calamus or Cymbopogon citratus.[26]

In the modern era, Orthodox rabbi Moshe Feinstein stated in 1973 that cannabis was not permitted under Jewish law, due to its harmful effects.[27][28][29] However Orthodox rabbis Efraim Zalmanovich (2013) and Chaim Kanievsky (2016) stated that medical, but not recreational, cannabis is kosher.[30]

Latter-day Saints[edit]

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is general prohibition against intoxicating substances. In August 1915, the LDS Church banned the use of cannabis by its members. In 2016, the church's First Presidency urged members to oppose legalization of recreational cannabis use. The LDS Church says it has "raised no objection to SB 89" (non-psychoactive medical marijuana in Utah).[31]

Rastafari[edit]

It is not known when Rastafari first claimed cannabis to be sacred, but it is clear that by the late 1940s Rastafari was associated with cannabis smoking at the Pinnacle community of Leonard Howell. Rastafari see cannabis as a sacramental and deeply beneficial plant that is the Tree of Life mentioned in the Bible. Peter Tosh, among many others, has quoted Revelation 22:2, "... the herb is the healing of the nations." The use of cannabis, and particularly of long-stemmed water-pipes called chalices, is an integral part of what Rastafari call "reasoning sessions" where members join together to discuss life according to the Rasta perspective. They see the use of cannabis as bringing them closer to God (Jah), allowing the user to penetrate the truth of things more clearly.

While it is not necessary to use cannabis to be a Rastafari, many use it regularly as a part of their faith, and pipes of cannabis are dedicated to His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I before being smoked. According to the anti-cult group the Watchman Fellowship "The herb is the key to new understanding of the self, the universe, and God. It is the vehicle to cosmic consciousness"[32] and is believed to burn the corruption out of the human heart. Rubbing the ashes into the skin from smoked cannabis is also considered a healthy practice.[33]

Part of the Rastafari movement, elders of the 20th-century religious movement known as the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, consider cannabis to be the "eucharist",[34] claiming it as an oral tradition from Ethiopia dating back to the time of Christ.[35]

Scientology[edit]

Scientology opposes the use of cannabis, and made "Truth About Marijuana" the focus of their 2016 World Health Day presentation.[36]

Sikhism[edit]

Process of making bhang in a Sikh village in Punjab, India.
Photos taken by Marcus Prasad

In Sikhism, the First Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak, stated that using any mind altering substance (without medical purposes) is a distraction to keeping the mind clean of the name of God.[citation needed] According to the Sikh Rehat Maryada, "A Sikh must not take hemp (cannabis), opium, liquor, tobacco, in short any intoxicant. His only routine intake should be food and water".[37]

However, there exists a tradition of Sikhs using edible cannabis, often in the form of the beverage bhang, particularly among the Sikh community known as Nihang.[38][39]

Taoism[edit]

Beginning around the 4th century, Taoist texts mentioned using cannabis in censers. Needham cited the (ca. 570 AD) Taoist encyclopedia Wushang Biyao 無上秘要 ("Supreme Secret Essentials") that cannabis was added into ritual incense-burners, and suggested the ancient Taoists experimented systematically with "hallucinogenic smokes".[40] The Yuanshi shangzhen zhongxian ji 元始上真眾仙記 ("Records of the Assemblies of the Perfected Immortals"), which is attributed to Ge Hong (283-343), says:

For those who begin practicing the Tao it is not necessary to go into the mountains. … Some with purifying incense and sprinkling and sweeping are also able to call down the Perfected Immortals. The followers of the Lady Wei and of Hsu are of this kind.[41]

Lady Wei Huacun 魏華存 (252-334) and Xu Mi 許謐 (303-376) founded the Taoist Shangqing School. The Shangqing scriptures were supposedly dictated to Yang Xi 楊羲 (330-386 AD) in nightly revelations from immortals, and Needham proposed Yang was "aided almost certainly by cannabis". The Mingyi bielu 名醫別錄 ("Supplementary Records of Famous Physicians"), written by the Taoist pharmacologist Tao Hongjing (456-536), who also wrote the first commentaries to the Shangqing canon, says, "Hemp-seeds (麻勃) are very little used in medicine, but the magician-technicians (shujia 術家) say that if one consumes them with ginseng it will give one preternatural knowledge of events in the future."[42][43] A 6th-century AD Taoist medical work, the Wuzangjing 五臟經 ("Five Viscera Classic") says, "If you wish to command demonic apparitions to present themselves you should constantly eat the inflorescences of the hemp plant."[44]

Joseph Needham connected myths about Magu, "the Hemp Damsel", with early Daoist religious usages of cannabis, pointing out that Magu was goddess of Shandong's sacred Mount Tai, where cannabis "was supposed to be gathered on the seventh day of the seventh month, a day of seance banquets in the Taoist communities."[45]

Other cannabis-using religious movements[edit]

Other religions have been founded in the past century that treat cannabis as a sacrament. They include the Santo Daime church, the THC Ministry, Cantheism, the Cannabis Assembly, the Church of Cognitive Therapy (COCT Ministry), Temple 420, Green Faith Ministries, the Church of Cognizance,[46] the Church of the Universe,[47][48] the Free Marijuana Church of Honolulu, the First Cannabis Church of Florida World Wide,[49] the Free Life Ministry Church of Canthe, the Church of Higher Consciousness, and the federally tax-exempt inFormer Ministry Collective of Palms Springs, CA.[50][51] The Temple of the True Inner Light believes that cannabis is one of the parts of God's body, along with the classical psychedelics: mescaline, psilocybin, LSD, and DMT.[52] The First Church of Cannabis Inc. officially gained legal recognition in Indiana in 2015 following the passage of that state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.[53] Nonprofit religious organization Elevation Ministries opened its Denver headquarters, known as the International Church of Cannabis, on April 20, 2017.[54][55]

Modern spiritual figures like Ram Dass[56] openly acknowledge that the use of cannabis has allowed them to gain a more spiritual perspective and use the herb frequently for both its medicinal and mind-altering properties.

In Mexico, followers of the growing cult of Santa Muerte regularly use marijuana smoke in purification ceremonies, with marijuana often taking the place of incense used in mainstream Catholic rituals.[57]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Khali Akhtar Khavari; Teresa McCray Harmon (1982). "The Relationship between the Degree of Professed Religious Belief and Use of Drugs". International Journal of the Addictions. 17 (5): 847–857. doi:10.3109/10826088209056331. 
  2. ^ Smith, Peter (2000). "law". A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. pp. 223–225. ISBN 1-85168-184-1. 
  3. ^ Udo Schaefer (1997). "`Abdu'l-Bahá's judgement". In a blue haze, smoking and Bahá'í ethics (Translated from the original German language edition: Ethische Aspekte des Rauchens. Ein Beitrag zur Bahá'í-Ethik published by Bahá'í Verlag, Hofheim 21993 by Michael H. Machado and Dr. Craig Volker. ed.). Zero Palm Press. ISBN 80-901201-5-6. 
  4. ^ Notes #170. The use of opium - any substance that induceth sluggishness and torpor, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, by Bahá’u’lláh, published by Bahá’í World Centre, 1992 edition, Pages: 254
  5. ^ Yin-Shun, Venerable (1998). Wing H. Yeung, M.D., ed. The Way to Buddhahood: Instructions from a Modern Chinese Master. Wisdom Publications. pp. 86–87. ISBN 0-231-11286-6. 
  6. ^ Stablein WG. The Mahākālatantra: A Theory of Ritual Blessings and Tantric Medicine. Doctoral Dissertation, Columbia University. 1976. p 21-2,80,255-6,36,286,5.
  7. ^ Bindrim, Kira. "Pope Francis Speaks Out Against Legalization of Marijuana and Other Drugs". Newsweek.com. Retrieved 2017-03-06. 
  8. ^ http://neweasterneurope.eu/articles-and-commentary/2276-fighting-georgia-s-draconian-anti-drug-law
  9. ^ Tom Strode. "Marijuana legalization on 9 state ballots". Bpnews.net. Retrieved 2017-03-06. 
  10. ^ "Alcohol, Tobacco & Drugs". ag.org. Assemblies of God USA. Retrieved April 10, 2017. 
  11. ^ Bosch, Torie (2007-03-20). "What do Christian groups think about marijuana?". Slate. Retrieved 2017-03-06. 
  12. ^ Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission. Simla, India: Government Central Printing House. 1894.  Chapter IX: Social and Religious Customs.
  13. ^ "The History of the Intoxicant Use of Marijuana". National Commission of Marijuana and Drug Abuse. Archived from the original on 2005-08-13. 
  14. ^ "Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report - Appendix". 
  15. ^ Abdul-Rahman, Muhammad Saed (2003). Islam: Questions and Answers - Pedagogy Education and Upbringing. MSA Publication Limited. p. 123. ISBN 978-1-86179-296-9. 
  16. ^ Pakistan Narcotics Control Board, Colombo Plan Bureau (1975). First National Workshop on Prevention and Control of Drug Abuse in Pakistan 25–30 August 1975. Rawalpindi: Workshop Report. p. 54. 
  17. ^ AD 25;5
  18. ^ Mark S. Ferrara (20 October 2016). Sacred Bliss: A Spiritual History of Cannabis. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 45–. ISBN 978-1-4422-7192-0. 
  19. ^ Bankole A. Johnson (10 October 2010). Addiction Medicine: Science and Practice. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 303–. ISBN 978-1-4419-0338-9. 
  20. ^ Nick Jones (29 July 2013). Spliffs: A Celebration of Cannibis Culture. Pavilion Books. pp. 36–. ISBN 978-1-909396-32-6. 
  21. ^ Michael Muhammad Knight (10 December 2009). Journey to the End of Islam. Soft Skull Press. pp. 62–. ISBN 978-1-59376-552-1. 
  22. ^ Hijazi, Samer. "Marijuana: Arab Smokers, religious scholars weigh in". Arabamericannews.com. Retrieved 2017-02-13. 
  23. ^ (Merlin, 2003)
  24. ^ Economic Botany M. D. Merlin Archaeological Evidence for the Tradition of Psychoactive Plant Use in the Old World - University of Hawaii "23 May 2011 - ".. Judaism (Dure 2001; Merkur 2000), and Christianity (Allegro 1970; Ruck et al. 2001). Although this hypothesis and some of the specific case studies (e.g., Allegro 1970) have been widely dismissed as erroneous, others continue"
  25. ^ Rowan Robinson, The Great Book of Hemp, Health & Fitness, 1995, pag. 89
  26. ^ Lytton J. Musselman Figs, dates, laurel, and myrrh: plants of the Bible and the Quran 2007 p73
  27. ^ Julian G. Jacobs (1993). Judaism looks at modern issues. Aviva Press. ISBN 978-0-9511560-2-5. 
  28. ^ Mitch Earleywine (2007). Pot Politics: Marijuana and the Costs of Prohibition. Oxford University Press, USA. pp. 218–. ISBN 978-0-19-518802-8. 
  29. ^ Fred Rosner (2001). Biomedical Ethics and Jewish Law. KTAV Publishing House, Inc. pp. 92–. ISBN 978-0-88125-701-4. 
  30. ^ Elsa Vulliamy (2016-04-22). "Marijuana is kosher for Passover, leading rabbi rules". The Independent. Retrieved 2017-02-13. 
  31. ^ David Wells (2016-02-12). "LDS Church issues new statement on medical marijuana". KSTU (fox13now.com). Retrieved 2017-03-06. 
  32. ^ Branch, Rick (2000), "Rastafarianism", Profiles, Watchman Fellowship ministry 
  33. ^ Owens, Joseph (1974). Dread, The Rastafarians of Jamaica. ISBN 0-435-98650-3. 
  34. ^ "Marijuana and the Bible". Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church. 
  35. ^ "Erowid Cannabis Vault : Spiritual Use #2". 
  36. ^ "Church Hosts "Truth About Marijuana" Event". Scientologynews.org. 2016-04-18. Retrieved 2017-02-13. 
  37. ^ "The ‘Sukhnidhaan’ or ‘Bhang’ (cannabis)". Amrit World. Retrieved 19 November 2015. 
  38. ^ Pashaura Singh; Louis E. Fenech (March 2014). The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. OUP Oxford. pp. 378–. ISBN 978-0-19-969930-8. 
  39. ^ Pashaura Singh; Michael Hawley (7 December 2012). Re-imagining South Asian Religions: Essays in Honour of Professors Harold G. Coward and Ronald W. Neufeldt. BRILL. pp. 34–. ISBN 90-04-24236-8. 
  40. ^ Needham and Lu (1974), p. 150. From ancient Chinese fumigation techniques with "toxic smokes" for pests and "holy smokes" for demons, "what started as a 'smoking out' of undesirable things, changed now to a 'smoking in' of heavenly things into oneself."
  41. ^ Needham and Lu (1974), p. 152.
  42. ^ Needham and Lu (1974), p. 151.
  43. ^ Rudgley, Richard (1998). The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Substances. Little, Brown and Company. 
  44. ^ Joseph Needham, Ho Ping-Yu, and Lu Gwei-djen (1980). Science and Civilisation in China: Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology; Part 4, Spagyrical Discovery and Invention. Cambridge University Press, p. 213.
  45. ^ Needham, Joseph. 1974. Science and Civilisation in China: Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology; Part 2, Spagyrical Discovery and Invention: Magisteries of Gold and Immortality. Cambridge University Press, p. 152
  46. ^ Innes, Stephanie (2008-09-05). "Pot-Deifying Duo Guilty, Confident They'll Avoid Prison". Arizona Daily Star. Lee Enterprises. 
  47. ^ Jackson, Hayes (2008). "Appeal Date Set For Pot Priests". The Hamilton Spectator. Torstar. 
  48. ^ "Church of the Universe". Church of the Universe. 
  49. ^ First Cannabis Church of Florida
  50. ^ "InFormer Ministry". 
  51. ^ "Rev. Dennis Erlich's inFormer Ministry Collective IRS 990-N registration form.". 
  52. ^ "Temple of the True Inner Light". 
  53. ^ "First Church of Cannabis Approved After Passing of Indiana's New Religious Freedom Law". 
  54. ^ This new cannabis church pushes limits of Denver’s social-use pot law
  55. ^ International Church Of Cannabis Prepares For Opening Day
  56. ^ "Ram Dass: Longtime Spiritual Leader, Opponent of the 'War on Drugs'". 2004-03-08. Archived from the original on 2008-09-20. 
  57. ^ "Only on 9: The Dark Religion of the Santa Muerte | KTSM News Channel 9". Ktsm.com. 2009-03-26. Retrieved 2011-04-20. 

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