One the strangest paradoxes of religion is that believers say religion must be based on faith, but they also have all sorts of “evidence” that always amounts to nothing more than tired old fallacies. It’s an easily solved paradox, though… since there is no evidence, so religion is undeniably a faith.
The fact that religions claim evidence for their beliefs creates the situation where people try out a religion and become disillusioned with it. Given the outrageous claims made by religion, who wouldn’t? Ranging from promises of happiness and inner peace to assurances of spiritual healing and magical wealth, there’s really a broad range of things for a believer to become disappointed with when it comes to evaluating a religion in reality in comparison to the religious sales pitch.
I kind of liken it to something else I have experience with: hard drug use. Hallucinogens in particular have a reputation for doing all kinds of mystical things. They supposedly “open” and “expand” your mind, or “alter your consciousness.” We hear about famous people doing them, like Steve Jobs and every musician in the 60s and early 70s. And Hunter Thompson is a very compelling Pope figure…
But here’s the thing… while I don’t regret doing hallucinogens, I’m only glad I did them because I had a good time doing them. I don’t think acid or mushrooms changed the way I think. I’m fairly certain I thought differently before I took drugs, and that’s probably why I did them in the first place. Maybe you just have to be a little weird to want to see space elves dancing on the walls.
Not that you’ll probably see that. I have to say… if tripping was a movie, I would not be impressed with the visual effects. This is one area where Hollywood’s unrealistic interpretation is just much better than the real thing, kind of like sword fights or road trips.
The most visuals I ever got occurred while taking too many mushrooms. I felt nauseous about 45 minute after eating them, so I grabbed a wastebasket. I looked into it and the bottom sunk out of it. The bag took on the appearance of burning rock, and I swore I was staring down into Hell. Then, I puked, and it was just a vomit filled wastebasket again. I started walking around the room like a velociraptor, followed by rolling on the floor while giggling, until I crawled up to a mirror. I smiled, and the corners of my lips curled into a spiral for eternity, and it reminded me a bit of the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland, because all I could see was my exaggerated grin.
That was about it, though. Nothing major, or even that interesting, really. There was nothing to take from it, no deep meaning or introspective insight. Out of about 125-200 trips, those were the most tangible visuals I ever got. Nearly everything else was wavy patterns, the appearance of surfaces breathing, or color distortions (in particular, I see a sort of shiny hue on the outskirts of my vision that I term “incantransdulescent”).
I never saw or thought anything amazing while tripping. That was my goal for a long time when taking hallucinogens. I would keep a journal near me so I could write down all the amazing ideas I would have. Honestly… just writing that now makes me laugh. It’s downright adorable. Oh, younger me… you stupid, stupid fool…
I don’t oppose hallucinogens, by any means, but people should know that a) they won’t make you a smarter, better, or more creative person, and b) you should take precautions that your use of them doesn’t hurt other people. Your fellow users would probably also appreciate it if you didn’t hurt yourself while on drugs, either, because every user is sick of stories about some person doing acid and jumping off a roof.
Read this carefully: if you were able to fly, you should be able to do it from ground level. Trust me.
This is sort of why I think hallucinogen use is so similar to religion. This isn’t a particularly novel concept, by any means. I’m not claiming this observation as my own. As many as a quarter or more of the people I know who trip (especially on a regular basis) actually consider this type of drug use to be their religion. I don’t know if this is a sincere opinion, or if it’s an attempt to exploit the concept of religious freedom.
I guess it doesn’t matter, because I think people should be allowed to do their drug of choice, which is also why I wouldn’t try to take a person’s religion away from them. This isn’t so much out of respect for them as it is about my own safety. If there’s one thing I learned from being around users, it’s “never get between an addict and their fix.”