church-cannabis
People who go to this sort of place are less likely to smoke cannabis. Photo: Angelo Brathot

People who go to this sort of place are less likely to smoke cannabis. Photo: Angelo Brathot

A recently completed study by Florida State University has found that people with ardent religious beliefs smoke less cannabis. The findings were published in the Journal of Drug Issues.

Data hailed from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a survey of random US adults. While many other studies have looked at the link between drug use among teenagers and religion, Amy Burdette, an associate professor of sociology at the university who led the team, believes this was the first to look at adults.

What the study found

The study was of what people reported of their churchgoing and health. Researchers found definitively that the more people went to church, the less cannabis they smoked: the chance of using cannabis recreationally fell 20 percent.

This was not, however, true of usage for medical reasons: even churchy people don’t believe it’s possible to pray away pain. Burdette described this as a clash of two large institutions: pastors go “It’s bad, it’s a drug, you shouldn’t do this,” while your doctor will tell you “Try this, it could help your pain and suffering.”

Burdette holds that as religious identity declines, people will smoke more and not less cannabis. Researchers highlighted that data was self-reported, with people perhaps less likely to report socially undesirable behaviours.

Not all Christians feel this way

One churchgoer who see no problem with cannabis is mother-of-two Deb Button, who hosts Stoner Jesus Bible Study and tried cannabis for the first time only 18 months ago. When she began to publicise the gathering on Craigslist and MeetUp, she was snowed under by positive messages from Christians worldwide but also hate from mainstream believers through blogs, emails, social media and phone calls. On her Faceache page, she was called a heretic and told she would be going to hell. One “very graphic death threat” put a $10,000 bounty on her. Neighbours complained that they could no longer keep their doors unlocked – “And I’m like, ‘It’s a freakin’ Bible study!’” Neighbours would take pictures of visitors.

Button acknowledged that Christian pot smokers felt “isolated,” but many conservatives smoke pot. She added, “Last year, it was hard for me, as a Christian, to come out as a pot smoker, but I think it’s becoming less taboo.”

Greg Giesbrecht volunteered and played the gee-tar for a large church in Colorado which he declines to name. The state legalised recreational cannabis in 2012. After a local TV channel ran a story about Stoner Jesus Bible Study which featured him, he received a phone call from a pastor who informed him “You’re not the type of people we want in leadership here.” Giesbrecht lamented, “And then everyone turned their backs on us.”

A study by the Public Religion Research Institute found that while 58 percent of Usonians supported the legalisation of cannabis, only 29 percent of evangelical Christians do. Dr Carl Raschke, professor of religious studies at the University of Denver, points out that the Babble doesn’t condemn cannabis, which actually goes unmentioned therein, there being less cannabis around in the time and place when the book was concocted. The law didn’t come out against cannabis until the 1930s. Christians who are anti-cannabis employ those Babble verses condemning intoxication and the defilement of the human body.

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