Two recent surveys of people who took psychedelic drugs and reported “God experience encounters”, along with successful clinical trials using psychedelic therapy for depression, have given rise to public misconceptions about psychedelics and atheism. Specifically, three inferences have been drawn: (1) that the psychedelic experience tends to dissolve atheist convictions; (2) that atheist convictions, once dissolved, are replaced with traditional monotheist beliefs; and (3) that atheism and depression somehow correlate as afflictions for which psychedelic drugs offer relief. This paper argues, based on analysis of the studies and trials along with relevant supplemental evidence, that each of these popular inferences is substantially misleading. Survey data do not indicate that most psychedelic atheists have cleanly cut ties with their former convictions, and there is strong evidence that they have not traded atheism for traditional monotheism. Both personal testimony and the effectiveness of microdose clinical trials serve to complicate any notion that a psychedelic drug alleviates symptoms of depression by “curing” atheism. The paper then extends its focus to argue that the broader field of neurotheology includes elements that contribute to these popular misconceptions.
Glausser, Wayne. 2021. "Psychedelic Drugs and Atheism: Debunking the Myths" Religions 12, no. 8: 614. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12080614