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LINK Researchers report that more than two-thirds of self-identified atheists shed that label after their encounter with psychedelics

April 23, 2019

Johns Hopkins Medicine

In a survey of thousands of people who reported having experienced personal encounters with God, researchers report that more than two-thirds of self-identified atheists shed that label after their encounter, regardless of whether it was spontaneous or while taking a psychedelic.

I can't wait to have this same study done on self-identified agnostics. I want to believe that we will not shift our perspective in as large numbers as atheist but wanting to believe doesn't make it so.

TheMiddleWay 8 June 4

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"I can't wait to have this same study done on self-identified agnostics. I want to believe that we will not shift our perspective in as large numbers as atheist but wanting to believe doesn't make it so".
What, because they're already middle of the road you think you'll have to worry less about regression to the mean? (See what I did there) 😂😂

@TheMiddleWay it would be interesting, not just the group data though, but the anecdotal info would also be fascinating.

@TheMiddleWay Your premise is flawed. Atheists don't by definition "unbelieve" any more than agnostics.

Everyone is different in how they experience a mind-altering drug. Some are more susceptible to "life-changing" experiences, while others find them merely recreational. I also noted that the average age of the drug takers in the study was 25, a time of life when people frequently change their beliefs radically.

This was also a self-selected study, which means they have no idea how many atheists took psychodelic drugs and went, "Huh. Neat colors," and that was the end of it. They also have no idea how many "found God" for a year or two and then said, "Man, those drugs messed with my fuckin head."

For the study to have any meaning at all, they also need to research how many self-identified atheists remained atheists and are just as happy. There's no basis for comparison. It's a study of two groups that had similiar experiences, one with and one without drugs. There's NO participation by atheists who remained atheists.

Consider who funded and helped write the study (the Council on Spiritual Practices) and it seems as if they reached a foregone conclusion. There's no indication how they polled for participants. Did they put out an invitation for people who dramatically "found God" to come talk about what happened? That would be stacking the deck in favor of the result they wanted.

In short, all due respect to Johns Hopkins, this study seems like a crock.


A lot of people orgasm and say, “Oh god!” but that doesn’t mean they’ve become theists.

UUNJ Level 8 June 4, 2020

Amen to that!

Not to brag but I've participated in a number of religious experiences, by that standard.


To quote the article. "Griffiths and the research team caution that the study relied on self-reported responses to a questionnaire, a method that carries substantial possibilities for biased or inaccurate responses among participants."

An important caveat!


Well some of them also think they now can fly.

time, place, and ticket admission costs


I did acid at least 100 times, never saw or experienced "god" unless "god" is the universe as a whole.

I think that’s exactly what god is.


I took LSD as a teen. I thought I could talk to my car. .........And I could. .......

@TheMiddleWay And when you lose the argument, that's really bad.

@TheMiddleWay my car talks back and I argue with it. I hate being told what to do. If I don't want to wear a seatbelt, it should be my choice!


Primitive religions were created to explain the unknown. Hallucinations create a vision of something unknown and they had to call it something..


There are some profound experiences which humans can have, which are a real phenomenon, at least in the sense that dreams are a real phenomenon, and which have been consistent enough over time and throughout all cultures, that humans are perennially inclined to call "an encounter with God." This is a fact.

Now whether that thing we are calling God actually has the qualities and substance we attribute to it is a separate question, but the phenomenon has a long and remarkably consistent history in human experience. It is, at minimum, a real part of human nature, and, having been recorded in virtually all human cultures, at all periods of time in which humans have existed, it meets the rule of thumb for most likely being an adaptive trait.

So the question of whether God exists is not really a very useful, or even interesting, question. Certainly something exists that our species keeps referring to as "God". The more useful question is "What is God's nature"? An all-powerful person who created the universe, or an evolved aspect of our collective unconscious... or maybe something we've not begun to understand yet?

skado Level 9 June 4, 2020

I especially like your last paragraph, and I would suggest that when speaking of ultimate reality the concept of existence is by no means understood. If God is “some-thing we’ve not begun to understand yet”, maybe our lack of understanding is because we are thinking in terms of “things” as being that which exists, when actually there are no things except in our minds.


I have taken psychedelics. No change for me.


I might read this if "psychedelics" was spelled properly, but....naaaah.....

@TheMiddleWay I don't do illiterate or sloppy, too bad so sad for you....

@TheMiddleWay yup, it's a blanket policy.

@TheMiddleWay ummm, wrong again, the subject of the sentence is "this", singular, so "was' is correct. "Psychedics" is in the subordinate clause, clearly indicated by the "if" preceeding it. Duuuhhhhh. I learned how to diagram sentences in 5th grade so that the subject would agree with the, not so much, nor can you read your own citation. Truly sad.....

@TheMiddleWay go read the part about subordinate clauses, indicated by a comma & "if", "but" or other qualifier. As usual, not getting the facts, just lazy skimming.

@TheMiddleWay you have no idea what a "subordinate clause" is, do you......pathetic.......


What exactly does self identified atheist there any other kind? What is more to the point is where were they on the belief spectrum before they identified as an atheist. I think the idea of someone like me, who has never believed, recanting that disbelief after some hallucinatory experience, is about as likely as me turning into a pumpkin!

And the diversity of atheists is vast. Personally i don't think we need a label. A-theists simply is the abscence of belief in gods. It has nothing to say on other areas of weird beliefs. Some atheists still believe there is fate, karma, some pull out the tarot cards or swear by the zodiac; some say they are Buddhist atheists and others believe in alien visitations and that world leaders are Lizard people. Are these the atheists to be dragged out for research? Give me the drugs and I'll do my own research!

No offence or bias or prejudice nor discrimination, intended in my view and response.

I am sure we have all heard same sex partners, answer these questions: were you born gay, lesbian, why didnt you come out all these times, etc

For me, I could trace my journey, alongside similar routes

I was born into a society that every one was and is expected to believe in something. Society frowns at 'nonblievers", mum and dad would not agree, but you must go to church on Sundays, jesus died to say your sins, your rewards await you in heaven, blah, blah

Moving to and living in a normal realistic environment and society, strengthed my believe in Science. Obviate needs to watch. Debunks the idea, only god can provide and save.

Hence, here, I am."out of the closet".

@TheMiddleWay I concede that I don’t know any more than the next person how I would definitely act...that is always going to be unknowable until after the fact. However, I know myself and my innermost thoughts regarding the existence of god ever since my childhood days, and if I had to bet money (something I never do), I’d say it would be nigh on impossible for me to reverse my lifelong held views, merely because I’d had some drug induced trip. Under the influence of mind altering drugs I’m sure I would be no different from anyone else, but that isn’t a permanent state of mind. Temporarily having the mind artificially confused is not the same thing as having one’s mind changed permanently.

@Marionville "and if I had to bet money (something I never do)" the Scottish woman! But with my father a Douglas and my mother a Mitchell, I hear ya!


I shed a lot of things after consuming psychedelics in my youth.

A+ Would dose again


So after people take a radically mind altering substance their minds are changed. What a huge f'ing surprise.

@TheMiddleWay Sam Harris described his feelings of an incredible sense of caring and love for his friend, and other mind-altering experiences while on psylosiban. If a psychodellic trip changes one's perspective or even their worldview, so be it. But this only makes one want to dig deeper into the mechanism or causes and effects taking place in the brain.

One thing seems obvious, mind-altering drugs don't appear to impart a particular doctrine, religion or theology. So far as we know, there isn't a Christian pill, or a Muslim pill, or a Hindu pill, or even an atheist pill.


Chemically modifying the natural state of your brain could make you believe you are the creator itself . . . . and why do the madmen land in insane asylums?


Fascinating! What is next? Christians encouraging the taking of psychedelics to eliminate atheistic thinking? Wouldn't that be a twist!

IMO, self-identified atheists run the gamut, from those who at one time were deeply religious to those who were raised without any concept of a deity. In other words, a range from the highly negative (in terms of their prior upbringing) to the relatively ambivalent. It would be interesting to delve deeper into the data, to see if there were any correlation with prior religious belief and retaining (or shedding) one's self-identified atheist label.

In that they run the gamut you're right. I would expect a difference between those who started in religious families and chose to become atheists, versus those who are atheist by default. Their parents were atheist and so they never had to make that choice or confront the self delusion.


btw, when I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible 😮😛


Look.... the article tosses around the word God without really defining it. I expect what you are seeing here is that most people have no other word for when they encounter their oneness with nature.

@TheMiddleWay I disagree.... the subjects are reporting on something; that doesn't mean that something is god(s). It could be aliens as the late Terrance McKenna reported.

@TheMiddleWay I disagree... and I wouldn't report it that way. Which was my point to begin with.


In my opinion, this supports the theory that Theism is the product if hallucination.

@TheMiddleWay Hallucination wears off but imagination continues on.


Heard Joni Mitchell say in an underwhelming documentary this week about Laurel Canyon LA and all those hangers-on in the late 60s, that she took acid and saw quantum mechanics, the universe, and the meaning of everything and lots more. Okay, so drugs addle the brain. Guess I always knew that. Guess that's why I have always stayed away from them.

Underwhelmed by this research am I Middle.

@TheMiddleWay ok.


Drug induced hallucinations has no bearing on reality.

@TheMiddleWay I will respond with a Carlin Quote.
“Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”


I would assume the numbers would similar for agnostics with a slightly higher percentage do to less skepticism.

The take away... psychedelics are deeply moving! Some attribute it to external forces, some realize it's all internal, but just about all can agree that it's moving.


With me it was just the opposite...I shed Christian beliefs AFTER the Psychedelics...was leaning away from the Church as a teenager and the mind expansion sealed it.


I recent finished "How to Change Your Mind" by Michael Pollan (non-believer), a very good read.


I just finished it myself. Loved it. I did a lot of psychedelics back in the day, and I think that people don't have a word for what they experience when they see that there is more than our everyday reality.


I guess I’m part of the remaining 1/3. 🤷♂️

@TheMiddleWay I’ve got a bachelors in math and philosophy. My switch to agnosticism was a philosophic move, and happened at least a decade later.

@TheMiddleWay After reading the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, I came to understand it was impossible to even understand God. The concept was itself impossible to conceive. Given that, the question of Gods existence became purely academic. I grew up in SLC around the mormons. I quickly became atheist in reaction to their pressure. That held sway for years.


Meanwhile on the reservation:
A charter was granted by the State of Oklahoma on October 10, 1918 placing the Peyote Ceremony on a basis of legal equality with other religions by providing Constitutional Protection through the establishment of a Native American Church. This is perhaps the most important cultural contribution by the Comanches to the lives of other Native American Indians.


Proves that the religious are always on drugs - the emotional high of belief.

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