Psychedelics, atheism, and naturalism: myth and reality

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Abstract

An emerging body of research suggests that psychedelic experiences can change users’ religious or metaphysical beliefs. Here I explore issues concerning psychedelic-induced belief change via a critique of some recent arguments by Wayne Glausser. Two scientific studies seem to show that psychedelic experiences can convert atheists to belief in God, but Glausser holds that academic and popular discussions of these studies are misleading. I offer a different analysis of the relevant findings, attempting to preserve the insights of Glausser’s critique while setting the record straight on some important points. For one thing, the studies provide stronger evidence for atheist deconversion than Glausser allows. For another, Glausser’s arguments against the “Metaphysical Belief Theory” of psychedelic therapy involve scientifically dubious claims and inferences. Finally, in evaluating this theory, we ought to focus on its strongest version, which posits belief shifts from metaphysical naturalism to non-naturalism, rather than from atheism to classical monotheism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-92
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Consciousness Studies
Volume29
Issue number7-8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022

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