Alcohol and Religion

Alcohol has played an instrumental role in the development of religions for thousands of years. (3)  The fermentation of organic matter and subsequent consumption by people in an effort to achieve an altered state of consciousness is as intrinsic to human culture as the very need for religion itself. In fact, in many cultures these lines are often dangerously blurred, where some religious beliefs have spurred people on toward alcoholism and others have become violent and destructive in an effort to keep alcohol out of the lives of its people. But despite the fact that most of today’s organized religions are evenly split between those that advocate alcohol use and those that do not, there is a general conception that crosses both sides that indicates it is the consumption of alcohol to excess that is frowned upon. Whatever your beliefs are, chances are great that your religion has a history that is tied to alcohol.

Because humans have been consuming alcohol for at least 10,000 years (3), (as evidenced by numerous archaeological finds around the world) it is easy to imagine that this practice was intertwined with religion and spirituality for nearly as long. Early human cultures often associated plants, herbs, mushrooms and other consumables capable of altering a person’s state of consciousness with divinity or the supernatural and it’s likely that some cultures applied this to alcohol. In fact, some early Pagan religions encouraged the consumption of alcohol for its aphrodisiac effects. (1) This was largely because reproduction and fertility were such a fundamental part of Pagan life that anything that encouraged this was ideally embraced. (3)

However, other religions have taken a strong stance against the consumption of alcohol since their inception. The most notable of these include Buddhism and Islam. While Buddhism believes that intoxicants destroy a person’s mindfulness, Islam believes that anything that harms a person’s mind or body is prohibited in the eyes of Allah. Both religions prohibit the use of alcohol in any form. And while some research appears to suggest that people who participate in these religions devoutly are less likely to develop an alcohol problem, there appears to be some stigma that can develop as a result of these religious prohibitions.

David Briggs, a writer for the Association of Religion Data Archives, expressed this concern in a recent article on religion and alcohol:

“The strong norms against alcohol abuse, particularly in conservative congregations, might deter a lot of people from admitting they have a problem and seeking help.”(2)

So while the prohibition of alcohol use can be beneficial, it can also have severe consequences for those that develop an alcohol problem or addiction. It is probably for this very reason that religions such as Christianity and Judaism preach that while there is nothing wrong with the consumption of alcohol to celebrate or as part of a meal; alcohol should never be consumed to excess. Of course, even this rule is stretched occasionally, as some Jewish sects actually drink to get drunk as a rite-of-passage matter in some religious ceremonies and practices.

Regardless of whether you are a devout Catholic or an Atheist, regular consumption of alcoholic beverages could lead to alcoholism in time – especially if this disease is present in any of your family members. The fact of the matter is that if you are suffering from alcoholism, no amount of religion can save you from it. You need immediate medical treatment for alcoholism. Call us now for a free, no-obligation consultation. We’ll be happy to discuss all of your options with you and help you get the right help, right now.

(1) Wikipedia Alcoholic Beverage, Sec. 17: Alcohol and Religion
(2) David Briggs The Double-Edged Sword of Religion and Alcoholism 03/19/2011

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Editorial Staff, American Addiction Centers
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More