mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

of wine and salvation...

While looking to see if Lileks' newest column was on newhouse yet, I stumbled on this article on the role of alcohol in religion. An interesting read, although not exactly earthshaking.

There were two things I noticed, though. First of all was this:

Americans -- like religions -- have long been divided on the subject, with more than six out of 10 taking a drink at least occasionally. Gallup Polls find another third of the citizenry eschews the buzz from booze altogether.

So that's 60% who drink occasionally or more and 33% who never drink. Where does that leave the other 7%? People who drink but lie about it? People who drink less than occasionally but more than never? And why does this remind me of the Office of Drug and Alchol Support signs the college I work for loves so much.

The second thing that I reacted to was this:

"Christianity is here constructing a ritual around the use of a mind-acting drug, and that is familiar territory for the anthropologist," said University of London professor Griffith Edwards. "The Aztecs called their hallucinogenic mushrooms `teonanactl' or `flesh of the gods."'

Tobacco filled a similar role in some American Indian societies, and Rastafarians put cannabis to like-minded ritual use, Edwards writes in his book "Alcohol, the World's Favorite Drug."

When I first read this, the Catholic in me cringed - comparing the Catholic sacrament of communion to Aztecs using 'shrooms seemed somehow disrespectful. Then I wondered if I was being a culturist - promoting evil western culture above that of other civilizations. After all, Griffith Edwards has a PHD in something or other, plus a cool first name like Griffith, while Mad Anthony has a cheesy nickname and career in tech support.

Then I thought about it some more, and decided that I think I'm correct to think that Griffin (can I call him Grif?) is wrong. The 'shrooms that the Aztecs enjoyed, and the weed that Rastas love so much, are inherently mind-altering, and their religious significance comes from those properties. Wine in the Catholic church is not sacred because it's alcoholic - after all, the other portion of communion is bread, which isn't known for it's mind-altering properties, unless you are on the Atkins diet. Rather, it's considered sacred because Catholics believe that, through the sacrament of the mass, it turns into the blood of Christ. The quantities of wine consumed in the Eucharist aren't going to provide any level of alcoholic buzz, which I'm guessing isn't accurate about Peyote, weed, or shrooms.


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