42 Responses

  1. jayTow22 says:

    “Part of the philosophy of humanism is to stand against outdated codes of morality that persecute and make life difficult for people.” I agree.

    BUT, to say that opposing the legalization of drugs is an outdated code of morality is bias. Religious laws (adapted), legislated laws (amended), and social (unwritten and changing) laws all reflect who we are as a society and what we deem to be acceptable. It’s wrong to propose that, if you’re against the legalization of drugs, you’re somehow anti-humanist and outdated in your thinking. There are strong arguments on both sides, for and against the legalization of drugs. Clearly the author is presenting and supporting one side of the argument. At the end of the day, there is no perfect solution. So, we are faced with a choice – a preference – for how we want to live and our society to proceed.

    • drumsareus says:

      Even though there is no perfect solution, there are solutions which are objectively better than others. An example is that needle exchange programs prevent needle born illness from spreading in the drug user community. Some members of our society would still rather ban needle exchange programs for whatever reason. They think that making drugs illegal will somehow prevent people from using. Clearly this is not the case.

      • jayTow22 says:

        Addictions can devastating to people, and disease is a part of that. Needle exchange programs are meant to help prevent the spread of disease. However, they are not a solution.

        The truth is, we don’t know if the legalization of drugs will resolve any problems. While legalizing drugs may hit the black market where it hurts, the black market will survive. It will either turn to hard drugs, undercut the cost of government regulated drugs, or find a new source of revenue.

        But, never mind the black market, what are the repercussions of legalizing drugs to the average citizen? Do we really need to make more addictive substances mainstream? Many illegal drugs are not harmless substances—they have serious negative consequences for the health of users and addictive liability, which will not change with their legalization.

        (The legalization of tobacco and alcohol should not be used as a shining example of a system working, when they are responsible for 500,000 premature deaths each year.)

        As well, where do ethics fit in, if drugs are legalized? If your government is saying that it’s OK to use drugs, how to do you tell your child otherwise?

        The Netherlands was once hailed as a country successful in legalizing drugs; however, new reports indicate otherwise. It should also be noted that the country only legalized “soft drugs”.

        Here’s a bit of cut and paste from Wikipedia:

        The drug policy of the Netherlands officially has four major objectives:
        – To prevent recreational drug use and to treat and rehabilitate recreational drug users.
        – To reduce harm to users.
        – To diminish public nuisance by drug users (the disturbance of public order and safety
        in the neighbourhood).
        – To combat the production and trafficking of recreational drugs.

        A government committee delivered in June 2011 a report about Cannabis
        to the Dutch government. It includes a proposal that cannabis with more
        than 15 percent THC should be labeled as hard drugs. Higher
        concentrations of THC and drug tourism have challenged the current
        policy and led to a re-examination of the current approach; for e.g. ban
        of all sales of cannabis to tourists in coffee shops…

        • drumsareus says:

          Thanks for your comment. There are a few things you say I’d like to refute.

          >>While legalizing drugs may hit the black market where it hurts, the
          black market will survive. It will either turn to hard drugs, undercut
          the cost of government regulated drugs, or find a new source of revenue.

          The black market won’t be able to undercut the cost of legal production of drugs unless the taxes put on these drugs are exorbitantly high. Also the black market cannot turn to hard drugs if ALL drugs are made legal (in a regulated fashion). I also hear the ‘They will find a new source of revenue’ argument a lot, but what other sources are there? In a society where drugs, gambling, and prostitution are legal, just about the only thing there would be a black market for is underage prostitutes.

          >>But, never mind the black market, what are the repercussions of
          legalizing drugs to the average citizen? Do we really need to make more
          addictive substances mainstream? Many illegal drugs are not harmless
          substances—they have serious negative consequences for the health of
          users and addictive liability, which will not change with their

          I would hope that very harmful drugs like Meth and Heroin would not become mainstream with legalization. The way I envision it is there would be places where users can go and administer drugs on site. These drugs would be provided at a very low cost to prevent users from committed crimes to afford them. I believe the cost of providing unadulterated drugs to a user is less than that of of gang violence over drug sales and theft to support addition.

          >> As well, where do ethics fit in, if drugs are legalized? If your
          government is saying that it’s OK to use drugs, how to do you tell your
          child otherwise?

          The govt says that it’s okay to use alcohol and tobacco and parents and schools teach their children these things are for adults. I see no reason why drugs would be different.

          • jayTow22 says:

            It would be an interesting social experiment to be sure, but I’m not sure it’s worth the risk.

            >>I think it would be easy for the black market to undercut the cost of regulated drugs. The regulation, distribution, and enforcement of that regulation costs money… taxpayer money.

            >>The black market is elbows deep in illegal prostitution and gambling rings.

            >>Methadone clinics have existed (e.g. Vancouver), but they don’t have a high success rate. (I’m not sure why.) As well, they also cost taxpayer money.

            >>Again, alcohol and tobacco should not be used as shining examples.

            On a personal note, I hate being bombarded with the stench of cigarette smoke. The smell of marijuana is just as bad, if not worse. As well, it bothers me when people get completely inebriated, to the point where I can’t have a normal conversation with them. I worry that, by introducing other drugs into the mainstream, that will only increase. Blah!

          • Chris Naden says:


            Unfortunately, there really /aren’t/ any good arguments for drug prohibition. There are good arguments for /harm reduction/; as with alcohol Prohibition, the vast majority of social harm caused by the Drug War is caused by the /war/, not by the drugs, so the principle of harm reduction implies ending the prohibition.

            There are good arguments for drug /regulation/; we currently are able to purchase over the counter without prescription many drugs which are both inherently more addictive and much worse for the body than anything this side of crack, meth & heroin. Drug abuse, as in actual drug /abuse/ rather than the appropriate use of drugs WASP America has decided belong to people of colour, is much more common with Aderall and Vicodin than it is with heroin (across the general population).

            Prohibition is a psychology of Them & Us. There’s Us (who have the power to pass laws) and Them (who do a thing We don’t do). In the case of marijuana, Us was white Americans and Them was Mexicans; 18 of the first 19 laws banning Marijuana in the US were /explicitly/, as in it was stated during legislative floor debates, racist measures.

            Well, not quite true; I should have said 17. The law passed in New York State, which at the time had virtually no Mexican immigration, was a bandwagon measure justified by the logic; hey look, all those guys over there have banned a thing we’ve never heard of, and they’re all members of Us (rich whites): so let’s ban it now before anyone up here /does/ hear about it.

            That psychology is then visible, even more clearly, in the racist nature of mandatory minimum sentencing laws and in the frequency with which white kids who get busted with a dime bag are diverted into remedial systems before anything goes on their record, but black kids with a bit of pollen dust in their pocket seam go to jail for 3 years. And so on, and so on.

            The recent film ‘Breaking the Taboo’ does a reasonable but not comprehensive job of covering the insanity of waging a ‘war’ in which both sides are funded by your own population. To get better data on the history of US drug prohibition, specifically as it relates to cannabis, it’s worth reading this California Judges Association briefing from 1995:


          • Guest says:

            It’s called tolerance that allows us to accept people who are different than us, and I think if we drop our delicate sensibilities about “smells,” we’ll find people beneath them who are equally deserving of respect and kindness. I, too, don’t care for the smell of cigarette smoke, but I like hanging out with people who smoke because they tend to be more genuine, unassuming and unpretentious than those who don’t.

          • jayTow22 says:

            People who smoke are more genuine, unassuming and unpretentious? People who don’t like the smell of cigarette smoke have “delicate sensibilities”? Really? You’ve managed to insult a large group of people with your condescending comment. Not liking cigarette smoke has nothing to do with not liking those who smoke. Don’t confuse the two.

          • Guest says:

            Well, non-smokers insult smokers on a regular basis just for smoking, so let’s look at the pots calling the kettles black. I’ve seen it. I hear about it with smokers in tears over the abuse they endure. So if I’ve managed to insult a large group of people, think what THEY do to smokers who don’t deserve being treated like second class citizens everywhere they go with the condescending and superior attitudes of non-smokers.

            However, you are right that I shouldn’t make blanket statements like I did because not everyone is the same on either side, so I do apologize for that and the fact that my comment seemed condescending since that wasn’t my intention. I was just trying to be honest. Maybe it’s because I grew up like a mut and know what it’s like to be kicked and hungry and I’m guessing most people who try to participate in forums like this haven’t, so they come from a loftier position that takes offense where none is intended because they can’t draw from the same level of experience.

            Or maybe I’ve gotten myself into even deeper dooky by trying to participate in a forum with intellectual elites when perhaps I shouldn’t.

  2. Bob Hazy says:

    It’s ironic that much of this argument relies upon a “Humanist Morality” to attack religious morality. Humanists disdain this type of argument as it’s as weak as the regime it opposes. The compelling part of this article is the pragmatic article that drug policy doesn’t work and is absurdly expensive. One avenue left unexplored is how pursuit of such policy drives an illicit economy that wouldn’t exist otherwise. Collaterally, associated violence escalates with the value of the illicit trade.

    Humanists should refrain from relativistic moral arguments. The ultimate humanism is to avoid this weakness entirely in favor of clear-headed pragmatism.

    • northernTNT says:

      Most Humanists are moralists at heart, coming from their own religious upbringings. As an anti-Humanist strong atheist, their mostly Christian like morals which I see displayed everywhere annoy me just as much as Christian morality. The entire morality concept must be dispensed with, it is too arbitrary.

      • FancyLad says:

        Your correct about the prevalence of traditional Christian Morality amongst modern atheists (e.g. Hitchens); but dispensing with the entire morality concept in the general population, no matter what their affiliation, would mean a planet full of psychopaths.

        • northernTNT says:

          Wildlife are not psychopaths, I don’t see why Homo sapiens would become more so. In fact, most of the psychosis we see in society today is due TO morality. In nature, an individual animal who oversteps its bounds gets killed or maimed pretty quickly, in society we’re supposed to suffer these people (bullies, violent husbands, sociopathic CEOs, etc…) Morality protects power, and the little people of the world suffer it. In a natural ecosystem, death is simply a part of life, one kills to eat, to protect its family, to protect its territory. Because we have morality, we have devolved these tasks to fewer and fewer specialised members of society, the rest of us don’t get to experience justice (creating psychosis) and the specialists get to do all the justiceering. Of course there are species biologically evolved for specialised social functions, usually in the insect world, but we are apes, and our Christian morality ruins our life experience. In most Western societies, mental health problems now represent 50% of all medical costs.

    • jayTow22 says:

      People wrote the bible and included within it a moral code. That roots of that moral code still exist today, but as we evolve as a society we adapt to our environment.

  3. foo says:

    I really really wish authors would stop misusing the term “begs the question” like this.

    • RichLeC says:


      • Al_de_Baran says:

        Amen, as well, but the battle’s already lost, I suspect. Soon, if one hasn’t already, some moron descriptive linguist will come out in support of the misuse, proffering the usual fallacious reasons, and that will be that.

    • Jo says:

      It is irritating, but as the other commenters note, the battle is probably long lost and ‘misuse’ has simply become ‘usage.’ When I comment on the ubiquitous misuse by TV reporters, instead of getting a nod of agreement, I more frequently get that rolling of eyes that says ‘pedant.’ At some point, we’ll have to let go, as we did when ‘awful’ reversed meaning and ‘gay’ became ‘cheerfully not straight.’

    • Parker Brown says:

      Agreed. This one is an especially hard one to let go because we’d sort of lose an important distinction.

  4. Lucien Aychenwald says:

    Actually Buddhism doesn’t “condemn” anything as “evil”, since that dichotomy does not exist for Buddhists. Moreover, alcohol plays a much larger role in Buddhism than one might think, especially in Tantric initiations. Zen priests quite enjoy a tipple of saki as well.

    • northernTNT says:

      Saying this is “good” and this is “bad” is not truly different from restricting oneself to saying “this is good”. Buddhists imply omit the second half of the sentence, but the meaning is still very potent. Adulate those fat little statues and the Lamas and the Lama’s representatives, focus your entire life on enlightenment, stay mute about devastating things in society, pray, etc. The full bodied quest to remove oneself from socio-politics of civilisation and enlightenment will get you a better reincarnation.
      In essence, Buddhists are just as much about the obsession of “good vs bad” as Christians.

      • RXTT says:

        You don’t know what you are talking about. There have been 100 Buddhist monks who have self-immolated in Tibet over the last few years to protest China’s persecution and tyranny in that country. That is as far away from “staying mute about devastating things in society” as it gets. Go learn something before you denounce a whole swath of humans.

        • northernTNT says:

          I assume that the audience of this page is Western civilisation and therefore the Buddhist religion practiced here in the West is the object of what I wrote. That munks immolate instead of concrete actions I think is a waste of time.

  5. Brett, be careful here! Prohibitionism–as well as prison reform, abolitionism, woman’s suffrage, free public schools, and other 19th century social reforms we first advocated by Unitarians (c.1800-1840) who accepted J.J. Rousseau’s premise that ‘man is inherently good,” and a malenvironment produces crime, poverty, prostitution, and other social dislocations. Conservative Evangelicals gradually joined these movements as the 19th century progressed. They were relatively late arrives with in these reform movements!

  6. gregmc says:

    I am a recovered alcoholic, sober 9+ years. I have never seen anything in AA literature referring to Bible verses that condemn the consumption of alcohol. You are dead wrong on this topic. Here is one paragraph from page 103 of the basic text, Alcoholics Anonymous.

    “We are careful never to show intolerance or hatred
    of drinking as an institution. Experience shows that
    such an attitude is not helpful to anyone. Every new
    alcoholic looks for this spirit among us and is
    immensely relieved when he finds we are not witch-burners.
    A spirit of intolerance might repel alcoholics
    whose lives could have been saved, had it not been for
    such stupidity. We would not even do the cause of
    temperate drinking any good, for not one drinker in
    a thousand likes to be told anything about alcohol by
    one who hates it.”

    AA has no opinion on anyone’s drinking and in fact encourages people to go out and drink if they’re not convinced that they are alcoholic.

  7. Christopher Kelk says:

    This raises the question, I think, not “begs” it (paragraph 9). “Begging the question” is a completely different beast.

  8. John the Drunkard says:

    As an atheist AA member, I would be relived if the author had made SOME attempt to know the most basic, public, facts about AA.

    AA does not invoke bible quotes, and has no spokesmen, and no PR system by which it could do so. THIS is what ‘anonymity’ is about, not keeping one’s history secret.

  9. Michael Church says:

    Christianity isn’t as indecisive as all that. Wine is consumed in one of the central Christian rites, and always has been. Monastic institutions, among many others, have long manufactured wines, beers and distilled spirits. Only among small but vocal minority of Christians, only in the United States, and only in the past 150 years, has there been a serious challenge to the use of alcohol. It is at least arguable that the moral code which underlies prohibitionism has more to do with America’s peculiar social and political conditions than with anything distinctively or historically “Christian.”

  10. Jonathan Allen says:

    Good Lord. Where to begin. For starters, Christian prohibitionism is incredibly novel, as in the last hundred and fifty years or so. For most of Christian history, arguing that alcohol consumption was wrong was a position considered to be not merely bad theology, but downright heretical. Only a handful of marginal sects and movements advocated bans on alcohol; otherwise, even ascetic monks enjoyed the pleasures of the bottle and the cask, albeit in moderation (all things…). It was really only with the rise of ‘progressive,’ bourgeois movements- more or less connected with Protestant evangelical Christianity- in the mid-nineteenth century (growing out of the abolitionist movement, not incidentally) that Christians in any numbers became anti-alcohol. Through a series of rather odd transmutations many American (but really only American) Christians became anti-alcohol, and by a later extension, anti-drugs in general. There is nothing in historical Christian theology or praxis, be it Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant, to prefigure such a stance. That’s just pretty basic history, and the author’s either real or willful ignorance of it is unfortunate.

    But the author’s problems go much deeper than that. He is largely ignorant of how moral prohibitions (of which he is surely in fact a fan, as his arguments against the Drug War prove) have worked historically in religiously-saturated societies. For instance, while prostitution was considered sinful in medieval Christian polities, prevailing doctrine and praxis argued that it should be tolerated due to the weakness of human nature and the impossibility of eradicating such things. To give another example: traditionally in Muslim societies alcohol was prohibited in regards to Muslims; non-Muslims living in Muslim-majority societies could continue to imbibe, and did (monasteries in Arabic poetry, for instance, are renowned as places of wine and beautiful, unveiled women). It has really only been in recent years, with the fusion of statist, totalizing ideologies with Islamic mores that some Muslim movements have sought a total eradication of alcohol within their polities.

    But this brings us to the single glaring problem with the author’s critique, and with the critiques of many others in the ‘New Atheist’ movement: the Drug War, and so many other evils of the modern world that this author and others rightly identify are not the result of ‘religion.’ The Drug War is not perpetuated because the Christian Right is super-powerful and bankrolls the operations, a suggestion that verges on conspiracy-theory territory. The Drug War is an instrument of state control, directed particularly against minorities and ‘underclass’ populations; it is systematically rooted, and has numerous profitable feed-back mechanisms, to say nothing of the support of an overarching ideological hegemony that identifies the state as a totalizing policing force in modern society. If we are to look for an ideological ‘culprit,’ the various ideologies spun out of the Enlightenment- many of them viciously anti-religious- are much more culpable. Though pinning down ideological vectors is not really good history- things are much more complicated than that. In short, this article- while rightly pointing out the failings of the Drug War and of prohibitionism more broadly- otherwise fails in respect to analysis, particularly in regards to religion, the nature and role of the state in modernity, and the very nature of morality in general.

  11. kirk says:

    Typical un-nuanced caricatured reduction of two-thousand years of complicated Christian ethics to a few Bible verses that we’ve come to expect from the louder voices among the secular humanists (and an even more typical misuse of the phrase “to beg the question”). Once again, all religious reasoning is denounced as evil and bigoted (forget about the fact that most Christians in most times and places consumed alcohol with no qualms, if they weren’t fermenting it themselves in monasteries) and “science” is posited as that universally liberating entity which ought to govern all democratic discourse. Thank goodness the “humanists” are out there pushing for government which only thinks “scientifically.” I can’t wait for the day when every law that is passed is approved on the grounds that it is appropriate to how we’ve developed evolutionarily, when democracy itself goes by the wayside in favor of scientific fascism–when we all become, in the words of Dostoevsky, mere organ stops.

  12. rameshraghuvanshi says:

    It is unnatural to prohibit recreational drugs.From ancient time people used these kind of drugs to relief from the stress.Recreational drugs enhances social forget sorrow, misery ,boring day today routine work.Some bigots may condemned enjoying drugs they could not killed natural instinct of mankind.

  13. wlflopper says:

    I don’t understand why anyone would publish this article. Perhaps religious interests played a role in starting the war on drugs. But this analysis is superficial because it doesn’t at least acknowledge the corporate interests and discriminatory attitudes (e.g., “race”, national origin, &c; fear of the “other”) that fueled much of the early prohibitions on drugs. Were there synergies between religious groups and these other forces? Probably. But pointing fingers at the religious (or whomever) demonstrates only the ability to point, not the ability to have a point.

  14. stevemeikle says:

    There is no biblical contradiction on the matter of alcohol in the Bible, save only in the minds of those who desperately want there to be. Some Biblical passages honour proper use of alcohol and others condemn ABUSE of the thing. And it is an axiom that abuse of anything does not detract from proper use of it. But that the issue could be as simple as that is something modern secular humanists do not want to see in a sacred scripture they are dead set against. I will drink my wine such as makes my heart glad, as said the psalmist, without being fazed by either puritan heretics or humanist builders and destroyers of straw men

  15. stevemeikle says:

    “to beg the question” is not “to raise the question” or whatever else it means in modern parlance. It means to assume as a logical axiom that which is being argued for, thus to argue in a logical circle, known as the fallacy of petitio principii (to petition the principle). If a humanist wants to be seen a logical let him use philosophic language properly, or at least be aware that those who know enough and who dislike either his tenor or his arguments will seize on this

  16. Guest says:

    “This begs the question, does current drug policy truly serve the objective betterment of society, or has it been pointedly enacted by religious zealots attempting to push their interpretations of sacred text on the masses?”

    But this doesn’t ‘beg’ the question. It just raises it.

  17. The War on Drugs is responsible for roughly half the gun related homicides in the United States, something I keep hammering all the anti-gun types with on a regular basis.

  18. Eggy says:

    While it is true that the consumption of alcohol is forbidden to Muslims, the quote you attribute to Mohammed “[..]drinks wine, whip him[…]” was never uttered. It can’t be found in the Qur’an, nor in any of the numerous Hadiths. Pure fiction.

  19. Wayne Larson says:

    Bible verses that simultaneously condemn the consumption of intoxicating beverages = 0.

  20. Serge says:

    What is the basis for your faith in this religion you call “humanism”?

  21. Zahr says:

    You make it seem consumption of any intoxicating substance in Islam is forbidden or punished to some degree. In Shia Islam use of opium and its derivatives is not banned, if you believe it, only trade in opiates is illegal, but use is accepted. Most political hot-shots are publicly known to be opium addicts, including non-other than, the Supreme guy himself !

  22. awayBBL says:

    Wasn’t Jesus’ first miracle turning water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana? I always found it interesting that he didn’t cure some illness or other miraculous feat, but rather turned ordinary water into fine wine. The moral is… party while you can! 🙂