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What is the mushroom Jesus theory?

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For those hard-set on denying the resurrection of Christ, there are few palatable options. Some alternative explanations are nevertheless sincere, if wrong. An example is mythicism: a conspiracy theory claiming Jesus of Nazareth didn’t exist at all, but even secular atheists almost universally reject mythicism. Other counterproposals are so bizarre and provocative they’re not likely taken seriously even by the people who suggest them.

Among the more outrageous suggestions is that the Bible’s claims about miracles—and even the resurrection of Jesus—were the result of hallucinations triggered by psychotropic drugs. That is, people did not see a resurrected Jesus. They did not see miracles. They were merely delirious from ingesting things like mushrooms, chemicals, or drugs.

This suggestion makes zero sense of available information. The historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is extremely strong. It’s impossible to deny that, immediately after His crucifixion, people believed they’d seen Jesus alive. Further, those making these claims were willing to suffer social rejection, persecution, torture, and even death as a result. These beliefs predate the writing of the Gospels themselves. Whether one chooses to believe in the resurrection, he or she can’t reasonably deny that contemporaries of Jesus in Jerusalem believed in it enough to sacrifice their lives.

The wider “hallucination theory” cannot be true. Historical belief in the bodily resurrection of Christ does not begin with the Gospels; it begins with the earliest believers, far too early for myth to overrun recent history.

Of particular importance to claims about mushrooms and other drugs is the nature of hallucinations themselves. The idea that hundreds, even thousands of people would imagine the same minute details at the same time and think they were real is simply absurd.

It’s important to note the early eyewitnesses were convinced enough for willing martyrdom. People who hallucinate almost always recognize the event as imaginary, either during or after. Persons who have eaten “magic mushrooms” or taken other substances know full well they did so—or others would tell them as much. Those who can’t distinguish hallucination from reality, even after the fact, show noticeable signs of psychological disturbance. The biblical eyewitnesses did not. Further, hallucinations are generally specific to a particular sense, such as sight or hearing. Even more critical is that hallucinogenic experiences are purely internal, meaning they’re produced by a person’s own psychology and physiology.

If the “mushroom Jesus” hypothesis were true, everything in the following three paragraphs would have to be literally true:

On multiple occasions, people with no other instances of psychosis experienced vivid illusions of a resurrected Jesus. Each event involved at least three separate, simultaneous hallucinations: visual, auditory, and tactile. Every delusion began and ended so seamlessly that those experiencing it never realized they were hallucinating. These hallucinations corresponded to each other so perfectly that the appearance seemed to be real and not imaginary.

During most events, several people experienced a hallucination at the exact same moment in time, such that it appeared they were each seeing, hearing, and touching the same person at the same moment. These independent visions were also perspective-adjusted, such that everyone in the room thought they were seeing the same event, but from their own physical location. Groups of hundreds experienced these coordinated hallucinations in various times and places, without any contradictions in details, such as Jesus’ general appearance, voice, specific words, and so forth. All these events occurred precisely within a few weeks of the execution of Jesus, then abruptly stopped.

These hallucinations were so perfectly timed and so perfectly coordinated that those who experienced them were willing to suffer persecution, imprisonment, torture, and death rather than change their story. They did not claim to have been chemically altered, they did not claim to have conspired, and they did not claim to have merely seen similar “spiritual” visions or mirages. They were utterly and absolutely convinced what they’d seen was real. This included people who had travelled and studied personally with Jesus for more than three years.

Such is the perspective one would have to adopt to claim early believers were high on psychotropics. The “mushroom Jesus” theory suggests a cosmically improbable, historically unique, and scientifically inexplicable string of psychotic episodes, which convinced thousands of otherwise normal people that they had seen, touched, and spoken to a dead man—so convinced that they literally sacrificed everything to tell other people about it. It also implies that such a naturally occurring event had never happened before or since.

That these events just so happened to match millennia-old prophecies would be yet another layer needing to be unpacked and explained.

Some will never accept anything other than naturalistic explanations for the Bible’s resurrection accounts. Even so, most skeptics put no stock whatsoever in suggestions about mushrooms, drugs, or hallucinations. Those promoting such ideas are most likely being provocative for the sake of attention, not seriously attempting to examine faith.

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This page last updated: January 4, 2022