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February 28, 2023

Added How Psychedelics Can Ease the Fear of Death within a Naturalistic Framework (2023) by Sam Woolfe to the Naturalism page under Nontheism in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy has great potential to resolve existential concerns underlying much psychological distress, having produced reduced death anxiety in terminally ill patients, the most meaningful experiences of patients’ lives, and a greater sense of connection to nature, one’s own emotions, and other people. In this essay Sam Woolfe concentrates on the potential of psychedelics to alleviate death anxiety since that existential concern has the most propensity to instill terror, as evidenced by (among other things) philosophical and theological systems constructed to nullify it. Why are patients able to overcome their fear of death during a psychedelic experience? While psychedelics can radically change people’s metaphysical beliefs to include belief in an immaterial soul and supernatural realms and entities, they can also produce a heightened sense of spirituality that’s grounded in the natural world alone by expanding a person’s sense of connection to community, society, the planet, and the universe. Since this enlarged self is not completely annihilated by death even on naturalism, psychedelic experiences can open people up to seeing death as nothing to fear as a final Epicurean release from suffering.

New in the Kiosk: Religion as Undue Influence (2023) by John MacDonald

What we call religions were once called cults until they grew into a system of beliefs and superstitions with a significant number of adherents. Given the origins of religion in cults, it makes sense that we can apply the same criteria and categories when investigating and evaluating religions that we use when doing such for cults. In this article John MacDonald looks at religion through the lens of undue unfluence, a concept developed in the legal system to assess brainwashing-type phenomena. MacDonald shows readers strategies to approach religious belief from the point of view of religious people being indoctrinated rather than educated, and considers some strategies for uncovering and countering the unconscious superstitious narratives upon which religious people base their faith.

Recommended reading: The Gospels Behind the Gospels (2023) by Robert M. Price

In The Gospels Behind the Gospels, innovative biblical scholar Robert M. Price attempts to reassemble a whole raft of prior Jesus narratives from their fragmentary vestiges in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to explain why these Gospels seem overcrowded with incompatible understandings of Jesus (i.e., Christologies). In the process, Price discloses several earlier Gospels of communities who imagined Jesus as the predicted return of the prophet Elijah, the Samaritan Taheb (a second Moses), a resurrected John the Baptist, a theophany of Yahweh, a Gnostic Revealer, a Zealot revolutionary, and so on. As these various sects shrank and collapsed, their remaining followers would have come together, just as modern churches and denominations try to survive by merging and consolidating. Our canonical Gospels might be the result of a similar process. Price also explores the possibility that Paul, Apollos, Cephas, and Christ were originally figureheads of rival sects who eventually merged in much the same way. After reading The Gospels Behind the Gospels, you will never read the Gospels the same way again!