The three Abrahamic faiths, with the exception of subsects, do not seem to have explicit bans on drinking alcohol. Some of the subsects restrict – or even ban – alcohol altogether. When I was a Methodist in my youth, alcohol was taboo.
It is interesting to note that alcohol and drugs nevertheless have their place in a wide range of religious rituals. For example, wine is used in Christian communion and in several Jewish.ceremonies. (Mind you, kosher wine is quite revolting. I am also told that people are expected to get drunk at one particular Jewish festival.) The Rastafari movement – notionally Christian – specifies the use of Ganja (Cannabis) but this substance is currently illegal in both the UK and the US.
However, Islam seems to have an opposition to alcohol that is not justified by the Koran’s text. While I’ve been able to find the bit about not eating pork, I can’t find anything forbidding alcohol. The strongest thing it says on the subject is effectively ‘Do not go drunk to your prayers.’ This particular verse (Chapter 4 verse 43 ) implicitly seems to permit the drinking of alcohol.
Most societies go through periods of antagonism towards alcohol and drug use. In the US, between 1920 and 1933, the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution proscribed the sale, manufacture and transport of alcohol for consumption. Prohibition didn’t last for a variety of reasons. Hard drugs continue to be illegal but I find this strange for a country that has the inalienable constitutional right to ‘Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.’
Busybodies of all stripes – the religiosi in particular – seek to curtail enjoyment. Your question is a complex one and, while I’d castigate virtually all religions for their interference in people’s private lives, we mustn’t forget that drugs, including alcohol, can be harmful. In addition, societies that are notionally secular do their bit of unjustifiably trying to kill joy, too.
Posted: August 15th 2010
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