God as a Drug: The Rise of American Megachurches

It seems to me atheists could provide these same psychological services to people without theistic belief.

Megachurch services feature a come-as-you-are atmosphere, rock music, and what Wellman calls a "multisensory mélange" of visuals and other elements to stimulate the senses, as well as small-group participation and a shared focus on the message from a charismatic pastor.

The researchers hypothesized that such rituals are successful in imparting emotional energy in the megachurch setting -- "creating membership feelings and symbols charged with emotional significance, and a heightened sense of spirituality,"they wrote.

Four themes emerged:



admiration for and guidance from the leader, and

morality and purpose through service.

The researchers found that feelings of joy felt in the services far exceed the powerful but fleeting "conversion experiences" for which megachurches are often stereotyped.

Many participants used the word "contagious" to describe the feeling of a megachurch service where members arrive hungry for emotional experiences and leave energized.

We see this experience of unalloyed joy over and over again in megachurches. That's why we say it's like a drug."

Wellman calls it a "good drug" because the message provides a conventional moral standard, such as being a decent person, taking care of family, and forgiving enemies and yourself. Megachurches also encourage their members, such as by saying, "Things can get better, you can be happy," he added.

This comforting message also is a key to megachurches' success,...

Megachurches, ... rarely refer to heaven or hell,... [emphasis and format change mine]

We could interpret salvation in sustainability terms, and use a naturalistic spirituality. In other words the "drug" is a contagious memeplex. We could  wean people away from theism with Atheist methadone.


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Sounds right - people go to belong and for social reasons.


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