I have often been asked about my stances on smoking, drinking, and using drugs. Do I believe they are sinful, or not? Let me start by saying that I believe that it is the duty of all Christians to follow the laws and social norms of the place in which they reside as far as possible; and insofar as these do not conflict with the laws of God, or the Church. Now, allow me to address all of these topics separately.
I have known, and still know, many people who smoke. In fact, I have been known to smoke the occasional cigar or cigarillo. There are those Christians who have told me that smoking is a serious sin, and anyone who does so goes to Hell. The reasoning behind this is that the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. We shouldn’t do anything to intentionally cause it harm. Smoking does exactly that. Even worse, it can harm others. Therefore, smoking is a grievous offense against God.
I do not deny that smoking is a venal sin, but I do not believe it is a mortal sin. While it does harm the smoker, and others, the effects are cumulative, not immediate. Furthermore, smoking is addictive. Few people smoke with the intention to become addicted to it. There are usually other factors (stress, peer pressure, etc.). Once someone becomes addicted, it can be very difficult to quit. If the smoker is psychologically addicted, quitting can be nearly impossible.
I would also point out that smoking is not really any worse than eating many of the foods at the local grocery store, or in our restaurants. Most of the foods at the grocery store have harmful preservatives in them. Others have normal chemicals (like the testosterone in chickens), but at harmful levels. I mean, what woman wants to have to shave her face due to her elevated testosterone levels from eating too much chicken?
The results of eating too much fast food, or many store bought foods, are not immediate. Like smoking, the effects are cumulative. Would anyone seriously suggest that anyone who eats anything but organic food is going to Hell? Yet, the effects can be just as serious as smoking. Sometimes the effects are worse!
I personally do not ever drink alcohol. I am not claiming I never have, but only that I don’t do it now. The Bible, it should be noted, does not condemn drinking carte blanche. It only condemns getting drunk.
There are those who wish to see alcohol more heavily regulated. I have no problem with that, but that is not relevant here. We are concerned with the morality of the act. If you are drinking to get “wasted”, that is definitely wrong. If you don’t take precautions to protect yourself and those around you while you are drinking, that is certainly a problem. Be careful how much you drink; where you drink; and who is with you when you drink.
If you are drinking within moderation so as to obtain the health benefits of alcohol, or you are just trying to relax after a tough day at the office, then I see nothing wrong with that. Where is the harm? How is that any different from an insomniac taking a legalized narcotic to help him sleep? Or someone who has had a panic attack being given something to calm them down? There really isn’t a difference. As long as it is in moderation, there is nothing morally wrong with drinking.
Drugs can be a different story. Forget the artificially manufactured drugs. These are so obviously wrong that it doesn’t require a discussion. I will focus primarily on the most popular drug, marijuana.
I find it ironic that society has so terribly demonized smoking tobacco, but it has accepted smoking marijuana. Sure, there are illnesses that marijuana can help with, but the negatives outweigh the benefits, in my opinion. You might make it legal for medicinal use only, but it needs to be carefully regulated.
Marijuana is often referred to as a “gateway” drug, and so it is. I won’t say every single person who has become addicted to marijuana has done other drugs. It is conceivable that some have not. The vast majority of potheads, however, eventually get involved in stronger drug usage.
It is a common misconception that marijuana is not addictive. Recent studies have proven otherwise. Not that we needed these studies. All you have to do is know a pothead!
Another popular misconception is that marijuana just makes you happy. No, it makes you stupid and slow. On top of slowing your reaction time, marijuana kills brain cells. That, of course, would explain why potheads speak so slow, and have such a limited vocabulary. The most common words from potheads are “dude”, “‘chya”, “man”, and “whatever”.
Back in the early twentieth century, people did something similar with tobacco as they are with marijuana. It was cool, fashionable to smoke. There was nothing wrong with smoking! It was the “it” thing. Now…smoking is oh so horrible! As I said, however, smoking brings about cumulative effects. Marijuana’s effects aren’t just cumulative. Many are immediate, and they can be worse.
I am not for recreational marijuana. All you need do is look at Colorado, Washington, and the Netherlands to figure out why. No good ever really comes from legalizing recreational marijuana. I am also not for the prohibition of alcohol. There is no good reason to ban it, but it probably should be more heavily regulated. As for smoking…it isn’t good, but we need to stop overreacting. Sure it doesn’t hurt only the smoker. I agree with banning it from certain public areas. Still, as I said, its effects are no worse than those of the chemicals inserted into the foods we eat. And you know what? Those chemicals can also hurt others. Ever think about the effects of those chemicals being able to be passed on to our offspring?
Peace in Christ,
David J. Pollard
American Catholic Solidarity