Conspiracy theories are a bit like Greek gods and goddesses. No matter who you are, there’s one tailor-made to appeal to all your vices.
In the same way that Hera, the goddess of family and childbirth, appealed to overly nervous, distrusting helicopter moms in Ancient Greece, “vaccines cause autism” appeals to overly nervous, distrusting helicopter moms today. In both cases, women who don’t want to admit their foibles are drawn to belief systems that sanctify their faults.
Likewise, in the same way that Dionysus appealed to ancient Greek inebriates who wanted to justify their love of drunkenness, thanks to podcaster Joe Rogan, today’s drug enthusiasts have a new conspiracy theory that will confirm all their preexisting biases concerning hallucinogenic drugs — a conspiracy that could best be summed up as, “Actually, Jesus was a psychedelic mushroom.”
The Joe Rogan Psychedelic Mushroom Theory
In a recent episode of his podcast, while interviewing author Michael Malice, Rogan mentioned “The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross,” a controversial 1970 book by English archeologist John Marco Allegro. Rogan summarizes the book in this clip, which I should note is chock-full of both profane and blasphemous language:
Likewise, this is a subject he also broached a few years ago in another interview:
If you’d prefer a sanitized breakdown of Rogan’s claims, and if you’d like a few more details and corrections to help flesh out the conspiracy theory, allow me to provide that for you.
1. John Marco Allegro was a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar (never ordained, though, as Rogan claims) who blazed his own path by embracing agnosticism and seeking to find a naturalistic explanation for the origins of Christianity.
2. Allegro discovered that Christianity had its origins “in an orgiastic fertility cult that made use of a hallucinogenic mushroom containing the drug psilocybin. Moreover, Jesus never actually existed, but was invented by early Christians under the influence of those drugs” who used his story to pass down coded messages from Sumerian times, encouraging those with the secret knowledge to continue pursuing divine communion through psychedelic mushrooms. However, a bunch of idiots then took these New Testament stories literally, concluded that Jesus was an historical person, and — voila! — Christianity was born.
3. The name “Jesus” has its roots in a Sumerian word that means “semen, which saves” — not “god’s semen,” which Rogan claims.
4. Allegro’s findings were so dangerous to Christianity that the Catholic Church hindered the publication of his book.
Read a Book While You’re Not Doing Drugs
As is often the case with outlandish conspiracy theories, you may find yourself thinking, “I know that’s wrong, but I don’t know why it’s wrong.” If that’s the case, permit me a moment to engage in some debunkery.
1. Allegro was indeed an agnostic scholar of philology who worked on the Dead Sea Scrolls. He was not, however, the unique and trailblazing rebel Rogan presents him to be. Rather, it would be more accurate to say Allegro was fairly standard as far as eccentric, unbelieving, Bible, or Bible-adjacent scholars go, meaning he a priori ruled out divine inspiration as an explanation for the foundations of Christianity and, in an effort to make a name for himself, offered a more “rational” explanation for the story of Jesus Christ by inventing an explanation that is approximately eleventy billion times more improbable than “this stuff is in the Bible because it actually happened.”
2. Why did the authors of the New Testament write the stories they wrote? For Christians, the answer is simple: because it’s true.
Granted, this answer may not be satisfactory to skeptics who bristle at the leap of faith necessary to accept Christian claims such as the virgin birth or the resurrection. As far as leaps of faith go, however, “This stuff is in the New Testament because it happened,” is nothing compared to Allegro’s answer.
That can best be summarized as, “This stuff is in the New Testament because a bunch of ancient, sex-crazed Sumerians ate psychedelic mushrooms and somehow had a unified enough experience while high to draw the same conclusions about the divine, and so did everybody else who was a part of the sex-crazed mushroom cult for thousands of years, including the sex-averse Essenes, who were super influential on the authors of the New Testament, even though they’re never mentioned in the New Testament, and that’s how the mushroom religion was passed down for millennia until a bunch of early Christians took things literally, and that’s when all this stuff was lost, but then I rediscovered the truth that it was all about psychedelic mushrooms, and I discovered that truth ever so conveniently at the time when hippies were really getting into that stuff.”
3. Allegro’s claim that the name of Jesus was rooted in an ancient Sumerian name for a mushroom that means “semen, which saves” is a great example of the self-promoting, weirdo academic playbook. All you have to do is:
a. Reference your degree.
b. Cite some obscure bit of data most people have never heard of, let alone read.
c. Hope people are too intimidated by your genius to research the matter — in particular, to learn you are just making things up. (Allegro’s fellow scholars dismissed him as a kook and a chronic misrepresenter of the data).
“Jesus,” or “Yeshua” in its Hebrew form, does not mean “semen, which saves” in ancient Sumerian. It simply means “savior,” as the angel indicates in Matthew 1. In the same way you don’t have to be an expert in first-century Levantine weather patterns to know that the “actually, Jesus walked on a floating ice patch” is stupid, you don’t have to be a scholar of ancient Sumerian fungi taxonomy to know that when Allegro made his claims about the origin of the name “Jesus,” he was simply full of, well, a common form of mushroom fertilizer.
4. When “The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross” was published, many Christians were angry, but there was also massive blowback from Allegro’s secular colleagues, who considered the book to be an intellectually indefensible embarrassment. On account of this, the book’s publisher apologized for releasing it.
While it’s always fun to blame the Catholic Church for things — I like to blame it for both the impending collapse of Western civilization and Police Academy 6 — there’s no evidence supporting Rogan’s “Da Vinci Code”-style claim that “The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross” disappeared from shelves because the Catholic Church worked to have it banned.
Considering that Allegro’s conspiracy theory starts off at guano-level idiotic and only gets more ridiculous the more you look into it, it’s a bit odd that Rogan pushes it. If all you know of Rogan is his stint encouraging contestants to snort rancid pig entrails on “Fear Factor,” don’t let that fool you.
Throughout the years on his podcast, Rogan has proved himself to be sharp yet humble, a man with a discerning mind who is happy to toss ideas around but is hesitant to speak too authoritatively on subjects outside his expertise. So why would he buy into a conspiracy theory that could best be described as the intellectual equivalent of, well, snorting rancid pig entrails?
Mushrooms Are a Poor Substitute for the Real Jesus
The answer is found in a bit from the interview with Malice, where Rogan, an outspoken skeptic of organized religion and a hallucinogen aficionado, argues that, at their best, most religions are nothing more than ethical systems intended to inspire us to be better people — something, he notes, you can also achieve by tripping on mushrooms.
Psychedelics, you see, afford all the benefits of religion without any of the drawbacks. If you want to become a good person, if you want to understand the importance of loving your neighbors, you don’t need to submit yourself to God or a holy book or a religious community. You don’t need to let anyone else tell you what to think. You don’t need to wrestle with the idea of what it means to be a sinner or how you can find forgiveness. You don’t need to do any of that religious stuff Rogan finds distasteful. You just need to do the thing he conveniently already found tasteful: getting high on mushrooms.
In other words, Rogan is drawn to Allegro’s absurd “Jesus was a psychedelic mushroom” conspiracy theory for the same reason ancient Greek winos were drawn to worshipping Dionysus — because doing so sanctifies vices instead of condemning them. Of course, the great tragedy of this is that those who buy into this conspiracy theory will fail to see that the scriptures offer something far greater than psilocybin ever could.
The Ancient Message Is Better than Drugs
Despite Allegro’s claims about ancient messages hidden in the Scriptures, the ancient message is anything but hiding. From the moment Adam and Eve fell into sin, God promised that the offspring of the woman would crush the serpent’s head, even as the serpent struck his heel. In other words, God was promising a Savior, born of a virgin, who would undo the work of the devil by dying for the sins of the world — by dying for those who had failed to be good people and failed to love their neighbors.
Throughout the centuries, God added more details to this promise. This Savior would be the son of Abraham, the heir of David who would rule from David’s throne forever. He would be pierced for our iniquities, die, and rise again on the third day.
That Savior was found in Jesus Christ, the Son of God who was crucified outside Jerusalem and rose again that all who believe in Him might have eternal life. This Jesus Christ, first promised to the mother and father of all humanity, has won salvation for all humankind.
This Jesus Christ has freed us from the hopeless exercise of trying to bless our sins and hide our vices under the worship of false gods or the embrace of foolish conspiracy theories. This Jesus Christ has given us the right to know that these vices and sins no longer have any power over us. They are forgiven, dead, lifeless, washed away in the flood of Christ’s blood.
Jesus is not a mushroom. He is God’s Son, the Savior of the world. Those who believe this truth will find a far more lasting peace than any psychedelic mushroom could ever offer.