Church of the Universe: Marijuana as a Sacrament

A strong selling point of the Church of the Universe is the use of marijuana as a sacrament — so assuming someone is inclined to indulge, the church is a godsend.

That link to the divine, however, did not stop police three years ago from charging two of the brethren with possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking.

Now the case, which began in April, is in one of the more unusual phases to ever take place in a Canadian court room: A debate over what exactly constitutes a religion and even whether such a definition is even possible.

Brother Peter Styrsky and Brother Sharooz Kharaghani — two bearded, gnome-like men who sport funky wool caps to court and whose supporters in the gallery smell vaguely of something illegal — believe their freedom of religion, under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, had been violated.

The two men are ministers at the “G13 Mission” in Toronto, which is a church, an organic plant store and allegedly an illegal source of marijuana.

“This is an inside joke among people who like to smoke marijuana,” suggested Crown attorney Nicholas Devlin during cross-examination of a senior member of the Church of the Universe, in April.

On Monday, Mr. Devlin called to the witness stand Katherine Young, a professor of religion at McGill University, to articulate what a religion is and then to show why the Church of the Universe is more of a club to smoke pot than a real faith.

Prof. Young herself warned that trying to come up with a definition is an enormous problem for scholars because of the complexity of religious beliefs. Indeed, defence lawyer George Filipovic attacked Prof. Young’s theories under cross-examination, charging that her definition was arbitrary, too specific and her research into the Church of the Universe would be “laughed at by fellow academics and would never have been written by a respectable scholar.”

Prof. Young looked at the characteristics of major and minor religions and then compared those characteristics with the Church of the Universe. She studied major and minor religions and created a list of 10 common denominators that she said all faiths had: a supernatural dimension, whether it be God, gods, ghosts or spirits, or an ultimate experience; a way to help people to live with such paradoxes as life and death, good and evil, and order and disorder; a source of authority from a scripture or ancestral teachings or a magisterial structure like the Catholic Church; a system of symbols; sacred times, such as holy days, and sacred places, such as temples or pilgrimage routes; a series of repeatable rituals; an ethical system and taboos; a comprehensive way of life; the ability to sustain a group, not just individuals; and an identity or tradition that can be passed from one generation to the next.

Prof. Young said she could not see anything that resembled ritual, sacred spaces or symbols, or helped its members deal with life’s paradoxes in the Church of the Universe.

The only “scripture” or other literature she could find was from Cannabis Culture magazine, a secular journal, and some information on a web site.

“The group raises a lot of suspicions,” she said. “It’s not clear if it’s a religion or a front [for protection against marijuana laws].”

She also said the group did not require obligations from its adherents and the general teaching was “do anything you want to do” — a characteristic she had not found in any other accepted religion.

“If there are no obligations then you are left with anything you want it to be,” she said.

Mr. Filipovic said Prof. Young’s definition of religion was far too specific and many notable scholars have put forth definitions that were far broader.

He quoted William James, the philosopher who authored The Varieties of Religious Experience, who wrote: “[R]eligion shall mean for us the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider divine.”

Mr. Devlin mentioned Sir Edward Tylor, an a renowned anthropologist, who thought religion could be boiled down to just a belief in a spiritual being.

Mr. Filipovic added that at least two established religions, the Quakers and Unitarians, forego creeds, use little or no symbols, and will often meld traditions of other faiths into their worship.

He also challenged the idea of endurance. Fifteen years ago, he said, Falun Gong had not a single member. Within six years the movement had grown to an estimaged 70 million members, far surpassing many religions that are hundreds or thousands of years old.

– Article from The National Post.



  1. Reverend Draco (First Pagan Science Church) on

    Uh huh. . .

    Nice deflection – you have nothing to back your insane hatred. . . maybe a little MMJ will help with that.

  2. Nerb on

    You talk about father sky, Mother earth and you honestly think you made a RATIONAL LOGICAL argument ?

    You go on to make rules.

    No sir I will not go any further with you or your type in debate on this subject. You and yours are not capable of such an act.

    Have a nice day.


  3. Reverend Draco (First Pagan Science Church) on

    Ok. . . let’s see your “key words,” that make the rational, logical argument I made worthy of being institutionalized.

    One rule, though – those words can’t describe actions that harm other people, in keeping with the subject at hand.

    Bring it.

  4. Mr Obvious on

    Ok your trying really hard to compare catholic churches molesting children is sacred like cannabis NO ITS NOT. The is a very obvious difference that i can tell you do not understand and its really simple.

    You can believe what you want and use cannabis as a sacrament because your not hurting anyone and your only smoking it yourself so there is no harm.

    However if you believe that molesting children in catholic church is holy your a moron because that is hurting someone else. You can believe that cannabis is a Sacrament and smoke it or use it however you please. As long as your not hurting others.

    You cant have a religious belief to hurt others that is the difference.


  5. renney b. on

    so many lovers since time immortal or rather from moses to jesus to rastafari have continued to use this prescious herb for its divine properties; healing, food,clothing and shelter… on the other hand so much haters have held jah people captive in prisons and death for this good plant… the holy anointing oil of moses and the prophets have anointed kings and kingdom and the word of jah for many generations dispite a much publisized war on cannabis all these years… over two thousand years of history will not be so easy to wipe away; high times, cannabis culture, skunk and treat yourself just to name a few print magazine has kept us up to date on the evils of the prohibition of marijuana… now is the time to make cannabis legal and emancipate our people from this slavery mentality and generate much needed capital and commodity into the economy in order to defeat poverty, injustice and violence… peace and love; rastafari…

  6. ray christl on

    are devine ,and others seem vile/evil,so i’m just loving people ’til the end.Science and religion can’t tell us anything about death.Life and the gifts of Mother Nature/LOVE sustain me unto Omega3/6.

  7. Bob Burrill on

    Science constantly proves the Bible and Bible archeology as firm fact Bro. Ray.
    All i’m saying is this. People who call themselves Christian realize that the creator gave us these gifts, Herb, Hemp, Cinnamon, Tobacco etc. It is all up to us to use these gifts of Jah properly….and no man can tell us they are wrong.
    God’s laws are above mans’ plain and simple. That’s it. Like I said… I’m preaching to the choir. I’m not trying to argue with anybody…just stating what shouldn’t have to be explained. With respect Ray, you don’t know what I really believe, and I don’t know your ideologies…but as the old saying goes…I defend your right to your beliefs. And I certainly wasn’t implying anything towards you… I made reference to you because of your comments on an earlier post of mine. And I accept and fully return your love.

  8. ray christl thc ministry Asia on

    creation and the garden.We can agree on this point.The problem arises when the Bible is totally wrong!? When the Lost Jews finally reach the “Holi”land of milk and honey.Sure enough they espy the place ,and yeah it’s great God,but one problem God .The place has people living there now?why did we leave?No problem God says these milk/honey makers are now RETROBATE (e.g.non-Jewish/chosen good vs.bad heathen race),so Kill them all esp. babies.Sorry,I spit on this hegemony/racist irreligious karma of fear and hate.The bible becomes a mixed bag,and NOT the infallible LOGOS/WORD of GOD/GOOD!?Love ya Bob Burrill, and keep loving the enemy because that’s the only true revolution.

  9. Bob Burrill on

    Upon completion of the creation, Jah observed everything he had made and declared his creation perfect. Genesis ch 1, verse 31 says:
    After that God saw everything he had made and, look! it was very good….

    Those who say herb is bad or evil are directly calling God a “Liar”. So much for the so-called Christians in Gov’t who are trying to suppress the gift(s) of the creator.

    And bro. Ray… I’m preaching to the choir here…not those who don’t believe in the teachings of the Bible.

  10. Nerb of the MIlkyway on

    Your wrong. Its funny how people who talk like that are made provisions for, when you insert a couple key words instead of certain others in what you said, chances are your put away in a institution.

  11. Anonymous on

    You can believe that cannabis is a sacrament all you want without actually using or selling any cannabis. in other words your right to believe something currently illegal is sacred doesn’t cancel out that law.

    the catholic church thinks molesting children is sacred , but the law says don’t molest children so if a priest is caught , even thought hes allowed to believe its ok , he still goes to prison.

    I in no way think these offenses are equal. marijuana should be legalized but its not yet so be smart. and child abuse should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

  12. Anonymous on

    Amendment I: The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, IMPEDING THE FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION, infringing on the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.

    YOU may believe it not to be a sacrament, but that doesnt mean you have the right to dictate what others believe or how they should practice their spirituality/religion; so long as their practice doesnt force their way on others and doesnt violate other peoples rights.

    This has nothing to do with whether or not a god is real or not. What’s so hard about understanding people have the freedom and right to believe as they wish?

    And please, dont be one of those hypocrites that say cannabis cant be considered a sacrament while sipping your wine.

    Water into Wine; Shake into Kind!

  13. Jack Pot on

    Actually anonymous, Canada has Freedom of Religion written into the Charter already, and Freedom of Religion is ALL about beliefs. As Church members are not hurting anyone with their beliefs, we should be free to practice our faith.

  14. 420Pug on

    If scientology can be classified as a religion then “The Church of the Universe” should have no problem being defined as a religion.

    It seems quite apparent what the church needs to do in order for the courts to see they are legit!

    They need to recruit the stupidest, craziest celebrities they can find. Too bad Tom Cruise is taken!

    Once they have washed out celebrities on their side they will be unstopable!

  15. Reverend Draco (First Pagan Science Church) on

    then you’re pretty much required to partake.

    God creates Cannabis:
    Genesis 1:11-12 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb
    yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his
    kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

    And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed
    after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in
    itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

    God says partake of it:
    Genesis 1:29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing
    seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree,
    in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it
    shall be for meat.

    I’m a Pagan – I venerate Mother Earth and Father Sky – any place where there are trees and grass is my Temple.
    I work in Agriculture, in order to always be close to my Temple, and to the Mother and Father of us all.
    Cannabis, being born of Mother Earth, and nurtured by Father Sky, is my Sacrament.
    I dare you to tell me I’m wrong.

  16. rasta -hippie ray christl thc ministry on

    spelling etc..tell my college students to stop worrying about perfection,and start living your language,and the technology of that communication process.Use,is not abuse.Some misuse of language will occur in neophytes attempts,and have you lose some face,yet how CAN you learn without trying.Trial and error build face(self-esteem in asia) and confidence.My esoteric desires and ideas are upsetting to many,but we must stay true to our vision of ONELOVE global unity.Our sacrament is as valid as vine that was exempt during that drug war.The logos/word “HOLY”comes from the sanskrit “holi”the giant hindi festival of drinking (even children)ganja /soma exlixir of GOD SHIVA -kali-ganga river of spirit love,and colorful powders tossed as magic.In the courtroom of Harper/These soldout++ keep a lying bozo-job and pension++ govt.sinners are on record and will be sued at later date for war crimes against human/Botanical synthesis. Capitalization for BOTANY since the have bigger BRAINS? Iboga brain immense/infinite!!!

  17. Anonymous on

    Thank you! anonymous is just an ignorant arrogant sob. i’m not linguistically adept, yet i understand and agree with everything you said. and when he/she said you cant do something that you believe in because it is against the law, that just pissed me off. that is the way our laws are shaped, if WE don’t like it WE change it. WE ARE ONLY INTELLIGENT ANIMALS. creatures with a heritage and an eventual end. anyone who finds this out needs solice and some find it in believing in magic and other dimentions, others just like to enjoy the afternoon with a J and a pair of shades. is that so wrong? sorry for the typos like i said, not linguistically adept.

  18. undrgrndgirl on

    i work for a secular humanist community that has a 501(c)3 RELIGIOUS non-profit tax exemption from both the federal government and the state of california…further their bylaws explicitly define the community as a “religion”…they do not believe in any supernaturalism…nor do they have any “sacred texts” or ancestral underpinnings, no holy days, no temples or pilgrimage routes, no system of symbols, no sacred times, no repeated rituals…professor young’s 10 common denominators simply don’t hold up…

  19. persecutedinalberni on

    I can smoke it when I want and use because it was put on earth for us to use as the worlds number 1 renewable resource so the forests and earth and water and air will stay clean.

    God did not want us to us anything that would destoy us from prolonged use and the only number 1 product with prolonged use was hemp/cannabis.

    If you choose not to beleive in god then is it not obvious evolution provided exactly what the most dominent/smartest aninmal would need to survive forever with.

    So if you want to say there even is a god then well I say if the law uses anything to do with god such as swearing on the bible then the law must accept what my own view of what god is.

    And god said smoke a big fatty for health of mind body and soul ,,, and I said “ok” lol

    God wanted us to be free and not demand we read a book and live by it too,god did not tell us we had to go to church to be accepted by him.

    God did not want us to belong to a religion before we could use his plant of life so Why do I have to even go to church or read a book or have to belong to a group in order to smoke it.

    Simply saying you beleive in god/evolution, gives you the right to smoke cannabis in my opinion.

  20. ray christl THC Ministry ASIA on

    “Bill of Right”and similar documents in anonymous nation.These fiat words create a new modality that protects and promotes “ethical subjectivism”.This amazing technology of “minority” rights is total revolution.It makes each individual the KING/QUEEN of great power,so drama/desire of self is paramount to liberty.The existential “leap of faith” that tries to explain – GOD belief- penned by Kierkegaard is the legal basis for minority “freedom of religion” liberty.This is philosophy and cannot be explained deductively in logic/science.God/spirit/supernatural existentialism is the apex of democracy,and any practise that does not directly harm another(on liberty/j.s. mill)must be allowed ,esp. one that people say is primary to “their” perceived needs/freedoms.

  21. Anonymous on

    just put your ear to the ground and you can hear the universe whispering. Pot is indeed in its whispers because it refocuses people. It silences the mind and allows you to experience the moment. The old ways of things are caustic, we need a new softer more people centric, life centric, god centric mode of being and pot can help and be part of that transition.

  22. funkspiel on

    ….and I commandeth thee and all thine swine and other brethren to bring forthwith with all haste your finest cannabis and I mean top, top shelf.

    Yes, God Smokes

  23. Anonymous on

    Its just not enough of a argument, Not a good one at least. Just because you believe something doesn’t make it true, just because you believe something, doesn’t make you have the ” right ” to do it.

    You can believe in god, doesn’t mean its true, you can believe that cannabis is a sacrament, doesn’t make it true, adversely it doesn’t make it false. What it does mean is that you cannot go changing laws and giving special accord because of certain beliefs held by a minority on such a paper thin basis.