Van Til Tool

Using the Van Til Perspective as the tool to discover what life means and how it ought to be lived.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Dubrow: Accurate Portrayal of Today's American Christians; Inaccurate Portrayal of Christian Reconstruction

Dubrow:  Accurate Portrayal of Today's American Christians; 

Inaccurate Portrayal of Christian Reconstruction

A Review of

Mickey Dubrow American Judas (Southern Fried Karma Press, 2018)
                           $16.99   331 pp   ISBN: 978-1-7325398-0-8

Reviewer:  Forrest W. Schultz

     Dubrow in this new book accurately portrays today's American Christians, as anyone who has been keeping up with the news can see.  But, like many people, Dubrow is NOT accurate is his portrayal of Christian Reconstruction, as that term was defined by the twentieth century Christian scholar Rousas J. Rushdoony in his many articles and books.  AND, his son Mark Rushdoony, who now runs the Chalcedon Foundation established by his father, adheres to his father's view and in the Chalcedon publications is continually pointing this out.  Here is one of his latest statements:  My father’s only political interest was in reclaiming power from the political arena and returning it to the spheres of family, church, and the free enterprises of individuals. His political involvement was to fight statism, not use it as a mechanism of Christian action. Too much thought in theonomy centers around what the state would look like and do in a Christian social order. That makes theonomy an academic subject when it should be a very practical one when God’s Law is brought to bear on our family, businesses, and church life. A theocratic order cannot be imposed by state action and that is not what my father suggested, advocated, or taught.       

Thursday, February 14, 2019

News of Latest Form of Chinese Persecution of Christians

Message body

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

1,000 Scientists Sign Statement Dissenting from Darwinism

1,000 Scientists Sign Statement Dissenting from Darwinism

Michael Foust Contributor | Tuesday, February 12, 2019
1,000 Scientists Sign Statement Dissenting from Darwinism


A list of scientists who are skeptical about the claims of Darwinism has grown to more than 1,000 signatures.
The list from the Discovery Institute was first issued in 2001 as a way to show that credible scientists do doubt the popular theory behind the development of life.
The statement reads: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.” It is known as “A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism.”  
Among the scientists who signed it were evolutionary biologist and author Stanley Salthe; quantum chemist Henry Schaefer from the University of Georgia; Russian Academy of Natural Sciences embryologist Lev Beloussov; and American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow Lyle Jensen (now deceased).
Roughly 100 scientists were on the original list in 2001, but it has since passed 1,000 signatures. Supporters say the statement has no political motivation. 
“It is a professional statement by scientists about their assessment of the scientific evidence relating to Neo-Darwinism and an affirmation of the need for careful examination of the evidence for modern Darwinian theory,” the website that houses the statement reads. 
The statement is receiving attention as supporters of Darwinian evolution celebrate Darwin Day, which takes place every Feb. 12 on Charles Darwin’s birthday. He was born 210 years ago, in 1809. 
To sign the list, a person must “hold a Ph.D. in a scientific field such as biology, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, computer science, or one of the other natural sciences” or “they must hold an M.D. and serve as a professor of medicine,” according to the FAQ section at
The statement is needed, supporters say, because some supporters of Darwinism have tried to silence opponents of the theory.  
“In recent years there has been a concerted effort on the part of some supporters of modern Darwinian theory to deny the existence of scientific critics of Neo-Darwinism and to discourage open discussion of the scientific evidence for and against Neo-Darwinism,” the website reads. “The Scientific Dissent From Darwinism statement exists to correct the public record by showing that there are scientists who support an open examination of the evidence relating to modern Darwinian theory and who question whether Neo-Darwinism can satisfactorily explain the complexity and diversity of the natural world.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog,
Photo courtesy: Pixabay
Video courtesy: DiscoveryScienceNews

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Four Jihads of Islam

Four Jihads
Jihad means more than warfare, but the sword is central to Islam's texts, its history, and its founder.Mateen A. Elass

April 1, 2002
Recently terrorist activities by purportedly Muslim groups have increased debate over the place of violence in true Islam. Moderate Muslims say violence has no place, because Islam is a religion of peace. In their minds, it is as unfair to judge Islam by extremists as it would be to judge Christianity only by the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Puritan witch hunts.
Is such a comparison reasonable? Does it do justice to the canonical teachings of both religions? The answer to these questions is found at least partly in a study of the Islamic concept of jihad and its lack of a full counterpart in Christian orthodoxy.
Spiritual jihad

The word jihad is often translated as "holy war," but it literally means "struggle" or "exertion." In its religious context, it always involves a fight against evil, but this can take many forms: jihad of the heart, of the mouth and pen, of the hand, and of the sword. Jihad of heart, mouth, and pen are sometimes spoken of as "spiritual jihad," particularly among the Shi'ites (the largest Islamic minority party, comprising roughly 10 percent of the Muslim world).
All Muslims must engage in jihad of the heart, which finds a rough parallel in the Christian command to put to death the sin nature. Muhammad clearly commanded his followers to fight their sinful tendencies, as did Jesus. Islam, though, offers no assistance in this struggle from the Holy Spirit, the counselor and guide promised to Christians.
Jihad of the mouth aims to undermine opposition to Islam through speech that takes one of two forms. The first, verbal argumentation, finds a Christian parallel in the discipline of apologetics. The second, curses and saber-rattling, has roots in pre-Islamic Arabia, where the art of extemporaneous imprecatory poetry was prized as a means of verbal jousting between warring tribes.
Generally, a war of words is considered preferable to one of physical violence. Muslims still employ this tactic. When Saddam Hussein bragged before the Gulf War that coalition troops were facing "the mother of all battles," he was engaging in a jihad of the mouth.
Jihad of the pen applies the written word to Islam's defense. Over the last thirteen centuries, much Islamic ink has presented Muhammad as the ultimate prophet of God and his message as the perfect will of Allah for all humanity. The central doctrines of the Christian faith, though sadly misunderstood by many Muslim scholars, have been the special target of Islamic apologetics.
Jihad of the hand seeks to promote the cause of Allah through praiseworthy deeds. Muslims' exemplary treatment of others and devotion to God are supposed to prove the superiority of their message and serve as a vehicle for the proclamation of their beliefs.
Christians also embrace the concept of jihad of the hand. As Francis of Assisi is credited with saying, "Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words."
"Lesser" jihad
The last and most troublesome form of jihad is that of the sword. This aspect dominates Islamic history and jurisprudence.
When the word jihad occurs in the Qur'an without any modifier, or with the typical modifier "in the cause of Allah," it invariably refers to the call to physical combat on behalf of Islam. It is often linked with the word qital (fighting) in the context of dealing with unbelievers.
Some modern Muslims downplay this understanding, arguing that in Islamic tradition war is called the "lesser jihad." Indeed, according to one disputed tradition from the hadith (the collection of texts concerning Muhammad's actions or statements, second only to the Qur'an in authority), when Muhammad returned from the field of war he said, "We have all returned from the lesser jihad to the greater jihad."
Some companions asked, "What is the greater jihad, O prophet of God?"
He replied, "Jihad against the desires."
Presumably the jihad of the heart is greater because it is unceasing, whereas the jihad of the sword continues only as long as there are unbelievers unwilling to submit to the rule of Islam. Nonetheless, this tradition demonstrates that Muhammad engaged in military jihad, and he commanded his followers to engage in it as well.
Doctrines of war
The Qur'an contains seemingly contradictory teachings on jihad of the sword. Islamic scholars, however, note that Muhammad's teaching on jihad developed over time as the circumstances of his growing community changed. This accounts for the seeming contradictions, which actually describe four distinct stages of development.
First, when Islam was a fledgling movement and Muhammad endured persecution from his extended tribe in Mecca, he counseled his small band to engage in a policy of peaceful persuasion. Sura (chapter) 16:125-6 declares, "Invite [all] to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious . …But if you show patience, that is indeed the best [course] for those who are patient."
Many Muslims today regard this as the proper approach for the Muslim community any time it finds itself an overwhelmed minority in an unreceptive host culture.
When Muhammad fled Mecca in 622 (the Hegira) to the friendlier confines of Medina, followers still in Mecca faced serious threats of property loss and bodily harm. This antipathy arose in response to the prophet's attacks on the Meccan caravan trade—the primary means by which Muhammad financed his mission.
Muhammad subsequently decreed that fighting was permissible only to ward off aggression and reclaim property confiscated by infidels. So, for example, Sura 22:39 says, "To those against whom war is made, permission is given [to fight], because they are wronged, and verily, God is most powerful for their aid. [They are] those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right, [for no cause] except that they say, 'Our Lord is God.'"
Within a few months, this permission to fight in self-defense became a religious obligation to battle those who initiated hostilities against the Muslim community or its interests. "Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loveth not transgressors. And slay them wherever you catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out . …But if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith" (2:190-194).
As the doctrine of jihad developed, Muhammad taught that those who sacrificed their lives in battle for the cause of God would be guaranteed admission to the highest level of heaven—no small reward in a religion where one's hope of heaven otherwise depends on near perfect obedience to divine law.
Conversely, those able-bodied Muslims who refused the call would suffer divine punishment (9:38-9). Not surprisingly, the number of Muslim men willing to commit their lives to warfare surged from this point on.
The third stage of development moved jihad from defense to offense. Muslims were told to take the initiative in war but to refrain from attacks during the four sacred months, which were recognized by all tribes within the Arabian peninsula as months for religious pilgrimage.
"When the forbidden months are past," the Qur'an declares, "then fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in each and every ambush. But if they repent, perform the prayers and give alms, then leave their way free" (9:5).
The final development of the Qur'anic concept of jihad removed any limitations on the timing of battle in the cause of Allah. When commanded by a recognized Muslim leader, Muslims could attack non-
believers in any season and on any land not yet surrendered to the armies of Islam. The famous Sura 9:29 (see page 18) lays out this ambitious plan.
Applying the law
Which of these stages is meant to be normative for Islam?
According to standard Islamic jurisprudence, it is the fourth—expansionist jihad, understood as armed struggle against unbelievers, whether or not the Muslim community has been attacked. The law of abrogation in Qur'anic hermeneutics (see Suras 2:106; 13:39; 16:103), in which later revelation always trumps earlier texts, affirms this.
Islamic history bears out this expansionist bent. One century after the appointment of the first caliph, Abu Bakr, Islam had become an empire reaching across North Africa up to Spain in the west and across Asia into India in the east. By the end of the next century (the second century Anno Hegirae), Muslim territorial conquests had peaked, and Islamic jurisprudence had fully defined the behaviors and conditions governing "holy war."
The terms of jihad closely parallel Augustine's "just war" conditions. Only proper government authorities can conduct jihad. Fighting must avoid harming non-combatants, hostages, prisoners, and property (especially trees and landscape), and its ultimate goal must be to secure justice and peace.
For Islam, however, the causes of justice and peace are synonymous with the advance of the Muslim state, for politics and spirituality are inextricably bound together in the dream of one world under the complete dominion of Allah and His followers. So whereas Christian "just war" principles do not support the notion of establishing the kingdom of God by force, the Islamic doctrine of jihad unapologetically does.
When the ummah (community or state) of Islam faces its history of coercion and expansion, there is no shame or repentance. Islam, unlike Christianity, teaches in its most authoritative sources that force is justifiable in the cause of Allah. Far from feeling regret over past conquests, Islam takes pride in this heritage.
Indeed, many Muslims look back on the first three centuries of Islam as the golden years of their heritage and long for a return to world ascendancy.
Tales of two founders
The actions of Jesus and Muhammad show the stark contrast in founding principles between their two religions.
When Jesus is arrested at the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples grab their swords. Peter strikes off the ear of one opponent. Jesus immediately commands his followers to stand down and declares that violence is not the appropriate means to accomplish the Father's will.
According to Matthew 26:53, Jesus claims that, should he want to win a military victory, he could easily call on his Father, "who will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels." Instead, rebellion is met with love, animosity with forgiveness.
While hanging on the cross, he prays for those who have wronged him, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Love for enemies, sacrifice for their well-being, is the way of Jesus.
According to Sahih al-Bukhari (4:280b), one of several similar stories about Muhammad reads thus: "Anas bin Malik said, 'Allah's Apostle entered (Mecca) in the year of the conquest (of Mecca) wearing a helmet over his head. After he took it off, a man came and said, 'Ibn Khatal [a pagan opponent] is clinging to the curtains of the ka'ba [a recognized behavior for seeking mercy]. The Prophet said, 'Kill him.'"
While there is certainly room for debate over how well Christians and Muslims have followed the teachings of their respective leaders, there is no doubt about the contrasting visions of Jesus and Muhammad for how God's kingdom should be advanced. Just war theory has played a relatively minor role in the spread of Christianity across the globe. Jihad has been at the heart of Islam's expansion.
Mateen A. Elass is senior pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Warrenville, Illinois. Born to a Syrian Muslim father and an American mother, he converted to Christianity at age 20 and was disowned by his father for 14 years. They later reconciled. Mateen loves Muslims and has deep respect for his heritage.
Copyright © 2002 by the author or Christianity Today International/Christian History magazine.
Click here for reprint information on Christian History.

Monday, January 28, 2019



A Review of

Martin Moseback (Tr. by Alta Price) The 21:  A Journey Into the Land of the Coptic Martyrs (Plough, 2018)
                                                         $26.00   249 pp   ISBN: 978-0-87486-839-5

Reviewer:  Forrest W. Schultz

     It is not surprising that this book is well written:  both the author and the translator are recipients of prestigious writing awards.  What IS surprising are the interesting facts in the book's portrayal of the Coptic Christians, especially their adulation of martyrdom, which has endured throughout their history and into the present.  The latest -- and probably the most dramatic -- example of this was seen in their creation of icons of the twenty-one Coptic men who were brutally murdered in 2015 by ISIS.  Because the Coptics down through their long history have continued to bestow such honor on their martyred members, they are often called "The Church Of The Martyrs"!!  The author of this book was not only able to see these icons but also to meet the families of the martyred men and to share with the reader their responses, which is one of the most meaningful and dramatic parts of the book.  The book also contains a lot of ecclesiastical information about the Coptic Christians, including church architecture, liturgy, clergy, and their relationship with the Egyptian government, but the emphasis is upon the martyrology.  Also included are geographical and historical facts about Egypt, which is appropriate because the Coptics not only live in Egypt, but were also the original Egyptians, and they are now a minority in Egypt because of the invasion of the Muslims, who now rule Egypt and are the majority.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence    • Volume 48, Number 1

Alex Berenson
Author, Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence

Alex BerensonAlex Berenson is a graduate of Yale University with degrees in history and economics. He began his career in journalism in 1994 as a business reporter for the Denver Post, joined the financial news website in 1996, and worked as an investigative reporter for The New York Times from 1999 to 2010, during which time he also served two stints as an Iraq War correspondent. In 2006 he published The Faithful Spy, which won the 2007 Edgar Award for best first novel from the Mystery Writers of America. He has published ten additional novels and two nonfiction books,The Number: How the Drive for Quarterly Earnings Corrupted Wall Street and Corporate America and Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence.

The following is adapted from a speech delivered on January 15, 2019, at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C.
Seventy miles northwest of New York City is a hospital that looks like a prison, its drab brick buildings wrapped in layers of fencing and barbed wire. This grim facility is called the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Institute. It’s one of three places the state of New York sends the criminally mentally ill—defendants judged not guilty by reason of insanity.
Until recently, my wife Jackie­—Dr. Jacqueline Berenson—was a senior psychiatrist there. Many of Mid-Hudson’s 300 patients are killers and arsonists. At least one is a cannibal. Most have been diagnosed with psychotic disorders like schizophrenia that provoked them to violence against family members or strangers.
A couple of years ago, Jackie was telling me about a patient. In passing, she said something like, Of course he’d been smoking pot his whole life.

Of course? I said.
Yes, they all smoke.

So marijuana causes schizophrenia?
I was surprised, to say the least. I tended to be a libertarian on drugs. Years before, I’d covered the pharmaceutical industry for The New York Times. I was aware of the claims about marijuana as medicine, and I’d watched the slow spread of legalized cannabis without much interest.
Jackie would have been within her rights to say, I know what I’m talking about, unlike you. Instead she offered something neutral like, I think that’s what the big studies say. You should read them.
So I did. The big studies, the little ones, and all the rest. I read everything I could find. I talked to every psychiatrist and brain scientist who would talk to me. And I soon realized that in all my years as a journalist I had never seen a story where the gap between insider and outsider knowledge was so great, or the stakes so high.
I began to wonder why—with the stocks of cannabis companies soaring and politicians promoting legalization as a low-risk way to raise tax revenue and reduce crime—I had never heard the truth about marijuana, mental illness, and violence.
Over the last 30 years, psychiatrists and epidemiologists have turned speculation about marijuana’s dangers into science. Yet over the same period, a shrewd and expensive lobbying campaign has pushed public attitudes about marijuana the other way. And the effects are now becoming apparent.
Almost everything you think you know about the health effects of cannabis, almost everything advocates and the media have told you for a generation, is wrong.
They’ve told you marijuana has many different medical uses. In reality marijuana and THC, its active ingredient, have been shown to work only in a few narrow conditions. They are most commonly prescribed for pain relief. But they are rarely tested against other pain relief drugs like ibuprofen—and in July, a large four-year study of patients with chronic pain in Australia showed cannabis use was associated with greater pain over time.
They’ve told you cannabis can stem opioid use—“Two new studies show how marijuana can help fight the opioid epidemic,” according to Wonkblog, a Washington Post website, in April 2018— and that marijuana’s effects as a painkiller make it a potential substitute for opiates. In reality, like alcohol, marijuana is too weak as a painkiller to work for most people who truly need opiates, such as terminal cancer patients. Even cannabis advocates, like Rob Kampia, the co-founder of the Marijuana Policy Project, acknowledge that they have always viewed medical marijuana laws primarily as a way to protect recreational users.
As for the marijuana-reduces-opiate-use theory, it is based largely on a single paper comparing overdose deaths by state before 2010 to the spread of medical marijuana laws— and the paper’s finding is probably a result of simple geographic coincidence. The opiate epidemic began in Appalachia, while the first states to legalize medical marijuana were in the West. Since 2010, as both the epidemic and medical marijuana laws have spread nationally, the finding has vanished. And the United States, the Western country with the most cannabis use, also has by far the worst problem with opioids.
Research on individual users—a better way to trace cause and effect than looking at aggregate state-level data—consistently shows that marijuana use leads to other drug use. For example, a January 2018 paper in the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that people who used cannabis in 2001 were almost three times as likely to use opiates three years later, even after adjusting for other potential risks.
Most of all, advocates have told you that marijuana is not just safe for people with psychiatric problems like depression, but that it is a potential treatment for those patients. On its website, the cannabis delivery service Eaze offers the “Best Marijuana Strains and Products for Treating Anxiety.” “How Does Cannabis Help Depression?” is the topic of an article on Leafly, the largest cannabis website. But a mountain of peer-reviewed research in top medical journals shows that marijuana can cause or worsen severe mental illness, especially psychosis, the medical term for a break from reality. Teenagers who smoke marijuana regularly are about three times as likely to develop schizophrenia, the most devastating psychotic disorder.
After an exhaustive review, the National Academy of Medicine found in 2017 that “cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses; the higher the use, the greater the risk.” Also that “regular cannabis use is likely to increase the risk for developing social anxiety disorder.”
Over the past decade, as legalization has spread, patterns of marijuana use—and the drug itself—have changed in dangerous ways.
Legalization has not led to a huge increase in people using the drug casually. About 15 percent of Americans used cannabis at least once in 2017, up from ten percent in 2006, according to a large federal study called the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. (By contrast, about 65 percent of Americans had a drink in the last year.) But the number of Americans who use cannabis heavily is soaring. In 2006, about three million Americans reported using cannabis at least 300 times a year, the standard for daily use. By 2017, that number had nearly tripled, to eight million, approaching the twelve million Americans who drank alcohol every day. Put another way, one in 15 drinkers consumed alcohol daily; about one in five marijuana users used cannabis that often.
Cannabis users today are also consuming a drug that is far more potent than ever before, as measured by the amount of THC—delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical in cannabis responsible for its psychoactive effects—it contains. In the 1970s, the last time this many Americans used cannabis, most marijuana contained less than two percent THC. Today, marijuana routinely contains 20 to 25 percent THC, thanks to sophisticated farming and cloning techniques—as well as to a demand by users for cannabis that produces a stronger high more quickly. In states where cannabis is legal, many users prefer extracts that are nearly pure THC. Think of the difference between near-beer and a martini, or even grain alcohol, to understand the difference.
These new patterns of use have caused problems with the drug to soar. In 2014, people who had diagnosable cannabis use disorder, the medical term for marijuana abuse or addiction, made up about 1.5 percent of Americans. But they accounted for eleven percent of all the psychosis cases in emergency rooms—90,000 cases, 250 a day, triple the number in 2006. In states like Colorado, emergency room physicians have become experts on dealing with cannabis-induced psychosis.
Cannabis advocates often argue that the drug can’t be as neurotoxic as studies suggest, because otherwise Western countries would have seen population-wide increases in psychosis alongside rising use. In reality, accurately tracking psychosis cases is impossible in the United States. The government carefully tracks diseases like cancer with central registries, but no such registry exists for schizophrenia or other severe mental illnesses.
On the other hand, research from Finland and Denmark, two countries that track mental illness more comprehensively, shows a significant increase in psychosis since 2000, following an increase in cannabis use. And in September of last year, a large federal survey found a rise in serious mental illness in the United States as well, especially among young adults, the heaviest users of cannabis.
According to this latter study, 7.5 percent of adults age 18-25 met the criteria for serious mental illness in 2017, double the rate in 2008. What’s especially striking is that adolescents age 12-17 don’t show these increases in cannabis use and severe mental illness.
A caveat: this federal survey doesn’t count individual cases, and it lumps psychosis with other severe mental illness. So it isn’t as accurate as the Finnish or Danish studies. Nor do any of these studies prove that rising cannabis use has caused population-wide increases in psychosis or other mental illness. The most that can be said is that they offer intriguing evidence of a link.
Advocates for people with mental illness do not like discussing the link between schizophrenia and crime. They fear it will stigmatize people with the disease. “Most people with mental illness are not violent,” the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) explains on its website. But wishing away the link can’t make it disappear. In truth, psychosis is a shockingly high risk factor for violence. The best analysis came in a 2009 paper inPLOS Medicine by Dr. Seena Fazel, an Oxford University psychiatrist and epidemiologist. Drawing on earlier studies, the paper found that people with schizophrenia are five times as likely to commit violent crimes as healthy people, and almost 20 times as likely to commit homicide.
NAMI’s statement that most people with mental illness are not violent is of course accurate, given that “most” simply means “more than half”; but it is deeply misleading. Schizophrenia is rare. But people with the disorder commit an appreciable fraction of all murders, in the range of six to nine percent.
“The best way to deal with the stigma is to reduce the violence,” says Dr. Sheilagh Hodgins, a professor at the University of Montreal who has studied mental illness and violence for more than 30 years.
The marijuana-psychosis-violence connection is even stronger than those figures suggest. People with schizophrenia are only moderately more likely to become violent than healthy people when they are taking antipsychotic medicine and avoiding recreational drugs. But when they use drugs, their risk of violence skyrockets. “You don’t just have an increased risk of one thing—these things occur in clusters,” Dr. Fazel told me.
Along with alcohol, the drug that psychotic patients use more than any other is cannabis: a 2010 review of earlier studies inSchizophrenia Bulletin found that 27 percent of people with schizophrenia had been diagnosed with cannabis use disorder in their lives. And unfortunately—despite its reputation for making users relaxed and calm—cannabis appears to provoke many of them to violence.
A Swiss study of 265 psychotic patients published in Frontiers of Forensic Psychiatry last June found that over a three-year period, young men with psychosis who used cannabis had a 50 percent chance of becoming violent. That risk was four times higher than for those with psychosis who didn’t use, even after adjusting for factors such as alcohol use. Other researchers have produced similar findings. A 2013 paper in an Italian psychiatric journal examined almost 1,600 psychiatric patients in southern Italy and found that cannabis use was associated with a ten-fold increase in violence.
The most obvious way that cannabis fuels violence in psychotic people is through its tendency to cause paranoia—something even cannabis advocates acknowledge the drug can cause. The risk is so obvious that users joke about it and dispensaries advertise certain strains as less likely to induce paranoia. And for people with psychotic disorders, paranoia can fuel extreme violence. A 2007 paper in the Medical Journal of Australia on 88 defendants who had committed homicide during psychotic episodes found that most believed they were in danger from the victim, and almost two-thirds reported misusing cannabis—more than alcohol and amphetamines combined.
Yet the link between marijuana and violence doesn’t appear limited to people with preexisting psychosis. Researchers have studied alcohol and violence for generations, proving that alcohol is a risk factor for domestic abuse, assault, and even murder. Far less work has been done on marijuana, in part because advocates have stigmatized anyone who raises the issue. But studies showing that marijuana use is a significant risk factor for violence have quietly piled up. Many of them weren’t even designed to catch the link, but they did. Dozens of such studies exist, covering everything from bullying by high school students to fighting among vacationers in Spain.
In most cases, studies find that the risk is at least as significant as with alcohol. A 2012 paper in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence examined a federal survey of more than 9,000 adolescents and found that marijuana use was associated with a doubling of domestic violence; a 2017 paper in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology examined drivers of violence among 6,000 British and Chinese men and found that drug use—the drug nearly always being cannabis—translated into a five-fold increase in violence.
Today that risk is translating into real-world impacts. Before states legalized recreational cannabis, advocates said that legalization would let police focus on hardened criminals rather than marijuana smokers and thus reduce violent crime. Some advocates go so far as to claim that legalization hasreduced violent crime. In a 2017 speech calling for federal legalization, U.S. Senator Cory Booker said that “states [that have legalized marijuana] are seeing decreases in violent crime.” He was wrong.
The first four states to legalize marijuana for recreational use were Colorado and Washington in 2014 and Alaska and Oregon in 2015. Combined, those four states had about 450 murders and 30,300 aggravated assaults in 2013. Last year, they had almost 620 murders and 38,000 aggravated assaults—an increase of 37 percent for murders and 25 percent for aggravated assaults, far greater than the national increase, even after accounting for differences in population growth.
Knowing exactly how much of the increase is related to cannabis is impossible without researching every crime. But police reports, news stories, and arrest warrants suggest a close link in many cases. For example, last September, police in Longmont, Colorado, arrested Daniel Lopez for stabbing his brother Thomas to death as a neighbor watched. Daniel Lopez had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was “self-medicating” with marijuana, according to an arrest affidavit.
In every state, not just those where marijuana is legal, cases like Lopez’s are far more common than either cannabis or mental illness advocates acknowledge. Cannabis is also associated with a disturbing number of child deaths from abuse and neglect—many more than alcohol, and more than cocaine, methamphetamines, and opioids combined—according to reports from Texas, one of the few states to provide detailed information on drug use by perpetrators.
These crimes rarely receive more than local attention. Psychosis-induced violence takes particularly ugly forms and is frequently directed at helpless family members. The elite national media prefers to ignore the crimes as tabloid fodder. Even police departments, which see this violence up close, have been slow to recognize the trend, in part because the epidemic of opioid overdose deaths has overwhelmed them.
So the black tide of psychosis and the red tide of violence are rising steadily, almost unnoticed, on a slow green wave.
For centuries, people worldwide have understood that cannabis causes mental illness and violence—just as they’ve known that opiates cause addiction and overdose. Hard data on the relationship between marijuana and madness dates back 150 years, to British asylum registers in India. Yet 20 years ago, the United States moved to encourage wider use of cannabis and opiates.
In both cases, we decided we could outsmart these drugs—that we could have their benefits without their costs. And in both cases we were wrong. Opiates are riskier, and the overdose deaths they cause a more imminent crisis, so we have focused on those. But soon enough the mental illness and violence that follow cannabis use will also be too widespread to ignore.
Whether to use cannabis, or any drug, is a personal decision. Whether cannabis should be legal is a political issue. But its precise legal status is far less important than making sure that anyone who uses it is aware of its risks. Most cigarette smokers don’t die of lung cancer. But we have made it widely known that cigarettes cause cancer, full stop. Most people who drink and drive don’t have fatal accidents. But we have highlighted the cases of those who do.
We need equally unambiguous and well-funded advertising campaigns on the risks of cannabis. Instead, we are now in the worst of all worlds. Marijuana is legal in some states, illegal in others, dangerously potent, and sold without warnings everywhere.
But before we can do anything, we—especially cannabis advocates and those in the elite media who have for too long credulously accepted their claims—need to come to terms with the truth about the science on marijuana. That adjustment may be painful. But the alternative is far worse, as the patients at Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Institute—and their victims—know.