Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 54, Issue 1, pp 61–75 | Cite as

Call of the Wild: The Negative Tendency in the Nature Religions of American Youth

Psychological Exploration


The author argues that the paucity of options for sanctioned rebellion in contemporary American society drive an ever-increasing number of idealistic youth in search of isolation in nature, where they construct what the author here calls “nature religions.” These worldviews focus on purification of falsehood, ritualized through enduring extreme physical pain, social isolation, and extreme weather conditions in hopes of experiencing reality more authentically. The author argues that unemployment, limited vocational options, and the homogenization of American society are among the major catalysts for this ever-expanding breed of seekers, each of whom struggles with a negative tendency (a theoretical term created by Erik Erikson). Furthermore, the author argues that the emphasis in the nature religions on connection to nature is constructed to compensate for the lack of community and sense of human connectedness in contemporary American society. A representative case study from Jon Krakauer’s (Into the wild; Doubleday, New York, 1996) Into the Wild is presented to illuminate and justify the argument made by the author for more institutionally housed options for sanctioned, licit rebellion to manage the negative tendency.


Monasticism Negative tendency Erik H. Erikson Jon Krakauer 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Ronin InstituteFt. MyersUSA

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