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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Monasticism Negative tendency Erik H. Erikson Jon Krakauer 

References

  1. Capps, D. (1993). The poet’s gift: Toward the renewal of pastoral care. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.Google Scholar
  2. Capps, D. (2010). Understanding psychosis: Issues and challenges for sufferers, families, and friends. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  3. Erikson, E. H. (1950). Childhood and society. New York and London: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
  4. Erikson, E. H. (1958). Young man Luther: A study in psychoanalysis, history and identity. New York and London: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
  5. Erikson, E. H. (1959). Identity and the life cycle. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  6. Erikson, E. H. (1969). Gandhi’s truth: On the origins of militant non-violence. New York and London: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
  7. Kett, J. F. (1977). Rites of passage: Adolescence in America 1790 to the present. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  8. Krakauer, J. (1996). Into the wild. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  9. Pahl, J. (1992). Paradox lost: Free will and political liberty in American culture, 1630–1760. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Pahl, J. (2010). Empire of sacrifice: The religious origins of American violence. New York and London: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Penn, S. (2007). Into the wild [Film]. Hollywood: Paramount Vantage.Google Scholar
  12. Sklansky, J. (2002). The soul’s economy: Market society and selfhood in American thought, 1820–1920. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  13. Stafford, W. (1947). Down in my heart: Peace witness in war time. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State UP.Google Scholar
  14. Travis, J. (2005). But they all come back: Facing the challenges of prisoner re-entry. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Ronin InstituteFt. MyersUSA

Personalised recommendations