Blue Ridge Naturalist: Resurrecting Faith Requires Connecting with Nature

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Photo: Marlene A. Condon.

The word “Easter” is not in the original scriptures. It originally referred to a pagan feast day of renewal and rebirth that honored the Saxon goddess Eastre. Because this holiday fell about the same time as the traditional memorial of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, early missionaries merged the two when they converted the Saxons to Christianity.

To disassociate church services that day from pagan ties and the commercialization of the holiday, some Christian churches now refer to Easter as Resurrection Day. It’s an appropriate name, not only for commemorating Christ’s resurrection, but perhaps also for a discussion of resurrecting faith.

The Millennials—those people born between 1980 and 2000—comprise the largest generation in American history, and according to research by the Pew Research Center, they are less likely to say they believe in God. They are also less likely to be affiliated with any religion, and they are not alone.

The Pew Research Center found that adults of all ages have become less attached to religious institutions since the beginning of the 21st century, but Millennials are at the leading edge of this social phenomenon. Why might that be?

Being the first “digital natives” (a term coined by writer Marc Prensky)—the initial generation to grow up with the Internet, mobile technology, and digital social media—they are also the first generation of “nature aliens” (coined by this author)—the first generation to grow up distanced from the natural world.

Millennials, generally speaking, are deprived of a connection to nature. And that deprivation is a direct pathway to a loss of belief in God. Spending an abundance of time within the virtual world of computers—a creation of man, not God—leads to the worship of Man, not God.

Thus, it is not surprising that in the quarter-century that the Pew Research Center has been polling on the topic of religious affiliation, the Millennial level of religious disaffiliation is at or near the highest levels recorded for any generation. But does living in the digital age preclude an attachment to the natural world?

A large part of the problem lies in the ease of mis/disinformation that can be so easily disseminated by way of the Internet. Anyone with a digital device and an Internet connection can post information (whether it be wrong, untrue, or blown all out of proportion to reality), and it is delivered instantaneously to what seems to have become an accepting and non-analytical public.

Thus, for example, we currently live in a world of germaphobes, people who fear so much the thought of getting a germ on them that they behave somewhat irrationally. They use disinfectant wipes on public surfaces, such as shopping cart handles, even though adults are highly unlikely to get sick if they don’t bother to do this (especially if they would just keep their hands away from their faces). The problem with using disinfectant wipes is that they help to breed supergerms.

How did we get to this point? A variety of culprits are responsible, from the engineers who come up with ever-more sensitive devices to tell us things we don’t really need to know, to the scientists who count the microorganisms and then inform the press to get publicity for more funding, to the news organizations that sensationalize their finds.

Unfortunately, no one applies critical thinking to the situation, which would tell them these miniscule creatures have been there all along, will continue to be there forever, and that humans have been able to coexist with them because our bodies are made to deal with them!

Worse, this compulsion to sanitize the manmade world has inevitably led to the idea of sanitizing the natural world. The number of “pest control” companies and the over one billion pounds of pesticides used yearly in the United States attest to this fact.

Additionally, people have a propensity to embrace negative ideas about nature, as if it’s their enemy. Considering that the natural world is literally our life-support system, this nonsensical attitude results from people viewing nature from a skewed perspective.

Consider ticks. These small arachnids are well known, thanks to Lyme Disease, a serious illness caused by a bacterium ticks can transmit to humans. Many people are terrified to go outdoors during the warm months of the year because, with the amount of publicity ticks get, people think the probability of getting Lyme Disease is extremely high. 

But compared to the other activities people engage in without worry, the risk of getting Lyme Disease is relatively low. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 11 people per 100,000 were confirmed to be infected in Virginia in 2013. With a population of about 8 million people, this works out to about 80 cases of Lyme Disease, which is treatable by antibiotics. On the other hand, 740 Virginians died in a car crash that same year.

Should people be more afraid of spending time outdoors than getting into their vehicles to drive the roadways? A rational person can see that, with the number of Lyme Disease cases about 11 percent of the number of vehicular deaths, the answer is, “Obviously not.” And yet they absolutely are. Why?

People tend not to fear the things they are familiar with, especially manmade objects such as cars, which can be quite deadly. Instead, they tend to fear the wildlife they don’t see often and thus are unfamiliar with. Worse, they pay more attention to and believe stories that exaggerate the dangers posed by wildlife.

How do we get people to connect with nature instead of holding onto a distorted view of it? Unfortunately, this situation is extremely difficult to rectify because people are bombarded 24/7 with a huge amount of misinformation, much of which originates with scientists.

Because these professionals tend to look at nature only through the lens of human experience, theirs is a biased view of the natural world in which organisms seem to be either “good” or “bad.” It is a subjective perspective, and thus not accurate.

Humans must learn to recognize the importance of coexisting with other life forms, which means understanding how to live in agreement with nature instead of fighting it. Every creature exists for a reason, and that reason is to assist in perpetuating life on the planet by helping to keep the environment functioning properly.

Yet the war on nature has never before been fought so vigorously, nor more powerfully, to kill all manner of creatures, from insects to mammals to plants. Satan himself could not have devised a more devilishly fiendish scheme to divorce man from God. 

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