I have had people in the past ask me how what got me involved in the prepper (survivalist) movement? While many reasons are religious based and involve practices taught to them by their faith, I can only attest to a partial truth in that answer. I did grow up during the 80s and while baby boomers and a few numbers of Gen Xers can remember the nuclear drills that schools did back in the day, I can still recall in detail putting a book over my head and thinking this was somehow going to protect me from the radiation and intense heat that would strip the flesh from my bones like Sarah Connor in Terminator 2. The drills were ridiculous and even one kid in my class asked the question on how to not look once you saw the light when a nuclear detonation happened? As he pointed out once you saw the light your retina was already burned. The drills and precautions done during that time were pointless and amounted to nothing when the real event came upon us and fortunately for us it never did.
There was something else that happened when I was in middle school. The administration at St. Monica’s had gathered together and tried to figure out what issues the future generation might have to be prepared for. Out of nuclear war, plague, over population, or devastating asteroid, climate change ended up being the winner of the conversation. Our class learned about gardening solar energy, and peak oil, an issue they were hoping might happen sooner than later in order to counter the effects of climate change. Global Warming was the term we heard back then until the Bush administration changed the term to make the effects sound more natural and less dangerous. Regardless there was an importance instilled in me about the future and what science said was coming.
During that time my parents were doing a lot of things around the house that were also prepper related. Buying large amounts of canned goods and storing them away, canning their own vegetables, growing a garden, attempted bouts of hunting that ended with throwing the deer in the bed of the truck after hitting it in the road. Most of these activities were for the purpose of saving money and instead resulted in the hobbies being quickly dropped due to the time and energy involved in them. I was seeing and learning these things as I grew up but the thing that turned me off from it for a long time was the religion aspect that was tied to it. With every event, news story, political concern, and scientific study there was a reference to the book of revelation or the apocalypse. During the cold war, we faced nuclear annihilation and that was God’s plan. After the fall of the Berlin wall it changed to the Iraq war and the battle of Armageddon where Saddam was the anti-christ and America was the Christian warriors who were fighting for the side of good. I remember my mother worried about Saddam’s chemical weapons and destroying the planet, an irrational fear told to a child and something that a more intelligent person would have found to be ludicrous. Still this was the world I was growing up in and no matter how many times the end of the world didn’t happen there was a push by the religious right to find the next big thing. I became tired of this and other aspects of religion as I grew older.
Going to catholic schools there were several times that what I was being taught and what the school did were opposites of each other. While the teachings of the new testament were prioritized as the most important aspect of the bible, the school and church were run under old testament rule. When I pointed these things out and argued against the things I was seeing I was told that was not how the real world worked and not to question authority. Wasn’t that exactly what Jesus did? Question the old rule of the Jewish state and try to change minds to a better world? And why was I the only one who was trying to practice what was being taught?
I never went back to the catholic church after graduation feeling no need or desire to connect myself to an organization that blackmailed people with threats of where they would be after they died. I later married into a Methodist church where I thought there might be a resemblance to the teachings I was taught but that fell to the wayside after a pastor complained about a person calling the church asking for help, then demanded that the parish donate to the church so that they could install air conditioning. I quickly left the church after that.
For a few years, I found a home in Buddhism and practiced that philosophy for a while until there was an issue with what the “true path” was. I still find meditation handy and feel disappointed with the organization of a philosophy whose teacher stated, “Everyone can find enlightenment in their own way, this is what worked for me.”
Since then I have found a comfort in atheism. After all of the ridiculous stress and anxiety that came with being the member of a world ending religion seeing a reason and logic behind what was said had a comfort, the book of revelations would never offer. What was the point of doing anything when those around you were constantly saying “this is the end.”
With science, climate change came back into view. Because the effects of this event continued to come into play over long periods of time it didn’t have the effect for the churches to claim it as part of their world ending religion. The end of days has a very specific short term time line for any idiot to follow. Climate change on the other hand is an event that takes years if not a century to show its full effect. While religion depends on events like solar eclipses and other events that can be predicted through science to legitimize it, a long-term event like climate change is something that churches or religion in general have not only been unable to fit into their dogmatic role, but also denying its existence regarding it as a threat to their own existence. I can’t help assume that not only do the leaders of these churches know that climate change if real but that they deny it for the simple short minded reason that it will cost them money in the end. The shell corporation knew that climate change was real in the early 1970s and even taught their staff members about it to figure out what to do in order to stay in business while not destroying the planet. In the 1990s they changed their tune and started a campaign to deny the existence of climate change and not reduce the use of oil but figure out more ways to extract it in more costly ways.
Becoming an atheist didn’t change my view on the end of the world, it focused my attention to the one route it was proven to take that religion was denying. Sure, there is still fear of nuclear holocaust and another world war considering the current administration in office, but if I had to put my money on anything, climate change is the one circumstance that won’t change even if other events don’t happen first. A hundred years from now, if we don’t have a nuclear holocaust, world war, or plague that wipes out half of civilization, the earth will still be warmer, the seas levels will rise, and a good portion of the species on the planet will be gone. Out of all the ridiculous situations that we consider to be a threat to our way of life we ignore the one that is in our face and currently happening.
These days our government distracts us with things that are less likely to occur like terrorism from a threat that will cost their donors money. Terrorism is one of the issues that can promote while making a profit. To wage war on climate change is anti-climactic and while it does save the planet the enemy is hard to see and the positive effects of the efforts are difficult to measure over time. During war, bodies can be stacked and counted. Saved lives are harder to measure. How does one estimate lives saved from doing something that some would argue “might happen.” This argument was made at the end of WWII to justify the use of the atomic bomb against the civilian cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The White house argued the lives saved was greater than the lives lost to end the war early. History would later show that not only was this assumption false but the reasons were more sinister than that.
Al Gore tried to bring the issue of climate change to the forefront and succeeded for a short time. His efforts were overshadowed by the Bush administration’s war on terror and soon Gore was forgotten and his push to change light bulbs was thrown to the wayside. Gore’s attempt to save the world backfired like Jimmy Carter’s attempt to change the American psyche.