Posts from bigthink.com
Why are Americans still afraid of atheism?The reality is that Americans have wavered in their faith for centuries. Some were always religious, others not so much. Sometimes religion takes the lead, at others it sits quietly in the background, our attention fixated on another shiny object. If we must point to a period that truly framed our modern pivot toward religion, we need look no further than the 1950s, when an incredible amount of it was injected into the public imagination. As Casey Cep writes in a recent New Yorker article, Two centuries after the Founders wrote a godless constitution, the federal government got religion: between 1953 and 1957, a prayer breakfast appeared on the White House calendar, a prayer room opened in the Capitol, "In God We Trust" was added to all currency, and "under God" was inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance.The modern notions of American exceptionalism and manifest destiny, though not dreamed up during this decade, certainly gained a loyal following, considering we're still towing that line. You can barely go a day without hearing some pundit or politician remind us that "America is the greatest nation in the world," which is often a dog whistle for the Religious Right; what isn't said but is implied: "because God said so."This isn't true of everyone claiming America to be a great nation. Plenty of immigrants rightfully repeat this mantra after escaping harrowing conditions elsewhere. Yet for a majority of Americans, "greatest" and "God" go hand-in-hand. Such nationalistic sentiments do stoke the anger of a longstanding tribe of believers. However, while migrant caravans are only scary during the week leading up to an election, atheists are always frightening.
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Doctors in Scotland can now prescribe nature to their patientsSince October 5, doctors in Shetland, Scotland have been authorized to prescribe nature to their patients. It's thought to be the first program of its kind in the U.K., and seeks to reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and increase happiness for those with diabetes, a mental illness, stress, heart disease, and more.There is a whole leaflet of nature prescription suggestions that accompanies the program, filled with amusing, charming, sometimes seemingly off-kilter suggestions: in February, you can make a windsock from a hoop and material to "appreciate the speed of the wind"; in March, you can make beach art from natural materials or "borrow a dog and take it for a walk"; in April, you can "touch the sea" and "make a bug hotel"; in May, you can "bury your face in the grass"; in July, you can "pick two different kinds of grass and really look at them"; in August, you can summon a worm out of the ground without digging or using water; in September, you can help clean the beach and prepare a meal outdoors; in October, you can "appreciate a cloud"; you can "talk to a pony" in November, "feed the birds in your garden" in December, and do so much more. All on doctor's orders.The evidence for the benefits of nature on mental and physical health are numerous. If you spend 90 minutes of your day outside in a wooded area, there will be a decrease of activity in the part of your brain typically associated with depression. Spending time in nature not only reduces blood pressure, anxiety, and increases happiness, but it reduces aggression, ADHD symptoms, improves pain control, the immune system, and—per a summary of research regarding the health benefits of nature—there's much more we don't know and are figuring out every day.
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