In the hours and days following the massacre of an unknowable number of hundreds of thousands of residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers christened it "the greatest scientific achievement in history." President Harry Truman went on the air in grainy black and white to describe it as a victorious "scientific gamble": "We won," he said, simply.
Meanwhile, teams of scientists rushed into the charred remains of the cities to measure the impacts of a blast force strong enough to topple marble gravestones, flip railroad cars, and strip the concrete off a roadway bridge. At the time, 75 years ago, the global public understood very little about the damage atomic weapons could wreak; the U.S. military understood barely more.
We soon had military reports, survey data and an unprecedented surrender by Japan as evidence of the bomb's terrible power. But having never cowered in bomb shelters as fire rained from the air, having never watched a paper city burn in the night, most Americans still lack a frame of reference for the reality of atomic detonation. With help from a well-oiled public relations machine, a mythology of the bomb's scientific might stood in for firsthand experience.
In the years following the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, no comic book, chemistry set, or cereal box could be sold without some reference to nuclear weapons. The Boy Scouts even introduced a merit badge for atomic energy in 1963.
The volume and intensity of anti-nuclear protests rivaled pro-nuclear propaganda heroically, but within the past 40 years, almost all references to nuclear weapons have vanished from American culture. Anti-nuclear activism has become a fringe interest. Where the bomb ought to be at the fore of the American psyche, in politicians' platforms, in citizen activist networks and ecological grief, you will find instead a flimsy cardboard box labeled "Radioactive: Do Not Open."
Now, another apocalyptic threat justifiably holds activist attention: the ongoing climate crisis. The consequences of runaway industrial activity become more obvious every year, even as focus on nuclear weapons recedes. Both forms of global dying originate in the coupling of earnest science with industrial interest, and both require action at a personal, local and federal scale.
Although the United States is currently set to spend $1.7 trillion modernizing our nuclear arsenal, although our resting nuclear readiness remains almost unchanged from the height of the Cold War, with additional nuclear dangers in the cyber and artificial intelligence realms, Americans have largely swept the issue from our collective consciousness and thus from our conscience. We can bring the moral question of nuclear armaments back into the mainstream only by recognizing it as fundamentally entangled with our goals for ecological healing.
As the climate crisis threatens every aspect of life, we can observe signs in nature that our biblical forebears might interpret as evidence of disconnection from God: birds falling from the skies, chirping insects falling silent, once-teeming seas pocked with dead zones, algal blooms turning waters red and black.
Christians of European descent have slowly come to recognize ourselves in the burrowing origins of industrial extraction practices, the shift from science to scientism, the disembodied mind's supremacy over the creaturely sphere. We are just beginning to reject the exchange of eternal salvation for Earthly devastation. We no longer crave apocalypse.
Here the climate crisis and nuclear armaments intertwine: The same spiritual values and human limitations that precipitated one also put us at risk of the other. The Enlightenment-era emphasis on objectivity, paired with an American pseudo-millenarian acceptance of apocalyptic ideology, created a cultural engine for weaponizing scientific discoveries with only passing regard for moral, spiritual or ecological implications. And because the risk extends to all life, because our nuclear policy reflects expansion contracts with inhuman corporations, because we are responsible for even the unintended consequences, we must understand atomic effects as features of the capital-driven climate crisis.
After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, testing redoubled in intensity as the United States applied brute industrial force and bombed huge swathes of the American West, the oceans and many sites important to indigenous peoples. Since the first Trinity test in the high New Mexico desert, eight nuclear states have performed 2,053 tests, exploding some 2,476 bombs and blanketing every inch of Earth with radioactive isotopes. Decades of detonations are shrouded in scientific industrial language, away from moral scrutiny.
Today, the nuclear payload on a single Trident submarine offers a blast potential equivalent to 40 Hiroshima or Nagasaki explosions four times the total destructive force deployed in World War II. Nuclear proliferation has been reduced to an inevitable feature of progress.
Every living and future creature is negatively affected by exposure to ubiquitous mutating ionization. The degree of chaotic force exerted on genetic material by radioactivity almost mirrors the theological category of creatio continua. This teaching finds God not in a moment of finite creation, but rather in the Spirit as a principle of indwelling creativity, moving life toward survival through the ability to change, adapt and improve. Nuclear activity holds the exact opposite indwelling force an enduring ability to make all species less capable of adapting to and surviving in the future world.
There is no data available on how many generations of human beings, frogs, deer, mollusks, insects or bacteria have been or will be affected by exposure to radiation from nuclear testing and waste storage since 1945. There is little data available on how the worst physical and environmental consequences of this testing already harm indigenous nations, Black and brown communities, or non-human life exposed to the waste our current government seeks to deregulate. These are of no concern to our nuclear apparatus.
We do know that there is nowhere on Earth you can go to avoid exposure to anthropogenic radioactivity: not the top of a mountain, nor the bottom of a river nor your own bed. And we know the same communities most threatened by climate catastrophes are also plagued by birth defects and novel cancers from byproducts of testing and storage.
In 2020, with so many other encroaching crises, all these consequences are pasted over in nuclear discourse by two words: We won. Seventy-five years after that first scientific gamble, as our military expands our nuclear might, our political leaders move to relax safety standards in poor and rural areas, yet most Americans consider the nuclear age a thing of the past.
We must, as people of faith, rise to disarm and neutralize the American nuclear arsenal with the same intensity with which we fight for the continuing ability of all God's creation to survive, adapt and improve, not in the great eternity, but here, in this realm and on this Earth.
[Christina Ellsberg has a master's degree in social ethics and systematic theology from Union Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing a doctorate in religion and modernity at Yale University. Ellsberg also holds a position on the board of the Women's Ordination Conference.]
Read more here:
- Spiritual Enlightenment: What It Is and How to Experience It - November 10th, 2020
- 5 Things You Should Know About Spiritual Enlightenment ... - November 10th, 2020
- Spiritual Enlightenment - Truths & Paths | Live and Dare - November 10th, 2020
- The 3 Stages Of Spiritual Enlightenment : In5D - November 10th, 2020
- What Is Spiritual Enlightenment or Spiritual Awakening? - November 10th, 2020
- Is there a spiritual side to dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic? - RTE.ie - November 10th, 2020
- National Trust observes Divali with educational presentations - Loop News Trinidad and Tobago - November 10th, 2020
- The Wanteds Tom Parker and wife Kelsey say newborn son is light at the end of our tunnel after brain cance - The Sun - November 10th, 2020
- The best response to Islamism is Christianity - Spectator.co.uk - November 10th, 2020
- Astrology 2020: Message of the Day (November 8) - Newsroompost - November 10th, 2020
- Huge chalk art project brings positivity to street on the Outer Banks - OBXToday.com - November 10th, 2020
- The birth of modern Europe - The News International - November 10th, 2020
- NLE Choppa Dated A 46-Year-Old Woman When He Was 16 - HotNewHipHop - November 10th, 2020
- Roy Exum: We Need God's Help - The Chattanoogan - November 10th, 2020
- Faith and Governance: The Role of the Church in Social Justice - THISDAY Newspapers - November 10th, 2020
- When Raving Was Radical - The Nation - November 10th, 2020
- Navigating the Mind: What Medication Cannot Address - James Moore - November 10th, 2020
- No Man's Sky: 10 Things You Didnt Know About The Korvax - TheGamer - November 10th, 2020
- It's Not That Detroit Is Too Poor, But That Seattle Is Too Rich - TheStranger.com - October 19th, 2020
- Eye Gazing Exercise: Possible Benefits and How to Try It - Healthline - October 19th, 2020
- Batman: Bruce Wayne Has The Same Origin Story as The Buddha - Screen Rant - October 19th, 2020
- Fiction: Into the Darkness With Don DeLillo - Wall Street Journal - October 19th, 2020
- Rabbi Art Green (still) believes Hasidic ideas are key to the Jewish future - The Jewish News of Northern California - October 19th, 2020
- Alan Arkin on Hollywood success: 'I was miserable pretty much all of the time' - The Guardian - October 19th, 2020
- The joy of the Mallorcan landscape - Majorca Daily Bulletin - October 19th, 2020
- Sudbury author explores the power of healing - The Sudbury Star - October 19th, 2020
- The Revolutionary Beethoven - CounterPunch.org - CounterPunch - October 19th, 2020
- Exercising Religion and Taming Faction - Los Angeles Review of Books - lareviewofbooks - October 19th, 2020
- Op-Ed: The civil rights legend who opposed critical race theory - The Center Square - October 19th, 2020
- Chant of the Buddha - Part II - Outlook India - September 26th, 2020
- Tantra exhibition review: An enjoyable journey on the road to enlightenment - Evening Standard - September 26th, 2020
- The Revolutionary Beethoven - Dissent - September 26th, 2020
- Review: Capital in the 21st Century - Camden New Journal newspapers website - September 26th, 2020
- Finding God: Christianity and the Global Mystical Societies - THISDAY Newspapers - September 26th, 2020
- Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith Used This Parenting Technique That Inspired Jaden and Willow To Be Unusually Close - Showbiz Cheat Sheet - September 26th, 2020
- The art of tantra: is there more to it than marathon sex and massages? - The Guardian - September 26th, 2020
- Saying goodbye to the Israeli one-state prophet - +972 Magazine - September 26th, 2020
- Spiritual Enlightenment - How To Become Enlightened - August 10th, 2020
- Spiritual Enlightenment - The Most Profound Truth Revealed ... - August 10th, 2020
- SERMONETTE: Seek the Holy Spirit and hold on! - Crow River Media - August 10th, 2020
- What Is Spiritual Bypassing? 7 Steps To Avoiding Toxic Spirituality - YourTango - August 10th, 2020
- Will Tammy Duckworth be the first deist veep since Thomas Jefferson? - Religion News Service - August 10th, 2020
- Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism - PopMatters - August 10th, 2020
- DREAMS OF WALDEN POND: The Way of Liberal Religion - Patheos - August 10th, 2020
- Let's Show Power! Rev Abbeam Danso and Apostle Nkum challenge The Mystic Twins to open battle - GhanaWeb - August 10th, 2020
- Jacob S. Rugh: An open letter to the BYU Committee on Race, Equity, and Belonging - Salt Lake Tribune - August 10th, 2020
- Your Weekly Horoscope News: August 10th - August 17th - Sporteluxe - August 10th, 2020
- #482 Author and Intuitive Michael McAdams and His Book, An Angel Told Me So - BlogTalkRadio - August 8th, 2020
- Hinduism Survived Years Of Raids Through Its Inclusiveness, Not Violence And Bloodshed - Outlook India - August 8th, 2020
- A rebuttal to Sam George's mid-length propaganda: "The path to enlightenment ain't easy. We get it through trial, struggle, self-flagellation.... - August 8th, 2020
- Dimension of Krishna Sadhana - The New Indian Express - August 8th, 2020
- Why Bodh Gaya is Considered the Navel of the Earth - Ancient Origins - August 8th, 2020
- 6 Facts About Water Lilies That Will Make You Love Them Even More - MSN Money - August 8th, 2020
- Satan in the Times | John Mark N. Reynolds - Patheos - August 8th, 2020
- How To Meditate, Body Scan, Breathe Mindfully And Become More Present - elle.com - August 8th, 2020
- When panic disorder hits a nation - The Star Online - August 8th, 2020
- World Teacher and Happy Science Founder Ryuho Okawa Introduces Four Principles of Happiness that Transcends Race and Religion in His New Book... - August 8th, 2020
- ARTIST: Zachary Ian Garden featured in The Art of Tattooists - The News Herald - August 7th, 2020
- Honey I Joined A Cult Coming To Brainwash PCs in 2021 - GameSpace.com - August 7th, 2020
- Pick of the Podcasts: Guru, Calm Down Dear, Give Me Some Good News - The Sunday Post - August 7th, 2020
- Excerpt: From the Translators Note to Rumi; A New Collection Selected and Translated by Farrukh Dh... - Hindustan Times - August 6th, 2020
- 'History will judge us' Have progressive UK rabbis reached end of the road on Israel? - Mondoweiss - August 6th, 2020
- Chulayarnnon Siriphol on Finding Ways to Express Opinions - Ocula Magazine - August 6th, 2020
- Speech and Slavery in the West Indies | by Fara Dabhoiwala - The New York Review of Books - August 6th, 2020
- Power of 5am thoughts - The New Indian Express - August 4th, 2020
- India is a spiritual country, but we're still not taking the wealth of the Bhagavad Gita: Vedanta scholar Jaya Row - The New Indian Express - August 4th, 2020
- The Sacrifice of All Doubts - Kashmir Reader - August 4th, 2020
- View the awe-inspiring Hermitage of St. Sava - Aleteia IT - August 4th, 2020
- A Suitable Boy: Seven films to watch that are set in India - Spectator.co.uk - August 3rd, 2020
- Chingy wants to uplift with self-reflective new album, 'Crown Jewel' - STLtoday.com - August 3rd, 2020
- Feds sprayed chemicals into the eyes of a retired ER nurse and veteran - Street Roots News - August 3rd, 2020
- The American Founding vindicated against its foes on the Right and Left - MercatorNet - August 3rd, 2020
- Lam Tian Xings Anthem of the Calamus is an ode to Hong Kongs resilient spirit - Lifestyle Asia - August 3rd, 2020
- Asking the Clergy: Why is patience a virtue in difficult times? - Newsday - July 31st, 2020
- El Topo: The weirdest western ever made - BBC News - July 29th, 2020
- Lam Tian-xings Anthem of the Calamus is an ode to Hong Kongs resilient spirit - Lifestyle Asia - July 29th, 2020
- Corruption, the Devaluation of the Human Spirit and the Futures of Black Humanity (2) - The News - July 29th, 2020
- 'It took genius to chisel these buttocks' the top 10 bottoms in art, chosen by our critic - The Guardian - July 29th, 2020
- Hippy In the Mikvah - Lubavitch.com - July 29th, 2020
- Author Louis Belmont announces new article series on the Spirituality Industry - PR Web - July 27th, 2020