Survivalism: A Modern Day Religion?

Categories: Outdoor Survival


Updated- February 2021: Survivalism, so they say, is not yet an officially recognized religion. However, it is understandable that many people would have that misconception. The speed at which survivalism has accrued followers year after year, and how ardent practitioners preach the absolute need to be prepared for the inescapable and seemingly inevitable apocalypse certainly gives that impression.

However, survivalism is not what one would exactly call a new craze. Individuals have been building bunkers and hoarding supplies since the cold war started way back in the fifties. Back then the threat was frighteningly obvious. Survival was about being ready for nuclear war and the subsequent nuclear winter that would follow.

Nowadays, the threat is not always as clear; as the recent Coronovirus pandemic has all too clearly proven.

Survivalism - A Modern Day Religion?Survival History Lesson

A survivalist is many things but first and foremost they have a survivalist frame of mind. They have been around in one form or another for millions of years.

As you probably know there are a dozen or so reality shows on television today, based on modern survivalism. Before we begin a comprehensive review of current survivalism, we first need to better understand its history.

Think about it, cavemen had to be survivalists, searching for food, warmth, protection from wild animals and weather events. Life for them was tough. Take a huge jump forward to the Ice Age that took place about 195,000 years ago. Scientists believe that there was only one habitable place on earth and that was in Africa and was known as “the Garden of Eden”. Here, the ocean was one source of food and vegetation was plentiful in the area. Some researchers even believe that we all got here from a band of a few hundred individuals who successfully lived through the Ice Age all those years ago.


Now leap forward to the late 1940s when the Cold War began and World War II had ended. The “cold” wasn’t related to weather conditions. The term was used because the two sides of this war did not experience significant fighting.

It was at this time that we began learning more about the threat of nuclear weaponry. The first nuclear test blasts were being carried out. Then the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, then just three days after that, a plutonium bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.

By January of 1946, the General Assembly of the United Nations ordered the elimination of nuclear weapons and created a commission to oversee the process. However, in the short-term years that followed, the Soviet Union, United Kingdom, and the United States all did more testing with nuclear weapons.

Later in the 1960s, France began testing. The Soviet Union tested the largest bomb ever. We experienced the Cuban Missile Crisis, and China began testing as well. Followed in the 1970s by India, and well, the rest is history.

The significant point to make here is that this was the era when we all became fearful of weapons of mass destruction. Schools began teaching children how to survive by evacuating them into a hallway away from windows and doors whenever possible. It is quite likely that many parents began teaching their children about “bobbing and weaving” to avoid being hit. Neither of which would really be of much help should you be within the range of a nuclear detonation.

Even if we did manage to survive the “bomb”, the radiation and other after-effects would likely shorten our lives quite dramatically. With all that in mind, there remained several variants that would need to be assessed if you wanted to survive. Mainly length of exposure, and how close you were to the action.

All in all, not a very nice prospect but it was something many of us lived through and learned to accept.

Survivalism Today

What we refer to now as “modern-day” survivalism, is less about assaults and bombings and more about patriotism, spiritualism, and knowledge.

The physical and mental fortitude of a true survivor is amazing. There are several traits and/or skills that we believe are necessary to be a successful survivalist and there are a large and increasing number of individuals who practice survivalism almost religiously. The list of suggested “must-haves” includes, but is not limited to:

  • Knowing and understanding the importance of mental and physical health;
  • Practice to perfection; you never want to stop learning;
  • Have basic wilderness skills, and knowing what is edible and what isn’t;
  • Knowing what gear is most critical for your survival.

Let’s think about the current survival reality shows that so many people enjoy watching and participating in. These will give you a good flavor of what survival expectations are about. Be aware that not all of them are currently airing, but you can find earlier episodes on cable/satellite channels.

Shows Covering Survivalism

  • Running Wild with Bear Grylls: Mr. Grylls is a former SAS soldier and is considered to be a master of survival. In this show, he takes willing celebrities to remote locations to learn survival skills.
  • Dual Survival: Two survival experts are dropped off in challenging locations to test their survival skills and teamwork. This is interesting because you get to observe the varying methodology of two experts.
  • Dirty Rotten Survival: One survival expert, a former military colonel, and engineer, plus one home builder assign each other tasks to be completed with only defined equipment in location-specific sites.
  • Alone: Dropped in remote Northern Vancouver Island, ten contestants are isolated from each other with limited equipment and a camera. The last one standing wins.
  • Ultimate Survival Alaska: Competitive show that drops four teams of three off in the wilderness of Alaska with minimal gear. Wilderness, varying and unpredictable weather, and predators make this an interesting watch.
  • Survivorman: Expert survivor uses his skills to survive up to ten days in remote areas with little to no food, water, or equipment.
  • Man, Woman, Wild: Survival expert and former US Army Special Forces member and his wife, who is a journalist, must survive for a half-week with limited supplies in unwelcoming locations.

Being a “casual/hobby” survivalist and truly preparing to survive a true disaster are two different things. If you want to live the survivor experience, the top ten most essential tools are;

  • a knife
  • cords
  • beanie/stalking cap/toque
  • water container
  • signaling equipment
  • compass
  • shelter materials
  • first aid kit
  • one change of clothes
  • and a camping pack

Where can I get Expert Training for Survivalism?

Well, you can follow the advice and information provided by ourselves at Alpha Survivalist and other reputable online entities. Or, alternatively, you could find a survival school local to you.

There are more than a dozen schools that will teach both entry-level and advanced survival skills. Our very own military is an option. Locate an expert, or a former/current member of our military, in your area and spend some quality time visiting with them and/or asking them to take you on a test outing.

Books, magazines, and online articles, blogs, and websites too numerous to mention can help you learn more about survival.

Where Can I Practice My Survival Skills?

You can find remote spots in many locations. You can also practice in some nearby, populated spots initially. However, you must discipline yourself to use only defined equipment. No cheating and dashing back in the house for a treat. Here is a list of top US sites.

Let’s Get Real

What kind of current events would require you to know how to survive? Global pandemic for one!

Know how to navigate the common natural disasters inherent in your residential or work areas. These could be hurricanes, tornadoes, tropical storms, flood, fire, drought, volcano eruptions, earthquakes, landslides, avalanche to name a few.

Any of these events could easily destroy or damage your home to a point where you will be forced to evacuate.

Today, history has taught us that we could be exposed to a somewhat alarming volume of man-made disasters:

Survival knowledge, practice, and skills are no longer something that can be scoffed at. We are living in a world where some degree of survival knowledge can become the difference between life and death.

Are Survivalists Paranoid?

Over the years, those who have been seen as being over-the-top in their painstaking preparations for whatever disaster may befall them have been often ridiculed. There is no escaping the fact that there is a stigma definitely attached to individuals who practice survivalism.

Many practitioners are reclusive and have antisocial tendencies giving the outward impression of paranoia. Extreme survivalists often have apocalyptic and conspiratorial beliefs that seem somewhat detached from the reality the vast majority of people associate with being the norm.

However, the global pandemic currently being experienced has silenced many of those who have doubted the need to prepare. As a result, more and more people are starting to understand the benefits of preparing for those times when things go south and the shit truly does hit the proverbial fan.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, so maybe a little paranoia isn’t such a bad thing after all!

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