I knew a guy who quit religion and after being in the Army became a super-patriot. I took a while to understand the change I saw and then told him he'd found another religion.

Wanting to know more. I googled nationalism as religion and found the following URL:


It took me to the second of two blog posts by a Cris Campbell, who says he holds advanced degrees in anthropology, philosophy, and law. It links to his first post, and early in it he says

Disentangling religion from nationalism is a nearly impossible task.

His first post concludes with:

In more recent times (i.e., over the last 700 years or so) another factor has played a major (if not dominant) role in group cohesion.  That factor is nationalism, and it has much in common with religion.  In tomorrow’s post, I will detail the many ways in which nationalism is analogous to religion.

Elsewhere in that first post he'd said kinship was the first means of group cohesion and religion was the second.

In his second post is the following:

During the course of the Neolithic transition, groups also began to identify themselves with particular city-states — this was the beginning of nationalism, the third major factor that creates group identity. Today, nationalism surely plays the dominant role in group cohesion around the world. One of the best treatments of this complex subject comes from Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism.

Another approach to this subject comes from the sociologist Robert Bellah, who has written extensively on nationalism and what he calls “civil religion.” Carolyn Marvin and David Ingle elaborated Bellah’s notion of civil religion in their controversial and compelling article, “Blood Sacrifice and the Nation: Revisiting Civil Religion.” The article begins with a commonplace observation: “Americans live in a culture that is as religious as any that exists.” Few will argue this point, as the United States — along with countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia — routinely rates highest in the world on measures of religiosity. Marvin and Ingle are not, however, referring to American Christianity. The religion of which they speak is American nationalism:    In this article we contend that nationalism is the most powerful religion in the United States, and perhaps in many other countries. Structurally speaking, nationalism mirrors sectarian belief systems such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam and others that are more conventionally labeled as religious. It happens that nationalism also satisfies many traditional definitions of religion, but citizens of nation-states have religious reasons for denying it.

We argue that both sectarian and national religions organize killing energy by committing devotees to sacrifice themselves to the group.  We also explore the ritual role of media in propagating national religion. Media are not the most important ritual vehicles for nationalism, but they matter. Though based in empirical observation, our claims are theoretical in nature. Their value lies in re-thinking certain empirical phenomena in relation to notions of nationalism and religion in the contemporary world. Although our examples come mostly from the United States and its majority sectarian faith, and although generalization is risky, the principles we describe are broadly applicable to other enduring groups, defined as groups for which members are willing to give their lives.

The US Supreme Court (the Catholic-Republican majority, that is) has ruled that the flag salute and non-secterian prayer in public meetings is not religion, but civil religion.

Religion and faith is now nationalism and patriotism?

What say you?

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I've said something about nationalism and religion before - I think they are both bad for people. I feel that it's best for individuals to recognize that they belong to the sentient beings on this planet. That is an enormous group, so it's not strange if people have a stronger affiliation to a village sized group - friends, neighbours, family, school or hobbyclub - people need to belong to a small group. But we don't need borders, the division in WE vs. THEY, and other things that keep us apart.

Chris, I strongly agree!

I agree Tom. Within a short distance of 15 miles of where I live I find 5 or 6 flag poles and citizens flying the American flag. That flag goes up every morning. These are normal people who have only average incomes. Apparently they do not want you to forget what country you are living in. Maybe they just want to remind themselves. People can do what they want, but I'm ex-military and see no need for it.

Once I read an article about a man in Germany that had twin flags on his car. They were on small poles in the area of his twin mirrors. I thought it was funny and told a friend about it. The next thing I knew my friend was flying American flags on his car. He did that for over 6 months.

My view is that you will probably fly the flag of the country you live in, and every country has some people. Religion and faith always has played towards nationalism and patriotism. This is how you know that "your country" is right. It's a similar take on how you know that "your religion" is right.

Michael, I strongly agree with you, too. 

Exactly, nationalism is a religion, this was shown in the Northern Ireland conflict where even non-religious, but heavily nationalistic patriots were taking sides and getting involved in the conflict.

A lot of the power of Hitler over his followers were not blind religion, but blind nationalism.

It is the natural appeal of sensing a power greater than oneself is caring for the self.

Its an innate need in all humans.

Like religions indoctrinate the young, so does a nation indoctrinate the young inhabitants into nationalism through false national pride and this is why we have the youth willing to die for their country.

Most countries strive for this and consider it a good thing, yet, when looked at psychologically, a lot of nationalism is irrational and no better than religion.

National pride may be okay, but fundamentalist nationalism is no better than religious fundamentalism.

That is my conclusion from watching friends who attacked me for not wanting to go off to fight the Vietnam conflict. 

I told them it was not our war, yet they would continually come back with: "where's your national pride" or call me a traitor.

Though I did try to join the army after the Viet conflict ended, but failed the physical anyway.

They only wanted gunners and my eyesight was not up to scratch.

As they don't want gunners who need to wear glasses, lose their glasses and a gunner is lost.

That was their story.

Dyslexic Dog, I strongly agree with you as well. 

I've heard this thought before on Atheist Nexus, but this discussion has caused me to see it more clearly.  Nationalism does sound like religion.

It just now hit me that mormonism supports nationalism.  I was taught by mormonism that the USA was the best country in the world, and god had created it for those that obeyed him.

After becoming atheist and frequenting anti-theist sites, I started changing my mind about nationalism.  The intelligent atheists here on Atheist Nexus have finished the job, and convinced me to reject nationalism.

Spud, there is something about giving up one fundamentalism that results in giving up others. I like atheism because we don't have a doctrine, there are no rules, except not having compelling evidence of a higher power, we are not called to salute or pledge allegiance to a flag or go to war. 

For myself and many others who populate A/N we ask for evidence and we are adaptable and flexible. 

Patricia, I don't know why this national insecurity reveals itself so strongly, and you are correct, IMHO, "the USA keeps needing constant reinforcement on who they are, & where they live".

Kind of creepy, isn't it how the USA has to announce its greatness while doing squat for working people.

The neo puritans want everyone who doesn't earn enough to tithe and pay taxes to die.  It's as simple as that. 

About 30 years ago the then-governor of Colorado said it was the duty of the poor, the elderly, and the handicapped to die  to make room for the next generation.  But he would not consider physician-assisted suicide...just cancel Social InSecurity and Medicareless.

I wonder if the sonovabitch is still alive.

Let's hope he took his own advice - but they usually make a loophole for themselves.


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