Why does Religion impact Patriotism?
9 out of 10 evangelical Christians say that America is the best country in the world, compared to 1 out of 5 non-religious persons, according to a recent Pew poll covered over at CNN’s Belief Blog.
If I hazard to guess, the same logic that prevents us from cowering in the face of a fictional supernatural being is the same logic that makes blind obedience to a Nation impossible.
But, is not thinking that America is “the greatest nation on Earth,” or not waving American flags around for the hell of it really unpatriotic? I don’t think so. I say honest criticism is perhaps more patriotic than adhering to delusions of grandeur.
Sometimes I feel that I fall into the 80% of non believers who doubt the complete supremacy of America, and my doubts come from statistics, yet sometimes I align with the other 20%. It all depends on how one defines greatness. We are the most powerful nation on the planet, with unmatched global power projection capabilities and the highest percentage of wealth and technological advancement. We are the nation that creates the world economy though our inventions and investment. We are not the best educated, happiest, fittest, or the most equitable society. We remain the most motivated nation but our once unmatched standard of living is declining. Yet I still consider myself patriotic and proud of my American heritage.
Some of the links between the religious and the patriotic are bound to be a result of the meme that “we are a Christian nation”, “We are God’s chosen”, or similar ideas. Which makes sense, if you think that your god has handpicked America as its nation, then obedience to that nation is a clear result and that somehow strikes me as the moral underpinnings of a theocracy.
American is the world’s second largest democracy but performs better than India. Yet our diverse society causes problems that smaller, more successful, and more homogenous countries avoid due to their demographics. That diversity is part of the appeal of the American experiment, that so varied a people can live in relative peace, harmony, and prosperity while continuing to add immigrants from the world over as new citizens, a uniquely American ideal (even if it remains a tradition to shit all over the new comers). It is that chaotic diversity that sustains us.
America might not be the best nation on the planet, but it always has the potential to be and when we choose to fulfill the fundamental tenets of our founding, we are. I think a true patriot does not have to continually slap himself on the back and laud his country; you have to be critical to avoid cultural stagnation. A person who must continually remind themselves about how great they are, is usually not that great of a person. Patriotism is in the eye of the beholder. Patriotism (IMHO) comes from not settling for what the country is and civilly pursuing your ideas on how to improve the country with the same gusto as those on the opposite side of the political spectrum as democracy slowly grinds out a compromise that hopefully moves us all forward.
My Grandparents generation struggled to build the nation into the greatest country on Earth, my parent’s generation marveled at the world created for them yet let it slowly start to crumble as other nations arose. It falls to my generation to reclaim our standing in the world. If we assume we are the greatest, then I feel that we will lack the drive to do the hard work that is required.
Like religion, patriotism requires faith. Unlike religion, the faith placed on a nation can be measured, evaluated, and tested though the performance of a nation. In their own ways the Tea Party and the Oppose Wall Street protests are more patriotic than simply singing “God Bless America”. Patriotism is action. And actions always speak louder than words.
(Source: CNN Belief Blog)