Dictionary.com defines patriotism as:
Love of and devotion to one's country.
I couldn’t have said it better. Surely, Christian Americans can be patriotic; they can have love and devotion to one’s country. I am not one to deny the patriotism of any Christian American. There are many Christians that are more patriotic than atheists, and there are many atheists that are more patriotic than Christians. But what belief system lays a foundation for a superior patriotism, the person that believes in the afterlife or doesn’t?
In a previous blog entry, “I Know What Your Motive Was Last Summer,” I pointed out the problems with primacy and afterlife belief. Primacy of afterlife belief is especially problematic for the Christian religion when it comes to patriotism. Here’s why:
Afterlife-belief demands the assignment of primacy to an afterlife, and the deity that resides in it. For Christianity, this deity is Jesus/God (Christianity considers Jesus and God to be the same entity).
Christianity demands that you put Jesus Christ first in your life. And the Christian concept of Heaven/Hell demands that you sacrifice your present-life interests for the sake of afterlife interests. Therefore, the first two value assignments for the Christian are 1) God, and 2) Heaven. A Christian would only be patriotic to the extent that it did not interfere with his/her loyalty to Jesus Christ and concern with getting into heaven. While a non-afterlife-believer, on the other hand, would have no such primacy/loyalty requirements.
The foundations of Christianity (loyalty to Jesus Christ and getting into heaven) knock patriotism into, at best, third place. What patriotic Christian would honestly sacrifice their Jesus/God for the sake of their country? And what patriotic Christian would honestly go to Hell for the sake of their country?
Sure, an atheist might not hold patriotism as their highest value either. But Christian afterlife-belief specifically precludes patriotism from being the highest, or even the second highest value. Atheism, or the lack of afterlife-belief, does not demand any such preclusion. A Christian can never hold patriotism as the highest ideal or as an end in itself, for it defies the very definition of “Christian”. But an atheist can hold patriotism as the highest ideal or as an end in itself; it does not defy the definition of “atheism”.
Christianity provides an inferior foundation for patriotism. Think about that the next time you say the Pledge of Allegiance.