Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A Patriotic Afterlife?

I wanted to post this blog entry yesterday for the fourth of July, but I was caught up in the festivities. So instead I present this as my post-fourth of July post. Please note that this post is not political in nature, nor is it meant to argue the merits of patriotism. This post is solely intended to examine the Christian Americans’ patriotic claims, as we all know that the Christian American population loves to play the “patriotism” card.

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.


Brad said...
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Anonymous said...

Interesting take AK. I guess you could also use this argument to say that christianity provides an inferior foundation for love for one's fellow man, or commitment to one's family, etc. Christians would likely reply by saying this is all one in the same with their love for god, but the bible makes it pretty clear that these things not only are secondary at best to god, but often should be sacrificed in order to prove one's love for god.

Anonymous said...

You are assuming christians think in a logical progression. I've specifically heard a white christian republican say to his daughter "What are our priorities? God, then family, then country." This is what you are talking about. I am talking about the ones who confuse and blur the lines between god and country. And there are a lot of them. This is called totemism. When your country and its flag come to represent (in your own mind anyway)what you perceive to be the wishes of your god and fellow man. These people worship the flag like they would the cross (which is blasphemous as you know). While your argument makes sense to one who holds to logic, you darn well know christians don't need logic to make their own little world perfect.

Aaron Kinney said...

You know boywonder, you arent the first person to bring up this objection to my patriotism article.

I agree with you. Contextuality is not something Christians use when thinking about their patriotism.

I think one thing this article does is provide a formidable challenge to those red-state, conservative voting Christians, who think they are the only breed of American that can proudly wave a flag and sing the Star Spangled Banner.

Anonymous said...

You're right AK. Anyone can be very patriotic. The irony is many people who dissent and don't seem as patriotic as the overzealous among us are, much of the time, what I consider to be more patriotic than the red, white, and blue star spangled banner screaming loud mouths who hoot and holler all over the place.

Aaron Kinney said...

This is true boywonder. After all, America was founded upon dissent and protest. So what is more patriotic than that?

Dissenters and those other Americans that challenge this nations actions can be oftentimes more patriotic than those who just follow along. After all, the dissenters are fighting for their country out of concern for the best, most prosperous actions.

Hellbound Alleee said...

I wonder why anyone would ever want patriotism to be their highest value, or object if someone else doesn't?

Anonymous said...

Hellbound, my guess would be it is to fit in. I can speak from my own experience, but I bet most of you have similar experiences/ feelings here. I almost never fit into any group in the sense that I belong anywhere in particular. Ironically, I can get along with most any group unless they are extreme. I was that way in school. All the cliques at the very least respected me, but I didn't truely fit in anywhere. I think that when someone has little else (brains, money, talent, perhaps even family) that patriotism is an easy way to feel you belong. Religion works that way too. Plus most people feel patriotism and religion are good things so, initially, there is no guilt in falling in line.

Enlightenment said...

The current wave of patriotism is not patriotism. It is a virulent form of nationalism. Look at the way conservative christians demonize gays, lesbians, women etc. Patriotism tends to be a little more inclussivbe. Patriotism is about a love of country and of certain traditions. It is also defensive. Nationalism is aggressive and often racist, chauvanistic. In many ways nationalism is a subsitute for religion but the so called Christian Right has managed to marry the two.

Paul said...

" 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?"

But isn't it kind of hard to imagine actually being in either of these positions? Taking a hell-bullet to save America? Letting Jesus get hit with a grenade because it would save the nation?

Why not just figure it would be George Bush's heaven - red, white, and blue bunting all over the place. It would look a lot like the Republican National Convention. Of course George would be sitting at the right hand of the Father - no, the Other father. His dad might be next in line after that.

This prevents the kind of logical inconsistency which can be hell when it comes to positing the details of the afterlife. Just look to George Dubblya.

Noor said...

Hi Aaron,

Do you still believe atheism allows for a superior patriotism?

Aaron Kinney said...

Compared to theism, yes, unfortunately. But like theism, its compatible either way.

Atheism also allows for a superior Anarchism ;)