Authors that compare nationalism to religion



If people didn't choose their birth place nor their parents why do people feel proud or ashamed of their country? Why do they feel somehow responsible for the actions people take in the present or took in the past even centuries ago just because they were born in the same place on they political map as they did?

Where does this need to worship a flag, an anthem, an army, historical figures, sports teams, etc. come from? Is there a political interest in indoctrinating people with nationalism? If so, how ethical is that? Is it about tribalism and humans as evolved social animals still need to belong to some form of group? Can humanity evolve to something better? Is Nationalism a way to find a purpose in life as Nietzsche would say or maybe is it about being part of something bigger than yourself that will remain after you die?

I'm looking for authors that explore these questions.

"Nationalism is an infantile disease, it is the measles of mankind" Albert Einstein


Posted 2017-08-14T07:28:45.073


"The violence that individuals have given up, in the course of becoming orderly and moral, has not been eliminated. It is passed on; it is handed upward." – Gordon – 2017-08-14T21:18:30.807

1That quote is by Allen Wheelis, from his book, "The Way We Are". Wheelis was a psychoanalyst and a philosopher and he wrote some interesting books during his life. The feelings toward our nation seem to be bound up somehow with the desire to share in the power of the All-father, but it's highly complex and ambivalent too. Like our feelings of love toward father/nation seem to mixed with sending violence upward so the father/nation can execute it on our behalf. Highly complex. Potentially dangerous, strong emotions. – Gordon – 2017-08-14T21:31:39.420

1Perhaps Jonathan Haidt's "The Righteous Mind" is relevant to this. Also a view of altruism as group based evolution in David Sloan Wilson's "Does Altruism Exist?" might be relevant. – Frank Hubeny – 2018-01-27T02:17:59.113



Ready starting points are the ideas of Frank Wright and René Girard. For a flavour: `Nationalisms are not merely "like" religions - they are religions' (Wright).


Frank Wright in Alan D Falconer (ed), Reconciling Memories, Dublin: Columba Press, 1988. [The quote above is on p. 75.]

R. Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. Patrick Gregory, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1979.

David Stevens, 'Nationalism as Religion', Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. 86, No. 343 (Autumn, 1997), pp. 248-258.

Geoffrey Thomas

Posted 2017-08-14T07:28:45.073

Reputation: 34 276


'Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind', Yuval Noah Harari. You can catch Harari talking about this on the Sam Harris podcast Things like how these mental structures like nation and religion allow ideas like dying for something an individual will never see, which you could never convince a chimpanzee to do.


Posted 2017-08-14T07:28:45.073

Reputation: 5 272