I define religion as (taken from a dictionary definition)

a particular system of faith and worship.

One can have faith in government and worship nationalistic symbols (flag,anthem etc) psychologically. Like religions, nations also have symbolism like flags, etc, a constitution instead of sacred books, guidelines for good citizens, a bunch of proprieties, etc.

So, would it be okay to label nationalism a non-theistic religion? If yes, under what circumstances and if no, under what circumstances?

  • I made an edit which you may roll back or continue editing. Please do so if I misrepresented your question. – Frank Hubeny Mar 24 '19 at 6:45
  • Nationalism could be thought of as a sort of religious practice in some cases. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_nationalism – user37181 Mar 24 '19 at 6:50
  • But political movements and ideologies are not usually labelled "religions" : the respective "practices" and aims are quite different. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Mar 24 '19 at 10:30
  • Sure, why not. Is there any point to it beyond the labeling? Typically words are used according to family resemblance, and dictionaries only give vague pointers. Nationalism is sufficiently distinct from what is traditionally called "religion" to be colloquially classified this way, so you'll have to explain your expanded use each time. The more commonly used term for this sort of political thing is "ideology". – Conifold Mar 25 '19 at 0:49

According to Alvin Plantinga (page 311), one of the main functions of a religion is that

it offers a master narrative, it answers deep and important human questions. Immanuel Kant identified three great human questions: Is there such a person as God? Do we human beings have significant freedom? And can we human beings expect life after death?

If nationalism answered these questions it might qualify as a "quasi-religion". However it does not appear that these questions are of much interest to nationalists as such. Because of that it may not be worth considering nationalism as a religion.

Plantinga, A. (2011). Where the conflict really lies: Science, religion, and naturalism. OUP USA.

  • Then, the communism IS a religion. I always knew it, but with a proof from a Church father it is much better. (because, communism does give answers (no,no,no)) – Gangnus Mar 26 '19 at 0:00
  • @Gangnus Plantinga considered naturalism, which is an atheistic view of science, to be possibly a quasi-religion because of his criteria that they attempted to answer such questions. The naturalistic part of communism could be viewed as a quasi-religious master narrative, however, the nationalistic part of it need have nothing to do with the master narrative. Also Plantinga doesn't want to call naturalism a real religion but only a quasi-religion. I think this is because religions are more than these master narratives. They also involve religious practices. – Frank Hubeny Mar 26 '19 at 0:24
  • 1. I am not talking about naturalism or atheism, but about communism, that always has its "saint" rules and people. (BTW, I consider it as the first two requirements to a religion) 2. All powerful branches of communism are internationalistic.... So, I am afraid, I can't agree with your attempts to connect my comment to naturalism or nationalism and thus to the question. My comment is only about an interesting citation in your post and not about the theme of the question. – Gangnus Mar 26 '19 at 20:53
  • @Gangnus The only criteria that I use for a quasi-religion are those presented by Plantinga. It would have to be a master narrative in competition with traditional religious master narratives regarding questions like Kant's. Even so, it would only be a quasi-religion, not a real religion. You are welcome to categorize this differently. – Frank Hubeny Mar 26 '19 at 21:47
  • I looked at the work, thank you. Sorry, but I can't respect the author. 1. According to Platinga, not only naturalism is a "quasi-religion", but the term is introduced by example of naturalism. And he uses the term only tautologically. 2. He can use new-defined terms at will, but the definition is very bad really. Let aside the absence of direct formulation, the word used looks as a fallacy. To say that A is quasi-B only because A has SOME qualities of B, without any proof that these qualities are somehow extremely important is a use of dishonest terminology, usually serving to hide the lie. – Gangnus Mar 28 '19 at 7:42

Nationalism and divine mission

Nationalism can be based on religion as when a nation is supposed to be a vehicle of God's will. In the Old Testament, Israel was guided by divine providence even if it failed at least occasionally to live up to its mission. In this type of case nationalism cannot be a form of non-theistic religion.

This is true only on the assumption that nationalism stretches far back into history. There is an influential school of thought according to which nationalism and the nation are strictly modern phenomena:

Nationalism is "modern" because it stresses the individual's search for identity with strangers in an impersonal world, a world no longer animated by corporate identities. All nationalisms imply a principle of identity based on impersonal ties, remote ties, vicarious ties-all of which are mediated by a set of common symbols embedded in a certain pattern of communication. (Ernst B. Haas, International Organization, Vol. 40, No. 3 (Summer, 1986), pp. 707-744: 709.)

The conditions described here do not readily fit pre-modern societies.

Nationalism as civil religion

This is, I think, rather more what you are interested in:

Nationalism is ... a civil religion, often in conflict with but occasionally drawing strength from real religions. That civil religion contains a set of core values that, whether for objectivist or subjectivist reasons, come to be accepted by the population of a state; they become the definers of selfhood. In successful nations they remain in that role until challenged by the next source of tension; no civil religion is graven in stone. As long as the core values provide the framework for social action, people know what to expect of their fellows, understand and respect authority, are secure in their views of the scheme of collective life. (Ernst B. Haas, International Organization, Vol. 40, No. 3 (Summer, 1986), pp. 707-744: 709.)

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