Carlton J. H. Hayes

Nationalism as a Religion




This essay on nationalism is a masterpiece of social and cultural analysis. It deals with religion and with the replacement of spiritual religion by the secular state religion of nationalism. The valuable aspect of this essay consists in the wealth of informative data provided by the author to underpin his thesis, so that it is very difficult to dismiss or ignore what is here presented.




The present generation has a curious hobby of at least pretending to like a thing not because it has intrinsic excellence but solely because it is new. In some quarters this hobby is interpreted as “progress.” Indeed the proverbial Man from Mars, initiated into the temper of our age and informed of the current vogue of nationalism on Earth, might reasonably conjecture that nationalism is extolled by us because it is modern. He would be right, as I have sought to show, in guessing that it is modern; he might truthfully say that it is very modern; but he would be wrong in concluding that its modernity is the sole or chief cause of its popularity.

Contemporary nationalism has been attributed to historical events of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. It has been explained that the contact of political democracy, the Industrial Revolution, and philosophical romanticism with a long germinating popular consciousness of nationality produced a nationalist process and a nationalist doctrine - the body and the soul, as it were, of nationalism. It has also been explained that the doctrine was preached and the process made palatable to the masses of mankind by means of educational and propagandist agencies which the French Revolution deemed desirable and the Industrial Revolution rendered practical - national schooling, national militarism, and national journalism. These explanations, however, are not entirely satisfactory. They may be valid so far as they go, but they do not make perfectly clear why apostles of nationalism are characterised by a missionary zeal that is fiery and why its multitudinous disciples are possessed of a love that is consuming. Why are millions ready and willing to lay down their lives for nationalism?

There have been many historical processes and philosophical preachments which called forth no such popular response in the past as in the present age nationalism evokes. Ancient stoicism, mediaeval nominalism or realism, modern hedonism, alike have led to interesting speculation by “intellectuals,” have been accepted by influential members of the upper classes, and have had at least some indirect effect upon the masses, but great aggregates of men have never fought and died for any of those philosophies. There must be something more than a philosophy, something more than a doctrine and an historical process, about modern nationalism.

This something is obviously an emotion, an emotional loyalty to the idea or the fact of the national state, a loyalty so intensely emotional that it motivates all sorts of people and causes them to subordinate all other human loyalties to national loyalty. In modern national states, of course, individual citizens still retain many if not most of the emotional loyalties to particular persons, specific places, and peculiar ideas that have marked the human race since the dawn of its history. The loyalty of the American to a political leader, a secret lodge, a church, a trade-union, a college, a New England town, a Southern plantation, or a Western ranch, is different in degree but not in kind from loyalties of ancient Roman, Jew, and Egyptian. Now as ever, too, it may transpire that an individual must choose between two loyalties: he may throw over a political leader to do the bidding of a secret lodge; he may leave the lodge at the behest of his priests; he may turn against the priests in order to follow the fortunes of a political leader. But nowadays, and herein lies the fundamental difference between us and our ancient and mediaeval and early modern forebears, the individual is commonly disposed, in case of conflict, to sacrifice one loyalty after another, loyalty to persons, places and ideas, loyalty even to family, to the paramount call of nationality and the national state. This is nationalism, and surely it must have a richly emotional content to predominate over all other emotional loyalties of the present generation.

Now, as one looks back over the multifarious pages of man's history, one is struck by the frequency and force of human movements which have had their mainspring in religious emotion. Herein is a valuable clue for us. May it not be that we shall here find the most convincing explanation of the strength of modern nationalism, the zeal of its apostles, and the devotion of its disciples? Is it not a demonstrable fact that nationalism has become to a vast number of persons a veritable religion, capable of arousing that deep and compelling emotion which is essentially religious? To this aspect of the subject let us address ourselves.



From the dawn of his history man has been distinguished by what may be called a “religious sense,” that is, a mysterious faith in some power outside of himself, a faith always accompanied by feelings of reverence and usually attended by external acts and ceremonial. Everywhere, under the most diverse forms, you find its expression, in the caves of primitive men, in the pyramids of Egypt, in the laws of Moses and the rites of Aaron, in the words of the Delphic oracle, in the tended fire of the Vestal virgins, in the temples of Inca and Aztec, in the tabus of Eskimo and Hottentot. You find it enshrined in great religious systems, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Mohammedanism, which through the centuries have counted their devotees by billions. As always, so today, man feels its spell. Apparently the “religious sense” is so ingrained in man that normally he must give expression to it in one way or another. He may lose faith in a particular religion, but if so he usually dedicates himself consciously or unconsciously to another object of worship. It may be worship of Christ or Buddha; it may be worship of totem or fetish; it may likewise be worship of science or humanity - provided these concepts are written in his mind with capital letters. In any case it involves an experience, a reverential emotion, which is primordially religious.

Even in ages when doubt and scepticism about a popular religion have been most rampant, the very sceptics and doubters have been disposed to seek some object outside of themselves to which they might pay reverence. For example, in the early centuries of the Christian era, when Graeco-Roman Paganism was losing its hold upon the intellectual classes of the Roman Empire, there was a notable tendency to find an outlet for the religious sense, on the one hand, in Stoicism and other philosophies that proclaimed a truer and higher divinity in Duty or in Reasoned Pleasure, and, on the other hand, in mystical communion with strange and somewhat bizarre gods, with Isis and Osiris, with Mithra, or with the “spirits” of Neo-Platonism. The resultant unsettling and diversification of religion was in that instance only transitional and not at all irreligious; it inspired quaint attempts to mingle and reconcile heterogeneous objects of worship; it presently produced a kind of religious syncretism; and thereby it prepared the way for the eventual widespread diffusion and acceptance of Christianity. Christianity was, in fundamental respects, novel and revolutionary, but it did not represent a clean break with the past; it preserved much of the antique doctrine and practice of Judaism, and simultaneously it borrowed for its cult and theology many elements from pagan and Gentile religions. Christianity was a syncretic religion, as had been , Graeco-Roman Paganism before it. Both Paganism and Christianity, and also the transitional steps from the one to the other, appealed to man's religious sense.

Again, in the later middle ages, doubts arose and multiplied in western and central Europe about the teaching of the Catholic Church concerning the nature and proper worship of the Christian God. Followed the rise of Protestantism. But as one studies historic Protestantism one is impressed less by the novelties which the Reformers introduced into the content of Christianity than by the conservatism with which they clung to certain central dogmas and rites of the older Christian Church [1]. They borrowed plentifully from Catholicism, whilst at the same time they appropriated much from the intellectual movements of their day and put themselves especially under new obligations to ancient Judaism. Conversion from Catholicism to Protestantism in the sixteenth century doubtless betokened a lessening faith in a particular religion, but the historical student knows that the sixteenth century was not irreligious. In Protestantism, as in Catholicism, or in Judaism, and likewise in the transition from one to another, man gave expression to his religious sense.

In like manner it may be argued that the subsequent rapid disintegration of Protestantism into innumerable denominations and sects has been simply a modern parallel to the ancient deliquescence of Graeco-Roman Paganism and further that the syncretism latterly proceeding in the Protestant world may correspondingly usher in a new form of religion, which, however Christian and Protestant in name, will depart very considerably from historic Protestantism and historic Christianity. Yet such a neo-Protestantism, if and when it appears, will be, quite as much as historic Protestantism, and as historic Catholicism before that, an embodiment of man's religious sense [2].

Of all periods of religious scepticism and theological doubt, the most crucial in human history, at any rate for our present purpose, is the eighteenth century. It was the eighteenth century which witnessed in western Europe, especially in France, the mocking attacks of Voltaire and other “enlightened” litterateurs upon “supernatural” religion and ecclesiastical institutions. Christian tradition and the Christian Bible were alike impugned. Ecclesiastical authority was assailed. Miracles were ridiculed, and mysteries such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Redemption, were rejected. Christianity was denounced as superstition and its clergy as humbugs. Nor were these opinions and judgments confined to a few philosophers. They were shared by wide circles, so that the eighteenth century clearly witnessed a pronounced loosening of the hold of traditional Christianity, whether Catholic or Protestant, upon the intellectual classes of Europe. For the first time since the Arian Controversy, a large number of influential adherents to Christianity had come openly to doubt the truth and worth of its most fundamental tenets; for the first time, Christian intellectuals would abandon Christianity or subvert it wholly. Many of the eighteenth-century intellectuals perceived in the Trinity, in the God-made-Man, and in the Christian sacraments, only the vain imaginings of dupes or hypocrites. They perceived nothing in the Christian Revelation or, for that matter, in any supernaturalism,” to which man could justifiably attach any devotion or reverence. They were logical - in their fashion. They might not and they would not express their religious sense in Christian worship. They would not be Christians.

But those same intellectuals of the eighteenth century did possess a religious sense. And they showed it in many curious ways. Most of them got excited about a God of Nature who started things which he could not stop and who was so intent upon watching numberless worlds go round in their appointed orbits and so transfixed by the operation of all the eternal immutable Laws which he had invented that he had no time or ear for the little entreaties of puny men upon a pygmy Earth. This God of Nature was obviously not much of a person and not much of a power; he was only a fraction of the God of the Christians. But he was outside of man, and eighteenth-century intellectuals managed somehow to develop quite a mysterious feeling about him. They praised him with a voice so loud that he would have heard them if he could have heard anyone, and with a voice so awed that it betrayed the religious fervour which moved them.

The God of Nature was not, of course, the only object of religious devotion on the part of eighteenth-century intellectuals. Some discovered and paid obeisance to a mysterious force outside of themselves which they termed Science - though this Science, when duly capitalised, proved to be but a theological handmaid to the God of Nature. Others found a hydra-headed monstrosity which they proceeded to worship under the title of Humanity, and these were especially devout, perhaps because the deification of all Humanity is fraught with infinitely greater mystery than the conception of a single God-Man or even a Triune God. And between the sect of the Naturalists and that of the Humanitarians many another speedily arose. These were the Rationalists, who isolated a little bit of man's being and ascribed to it a most mysterious infallibility; the Progressives who venerated Progress as if it were a sailing vessel and who, by aid of the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, were eager to go wherever the wind might blow them; and the Perfectabilists, who with eyes of faith and the gift of tongues saw and proclaimed the millennium - Eden and Paradise - on this earth just around the corner.

As might be expected of any era of doubt and scepticism about popular religion, there was a good deal of syncretism among the cults of the eighteenth century. Some Humanitarians were devoted to Nature; some Naturalists adored Reason; some Rationalists worshipped at a side-altar to Perfectability or Progress or Humanity; even some Christians who exchanged their traditional God for Nature went on styling themselves Christian and participating in Christian worship. In any event, the eighteenth century, which beheld a waning faith in Christianity, beheld a waxing faith in Deism, Nature, Law, Science, Reason, Progress, Perfectability, and Humanity. It beheld also the rise of various organisations, such as Freemasonry and Illuminism, which enshrined one or all of the cults of the day and began to spread internationally. In the whole of the new syncretism, as well as in its component elements, the intellectual of the eighteenth century was giving expression to his inherent sense of religion.



All the doubting and sceptical periods of which mention has here been made have been characterised by another sort of worship – the worship of the Political State. It is an interesting fact that during the second and third centuries, when pagan scepticism was prevalent among Greek and Roman intellectuals and when philosophers and mystics were toying with new cults, the deification of the Roman Emperor was completed and his worship was widely and popularly indulged. It is another interesting fact that in the sixteenth century, when doubt about Catholicism was rife, not only Protestantism appeared on the scene, but also that popular exaltation of the lay State which a host of the intellectuals of the time - Machiavelli and Erastus (to name but two ) - proclaimed and idealised. It is, moreover, an arresting fact that the eighteenth century, which witnessed among the classes the growth of scepticism about Christianity and simultaneously the rise of a novel faith in Deism, witnessed also, for the masses, the enthronement of the national state - la Patrie - as the central object of worship. Perhaps these instances are mere coincidence; more likely they may represent causal connections.

Doubt about a particular popular religion begins with intellectuals, and intellectuals as a class are notoriously timid. They have frequently been fearful of the unsettling effects of their own doubts upon the masses, and even willing on occasion that the masses, for the sake of social peace and general security, should go on indulging in belief and worship which to these intellectuals must seem superstitious. At the same time their very scepticism denies them any leadership in the preservation of the older popular religion, and their substituted faiths are usually so diverse and so abstract as to militate against the immediate and vulgar acceptance of any of them as a new popular religion. What is more natural, under these trying circumstances, than that the masses should be encouraged to transfer a large part of their inherent awe and reverence from a “supernatural” religion which the classes deem superstitious if not degrading, to a political religion which has the twofold advantage of being obviously real and of having physical power sufficient to club the multitudes into some semblance of social harmony? Let the masses and the classes unite to rear and dedicate a high altar to the state; the masses may then be suffered to bring a few flowers to the little side-shrines of their ancestral gods, whilst the classes in assured peace can utilise the crypt for their novel rites and gradually impregnate the whole temple with the strange sweet odors of their esoteric incense.

The French Revolution - that landmark in the history of nationalism-was a landmark in the development of nationalism as a religion. At first  many a French intellectual entertained the idea of syncretising eighteenth-century philosophy with Catholic Christianity in a State Church which should be organised democratically and conducted in the national interests. “The state, it seems to me,” said the Abbe Raynal, “is not made for religion, but religion is made for the state. . . . The state has supremacy in everything . . . When the state has pronounced, the church has nothing more to say.” [3]  The Civil Constitution of the Clergy, voted by the National Assembly in July, 1790, was the formal legal attempt to realise the Abbe's programme; it aimed to create a national clergy, under the control of the civil power, with the same standing as other state-officials. But the pope and the large majority of the French clergy were not ready for any such religious syncretism; the Civil Constitution was condemned at Rome in April, 1791; and thenceforth issue was squarely joined in France between the religions of Catholicism and Nationalism. Christianity was not formally proscribed, but only the clergy who swore allegiance to the Civil Constitution were allowed to perform Christian services, and the Catholic churches in most parts of France were transformed into civic temples. Against the refractory clergy, measures of increasing severity were taken; but severity did not suffice, and by the summer of 1793 a real persecution of Catholicism had begun. For in the minds of the Revolutionaries the Catholic clergy as a whole had committed the greatest infamy of all - they had defied the national state.

For nationalism truly became a religion with the French Revolutionaries. In the “new order” they perceived a miraculous regeneration for France not only, but for the entire human race. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was hailed as “the national catechism,” [4] and solemn profession of belief in it was prescribed by the Constitution of 1791. Those who refused to swear to it were cut off from the community by civil excommunication, and foreigners who proclaimed their loyalty to it were admitted to the ranks of the faithful and enrolled as in a communion of saints. The written Constitution, embodying the Declaration, became holy writ. At the first session of the Legislative Assembly, in the autumn of 1791, “twelve old men went in procession to seek the Book of the Constitution. They came back, having at their head the archivist Camus, who, holding up the Book with his two hands and resting it on his breast, carried with slow and measured tread the new Blessed Sacrament of the French. All the deputies stood up and bared their heads. Camus, with meditative mien, kept his eyes lowered.” [5]

The tricolor cocarde, the “trees of liberty,” the Phrygian cap, the tablets of the declaration of rights and of the Constitution, the altars to la Patrie - all these were symbols of the new faith. The Legislative Assembly decreed in June, 1792, that “in all the communes an altar to the Fatherland shall be raised, on which shall be engraved the Declaration of Rights with the inscription, 'the citizen is born, lives, and dies for la Patrie’.” [6] Two years earlier, at Strasbourg was introduced the rite of “civic baptism.” “Civic marriages” and “civic funerals” came later. And the new religion soon had its hymns and its prayers, its fasts and its festivals.

Whilst the masses were drawn increasingly to the faith and worship of the national state, the revolutionary intellectuals redoubled their attacks upon historic Catholicism and attempted to substitute for it various specialised cults of nationalism. In the National Convention, on November 5, 1793, Marie-Joseph Chenier proposed the formal establishment of an exclusively lay religion that of la Patrie. “Wrest,” said he, on that occasion, “the sons of the Republic from the yoke of theocracy which still weighs upon them. . . . Devoid of prejudices and worthy to represent the French nation, you will know how to found, on the debris of the dethroned superstitions, the single universal religion, which has neither sects nor mysteries, of which the only dogma is equality, of which our law-makers are the preachers, of which the magistrates are the pontiffs, and in which the human family burns its incense only at the altar of la Patrie, common mother and divinity.” [7] Two days later the Constitutional bishop of Paris announced to the Convention his abdication, and declared that “there should no longer be any public worship other than that of liberty and holy equality.” [8] Three days more, and the worship of Reason was solemnly inaugurated in the cathedral of Notre Dame.

Reason, however, did not obtain universal or permanent adoration. It was speedily succeeded, under the influence of Robespierre, by the worship of the Supreme Being (Deism), and this in turn, after the downfall of Robespierre, by the civic cult of the Decadi and the ethical cult of Theophilanthropy. But what vitality there was in any or all of these varieties and vagaries of religious experience is attributable to their intermixture with the religion of nationalism. This religion had already lodged deep in popular consciousness, and eventually it was to emerge, in more or less curious syncretisms with older philosophies and world-religions, as the dominant religion of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Under the mask of laicisation the new religion of nationalism soon claimed the allegiance of a multitude of determined zealots throughout the world.



Nationalism, viewed as a religion, has much in common with other great religious systems of the past. It has, for example, a god, who is either the patron or the personification of one's patrie, one's fatherland, one's national state. This god resembles the Jewish Yahweh, in that he is the god of a chosen people, a jealous god, and preeminently a god of battles, but he must not be identified with Yahweh, for French and German and British and all non-Jewish nationalists have a contempt for Yahweh as deep-seated and expressive as the priests of Yahweh entertained in biblical times for Baal and his priests. Devotees of a particular national god are prone to mock and sneer at any failure of another national god to bring down fire from heaven.

On his own national god the modern religious nationalist is conscious of dependence. Of His powerful help he feels the need. In Him he recognises the source of his own perfection and happiness. To Him, in a strictly religious sense, he subjects himself. Moreover, the religious nationalist not only is disposed subjectively to acknowledge his dependence on the national god, but also he is ready to acknowledge such dependence objectively through acts of homage and adoration. Nationalism, like any religion, calls into play not simply the will, but the intellect, the imagination, and the emotions. The intellect constructs a speculative theology or mythology of nationalism. The imagination builds an unseen world around the eternal past and the everlasting future of one's nationality. The emotions feed the theological virtues of faith, hope, and filial love; they arouse a joy and ecstasy in the contemplation of the national god, who is all-good and all-protecting, a longing for His favours, a thankfulness for His benefits, a fear of offending Him, and feelings of awe and reverence at the immensity of His power and wisdom; they express themselves naturally in worship, both internal and external, both private and public. For nationalism, again like any other religion, is to a large extent a social function, and its chief rites are public rites, performed in the name and for the salvation of the whole community.

Nationalism as a religion first appeared among peoples that were traditionally Christian, and it is not extraordinary, therefore, that it should have borrowed and adapted to its own purposes many customs and usages of historic Christianity. In fact the current notion of the national state is so similar to the mediaeval notion of the Christian Church that the close study of the doctrine and practices of contemporary nationalism is recommended to the modem man who would comprehend the seemingly incomprehensible middle ages.

To the modern national state, as to the mediaeval church, is attributable an ideal, a mission. It is the mission of salvation and the ideal of immortality. The nation is conceived of as eternal, and the deaths of her loyal sons do but add to her undying fame and glory. She protects her children and saves them from foreign devils; she assures them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; she fosters for them the arts and the sciences; and she gives them nourishment. Nor may the role of the modern national state, any more than that of the mediaeval church, be thought of as economic or mercenary; it is primarily spiritual, even otherworldly, and its driving force is its collective faith, a faith in its mission and destiny, a faith in things unseen, a faith that would move mountains. Nationalism is sentimental, emotional, and inspirational.

There are very definite and illuminating parallels between contemporary nationalism and mediaeval Christianity. Nowadays the individual is born into the national state as formerly he was born into the church, and the secular registration of birth is the national rite of baptism. Thenceforth, with tender solicitude, the state follows the individual through life, teaching him in patriotic schools the national catechism, showing him by pious precept and solemn sacrament the beauties of national holiness, fitting him for a life of service (no matter how glorious or how menial) to the state, the Alpha and Omega of his being, the author and finisher of his blessings, and commemorating his vital crises by formal registration (with a fee) not only of his birth but likewise of his marriage, of the birth of his children, and of his death. If he is a crusader in behalf of nationalism, his place of entombment is marked forever with the ensign of his service. And the funerals of national potentates and heroes are celebrated with patriotic pomp and circumstance that make the obsequies of mediaeval bishops seem drab.

Membership in some modern national state is compulsory.
The individual may withdraw from the earthly State Militant only by death or emigration, and in the latter case he finds it well nigh impossible to discover any land which does not possess some established form of the religion of nationalism. He may change his sect, so to speak, but not his religion. The fabled “man without a country” has become an up-to-date version of the “flying Dutchman.” And the individual, however sceptical he may be about his national faith, knows that compulsory membership in any national state involves compulsory financial support of its maintenance and missionary enterprise, for such a state is as insistent upon the collection of taxes as ever was the mediaeval church upon the levying of tithes.

Interior devotion to nationalism is expected of all persons, though here a little allowance can appropriately be made for human frailty. So long as public rites and ceremonies are decently observed, the hearts of the individual worshippers need not be too closely searched. Human beings doubtless differ from one another in the intensity of their religious feelings, and some, perhaps, are so abnormal as not to experience any religious emotion whatever. Besides, it has long been recognised that he who prays the loudest and beats his breast with greatest ostentation may be most lacking in true interior devotion. The ways of sceptics and doubters have been notoriously subtle, and it may be questioned whether Pharisees and whited sepulchres do not exist among the hordes of sincerely devout nationalists.

There can be no question, however, of the popular and compelling character of external nationalist worship. Blasphemy and sacrilege have always been treated by man as heinous crimes, and the modern man who allows a flitting mental doubt to find expression in jest or sneer at the expense of the national cult is eligible for mad-house penitentiary.

The ritual of modern nationalism is simpler than that of certain other great historic religions, probably because sufficient time has not yet elapsed for its elaboration, but, considering its youthfulness, it is already fairly well developed. Nationalism's chief symbol of faith and central object of worship is the flag, and curious liturgical forms have been devised for “saluting” the flag, for “dipping” the flag, for “lowering” the flag, and for “hoisting” the flag. Men bare their heads when the flag passes by; and in praise of the flag poets write odes and children sing hymns. In America young people are ranged in serried rows and required to recite daily, with hierophantic voice and ritualistic gesture, the mystical formula: “I pledge allegiance to our flag and to the country for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Everywhere, in all solemn feasts and fasts of nationalism the flag is in evidence, and with it that other sacred thing, the national anthem. An acute literary critic in his purely secular capacity might be tempted to find fault with certain phrases in “Rule Britannia,” in “Deutschland über Alles,” or even in the “Marseillaise”; he might conceivably object, on literary grounds, to such a lame beginning as “Oh say, can you see?” But a national anthem is not a profane object and does not admit of textual criticism. It is holy. It is the Te Deum of the new dispensation; the worshippers stand when it is intoned, the military at “attention” and the male civilians with uncovered heads, all with external signs of veneration and respect.

Nationalism has its parades, processions, and pilgrimages. It has, moreover, its distinctive holy days, and just as the Christian Church took over some festivals from Paganism, so the national state has borrowed freely from Christianity. In the United States, for example, the Fourth of July is a nationalist Christmas, Flag Day is substituted for Corpus Christi, and Decoration Day for the commemoration of All Souls of the faithful departed, whilst in place of the saints' days of the Christian calendar appear the birthdays of national saints and heroes, such as Washington and Lincoln. Nationalism also has its temples, and he who would find the places and the buildings that are held most dear and most sacred by the vast majority of Americans, should seek not Christian cathedrals but Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Faneuil Hall in Boston, the shrine to General Lee in Lexington, and that to General Grant in New York, and the city of Washington with its stately Capitol, its White House, its great monuments to Lincoln and Washington, and its adjacent Arlington and Mount Vernon.

Moderns, especially Americans, are inclined to regard the mediaeval veneration of images, icons, and relics as savouring of “superstition,” but let them replace a statue of St. George by a graven image of General George Washington, an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary by a lithograph of the brave Molly Pitcher, and a relic of the Holy Cross by a tattered battle-flag, and they display a reverence which they deem beautiful and ennobling. If one calls to mind the images of national heroes with which every town is plentifully supplied and the icons of national fathers which adorn both the sumptuous clubs of the rich and the simple cottages of the poor, one can appreciate the basic religious appeal of modern nationalism. In 1915, when the old cracked Liberty Bell was transported from Philadelphia to the San Francisco Exposition, throngs of refined and lovely ladies met it at many a station on the long way and piously bestowed upon it their sweet kisses. By veneration of a national relic these ladies were expressing their religious sense and practicing the nationalist cult.


Every national state has a “theology,” a more or less systematised body of official doctrines which have been deduced from the precepts of the “Fathers” and from the admonitions of the national scriptures and which reflect the “genius of the people” and constitute a guide to national behaviour. In America, the canon of national holy scripture certainly includes the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, Washington's Farewell Address, the Monroe Doctrine, and Lincoln's addresses, but here, as elsewhere, the canon is not yet definitive. There is even now an intense rivalry between two theological schools, that which supports the authenticity of the gospel according to Theodore Roosevelt and that which attributes inspiration to the epistles of Woodrow Wilson. Such rivalries, of course, can be but transient; and it is as probable as it is desirable that in the long run our doctors of sacred theology will arrive at a compromise and will then exercise their infallible authority by incorporating into the American canon both the Woodrownine epistles and the gospel of Theodore. Nationalism can easily survive, as other religions have survived, and even profit from, some little discrepancies and minor contradictions in holy writ. An opportunity for interpretation and higher criticism is a wonderfully golden opportunity for professed theologians.

From the theologians of nationalism proceed more or less learned works, say about the Constitution or the Monroe Doctrine or the Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln, which are commented upon and simplified by publicists and textbook compilers, and the writings of these gentlemen (and ladies) in turn are piously vulgarised by sentimental journalists and emotional orators. The upshot of the whole process is that a nationalist theology of the intellectuals becomes a nationalist mythology for the masses.

Nationalist mythology is not in every detail strictly accurate and literally true - no mythology ever is - but after all its main purpose is didactic, “for example of life and instruction of manners,” [9] and didacticism need not depend slavishly upon historical or scientific fact. It claims and deserves the wider range of imagination and emotion. Take for instance almost any Fourth-of-July oration delivered in any year or in any part of the United States, or almost any patriotic speech read into the Congressional Record and distributed gratis among the Representative's constituents, and you will find that objective truth and scientific detachment have been sacrificed to a more emotional appeal and a higher truth. It is not that patriotic orators and national Congressmen set out to prevaricate or lie; as a rule they are upright and honourable men. What actually happens is that they are so convinced of the sacred truth of the nationalist teachings and myths which have been handed down to them and so inflamed with the desire to confirm the faith of the multitude that they unquestioningly repeat any statement favourable to the cause and may go so far as to invent and spread a quite erroneous picture of the nation's past. In this way they contribute to the elaboration of a popular mythology and to its confusion with official nationalist theology.

I have before me now a speech which my own Congressman delivered in the House of Representatives on August 15, 1916, and which with kindly thoughtfulness he had the Government, at its expense, send to me, along with numerous packages of agricultural seeds, for my national nourishment and edification. The speech closes with an uplifting nationalist paean:

The military annals of mankind reveal no finer discipline, no more splendid heroism, than were displayed on every battlefield of the Revolution and the War between the States. The soldiers of Washington were no craven spirits, no mercenary hirelings, imported from the shambles of Europe to do battle for filthy lucre at the bidding of tyrant kings. They were freemen, champions of human liberty, as brave and gallant warriors as ever breasted the flood of death. No ignorant, vulgar rebels they! The Revolutionary ranks were filled with accomplished scholars, with men who read the tragedies of Aeschylus in Greek as easily as the tragedies of Shakespeare in English. Government, philosophy, and religion were themes of daily and familiar converse around colonial camp fires. The soldiers of the Revolution knew the richness of their blood. They traced their lineage along a noble line to Crécy, Poitiers, Malplaquet, and Ramillies. They read the military achievements of their race in the recovery of the holy sepulchre, in the battle at Hohenlinden, in the capture of Quebec. They felt no inability to multiply these brilliant deeds; and when the battle call was sounded by the bugle's stirring blast and the thrilling tones of the trumpet and the drum, it was then that the heroes of Saratoga and Yorktown, of Brandywine and Valley Forge, moved to the impetuous charge with the victors' exultant shout. It was then they stepped “like bridegrooms to a marriage feast,” into the jaws of death, and their soldier spirits joined in eternity that band of warrior souls that, in every age from the mountain pass of Thermopylae to the battle plains of Cuba and Mukden, have died for the liberties of their fellow men. Such was the character and such the conduct of the soldiers of Washington.
More than fifty years ago civil war broke upon the country. The most momentous struggle in history called to the field of battle the finest armies of the world. Men from the North and men from the South rushed to the dividing line in serried ranks, with martial step, and with hearts that beat like kettledrums; and whether dressed in blue or clad in gray, at Gettysburg and Antietam, at Cold Harbour and the Wilderness, they sent to generations yet unborn a message of perfect discipline and deathless valour. . . . Mr. Speaker, I have an abiding and an unbounded faith in the great destiny and in the undying glory of my country. I believe that the time is not far distant when we shall have complete military and naval, economic and industrial, intellectual and spiritual preparedness; when American genius and American influence will dominate the nations and overshadow the earth; when our Constitution and our Declaration of Independence will be the mould and model of free institutions among all the tribes of men; when the torch of freedom which was lit at the flame of the American Revolution will be a beacon light to the oppressed of all mankind; when our soldiers and our sailors will be feared and respected on every land and on every sea; when the drum beat of our country will be heard around the world; when freedom's flag will illumine all the skies; and, whether proceeding from the mouth of an ambassador or from the hot throats of Federal guns, the mandate of the great Republic will be heard and obeyed throughout the earth. [Applause.]

Such a peroration is nobly dithyrambic, but it does propagate some myths. The trained historian knows that there were battles in the Revolutionary War and in the War between the States (for instance, the First Battle of Bull Run) in which no sort of discipline or heroism was displayed. He also knows that the Revolutionary ranks were not exactly filled with men who read the tragedies of Shakespeare (or anything else) in English, to say nothing of men who read. Aeschylus in the original Greek. Nor is it easy for a severe logician to perceive just how freedom's flag will illumine all the skies at the very time when American soldiers and sailors are feared on every land and on every sea. But these and many other criticisms which the scientist or the literalist might level at the quotation are beside the point.

What gives rise to popular myths about modern nationalism, as, for example, the myths associated with the American Revolution, the myths fashioned and disseminated by our Congressman, is the same as what gave rise in the middle ages to the “Donation of Constantine” and the “pseudo-Isidorian decretals.” These mediaeval documents, supercilious and unsympathetic moderns have branded by the ugly name of “forgeries,” but they are forgeries only in the sense that many nationalist writings and speeches of recent times are forgeries. Both have sprung from a lively faith and a glowing imagination, and both have been justified on the common ground that they meet a contemporary need so perfectly that they must be true. They are products of piety, and how can piety be immoral? How can edification be untruthful? What really matters is that they are received by the masses on faith and are reverently embodied in the popular mythology.

The school-system of the national state is held to strict accountability for any lapse from the official theology or for any slur upon the popular mythology. Here and there a bold teacher or a tactless textbook writer may suggest an explanation of some episode in early national history not in full harmony with the nationalist faith; such a person, as is well established in these latter days, is liable to denunciation by some zealous patriotic society and to trial and degradation by an Inquisitorial Board of Education - functioning as a kind of modern Dominican Order - and the offensive texts are put on a nationalist Index Librorum Prohibitorum and thenceforth the civil arm may ban them from public libraries and burn them in public squares amid the plaudits of the faithful.

For there is a chronic fear among nationalists, as among most religious enthusiasts, that the masses are on the point of losing their faith, and a firm determination, therefore, that only such information should be imparted to them as will strengthen that faith and promote popular devotion to it. As the “Committee on Studies and Textbooks” of the public schools of New York City (consisting of principals and teachers) declared in their report of March 27, 1922: “The textbook must contain no statement in derogation or in, disparagement of the achievements of American heroes. It must not question the sincerity of the aims and purposes of the founders of the Republic or of those who have guided its destinies. . . . [In discussing the American Revolution], everything essential is accomplished when it is made plain to the pupils: that the Colonists had just grievances; that they rebelled because they could obtain no redress; that they were inspired by a fierce love of liberty; that they counted neither the cost nor the odds against them; that the dominating spirit of the Revolution is found in the words of Nathan Hale: 'I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country’.” [10] Thus is it sought to keep the minds of the young pure and uncontaminated from knowledge of the full truth which, it is assumed, might weaken, if not destroy, the nationalist faith. For the preservation of the faith, the common people should be kept in ignorance. The argument has been imputed to mediaeval Christians less justifiably than to modern nationalists.



Human beings do not normally and willingly give the lives for economic gain. The supreme sacrifice is oftenest paid in behalf of an ideal and in response to the “religious sense.” And perhaps the surest proof of the religious character of modern nationalism is the zeal with which all manner of its devotees have laid down their lives on battlefields of the last hundred years. At this very moment there are hundreds of thousands of little whitewashed crosses all over northern France, each bearing the simple black inscription “Mort pour la Patrie.” Vastly more men perished in the recent four-years War of the Nations than in the four centuries of mediaeval Christian Crusades.

A faith that inspires the noblest sacrifices is apt to be intolerant in some of its manifestations, and the similarity in this respect between modern nationalism and mediaeval Christianity is striking. The mediaeval Christian was not the supremely intolerant person that prejudiced moderns imagine; he distinguished between various kinds of unbelievers, and treated them accordingly; he was harsher to heretics than to infidels, pagans, and Jews; he dealt more severely with the ignorant than with the learned and more excitedly with the popular propagandist than with the closet philosopher. And it is even so with the modern nationalist.

Towards pagans and infidels in their own distant homes, that is, towards inhabitants of foreign countries, our attitude varies all the way from amused interest or contempt to dislike and fear and hatred; if we think our vital interests or our “national honour” to be threatened we preach a crusade against them, but otherwise we tolerantly let them survive as curious aberrations of Providence. Towards pagans and infidels in our midst, that is, towards unnaturalised immigrants, our attitude differs according as they are few or numerous. If they are few, we pity or despise them, but we do not directly persecute them; rather, we hope and work for their conversion to our faith, for their naturalisation in our national state. On the other hand, if they are numerous, and especially if they are recalcitrant about conversion, we grow fearful, lament the failure of the “melting-pot,” and erect social, sometimes legislative, barriers against them.

Heretics are fellow countrymen who have lapsed from the pure faith and gospel, depraved beings who, having had the advantage of belonging to us and of experiencing our nationalism, have failed to appreciate it and have fallen into error or doubt. There are several gradations of national heresy. The outright traitor - the apostate who fights against us in our crusades - is the worst; he excites in us hatred and horror. If we catch him we put him to ignominious death, and if we don't catch him we use his name forever after as a by-word. In popular American thought Benedict Arnold (*) has long since ceased to be human and become a satanic spirit. The heretic who is a plain and simple pervert, that is, who lives abroad and takes out naturalisation papers in a foreign country, is exceptional and can be merely despised and reproached; we assuage our wounded vanity by imagining that he did the wicked thing under compulsion or for financial profit.

But the most perplexing and troublesome kinds of heretic are the crypto-heretics, the persons who are so indecorous in their external acts of devotion, so critical of the “Fathers” and “scriptures,” or so indifferent to their patriotic obligations, that they are suspected of harbouring interior devotion to some other nationality, or, what is worse, to no nationality at all. These unfortunates in times of great excitement, as in our modern national crusades, we ferret out by methods which would astound a Torquemada or a Cotton Mather (**), and either banish or jail, often on the flimsiest evidence. In ordinary times, however, we allow crypto-heretics some freedom of physical movement and even a little liberty of speech and publication, provided, of course, that they are university professors or other “cranks,” far removed from public life and without direct influence on the formation of public opinion. But even in ordinary times, we must take cognisance of crypto-heretics who teach children or write for the masses; these are very dangerous, for they imperil the nationalist souls of the little ones; they may lawfully be penalised by the officials of the land, or they may be left to be handled beyond the law by ultra-patriotic private organisations, such as Black Hundreds (***) or Fascisti or Ku Klux Klans.

“My country, right or wrong, my country!” Thus responds the faithful nationalist to the magisterial call of his religion, and thereby he intends nothing dubious or immoral. He is merely making a subtle distinction between governmental officials who may go wrong and a nation which, from the inherent nature of things, must ever be right. It would sound pedantic for him to say, “my nation, indicatively right or subjunctively wrong (contrary to fact), my nation!” Indeed, to the national state are now popularly ascribed infallibility and impeccability. We moderns are prepared to grant that all our fellow countrymen may individually err in conduct and judgement, but we are loath to admit that our nation as a whole can make mistakes. We are willing to assail the policies and even the characters of some of our politicians, but we are stopped by the faith that is in us from doubting the Providential guidance of our national state. This is the final mark of the religious nature of modern nationalism.

The most impressive fact about the present age is the universality of the religious aspects of nationalism. Not only in the United States does the religious sense of the whole people find expression in nationalism, but also, in slightly different form but perhaps to an even greater degree, in France, England, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Russia, the Scandinavian and Baltic countries, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, the Balkans, Greece, and the Latin-American republics. Nor does the religion of nationalism thrive only on traditionally Christian soil; it now flourishes in Japan, Turkey, Egypt, India, Korea, and is rearing its altars in China. Nationalism has a large number of particularly quarrelsome sects, but as a whole it is the latest and nearest approach to a world-religion.



Nationalism is a religion now common to the great majority of mankind. But this is not to say that older religions have been obliterated by nationalism. Buddhism and Hinduism still exist. So does Mohammedanism. So does Christianity - Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant. What is actually occurring is a new religious syncretism, by virtue of which very many persons continue nominally to adhere to the faith of their ancestors and even to practice its cult, whilst they adapt it to the exigencies of nationalist worship and discipline. Some extreme (and, let us grant, logical) nationalists abandon and assail other religions. Some devotees of other religions criticise and condemn nationalism. But the bulk of nationalists, and a growing number of Christians, Mohammedans, and Buddhists, proceed more or less unreflectively to effect a compromise between the old faith and the new. And the compromise is increasingly favourable to the religion of nationalism.

Judaism is still a potent force in the lives of many Jews, but there can be little doubt that in recent times, with the development of scepticism about the divine inspiration of the Hebrew Scriptures and the rise of “reform movements” and the consequently less strict observance of the Mosaic law and of the ceremonial of the orthodox synagogue, an ever augmenting number of Jews are expressing their religious sense in nationalism, either in devotion to the nationalism of the people among whom they live or in service and sacrifice in behalf of their own peculiar Zionism. Ancient Judaism was a religion which centred the hopes and aspirations of a “chosen people” upon a supernatural God, the God Yahweh, and anyone who believed in Yahweh and abided by His commandments was “chosen.” Modern Zionism is a religion which transfers the object of worship from Yahweh to the chosen people, and none is chosen who is wilfully ignorant of the Hebrew language.

Buddhism is still a powerful factor in the lives of myriad Orientals, and in the quaint forms of Theosophy it is exerting a little direct influence upon the Occident, but in Japan, at any rate, it has latterly been subordinated to nationalist Shinto, and in China certain intellectuals are attempting an amalgam of it with Confucianism and Christianity in order to produce a Chinese national religion. Mohammedanism is still a great and aggressive religion, with far-flung missionary enterprise in the East Indies and in central Africa, but the followers of Mustapha Kemal Pasha have proved themselves Turkish nationalists first and Moslems afterwards, and Mohammedan Arabs are fraternising with Christian Arabs in a common supreme devotion to Arab nationalism against the threats of established Zionism. In India both Mohammedanism and Hinduism are ebbing before a rising Indian nationalism.

Christianity has more nominal followers today than ever before in its history, and possibly there are more sincere and devout Christians - Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant - in the twentieth century than in any earlier century. But it is manifest to us who live in the West that Christianity for enormous numbers of people has become an adjunct to nationalism. The Orthodox Churches of the East, the Armenian Church, the Coptic Church, the remnant of the Nestorian Church, are auxiliaries to nationalist fervour and nationalist endeavour. Westminster Abbey is a holy fane of the Church of England and, much more so, of British nationalism; and the Protestant cathedrals of England and Scotland and Ireland, and of Prussia too, are adorned not so plentifully or so conspicuously with statues of Christian saints as with images of national heroes, military or naval, and with national battle-flags. In France, the sacred remains of Napoleon Bonaparte lie close to a Catholic altar, and the magnificent Christian church of Sainte Genevieve has been transformed into the National Pantheon.

Christianity in the United States is becoming more and more nationalist, - and naturally so. The Protestant majority, in holding their own and seeking the conversion of divers immigrants, constantly affirm that America is Protestant, and that Protestanism is American. The Catholic minority, not to be outdone by such an attractive plea, are bent on “Americanising” themselves and their immigrants. All this promotes the religion of Americanism, not quite as a substitute for Christianity, but rather as a most impressive supplement to it. The process is fostered, moreover, by the very fact that American Protestantism is divided into numerous sects and denominations. No Protestant sect is strong enough - and certainly the Catholic Church is not strong enough (even if it were so minded) - to establish itself as the official church of the United States. Hence there can be in a common Christianity no oneness of faith and worship for the whole American people. Consequently the spiritual unity, which almost everyone deems desirable, must be sought in nationalism. American Protestants may differ about the literal interpretation of the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, or about the manner of administering baptism, or about the orders of the ministry and the number of sacraments, but they do not differ essentially in their homage to the national state. In most Protestant churches in the United States a big American flag hangs resplendent over the pulpit or communion-table, and in most localities Protestant clergy and their faithful hold “union services” at least on Thanksgiving Day, on Decoration Day, on Washington's Birthday, and on, the Fourth of July. Is there not some justification for the prophecy of Mr. Israel Zangwill that “America will doubtless be the first to fuse its 186 denominations and its countless crank creeds into a single American religion”? [11]

A good deal has been said and written of late by agnostically inclined gentlemen about the decay of Protestantism in America, and it has been pointed out that only about thirty per cent. of the American people attend church. This, in my opinion, is a most superficial estimate of the situation.
Protestantism of the sixteenth-century Lutheran or Calvinistic type may be decaying - I don't know, and I am reluctant to guess - but Protestantism as a vehement protest against historic Catholic Christianity and as an important element in the contemporary syncretic religion of nationalism is certainly alive and thriving. In this sense far more than thirty per cent. of the American people are Protestants - and nationalists. And it is undoubtedly true that many Catholic Americans would resent any imputation that they are less devout in the worship of nationalism than are their Protestant fellow countrymen.

Syncretism of nationalism and Christianity go on apace in the United States. At one extreme, a group of Catholics of French-Canadian extraction in the diocese of Providence (Rhode Island) are so intent upon exalting nationalism as an indispensable prop for their traditional Christianity that, upon being refused the use of a Catholic church and hall for a nationalist demonstration, they denounce their bishop, call him unseemly names, defy his authority, and obtain from a priest in Quebec words of encouragement for their cause and conduct. At the other extreme the modernist pastor of a Unitarian church in New York, a clergyman of English descent, declares that it is an absurd anachronism for American children to be studying the folk-tales of the alien Hebrew people, and announces that the Sunday-school attached to his church will henceforth teach the “American Holy Bible” - the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the biographies of our national heroes. [12] “Fundamentalists” appear to apprehend a prop to their literal Biblical faith in the parallel between the early chosen Hebrews and the later chosen Americans. “Modernists” seem to thicken Americanism in measure as they dilute Christianity.

From the newspaper we learn that at the Protestant Episcopal Church of St. Mark's-in-the-Bouwerie, in February, 1924, a sermon by Dr. Stuart L. Tyson, vice-president of the Modern Churchman's Union, in which he denied the divinity of Christ, and a ritual service devoted to the American flag, “engaged the attention of large congregations morning and afternoon.” [13]

The ritual expressing the religion of Old Glory was taken from a book of that title published by the rector of St. Mark's, Dr. William Norman Guthrie, who says that it was authorised for use in St. Mark's on the Sunday after Thanksgiving Day, 1918, by Bishop David H. Greer, then head of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of New York.'
The worship of the flag was performed on a platform in front of the chancel, by professional actors designated as Chief Officiant, the Son; First Assistant, the Mother; and Second Assistant, the Father. The rector named the seven impersonators of the red stripes in the flag as Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Cleveland, Roosevelt, and Wilson.
The white flagstaff was placed in front of the sanctuary, topped with a golden sphere over which hovered the golden eagle. The congregation was addressed as follows: “At the top of the flagstaff hovers the emblem of our sovereignty, the white-hooded eagle. He expresses our aspiration and our inspiration, our living communion with the God of our fathers.” This was followed by the psalm of the eagle. After the psalm the Chief Officiant cried aloud: “Hear ye the cry of the eagle.” The congregation responded, “Let us rally to obey.” The flag was raised to the singing of the first stanza of the “Star-Spangled Banner”, while the Chief Officiant said: “Let us raise a standard, to which the wise and the honest can repair.”
In the second part of the ritual the congregation were bidden to lift up their eyes to the seven red stripes, “as they are well worthy of worship.” This chorus followed :

“Let us sing together our song
To the red of the flag,
The red of the flag,
The red of the flag,
To the red of the flag forever.”

In like manner was performed the ritual worship of the six white stripes, the square of the midnight blue, the five-pointed white stars. The final ceremony was the worship of the white-hooded eagle. At the conclusion the flag was allowed to drop on the flagstaff as a salute to the sanctuary, and the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” was sung.

Though it is likely to be a long time before the new religion completely ousts the old, the syncretism now proceeding is far more favourable, in our opinion, to nationalism than to Christianity, Mohammedanism, or any other supernatural world-religion. The weaker grows the element of Christianity, for example, the stronger becomes the element of la Patrie, “supplying as it does channels for both devotion and sacrifice, and even an after-life in the life of the nation. Thus already we see Professor Loisy, in his new book 'Mors et Vita,' reacting from his thwarted hope of a reformed Christendom, to a religion of France, and this though he himself exposes the nationalist spuriousness of French neo-Catholicism.” [14]



I would not have anyone gather from what I have said that I condemn nationalism because it is an expression of man's “religious sense.” I am too convinced a believer in the inherently religious character of man to make light of religion; and to condemn nationalism because it depends on religious emotion would seem to me as futile as to condemn vegetation because it thrives on sunlight. I would suggest, however, that there are many, many ways in which man may express his religious sense, and that religious emotion, like any other instinctive emotion, is always susceptible and often needful of conscious direction and control. Some forms of religion are superior to others, and when we recognise the religious nature of modern nationalism we have still to ask ourselves whether it is the form or religion most conducive to human betterment.

Most great religious systems of the past have been unifying, rather than disintegrating, forces in the history of the human race. Buddhism gave rise to a common type of constructive civilisation among the teeming millions of Burma, Siam, China, and Japan. Mohammedanism drew together in a common bond and inspired with a common zeal the most diverse tribesmen of Arabia, India, Persia, Turkey, the Malay archipelago, and Africa. Christianity bound together in a cultural community all kinds of European peoples, regardless of their habitat, breed, and native language. And especially in the case of Christianity, the forms and ceremonies which attended the expression of man's religious sense were constant symbols of a universal striving for a kingdom that was not of this world, for the sacrifice of self, and the assurance of peace on earth to men of good will.

Modern nationalism, while evolving customs and ceremonies which externally are very reminiscent of rites and practices of Christianity, has developed quite a different spirit, and set itself quite a different goal. Despite the universality of the general concept of nationalism, its cult is based on a tribal idea and is, therefore, in its practical manifestations, peculiar to circumscribed areas and to persons of the same language. The good at which it aims is a good for one's own nation only, not for all mankind. The desires which it inspires in an Englishman or a German or a Japanese are not the same as the desires which it inspires in a Frenchman, a Pole, or an American.

Nationalism as a religion represents a reaction against historic Christianity, against the universal mission of Christ; it re-enshrines the earlier tribal mission of a chosen people. The ancient reflective Roman imagined that one chosen people - the Hebrew nation - was one too many for general comfort and safety; the thoughtful modern Christian may be pardoned for being a bit pessimistic about a world devoid of a Roman Empire and replete with dozens upon dozens of chosen peoples.

Nationalism as a religion inculcates neither charity nor justice; it is proud, not humble; and it signally fails to universalise human aims. It repudiates the revolutionary message of St. Paul and proclaims anew the primitive doctrine that there shall be Jew and Greek, only that now there shall be Jew and Greek more quintessentially than ever. Nationalism's kingdom is frankly of this world, and its attainment involves tribal selfishness and vainglory, a particularly ignorant and tyrannical intolerance, - and war. That nationalism brings not peace but the sword, we propose next to show.



Notes by the author

[1] The reader will recall that long ago this opinion was voiced by Gibbon with devastating rhetoric and mordant wit. Cf. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. vi (ed. J. B. Bury), pp. 125-126.

[2] I do not wish to be understood as implying that there are no essential differences between Paganism and Christianity or between Catholicism and Protestantism or “neo-Protestantism.” I explicitly disclaim any connection with that large and lazy sect of recent times who profess that “one religion is as good or as true (or false) as another.” Here, however, I am not attempting to establish or even to assert the superiority of any particular religion; my present purpose is much more modest, merely to point out that all these religions appeal, like “natural religion,” to man's inherent “religious sense.”

[3] A. Bayet et F. Albert, Les Ecrivains politiques du XVIIIème siècle (1904), pp. 388-390.

[4] The words are Barnave's. Cf. A. Mathiez, Les Origines des Cultes Revolutionnaires (1904), p. 22.

[5] A. Mathiez, op. cit. p. 27.

[6] Ibid., p. 31.

[7] A. Aulard, Le Culte de la Raison et le Culte de l’Être Supreme (1892), p. 35;

[8] Ibid., p. 45.

[9] Article VI of the “Thirty-nine Articles;” Book of Common Prayer.

[10] The Historical Outlook, vol. xiii, pp. 250-255 (October, 1922).

[11] The Principle of Nationalities (1917), p. 87.

[12] Rev. C. F. Potter, New York Times, February 28, 1924.

[13] New York Times, February 25, 1924.

[14] Israel Zangwill, The Principle of Nationalities (1917), pp. 85-86. Cf. also Bertrand Russell, Why Men Fight (1917), pp. 56-58.



Notes to the text

(*) Benedict Arnold (1740 – 1801) was a general during the American Revolutionary War who originally fought for the American Continental Army but defected to the British Army.

(**) Cotton Mather (1663 - 1728) was a socially and politically influential New England Puritan minister, prolific author and pamphleteer; he is often remembered for his role in the Salem witch trials.

(***) Black Hundreds was an ultra-nationalist movement in Russia in the early 20th century. It was a staunch supporter of the House of Romanov and opposed any retreat from the autocracy of the reigning tsar.



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