After jointly writing several sections on the topic of religion, I think it’s clear that we’re both deeply fascinated with the subject. Although I’m non-religious, I like to step into the world of religion every once in a while – maybe poke around for a bit before I return to my secular lifestyle.
Notice I say secular, instead of atheist. While I may not be a deeply devout man of any religious faith, I also don’t openly exclaim the war cry of atheist crusaders: “I don’t believe in anything!” Just as, I assume, you do not identify as an atheist. I consider myself a bystander in the topic of religion, as I’m just here to observe and reflect. I prefer this stance as I’d rather steer clear of the hidden holy war between Christians and Atheists on the forums of Reddit and in the comment pages of YouTube. As for why I don’t label myself as a Democrat or Liberal or Republican or Conservative or anything more specific than American, that could probably be an article all by itself. So, I’ll leave that possibility open for now.
Nevertheless, back to the main topic at hand. I can think of two main reasons why I may be so fascinated with religion. The first reason is the importance of religion – not only in history, but in current political matters as well. To fully understand why humanity operates the way it does, religion must be considered. The he second reason is that I’m so removed from the idea of religious belief. I wasn’t raised religious, and it was never fully introduced to me as a way of life. Everything I know about various religions was discovered by my own interest and initiative.
However, after thinking more on my second reason, I realized that I may not be as removed from religious belief as it seems. This fact is due to a point you raised in your last article, which is the equation of religion and nationalism. As stated previously, I do not openly label myself with any specific political title or name tag, so of course I don’t identify as a nationalist. However, I cannot say that I am free of all nationalistic tendencies, such as national pride and patriotic emotion.
I’ve been raised from childhood to believe with all my heart that the United States is the greatest country on Earth. So, why do I believe that? Well, at this point, I have studied and observed the world and the countries upon its surface, and my observations reaffirm my belief that the United States is the greatest country on Earth. However, before I could do that research and make those observations, I believed this American rhetoric simply because I was told it was true – from preschool to 12th grade. One could equate my childhood nationalist belief to another child’s religious belief. That other child did not read the Bible or attend the seminary. That child believes the word of his God because he was told by authority figures that it’s what he should believe. Now, maybe when he grows older he does study the Bible or even become a priest, and his belief is reaffirmed. That’s completely valid. I’m simply trying to equate the two, not put one over the other.
After following this thought down a rabbit hole, I stumbled upon a revelation. One thing that deeply intrigues me, other than religion, is ultra-nationalism. Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Fascist Japan, and North Korea are all societies I can never seem to learn enough about. I never really thought of exactly why I’m so interested in them, but now it seems to make so much sense. I am so drawn to researching ultra-nationalist nations because they are essentially godless theocracies.
One could argue that members of the Kim Dynasty are gods within North Korea, but the fact that no one outside of North Korea recognizes them as such renders this a moot point. Japan’s emperor could fall under this same argument, but my counter-argument remains the same.
Nevertheless, it’s astonishing to see how these ultra-nationalist cultures can take on the qualities of religion, while simultaneously condemning religion as an enemy of the state. Religion is the enemy of the state, because the state is already a religion – a separate belief incompatible with other religions of the world. The teachings within the Bible cannot coexist with the teachings of the Communist Manifesto. In the Soviet Union, Marx was God, and Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin were his apostles. There was no room for Christianity, Islam, or Buddhism, only Socialism, Communism, and Bolshevism.
While I don’t believe that the United States would ever adopt such a stance of devout nationalism, I return to the topic of the Lincoln Memorial. It’s indeed troubling to see such an instance of secular worship in the United States. While I hold Lincoln up as a truly great president and American, I don’t recall enshrining him within my heart. I also don’t revere him blindly. He was a great man, because he did remarkable things in history.
However, admittedly, the fact that he was American does earn him some extra points on my score card – if I may connect my point back to your comments on sports. As I said, I have nationalistic tendencies, just as any human being does for the country they call home. I cheer for the home team.
After all, it’s human nature.