Thursday, April 17, 2008

Why Patriotism Is a Sin

A front page article in today's New York Times relates the tale of a Chinese student at Duke University who came upon clashing pro-Tibet and pro-China demonstrations. She tried to bring peace between the two groups. However, the pro-China group reacted viciously. She was publicly defamed on the Internet as a "traitor". She, and her family back in China, received death threats. What drove those pro-China people to persecute someone who just wanted to bring reconciliation to her school? Patriotism.. This is the true essence of patriotism: "my country right, right or wrong" — which really means "worship my country or die!"

Patriotism is a cult. The cult is called nationalism. Nationalism is defined as the cult of the State. With the death of Christendom, and Dar al-Islam threatened with being dragged out of the Dark Ages, nationalism has become the new Christendom. Inquisition, crusade, totalitarianism, and terrorism necessarily follow. And that's why patriotism is a sin.

I gave a Chinese example because nationalism is a universal malady. Wherever people are ruled over by a state, the state tries to justify its oppression by building a cult around it. The excuse used to be known as "the divine right of kings", or the cult of the king as a living god or Christ. But absolute monarchies are few and far between these days — you'll find most of them in the Islamic world, which has not yet escaped the legacy of the Ottoman Empire, and the other ones are Burma and North Korea — so personality cults around single rulers have become increasingly rare. As most governments today are ruled by bureaucratic hierarchies, divine right has therefore passed from a single all-powerful ruler to the bureaucratic structures of statism. And thus divine-right monarchism has been eclipsed by divine-right statism; monarchic messianism has made way for the deified state apparat. Soulless bureaucrats have collectively taken upon themselves the mantle of divinity that used to belong to kings and dictators alone; they have become God.

Nationalism is the name of the cult, and patriotism is the name for the intolerant crusader faith that nationalism requires. As the state is the means by which the terrorist gang in power rapes, robs, and enslaves the people — it has no other purpose — any middle- or working-class person who gives in to the cult's siren song is a damned fool. For someone outside the ruling caste to declare the State — any state — their personal Lord and Savior is for them to declare: "I am a member of the ruling class! I, too, am superior to the rabble of non-patriots! I too am the State! I have pull!" And, of course, the irrational cult faith called patriotism is an absolutist belief that my government is the only true government and was created by God to rule the world. Therefore, all who do not worship my government — whatever government that is — must either be converted to the Only True (Patriotic) Faith by the sword, or blood-sacrificed as an infidel traitor, a holy sacrifice to the One True Religion State.

I didn't mention the American neoconservatives simply because they're typical of the patriot breed. They call me a "traitor". What they really mean is that I am an infidel — "traitor" in the cult jargon of nationalism has precisely the same meaning as "infidel" in the traditional language of the Yahwist religions. I reject the One True Faith — because I am against faith as such. I am against patriotism on principle; the principle is atheism. Patriots believe their government is the Incarnation of God. But the truth is that there is no God. The State is a menace identical to the Church and Mosque — the menace of irrational faith, the wellspring of ultraviolence. Nationalism is a cult in the exact same way that the Unification Church, the Church of Scientology, and the LaRouche Gang are cults. Atheism made me a libertarian; libertarianism and anarchism aim to kill God by smashing the State just as the revolutionary regicides of the 18th through 20th centuries tried to kill God by abolishing thrones and beheading kings and dictators.

Nationalism is the religion of the State; patriotism is its fundamentalist crusader faith. The people, of course, are the Satan of this faith. Religion is the disease; Enlightenment — the philosophy of reason that made the modern world possible — is the cure.

Here's a few libertarian antidotes to the patriotic poison:
  1. Albert Jay Nock, Our Enemy, The State
  2. Randolph Bourne, "War Is the Health of the State" (and visit the Randolph Bourne Institute)
  3. Lysander Spooner, No Treason (and visit
And, of course, you can always visit the links in the sidebar.

Back to "Take Nothing On Faith"...

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