Switzerland Will Soon Replace Its Religious National Anthem with a Godless One

The text of the Swiss Psalm, written in 1841 and adopted as the National Anthem in 1981, includes lyrics like this (when translated into English):

When the morning skies grow red,
and over us their radiance shed
Thou, O Lord, appeareth in their light
when the alps glow bright with splendor,
pray to God, to Him surrender
for you feel and understand
that He dwelleth in this land.

In the sunset Thou art night
and beyond the starry sky
Thou, O loving father, ever near,

when to Heaven we are departing
joy and bliss Thou’lt be imparting
for we feel and understand
that Thou dwellest in this land.

That’s a nice… psalm… but, outside of church, it’s really out of place.

The Swiss government has finally recognized this and they’re ready to chuck their current, religious anthem in favor of a new, secular one:

The new text is to include values enshrined in the Swiss constitution, such as democracy and solidarity.

“The real problem is above all the text,” [project leader Lukas] Niederberger said. He is in the Swiss Society for Public Utility (SGG), the competition organiser. The SGG, founded in 1810, seeks to promote Swiss values and has previously launched social and cultural initiatives.

“Officially the anthem is a psalm, a prayer, but of course we have an open society, religiously neutral. We have atheists, no single god, so this anthem is a difficulty,” he explained by phone.

The contest is set to run the first half of 2014.

Incidentally, the little-known fourth verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is all sorts of Godly, too:

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

When do we get to have our contest?

(Thanks to @CyningDom for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • DavidMHart

    As political commentary, it is rather heavy-handed, but the LA-based synth-pop band Sparks have an entertaining take on the US national anthem.

  • Thalfon

    Ooh, can Canada be next?

    (Yeah, yeah, Harper’s still in power. Sigh.)

    Edit: Although to be fair, almost nobody really uses the Canadian anthem for anything outside of sporting events, so I’m not sure to what extent it even matters. Or at least not in my experience.

    • David Pearce

      No, New Zealand should be first in line!! The deity gets called upon in the title and first line of our anthem, and then the whole damn thing is a grovelling pleading to the magnificent sky fairy to somehow protect us and also to act as a supernatural PR agent to make sure our country is well known around the world.

      • Jim Jones

        And the tune both blows AND sucks.

      • wombat

        Seconded. We could do so much better. “God of Nations”, pfft.

        • Jim Jones

          I wonder if the Aussies would ever change from “Advance Australia Fair” to “I Still Call Australia Home”?

      • JoFro

        NZ is well known around the world – sky fairy seems to be doing a good job! :D

        • David Pearce

          I think that all of the credit is due to Sir Ed Hillary, the All Blacks, government tourism marketing efforts, and tainted milk products for our overseas renown (infamy?) than any imaginary friends on high.

  • Librepensadora

    The national anthem of France could use some revision also. Known as “La MarseiIlaise,” it dates from the period of the French Revolution: “Allons, enfants de la patrie, le jour de gloire est arrivé. (“Let’s go, children of our fatherland, the day of glory has arrived.”) So far, so good. Then comes, “Contre nous de la tyrannie l’étandard sanglant est levé.” (“Tyranny’s bloody banner is raised against us.”) The confrontation between the children of the fatherland and tyranny is envisioned as the annihilation of tyranny’s force in a bloodbath so terrible that “un sang impur abreuve nos sillons.” The “tainted blood” of tyranny will flow so freely as to “water the furrows of our fields.”

    • http://www.examiner.com/atheism-in-los-angeles/hugh-kramer Hugh Kramer

      Of course, you’re familiar with the Jewish version of the Canadian anthem, “Oy, Canada!”?

    • Matt

      Oh, come on, that’s awesome!

    • Jim Jones

      It’s still one of the better ones. Most are dirges.

    • Tempo

      Not really, it alludes to an historical event and how it went down, there is nothing exclusive in it (except maybe for the remaining french royalists.. all 10 of them). It tells about a time when the people raised as one against oppression, I think it’s rather fitting as a national anthem even if it’s violent. These events deserve to be honored in song.

      • JoFro

        In France, the decade following the French revolution is referred to as the Decade of Terror! I think they have more fond memories from the time of Napoleon …

    • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

      But at least La Marseillaise has a tune. So does Flower of Scotland. Those two are exceptions. Most national anthems are dirges. The Irish one is sort of okay, but not great.

      TRiG.

  • Paula M Smolik

    I hate our national anthem anyway. The tune is awkward, the words are awkward.

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      There’s only so much that can be expected for a tune that’s repurposed from a drinking song.

      • Jim Jones

        That was meant to be a bitch to sing. If you could sing it, you weren’t drunk enough.

  • LesterBallard

    I’m not highly educated; I have no special skills; I’m just a working stiff who reads a lot and has thought about things as much as I could; I wonder if Scandinavia will accept me . . .

    • Guest

      Psst, Switzerland is in the centre of Europe and not in scandinavia. And you have to be pretty rich to move there, sadly.

      • LesterBallard

        You’re right. I retire.

  • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

    “When do we get to have our contest?”

    Probably not for at least a decade or two, given current US demographic/political trends. Contrariwise, there’s no reason you couldn’t run an unofficial one yourself.

  • Buckley

    I don’t care much for it either, but there are MANY who would rather replace it with “God Bless America”. One glorifies war and the other glorifies god…screwed either way.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

      “This Land is Your Land” works for me. much nicer and more inclusive.

      • pagansister

        I could SO go for that song also. :-)

    • UWIR

      America the Beautiful, God Bless America… not only does the current National Anthem have God in it, most of the proposed replacements do too. Although if the Miley fans have their way, it’ll be replaced by Party in the USA.

      • nominalize

        But that’s got Jay-Z in it, and he’s arguably bigger than God :)

  • b s

    I hereby nominate the Jimi Hendrix version of the star spangled banner as our official national anthem.

    • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

      O come on, the version we have is hard enough to sing as it is! I can’t begin to sing that version.

  • the moother

    Now, if only the Netherlands would get rid of their god-bothering.

    Everything in holland is done in the name of the king (well, queen until recently)… And the king gets his authority “by the grace of god”.

    It’s a damn shame. Shame on the dutch.

    http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godssoevereiniteit (sorry, no English translation.)

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

    I am not saying I support the continued inclusion of gawd in our anthem and other national traditions, and I would be first in line to have them removed but the concept of mentioning gawd in reference to events 200 (and more) years ago was far different than how it is used today. Gawd back then was more or less invoked similar to how you would mention a passed relative, i.e “Let us remember Uncle Bubba who was horrendously gored by Bob the goat.” Mentioning gawd was an offhanded colloquialism that found it’s way into a few important and historical documents. Gawd back then was invoked more like a compliment of appreciating his role in things that happened with him and not because of him.
    But..
    In my opinion: The way American xians use it these days makes the invocation far more pertinent to their status in American society. American xian’s don’t do things with gawd any more. They believe that gawd commands them. You can thank the post American Reformation era for that. The invocation of gawd in common American tongue sets the precedence (though misguided) for their presumptuous divine rights. When I approach it in this sense, my blood boils. Especially when I read or hear some xian asserting those divine rights are part of our national heritage. They are not and definitely not in the manner xian’s use gawd today. The way I see xians invoking gawd is the same way they would have invoked the Grand Dragon of the Klan only 50 years ago or so. Gawd, in their minds, is the supreme judge of all Americans, to invoke gawd is to pass the ultimate judgement upon a person. The invocation of gawd now is the supreme, unfalsifiable, justification of action. American xian’s have translated gawd into the primary source of bigotry, hatred and prejudice.
    When I look at in this manner I am steadfast in my desire to remove all mentions of gawd from our heritage. American xians have taken gawd out of context and have made it their fight to assert control over how the invocation is defined. This redefinition undermines democracy. Each mention of gawd in their tongue is just another attempt to shackle the minds of unwary Americans to xian beliefs and to spread their virtues of hate. End of my opinion

    Because of this I am all for gawd’s removal.

    PS. I don’t hate the xians I just hate the way the xian’s use their religion.

    • UWIR

      I read on Language Log that “One Nation Under God” was originally from one version of the Gettysburg Address, and the phrase was “shall remain one nation, under God”, with “under God” being understood to basically mean “God willing”. So Lincoln wasn’t saying “shall remain a nation under God”, but rather, he was saying “I hope to God we remain one nation”.

  • Snowberry

    Yes, I’d like to change up the Canadian anthem as well. Instead of “God keep our land, Glorious and Free”, I sing “We all keep our land..”.

    • Jim Jones

      “God Defend New Zealand” is one of two national anthems of New Zealand, the other being “God Save the Queen”.

      The Kiwis often remark to the first, “God will have to do the job because the army isn’t up to it!”

      • UWIR

        So, in New Zealand, the US is God?

      • JoFro

        True! Here’s the third paragraph

        “Peace, not war, shall be our boast,

        But, should foes assail our coast,

        Make us then a mighty host (host from the Latin meaning of army),

        God defend our Free Land.

        Lord of battles in thy might,

        Put our enemies to flight,

        Let our cause be just and right,

        God defend New Zealand.

    • stojadinovicp
    • Rationalist1

      I agree, but I’d rather have the Maple Leaf Forever (New words, not old)
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9s0Sq2qFMA

  • Chris

    My family lived in Switzerland temporarily last year. It was an amazing experience and a wonderful place to live, but also a conundrum when it came to religion. I had read about how secular the country was, but found it to be actually quite religious. There were tons of religious holidays during the week that the whole country shut down for. No grocery shopping, no working, no eating out, nothing. We had to prepare ahead of time to have groceries and plan on going hiking for something to do. Only the trains ran and the really touristy places were open on holidays. And there was religious education in the public school system. We weren’t there long enough to have our kids enrolled in school, but our friends told us there was religion class in their local school. It wasn’t a general religion class. It was all christian indoctrination as far as I could tell as an outsider. Then there were some of the best science museums I’ve ever been to.

    • Stev84

      When you dig behind that you’d probably find that despite appearances most people take religion far, far less seriously than Americans. It may be part of public life to some degree, but that doesn’t mean people necessarily talk about it all the time. And people probably don’t ask you “Which church do you go to?” right after “Hello”

      • Heidi

        I lived in Switzerland for five years and I don’t remember ever having a conversation about religion. Of course I was a kid/young teenager at the time, but even so… It’s a beautiful coutry, by the way, and well worth a visit, especially Zermatt.

  • averydashwood

    But the Swiss flag will still be a depiction of a cross.

    • Duke

      It’s a plus sign, to symbolise all the Swiss banks adding up their profits…

    • UWIR

      As will the Chevy emblem.

    • Agni Ashwin

      And Swiss churches will still have statues of plus signs.

  • Fact

    Switzerland also has one of the lowest abortion rates in Europe, about half of the US’s.

    • RobMcCune

      Meaningless stats for the… I don’t know… something?

      • F

        It means you don’t need God to get the number of abortions down, you just need good sex education and a high standard of living. There aren’t many tornadoes in Switzerland either.

        • Pharaby

          Probably because there aren’t many trailer parks.

  • Fred Bloggs

    What about a new British/English anthem? As an atheist republican, ‘God save our glorious queen’ is doubly painful to me. And the tune is horribly dull, pedestrian and plodding. It’s not even special, since we share it with Liechtenstein. At least Scotland gets ‘Oh flower of Scotland’ to sing at sporting events. That actually is an inspiring tune. It makes me want to go out and beat up those dastardly English bastards.

    • LaurenceQuint

      Also it’s totally ripped off from “My Country Tis of Thee.”

      • LizBert

        Other way around. God Save the King was performed for the first time before the USA had even declared independence.

        • LaurenceQuint

          I know. I was kidding.

    • Jim Jones

      “Men of Harlech” is fucking great though.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRtnWVvDX6k

  • ThyGoddess

    Bravo! Now if only we could do that for Canada’s… Though it’s less complicated. Just a few tweaks here and there.

  • Simon

    When will we realise that nations are arbitary abstractions and stop treating people on one side of an invisible line as if they’re less valuable and less human than the people on the other side?

    • Jim Jones

      When we all have brain slugs.

  • TnkAgn

    Oh shit, what’s next? Giving the remaining European Jews back ALL of the stuff the Nazis took and deposited with the Swiss?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Jewish_Congress_lawsuit_against_Swiss_banks

  • DougI

    This might offend Christians so much that they take the property they stole from the Jews to a different country.

    • JoFro

      What property? Seriously confused!

      • DougI

        Switzerland is where the Christian Nazis stashed loot stolen from the Jews.

        • JoFro

          How were they Christian? Did they say the Lord’s Prayer as they looted them? Did they specifically give the loot to the Churches, who then refused to hand it back? Did you get your info from those conspiracy stories of the Catholic Church and the Swiss banks and the Nazis! Juicy stories!

  • WoodwindsRock

    “Officially the anthem is a psalm, a prayer, but of course we have an open society, religiously neutral. We have atheists, no single god, so this anthem is a difficulty,” he explained by phone.”

    Wait… And a government official said this? (Not 100% sure since I don’t really what exactly the SGG is) That’s just so hard to believe. There’s just too much common sense in that statement. When compared to US government officials, I’m just not used to it.

  • stojadinovicp

    Can we borrow some Swiss politicians, PLEASE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bo%C5%BEe_pravde

  • Beat Weber

    There is a parody of the swiss anthem (by Jürg Jegge, I think) with a funny intro: What remains, if you leave out god from the national anthem? A weather forecast!

  • Atheists got talent?

    Why don’t you start your own contest? Write a poem, set it to music, sing it in front of the flag at the start of atheist conferences. Put it on Youtube. If the song was good enough, other people would start singing it, and then, who knows? It’s your country. You shouldn’t need anyone’s permission.

  • Alexis

    In the US of A we could return to the original words to the Anacreon Song. Look it up on YouTube

  • pagansister

    Unfortunately I don’t think that that would fly (changing our current National Anthem) in the USA! Would that we could at least take the IGWT off the money and out of the Pledge. For a start I’d be happy with that! :-)


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