Why I Am A Patriot

As we approach another Independence Day, which most Americans celebrate not with flag waving but with copious amounts of grilled hotdogs and cold beer, I can’t help reflecting on what it really means to be a patriot in the United States at this particular time. I consider myself a patriot, even though I am a proud, godless American, and even though it is nearly impossible in our modern culture to separate patriotism from a belief in god(s).IMG_3328

So, why do I, an atheist, secularist, and skeptic, consider myself to be patriotic? I am a patriot because I believe patriotism is having not just the courage to speak your mind, it’s having the fortitude to let others speak theirs, even when you vehemently disagree with them. I am a patriot because I believe patriotism is found not just among those of us who serve or have served their country in the armed services but among those who gather to protest the things the military is sometimes asked to do. I am a patriot because I believe patriotism is reflected in the actions among those who gather at state capitols on behalf of women’s rights or at benches at city centers to test the limits of free speech zones. I am a patriot because I believe patriots are people who love this country (or what this country could be) even if they don’t assume some vengeful god is ready to punish them for not being a certain type of American. I am a patriot, not because I believe in some misguided idea of a United States that is so exceptional that we have the right and duty to impose our will upon others, but because I love my country for what it COULD be. I am a patriot because of my desire to see our nation live up to its full, fair potential.

It’s been well documented by writers better than I that the American public views atheists, secularists, and even certain religious non-Christians as being unpatriotic so I’m not going to cover what’s already been done. But I say to my atheist/secular patriotic brothers and sisters, as you enjoy your food, fireworks, and parades on routes lined with miniature flags, it’s okay to grab that that little flag, give it a wave, and spend a few minutes contemplating what it means to be a modern, American, godless patriot.

-Kathy

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  • Kilian Hekhuis

    I’ve never understood patriotism. I get it that someone likes to live somewhere, and is attached to the shared cultural heritage of its people, but patriotism smells a bit too much like “we are better” to all those not living there.

  • http://www.atheists.com Kathleen Johnson

    I think you might be confusing patriotism with nationalism or exceptionalism. As we head into the 4th of July holiday, you are going to see people use the term patriot in a nationalistic (and IMO, misguided), way, and that’s unfortunate..

    KJ

  • Kilian Hekhuis

    I might be, indeed. Living in a country where patriotism (or nationalism) is virtually non-existing, it’s difficult to get the gist of what is meant by it.

  • http://www.atheists.org Kathleen Johnson

    The distinction is a narrow one, but important in this country and even many Americans don’t realize the distinction. I think we are going to discuss it in detail during our next podcast at Sgt Skeptic. Thanks for commenting!

    KJ

  • Karen Locke

    I, too, consider myself a patriot. I’m also a godless American, and I don’t do a lot of flag waving. But I respect and honor our Constitution, vote, harass my congresscritters on issues that are important to me, and just in general champion the wonderful nation we have the potential of being. It isn’t that we’re better than anyone else; we’re not. Patriotism is about trying to make your country the best it can be.

  • steve84

    As practiced in America patriotism is usually virtually indistinguishable from blind nationalism and sometimes crosses over into jingoism. If people are confused, it’s because there plenty of reason for it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=5800135 michaelhartwell

    Well written piece Kathy.

    For me, it comes down to believe in America. I believe in the idea of a nation that restrains what its government can do. I also believe in freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of assembly, private property, capitalism and all of our other little freedoms we have that many other nations throughout history have not.

    It’s not just that this is the country where I was born, it’s the country where I want to live.

    -Michael, Godless American

  • steve84

    America is not in any way unique or rare when it comes to that. Plenty of other countries share the same ideals and some do a far better job of actually living up to them – something the US always had huge problems with.

  • Paul Loebe

    Patriotism is not a blind fervorous belief in how awesome this country is. It is taking part in that democratic process. It is questioning the leaders and letting them know what you think. It is holding them accountable. Good post, Kathy!

  • cotton

    Steve84, if your friend brought you over to his house, and had the audacity to show a bit of pride in his domicile, would you rush to knock him down a peg? Would you wax poetic about how other houses really do everything his does but better, just because of how true it might be? No, b/c then you’d be a bore.

    I’m patriotic. I’m not, however, infused with nationalistic fervor nor do I turn a blind eye to the problems of the United States, nor do I not readily acknowledge some of those problems have solutions that have been found by other nations. But this is MY home. Even though I know it isn’t the best, its mine, I’m proud of it, and I want to show my care for it by working towards its improvement.


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