Patriotism and the 'God gap'
Surveys suggest a 'God gap' in views on American patriotism.
September 28th, 2011
07:19 PM ET

Patriotism and the 'God gap'

By Dave Schechter, CNN

(CNN)– “And may God bless the United States of America” is a popular closing line in speeches by presidents and presidential hopefuls.

Does a higher power, if one exists, “shed his grace on thee,” as the lyrics of “America the Beautiful” proclaim?

And if so, does this make the United States of America the greatest country in the world?

Christianity Today crunched data from a Pew Research Center poll that asked more than 1,500 Americans for their views of the United States.

“Nearly all Americans think they live in the best country on Earth. While a majority of Americans believe there are other countries just as great, nine in 10 say no nation is better. Within this high view of America, there are differences between different religious groups,” the magazine noted.

To this end, Christianity Today suggested the existence of a “patriotism God-gap in America.”

Among those surveyed, evangelicals were the most likely to think the United States is No. 1.

“Other Christian traditions were less enthusiastic about America's position in the world, but they still saw the U.S. as one of the best on the planet. About 40% of other Christians said the U.S. stands alone as the greatest country; around 55% said it and some other countries were equally great. As with evangelicals, only a few said there were greater countries in the world.”

“Those with no religion, however,” hold a much less favorable view, according to the magazine.

"Only one in five of those without religious beliefs said the U.S. is the best country in the world, an equal percentage agreeing that 'there are other countries that are better than the U.S.' ”

Not everyone is enamored with equating religious conviction and patriotism. Consider these excerpts from the comments that followed the Christianity Today article:

“To call yourself a Christian evangelical and still think that America is the greatest is ironic to say the least. God is not about country. God is about love and everyone is equal in his eyes, including the rest of the world.”

“What's really sad is the widespread perception among evangelicals that there is some kind of link between America's standing and the work and purpose and success of God's kingdom. There is not. Two words: wrong kingdom. I repeat: wrong kingdom. It matters not a whit what America's status in the world is. The kingdom of Jesus Christ does not depend on this in any way and will continue regardless.”

“When our astronauts look down at the Earth it doesn't look like a classroom globe with lines on it. All of those lines are drawn in the minds of human beings. I am grateful to be an American. But sometimes I think that some elements of conservative Christianity really see their religion as patriotism, their scripture the Constitution and God their servant to gain their personal aims. This whole Earth is the object of God's love and concern. And to claim that any one nation in today’s world is more favored than another may be promoting a Christian heresy.”

Flying the flag is among the easiest ways to display patriotism. Is it also an expression of religion?

In an article titled “Flag Desecration, Religion and Patriotism,” Temple University associate law professor Muriel Morisey suggested that for proponents of a constitutional amendment, “the American flag is the equivalent of a sacred religious icon, comparable to Christianity’s crucifix, Judaism’s Torah and the Quran of Islam. No court has designated patriotism as a religion for Establishment Clause purposes, but in every other significant respect it operates as a religion in American culture. Regardless of the religious beliefs we profess, we simultaneously practice patriotism.”

That said, a “God gap” may exist in the flying of Old Glory as well.

A Pew poll taken March 30-April 3 suggested that 78% of religious people display the flag on their clothing, in the office or at home, while 58% of nonreligious do likewise.

Evangelicals were the most likely to say they displayed the flag; those Americans unaffiliated with religion the least likely.

As to the religious identity of the nation, 62% said the United States is a “Christian nation” in a survey of 1,000 adults done a couple of years ago for Newsweek, while 75% of Americans call themselves Christian, according to the American Religious Identification Survey also done in 2009.

And earlier this year, writing for the CNN Belief Blog, Boston University religion scholar Stephen Prothero analyzed the religious affiliations of those elected to serve in the 112th Congress and concluded: “Is this a Christian nation? No way, says the Constitution. But U.S. voters are telling us something else altogether.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Church and state • Courts

soundoff (2,100 Responses)
  1. C.Andrew

    Why one does blabbering about God's work do this and that about one nation? Why does USA busy brainstorming the believer, make it looks like it that USA is the chosen army/God's army? Isn't it clearly stated inside the Holy Bible that there be one chosen nation by God, and that chosen country is Israel not USA.

    December 18, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  2. jon

    Sorry Dave...you become a patriot by having pride in your country. There does not need to be a connection to God in order to feel such pride. You can't ignore the fact we owe a debt to the religious forefathers that created our nation, but patriotism much be earned. I have not been very proud of my country over the past few decades. We have wavered from the right path and become a nation of cut throats only out for ourselves. The OWS takers are at war with the makers. We no longer value self responsibility, but have grown to expect government to care for us cradle to grave.

    December 18, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  3. MyEyesWereOpened

    Well, in my view we have a fascist upper class trying to change the Christian religion, as practiced in the US by fundamentalists at least, into something more friendly to Capitialism, reverse the injunction against usury, make it good and OK, instead of being a sin, and other improvements to make it more compatible with the current politics of the ruling class.

    In many ways I do not consider these people as Christians, no matter what they call themselves. They are just fascists by religion, instead of politics.

    This seems very similar to what I read the Nazi's did with the evangelical and protestant Christians in Germany, turning them into Christian German Nationialists, and 'anti- Semitic". except in our case Jews are among our ruling class, so fanatic devotion to Israel and its safety is attached to the American version of Christian Nationalist fervor, instead of rejection of Jews.

    I hate to contemplate the horrors these people would inflict on the rest of us, if they get the power they are trying to achieve. Orthodox Christians no doubt would face terrible persecution. The Amish, and Jehovah's Witness would probably resist them, like the did in Nazi Germany, though it meant they went to the Death camps.

    December 18, 2011 at 1:43 am |
  4. Steve the Goat

    It is obvious why there is a patriotism gap and "god gap." People who believe in the space ghost and his illegitimate son are also the type who believe faux news and the idea that politicians are acting in their interests. People who actually have a leaning toward fact tend to not be as religious, since from a factual standpoint, it is foolish to be patriotic about the majority of actions this country has taken.

    December 17, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  5. Christopher

    1,500 Americans is statistically meaningless – this artilce never should have seen the light of day

    December 17, 2011 at 8:06 am |
    • Full Disclosure

      1500 is statistically indicative, but this is more a how to lie with stats by both cnn and ct that they quote.

      December 17, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  6. Joe

    Religion is pure inoctrination. People born in christian homes are indoctrinated to be christians. People born in buddist homes are inoctrinated to be buddyists. People born in muslim world are indoctrinated to be muslim.

    Give it up. There is nothing too complicated in all that!

    December 16, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
  7. John


    December 16, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • .....

      TRASH ALERT AGAIN – don't bother viewing this garbage, click the report abuse link to get rid of this TROLL!

      December 16, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  8. Jennifer Pruitt

    it's the people, that make up the United States. Our Founding Fathers were brave, strong men with pride and the "want " of freedom. Religious persecutions is the main reason we fought for our freedoms, when one other "Religion" wants to kill someone that thinks differently there will always be war, we are animals you know, only the strong survive, the weak get eaten....whether you believe in evolution or not this is a fact.... as Christians, good reigns over evil

    December 15, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • MyEyesWereOpened

      Excuse me, but since we are talking about my forefathers too, lets s not distort the reasons they fought.
      religious freedom – meaning freedom FROM controlling religon and churchs- was a big part since religion was used to controll people politically.
      They wanted religion, and churchs, minimised and parked to the side of the social mainstream, and off their backs.
      Including the American churchs acting as governments for many states, and not allowing anyone not in good standing with their Pastor, and a menber of their Church, to participate in governemnt etc.

      December 18, 2011 at 2:26 am |
    • MCR

      Yup, all this article really shows is the gap in people's ability to understand reality. The evangelicals aren't more patriotic, they're more delusional, whereas the less religious people / atheists see things more practically, and therefore realize that this country has serious problems

      December 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  9. Steve the Goat

    There is no space ghost watching down over us. People need to give it up.

    December 15, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Hunter Annie

      Haha what God? People still believe in this crap? WOW.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  10. Sean

    America is, and will always be, the greatest nation. Belief in a mythical god is not required; but seeing what can be accomplished and the compassion of the citizens in America is the belief that is required. I've been across the globe, nothing comes close. Do we have problems, of course, every country does, but we've got the tools to resolve those problems.

    One of the problems is that our extremists, left and right, are so narrowly focused on what they consider to be 'the only answer'. It the other countries I've visited, it is the extremists that are responsible for the problems in their country. While they contend that the Evangelical Christians are 'more patriotic'. The biggest problem with the Evangelical Right is that if you are not with them, then you are against them.

    Don't for a minute thing that being a christian is a pre-requisite for being patriotic.

    December 15, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  11. jarry

    I'm a sweet, friendly, honest, caring girl in search of "the one". I've been single for over two years so I got Annababe2011 on .... Millionaire'Social...℃0M it's the first and best club for wealthy people and their admirers. …you don’t have to be rich ,but you can meet one 🙂

    December 15, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  12. Mr. LugNut

    Hey Everyone...Religion is NOT a Democracy, our forefathers knew this, that is why they separated church and state. Religion in government is a very dangerous thing they are never satisfied until the whole world thinks like they do and they will kill anyone who doesn't. And if you don't believe that you truly are one dumb-ass.

    December 15, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • awesome

      Our country was based on god they just wanted people to be free and actually have rights. I agree christains today have no respect for other religions though.

      December 15, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • Kenneth Paul

      Ya your right, Christians go around bombing, kidnapping, shooting, jailing, and beheading others that don't see things their way!! ..? oh wait ..thats the other guys! Duh! Christians are happy being Christians, and sure it would be great to even more and more join and enjoy our life style. I would even hope some close friends would jump on board because I know we are in the last days, and I would hate to think they would be left behind. But I don't don't get all preachy with anybody, If the ask me my opinion Ill give it to them ..or If somebody thinks they can speak on my behalf and my brothers and sisters ..but their words are false,(AWESOME) then I will correct them. Im almost 48, and since I was 5 years old ..I can remember god answering my prayers up to the present, and thats why my God rules! He answers prayers, and I never here that of any other religions, and maybe thats why they hate us? But they can get on the winning team, It's not like somebodies got a gun to their heads ..Ok well maybe they do. Point of the matter is.. we are contempt on waiting for the rapture, and if you don't want to chill with us ..um ok? good luck with your chosen afterlife. but were not going to disrespect you, just pity.

      December 15, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
  13. sdowst

    More looney-tunes. When are these religious nuts going to start thinking rationally? Pathetic people that they are.

    December 15, 2011 at 6:37 am |
  14. Born on Earth

    If my parents had told me from the beginning that eating dirt would keep me healthy and that going to church would bring me eternal bliss I would have done both regularly. Face it as kids you will do whatever your parents tell you to.

    December 15, 2011 at 1:03 am |
  15. seerclearly

    Every nation that believed it was empowered by God to be righteous has ended up in the dustbin of history as a nation that is remembered for its abuse of its own citizens and those in other countries. Godly nations have universally been bad ones.

    December 14, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • George

      You make sweeping statements, but few details. Give some examples, please.

      December 15, 2011 at 1:33 am |
    • sdowst

      Most Islamic countries are a good example. Their repression of all good things is disgraceful and their treatment of "different" people even more so...witness the recent beheading of a woman in Saudi Arabia for witchcraft. They haven't had a significant scientific advance in 600 years, and seem to take pleasure in the dogma of their religion. And on and on it goes.

      December 15, 2011 at 6:42 am |
    • George

      Last time I checked, Saudi Arabia is still a country and not in the dustbin of history.

      December 15, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • Joe

      It was a favorite line of european fascists, that God is on their side. Or God given rights to the pure arian nation.

      December 16, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
  16. King of Men

    Stupid people believe in God, that's why they're dumb enough to believe we're still "number one" despite all evidence to the contrary.

    December 14, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • George

      We ARE number one. If you don't think so, find a country that you think is better and move there.

      December 15, 2011 at 1:35 am |
    • MyEyesWereOpened

      All depends on what you mean by "we".
      International banks own the USA and controll it and the economy for their benefit. As a coalition these Banks (or Corporations, same thing) are the number 1 power in the world.
      Of course they worship the rights of property owners (themselves) over unpropertied workers.
      That's Capitialism.

      December 18, 2011 at 2:45 am |
    • MyEyesWereOpened

      George, get real. I love my country, but not the people who rule us for their benefit and wealth.

      We used to be a great. The American Golden Age, historians now say ended in 1975. They call the current age (atm) the Age of Perpetual Crisis.
      The prosperity of the general public that work for wages has declined steadily since 1975, and now over 50% of the population is considered low income or outright impoverished.
      The USA has been steadily increasing its police powers and presence, eroding civil liberties, and passing ever harsher laws, so that now the USA has more people imprisoned, per capita, than any other nation on Earth.
      I don't know about where you live, but homeless people, who were essentially non existant in 1970, are everywhere here today, growing worse year after year.

      Nothing s planned to change these circunstances. Any attempt to improve things are resisted bitterly by the ultrawealthy Corporate Banks.

      December 18, 2011 at 3:06 am |
  17. Matt

    Wow!! What a shocking revelation! People who do not blindly follow religion are capable of considering flaws in our nation! Who would have ever thought? Thanks CNN!!!!

    December 14, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  18. dave

    Wow!!!! Positive posts on CNN!! I like it!

    December 14, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  19. steve

    We, for the most part , are just a product of our environment. Born in America? U probably love America. Born in Inda? Ur probably a proud card-carrying Hindu. We have no choice in where we are born or how we are raised. Christian or otherwise. There have been cannibals in Borneo who never heard the name Jesus mentioned. If u want true reliigion, just go outside. Its all around you.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • Jax

      What a refreshing thing to read 🙂

      December 17, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  20. zen man

    We, for the most part are just products of our environment. If ur raised by Morman parents, u just may be a future Morman. Big shock!! We have no choice in who our parents are or in what country we happen to be born. If u want true religion, just go outside and look around. Its all there.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • George

      Nobody said that you have a choice in what country you are born. But of all the countries, America is the greatest.

      December 14, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • ufadoof

      George tell us which countries you have spent a fair amount of time in to form such an opinion. How many languages do you speak? How many passports have you gone through. Enlighten us.

      December 16, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.