Your country or your religion first ?

US flagOn yesterday’s programme I was struck by comments from our contributor John Bernard, the father of Joshua Bernard whose photograph sparked the outcry, talked about how people should identify themselves. He said the Marine ethos is allegiance to God, family, country, corps, in that order.

Listen to John Bernard

It chimed with some of the comment I’ve been reading about the conviction of three men yesterday in a British court over the transatlantic bomb plot.

Some commentators are saying the problem is the men were Muslim first, British second. This blogger goes so far as to say that this means that Western Muslims “can never be trusted”.

It’s an issue we’ve touched on before, but both yesterday’s show and this major terror case bring it to the fore again.

According to Britain’s secret service MI5, there are over 2,000 known terrorist suspects in the UK, with up to 200 terror networks in operation. The vast majority of those suspects are British-born Muslims.

Where should their allegiance lie? To their religion first, or to their country? If a Marine’s first loyalty is to God, then isn’t it just the same as a Muslim living outside an Islamic country who says her first loyalty is to her religion? Can you love your country more than your religion ?

Indian Bollywood actor Salman Khan made headlines over the weekend when he said, “Nationalism is my religion. We want responsible citizens who think about India first.”

He’s part of a growing campaign in India by the major television network Zee for Indians citizens to unite and put “India first”. But does India really need to ‘unite’ as Zee television says? Isn’t one of the beauties of pluralistic, modern nations that there is room for diversity of belief?

Where is your first allegiance ? – your religion, your country or something else?

59 Responses to “Your country or your religion first ?”

  1. 1 osuagwu
    September 8, 2009 at 10:34

    I feel that you should belong to you God first and then your ideology or philosophy of life and then your family and country.Your counry’s laws may go against Gods laws,in that case you do not have to obey them. You poilosophy of life is there to navigate you through bad time.

  2. September 8, 2009 at 10:58

    Well obviously the first comment comes from a section of the English community who are traitors and believe in foreign concepts and are traitors to their own country. One cannot take your point of view and say that there fore I do not obey the laws of the country. This is TREASON and from the first time people grouped together such behaviour was considered THE most evil and reprehensible and was punished by death. The only thing that seperates us form animals are laws and customs. If you believe other countries and laws are better then move to that country, but if you commit acts against the country that nurtures you then you and all your family and hangers on must pay the ultimate price. GF

  3. 3 RightPaddock
    September 8, 2009 at 11:55

    It is axiomatically impossible for me to bear allegiance to something that does not exist, namely this God thing.

    Given that my country of birth deported me at the age of 8 and that I was mistreated by the country to which I was deported it follows that I don’t think I owe either any loyalty whatsoever.

    My loyalties are to those to whom I can lend a helping hand or a shoulder on which to cry. I need no God or Nation State to tell me what’s right and what’s wrong, my humanity and my humility are more than sufficient.

  4. 4 anu_d
    September 8, 2009 at 11:57

    It’s like asking….”you love your Mom more or dad more”.

    The answer to Mom/ Dad and Religion / Country is NOT an Either/Or type.

    Love for one is not at the cost of other…and the human heart has been designed to let both coexist without conflicts.

    Those who put themselves in one bigger than the other type conflicting situations are misguided minds brainwashed by others gaving vested interests.

    While the roots of most 21st century terrorism connects with Isalmists in some form or the other….I as a non-muslim still believe Muslims can be trusted.


  5. 5 anu_d
    September 8, 2009 at 11:58

    “Indian Bollywood actor Salmon Khan made headlines over the weekend”

    His name is SALMAN Khan…and not Salmon.


  6. 7 Ann
    September 8, 2009 at 12:28

    I honestly don’t think I could order my allegiences in such as way that would fit over different situation.

    If there was one thing which I try to be loyal to at all times – it is trying to recognise and respect the value of every human being and the earth itself. No small task!

  7. 8 Nigel
    September 8, 2009 at 12:59

    My allegiance is to be being a better person. What I learned from the major religions both East and West has helped me in that quest. Loyalty to my country countrymen and women is pivotal to how I make good judgements and where I see myself and my future.

  8. 9 Jim Newman
    September 8, 2009 at 12:59

    Hello again
    Each person’s allegiance is to him or herself. If this allegiance coincides with religion or state then so be it. Religion or state should never be used as an excuse to do cruel things to others.

  9. September 8, 2009 at 13:00

    Be a Human first, Citizen of Earth second, and a critical thinker third. God, country, etc are human constructs that are as flimsy as the paper most of them are written on. Concerning the image of a dying solder, we should always be aware of the cost of war and only go to war as the last act of a societal survival.

  10. 11 teye djaba
    September 8, 2009 at 13:01

    Our religion is our existance.It gives us peace and joy making life meaningful.My religions tells me to be patriotic.So there is no problem but my God is first

  11. 12 gary
    September 8, 2009 at 13:16

    I believe in One Who is God of all people, and in strict obedience to His commandments. Any service I may render to any individual or to any organization must satisfy the morality inherent in this first statement, or it is indeed disservice.

  12. 13 Methusalem
    September 8, 2009 at 13:17

    This is a very interesting question! As a South American, I have a very strict Christian background. The first time I left my homeland towards Europe, as young man, I was surprised big time to see Europeans (whom I thought were 100% Christian) Eating Muslim food, or entering in an intimate relationship with Muslim men and women. “How could that be possible?” I used to ask, and I still do have difficulties in understanding it. Later in my life, I was able to find out that White Christian Europeans prefer white Muslims to black Christians, almost in every aspect of life. This sort of behaviour still amazes me! How is that possible for a “Christian”?

  13. 14 patti in cape coral
    September 8, 2009 at 13:27

    I agree with RightPaddock, except that I’m more of an agnostic. I have never really understood the fervent nationalism of some people. I don’t feel that a country is something you can be proud of, because you have nothing to do with your place of birth. Why should people be either ashamed or proud of where they were born? I would say everyone’s loyalty, including my own, is to himself or herself and what that individual believes, be it God, country, doing good works, family, selfish pleasures, or whatever.

  14. 15 Darcy W
    September 8, 2009 at 13:27

    Salmon can, HA-ha!! Though NOT intentional – still pretty funny

  15. 16 VictorK
    September 8, 2009 at 13:36

    *Muslims have expressed themselves unambiguously on this, repeatedly stating that, as a matter of religious duty, they cannot be loyal to a non-Muslim govt/nation. And they’ve repeatedly acted on that principle, in Britain & elsewhere, in acts of terrorist aggression against their hosts. Which is fine, so long as they accept the logic of their position, namely that the British nation-state has no responsibilities to those who repudiate its allegiance, and will be entitled, should it ever be expedient, to treat them as non-citizens.
    *National existence is impossible without a government that recognises obligations to its citizens, & citizens who reciprocate in terms of a duty of allegiance to their govt. The alternative is coercive government to repress civil chaos. Interestingly, this describes much of the Muslim world, where allegiance is given to a creed rather than the state. Islam renders secular government impossible because it refuses to accept any other than an undivided & exclusive loyalty.
    *What George Firth said.

  16. 17 Dennis Junior
    September 8, 2009 at 13:37

    I will take the country first and, then Religion second…

    =Dennis Junior=

  17. 18 surender pal
    September 8, 2009 at 13:37

    Definitly country first…….I live in a secular country India and i’m proud to have born here.I think people of all religion here should put country above there religion.

  18. 19 anita
    September 8, 2009 at 13:38

    Well ofcourse your allegiance should be to God first because i believe no religion condons inhuman actions otherwise. I believe there is no religion that would require one to betray their own country unless such people just hide behind religion but they are not real believers.

  19. September 8, 2009 at 13:42

    well, it depends. we’d normally say country first. how about ethical beliefs (not religion!) first? “country first” made most germans agree to the politcs of hitler. … you know what happened afterwards.

    The thing is that country and religion is very different with each person. what i define as country is the community i live with. but depending on where and how big any given conflict lies, i identify with lower saxony, northern germany, germany as whole, central europe, europe, “the west” or earth (if martians dare attack 😉 ).

    just adding… being a muslim terrorist is not practicing islam and shouldn’t be called religion as such. i think that offends a lot of people.

  20. 24 Michael in Ft. Myers, Florida
    September 8, 2009 at 13:45

    As an individual, we should all be able to follow whichever path feels right to us, whether that is god first, nationalism or whatever. The problem is when political leaders put their faith before their country. Leaders obviously should have the right to believe, in private, what they will, but pushing their religous views should never be tolerated. Religion relates to a person’s individal connection to their version of god and has no place in the realm of nationalism. The two are absolutely incompatible with each other, as no nation based in religion has EVER been a success in relation to its people, nor can it evr be in a modern, civilized society.

  21. 25 Maccus Germanis
    September 8, 2009 at 13:49

    If people are never true to their own convictions, then there can never be any deferment of violence. It just pops up where it had been presumed to be conquered. The tenents of Christianinty, far from being contrary to Western Culture, has been formative of it. It is a natural outgrowth of American thought, emmulative of that demonstrated by many of the signators of the Declaration of Independence to have a faith which the “more perfect order” may serve. A Marine carrying on that tradition is not the same as a muslim hoping to establish sharia in the US or UK. Sharia is directly at odds with the individual liberty enshrined in our Constitution. Whereas, the Constituion is a product of Christian and humanist principles.

  22. 26 VictorK
    September 8, 2009 at 13:55

    To answer the question: your country should come first, because (a) not everyone has a religion; (b) in a country like Britain religion (like many other things) can only be freely exercised by virtue of the security established and maintained by the nation-state; (c) where the nation’s values and traditions have been shaped by religion, as ours have been by Christianity, then there is no conflict, and loyalty to the nation means subscribing to its religious heritage (though that would be a problem for anti-Christians); and (d) nation is the only point of unity where people are divided by faith, and/or lack of it.

  23. 27 Darcy W (Big apples)
    September 8, 2009 at 14:08

    ‘My country, right or wrong’ is an oft quoted American aphorism – so definately not country first; a humanist, humanitarian first.

  24. 28 Leo in London
    September 8, 2009 at 14:44

    I would like to think that my loyalty is to fellow human, no matter what country or religion they belong to, as well as our environment.

  25. 29 John in Salem
    September 8, 2009 at 14:56

    I’m a humanist who happens to be an American and choose not to define my identify in terms of any mythology.

  26. 30 viola
    September 8, 2009 at 14:57

    When religion and the state are separate there is no conflict. Jesus said it well: “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God, that which is God’s.” The conflict only happens when power mongers in one or the other of the two estates are greedy and try to dominate the other.

  27. 31 steve
    September 8, 2009 at 14:59

    I would bet for 99.9% of all people, no matter what they say, they would put family first. I know I would, and I’ll admit it.

  28. September 8, 2009 at 15:27

    Religeon has to be second in the loyalty stakes. A country that puts religeon first is staring at trouble, by virtue of the fact that all religeons think that they alone have the only way to salvation. As far as I would be concerned a secular democracy is the only loyalty I would entertain,it is all things to all people,,and will protect you whatever your beliefs.

    I believe that it was an American President, who said,Atheists were not citizens of the USA..Yuk!

  29. September 8, 2009 at 15:27

    Although it’s this country that protects their right to believe as they wish, most people I think would choose their religion over their country. In fact, a great many people would love a theocracy, but they don’t realize what a very dangerous and terrible a thing that would be.

  30. 34 Tom K in Mpls
    September 8, 2009 at 15:50

    In today’s world, it is the terrorists that place god first, or so they say. A generation ago it was country. Using a documented standard to justify your actions shows a moral weakness. I would hope we could all access any situation, and with the speed of clear convictions, come to a decision, and be able to say ‘I did what ‘I’ knew to be right’.

    Life is far to variable to be able to document and control. We need to rely on ourselves.

  31. 35 Dinka Aliap Chawul-Kampala,Uganda
    September 8, 2009 at 15:52

    My country first,

    second God,

    Because Country is tangible yet God existence have no clear explanation about all things that surrounds its such as who create God?,Who is its parent ?,but religious both Christian/Muslim leaders have been covering up truth about God.

  32. 36 Ibrahim in UK
    September 8, 2009 at 16:01

    Loyalty to your own conscience.
    Whether you believe in God or not, everyone has a conscience which they must live with. If your country’s leader or your religious leader commands you to kill innocent women and children, will you comply obediently? Some will, most (hopefully) won’t.

    But it’s easy to see why people would see religion as more important than country.
    In a country you are ultimately accountable to the state. In a religion, you are ultimately accountable to something bigger.
    People of religion believe in the afterlife and judgement day where we will be judged according to the “goodness” of our actions, where goodness is defined by the religion, not the nationality.
    If you are then convinced that a country is at war with your religion and you are convinced that you have to choose a side to fight for and that it is right to fight this war, then in the eyes of such a person, dying for God is more noble than dying for country.

  33. September 8, 2009 at 16:05

    Till my country`s reputation gain more acceptance internationally, I go first as a Christian and next as a Nigerian….lol but I am proudly a Nigerian.

  34. 38 Keith- Ohio
    September 8, 2009 at 16:08

    I would say that if your religion and your country are irreconcilable, then you are living in the wrong country. This makes it all the more easy for me to be disgusted by someone who lives in America and Britain, and takes advantage of all of the privileges provided by the country, and then acts as though innocent civilians should be punished for living there. It is so hypocritical and ignorant, I can’t see how anyone can mentally justify such an act, regardless of what religion they belong to.

  35. 39 Tom D Ford
    September 8, 2009 at 16:08

    “I confess, I’m not sure what core refers to, though I think it’s a military term (i’m sure you can help me here)”

    It means the US Marine Corps. Their slogan is Semper Fi, Always Faithful, once a Marine always a Marine.

  36. 40 Jennifer
    September 8, 2009 at 16:14

    Re: Your country or your religion first?

    Doesn’t the U.S. give me a right to practice my religious beliefs? I think so. I do not think these can be separated.

    Re: I would bet for 99.9% of all people, no matter what they say, they would put family first. I know I would, and I’ll admit it.

    This is true.

  37. 41 Tom D Ford
    September 8, 2009 at 16:19

    I heard both of those comments and recognized the same kind of blind obedient religious fanaticism that the Muslim jihadist terrorists express. I did not write about it yesterday out of respect for that fathers grief.

    Such blindly obedient people are easily manipulated by nefarious powerful people and so are a danger to civil society.

  38. 42 Bert - USA
    September 8, 2009 at 16:20

    I listened to the broadcast yesterday, as was rather shocked to hear the tidy set of priorities listed by Mr. Bernard. I even discussed this with my wife at the dinner table.

    What should surprise everyone is how Mr. Bernard and the Taliban can set the same priorities, and yet come to such different results. A scientist would have to conclude that the hypothese are all wrong.

    How about people just do what is best for mankind? How about people just reject evil, i.e. everything that is detrimetnal to the continued existence of the human race on this planet? How about not crearting artificialities, and then using them as a formulaic excuse for doing the unthinkable?

    • 43 NSC_London
      September 8, 2009 at 18:30

      Well, that would be convenient. But, the trouble is our (yours and mine) concept of what is “evil” or what is “best for mankind” are completely different from that of someone from another civilisation. Nice idea, impossible to implement.

    September 8, 2009 at 16:27

    Charity begins at home metaphorically. Responsibility and what to love starts with myself. Religion and country are the faiths (constitutions) created by man that I share with others. However, they need to be kept under a watchful eye because they can be hijacked for personally misguided purposes by others that can make our conditions worse.

    I have seen the beauty and the potential of this planet. It is almost my religion and my source of inspiration even though some situations can break my heart.


  40. 45 Keith- Ohio
    September 8, 2009 at 16:33

    @ Bert-

    Great response. I agree, I think an inability of any person, regardless of their religion, to understand humanity, or to distinguish between acts of good/evil, is evidence of terrible ignorance. Every major religion is overwhelmingly concerned with the greater welfare of mankind, but some people are just interested in creating conflict for the advancement of a cause. Furthermore, it disgusts me that anyone would use their religion to defend this conflict. Country and self-preservation, maybe. Religion, never.

  41. 46 Jennifer
    September 8, 2009 at 17:25

    What is the motto of the U.S.?


    Make if it what you will.

    Believing in God does not make you a “religious fanatic”.

  42. 47 nora
    September 8, 2009 at 17:40

    The phrase “God and Country” is repeated in various forms going into every war. Clearly, if you want a person to risk death on a strategy of action, it’s a good combo.
    Like rice and beans. Not religion and nation; god and county. The mystery can be called god, it can’t be called religion. Country can be construed as the land itself and evoke the love of the land itself. Nation cannot. Nation is something else. Wording has me hung up here.

    I have to stick with Mae West: When asked to choose between two evils, she suggests the one you haven’t tried.

    Great philosophical comment today by insightful bloggers.

  43. 48 brinda,India
    September 8, 2009 at 17:59

    my country definitely,,,,,,,,,,,,,, no second thought about it,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,if my country is safe i am safe,,,,,,my religion is safe.

  44. 49 Tom D Ford
    September 8, 2009 at 18:09

    That’s an old business slogan:



    People first!

  45. 50 NSC_London
    September 8, 2009 at 18:32

    I wanted to inject a third point – civilisation. Increasingly, loyalty is less about nationality or religion, but about civilisation.

    My personal alliance is to Western civilisation in all its forms, regions and peoples.

  46. 51 Keith from Massachusetts
    September 8, 2009 at 21:10

    Religion(catholic) first, country tenth.

  47. September 8, 2009 at 22:51

    As an ethnic Assyrian, i can say that sometimes people are Forced to choose their religion and ethnicity over their country.

    Assyrians are the indigenous Aramaic speaking people of Iraq, having lived in the area for 5000 years.

    The options were to become Arabised and Muslim, die, or leave and try to retain our ancient Eastern Rite Christianity and preserve Jesus language in foreign lands.

  48. 53 T
    September 9, 2009 at 01:17

    Why should I bear allegiance to something that’s caused harm all over the world? Also, while I’m sorry for the family loss, I’m also offended by the typical neocon we-know-what’s-best-for-you mentality of the father. Sorry, but I have no patience for that.

  49. 54 Santa Clause of The World
    September 9, 2009 at 02:22

    Anyone who puts their gods first proabably believe in me too! Perhaps they’d be better off in the North Pole.

  50. 55 thepurplecrayon
    September 9, 2009 at 12:49

    I don’t believe in any God of any kind, so that one’s easy for me.
    But I have spent the majority of my life living outside the country of my heritage (England) as I was an army kid. I had a British family, but on returning here to live for myself I found, and still find, that sometimes I am almost ‘foreign’. I am very much aware that the people who bombed London on 7/7 spent much much more time in England than I ever have.

    I do not have any allegiances to England just because I was born there, this is because I have experienced an abundance of other cultures and I can appreciate that one country is never completely ‘right’.

    This is where the problem lies. When people start thinking you’re right or wrong about religion or you’re right or wrong about your country, instead of just appreciating the difference in the first place.

  51. 56 Tom D Ford
    September 9, 2009 at 16:35

    “Your country or your religion first ?”

    “When I was a child I acted like a child and spoke like a child but now that I am an adult I have put away childish things.”

    I have put away my childish belief in imaginary friends, I no longer childishly believe in some “God”.

    Seems to me that a lot of people need to grow up and “put away childish things”.

  52. 57 Vijay Pillai
    September 9, 2009 at 23:31

    Country comes first. Religion is personal and in a multi-racial society outstanding economic progress can be achieved if all work in religous and racial harmony and keep religion and racial prejudices at bay and adopt tolerant attitudes towards fellow humanbeing and respecting one’s culture and traditions.

    21st century problems like climate change ,poverty ,water shorage and economic crisis call for unified effort by all mankind shedding petty differences and work for greater good of manking and planet earth.

  53. 58 John Bernard
    September 16, 2009 at 00:09

    First let’s get two things straight; there is no moral equivalency between Christianity and Islam – and don’t bring out the era of the Crusades to make your point or you will show your ignorance. Christianity seeks the salvation of everyone in the world through the peaceful charing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; period. Islam under the latest Caliphate and the many Fatwahs that have followed seeks to ‘purify’ the faith and by extension the world by eliminating apostate muslims, ‘Zionists’ and ‘the Crusaders’ through murder. For those of you who do not know the definition of apostate; they are believers who have strayed from the true faith. The ‘zionists are Jews and the ‘crusaders’ are Christians. Even if this was legitimate, there hasn’t been a commissioned ‘crusade’ in many hundreds of years.
    Second; we are Americans and should understand that defending these shores and our populace, even to the extent of exporting violence, is a duty. Those who feel we have earned the ill will we receive from central asia should test their belief by going there as an individual, apologizing for our arrogance and take up residence there. The rest of us will continue to defend these shores, violently when necessary in order to protect our families and our homeland.

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