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Are all nations alike??

Posted: 27 Sep 2010 18:23
by Baby_Kürsch
Growing up in America and living in The United States of America all you hear is that that US is the greatest country EVER! Is it like that every where else? Those of you here that live in another country taught that your country is the greatest country ever?

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 27 Sep 2010 20:28
by Orodaran
To put it shortly, no.

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 27 Sep 2010 20:34
by Bender B. Rodriguez
i agree,no is the answer.
i might come back for a more elaborate reply later.

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 27 Sep 2010 20:47
by Desert_Storm
Nope. In many circles of at least the german part of Europe, the term "patriot" is considered a four-letter word, and calling yourself one will earn you suspicion at least. At least one of the reasons is probably, that the (up to recent) history of Germany, Austria and Switzerland isn't really something to be very proud of, and each government is criticised for so many things that rarely someone would consider it "the best in the world". So if not politics or history, what would one consider the thing that makes his/her country so much greater than others? Maybe geography? Probably not, at the latest since even lower (income)class people can afford regular vacations abroad and see that there's nice spots there too ;)
Probably there are some single things which one likes in particular about his country, but that's rarely reasons to think its superior to other countries in every aspect. For me as a Swiss citizen, it would probably be the mixed government (instead of one president of one party) and the public transport (you can reach almost every little dump in a reasonable amount of time without having to drive), but funnily enough, that never seemed to big of a deal for me before I stopped living in Switzerland, and only now that I live abroad I start to appreciate it.
Anyway, national pride is probably the most stupid pride (cause you didn't contribute very much, did you?), and to close with some more quotes, I don't love my country, I love my girlfriend (Heinemann), I like it, and not because it is my mother country, but because I consider it beautiful (Schnitzler).

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 27 Sep 2010 20:52
by spamel
Great Britain needs renaming to Shite Britain. I have spent time in the Armed Forces defending this once Great and Proud nation and now it is an absolute festering dump. After spending over 7 years in Germany and coming back to this country, I wanted to turn back around and head back to Germany! I can see very little future for the human race as it is, with the way things are going and hope that the elimination of our species comes quickly before we destroy the planet or ruin it more than we already have. Depressing, but I don't think there is one great nation on the planet, they're all awful.

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 27 Sep 2010 21:05
by Joost
In the Netherlands, even the people who call themselves 'patriotic' seem more concerned with whining about what is wrong here, than about asserting any positive qualities of our country. To be short, 'patriotism' here has mostly a lot more to do with hating foreigners than with being proud of your own country. Well, sometimes they long back to our 'great past' (you know, the one with shitloads of blood, war, and slavery), but even that is often criticized by the patriotic people.

Kind of ironic really, considering the fact that the Netherlands ranks as the #6 country of the world in the Human Development Index. I guess complaining is just too much an essential part of our culture.

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 27 Sep 2010 21:28
by Insanity
a) No.
b) Seriously. Nations are imagined communities.

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 27 Sep 2010 21:48
by The Rider Of Rohan
There's no greater cause than that of your own country. That's how I feel.

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 27 Sep 2010 22:23
by t.a.j.
Insanity wrote:a) No.
b) Seriously. Nations are imagined communities.

In some sense, I guess that all communities are imagined. One could argue that communities are not simply social aggregates but social aggregates consisting of people who imagine themselves to be meaningfully related.
But, nations, as well as other communities become efficacious social facts in being communities.
So while the togetherness that members of community feel can be considered imagined, the resulting behaviour, say solidarity or cultural production, cannot. The idea of nationality clearly has a lot of profound effects on a lot of people. States have been organized around it.
The problem with nations is not their fictionality. Instead, it lies with their tendency to a) ignore internal diversity and b) to encompass even those who do not share in the fiction.
From the nationalistic point of view, membership in a nation is not something you can choose or do something about it. It's ascribed to you by (nationalistic) others whether or not you would ascribe any national identity to yourself. When I'm in the Netherlands - and I'm in the Netherlands a lot - I clearly get labelled as a German. For all intents and purposes it's treated as a fact about me, much like my hair colour, my weight, my clothes, only considerably more important. And there is really nothing I can do about it
And by the same token, nationalism tends to proclaim that all members of a nation share common interests and identities, regardless of the vast social and economical differences between them. Similarly, other nationals tend to be seen merely as members of another nation, not as people who share something with members of your own nation. But the reality is very different. People with similar incomes in economically roughly similar states are usually much more alike then people with greatly differing incomes in one state.

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 28 Sep 2010 01:13
by Belgarion
Desert_Storm wrote:Anyway, national pride is probably the most stupid pride (cause you didn't contribute very much, did you?), and to close with some more quotes, I don't love my country, I love my girlfriend (Heinemann), I like it, and not because it is my mother country, but because I consider it beautiful (Schnitzler).
"The cheapest form of pride however is national pride. For it betrays in the one thus afflicted the lack of individual qualities of which he could be proud, while he would not otherwise reach for what he shares with so many millions. He who possesses significant personal merits will rather recognise the defects of his own nation, as he has them constantly before his eyes, most clearly. But that poor beggar who has nothing in the world of which he can be proud, latches onto the last means of being proud, the nation to which he belongs to. Thus he recovers and is now in gratitude ready to defend with hands and feet all errors and follies which are its own."

Arthur Schopenhauer

"Every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud, adopts as a last resource pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and happy to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority."

Arthur Schopenhauer

That sums up my feelings about the national pride. On the other hand, every place is beautiful/great to you if you are happy there with your wife/girlfriend/friends or family and the life is not a burden on you.

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 28 Sep 2010 09:05
by No‘am
For most general, non-religious run-of-the-mill people, it's mostly like "the grass is always greener/this country sucks, but it's home", would that be patriotic?
And if you don't fall into that category, then it can be totally different, I wouldn't know well enough to tell.

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 28 Sep 2010 10:36
by t.a.j.
But a countryside is not a nation, nor are political structures, your home or even just a state.

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 28 Sep 2010 12:35
by ThePKH
I think the people in here are generally rather patriotic but blind nationalism is usually loathed. Most of the people I know wouldn't probably call Finland "the greatest country in the world", but rather state how it's the best place to live in. Which I think includes the notion that it's the best for themselves.

The last few years have seen the annoying "who should be allowed to live in here" -kind of discussion about immigration raise its ugly head. Most of the arguments are copy-pasted from Sweden, Netherlands, Britain and other European countries. With VHM or "valkoinen heteromies" (white hetero-sexual male) representing everything good about the country. You can figure out from that who are the ones who are supposedly bringing the country down.

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 28 Sep 2010 19:37
by Orodaran
No‘am wrote:For most general, non-religious run-of-the-mill people, it's mostly like "the grass is always greener/this country sucks, but it's home", would that be patriotic?
And if you don't fall into that category, then it can be totally different, I wouldn't know well enough to tell.
Well, I don't consider Italy the "greatest country ever"; I DO consider the landscape and the artistic and naturalistic treasure it holds one of the richest and most beautiful of the world, and I despise the vast majority of italians.

So, I'm proud of what is actually inside the borders of Italy, and ashamed of my fellow citizens, is that patriotic or not? :P

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 28 Sep 2010 23:33
by Lilyael
I was never taught that we are the greatest, and I don't think we are, but then what have we to compare ourselves to? The human race is the human race, and things like history and culture are beauties that are only skin-deep.
That's not to say I'm not....proud is not the right word....enamoured, I suppose, of my country's history and lore and legend. There's a rich, interesting tapestry there that can keep an historian and writer happy for years, but the same could be said for any other nation ( except America and Australia :P )
I haven't been anywhere else I would rather live, even if things are not perfect here, they could be a lot worse.
As for pride, I see no reason not to be proud of who I am and what nationality I am. I don't cringe everytime I have to say I'm English. I know most of my countrymen don't give a very good account of themselves whilst abroad, but I refuse to be tarred with the same brush, and I hope I'm not. Stereotyping nations isn't cool.
It's kind of fashionable too, to diss one's own, especially England, but if you don't like it here, bugger off, I say. :wink:

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 28 Sep 2010 23:41
by t.a.j.
I have to admit that I have a negative prejudice about drunk Englishmen. Almost all I ever met were very annoying, rude, unfriendly and borderline violent.

I also have some difficulty with "If you don't like it here, bugger off!". This seems to exempt a country from criticism. I guess that wasn't how it was meant, though.

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 28 Sep 2010 23:56
by Lilyael
No, I didn't mean it like that: we all have a little whinge about the state of this, that and the other at times, but my problem is with people who really seem to hate it here. Why stay here if it's that bad for you? Or at least see if you can't effect change in some way, instead of just bitching?

As for drunk Englishmen, they're just as bad here, I was struck by the contrast between Amsterdam and Newcastle when I got back, the streets were horrendous ( I got back at kicking-out time ). And all because booze is cheap here. It's worse of course, if you don't drink yourself, because then you really notice it.
Still, I hope you know we're not all like that! Anyway....they were probably Scottish :P

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 29 Sep 2010 02:07
by Desert_Storm
t.a.j. wrote:I have to admit that I have a negative prejudice about drunk Englishmen.
That's probably OK, since most people have even more negative prejudices about drunk Germans ;)

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 29 Sep 2010 07:29
by t.a.j.
Lilyael wrote:No, I didn't mean it like that: we all have a little whinge about the state of this, that and the other at times, but my problem is with people who really seem to hate it here. Why stay here if it's that bad for you? Or at least see if you can't effect change in some way, instead of just bitching?
So it's more that you dislike ineffectual and incessant whining ;).
As for drunk Englishmen, they're just as bad here, I was struck by the contrast between Amsterdam and Newcastle when I got back, the streets were horrendous ( I got back at kicking-out time ). And all because booze is cheap here. It's worse of course, if you don't drink yourself, because then you really notice it.
I did meet my worst examples of drunk Englishmen in Amsterdam. Tried to steal my hat. You haven't seen it, but I have a great hat.
Still, I hope you know we're not all like that! Anyway....they were probably Scottish :P
Of course I know. There's always Rob Halford, you and Crispin Wright to keep the balance up. ;)

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 30 Sep 2010 04:51
by Mackasfour
Aussie Aussie Aussie, OI OI OI!!!

What is to be defined as the greatest country? Most prosperous or one that has the ability to unite people under one nation?

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 30 Sep 2010 06:40
by Led Guardian
Mackasfour wrote:Aussie Aussie Aussie, OI OI OI!!!

What is to be defined as the greatest country? Most prosperous or one that has the ability to unite people under one nation?
America is the definition.

Or so I am told.

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 30 Sep 2010 13:03
by ThePKH

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 01 Oct 2010 22:13
by Lilyael
Mackasfour wrote:Aussie Aussie Aussie, OI OI OI!!!

What is to be defined as the greatest country? Most prosperous or one that has the ability to unite people under one nation?
A nation full of Scottish crims? Naaaaahhh..... :mrgreen:

t.a.j......we try sending our drunks abroad, like we did with Australia back in the day....but these days the forceful colonisation of other countries is kinda frowned on so you get them on cheap package holidays instead :P
As for the whining, most of the whiners are part of the problem!

In all seriousness though ( well, nearly ), drunk Englishmen are pretty much the reason for every war we've ever started. I mean, look at the Crusades. Was it about cleansing the Holy Land of the infidel? No! It was just we wanted rid of the hoardes of bored and violent men roaming the countryside terrorising innocent ladies and burning peasants! When we had the hoo-hah about the old throne and all that, it was either fight the Germans or pick on the Scots, so we picked on the Scots ( the Germans are harder than we are. Their beer is stronger). When we ran out of Scots, because we'd shipped 'em all off to Oz, we picked on India, and when that went tits up, we ransacked America and took the capital off the Dutch ( who didn't deserve it if they couldn't keep it).

Hey check this out, funny as fuck: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWedTbuAtR4

Now I'm proud of that ! :twisted:

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 02 Oct 2010 11:01
by Mahoora
I don't think that it happened with us to say that we're the greatest country! but still I have a lot of pride to be a Syrian and especially looking into history.

but I believe that saying my religion is the best and not caring about the country and the people in all its diversity is really a big problem and as a Syrian christian, I can say that it really annoys me to death to see people everywhere being proud of being muslim and not give a damn their national pride :(

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 03 Oct 2010 06:43
by Led Guardian
Mahoora wrote:I don't think that it happened with us to say that we're the greatest country! but still I have a lot of pride to be a Syrian and especially looking into history.

but I believe that saying my religion is the best and not caring about the country and the people in all its diversity is really a big problem and as a Syrian christian, I can say that it really annoys me to death to see people everywhere being proud of being muslim and not give a damn their national pride :(
Does it annoy you if you insert Christian in place of Muslim? I'm not sure I'm clear on your meaning.

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 03 Oct 2010 13:30
by Mackasfour
Lilyael wrote:
Mackasfour wrote:Aussie Aussie Aussie, OI OI OI!!!

What is to be defined as the greatest country? Most prosperous or one that has the ability to unite people under one nation?
A nation full of Scottish crims? Naaaaahhh..... :mrgreen:
Though it doesn't matter, I myself do not descend from Scottish Convicts, just the accomplice to John Macarthur (also a criminal) xD

I find that the spirit of the nation itself and it's citizens is more of a "better" nation than one with better military, economy and socioeconomic status... Really, I don't think any country is better than any. It doesn't even matter who is the best or worst.

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 03 Oct 2010 16:41
by Mahoora
Led Guardian wrote:
Mahoora wrote:I don't think that it happened with us to say that we're the greatest country! but still I have a lot of pride to be a Syrian and especially looking into history.

but I believe that saying my religion is the best and not caring about the country and the people in all its diversity is really a big problem and as a Syrian christian, I can say that it really annoys me to death to see people everywhere being proud of being muslim and not give a damn their national pride :(
Does it annoy you if you insert Christian in place of Muslim? I'm not sure I'm clear on your meaning.
Of course it will annoy me. a country should be for everyone and not a particular religion (which apply to all countries exept Israel) and that's why I'm pissed in the first place, people putting religion above their nations

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 03 Oct 2010 16:50
by t.a.j.
Mahoora wrote: Of course it will annoy me. a country should be for everyone and not a particular religion (which apply to all countries exept Israel) and that's why I'm pissed in the first place, people putting religion above their nations
Does not the true faith unite men more than a mere accident of birth? After all, the faithful are equal in the eye of god, yet not in the eye of their rulers. It pains me to see a mundane feature such as nationality falsely elevated beyond a mark of your eternal soul. I shall pray for you.

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 06 Oct 2010 15:36
by Mahoora
Isn't faith also a mere accident of birth also?? I'm a believer but also I'm christian because my parents are christians so the nation should be the big pot that gather all different beliefs together and that's why I want my rulers to not distinguish between people from different religions cuz that would be a big catastrophy. Imagine a country where a religion is having more priviliges than some other religion, that would be bullshit.

And I don't think that you fully understand me, I live in a region where Islamis religion is the motivator of every aspect of life. I live in a land where non islam can be really untolerated and non islamic people can really have it rough so to act in the same basis but in a christian point of view would be a complete nonsence. that's why I say that "Religion is for god and the country is for all"

and btw I can pray for my self :lol:

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 06 Oct 2010 17:24
by t.a.j.
I was being ironic. Maybe even sarcastic. Maybe.
I do think that religion at least has some content to shape a community around, nationionality is completely empty. Rather replace nationality with humanity and start to see states, political bodies, not as representatives of some national body (which they are not), but as administrative subunits in a large human community, which indeed transcends religions.

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 06 Oct 2010 20:33
by Led Guardian
Mahoora wrote:
Led Guardian wrote:
Mahoora wrote:I don't think that it happened with us to say that we're the greatest country! but still I have a lot of pride to be a Syrian and especially looking into history.

but I believe that saying my religion is the best and not caring about the country and the people in all its diversity is really a big problem and as a Syrian christian, I can say that it really annoys me to death to see people everywhere being proud of being muslim and not give a damn their national pride :(
Does it annoy you if you insert Christian in place of Muslim? I'm not sure I'm clear on your meaning.
Of course it will annoy me. a country should be for everyone and not a particular religion (which apply to all countries exept Israel) and that's why I'm pissed in the first place, people putting religion above their nations
Ok. Just wanted to get some clarification so that I did not misinterpret your words.

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 06 Oct 2010 23:02
by Mahoora
t.a.j. wrote:I was being ironic. Maybe even sarcastic. Maybe.
I do think that religion at least has some content to shape a community around, nationionality is completely empty. Rather replace nationality with humanity and start to see states, political bodies, not as representatives of some national body (which they are not), but as administrative subunits in a large human community, which indeed transcends religions.
I totaly agree with you that religion has a biiiig way to shape com(I'm part of it!) but I believe that by this work, the community must contribute to shaping the country and that should be done side by side with every other religion or belief, because let's say that the community wants to do some big promotion campain to provide education for all children not only the christians. if the community care only for the christian children, a muslim child for example would have no education and head towards extreme ideas and becomes a terrorist when he/she grows up. then after a terrorist attak, there would be a lot of complications and maybe a war. all that because a christian act focused only on christian individuels. and by the way, I believe that some work should be done for the community but the national sence should always be there

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 06 Oct 2010 23:44
by t.a.j.
Why a sense of nation?
Why replace one distinction with another? Another way to divide to world up in Us and Them?
Nationalism is at the heart of every great tragedy of the last two hundred years. We were better off when we had kings instead of Nations.

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 07 Oct 2010 00:21
by Mahoora
I agree but also rligious discrimination led to lots and lots of wars eg. crusades,Iraq.....
dude, Iraq is so messed up because of religious wars, I know it's because one nation attaked the other but still religion is a big source of us and them

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 07 Oct 2010 11:33
by t.a.j.
There's no denying that. But, there are precedents in Europe and much less in the US, that religion can be made a private affair, a bit like being a metal fan or having a fetish, subsumed under larger, national identities. Until very recently, there has been a trend in Europe to make religious affiliations less and less important, while still giving space to those who are more serious in living in a religious way. This fading of the category of religion as a decisive and important line along which to separate Them from Us´in serious matters was a very good thing.
But then it was still the case, that religion was mainly different Christian denominations plus a huge number of weird imports from Asia and esoteric stuff. The appearance of Islam as associated with other traits excluded from mainstay European society changed things. Mostly, Buddhists and Taoists and Hindu and Esoterics were cultural and ethnic Europeans who just believed and did some strange but ultimately harmless things. Muslims in Europe were not cultural and ethnic Europeans. But that was not the only dividing factor.
In Europe, strong urbanization movements had created a large urbanized culture, which among others things tended to be much less serious about religion. I guess that this was in part because of the many other ways along which on could define oneself and find what social cohesion cities offered. Unquestioning religiousness was something one mostly found among "more backwards" rural areas. Now, when the great immigration movements of the post World-War II area brought great numbers of Muslims to Europe, the vast majority of those people were not urban folk, not sophisticated intellectuals nor hardened factory workers, but rural people. And when they arrived, they moved into the cities. There, they were different in many ways, including Islam. But Islam was still regarded by the established urban folk in the same way all those weird fringe religions were regarded: curious, but harmless.
But as the former "guest workers" slowly came to realize that they were here to stay, most adapted to not taking Islam too serious. It was an unquestioned part of their lives, but in the end the material and social advantages to be gained by living in Europe, as more or less Europeans were what was important. And if that meant that wife and daughter would go without headscarf, Allah would understand. It was only the third generation children of those immigrants who, finally understanding that Europe had integrated them as the bottom of the heap, not as equals, and fuelled by an Islamic fundamentalist renaissance, arising as a reaction to European Imperialism and at the heart of the Iranian revolution, started to wield Islam as a weapon against a society that had long since ostracised them. Unable to forge an identity as European, German, French, British, Austrian, Dutch,... they took back Islam as their identity.
This newly strengthened Islam in Europe finally took the ire of the secularized urban folk, who had so long contented to ignore it. It was, after all, markedly different from "some Christian denominations plus fringe cults", in that it seemed to lay claim again to the whole life and being of a person, a religion taken seriously by its adherents. Something which urban Europeans had mostly stopped doing about 50 years ago the latest. And suddenly, Europe was a Christian culture invaded by alien Muslims. And the motto of the day became: religious toleration yes, as long as you do everything else the way we do. But therein lies the problem, "everything else" has a very different scope for the fundamentalist Muslim, than for the secularized Christian. And thus torn from the comfy sleep of having to tolerate mostly things that were "strange but harmless'" and ultimately very much like what one did oneself, urban Europe stumbled over its own professed dictate of tolerance.
And the motto became a question: What can religious tolerance mean, if religion means such very different things to different peoples?
For the urban European, it was clear: there was law and constitution, liberalism and socialism and the economy. And those were primary, those structured life and gave it meaning. Religion was something done at funerals and on Easter. At those occasions everyone was reminded by the priest that there is something beyond life and then everyone went back to living life. If that is the same for everyone, it is easy to tolerate different religions. Let me rephrase that: If religion is a largely unimportant private matter, much like what kind of music you like, then being tolerant of different religions is as easy as being tolerant of different musical tastes. And - despite my best efforts - the metal/techno wars have not yet broken out.
But if religion takes that place of structuring life and giving it meaning, if people start living their lives not everyone following the same "logics", then tolerance becomes much more difficult, if not impossible. Just imagine a religion preaching that on regular high holidays once a month, large amounts of LSD need to be ingested while naked in a public swimming pool and its adherents taking that serious. Or for something less exotic: a religion that preaches that adulterous women are to be stoned to death and people trying to actually adhere to that.
And Islam, in the eye of many Europeans is something like that. But on the other hand, may Europeans have conveniently forgotten about what it really says in the bible. And thus, faced with a religious enemy, they retreat to their religious "home turf" and suddenly the rediscover Christian Europe.
And on the other side, the third generation immigrants, those ostracised people who wanted to have an identity that gives them a sense of value, something other than "lowest class" and "uneducated" and "perpetually unemployed" did not really feel overly persuaded to become more docile in their expressions and behaviour by that either.
To conclude: people fall back on one kind of identity, when another does not serve their needs or interests, in particular the need and interest to exclude some people from the "We". Usually the reasons for that need are manifold and have very little to do with the specifics of the type of identity in question. That is to say that the current religious tensions in Europe are not really religious at heart, but are based on differences in class, status and recognition. But it also means that religion can be unimportant and private, given the right conditions. Something, in the end, to strive for.

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 07 Oct 2010 16:41
by Ornendil
Baby_Kürsch wrote:Growing up in America and living in The United States of America all you hear is that that US is the greatest country EVER! Is it like that every where else? Those of you here that live in another country taught that your country is the greatest country ever?
We hear different things. Some say we're awesome, some say we're backwards potato-men. We live too close to other countries to really have such a strong sense of nationality. We can go to Britain and get the feeling that we truly are superior beings, but we can just as easily go to mainland Europe and see that we're just as awesome as all the other guys.

(No offence to the peoples of the British isles, but you sure have a lot of crap people over there.)

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 07 Oct 2010 18:12
by Joost
Ornendil wrote:(No offence to the peoples of the British isles, but you sure have a lot of crap people over there.)
At the same time, there's lots of awesomeness on the British isles, too. Scotland, for example.

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 08 Oct 2010 13:04
by Ornendil
Also, one of the funniest, most awesome new friends I gained this year is English.

Re: Are all nations alike??

Posted: 11 Oct 2010 23:44
by Mahoora
t.a.j. wrote:There's no denying that. But, there are precedents in Europe and much less in the US, that religion can be made a private affair, a bit like being a metal fan or having a fetish, subsumed under larger, national identities. Until very recently, there has been a trend in Europe to make religious affiliations less and less important, while still giving space to those who are more serious in living in a religious way. This fading of the category of religion as a decisive and important line along which to separate Them from Us´in serious matters was a very good thing.
But then it was still the case, that religion was mainly different Christian denominations plus a huge number of weird imports from Asia and esoteric stuff. The appearance of Islam as associated with other traits excluded from mainstay European society changed things. Mostly, Buddhists and Taoists and Hindu and Esoterics were cultural and ethnic Europeans who just believed and did some strange but ultimately harmless things. Muslims in Europe were not cultural and ethnic Europeans. But that was not the only dividing factor.
In Europe, strong urbanization movements had created a large urbanized culture, which among others things tended to be much less serious about religion. I guess that this was in part because of the many other ways along which on could define oneself and find what social cohesion cities offered. Unquestioning religiousness was something one mostly found among "more backwards" rural areas. Now, when the great immigration movements of the post World-War II area brought great numbers of Muslims to Europe, the vast majority of those people were not urban folk, not sophisticated intellectuals nor hardened factory workers, but rural people. And when they arrived, they moved into the cities. There, they were different in many ways, including Islam. But Islam was still regarded by the established urban folk in the same way all those weird fringe religions were regarded: curious, but harmless.
But as the former "guest workers" slowly came to realize that they were here to stay, most adapted to not taking Islam too serious. It was an unquestioned part of their lives, but in the end the material and social advantages to be gained by living in Europe, as more or less Europeans were what was important. And if that meant that wife and daughter would go without headscarf, Allah would understand. It was only the third generation children of those immigrants who, finally understanding that Europe had integrated them as the bottom of the heap, not as equals, and fuelled by an Islamic fundamentalist renaissance, arising as a reaction to European Imperialism and at the heart of the Iranian revolution, started to wield Islam as a weapon against a society that had long since ostracised them. Unable to forge an identity as European, German, French, British, Austrian, Dutch,... they took back Islam as their identity.
This newly strengthened Islam in Europe finally took the ire of the secularized urban folk, who had so long contented to ignore it. It was, after all, markedly different from "some Christian denominations plus fringe cults", in that it seemed to lay claim again to the whole life and being of a person, a religion taken seriously by its adherents. Something which urban Europeans had mostly stopped doing about 50 years ago the latest. And suddenly, Europe was a Christian culture invaded by alien Muslims. And the motto of the day became: religious toleration yes, as long as you do everything else the way we do. But therein lies the problem, "everything else" has a very different scope for the fundamentalist Muslim, than for the secularized Christian. And thus torn from the comfy sleep of having to tolerate mostly things that were "strange but harmless'" and ultimately very much like what one did oneself, urban Europe stumbled over its own professed dictate of tolerance.
And the motto became a question: What can religious tolerance mean, if religion means such very different things to different peoples?
For the urban European, it was clear: there was law and constitution, liberalism and socialism and the economy. And those were primary, those structured life and gave it meaning. Religion was something done at funerals and on Easter. At those occasions everyone was reminded by the priest that there is something beyond life and then everyone went back to living life. If that is the same for everyone, it is easy to tolerate different religions. Let me rephrase that: If religion is a largely unimportant private matter, much like what kind of music you like, then being tolerant of different religions is as easy as being tolerant of different musical tastes. And - despite my best efforts - the metal/techno wars have not yet broken out.
But if religion takes that place of structuring life and giving it meaning, if people start living their lives not everyone following the same "logics", then tolerance becomes much more difficult, if not impossible. Just imagine a religion preaching that on regular high holidays once a month, large amounts of LSD need to be ingested while naked in a public swimming pool and its adherents taking that serious. Or for something less exotic: a religion that preaches that adulterous women are to be stoned to death and people trying to actually adhere to that.
And Islam, in the eye of many Europeans is something like that. But on the other hand, may Europeans have conveniently forgotten about what it really says in the bible. And thus, faced with a religious enemy, they retreat to their religious "home turf" and suddenly the rediscover Christian Europe.
And on the other side, the third generation immigrants, those ostracised people who wanted to have an identity that gives them a sense of value, something other than "lowest class" and "uneducated" and "perpetually unemployed" did not really feel overly persuaded to become more docile in their expressions and behaviour by that either.
To conclude: people fall back on one kind of identity, when another does not serve their needs or interests, in particular the need and interest to exclude some people from the "We". Usually the reasons for that need are manifold and have very little to do with the specifics of the type of identity in question. That is to say that the current religious tensions in Europe are not really religious at heart, but are based on differences in class, status and recognition. But it also means that religion can be unimportant and private, given the right conditions. Something, in the end, to strive for.
In that case, you're totally right but in an area like mine where Islam is the majority and therefore there's no Islam being in the bottom of the heap. but still for a lot of people Islam should prevail and all the different religions should vanish. so where does that put me? I'm the eastern christian whose my mother's family has been in Damascus since at leat 1750 (all is documented) so I believe that if people in here start to look in a national poin of view, everyone should be happy and of course without forgetting about religion and I don't think that could be possible because religion in the middle eastern societies is something very essential (for both religions) so asking ppl to abandon their believes like in europe is rediculous and I don't really want that to happen. all what I really want is that all religions respected equally in a big strong nation