Sunday, 6 September 2015

National Anthems

I have a real beef about the UK National Anthem. Not so much about the tune, which is OK, but about the words. The first three lines are the following:

God save our gracious Queen!

Long live our noble Queen!
God save the Queen!

My beef is not because I dislike the Queen – I don’t, though I’m sympathetic to the case for republicanism - it’s the ‘God’ word that I object to, along with the ‘save’ word. As an atheist I can’t buy into anything to do with God, and I’m unclear about what is meant by the word ‘save’. Save from what exactly? Doubtless it has some historical meaning like ‘preserve’, though not in any kind of cryogenic or mummification sense. And whatever the intent I suspect it will be lost on most people reading/ singing it today. 

Then there’s the second verse which hardly anyone knows:

O Lord our God arise,

Scatter her enemies,
And make them fall:
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix:
God save us all.

This is rife with reasons to dislike it. There’s the first line which kind of contradicts Christian belief in that it suggests God needs to arise when we are led to believe Jesus (God incarnate) had already risen. Then there’s the terrible rhyme in the next line, followed by a request to do nasty things, Putin style. Enough said!

Now if you want an example of a good national anthem, lyrics wise, then the Slovenian one below has got to be up there with the best:

Long live all the nations

that yearn to wait for the day to come
that everywhere the sun walks
the strife will be driven away
that every compatriot
will be free
and the man living at one's borders will
not be a devil but a neighbour!

To me that comes across as an entirely humanist anthem

Graham Connell

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