FLAGS, FOR GOD’S SAKE
A closer look at national flags that give a shout out to the big man upstairs…
Flags are something that can bring vastly different groups of people together under one cause. However some flags aren’t as inclusive as others. Many national flags feature religious symbols on them whether overtly or subtly.
And they are:
Lets break it down!
28 national flags have christian symbols. As you can see from the map above, most are concentrated in Europe and former European colonies in the Pacific (most of those being Union Jacks and/or Southern Crosses).
It’s also interesting to note that Scandinavia, while sporting the more obvious Christian designs, has some of the most secular countries on earth. But you gotta love that cultural consistency! Maybe that, and it being a really awesome flag design, is why they have stood the test of time.
The rest of the Christian flags are usually a small cross found in a seal or coat of arms.
The award for the most Christian flag in the world goes too…
It mentions God in its banner, has a full cross AND a bible open to John 8:32 which reads Y la verdad nos hará libre (And the truth shall make you free). Most actual DR flags just sew lines in place of the words because…well sewing that would be crazy.
Congrats Dominican Republic! You break almost every single rule of flag design…but at least you win something.
29 countries have flags with overtly Islamic symbols or colors. The crescent moon and star are considered world-wide as Islamic symbols but were only adopted in the 1950's and 60's. The symbols have ancient middle eastern origins and were used by many tribes and peoples throughout history.
There are many Islamic flags that do not feature symbols, but Islamic Colors. “Pan-Arab” colors derive from historic flags in Islam’s past.
The award for most Islamic flag goes to…
Afghanistan includes the Shahadah, “Pan-Arab” colors and an entire mosque on it! Side note: it joins Haiti, Ecuador and the DR as the only nations that have their flags…on their flags.
It also is one of only four flags that feature a building!
Speaking of buildings…
BUDDHISM / HINDUISM
First thing’s first, Buddhism and Hinduism are VERY different religions. However the are grouped together here because three of the five flags that feature Buddhist symbols jointly feature Hinduism.
Since there are only five, I’ll comment on each one.
Oh Nepal, you vexilogical wonder! It is the only non-quadrilateral national flag on Earth. Its two points represent the Himlayas or the two dominant religions, Hinduism and Buddhism. No one can decide. They also say that if you mirror it over the flag pole, you get the shape of a stupa! Kudos for being unique and doing your own thing. Though you make it difficult to fit you in a flag grid…
By law, the flag must be made of khadi, a type of silk made famous by Ghandi himself. In the one month I spent in India, I couldn’t find ONE Indian flag to buy for my collection. In my research for this article, I learned that it was only in 2002 where the flag was permitted for use by private citizens! The extremely specific flag code could be the reason I couldn’t find one. That, and most Indians have very little disposable income and probably wouldn’t waste it on a piece of cloth they couldn’t use anyway.
It’s like your national flag is a big marketing pitch. “Come to Cambodia and see our one tourist attraction!” No offense to Cambodia. (Actually, yes offense to Prime Minister Hun Sen. You are a very bad man. Shame on you.) The Angkor Wat is a very important historic site for all of humanity, no matter what religion you are. Go see it.
This is probably up there with the top most bad-ass flags on Earth. Sporting their national symbol, Druk the Thunder Dragon, and the colors of Tibetan Buddhism, this is a flag no collection should be without! Bhutan is also the world’s happiest nation! And it’s obvious why…their national symbol is a Thunder Dragon named Druk!
But the winner of the most Buddhist flag goes to…
The gold throughout represents Buddhism as well as the four Bo leaves representing the four main concepts of Buddhism: Mettā, Karuna, Mudita and Upekkha. Also, you can’t lose when you have an angry(?) lion-y-thing wielding a dagger.
Unless maybe you are DRUK THE THUNDER DRAGON!
Now let’s talk about the “others”. No, I’m not talking about Scientology; “other” in the sense of they are smaller religions or ones that don’t exist anymore. For instance:
Japan features the rising sun or hinomaru which has roots in Shinto. Side note: If you’ve read my blog about US State flags and how terrible they are, take a look at Japanese prefecture flags and how fricking awesome a unified system could be for us.
Mexico features the Aztec religion because their god Huitzilopochtli told them to look for an eagle with a snake in its mouth perched on a cactus. Also the white stripe represents “religion” in general.
Mongolia and South Korea each feature a yin-yang which is a Chinese/Daoist/Confucian symbol for the balance of good and evil.
Both Uruguay and Argentina feature the Sol de Maya which is said to be the Incan sun god Inti.
And finally, we end with Israel; the only flag representing Judaism. We tend to think that the “Star of David” is an ancient symbol for the Jews. However it is not uniquely Jewish at all and its association with the ancient religion is quite new (though not as new as the crescent and star are to Islam). In fact, some Orthodox Jews reject the “Star of David” because of its association with magic.
The six pointed star was chosen as the symbol of the Zionist movement 1897 and over time, accepted as the symbol for the worldwide Jewish faith. Before that, it showed up very sparingly throughout Judaism’s long history. Its first visual appearance is on a synagogue archway constructed in the 3rd century and the first mention of a “Shield/Star of David” comes as late as the 12th century.
In contrast the menorah has been a symbol since before Christ.
Thanks for reading!
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Branding the Nations is a project by designer Michael Green in an attempt to explore the largest “brands” on earth, our nations. Flags, passports, currency, all of these things are designs that effect our view of entire nations and their people. Michael hopes to turn these ramblings into a book in the near future.