Since none of the other norwegians have posted to this thread, I'll add a little northern european skew to the contents.
I grew up with the Star Spangled Banner as my anthem, then I moved to Norway at the age of 17, so I had to learn an anthem (why do I keep wanting to type anathema?) called "Ja, vi elsker", "Yes, we love", not bloodthirsty or particularly pompous and very little deity/ies (only in the 3rd verse which mostly never gets sung). The first verse goes like this in my rough translation:
Yes we love this country
As it rises rugged and weatherbeaten
From the sea with its thousands of homes
Love it and think of
Our fathers and mothers
And the saga night that sends
Dreams to our earth
Not pompous, but I'm open to any suggestions as to what constitutes a "saga night"...we sure don't know.
The first few bars of the melody are identical with "Deck the halls" up to the second syllable of "holly". Ja, vi elsker goes up again from there, instead of descending into the falalalalas...Singing the anthem was forbidden during the German occupation; people sang it spontaneously and endlessly on May 8 1945 when the Germans surrendered. I'm definitely no nationalist, but when the anthem is played, I think of my father who fought the Germans in 1940 and was arrested by the Gestapo later on for hiding jewish orphans, my uncles and cousins who were merchant mariners in the north Atlantic convoys, and I am respectful.
I think that whatever power an anthem has is derived from individual associations and in that way is no different from any other song. It's just that, given the function of anthems, you hear them alot more often than, say Ella Speed or Barbry Allen, an whatever small virtue they may have as songs gets worn out. Personally, I'd much rather hear (and sing) Ella Speed than any national anthem.
Rick, I guess this belongs in that "songs that make you drop everything thread" but I'll say it here: my whole musical life took a radical left turn when I as a 14 year old surfer gremmie in So.Cal. heard Leadbelly/Paul H. Mason play Ella Speed...that song really changed my (musical) life...