We are equipped with the ability to simplify complicated subjects into single words, gestures and images. Many symbols even have a strong emotional value for us, the flag of our country, for example. Symbols bring out our feelings about our faith. Religious symbols are a way to unite members of a common faith tradition, and to indicate to others the religious tradition they represent:
In Christianity, the Cross and the Lord's Supper are two of the most powerful, emotional symbols. The Lord's Supper invites all to come to the table and receive the life of God, share in the victory of Christ, and enter into the mystery of the Spirit.
In Hinduism, the "
Om" (which is made up of three
Sanskrit letters) is an important religious symbol.
In Buddhism, the Wheel of Dharma is an important symbol.
In Taoism, the most well known religious symbol is the Yin and the Yang.
In Judaism, the blowing of the shofar, the ram’s horn, is significant. It is a reference to all those who are “sleeping” (who spend their days without examining the consequences of their actions) that they should arise from their slumber... the voice of the shofar cries out “Awake! Examine your deeds; repent and remember your Creator.
In the LGBT community, to demonstrate solidarity and unity for a common cause, and to graphically represent their vision, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups over the years have used a variety of symbols.
The rainbow flag has become the most universal.
In Islam, the star and crescent is the best-known symbol. The symbol is not Muslim in origin, it was a polytheistic icon adopted during the spread of Islam. The crescent moon and star symbol actually pre-dates Islam by several thousand years. The faith of Islam has historically had no symbol, and many in the Muslim world today refuse to accept what is essentially an ancient pagan icon.
Joppa, Israel. Photo by Jason E. Royle