January 16 is National Religious Freedom Day in the U.S. This commemorates Virginia’s adoption of a statute put forward by Thomas Jefferson which led to freedom of religion for all Americans as defined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The freedom to believe and worship as each individual sees fit seems like such an inherent part of modern life that it might be easy to take it for granted. But throughout history, millions have died because of wars waged in the name of one religion or another.
This is especially ironic because any study of the world’s major religions will find that the things they have in common in terms of beliefs, values and customs, are far greater than anything of substance that divides them.
The freedom to believe and worship as each individual sees fit seems like such an inherent part of modern life that it might be easy to take it for granted.
On Religious Freedom Day, I am profoundly grateful to live in a country where I can freely express my own beliefs, knowing my rights and freedoms are protected, especially as a member of a minority religion. I also really enjoy learning about other faiths and seeing the joy and meaning and purpose people find in their communion with the divine. Many of my favorite people (and the best people I know) are devout in their diverse beliefs and let their devotion to those beliefs guide them throughout life. What’s more, their own beliefs end up uplifting those around them.
I have had Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Native American spiritualists bless me with prayers that gave me goosebumps and often made me tear up because of the sincerity and eloquence with which they were expressed. We all deserve to live within and among the rich cultural tapestry that open, respected and protected religious observance brings. I celebrate people of all faith on this day and look forward to many more enlightening and inspiring conversations.