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Religious Symbols

Dec 15, 2015

A religious symbol is an iconic representation intended to represent a specific religion, or a specific concept within a given religion.

The Christian cross has traditionally been a symbol representing Christianity or Christendom as a whole. In the course of cultural relativism as it developed in the western world in the late 20th century, there have been efforts to design comparable "symbols" representing all of the world's religions.

Thus, the United States military chaplain symbols were limited to Christian and Jewish symbolism before the 1990s. In 1990, they were expanded by a wheel of dharma supposed to represent Buddhism, and in 1992 by a crescent moon supposed to represent Islam. Use of an Aum symbol representing Hinduism was in planning as of 2011.

Similarly, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs emblems for headstones and markers have been considerably expanded after a lawsuit was filed by Wiccans in 2006 (Stewart v. Nicholson). Until that time, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognized 38 symbols, including 16 variations of the Christian cross. In an out-of-court settlement, the VA accepted the inclusion of a greater variety of symbols, and as of 2013, the number of recognized symbols has risen to 57 (including a number of symbols expressing non-religiosity).