Religions and religious organizations have been responsible for a great deal of good being done in the world, from the founding of wordlwide charity organizations to simply inspiring people to be kinder and humbler on a daily basis, as well as more sympathetic to the plight of his fellow man. Unfortunately, an often-observed characteristic of many religions is that their faithful often try to convert others to their faith, and when those others refuse, the consequences can be grave.
From the Roman persecutions of Christians in the ancient times, to the infamous Spanish Inquisition, to the witch hunts of Puritan America, to the Islamic Jihads still occurring today, it is easy to see how dangerous religions can be if not checked, and how overzealous believers in a certain god or no god at all can be in attempting to force everyone else to believe as they do.
This is why it is enormously important to make sure religious freedom is granted and protected to all, and this is why the Founding Fathers of the United States of America saw this as such.
The History of Religious Freedom Day
On January 16, 1786, soon after the United States of America came into existence as a sovereign nation, the Virginia General Assembly adopted Thomas Jefferson’s landmark Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. This statute then became the basis for what we know today as the First Amendment, which guarantees religious freedom to all people residing in the U.S.A. Every year since then, an statement is released on this same day by the president f the United States officially proclaiming Religious Freedom day.
How to Celebrate Religious Freedom Day
A good way to celebrate Religious Freedom Day is to do some research about what life used to be like before religious freedom was protected, and every person had the right to believe as he or she chose. “The Name of the Rose” is both an excellent book and an excellent movie, which quite accurately depicts what life was like during the Inquisition, and how far the inquisitors were willing to go to find and punish people they suspected of sorcery.
The young adult novel titled, “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” can also help one understand what it was like to be the least bit different from the rest of the villagers in 17th century New England, and just how dangerous it was to avoid church. 1951’s Quo Vadis, on the other hand, demonstrates how badly Christian were persecuted during the reign of the Emperor Nero in Ancient Rome. “The Diary of a Young Girl”, written by Jewish teenager Anne Frank during the height of the Nazi persecution of Europe’s Jewish population is both interesting a heartbreaking when one thinks about all of the other innocent children like Anne who died horrible deaths for simply being of the wrong religion.
The works of Salman Rushdie could also prove to be a very insightful read, as the author himself received years of death threats after the release of his acclaimed novel “The Satanic Verses”, which was critical of Islam was published. It could also be an interesting idea to have several of you friends of different faiths get together for coffee and discuss how positively religious freedom and the freedom to not practice any religion at all impact all of your lives and help make them better. Religious freedom is a wonderful thing, that should be fully appreciated and celebrated.