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Religious language, action and imagery is rarely straightforward. Religions deal with things that can not be easily expressed in an ordinary way. Symbols are used to point towards the Divine. This module explores religious symbolism.

A symbol is something that stands for or points to something else. The flag of a country, for instance, is a well–known symbol to all of us and when we see it, it reminds us of, and represents our country.

Symbolism can therefore be called the systematic use of symbols to represent or refer to something. It is of course true that all language is symbolic because we use words to refer to things, matters and ideas all the time. The word “dog” is not itself a dog, it is just a symbolic representation which English-speakers have agreed refers to the furry annimal that lives with us.

If we narrow it down though, we can say that symbols are words, images and figures that have special meaning since they refer to special things.

In religious language and usage several symbols can also be identified and symbols play an important in conveying information and messages of a religious nature. Religious symbols often serve as a binding factor in the sense that they create a feeling of solidarity between followers of that particular religious tradition. There are a few that will immediately be recognised as religious symbols:

✡ - The Star of David is a case in point because this symbol, recognised by all Jews as referring to the religion of Judaism, serves to create a sense of identity and belonging.

☪ - Religious symbols have come to represent certain things. When one for instance see a crescent with a star in it, depicted on paper, cloth or even on a wall, there is not the slightest doubt that that symbol represents the religion of Islam.

☸ - Similarly, a picture or drawing of the eight–spoked wheel reminds us of the Buddha and his teachings of the eightfold path and thus becomes a symbol of Buddhism.

ॐ - The Aum sign, which is actually a written syllable in the Sanskrit and Tamil languages and which is used as a chant during meditation, has become widely accepted as a symbol for Hinduism.

✞ - In Christianity, the cross, whether on paper, made from wood in differing sizes, as jewelry and so on, serves as a symbol of the death of Christ. Jesus Christ, so Christians believe, died on the cross for the sin of humanity. In fact, the plain cross is a simplified version of the crucifix , which shows a more or less realistic representation of the crucified Jesus. In other words, a cross is a symbol of a symbol!

α ω - The letters Alpha and Omega, being the first and last letters respectively of the Greek language, have also become Christian symbols. According to the Christian New testament, Jesus Christ referred to himself as the “Alpha and the Omega”.

In the case of the Prophet Muhammad, one could also say that the letters PBUH behind his name, especially in Muslim writings, are symbolic because they refer to the words “Peace Be Upon Him” which is the English rendering of the original Arabic.

A religious symbol in a secular context (c) dbking/Flickr CC BY 2.0

Symbols of a religious nature are of course not confined to formal religious acts or institutions. At the top of the building in Washington, USA, that houses that country's Supreme Court, a row of the history's lawgivers have been sculptured. with Moses and the Ten Commandments in the middle. In this case, Moses is depicted as a symbol of law and justice. A religious symbol has thus been used in a secular context

Symbols are of course not just represented in drawings, sculpture or wood but very much also by actions. From the adherents’ perspectives, of course, these activities are more than symbolic: they are deeply meaningful activities that connect them to the most important aspects of their religion. However, when we look at them from the outside, we see their symbolic nature.

When Christians celebrate the Mass or Eucharist, it becomes a symbolic meal of the last supper that Jesus ate with his disciples and the sacrifice of his body and blood on the cross is remembered. To the Christians themselves, this is not symbolic. Most denominations teach that the bread and wine really is the body and blood of Christ, in a mystical sense that does not stop them from also remaining bread and wine. However, from our perspective we can say that this is a symbolic action. The bread does not physically become a piece of human flesh that we can do a DNA test on! But religious people are generally not aware of the technical meaning of the term “symbol”, and may become upset if you point out the symbolic nature of religious actions.

Questions & Answers

can someone help me with some logarithmic and exponential equations.
Jeffrey Reply
sure. what is your question?
okay, so you have 6 raised to the power of 2. what is that part of your answer
I don't understand what the A with approx sign and the boxed x mean
it think it's written 20/(X-6)^2 so it's 20 divided by X-6 squared
I'm not sure why it wrote it the other way
I got X =-6
ok. so take the square root of both sides, now you have plus or minus the square root of 20= x-6
oops. ignore that.
so you not have an equal sign anywhere in the original equation?
Commplementary angles
Idrissa Reply
im all ears I need to learn
right! what he said ⤴⤴⤴
what is a good calculator for all algebra; would a Casio fx 260 work with all algebra equations? please name the cheapest, thanks.
Kevin Reply
a perfect square v²+2v+_
Dearan Reply
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Abdirahman Reply
algebra 2 Inequalities:If equation 2 = 0 it is an open set?
Kim Reply
or infinite solutions?
The answer is neither. The function, 2 = 0 cannot exist. Hence, the function is undefined.
Embra Reply
if |A| not equal to 0 and order of A is n prove that adj (adj A = |A|
Nancy Reply
rolling four fair dice and getting an even number an all four dice
ramon Reply
Kristine 2*2*2=8
Bridget Reply
Differences Between Laspeyres and Paasche Indices
Emedobi Reply
No. 7x -4y is simplified from 4x + (3y + 3x) -7y
Mary Reply
is it 3×y ?
Joan Reply
J, combine like terms 7x-4y
Bridget Reply
im not good at math so would this help me
Rachael Reply
I'm not good at math so would you help me
what is the problem that i will help you to self with?
how do you translate this in Algebraic Expressions
linda Reply
Need to simplify the expresin. 3/7 (x+y)-1/7 (x-1)=
Crystal Reply
. After 3 months on a diet, Lisa had lost 12% of her original weight. She lost 21 pounds. What was Lisa's original weight?
Chris Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
types of nano material
abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
many many of nanotubes
what is the k.e before it land
what is the function of carbon nanotubes?
what is nanomaterials​ and their applications of sensors.
Ramkumar Reply
what is nano technology
Sravani Reply
what is system testing?
preparation of nanomaterial
Victor Reply
Yes, Nanotechnology has a very fast field of applications and their is always something new to do with it...
Himanshu Reply
good afternoon madam
what is system testing
what is the application of nanotechnology?
In this morden time nanotechnology used in many field . 1-Electronics-manufacturad IC ,RAM,MRAM,solar panel etc 2-Helth and Medical-Nanomedicine,Drug Dilivery for cancer treatment etc 3- Atomobile -MEMS, Coating on car etc. and may other field for details you can check at Google
anybody can imagine what will be happen after 100 years from now in nano tech world
after 100 year this will be not nanotechnology maybe this technology name will be change . maybe aftet 100 year . we work on electron lable practically about its properties and behaviour by the different instruments
name doesn't matter , whatever it will be change... I'm taking about effect on circumstances of the microscopic world
how hard could it be to apply nanotechnology against viral infections such HIV or Ebola?
silver nanoparticles could handle the job?
not now but maybe in future only AgNP maybe any other nanomaterials
can nanotechnology change the direction of the face of the world
Prasenjit Reply
At high concentrations (>0.01 M), the relation between absorptivity coefficient and absorbance is no longer linear. This is due to the electrostatic interactions between the quantum dots in close proximity. If the concentration of the solution is high, another effect that is seen is the scattering of light from the large number of quantum dots. This assumption only works at low concentrations of the analyte. Presence of stray light.
Ali Reply
the Beer law works very well for dilute solutions but fails for very high concentrations. why?
bamidele Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Learning about religion. OpenStax CNX. Apr 18, 2015 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11780/1.1
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