Bahá’í Faith: The nine-pointed star is used as a symbol of spiritual completion. As the Bahá’í Faith claims to be the fulfillment of the expectations of all prior religions, the symbol reflects that sense of fulfillment and completeness.
Taoism: The Yin and Yang represents the concept of duality forming a whole, how seemingly opposing forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world. The two swirling shapes inside the symbol give the impression of change—the only constant factor in the universe.
Jainism: One meaning of the raised hand is “stop and think before you act to assure that all possible violence is avoided.” This is related to the tenant “Ahimsa” in Jainism, which is a Sanskrit term meaning to do no harm.
Christianity: The cross represents the death of Jesus Christ by crucifixion. The cross was an instrument of torture and execution in ancient times. Jesus was sentenced to death and murdered by Roman authorities who convicted him of high treason. For many Christians, the cross represents the sacrificial death of Christ and is the most widely-recognized symbol of Christianity.
Unitarian Universalism: The flame and chalice has many meanings. The cup represents religious community, while the flame represents ideas including the sacrificial flame, the flame of the spirit, and more. The flaming chalice image has changed several times over the past 65 years since it was designed by Hans Deutch during WWII.
Sikhism: Ik Onkar (“one god”) is a combination of two characters: the numeral Ik (one) and the first letter of the word Onkar (God). It is a symbol of the oneness of God in Sikhism and is found on all religious scriptures and places such as Gurdwaras. Ik Onkar is the first phrase in the Mul Mantra meaning “there is only one God;”
Hinduism: Aum, also written “Om” is the most important Hindu symbol. Om is considered the primordial sound, the first breath of creation. The Om sign also signifies God, creation, and the oneness of all creations of God. This sacred sound is also considered the greatest of all mantras.
Judaism: the menorah is a seven-branched candelabrum used in the ancient Tabernacle in the desert and Temple in Jerusalem, a symbol of Judaism since ancient times and the emblem of the modern state of Israel.
Islam: While generally regarded as an Islamic symbol today, the crescent moon and star pre-dates Islam by several thousand years. This symbol became affiliated with the Muslim world after it was adopted by the Ottoman Empire. While certainly not in uniform use among Muslims, it’s often associated with Islam because the lunar cycle has an important ritual and legal role in Islam’s calendar.
Shintoism: A Torii is a traditional Japanese gate commonly found at the entry to a Shinto shrine. Torii mark the transition from the sacred (the shrine) to the profane (the normal world).
Buddhism: The Eight-Spoked Dharma Wheel or Dharmachakra represents the Buddha’s teachings of the path to enlightenment. The wheel’s motion is a metaphor for the rapid spiritual change engendered by the teachings of the Buddha, and the eight spokes represent the Noble Eightfold Path set out by the Buddha in his teachings.
Zoroastrianism: The winged symbol now associated with Zoroastrianism is known as the “Faravahar.” Its exact meaning in history is unknown. It may have represented Ahura Mazda, the divinity exalted by the prophet Zoroaster as the one God. However, Zoroastrians generally consider Ahura Mazda to be transcendent, spiritual and without physical form, and for most of their history they did not artistically depict him.
Native American Faiths: Throughout the 500+ tribes in The Americas are myriad spiritual beliefs and practices. Therefore, in choosing a symbol to stand for so many, we choose the basic feather, since feathers from various birds are used by many tribes in belief, stories, and regalia. It does not represent the direct faith of one, but the commonalities and diversities of Native American spiritual beliefs.