It came as a surprise to me to discover that there was a World Religion Day. I was even more surprised to find out that it began over 50 years ago. And there’s also a World Philosophy Day in November and a National Day of Reason (held in the USA) in May, and I’ll cover those celebrations at those times.
We have to go way back to
1950 to encounter the first ever World Religion Day, and held on the 3rd
Sunday in January ever since – that’s today. It began in the USA and, believe
it or not, wasn’t the brainchild of some evangelical Christian but of the
leaders of one of the world’s lesser known major faiths (if that’s not a
contradiction), the Baha’i faith.
In 1949 the National
Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’i faith in the US, probably having the horrors
of World War II and the world’s slow readjustment to life post-Holocaust in
mind, recognised that most religions had common spiritual goals even if they
differed doctrinally. The Assembly came up with World Religion Day as a way of
encouraging understanding of each religions’ differences and of working
together to held shape a better world. (I’ll write more about Baha’i and some
of its lgbt adherents in March.)
One of the illustrations
which gives an idea of how much the world’s religions and beliefs are connected
through history is the one shown below, designed by Simon E. Davies for the
Human Odyssey Facebook page. It charts the origin and evolution of many world
faiths. But an even more impressive illustration is one you can find here. I
won’t even attempt to explain it – the work put into it must have been
My home county of
Nottinghamshire became the centre of much attention last year because of
religion and lgbt issues. The focus was on a gay Anglican priest who was
refused a license to officiate as a hospital chaplain. He can still work
elsewhere but the fact that he was gay and married was what made it headline
Also last year the UK’s
Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement moved its HQ from London to Newark, a quaint
market town just down the River Trent from Nottingham.
Many of my article over
the past years can be included in the “religion” label. The myths and legends
of Ancient Greece is littered with references to same-sex activity between the
gods and mortals, and all the athletes and solider had same sex partners. In fact, you could argue that the Olympic Games were created
solely for religious purposes.
characters have declared themselves to be gods. Most of the Roman Emperors did
so, and one, Elegabalus, belonged to a hereditary priesthood to an ancient sun
god called El-Gabal.
Last year I wrote a little
about the Caribbean faith of Santeria which had it’s origins in the Yoruba
culture and religion of west Africa as well as Catholicism. That article also
touched on the subject of faith adopting and adapting the deities of older
religions into their own pantheons. The debate on the acceptance of
homosexuality in African Christian churches is very prominent at the moment
with the world Anglican churches discussing the subject in Canterbury at this
I also mentioned several
Roman Catholic Cardinals in that same series, “Around the World in 80 Gays”.
While it may be politically correct to condemn the homophobic stance of the
Catholic Church and the hypocrisy of some of its clergy, it should also be
noted that there are many lgbt people of religious belief at work in the
community today helping to change attitudes. There are many lgbt-orientated
churches of many faiths, and many thriving lgbt groups within established
faiths. So, Believe it or Not, the lgbt community has a vital place in
religious life today.