America has been named the "melting pot" of the world. It houses many different cultures, nationalities, ideas and religions. There are Christians, Jews, Catholics, Buddhists, Mormons, Hindus, Spiritualists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Islamic, plus many more. America is unique in that all these religions are represented in a nation that is only 200 years old. And America has upheld, throughout history, that the freedom and equality of religion is extremely important in order for this nation to function as a free nation. The foundations of America were set as a result of England's persecution; more specifically, England's religious persecution. The colonists wanted to create a nation that allowed people to be free. They desired to speak what they wanted to speak, do what they wanted to do, and practice what they wanted to practice... without the government watching their every move. Thus came religious freedom.
The First Amendment to the Constitution states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," meaning that an American citizen would be able to practice his or her religion without any intervention or persecution from the government, be it Islam, Judaism, Mormonism or Catholicism. Yet, with religious freedom, comes an important question concerning its existence. Is religious equality just as important as all the other freedoms... such as the freedom of speech, the freedom of press, the freedom to assemble, and others as well? The answer here is yes. If this nation truly stands for freedom, the American government cannot say that its citizens have the right to speak freely, write freely, or assemble freely, but then maintain an established national religion. That would be contradictory, and would not make America any better off than England, which it had separated from just years beforehand. Certainly, all the freedoms are equal.
On the other hand, unlike the other freedoms mentioned, religious freedom addresses a different type of need. It addresses the concept of personal fulfillment, or perhaps, self-realization. Religion attempts to give answers to basic questions: From where did the world come? What is the meaning of human life? Why do people die and what happens afterward? Why is there evil? How should people behave? As a word religion is difficult to define, but as a human experience it seems to be universal. The 20th-century German-born American theologian, Paul Tillich, gave a simple and basic definition of the word: "Religion is ultimate concern." This means that religion includes that to which people are most devoted or that from which they expect to get the most satisfaction in life. Consequently, religion provides adequate answers to the basic afore mentioned questions.
Religion is, unquestionably, a very important part of life. The second question regarding freedom of religion discusses which aspect of religion should be considered...