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Honoring the military of all religious
beliefs on Veterans Day, NOV-11
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs poster,
celebrating in 2018. Image is in the Public Domain.
About Veterans Day:
It is observed each year on November 11 in both the U.S. and Canada. When Veterans Day falls on a Saturday, the federal holiday is held on the previous day, Friday. If it falls on Sunday, it is held on the next day, Monday.
November 11 was selected because World War I ended in 1918 on the 11th hour, local time, of the 11th day of November, the 11th month. 1 It was first observed in 1919 as Armistice Day. The emphasis was on world peace. After World War II and the Korean war, veterans urged Congress to change "Armistice" to "Veterans." This was done in mid-1954. The emphasis shifted from peace to honor those who have served or are serving in the military. Currently, when NOV-11 falls on a weekday, some communities mark the occasion on the weekend closest to the date.
At 11 AM, a moment of silence is observed throughout North America.
This website promotes religious tolerance and acceptance, which implies that programs to honor veterans should honor active and former military service members who are affiliated with any organized religious faith or none, including the following belief systems (sorted in alphabetic order):
African traditional religion, Agnosticism, Atheism, Buddhism, Caodaiasm, Chinese traditional religion, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Juche, Judaism, Primal-indigenous, Neopaganism, Notas, Shinto, Sikhism, Spiritism, Tenrikyo, Unitarianism, Wicca, Zoroastrianism, etc. 2
Many readers of this essay will not recognize in the above list:
- Caodaism, a monotheistic religion that was created in Vietnam in 1926. Members believe that in the near future God will speak to humanity directly and all religions will be unified.
- Juche, the is the official state ideology of North Korea which some commentators view as "... having aspects of a national and indigenous religious movement in addition to being a political philosophy due to the following features: the presence of a sacred leader, rituals and familism." 3
- "Notas," a term that refers to individuals who are "NOT Affiliated" with a religious organization. The most common term used in North America to refer to this group is "Nones." This web site does not use the latter term because it is a homophone -- it sounds like another religious term "nuns." Using "nones" can generate confusion.
- Tenrikyo, a 19th century Japanese religion whose members concentrate on performing charitable acts and being kind to others.
Honoring all military -- current and former service members:
Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist on Patheos, wrote:
"We know there are atheists in the military; about a third of active duty soldiers don’t have a religious affiliation. Yet many Veteran’s Day services include religious elements that are off-putting to many of the very people who are supposed to be honored.
He noted that there are 88 religious preferences in the U.S. military. Only a slim majority of 52% of present-day military service members are Christians. Mehta listed advice by
Johnny Pike, American Atheists’ state director in Kentucky and an Army veteran. Pike suggest that soldiers be honored on NOV-11: 4
- Not be held in a religious location.
- Ask that speakers include multiple world views included in their presentations.
- Have few or no religious readings, songs or music.
The Discipleship Ministries, an agency of the United Methodist Church, recommends:
- "If churches are going to honor and give thanks for veterans, their observances should be in a context of prayer. In keeping with the guidance of our Book of Worship, #422, churches should not turn the entire service into a rehearsal of our national concerns. When we assemble for worship, it is as citizens of God's kingdom in Jesus Christ, not as citizens ultimately subject to any nation. ..."
- "Where possible, since this is a celebration for the whole nation, and not for particular religious groups, special services relating to Veterans' Day should be interfaith in nature, as far as that is possible. Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, and people of other religions have served in this nation's armed forces. We dare not convey that the mission of the U.S. military is also the mission of the church."
- "Prayers in such an interfaith service of worship should be inclusive, reflecting men and women, varied races and faith traditions. There are prayers in The Book of Worship and in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church that could be used or adapted."
- "In keeping with the traditions of our nation since the early days of observing Armistice Day and Veterans' Day, services are best held in a civic space or in a place in the cemetery where veterans are buried." 6
Barry Howard, writing for Ethics Daily gave: "10 Suggestions to Help Your Church Honor Veterans." Among his suggestions were actions that individuals can take:
- Personally thank, or write thank-you notes to veterans during the following week.
- Encourage members to listen to veterans' stories.
- Parents can arrange for their children to interview a veteran.
- Visit a disabled veteran or a veteran in a care facility.
- Become an advocate for a veteran helping them access resources, giving driving them to stores, appointments, etc. 7
Another action that individuals can take to honor veterans is to donate to the non-profit group "Fallen Patriots." Their mission is:
"... to provide college scholarships and educational counseling to military children who have lost a parent in the line of duty."
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Matthew Waxman, When did World War I end?," Lawfare, 2018-NOV-11, at: https://www.lawfareblog.com/
- Dr. Stephen Juan, "What are the most widely practiced religions of the world?," The A Register, 2006-OCT-06, at: https://www.theregister.co.uk/
- "Juche," Wikipedia, as on 2018-NOV-07, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/
- Hemant Mehta, "Want to Honor Veterans Today? Don’t Assume All Soldiers Are Religious," Patheos, 2018-NOV-11, at: https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/
- The poster can be downloaded from Wikipedia Commons at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/
- Dean McIntyre, Dan Benedict, and Taylor Burton-Edwards, "Suggestions for Observing Veterans’ Day (November 11) in Worship," Discipleship Ministries, 2018, at:
- Barry Howard, "10 Suggestions to Help Your Church Honor Veterans," Ethics Daily, 2017-NOV-06, at: https://www.ethicsdaily.com/
How you may have arrived here:
Copyright © Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Author: B.A. Robinson
Originally posted on: 2018-NOV-