Religious symbolism is the term used to describe the use of symbols (archetypes, acts, artwork, events, or natural phenomenae) by a religion for various purposes. A religion may view a given religious text, ritual, or work of art as a symbol of some idea or ideal that the religion finds compelling. The usage of symbols helps create a resonant mythos that expresses the moral values of the society, the teachings of the religion, creates a sense of solidarity between religious adherents, or functions as a way to bring one "closer to God."
The study of religious symbols can be either universalist —as a fundamental component of comparative religion and mythology —or in localised scope, within the confines of a religion's limits and boundaries. The study of the essential symbolism of an image or idea often is removed from the need to be explicit or conformist to the confines of a single religion, and of late, the universalist scope of comparative religion has gained in esteem among religious scholars, and this inclusive view provides a common foundation for inter-religious dialogue.
Western religious symbolism
Eastern religious symbolism
See also: Icon, Religion, Symbolism