If you dig past the Fourth of July’s hot dog- and firework-filled exterior, the holiday can take on religious significance.

The Fourth of July’s roots extend all the way down to the ideas upon which the Declaration of Independence are based. Those ideas include religious freedom, which protects religious diversity.

Here are some ways to celebrate religious freedom on Independence Day.

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Independence Day and religion

The Declaration of Independence, which was issued July 4, 1776, and asserted the right of the 13 original colonies to govern themselves, references God four distinct times, per Time magazine.

It mentions that the listed rights are “endowed by their Creator”; that humans are governed by “the laws of nature’s God”; that they are subject to “the Supreme Judge of the World”; and that they rely on “the protection of divine Providence.”

“The informing spirit of the American character has always been a deep religious sense,” former President John F. Kennedy once told audiences during a Fourth of July speech.

While the predominant religion among the Founding Fathers was Christianity, they did not want to create a nation for Christians only, per The Master’s University. Instead, they wanted to celebrate and preserve religious freedom.

“I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change another’s creed,” said Thomas Jefferson, per Brookings. He penned the text of the Declaration of Independence and contributed to the Constitution.

“I have judged others’ religions by their lives, for it is from our lives and not our words that our religions must be read,” Jefferson said.

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The First Amendment of the Constitution says that citizens must be allowed to practice their religion without government interference. As a result, the United States began as a religious melting pot, per Brookings. Many colonists moved here out of a desire to practice their religion how they see fit.

How to celebrate the faith behind the Fourth of July

You can recognize the country’s commitment to religious freedom in a variety of ways.

Here are some ideas for this Fourth of July that work for the whole family:

  • Gratitude: Express thankfulness for the religious freedom enjoyed in America. Take time to discuss with your family how religious freedom in America has impacted all of you, then take time for everyone to reflect separately and journal about it.
  • Read from holy books: Spend time as a family reading from holy texts on freedom, justice and gratitude. The Bible shares verses on God providing His followers with liberty and peace if they follow Him, while the Quran asserts that only God, not man, can set limits on human freedom, according to Maydan. The Bhagavad Gita, a holy Hindu book, emphasizes that freedom is both a gift and a responsibility, per the Parliament of the World’s Religions.
  • Perform acts of service: Get the family involved with community service like homeless shelters, food drives or environmental conservation projects. Local churches and charity organizations offer plenty of ways to reflect the compassion and love that are central to many faiths.
  • Pray for your country: If you believe in prayer, you can take the time to pray for the U.S., its leaders and its citizens. You can try asking for wisdom and unity, especially as political divides grow.

If you enjoy the activity you try, you can continue to do it all year long.

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