Wondering about the religious beliefs in the Land Of The Free? A vast majority follow Buddhism as a religion in Thailand. Still, unlike other countries, the Thai people enjoy religious freedom, which means that they can choose and practice other religions as they like. For this reason, the Thai culture is very much open-minded and conscious with the idea of meeting people who follow a different faith. And if you are a traveler, this is a relief to hear, since we do not ever want to be stuck in a country where the government or its people will vilify a person based on their religious identity. Let's learn more about this in today's post.
Religion or ศาสนา (pronounced as sàat-sà-nǎa) has always been a concept that is deemed to play an important role in our lives as an individual and in our society. Major religions in Thailand like Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, Taoism, Judaism, and Islam have been around for a long time because we all want to feel connected to something that is in line with our beliefs. But, at the end of the day, none of these religions are more powerful than the other. They are just there to guide us and ensure that we are walking towards the right path.
As much as we do not want to admit it, there are countries where people have prejudice not just when it comes to race but also religion. In one latest report, it was found that there are those who openly harass and threaten people when they hear that you do not follow the same faith they do.
Fortunately, Thailand is a country that is against religious discrimination. In fact, the Thai constitution even guarantees that all people will have the freedom to choose and practice the religion they want. The only one who cannot choose is their king, who is constitutionally required to follow Theravada Buddhism.
Want to learn more about Thai religion? Before we further discuss the religious beliefs in Thai culture, it would be wise to draw your attention to some of the most common words you might hear from the locals related to this topic. Check out the table below and take notes.
|Festival||เทศกาล||thêet sà gaan|
|Mosque||มัสยิด||mát sà yít|
|Prayer||การสวดมนตร์||kaan sùat mon|
Now that we have an idea of the basic words related to religion in the Thai language, let's now dive deeper into the core of this topic by focusing on the religious groups in Thailand.
The unique thing about this country is that they do not have official recognition for religions. While many are allowed to practice different religions as they wish, there are three most common religious groups that you can see in Thailand and that includes Theravada Buddhists, Thai Muslims, and Christians. There are also other religious groups and newer organizations, but there are only a few followers of these. Perhaps this is because there is a quota on the number of foreign missionaries allowed to operate and officially register in the country.
The dominant religion in Thailand is Thai Buddhism, with about 94.6% followers. This is the reason the country has tons of temples in almost every monastic community.
The Theravada Buddhist affiliation was brought about by the people from its neighboring countries such as Laos, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and Myanmar. If this is your first time hearing it, then you can simply think of the monks donning yellow robes. However, if you have been to the country before, perhaps you saw that almost every corner has at least a small Buddhist image where the locals can offer various items to the monks. From food and medicine, to even clothing, people are allowed to provide anything for the monks.
Perhaps by now, you are wondering, "why are the people offering something"? In their religious beliefs, the act of offering something to the monks means earning Buddhist merit, which can, in turn, help them have a chance to be given rebirth.
Another religion in the country is the Islamic faith, which has a population of about 4.9% in the whole country. Most Thai Muslims consider themselves Sunni Muslims, which is the same type of Islam popular in the Arab world, China, and Africa. There is no particular place where they can be found in the country, unlike in the Philippines, where Muslims are usually at Mindanao. But it was reported that they stay in the Southern Thai Provinces, precisely in the cities and towns of Yala, Pattani, Satun, and Narathiwat.
At present, there are several Islamic schools as well as other institutions that mainly cater to the followers of this religion. Most of its believers are migrants from other Asian countries, including China, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Bangladesh, but there are also some Thais from ethnic groups that are practicing this too.
Christianity is also a minority Thai religion which has a population of about 1.17%. This religion has been in the country for quite a time now, and it was brought by the European missionaries based in 1510. The major type of Christianity in the country is Roman Catholic, but there are also some who follow Protestantism. Since there is no official state religion and the citizens are allowed to welcome other faiths, there is no surprise why there are also tons of educational institutions as well as establishments that cater to those who believe in Jesus Christ.
As we reach this part of the post, we hope that you were able to learn about the major religions of Thailand. If you enjoyed this post and figured that you would like to learn more about Thailand's culture and language, be sure to check out our previous blog posts here. Also, don't forget to try out the Ling App, which is a really cool language learning platform built to help learners master 60+ foreign languages. It has been downloaded by many and was even featured in App Store! So what are you waiting for? Download it today and start learning the right way!