People and Society, Religion
hill peoples, Buddhist ceremonies, Thai Buddhist temple, Thai religion, Western religions
Theravada Buddhism is the prevailing religion in Thailand, with about 95 percent of the Thai majority being Theravada Buddhist. Theravada is a school of Buddhist belief that spread to Thailand beginning in the 13th century, primarily via Sri Lanka. Thailandís most characteristic architectural feature is the wat, the Thai Buddhist temple, of which there are an estimated 18,000. Nearly all Thai men enter a Buddhist monastery for at least a few days or months.
Despite the predominance of Buddhism, Thai religion is highly syncretic, meaning that it combines different systems of religious practice and belief. Many Buddhist ceremonies include elements of animism (worship of objects and phenomena of nature), Hinduism, and even Christianity. Small Muslim groups, comprising about 7 percent of the population, are found throughout the country, especially in the southern peninsula. Some hill peoples, including members of the Karen, are Roman Catholic, while missionaries from Europe and North America have converted others to Protestantism. Very few ethnic Thai have converted to Western religions.
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