World Religion Day is celebrated on the third Sunday in January every year, and is a reminder of the need for harmony and understanding between religions and faith systems. On this day, communities of different faiths have the opportunity to get together and listen to each other, as well as celebrate the differences and commonalities that the delicate intermingling of culture and religion brings. There are approximately 4,200 religions around the world. While many people live their lives without religion, faith in a higher being or power works for the majority of people. Whatever the reasons, we are all for the idea of people being unified despite differences, and celebrating them.
History of World Religion Day
The first official observance of World Religion Day (as it is known today), was in 1950, but the concept began a few years prior to that. In Portland, Maine, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’í Faith hosted a talk in Eastland Park Hotel in October 1947, culminating in the decision to observe an annual event, then known as World Peace Through World Religion. By 1949, the event began to be observed in other parts of the U.S. and grew more popular. By 1950, it came to be known as World Religion Day. On this day, at various different locations, many authors, educators, and philosophers are invited to speak on world religions and the importance of establishing and maintaining harmony between them. It’s a great forum for learning more about other religions and cultures too, and a chance to intermingle socially with people of different faiths and worldviews.
Since this concept was the brainchild of people from the Bahá’í Faith, it is worth exploring what this faith is and tracing its historical roots. As a religion, Bahá’í first emerged in Persia (modern-day Iran), in the 1800s. There are three core principles of this faith — unity of God, unity of religion, and unity of all mankind. It is a monotheistic faith, believing in a single god, and that the spiritual aspects of all religions in this world stem from this single god. Another central tenet is the belief in the innate equality of all human beings. Thus, all humans have the same rights and responsibilities. If you look at it, the Bahá’í Faith is an all-encompassing one that recognizes the commonalities between all religions, so Baháʼí believes that all faiths have common spiritual goals too, especially since religions are ever-evolving.
World Religion Day timeline
In Persia, around 1844, the Bahá'í Faith is established by a mix of people from Christian, Jewish, and Zoroastrian religious roots.
The first event takes place in Portland, Maine, to establish the foundation of World Religion Day.
As World Peace Through World Religion begins to spread across the U.S., the celebration morphs into World Religion Day.
Rather than passing on from individual to individual, the death of Shoghi Effendi leads to the faith leadership passing to the Universal House of Justice.
World Religion Day FAQs
How many religions are there in the world?
Many scholars estimate that there are approximately 4,200 different active religions in the world today.
How many countries celebrate World Religion Day?
World Religion Day is currently celebrated in over 80 countries around the globe.
Which religion has the most adherents?
Christianity tops the list, with a whopping 2,3 billion. Next comes Islam with 1,8 billion. Third on the list are those unaffiliated with any particular religion, at 1,2 billion.
How to Observe World Religion Day
Attend an interfaith event
Many different organizations hold interfaith events on this day, where people can get together and hear about the beliefs and philosophies held by others of different faiths. These events are great spaces for eminent speakers, writers, and spiritual leaders to share openly about what they subscribe to, and why.
Engage with other religions
World Religion Day provides the perfect opportunity for people to step out of their individual bubbles and engage with the beliefs and spiritual ideologies of others. It’s about dialogue and the freedom to both express and listen; most importantly, it’s a time to learn from each other. This day reminds us that religion does not have to be a taboo subject, and everyone has a unique story to tell.
Try out a different religious experience
Religion is often inextricably linked with culture, so why not experience the best of both by attending a religious event of some sort, outside of your own? Whether it is going to a mosque or temple, or celebrating a religious festival you are not familiar with, it’s a great way to make inroads into different community groups and build relationships.
5 Facts About World Religions You May Not Know
You name it, there’s a patron saint for it
In Catholicism, there is a patron saint for nearly everything, including coffee, beekeepers, and headaches.
Wicca is not an ancient religion
Though it sounds like it would be ancient, considering its roots in European fertility cults, Wicca was introduced in the 1950s.
Mormons have limited beverage options
Mormons are forbidden from drinking beverages like tea, coffee, or alcohol; soda, however, seems to be okay.
The “Qur’an” mentions Jesus more than Muhammad
Though this is not a popularity contest, the “Qur’an” apparently mentions Jesus Christ five times more than Muhammad.
Hindus can also be atheists
While Hinduism is a polytheistic religion, it is also possible to be a practicing Hindu and an atheist — the moral and ethical code remains the same.
Why World Religion Day is Important
It purports to unite people
We love any day that seeks to bring people together, irrespective of differences, and this day fits the bill exactly. Whatever one’s religious beliefs and culture, the longing for acceptance and unity will be a fundamentally human one that unites us already.
World Religion Day offers people across the globe a chance to get to know others of different religions better, and seeks to foster a better understanding of religious differences through peaceful means such as dialogue.
A chance to experience something different
The various interfaith and religious events organized by communities around the world are an exciting opportunity and opening for people to immerse themselves in spiritual experiences different from what they know. And so much of it is cultural that we see it as a win-win.
World Religion Day dates