Celebrating Religious Diversity: Faith & Spirituality Spotlight Series

Khan Lab School
April 29, 2021 / 5 mins read

Throughout April, our community of learners focused on sharing resources that celebrate religious diversity and build religious literacy byhighlighting somefaith practices from around the world.

Religious literacy is critical to building community and understanding various value systems in times of crisis and social change.

We will add resourcesto this page throughout the month, so check back for updates at the end of each week!


Founded by Siddhartha Gautama (also referred to as “the Buddha”), Buddhism is a faith traditionthat was more than 2,500 years ago in India. Buddhism has approximately 470 million followers. Historically, Buddhistpractice has its early originsin East and Southeast Asia, but its influence has been on the risein the West for several years.

Here are resources for a deeper dive into Buddhism.


Known to be the most widely practiced religion in the world, Christianity has more than 2 billion followers. The Christian faith has many sects and followers of Christianity are also followers of Jesus Christ and the Holy Bible.

Here are resources for a deeper dive into Christianity.


Hinduism, the world's oldest religion according to scholars, has roots and customs that historians dateback more than 4,000 years. Hinduism has 900 million followers worldwide and the majorityof the world's Hindus live in India today. Because Hinduismhas no specific founder like other major faith traditions, it's challenging to trace Hinduism'shistory. Hinduism is unique from other major world religions because it is composed ofmultiple religions, traditions, and philosophies.


The second largest religion in the world after Christianity, Islam has approximately 1.8 billion followers worldwide. Followers of Islam are called Muslims, and the word "Islam" means "submission to the will of God."

Here are resources for a deeper dive into Islam.


Jainism is one of the three oldest religious traditions from India still in practice today (alongside Hinduism and Buddhism). While some Western scholars do not regard Jainism as its own distinct religious tradition, the Jain tradition is distinct from the Hinduism and Buddhism in multiple ways despite sharing several philosophical tenets with each of these ancient religions. At its core, Jianism's teachings focus on a path to enlightenment and spiritual purity viaahisma, or disciplined nonviolence. There are about 6 million practicing Jains worldwide.

Here are resources for a deeper dive into Jainism.


The world's oldest monotheistic (i.e. a faith relating to or characterized by the belief that there is one G-d) religion, Judaism dates back nearly 4,000 years and has approximately 14 million followers worldwide. Jewish people believe there is only one G-d and that the Judeo-Christian concept of the "Messiah" has not yet come, but will one day arrive. Synagogues are the places designated for Jewish worshipand community gatherings.


Santería, a Spanish word that translates to "The Way of the Saints," is the most common name for the Afro-Caribbeanfaith practice that developed in Cuba before expanding throughout Latin America and the United States, particularly after the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Santería has its origins in the Yoruban nations of West Africa, whose peoples were forced into slavery in the early part of the nineteenth century. In an effort to maintain their cultural traditions in slavery and for fear of prosecution, followers ofSantería practiced their religion with great discretion during enslavement.It's challenging to know for certain how many practice Santería today, as there is no central organizing body for the faith, but some estimates suggest there could be as high as a hundred million Santería believers worldwide.


Sikhism is a religion and philosophy with its origins in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent dating back to the late fifteenth century. Followers of Sikhism, called Sikhs (which means "learner"), trace the beginnings of the religion back to Guru Nanak (1469 - 1539) and a succession of nine other Gurus who all shared the same spirit. The sacred text for Sikhs is theGuru Granth Sahib, which means "the Granth as the Guru." With a complex relationship to Hinduism, Sikhism is distinct in that its followers believe in the guidance and protection from one God, human equality before God, and the importance of one's impact on others by way of actions, among other core beliefs. Today, there are approximately 30 million practicing Sikhs worldwide.

Taoism (Daoism)

Taoism, also spelled Daoism, is an ancient religion and philosophy with its origins in Ancient China. The teachings of Taoism are first associated with Lao Tzu, a philosopher who authored the core text for Taoism,Tao Te Ching,around 500 BCE. Taoists believe in spiritual immortality, a connection to the universe after death, and living a life that is in harmony with the universe. The concept of yinandyangfinds its origins in Taoism as an explanation of this belief in harmony and balance of forces. The concept of yinand yangrepresent matching pairs (examples beinglight and dark, hot and cold, action and inaction) which work together toward a "universal whole." Taoism teachesthat everything in the universe is connected and that nothing makes sense by itself.

Taoism became well-known in the eighth century C.E. as the religion of the Tang dynasty, and about 12 million people are practicing Taoists today.


Atheism is defined, in general, as the body of thought wherein atheists espouse a disbelief in the metaphysical (including beliefs in God(s) andspiritual beings) and a rejection of religion.

Atheism is often conflated with agnosticism, which is different in that agnostics believe in the possibility of the metaphysical should measurable, proven evidenceor knowledge about the existence of gods and deities be provided,while also acknowledging that these philosophical questions are currently unanswered and/or unanswerable. Atheists, on the other hand, do not believe in the possibility of the metaphysical. Atheism is a complex philosophical concept with early recorded writings as far back as the sixth or fifth century BCE.

Here are resources for a deeper dive into Atheism.

KLS Community - Do you have a suggestion for resources related to religious diversity and faith practices to add to this list? Send us a note at communications@kls.org.