URI Kids: World Religions

We hope the information contained in these pages helps to serve as an introduction to some of the many religions and spiritual traditions in the world.

What is religion? What is a spiritual tradition?

Religion is all or some of the attributes described below. Religion is different for different people and cultures. Some religion is so much a part of the culture of a given people that it is not so much a formal religion, but simply the spiritual aspects of that culture or group - the spiritual traditions which help define it. This is especially true of the indigenous traditions of a geographical area.

Religion or a spiritual tradition is:

  • a way of explaining the mysteries of life
    • how the world was created
    • why it was created
    • why there is life and death
    • what happens when people die
    • why there is suffering
  • a way of explaining a supreme power or absolute power, whether impersonal or personal, nameable or not
  • a way of explaining who or what created the world and all the living beings
  • a way of describing a dimension beyond the physical world -- the spiritual world
  • a way of explaining how to lead a good life on Earth and in an afterlife
    • these codes of behavior are often written in sacred documents or passed down through oral tradition
  • a way of worshiping the creator(s) or spiritual beings who are believed to have power over the world and people's lives and/or a way of paying respects and drawing inspiration from spiritual leaders
    • worship often includes prayers of thanks, prayers of hopes, prayers of supplication
    • people often worship a god or gods worship often happens in sacred places and spaces
    • worship often includes ceremonies and rituals conducted by spiritual guides
    • worship often involves sacred objects and images A way of joining with others as a spiritual community
    • religions and other spiritual traditions often celebrate festivals or holy days and have special calendars that mark the important historical events in the evolution of the religion religions and spiritual traditions include both private and public worship and practice
    • some spiritual practices do not involve worshipping a god or gods but are introspective and draw on the practitioner's own ability to be responsible for his/her spiritual path

There is special information and activities contained within for teachers. Teachers, please visit our Activities section.

This section attempts to introduce young people to the wonder and diversity of the world's religions and spiritual traditions. We have tried to present simple, straight forward, accurate information about the world's five major religions and many other smaller religions and spiritual traditions. We recognize the complexity and challenges of this task. Please feel free to contact us with your suggestions.