Predominant Religions: Buddhism 92.3%, Islam 5.2%. Christianity 1.6%
Originally known as Siam, Thailand changed its name in the mid-twentieth century. “Thailand” means “land of the free” in the Thai language and reflects the fact it is the only Southeast Asian nation never to have been taken over by a European power. Although politically free, the nation is in bondage to a complex web of culture, spirit appeasement, occult practices, and Buddhism, which is the state religion.
Theravada Buddhism was introduced in Thailand in 329 B.C. Almost all of the Thai are devout followers of Buddha (“the enlightened one”) and seek to eliminate suffering and improve their future by gaining merit in pursuit of perfect peace, or nirvana. They believe that merit can be acquired through feeding monks, donating to temples, and attending worship services. Traditionally, young men enter a Buddhist monastery for three months to study Buddhism.
The Thai also attempt to incorporate their Buddhist beliefs with folk animism, a practice in which they seek help through the worship of spirits and objects such as amulets. Thailand is often promoted as the “most thoroughly Buddhist country in the world,” and the common belief that “to be Thai is to be Buddhist” pervades all of Thai society.