The British sprite Puck hands out pamphlets to racist caricatures of delegates attending the first World's Parliament of Religions in 1889. The pamphlets proclaim "Do unto others whatsoever thou wilt that others shall do unto thee," which Puck claims as the "best religion in existence."
Illustration by Frederick Burr Opper, Puck magazine, courtesy Library of Congress

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  • On September 11, 1893, the first World’s Parliament of Religions was held in Chicago, Illinois. The conference, held in conjunction with Chicago’s huge world's fair that year, is generally considered the first interfaith meeting between Eastern and Western spiritual leaders. 
     
    One of the most dynamic and memorable speakers at the conference was the Hindu monk Vivekananda. Vivekananda introduced thousands of Westerners to Hinduism and how the faith functioned in Indian society.
     
    Vivekananda’s speech emphasized the strength and unity common in all religions and spiritualties, and the dangers of religious fanaticism. The speech concluded:
     
    Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful Earth. They have filled the Earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.”
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    bigotry Noun

    prejudice or intolerance.

    civilization Noun

    complex way of life that developed as humans began to develop urban settlements.

    Encyclopedic Entry: civilization
    conclude Verb

    to end or finish.

    conference Noun

    meeting for discussion.

    conjunction Noun

    combination of items, events, or ideas.

    convention Noun

    formal meeting, usually with representatives from different regions or parties.

    demon Noun

    evil spirit or magical creature.

    descendant Noun

    children, grandchildren, and other offspring.

    despair noun, verb

    hopelessness.

    destroy Verb

    to ruin or make useless.

    drench Verb

    to soak or cover with water.

    dynamic Adjective

    always changing or in motion.

    emphasize Verb

    to stress or place importance on.

    fanaticism Noun

    irrational, obsessive, or out-of-proportion devotion to something.

    fervent Adjective

    passionate.

    function Verb

    to work or work correctly.

    Hindu Noun

    religion of the Indian subcontinent with many different sub-types, most based around the idea of "daily morality."

    horrible Adjective

    terrible or very bad.

    interfaith Adjective

    having to do with two or more religions or spiritualities.

    introduce Verb

    to create, begin, or make an idea known for the first time.

    knell Noun

    sound made by a bell run slowly.

    monk Noun

    person who has withdrawn from everyday society and lives in service to a religious order.

    parliament Noun

    legislature, usually a democratic government's decision-making body.

    persecution Noun

    process of discriminating against and, often, violently confronting a group of people based on their ethnicity, religion, or beliefs.

    possess Verb

    to have or own.

    religion Noun

    a system of spiritual or supernatural belief.

    sectarian Adjective

    narrow-minded and dedicated to a specific faction of a belief system.

    society Noun

    large community, linked through similarities or relationships.

    spiritual Adjective

    having to do with religion or faith.

    toll Verb

    to ring a bell so it makes a regular series of loud, slow, single sounds.

    uncharitable Adjective

    not kind or generous.

    unity Noun

    togetherness.

    violence Noun

    acts that cause physical harm to another person.

    wend Verb

    to travel or pursue a direction.

    world's fair Noun

    large exhibit with international displays.