Most people think of Disney, Hollywood or the Dodgers when visiting Los Angeles. LA is a cultural, financial and commercial center in the United States. You may not think of religion when enjoying all LA has to offer, but it’s also a religious center with a wide variety of faiths in the region. Although Christianity is the largest practiced religion in the community, LA is home to the second largest population of Jews in the U.S. and has the greatest variety of Buddhists in the world.
Where You Can Explore Faith When You’re in Los Angeles
Here are some of the most prominent faith-based museums in the LA area:
- American Jewish University
This college in Bel-Air features two art galleries that host Jewish and non-Jewish art. Prominent visual artists are featured for educational and cultural purposes. The university also houses the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, honoring the achievements of Jewish sports figures such as Mark Spitz, Mitch Gaylord and Lyle Alzado. Visit the Smalley Sculpture Garden to reflect, meditate and study. Modern artists are featured in the garden, many of whom have Jewish heritage.
- Diorama-museum of Bhagavad-gita
This museum focuses on the Bhagavad-gita, the “definitive guide to the science of self-realization.” It’s a multimedia exhibition that explains the story of the Krishna. You’ll learn a lot about the Hare Krishna movement, a religion that is often misunderstood.
- Mission San Fernando Rey de España
This museum was one of the original Spanish missions in the area. Today, it’s used as a chapel-of-ease and houses a museum of artifacts from the Mexican church. Bob Hope is buried in the cemetery on the grounds. The mission has also been used in television and film. It features many religious objects and exhibits on archbishops and cardinals who served in the area.
- Earl & Virginia Green Art Gallery
This gallery on the campus of Biola University is named after the parents of noted writer and philanthropist Roberta Ahmanson. Contemporary Christian art by students and noted artists from around the world is on display to encourage dialogue about the intersection of art and faith.
- Museum of Tolerance
Although technically not a faith-based museum, this museum features one of the best exhibits about the Holocaust. The mission of the Museum of Tolerance is to focus on racism and prejudice. The Tolerencenter is a place where prejudice issues in everyday life can be discussed.
Psychiatry: An Industry of Death
The Church of Scientology supports this museum that is often criticized by the psychiatry industry. Still, it offers a glimpse into what the religion believes. It is considered a religious museum.
Skirball Cultural Center
You’ll find exhibitions about Jewish culture and history in this museum that has a collection of more than 30,000 artifacts. Current exhibitions include one on Noah’s Ark and another on the vision and values of the Jewish people. Jim Henson and Leonard Bernstein are just two of the upcoming exhibitions that should be fun and educational.
- California African American Museum
This museum preserves the history, art and culture of African Americans throughout the United States, with an emphasis on California. It supports the work of under-represented artists of color. Currently, it features a special exhibit on gospel music in Los Angeles through the end of August.
- Wayfarers Chapel
Although not a museum, this glass-encased chapel should be on your list of places to visit. It was designed by organic architect Lloyd Wright, the son of the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, to overlook the Pacific Ocean. Wright was inspired by the Redwood trees, using nature as a framework for the architecture. It’s considered one of the best examples of organic architecture in the United States.