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- Matt Rosenberg
- Geography Expert
- Christianity: with 2,116,909,552 members (which includes 1,117,759,185 Roman Catholics, 372,586,395 Protestants,...
- Islam: with 1,282,780,149 members worldwide believers of Islam are referred to as Muslims. While Islam is very popular...
- Hinduism: There are 856,690,863 Hindus in the world. It is one of the oldest religions and is practiced mostly...
- Christianity (with all of its branches and sects) Christianity is by far the most popular of the world religions. In fact, today it counts about 2.5 billion followers or roughly 31.5% of the world’s population.
- Islam (with all of its Branches and Sects) Islam is another Abrahamic monotheistic religion. It teaches that there is only one god and the prophet Muhammad is his messenger.
- Hinduism. Hinduism is an Indian religion and dharma, which translates to a way of life. The followers of Hinduism are called Hindus. It is mainly practiced in India.
- Buddhism. The Buddhist religion resembles Hinduism in many ways. It is both a religion and a dharma, that includes many different traditions, beliefs, and spiritual practices that are mainly based on the original teachings of Gautama Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama, Shakyamuni Buddha or just Buddha.
- Christianity. Followers: 2.4 Billion. As kids, we learn a few things about Christianity especially the story of the birth of Jesus. Christianity is the world’s biggest religion with more than 2 billion followers worldwide that believe only in one god.
- Islam. Followers: 1.8 Billion. As we all know, Muslims follow the prophet Muhammad whom they believed to be the last and most important prophet of god. They also believe that Jesus is a prophet of god instead of the son of god.
- Hinduism. Followers: 1 Billion. According to many scholars, Hinduism is the world’s oldest religion with roots and customs dating back more than 4,000 years.
- Chinese Folk Religion. Followers: 394 Millions. This sounds new, but it is actually the combination of common religions in China that people follow including Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism.
- Cao Dai
Cao Dai was a belief system that originated in Vietnam in 1926, and is regarded as a distinctly nationalist Vietnamese religion. The faith was founded by Ngo Van Chieu, a former administrator who believed that he had received a message from the deity revered as the "Supreme Being" during an extraordinary experience he had at a seance. Cao Dai draws elements from other major world religions, including Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, and Taoism. The religion’s full name translates to “The Great Faith for the Third Universal Redemption”. Devotees believe in the existence of one Supreme Being, regardless of whatever label or name (ie. God or Allah) other religions have chosen to impose on this central deity . Practitioners of Cao Dai place a great deal of stress on universal concepts, such as justice, love, peace, and tolerance.
Muism (which is also known as Sinism, Shingyo, or Korean shamanism) is a religion closely tied to traditional Korean culture and history. The faith can trace its roots all the way back to prehistory. In recent years, Muism has experienced a resurgence within South Korea. Even within the totalitarian regime of North Korea, it has been estimated that some 16 % of the population continue to subscribe to the Muism belief system. Among the key components of the religion include the existence of ghosts, spirits, and gods, and these are believed to inhabit the spirit world. The spiritual leaders in Muism, known as "Mudangs", are typically females whose function is to serve as intermediaries between the gods and human beings.
Daoism originated in China about two thousand years ago. Also referred to as Taoism, this religion is associated with a belief in the occult and the metaphysical. The majority of Daoist followers live in such Asian countries as China, Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam. A man named Laozi is considered to have been the first philosopher of the religion, and it is he who was thought to have written the Daodejing, a text central to the faith. In terms of political issues, Daoists are generally regarded as being somewhat libertarians, with a preference for governments which shy away from political interference and the imposition of regulations and economic restrictions. Diet plays an important role in Daoist philosophy, especially as in regards to one’s all around physical and psychological well being. In keeping with this belief system, practices such as fasting and Veganism (abstaining from animal products) are encouraged.
Judaism has a long and storied history, and one which can trace its beginnings all the way back to around the Eighth Century BC. This monotheistic religion originated in the Middle, East and is made up of three main branches. Namely, these are Orthodox Judaism, Conservative Judaism, and Reform Judaism (ranked from most to least conservatively traditional). Although each of these are rooted in a common belief system, they differ on elements related to scriptural interpretation and specific practices. The synagogues, each presided over by a rabbi, serve as the centers for Jewish worship and religious services. These are also used as a form of community centers. Therein, followers have the opportunities to gather together on a regular basis in order to socialize, celebrate, study the Torah, and learn about the Mitzvot (commandments of the faith).
In terms of world religions, Sikhism is a relatively new faith. It began in India, and is based on the teachings of Guru Nanak and his Ten Successors. Historically, Sikhs have played major roles in regional politics, and and were a significant influence during the Partition of India in 1947. Central to the Sikh faith are the core tenets of sewa and simran, which relate to community service and the remembrance of God, respectively. Although the majority of Sikh believers continue to reside in northern India, over the years a great many followers have moved to a number of diverse foreign countries of the world, including Canada, the United States, South Africa, Australia, and the United Kingdom, among others
Shintoism is based in Japan. and its beginnings are thought to date back to the Eighth Century. Followers of the faith believe in the existence of many gods, and the word Shinto itself translates into the “way of the gods.” It’s been estimated that 80% of Japanese citizens subscribe to Shintoism, with that country alone serving as a home to over 80 thousand Shinto shrines. One unique feature of the faith is that believers are not required to publicly declare their allegiance to the religion. The concepts of impurity and purification play major roles in Shintoism and its rites, which are known as Harae. These are performed on a regular basis with an aim to purify believers of sin, guilt, disease, and even bad luck.
Buddhism was founded in Ancient India about 2,500 years ago, and is based on the teachings of Buddha, alternatively known as Gautama Buddha or Siddhārtha Gautama, born in . The religion includes two main branches, Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism. In the country of Tibet, followers subscribe to a form of Buddhism known as Vajrayana, while Zen Buddhism is more commonly practiced in Japan. The main tenets of the Buddhist belief system include nonviolence, as well as moral purity and ethical behavior. Meditation, karma, and nonviolence all play major roles in Buddhists' daily lives. Without a doubt, the most recognized figure in the Buddhist world is Tenzin Gyatso, who is best known as the 14th, and current, Dalai Lama. This former monk is not only Tibet’s current (and exiled) spiritual leader, but also an outspoken peace activist.
The majority of Hindus reside in such Southern Asian countries as India, Nepal, and Indonesia. In the nation of India alone, an estimated 80% of the population identify themselves as being Hindus. Although not a lot is known about the founding of Hinduism, the faith is widely thought to have developed over a span of some 4,000 years. Due to its status as an ancient belief system, Hinduism is deeply entrenched within Indian society. In recent years, many of the practices of Hinduism have become increasingly popular in the West as well. Examples of this include the participation in yoga, as well as interests in information pertaining to the body’s chakrasystem (energy points located throughout the human body which can be used for healing and improving health, both spiritually and physically).
Islam began in Mecca in the Seventh Century. Followers of religion believe there is only god (Allah) whose words were written down and took form in the holy book of the Quar’an, which still serves as the central spiritual text in the faith. One of the historical figures central to understanding the Muslim tradition is the Prophet Muhammad, who lived from 570 to 632 CE. Followers of Islam believe that this man was God’s ultimate prophet. Islamic religious law not only lays out the Five Pillars of Islam, but also imposes rules and regulations on almost every aspect of a follower’s life. There are two major factions of Muslims, namely Sunni (the largest globally including ~80% of all Muslims) and Shia (~15% of all Muslims), among with Ibadi, Ahmadi, and many other, much smaller, denominations. Currently, Islam is the fastest growing religion on the planet in absolute terms of followers worldwide.
Christianity began over two thousand years ago, and is a faith based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. From its humble beginnings as a tiny sub-group evolved from Judaism, Christianity has grown to become the most popular religion in the world, with followers to be found all across the globe. Christians believe in the existence of one God who sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to save humanity from their iniquity and Hell. Followers believe that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (Crucifixion), his death, and his resurrection were all carried out in service towards granting eternal life and forgiveness to all of those who accept Christ as their personal savior. Even in our modern society, Christianity plays an important and powerful role, not only in terms of religious rituals, but also on a much wider scale. In some degree, it even does so in terms of shaping social and political policies of Christian-dominant nations.
Atheism refers to either the absence of a belief in the existence of deities or to an active belief that deities do not exist. This belief system rejects theology as well as the constructs of organized religion. Use of the term originated in the ancient world and was meant to degrade those who rejected commonly accepted religious precepts. It was first self-applied during the Age of Enlightenment in 18th century France. The French Revolution was driven by the prioritization of human reason over the abstract authority of religion. This prompted a period of skeptical inquiry, one in which atheism became an important cultural, philosophical, and political entity. Many who characterize themselves as atheists argue that a lack of proof or scientific process prevents the belief in a deity. Some who refer to themselves as secular humanists have developed a code of ethics that exists separate from the worship of a deity. Determining the actual number of “practicing” atheists is quite diffic...
The Bahá’í faith is essentially a spiritual ideology that teaches the value of all religions, espousing the importance of universal equality and unity. Bahá’u’lláh, the founding figure in the Bahá’í faith, officially established his ideology in 1863 in Persia (or modern-day Iran). As something of a hybrid of other faiths, Bahá’í grew out of the tradition of Babism, which itself emerged from an Islamic denomination called Shaykhism. (Today, Babism exists with a few thousand adherents, concentrated largely in Iran, and standing separately from the Islamic ideologies that surround it.) Like Babism, Bahá’í incorporates some of the teachings of Islam but merges them with some Christian principles. The central governing body of the Bahá’í faith, a nine-member council called the Universal House of Justice, operates from Haifa, Israel. Today, the Bahá’í faith has somewhere between five and seven million adherents around the world.
Buddhismis both a religion and philosophy. The traditions and beliefs surrounding Buddhism can be traced to the original teachings of Gautama Buddha, a sagely thinker who is believed to have lived between the fourth and sixth centuries BCE. The Buddha lived and taught in the eastern part of ancient India, providing the template for a faith based on the ideas of moral rectitude, freedom from material attachment or desire, the achievement of peace and illumination through meditation, and a life dedicated to wisdom, kindness, and compassion. The Buddha’s teachings proliferated widely through much of Asia in the centuries that followed. Though its scriptures and traditions inform countless subsequent sects and ideologies, Buddhism is largely divided into two branches: Theravada — the goal of which is to achieve freedom from ignorance, material attachment, and anger by practicing the Noble Eightfold Path, all in pursuit of a sublime state called Nirvana; and Mahayana — the goal of which...
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. Christianity teaches that Jesus is the Son of God and the Messiah (the savior of humanity foretold in the Torah, the primary scriptural doctrine of the Jewish faith). Christian scripture incorporates both the Torah (referred to by Christians as the Old Testament) with the story of Jesus, his teachings, and those of his contemporaneous disciples (the New Testament). These form the Bible, the central text of the Christian faith. Christianity began in Jerusalem as an outgrowth of Judaism that considered Jesus the Christ (meaning “anointed one”). This idea and its adherents spread rapidly through ancient Judea around the first century CE, then throughout the ancient world. Christians believe Jesus successfully met and completed all the requirements of the Old Testament laws, took upon himself the sins of the world during his crucifixion, died, and rose to life again so that those who place their...
Confucianismwas a dominant form of philosophy and religious orientation in ancient China, one that emerged from the teachings of Chinese philosopher Confucius, who lived 551–479 BCE. Confucius viewed himself as a channel for the theological ideas emerging from the imperial dynasties that came before him. With an emphasis on family and social harmony, Confucianism was a distinctly humanist and even secularist religious ideology. Confucianism had a profound impact on the development of Eastern legal customs and the emergence of a scholar class (and with it, a meritocratic way of governing). Confucianism would engage in a historic push and pull with the philosophies of Buddhism and Taoism, experiencing ebbs and flows in influence, with high points during the Han (206 BCE to 220 CE), Tang (618–907 CE) and Song (960–1296 CE) Dynasties. As Buddhism became the dominant spiritual force in China, Confucianism declined in practice. And with the emergence of communism and Maoism in the 20th ce...
Druzerefers to an Arabic ethnoreligious group that originated in and still largely inhabits the Mountain of Druze region in southern Syria. Despite a small population of adherents, the Druze nonetheless play an important role in the development of their region (known in historical shorthand as the Levant). The Druze view themselves as the direct descendants of Jethro of Midian, distinguished in Jewish scripture as the father-in-law of Moses. The Druze consider Jethro a “hidden” prophet, one through whom God spoke to “revealed prophet” Moses. As such, the Druze are considered related to Judaism by marriage. Like their in-laws, the Druze are monotheistic, professing faith in only one God. Druze ideologies are something of a hybrid though, drawing from the cultural teachings of Islam, but also incorporating the wisdom of Greek philosophers, such as Plato, and concepts of reincarnation similar to those in Hindu canon. Jethro’s status as a hidden prophet is an important conceptual dimens...
Gnosticismlikely refers not to a single religious orientation but to an “interreligious phenomenon” in which various groups across an array of regions evolved to a similar set of beliefs and ideas. A term adapted in modern historical discourse, gnosticism concerns the variety of religious systems and beliefs in the ancient world that emerged from the Judeo-Christian tradition. These belief systems held that emanations from a single God were responsible for the creation of the material world and that, as such, all humans carried the divine spark of God. Gnosticism is dualistic and draws sharp divides between the superior spiritual world and the inferior material world, with the gaining or receiving of special, hidden knowledge (“gnosis”) allowing transcendence from one realm to another. Emerging in the first century CE — in close concert with the emergence of Christianity — gnosticism is perhaps best understand as the intermediary set of ideas shared by portions of the world as Chris...
Hinduismis regarded by some as the world’s oldest religion, likely dating back to what is known on the Indian subcontinent as the Vedic age. During this period, 1500–600 BCE, civilization transitioned from tribal and pastoral living into settled and agricultural living. From this emerged social classes, state-entities, and monarchies. The primary texts retelling this period of history are called the Vedas and would significantly inform the so-called Hindu Synthesis. The Hindu Synthesis was a period of time, roughly 500 BCE to 300 CE, in which the precepts of Hinduism solidified from multiple intertwining strands of Indian spiritual and cultural tradition, emerging from a broad range of philosophies to share a unifying set of concepts. Critical among these concepts is the theme of the Four Purusarthas, or goals, of human life: Dharma (ethics and duties), Artha (prosperity and work), Kama (desires and passions), and Moksha (liberation and salvation). Other important concepts include k...
Islam is a monotheistic religion that — like Christianity and Judaism — traces its roots to the Garden of Eden, Adam, and the prophet Abraham. Islam teaches that Allah is the only God and that Muhammed is his messenger. Islam holds that God spoke to Muhammed through the archangel Gabriel some time around 600 CE, delivering the revelations that would form the Quran. This primary text of the Islamic faith is believed by adherents to contain the exact words of God and therefore provides a full and nonnegotiable blueprint for how to live. The Quran and the Islamic legal code known as Shariainform every aspect of life, from ethics and worship to family matters and business dealings. Islam holds that good behavior and adherence will lead to an afterlife in paradise, whereas disregard for Muhammed’s teachings will lead to damnation. The Islamic faith proliferated rapidly through the Middle East, particularly around the three holiest sites of the faith: Mecca, where an awakened Muhammed mad...
Jainism is an ancient Indian religion that — according to its adherents — can be traced through a succession of 24 sagely teachers. The first of these teachers is thought to have been Rishabhanatha, who lived millions of years ago. Jainism’s primary tenets are ahiṃsā (nonviolence), anekāntavāda (many-sidedness), aparigraha (nonattachment) and asceticism (abstinence from pleasure). These and other concepts are outlined in the Acaranga Sutra, the oldest of the Jainist scriptures. As one of the earliest extant religious traditions to emerge from the spiritually fertile Indian subcontinent, Jainism both shares with and diverges from features of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions that also emerged there. Like Hindu and Buddhism, Jainism teaches the doctrines of karma, rebirth, and monastic (as opposed to theistic) spiritual practices. Jainists believe the soul is an ever-changing thing, bound to the body only for a lifetime, which differs from Hindu or Buddhist ideas about the soul as par...