[This article is currently under revision]
“Religion - A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe” – www.Dictionary.com
In the world today, there are over 10,000 distinct religious groups, each advocating a particular way of life, preaching a different path to achieve lasting happiness. Many of these groups are connected to a larger central religious belief system, such as Catholicism is connected to Christianity, or Sunnism is connected to Islam. However, regardless of any such connections, religious and denominational differences are large enough to warrant separation of religious groups.
With the plethora of religious, convictions, congregations, and contentions, it may sometimes appear as a big mess or worse, a ridiculous practical joke of God (that is, if we are still to believe there is God, or that He even cares). While religions often have many differences in theological details, there appears to be some basic theological and moral ideas that virtually all religions espouse. Few would dispute the morality of respect for individuals, cooperation, humility, self-discipline, and acceptance of personal responsibility[i].
Unfortunately, it seems the majority of people seem to choose to overlook the vast complimenting and similarities between belief systems to focus in on the minute, and often petty, differences causing ignorance, misunderstanding, hate, and fanaticism.
This publican is designed to provide a better understanding of the religious composition of the world, to understand the basics of what the largest religions believe, and to cultivate a spirit of collaboration, unity, and understanding. This task is impossibly large and complex. Thousands of books have been constructed to detail the nuances and theologies of the world’s religions. As such, the efforts of this publican may seem rather perfunctory in comparison. However, I publish this in hopes that others will take some time to learn and to wonder about the great questions of life. You may already be heavily religious or even an atheist but those are not excuses to be ignorant of the billions of people around you who live in different paradigms with different beliefs. Each philosophical framework provide us with useful philosophies, which may be implemented to enhance life.
For the purpose of this publican, “World Religion” is here defined as “a religion with a global following not restricted to members of a particular society, nation, or culture.” I will consider only these nine religions to qualify as world religions. Some include many more and some confine it to only a few, or even categorize the larger religions into sects of previous religions.
In this post I will briefly summarize the belief and histories of these nine world religions in order of their adherents. The following graph displays the adherents of each of the nine respective world religions.
Around 30 AD
2,000,000,000 - 2,200,000,000
1,570,000,000 - 1,650,000,000
Unknown (5500–2600 BCE)
829,000,000 - 1,000,000,000
Between 563-400 BCE
400,000,000 – 1,500,000,000
Unknown, first written 712AD
27,000,000 – 65,000,000,000
24,000,000 – 28,000,000
18th Century BCE
14,000,000 – 18,000,000
9th Century BCE
6,000,000 – 12,000,000
7,600,000 – 7,900,000
The first religion I will discuss here, and largest religion, is Christianity, which has approximately 2.1 billion followers. In Christianity there are several “break offs” or sects, which is where religions such as the Protestants, Methodists, Anglicans, Orthodox, Baptist, Lutheran, Adventists (and so on) originate. These along with the “original” Roman Catholic Church constitute the 2.1 billion Christians.
Protestant (Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal, etc.)
|Church of Christ, Scientist||0.4|
Christianity started out about 2000 years ago. It started when Jesus was conceived “through the Holy Spirit” to be born of the Virgin Mary. This happened in what is now Israel, in Bethlehem, a small town outside of the large city of Jerusalem(map). Jesus was born a Jew and followed in his adopted father’s trade of carpentry. However, when Jesus was 30 years old he started a religious ministry to the Jews where he claimed to be the Son of God sent to the Jews to correct some practices they had gone astray in. Jesus gained an ever-growing following, performing many miracles, and teaching basic principles of love and kindness. During his ministry he ordained twelve disciples (or Apostles) who followed him and learned from him. He set on them the capacity to perpetuate the church, giving them the keys necessary. According to Christianity, Jesus is the only one that lived on earth that lived the perfect life and fulfilled all righteousness. Christians see Jesus as a fulfillment of God’s covenant with the Jews and the mark of a new covenant with the followers of Christ. As was done of old, the paschal lamb (Jesus) was sacrificed on the alter to enable the remission of sins, the Passover was a foreshadowing of this culminating event. He then rose from the and appeared to his disciples, taught them for forty days, and told them to go forth and spread his message, promising that he would return again. He charged them to bring the gospel to the World.After Christ’s assent to heaven the apostles preached the gospel throughout the land, though all were eventually killed and martyred. Many denominations were created that had varying beliefs of what happened during Christ’s lifetime, many claimed succession, and claimed to be called to continue the Gospel, each having slightly different points of view. Not until Constantine the Great in 313AD claimed to see a glowing cross in a dream was Christianity united. Constantine gathered all the denominations and in 325 he called the Council of Nicaea(see also) to vote, discussed, and debated the fundamental doctrine, much of which was in question at the time. From this time forth Christianity was singularized into the one religion, which is now known as the Catholic Church.
At this time the Church filled Europe but was ruled from Rome. Those who disagreed with the doctrines or practices were called heretics and were usually d and killed, but in 1054 a centuries old rivalry concerning the location from which the church should be governed resulted in the split of the church into the "Roman Catholic Church" or "Western Christianity" with headquarters in Rome and the "Greek Orthodox church" or "Eastern Christianity" in Constantinople Greece(Now Istanbul).
From the time 1096-1204 the Christians set out on a military expedition to take the holy land from the Muslims. Which is now known as "The Crusades".Which was a y time and often thought a shameful and black time in Christian history.
Centuries later in the 16th century the Bible was finally printed into common languages so all could read it and people began to openly question the church. This began the protestant religions which protested the catholic religion saying that it did not conform with the teachings of the Bible. This helped progress what we know now as Religious freedom, and helped separate Government from religion. Now there are thousands of Christian Sects once again, each teaching a slightly different Gospel.
The most famous and influential reformers include(listed by linear time line) Waldo (Waldenses), John Wycliffe(first one to translate the bible into English) , Martin Luther(Lutherans), John Smith(Baptists), John Calvin and John Knox (Presbyterianism), John and Charles Weasley (Methodists),
Christians generally believe there in only one God, that he is almighty, has created us in his image, and has sent his son to atone for our sins, that through his , he can save us through sin and . He calls prophets to lead us when we need correction or, we are ready for more information to lead us to God.
Christians believe in resurrection after , that when you die you will be in a term of waiting (some think this does not exist but is instantaneous) and then after the cleansing of the earth all will be judged and will be sentenced to heaven or hell. There is also said to be a resurrection of the body, meaning that you will be reunited with your body in a perfect and immortal state. The differences in these doctrines vary from the various churches and is difficult to generalize.
Among basic Christian the most popular and known teachings are those of the Ten Commandments found in exodus, which consists of: (text)(kjv)
1) Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2) Thou shalt not make any graven image
3) Thou shalt no take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.
4) Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
5) Honor thy father and thy mother
6) Thou shalt not kill
7) Thou shalt not commit ery
8) Thou shalt no bear false witness
9) Thou shalt not steal
10) Thou shalt not covet
And the two greater laws Jesus gave when he asked by a man which of the commands were the greatest. He answered and said
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”(text)(kjv)
The accepted scripture includes the Torah, Neviim, and Kethuvim which together is known as the Tanakh, which is now being called the “Original Testament” or the “Old Testament”. Christians also believe in the “New Testament” or the “New Covenant”, which contains the Gospels of the Apostles, or the account of the apostles of Jesus, The Acts, The Epistles, and The Apocalypse of John. The Apocrypha is also for the most part accepted, though most do not rely on it, or consider it official cannon scripture.
The second largest religion is the Islam faith, with about 1.3 billion followers. From it comes three sects, Sunnism(with around 940 million), Sah’l’ism(with around 170 million), and Sufism(with around 2 million). One who follows Islam is called a Muslim. Both Islam and Muslim literally mean “A person who surrenders himself to God”.
Islam is was founded around 622AD by a northern Arabic man named when Muhammad,who resided in the town of Mecca, Muhammad had a hard childhood as his father died 6 months before he was born, so he was sent to live with his relatives until he was six years old at which went to live with his mother, who died shortly after, leaving him an orphan. He then went to live in a family that could only meet his bare physical essentials.
There is not much known of Muhammad during his youth and from the fragmentary information that we have, it is hard to separate history from legend. It is known that he became a merchant and was involved in trade between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, where it is said he gained a reputation for reliability and honesty.
Mohammad often went to the mountains to meditate and at the age of 40 he saw a vision of the angel Gabriel while he was meditating in a cave outside Mecca. Muhammad claimed that he had been chosen by God, like the prophets before him. The role of Muhammad as the last prophet was to formalize and clarify the faith and purify it by removing ideas which were added in error. Muhammad revealed the scripture now known as the Qur’an (Koran). The actual text was transmitted orally and in text fragments, and was not standardized until sometime between 650-655A.D. In the eyes of Islam it is the only infallible text on earth.
Muslims are monotheistic believing in a single supreme being which is God. As Muslims hold the Torah, or the first five books of Moses as scripture the very basics and fundamentals of God are common among many denominations of Christians, save the trinitarian belief, or the belief that the Godhead consists of "God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Ghost". Muslims believe they are a restoration of the primitive church that is found in Adam and the books of moses and that throughout history the teaching have been corrupted by man.
Islamic belief in predestination, also known as foreordination or divine preordainment, which is called Qadr, which means that God has full knowledge and control over all that occurs. In the Qur’an it states
Say: 'Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us: He is our protector'…"(text)
This means that everything in the world that occurs, good or evil, has been preordained and nothing can happen unless permitted by God.
The understanding of predestination is called "divine justice" (Adalah). This doctrine, originally developed by the Mu'tazila, stresses the importance of man's responsibility for his own actions. In contrast, the Sunni deemphasize the role of individual free will in the context of God's creation and foreknowledge of all things.
In Islam, religion and social membership are inseparable: the ruler of the community has both a religious and a political status. This system governs relations between a person and God, and a person and society, and has contributed to the appeal and success of Islam.
Their beliefs include The Five Pillars of Faith; which dictates the duties of all Muslims. They are as follows:
1. Recite the shahadah at least once.
3. Donate regularly to charity via the zakat, a 2.5% charity tax, and through additional donations to the needy.
4. Fast during the month of Ramadan, the month that Muhammad received the Qur'an from Allah.
5. Make pilgrimage to Makkah at least once in life, if economically and physically possible..
Muslims belief in the "Day of Resurrection", and is a crucial event. They believe that the time of Qiyamah is preordained by God but unknown to man. The trials and tribulations and during the Qiyamah are described in the Qur'an and the hadith, the torah and also in the commentaries of Islamic scholars. The Qur'an itself emphasizes bodily resurrection; it states that resurrection will be followed by the gathering of mankind, culminating in their judgment by God.
Muslims believe at the resurrection that God will hold every human, Muslim and non-Muslim, accountable for their deeds at a preordained time unknown to man. Traditions say Muhammad will be the first to be brought back to life. The Qur'an states that some sins can condemn someone to hell. These include lying, dishonesty, corruption, Disbelief, usury, ignoring God or God's revelations, denying the resurrection, refusing to feed the poor, indulging in opulence and ostentation, and oppressing or economically exploiting others.
There is a list of several sins that can condemn a person to hell, such as disbelief, usury, and dishonesty. Muslims view paradise(or jannah) as a place of joy and bliss, and describe its features and the physical pleasures to come. There are also references to a greater joy which is acceptance by God (known as ridwan).
Their basic beliefs in texual and scriptual guidance also relate to Christianity and Judaism beliefs and scripture. Along with the Qu’an Muslims also believe the Torah of Moses, the Psalms of David, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but believe all these have been corrupted by Jews and Christians. They show great love to God and the prophet Muhammad, and they stress the oneness of God, and not the "plurality" as they believe is found in the Christian concept of God and the trinity.
Although Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet they do not believe that he died on the cross to brake the bonds of , nor that he atoned for the sins for the world, or that he was anything other than a mortal man and a prophet. They believe this theology was the results of the people of the time altering documents and exaggerating the facts.
Hinduism is the third largest religion with around 1 billion followers, of whom approximately 890 million live in India. Other countries with large Hindu populations include Nepal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Fiji, Guyana, and Indonesia. Large communities of Hindus include, 15 million Hindus live in Bangladesh, 2 million in Pakistan, 1 million in the United Arab Emirates, and 1.4 million in the United States.
Hinduism is also referred to as Sanatana Dharma a Sanskrit phrase meaning "eternal law". Hinduism originated sometime between the time of 4000BC and 2500 BC.
Hinduism originates from ancient Vedic traditions and other indigenous beliefs, incorporated over time. Due to its diversity Hinduism can only be defined in terms of peoples and places. It is possible to find Hindu groups whose beliefs have very little in common and nearly impossible to identify any universal belief.
Hinduism is one of the oldest living religious traditions in the world. Unlike many other religions, Hinduism has no single founder, and there is no clerical hierarchy of the type found in the Roman Catholic Church. Buddhism, Janism, and Sikhism share traits with Hinduism, because these religions originated in India and focus on self-improvement with the general aim of attaining personal experiences. They along with Hinduism are collectively known as Dharmic Religions.
For a Hindu there are several prominent themes of doctrine, which include Dharma (ethics and duties), Samsara (The continuing cycle of life), Karma (action and subsequent reaction), and Moksha (liberation from samsara).
Hindus have a strong belief in the unity of everything. This totality is called Brahman. The purpose of life is to realize that we are part of God and by doing so we can leave this plane of existence and rejoin with God (Brahman). When you die your immortal soul start the cycle again and are reincarnated and be born again as another living being (this includes animals humans and plants), this cycle that we live in is known as Samsara. The state and choices that you make while in this life , or the accumulation of all one's good and bad deeds and this determines the person's next reincarnation. This concept is often explained and relating to the clothing we wear, as we wear our clothing eventually it will wear out, in which we then discard it then take up new clothes.
After many births, every person eventually becomes dissatisfied with the limited happiness that worldly pleasures can bring. At this point, a person begins to seek higher forms of happiness, which can be attained only through spiritual experience. When, after much spiritual practice a person finally realizes their own divine nature and all desires for the pleasures of the world will vanish, since they will seem unimportant, and uninteresting compared to moksha (detachment from the cycle of reincarnation) where one receives spiritual ananda (heaven or spiritual bliss). When all desire has vanished, the person will gain moksha and will remain in ananda, essentially becoming one with Brahman.
While Brahman cannot be completely known by humanity, individual gods and goddesses are personifications of this cosmic force. In practice, each Hindu worships those few deities that they feel directly influence their life. By doing this a Hindu devotee is striving to experience his or her unity with that cosmic force. Hindus worship these deities (which are also part of Brahman) the three primary Hindu deities are.
Shiva, who destroys the old while creating the new. His consorts include the loving Parvati and the ferocious Durga, who represent the feminine aspects of his complex nature.
Vishnu the Preserver and his two most popular incarnations, Krishna and Rama.
Devi, the Protecting Mother, sometimes known simply as the Goddess. Who appears in some form in every region of India. She is often identified as the creative energy of the universe, and is considered by her followers the equal of Vishnu and Shiva.
Although there are several other Deities these are the ones that are most called upon.
Another concept of Hinduism is Dharma. Dharma literally means "that which holds". In some translations they translate the root of word dharma as compassion. Dharma is the path of righteousness or the act living one's life according to the codes of conduct set down by the Hindu faith. Dharma is the moral law combined with spiritual discipline that guides one's life. Hinduism describes dharma as the natural universal laws whose observance enables humans to be contented and happy. Anything that helps human being to reach god is dharma and anything that hinders human being from reaching god is adharma.
Some branches of Hinduism teach that from time to time God descends to Earth in physical form to help humans along in their pursuit of liberation from rebirth (moksha). Such an incarnation is called an avatar.
Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and therefore practice ahimsa, noninjury, in thought, word and deed. Many Hindus are vegetarianism, for a vegetarian lifestyle becomes a practice of ahimsa. Though vegetarianism is associated with Hinduism, it is not a condition of Hinduism to be a vegetarian. It is stated in the “Manusmriti” (5:56)(text), “There is no sin in eating meat… but abstention brings great rewards.”
Hindus commonly conduct pujas (honor, adoration, worship) in shrines in three different environments: in temples, in the home, and in outdoor public spaces. In a temple Hindus believe that if proper care is not taken of its images, the deity will abandon the temple. Priests reside at the temple and take care of the gods' needs. Priests perform puja at sunrise, noon, sunset, and midnight. The essential aspect of puja is not congregational worship but an individual's offering to a deity. Worship in the home usually takes place daily.
Hinduism looks to a large number of religious texts developed over many centuries that contain spiritual insights and provide practical guidance for religious life. Among such texts, the ancient Vedas are usually considered the most authoritative. Other scriptures include the commentaries on the Vedas: the Upanishads and the Brahmanas, which include the majority of Hindu philosophy. Also included in later scriptures are the epic poems the Mahabharata and Ramayana, and the Eighteen Puranas. The Bhagavad Gita, which is contained within the Mahabharata, is a widely studied teaching that is said to contain, in distilled form, the highest truths of the Vedas.
Buddhism is the fourth largest world religion with around 376 millions followers. Buddhism has a strong influence primarily in east Asian reasons such as Thailand, South Korea, Mongolia, Vietnam, Japan, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and parts of India. There are two major sects of Buddhism which are the Mahayana (185 million) and the Theravada (124 million). There is very little difference between the two. They both accept the basic concepts, and for the most part are identical, though they do differ in subtle ways.
Buddhism developed out of the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama. Siddharth, was the prince of the Shakya nation, he had three palaces especially built for him. Siddhartha’s father, King Śuddhodana, wished for Siddhartha to be a great king, and shielded him from religious teachings and knowledge of human sufferings.
At the age of 29, Siddhartha left his palace, and despite his father's effort to remove the sick, aged and suffering from the public view, Siddhartha was said to have seen an old man. Disturbed by this, when told that all people would eventually grow old, the prince went on further trips where he encountered, a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and an ascetic. Depressed by these imperfections, he sought to overcome old age, illness, and by living as an ascetic. Siddhartha left his palace.
Siddhartha went to Rajagaha and began his ascetic life begging on the streets. Siddhartha left Rajagaha and practiced under two hermit teachers. He then became a student of Uddaka Ramaputta , he achieved high levels of meditative consciousness and was asked to succeed Ramaputta, which he refused.
Siddhartha continued in his path trying to find enlightenment through deprivation of worldly goods, including food, and practicing self-mortification. After nearly starving himself to by restricting his food intake to around a leaf or nut per day, he collapsed in a river and almost drowned. Siddhartha then reconsider his path, he remembered a moment in childhood in which he had fallen into a naturally concentrated and focused state that was blissful and refreshing.
Siddhartha is said to have discovered what Buddhists call the Middle Way, a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and mortification of flesh. Then, sitting under a tree, he vowed never to arise until he had found the Truth. After 49 days meditating, he attained Enlightenment. At this point he took upon the title of “Buddha” or "Awakened One."
For the next 45 years Buddha traveled throughout India with his message of the Middle Way, at the age of 80, the Buddha announced that he would soon enter Parinirvana or the final less state abandoning the earthly body. Buddha got very ill and when he died body was cremated and the relics were placed in monuments or stupas. At his , the Buddha told his disciples to follow no leader, but to follow his teachings. However, at the First Buddhist Council, Mahakasyapa was held by the sangha as their leader.
Long after his the Buddha's teachings were written down. This collection is called the Tripitaka. Buddhists teach that anyone can become a Buddha, by becoming enlightened, but Gautama Buddha is universally recognized by Buddhists as the Supreme Buddha of our age.It is said that everyone will have the opportunity to become a Buddha. Many Buddhists claim there are 9 Characteristics Of A Buddha which are:
1) A worthy one
2) Perfectly self-enlightened
3) Stays in perfect knowledge
4) Well gone
5) Unsurpassed knower of the world
6) Unsurpassed leader of persons to be tamed
7) Teacher of the gods and humans
8) The enlightened One
9) The blessed one or fortunate one
These characteristics are frequently mentioned in the Pali Canon, and are chanted daily in many Buddhist monasteries. All Buddhist traditions hold that a Buddha has completely purified his mind of desire, aversion and ignorance. A Buddha is fully awakened and has realized the ultimate truth, the non-dualistic nature of life, and thus ended the suffering which “unawakened” people experience in life.
Among the commonly accepted teaching of Buddhism are The Noble Eightfold Path which are teachings of the Buddha, which he declared is the way to end of dukkha, or suffering, and is essentially a practical guide of bringing about ethical and meditative discipline.
1) Right Understanding
2) Right Thought
3) Right Speech
4) Right Action
5) Right Livelihood
6) Right Effort
7) Right Mindfulness
8) Right concentration.
These values are to be observed and cultivated through ones life, each Buddhist is to work to ever improve themselves in these 8 values. These values are central to Buddhism theology and practice, and is symbolized in the Dharmachakra(the Buddhist Wheel), as the Spokes of the Wheel.
Also accepted in Buddhism are “The Four Noble Truths” being.:
1) That suffering is an inherent part of existence
2) That the origin of suffering is ignorance and the main symptoms of that ignorance are attachment and craving
3) That attachment and craving can be ceased
4) That following the Noble Eightfold Path will lead to the cessation of attachment and craving and therefore suffering.
Buddhists believe in the concept of Pratitya-samutpada(dependent origination): that any phenomenon exists only because of the existence of other phenomena in lines of cause and effect covering time past, present and future. Because all things are thus conditioned and transient, they have no real independent identity. Buddhists believe nothing is permanent and that anything that appears constant is a self inflicted illusion.
Buddhists generally do not believe in any type of God, prayer, or eternal life after . However, since the time of the Buddha, Buddhism has integrated many regional religious rituals, beliefs and customs into it as it has spread throughout Asia, so that this generalization is no longer true for all Buddhists. This has occurred with little conflict due to the philosophical nature of Buddhism.
Buddhists believe in reincarnation and that one must go through cycles of birth, life, and but unlike Hinduism, Buddhists do not believe in the progression of the soul. After many such cycles, if a person releases their attachment to desire and the self, they can attain Nirvana. Instead they believe that once they obtain Nirvana they discard false sense of self so that the bundle of memories and impulses disintegrates, leaving nothing to reincarnate and hence nothing to experience pain.
There are a vast number of Buddhist scriptures and religious texts, in the Buddhist Canon contain there are three types of sacred text which are sutras (discourses), vinaya (relating to the rules of monastic discipline), abhidharma (analytical texts) together these three make up what is known as the Tripitaka or the Tipitaka. Though there are many non-canonized or semi-canonized scriptures which many Buddhists accept, such as, The Visuddhimagga, The Milinda Pañha, Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana, The Bodhicaryavatara, and The Platform Sutra.
Sikhism is the 5th largest world religion with about 23 million members. More than 90 percent of Sikhs live in the Indian state of Punjab, where they form close to 65 percent of the population. Though there are spreading around the world. As far as distribution of Sikhs go, there are about 20 million in India, 1 million in East Africa, 650 thousand in the United Kingdom, 500 thousand in Canada, and 300 in the United States. In fact here (in Vancouver) they have several temples.
The Sikh faith was founded by Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji in the Punjab area around 1500 AD. Nanak as a boy was fascinated with religion. Sikh tradition states that at the age of thirty, Nanak went missing and was presumed to have drowned after going for one of his morning baths to a local stream called the Kali Bein. Three days later he reappeared and would give the same answer to any question posed to him: "There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim" which has become a popular saying among the Sheikhs.
He began preaching the way to enlightenment and God. He preached a message of love and understanding and criticized the blind rituals of the Hindus and Muslims. Guru Nanak Dev made four great journeys, traveling to all parts of India, and into Arabia and Persia, visiting Mecca and Baghdad. He spoke before Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Parsees, and Muslims.
After his a series of nine Gurus, which is to mean in Sanskrit “teacher, honored person, religious person or saint” led the movement until 1708. These Gurus are regarded as reincarnations of Guru Nanak. In 1708 the responsibility of leadership passed to the Panth and the holy text. This text, The Shri Guru Granth Sahib, was compiled by the tenth Guru, Gobind Singh. It consists of hymns and writings of the first 10 Gurus, along with texts from different Muslim and Hindu saints. The holy text is considered the 11th and final Guru.
Sikhs believe there is only One God, and that He is the same God for all people of all religions. Its name is Vahiguru and it is formless, eternal, and unobserved. Vahiguru as a single, personal and transcendental creator. He has created many world and many worlds with life on them. He is omnipresent and visible everywhere to the spiritually awakened.
Sikhs believe in reincarnation after Sikhs believe that by living a life according to Gods plan, humans can end the cycle of rebirth already in this life. Similar to Hinduism Reincarnation, a reincarnation is not limited to merely human beings but also animals, insects and plants. A pure existence of good deeds is rewarded with happiness and joy in the next life, while wrongful actions and sinful deeds lead only to incarceration and fitting consequences in the next life. This cycle continues until one reaches the final liberation and becomes one with God.
Guru Nanak taught that rituals, religious ceremonies or empty worship is of little use and Sikhs are discouraged from fasting or going on pilgrimages. Nevertheless some ceremonies and rites did arise.
Upon a child's birth, the Guru Granth Sahib is opened at a random point and the child is named using the first letter on the top left-hand corner of the left page. All boys are given the middle name or surname Singh, and all s are given the middle name or surname Kaur.
Sikhs are joined in wedlock through the Anand Karaj ceremony. The marriage ceremony is performed in the company of the Guru Granth Sahib; around which the couple circles four times. After the ceremony is complete, the husband and wife are considered "a single soul in two bodies."
In Sikh religious rites, divorce is not permitted. Though if one wishes to divorce , they may do so in a civil court but this is not condoned. Upon , the body of a Sikh is usually cremated. If this is not possible, any means of disposing the body may be employed. The Kirtan Sohila and Ardas prayers are performed during the funeral ceremony.
Khalsa is the name given to all Sikhs who have been baptized or initiated by a ceremony called Amrit Sanskar. The first time that this ceremony took place was on the 30th of March 1699 at Anandpur Sahib in India, and has continued on since.
At this time Guru Gobind Singh gathered together the first members of the Khalsa on Baisakhi Day declared 5 items of dress and physical appearance which would set the Sikhs apart and had symbolic meaning, these are often referred to as The Five K’s. Baptized Sikhs are bound to wear the Five Ks, at all times. These five articles of faith are as follows;
The Kirpan – which is a ceremonial dagger symbolizing readiness to defend the defenseless, and defend one's faith against persecution. (Picture)
The Kaccha - Cotton boxer shorts, symbolizing self-control and chastity; prohibition of ery.(Picture)
Among the basic precepts of Sikh are the teachings of Humanity, Uphold moral values, Personal sacrifice, a positive attitude toward life, and a disciplined life. Sikhs believe that many paths lead to God that they are not special; they are not the chosen people of God. Christian, Hindus, Muslim, Jews, and all religious bodies have the same right to liberty as a Sikh.
The principle Sikh scripture is the Guru Granth Sahib. Other scriptures include the Dasam Granth, the book of the tenth Guru. The Granth was compiled three years after the Guru’s and it was Mata Sundri the widow of the Guru who asked Bhai Mani Singh, a contemporary of the Guru, to collect all the hymns composed by the Guru and prepare a Granth of the Guru. It was completed in 1711. In its present form it contains 1428 pages and 16 chapters.
Judaism is the 6th largest world religion with about 14 million members. In these there are Conservative or Masorti Judaism with 4.5 million, Unaffiliated and Secular Judaism (4.5 million), Reformed Judaism (3.75 million), Orthodox Judaism(2 million), Reconstructionist Judaism (150,000), other sects are Modern, Hasidic, Haredi, Renewal, Karaite, and Rabbinic, and several others I’m sure.
Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people. It is the first recorded monotheistic faith and one of the oldest religious traditions still practiced today. The values and history of the Jewish people are a major part of the foundation of other Abrahamic religions such as Christianity, Islam, as well as Samaritanism and the Bahá'í Faith.
Judaism first began with the Covenant between God and the prophet Abraham around 2000 BC. The next leader of the Israelites, Moses, led his people out of captivity in Egypt and received the Law from God. Joshua later led them into the Promised Land where Samuel established the Israelite kingdom with Saul as its first king. King David established Jerusalem and King Solomon built the first temple there. In 70 CE the temple was destroyed and the Jews were scattered throughout the world until 1948 when the State of Israel was formed.
Throughout the ages, Judaism has clung to a number of religious principles, the most important of which is the belief in a single, omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent, transcendent God, who created the universe and continues to be involved in its governance. He monitors peoples activities and rewards good deeds and punishes evil.
Jews believe in the inherent goodness of the world and its inhabitants as creations of God and do not require a savior to save them. They believe they are God's chosen people and that the Messiah will arrive in the future, gather them into Israel, there will be a general resurrection of the , and the Jerusalem Temple destroyed in 70AD will be rebuilt.
Judaism has considered belief in the Divine Revelation and acceptance of the Written and Oral Torah as its fundamental core belief, but Judaism does not have a centralized authority dictating religious dogma. This gives space for many different ideas, perspectives and opinions as to the specific theological beliefs. While some rabbis have at times agreed, others have disagreed, many criticizing any such attempt as minimizing acceptance of the entire Torah.
Although the actual doctrine may be controversial there are many generally accepted theologies. Among these is an article written by Maimonide which is now called Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Of Faith, which have come to be accepted by most of Judaism, though at the time of their release they were somewhat controversial in some points. The article is surprisingly 13 principles of faith and they are as follows;
I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name, is the Creator and Guide of everything that has been created; He alone has made, does make, and will make all things.
I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name, is One, and that there is no unity in any manner like His, and that He alone is our God, who was, and is, and will be.
"I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name, is not a body, and that He is free from all the properties of matter, and that there can be no (physical) comparison to Him whatsoever.
I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name, is the first and the last.
I believe with perfect faith that to the Creator, blessed be His Name, and to Him alone, it is right to pray, and that it is not right to pray to any being besides Him.
I believe with perfect faith that all the works of the prophets are true.
I believe with perfect faith that the prophecy of Moses, our teacher, peace be upon him, was true, and that he was the chief of the prophets, both of those who preceded him and of those who followed him.
I believe with perfect faith that the entire Torah that is now in our possession is the same that was given to Moses, our teacher, peace be upon him.
I believe with perfect faith that this Torah will not be changed, and that there will never be any other Law from the Creator, blessed be His name.
I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, knows all the deeds of human beings, and all their thoughts, as it is said: “[He] that fashioned the hearts of them all, [He] that comprehends all their actions.”
I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name, rewards those that keep His commandments and punishes those that transgress them.
I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah; and even though he may tarry, with all this I wait every day for his coming.
I believe with perfect faith that there will be a revival of the at the time when it shall please the Creator, blessed be His name, and exalted be His Name forever and ever."
Jews are often called “People of the Book”, this being because of their strict observance of their sacred writings. This sacred writings include firstly the Torah (the first 5 books of Moses (Genesis Exodus Leviticus Number, Deuteronomy) which is divided into three categories; “The Law”, “The Prophets” and “The Writings”.
Another sacred text is the Talmud which is the "oral tradition"; it consists of the Mishnah which was written down by the Palestinian Rabbis after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, and the Gemara which was made in the 4th century when the rabbis from Babylon added their commentaries to the Mishnah. Together, the Mishnah and the Gemara make up the "Babylonian Talmud", with the 613 commandments. The materials of the two Talmud are of three kinds; “The Halakah” Interpretations of the Law; the meaning of each commandment, “The Aggadah” Proverbs, Psalms, Parables, and “The Midrashim”, Commentaries of the Bible.
There are several other readings that come from various rabbis and religious leaders which include, Commentary of Rashi, Mishneh Torah, Rabbinic Judaism, Anti-rabbinic reaction, Karaites, The Geonim, Sephardim and Ashkenazim, Jewish Mysticism, Kabala, Hasidism, Gnosticism, Haskala or Enlightenment, Zionism. Jewish Theologians from the Second Century to Present, and several other past and present works.
Bahá'ísm is the 7th largest world religion with about 7 million members that reside in over 200 countries. The only major branch of the Baha'i faith today is the Baha'i World Faith. The majority of Bahá'ís live in Asia (3.6 million), then in Africa (1.8 million), and in Latin America (900,000). The largest Bahá'í community in the world is in India, with 2.2 million Bahá'ís, next is Iran, with 350,000, and the USA, with 150,000.
The origins of the Bahá'í Faith go back to a religious movement founded in AD 1844 by Sayyid Alí Muhammad, who took the title of the Báb (meaning the gate). His followers were therefore called Bábís. In 1844, in Shiraz Iran, the Báb gathered around himself a group of eighteen disciples whom he named the “Letters of the Living". Eventually numbers rose and the so did controversy. As the Báb was on his way to Tehran to meet with the Shah, the monarch of Iran and important religious leader, the prime minister of Tehran called for his arrest, in fear of his influence shifting his current political standing. In 1848, the Báb issued the Bayán, his principal book of laws and teachings. This book made it clear that he was in fact inaugurating a new religious dispensation that abrogated the dispensation of Islam. In 1850 the Báb was executed by firing squad. The religion slowed but continued through persecutions, and in response a group of Bábís attempted to assassinate the Shah who had been played a necessary role in the of the Báb which triggered an intense persecution that resulted in the of almost all of the remaining leading Bábís.
The Bahá'í Faith’s Founder was Bahá’u’lláh, a Persian nobleman from Tehran who, in 1844, became an enthusiastic supporter of the new teachings of the Báb and was persecuted because of it.
While most other Bábí's were executed Bahá’u’lláh was spared because of his high social position and the intervention of the Russian minister in Tehran. Bahá’u’lláh was released with the condition that he must go into exile. Bahá’u’lláh accepted and left Tehran for Baghdad.
In Baghdad he withdrew to the mountains of Kurdistan from 1854 to 1856. He expounded on mystical themes and attracted many people to himself. His two main mystical works, The Seven Valleys and The Four Valleys, were written to two Sufi leaders at this time. Bahá'u'lláh wrote several other important works. These included The Hidden Words, and The Book of Certitude.
In April 1863, Bahá'u'lláh announced to a group of His Bábí companions His claim to be the one promised by the Báb. Soon Bahá'u'lláh openly announced His claim to be the one foretold by the Báb. He sent emissaries to Iran to publicize this claim among the Bábís, almost all of whom then became Bahá'ís. Bahá'u'lláh also started a series of letters that He sent to the leading monarchs and religious leaders of His time telling them of His claim. Bahá'u'lláh lived to the age of 74 at which time he passed away.
The religion was mostly confined to the Persian and Ottoman Empire until after the of Bahá'u'lláh in 1892. But under the leadership of his son, Abdu'l-Bahá, the religion started growing in Europe and America, and Iran. After the of `Abdu'l-Bahá in 1921, `Abdu'l-Bahá's appointed successor, Shoghi Effendi(`Abdu'l-Bahá's Grandson) became the guardian of the Faith. After the passing of Shoghi Effendi, in 1963, the leadership of the Bahá'í changed from a single individual to an administrative order with elected bodies and appointed individuals, this hierarchy is called the Universal House of Justice. The Faith has continued to grow from that time to become the second most widespread Faith in the world second only to Christianity.
Foremost in Bahá'í theology and beliefs is what is sometimes termed the "Three Onenesses", which are considered central in the teachings of the religion. They are “The Oneness of God”, “The Oneness of Religion” and the “The Oneness of Humanity”.
To A Bahá'í, God is the ultimate Reality, Creator of the universe, whose nature is unknowable and inaccessible to mankind. Mankind has several names for God, which include; Allah, Yahweh, Brahma, Tao, ect. which all refer to the One Divine Being. The way we learn about God is through His Messengers, Who teach and guide humanity. The Bahá'í teachings state that one can get closer to God through prayer, meditation, study of the holy writings, and service.
The Bahá'í writings teach that all people are equal in the sight of God. The Bahá'í Faith emphasizes the unity of humanity transcending all divisions of race, nation, gender, and social class, while emphasizing its diversity. The Bahá'í writings also proclaim a glorious future Golden Age in which the whole earth is united under a world federal government, uniting all humanity though once again emphasizing the diversity and and deference of the people therein.
The Bahá'í teachings state that there is but one religion which is progressively revealed by God, through prophets. Bahá'u'lláh claimed to be the most recent, but not the last, in a series of divine Educators which include Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, and others. All religions stem from the one and only religion, which most correct tradition is the Bahá'í faith as taught through the last prophet Bahá'u'lláh.
When someone dies the soul lives on after the body's , embarking on a spiritual journey towards God through many "worlds" or planes of existence. Progress on this journey, is likened to "heaven." If the soul fails to develop, one remains distant from God, which could be understood as hell. Through this, heaven and hell are regarded not as literal places but descriptions of one's spiritual progress toward the light of God.
An essential part of the faith is the concept of one revelation, meaning that God still speaks to his people through prophets he will call. He has not forgotten; he has not remained silent but talks to his people.
The Most Holy Book of the Bahá'í Faith is the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the book of laws written by Bahá’u’lláh. It is part of a large body of scriptures authored by Him. Comprising an estimated 100 volumes, these writings cover topics of a wide range, including laws and principles for personal conduct and the governance of society, as well as mystical writings dealing with the progress of the soul and its journey towards God. The many writings of the Báb and those of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá are also a sacred source of reference for Bahá’ís. Moreover, Bahá’ís recognize the sacred writings of the Bible, the Qur’an, and the holy texts of the world’s other revealed religions.
Jainism is the 8th largest world religion with about 4.2 million which consists of the Svetambara (4 million), the Sthanakvasi (750,000), and the Digambar (155,000). All these numbers have a majority in southern India.
Those who follow the Jainism faith are referred to as Jains. Jains are followers of Jina (also known as Tirthankar, or Fordmaker, Saviors of Men), the word Jina means "the Victor" or “the Liberator”. Jina is one who has freed them self from the of Karma by conquering “Raga” (meaning attachment) and “Dvesha” (aversion) and expounds the Path of Liberation or Moksha. After achieving enlightenment, a Tirthankar shows others the path to enlightenment. Jainism states time has no beginning or end but moves in cycles. There have been an infinite number of time cycles before our present era and there will be an infinite number of time cycles after this age. At this time we are 2,530 years into the fifth era of the present half cycle.
Twenty-four Tirthankars are born in each half cycle of time, the 24th and last Tirthankar was Mahavir Swami. Jainism as it is known now was founded by Mahavira in the 6th century B.C. Mahavira was the son of a minor ruler in India. While pregnant with him, it is rumored his mother had a series of 14 dreams which were symbolic and revelatory to Mahavira’s virtues. In spite of his family’s good fortune, and standing, Mahavira was not happy. After the of his parents he left his wife, child and family and turned his back on a life of luxury. He joined a group of Acetics who believe in a life of self-discipline and self-denial, for spiritual improvement. He did not find what he was looking for with the ascetics and went off on to develop a more extreme asceticism.
During this period he decided the path to enlightenment should also be through torment. He went and sought the coldest spots in winter and the hottest in summer. He carefully avoided harming or disturbing other living beings, including animals, birds, and plants. He begged for his food, he never stayed more than one night in the same place, he became indifferent to all things, he swept the path where he walked and strained the water he drank. He did not object when beaten. During the thirteenth year of these practices, he achieved release and attained Nirvana. Mahavira followers worship and prayed to him because it is believed that he was sinless, omniscient and incarnate as the last of the 24 Tirthankaras. Mahavira is believed to have died at Pavapuri, near modern Patna, having commited the act of salekhana, or the act of fasting to .
To Jains Gods are of little consequence because they are living in a different plane and not concerned with mankind’s plane. Therefore, they do not feel that there should be any worship or prayer. Janes do not believe in prayer or worship.
Janes believe that life is a series of births, s, and rebirths until the soul has shed all karma and can achieve liberation, which is consistent with Indian thought and religion, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. The three most central guides for the individual to attain this goal are
But the physical actions of a lifetime do not take precedence over the mental or cognitive acts of the individual. Physical, mental and spiritual acts are needed to break the cycle of birth, and rebirth. Therefore, deed and thought are weighed equally in Jainism.
There are nine fundamental philosophies in the Jain tradition, which are called the Nav Tattvas, meaning the nine fundamentals, they are:
1) Jiva – Which is the soul, and is described as eternal energy which is indestructible, invisible, and shapeless.
2) Ajiva – Meaning non-living matter or anything that does not have a soul or consciousness. Anjiva can be sumemrized in five categories. Dharmastikay (medium of motion), Adarmastikay(medium of rest), Pudgalastikay (matter), Akashatikay (space), Kala (time)
3) Punya – Meaning the results of good deeds. Charitable acts and propagating religion are among the activities which can help to attain Punya. When Punya matures it brings forth comfort and happiness.
4) Pap – Meaning the results of bad deeds. Cruelty, and anger are among the things that can bring Pap. When Pap matures it brings suffering, misery and unhappiness.
5) Asrava – Meaning an influx of karma. Asrava is caused by wrong belief, passions and negligence among other things. These karma particles attach themselves to the soul.
6) Samvar – Meaning the stoppage of karmas. This is achieved by observing carefulness, control, mental reflection, suffering, and through the ten-fold yati-dharma(monkshood).
7) Bandh – Meaning the of karmas. This occurs when we react to any situation with a sense of attachment or aversion.
8) Nirjara – Meaning the shedding of karma. It can occur through passive or active efforts. Passive efforts mean simply waiting for karmas to mature and give their results in time. Actively matured karma can be achieved by performing penance, regretting, asking for forgiveness and meditation.
9) Moksha – meaning liberation. If we rid ourselves of all karmas, we attain liberation.
The individual Jain is also called adhere to the 5 tenants of the Mahavratas (5 great vows), which are:
1) Non-Violence (non-injury to life)
2) No Lying
3) No Stealing
4) Non-Attachment to possessions
5) ual Restraint (Celibacy is the ideal)
Jains scriptures include the “Ang Ägam” Sutras which contain the direct preaching of Mahavir. They were compiled by immediate disciples of Lord Mahavir immediately after Mahavir's , they consist of 12 texts. The other document that is considered scripture is the “Angbähya Ägam Sutras” Angbahya Sutras were compiled by Shrut Kevali monks who possessed the total knowledge of 12 Ang Ägams. They were compiled within 160 years after Lord Mahavir’s Nirvän. They provide further explanation of Ang Ägams.
Shinto is the 9th largest world religion with about 4 million of which most live in Japan. There are several denominations within Shinto, which are generally the same religion but hold different emphasis. The main distinctions in Shinto are :
The Shrine Shinto: the oldest and most prevalent of the Shinto types, which constitutes the main current of Shinto tradition.
Sect Shinto: is comprised of 13 groups formed during the 19th century. They do not have Shrines, but conduct religious activities in meeting halls. Shinto sects include the mountain-worship sects, who focus on worshipping mountains, faith-healing sects, purification sects, Confucian sects, and Revival Shinto sects. Konkōkyō, Tenrikyō, and Kurozumikyō, although operating separately from modern Shinto, are considered to be forms of Sect Shinto.
Folk Shinto: includes the numerous but fragmented folk beliefs in deities and spirits. Practices include ivination, Spirit Possession, and Shamanic Healing. Some of their practices come from Taoism, Buddhism, or Confucianism, but most come from ancient local traditions.
State Shinto: was the result of the Meiji Restoration and the Downfall of the Shogun. The Meiji restoration attempted to purify Shinto by abolishing many Buddhist and Confucian ideals; also, the Emperor was once again considered divine. After Japan's defeat in World War II, State Shinto was abolished and the Emperor was forced to renounce his divine right.
The origin of Shinto is somewhat uncertain, some claim that it has always been in Japan while others claim it came it culturally through Korea or China through the Korean peninsula. In the early centuries BC, each tribe and area had its own collection of gods with no formal relationship between them. Around the third to fifth centuries, the ancestral deities of the Emperor of Japan and the Imperial family were given prominence over others and a narrative made up to justify it. The result was the mythologizing of the Record of Ancient Matters in which it was claimed that the imperial line descended directly from the sun-goddess.
The introductions of writing in the 5th century and Buddhism in the 6th century from Korea had a profound impact on the development of a unified system of Shinto beliefs. In the early Nara Period the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki were written by compiling existing myths and legends into a unified account of Japanese mythology. These introduced Taoist, Confucian, and Buddhist themes into Japanese religion. But in 1868 Shinto was made the official religion of Japan and consequently Buddhism was outlawed.
As time went on, Shinto was used in the advertising of nationalists' popular sentiments. In 1890, the "Imperial Rescript on Education" was passed, and all students were required to ritually recite its oath to "offer yourselves courageously to the State" as well as protect the Imperial family. These practices were used to fortify national unity through patriotic observance at Shrines. This use of Shinto gave to Japanese patriotism a special tint of mysticism and cultural introversion, which became more pronounced as time went on.
The State Shinto came to an end with the end of World War II, when Americans brought the concept of Separation of Church and State to Japanese shores after the Japanese surrender. Soon after the war, the Emperor issued a statement renouncing his claims to the status of "living god". Since World War Two, the number of Japanese citizens identifying their religious beliefs as Shinto has declined a great deal.
Shinto teaches that everything contains a Kami or "spiritual essence" or “soul” or even “God”. Every rock, every squirrel, every living and nonliving thing contains a kami. There is also a main kami for groups of things: for example, there is a kami within a human, and there is also a main kami residing over all the humans of the world. Until the end of World War II, The Tenno (Emperor) was believed to have been descended from Amaterasu and father of all Japanese, and was therefore a kami on earth. Though there is no “God” that governs over all in earth.
Though Shinto has no absolute commandments outside of living "a simple and harmonious life with nature and people", there are said to be "Four Affirmations" of the Shinto spirit:
1) Tradition and the family: The family is seen as the main mechanism by which traditions are preserved. Their main celebrations relate to birth and marriage.
2) Love of nature: Nature is sacred; to be in contact with nature is to be close to the kami. Natural objects are worshiped as containing sacred spirits.
3) Physical cleanliness: Followers of Shinto take baths, wash their hands, and rinse out their mouths often.
4) Matsuri: Any festival dedicated to the Kami, of which there are many each year.
Whenever a child is born in Japan, a local Shinto shrine adds the child's name to a list kept at the shrine and declares him or her a "family child" After they becomes a “family kami". Names can be added to the list without consent and regardless of the beliefs of the person added to the list. However, this is not considered an imposition of belief, but a sign of being welcomed by the local kami, with the promise of addition to the pantheon of kami after . Those children who die before addition to the list are called "water children", and are believed to cause troubles and plagues. Mizuko are often worshipped in a Shinto shrine dedicated to stilling their anger and sadness.
Shinto does not have any canonized or inspired text. The books it treats as holy are descriptions of Shinto practice. The mythical histories Kojiki and Nihon shoki describe the deeds and genealogies of the gods from the creation of Japan by the primal pair, Izanagi and Izanami. Compendia of ceremonies and ancient prayers (Norito) serve as ceremonial liturgies and textbooks on ritual. The Engi Shiki, a compilation of government regulations, carries details of shrine rites, kegare, and other important Shinto matters, as well as most of the norito, and is hence regarded as sacred. The so-called Five Books of Shinto (Shinto Gobusho), so hallowed that only senior priests were permitted to read them, were compiled by priests in the 13th century from other sources.
Other Noteworthy religions include the Juche (19 million), Spiritism (15 million), Cao Dai (4 million), Zoroastrianism (2.6 million), Tenrikyo (2 million), Neo-Paganism (1 million), Unitarian-Universalism (800 thousand), Rastafarianism (600 thousand) Scientology (500 thousand), but as these are mainly indigenous and local religions they do not fall under the banner of “World Religions”, also are the broadly grouped religious categories that are often used, these being: Chinese traditional religions(394 million), primal-indigenous religions (300 million), African Traditional & Diasporic religions (100 million), but once again these are isolated religions, and in and of themselves represent several distinct groups, beliefs and religions, and as such can neither be categorized as “World Religions”, or even “Religions” unto themselves.
The final group of people is the Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist. If we break this down there are around 787 million unaffiliated or non-religious, 155 million atheists (mainly from China, secondly from Russia). This last group is a very speculator number and can vary millions, though most agree the number is at least vaguely close to these actual numbers.