Religions of the World

Religion/Sect/
Belief System
Origins & History
Adherents Worldwide (approx.)
God(s) and Universe
Human Situation and Life's Purpose
Afterlife
Practices
Texts
Asatru

Revival of Norse and Germanic paganism, 1970s Scandinavia and USA. Unknown Polytheistic, Norse gods and goddesses, Norse creation myths. Salvation or redemption not emphasized. Fatalistic view of universe. Valhalla (heaven) for death in battle; Hel (peaceful place) for most; Hifhel (hell) for the very evil. Sacrifice of food or drink, toast to the gods, shamanism (less frequently), celebration of solstice holidays. Nine Noble Virtues is moral code. Eddas (Norse epics); the Havamal (proverbs attributed to Odin).
Atheism Appears in history, but especially after the Enlightenment (19th cent). 1.1 billion (this figure includes agnostic and non-religious, which tend to be grouped on surveys) There is no God or divine being. Beliefs about the universe generally based on latest scientific findings. Only humans can help themselves and each other solve the world's problems. None None Influential works include those by Marx, Freud, Feuerbach, and Voltaire.
Baha'i Faith

Founded by Bahá'u'lláh, 1863, Tehran, Iran. 5-7 million One God, who has revealed himself progressively through major world religions. The soul is eternal and essentially good. Purpose of life is to develop spiritually and draw closer to God. Soul separates from the body and begins a journey towards or away from God. Heaven and hell are states of being. Daily prayer, avoidance of intoxicants, scripture reading, hard work, education, work for social justice and equality. Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and other Bahá'í leaders
Buddhism

Founded by Siddharta Gautama (the Buddha) in c. 520 BC, NE India. 360 million Varies: Theravada atheistic; Mahayana more polytheistic. Buddha taught nothing is permanent. Purpose is to avoid suffering and gain enlightenment and release from cycle of rebirth, or at least attain a better rebirth by gaining merit. Reincarnation (understood differently than in Hinduism, with no surviving soul) until gain enlightenment. Meditation, mantras, devotion to deities (in some sects), mandalas (Tibetan) Tripitaka (Pali Canon); Mahayana sutras like the Lotus Sutra; others.
Cesidianism

Cesidianism
Founded by Cesidio Tallini on 17 November 2001, originally over the Internet. Later he received the title of Bishop of the Cesidian Church, and through a church charter granted by Saint Luke Evangelical Christian Ministries the Cesidian Church became a legal and independent church.
Few followers
Merodepantheistic God — newly-coined term meaning "part-of-all God doctrine". Homotheistic God — not just one God or monotheism, but very unambiguously the same God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the one who has glorified his servant Jesus (Acts 3:13-14). This God clearly has a relationship to humanity through several human beings, over several generations, and is thus not just any one god among many who demands, but does not deserve worship. This God also has a relationship to the Messiah, who is Lord of the Earth, and father of Mankind; he who has lived before as Adam and Buddha; and he who shall live again as Messiah. Holy Spirits are also part of the picture, those who are angels, workers of God, and guardians of the Earth, and the relationship between the Trinity does not exclude multicellular or microbial nature (pluralistic view, not just dualist or classical theist view of religion).
Purpose of life is spiritual evolution until a portion of humanity creates utopian or paradisaical societal conditions on Earth.
Reincarnation as a means of spiritual evolution. Judgment Day is part of the evolution process.
Eight Jewish holidays — Pesach (Passover), Hag-Ha-Matzot (Unleavened Bread), Bikkurim (Firstfruits), Shavout (Pentecost), Rosh Hashanah (Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Atonement), Succoth (Tabernacles), and Chanukkah (Lights) — are celebrated, but customs are different, and the calendar followed is the Cesidian calendar, not the Jewish calendar. The Sabbath falls on a special day in the Cesidian calendar called Jeuday. The Rosary can be recited using Catholic and Ecumenical rosaries, and Buddhist wrist, hand, or full malas with a different number of beads. GM foods are not considered kosher, and the approach to health is also holistic and natural. None at present. Cesidians deem Christians idolaters of the Bible and/or the Pope. Cesidians prefer to worship the Living Word that is Yeshua, and believe mathematics and geometry to be infallible, not Bibles or Popes trait Cesidianism shares with theoretical science. Cesidians consider The Gospel of Thomas and The Gospel of the Nazirenes as a Fifth and Sixth Gospel respectively, and believe the Bible is full of deliberate and non-deliberate errors and omissions introduced over the centuries, and lacking legitimate scholarly rigour. They also see the rarely used and older Septuagint as more reliable than the Medieval Hebrew (Masoretic) texts used today. The study of Analytic Theology, Cesidian Law, Salubriology (or Cesidian Healing), and Mathematics is viewed in high regard.
Chinese Religion

Indigenous folk religion of China. 394 million Dualistic yin and yang; mythological beings and folk deities. Purpose is a favorable life and peaceful afterlife, attained through rituals and honoring of ancestors. Judgment, then reincarnation or temporary hell until gain a Buddhist-type paradise. Ancestor worship, prayer, longevity practices , divination, prophecy and astrology, feng shui. None
Chopra Center

Founded by Deepak Chopra in 1991, California Unknown Monism — God or Supreme Reality pervades all things; all is unity. Humans have limitless potential, but do not recognize this. Health and success can be had by focusing on whole self (mind, body, spirit). Reincarnation Yoga, meditation, massage, nutrition, mindfulness, detox sessions, positive thinking. Deepak Chopra's many books, such as the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success
Christianity (Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox)

Founded by Jesus Christ in c. 30 AD, Israel. 2 billion One God who is a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit All have sinned and are thereby separated from God. Salvation is through faith in Christ and, for some, sacraments and good works. Eternal heaven or hell (or temporary purgatory). Prayer, Bible study, baptism, Eucharist, church on Sundays, numerous holidays. The Holy Bible (Old and New Testaments)
Christian Science

Founded by Mary Baker Eddy in 1879, Massachusetts. 150,000-400,000 One God. No Trinity (in traditional sense). Matter and evil do not exist. Salvation is "Life, Truth, and Love understood and demonstrated as supreme over all; sin, sickness and death destroyed." Heaven is "not a locality, but a divine state of Mind in which all the manifestations of Mind are harmonious and immortal." Spiritual healing through prayer and knowledge, Sunday services, daily Bible and Science & Health reading. Christian Bible, Science & Health with Key to the Scriptures
Confucianism

Founded by Confucius (551–479 BC), China 5-6 million Not addressed Purpose of life is to fulfill one's role in society with propriety, honor, and loyalty. Not addressed Honesty, politeness, propriety, humaneness, perform correct role in society, loyalty to family, nation. Analects
Eckankar

John Paul Twitchell in 1965, Las Vegas. 50-500,000 The Divine Spirit, called "ECK" "Each of us is Soul, a spark of God sent to this world to gain spiritual experience." Salvation is liberation and God-realization. Reincarnation. The Soul is eternal by nature and on a spiritual journey. Liberation possible in a single lifetime. Spiritual Exercises of ECK: mantras, meditation, and dreams. These enable Soul travel and spiritual growth. Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad and books by Harold Klemp
Falun Gong

Li Hongzhi in 1992 in China 10 million Countless gods and spiritual beings. Demonic aliens. The Falun (wheel) is an energy source located in the navel. Goal is spritual transcendence, achieved by practicing Falun Gong. Not addressed Five exercises to strengthen the Falun. Cultivation of truthfulness, benevolence and forbearance. Meat eating discouraged. Zhuan Falun and other writings by Master Li
Gnosticism

Various teachers including Valentinus, 1st-2nd cents. AD ancient form extinct; small modern revival groups The supreme God is unknowable; the creator god is evil and matter is evil. Humans can return to the spiritual world through secret knowledge of the universe. Return to the spiritual world. Asceticism, celibacy Gnostic scriptures including various Gospels and Acts attributed to apostles.
Hare Krishna

Hare Krishna
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, 1966, USA (with roots in 15th-century Hindu movement) 250,000-1 million Krishna is the Supreme God. Salvation from this Age of Kali is by a return to Godhead, accomplished through Krishna-Consciousness. Reincarnation until unite with the Godhead. Chanting, dancing, evangelism, vegetarianism, temple worship, monastic-style living. The Bhagavad-Gita As It Is
Hinduism

Indigenous religion of India as developed to present day. 900 million One Supreme Reality (Brahman) manifested in many gods and goddesses Humans are in bondage to ignorance and illusion, but are able to escape. Purpose is to gain release from rebirth, or at least a better rebirth. Reincarnation until gain enlightenment. Yoga, meditation, worship (puja), devotion to a god or goddess, pilgrimage to holy cities, live according to one's dharma (purpose/ role). The Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, etc.
Islam

Muhammad, 622 AD, Saudi Arabia 1.3 billion (Sunni: 940 million) One God (Allah in Arabic) Humans must submit (islam) to the will of God to gain Paradise after death. Paradise or Hell. Five Pillars: Faith, Prayer, Alms, Pilgrimage, Fasting. Mosque services on Fridays. Ablutions before prayer. No alcohol or pork. Holidays related to the pilgrimage and fast of Ramadan. Qur'an (Scripture); Hadith (tradition)
Jainism

Mahavira, c. 550 BC, eastern India 4 million The universe is eternal; many gods exist. Gods, humans and all living things are classified in a complex hierarchy. The soul is uncreated and eternal and can attain perfect divinity. Purpose is to gain liberation from cycle of rebirth, by avoiding all bad karma, especially by causing no harm to any sentient being. Reincarnation until liberation. Monasticism under the Five Great Vows (Non-Violence, Truth, Celibacy, Non-Stealing, Non-Possessiveness); worship at temples and at home. Meditation and mantras. The teachings of Mahavira in various collections.
Jehovah's Witnesses

Charles Taze Russell, 1879, Pittsburgh 6.5 million One God, Jehovah. No Trinity — Christ is the first creation of God; the Holy Spirit is a force. Salvation is through faith in Christ and obeying Jehovah's laws. The End of the World is soon. Heaven for 144,000 chosen Witnesses, eternity on New Earth for other Witnesses. All others annihilated. No hell. No blood transfusions, no celebration of holidays, no use of crosses or religious images. Baptism, Sunday service at Kingdom Hall, strong emphasis on evangelism. New World Translation of the Scriptures
Judaism

The religion of the Hebrews (c. 1300 BC), especially after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD. 14 million One God, Yahweh. Obey God's commandments, live ethically. Focus is more on this life than the next. Not historically emphasized. Beliefs vary from no afterlife to shadowy existence to the World to Come (similar to heaven). Circumcision at birth, bar/bat mitzvah at adulthood. Synagogue services on Saturdays. No pork or other non-kosher foods. Holidays related to historical events. Bible (Tanakh), Talmud
Mormonism (LDS)

Joseph Smith, 1830, New York 12.2 million God the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate individual beings Humans existed as spirits before this life, salvation is returning to God. Salvation by faith in Christ, good works, ordinances, and evangelism. All return to spirit world for period of instruction before resurrection. Mormons to heaven with God and families; others rewarded but not with God; hell for those who reject God after death. Abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea; baptism for the dead; eternal marriage; temple garments under daily clothes; active evangelism. Christian Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price
New Age Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Annie Besant in the 19th C, Alice A. Bailey (1880-1949), flourished in 1970s and 80s 5 million (very approximate) The Divine is an impersonal life force that pervades all things Dawning of a New Age of heightened consciousness and international peace. Individuals can obtain a foretaste of the New Age through spiritual transformation ("Ascension"). More emphasis on the latter now. Evil comes from ignorance. Reincarnation based on karma Astrology; mysticism; use of crystals; yoga; tarot readings; holistic medicine; psychic abilities; angelic communications; channeling; amulets; fortune-telling. Works of a variety of New Age writers
New Thought

Monad - New Thought
Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-66) and others, late 19th century, USA. 160,000 Generally monism (all is One), but members might be theists, pantheists or panentheists. God is immanent; the universe is essentially spiritual. Man is divine, essentially spirit, and has infinite possibility. Mind can control the body. Sin and sickness caused by incorrect thinking. Man can live in oneness with God in love, truth, peace, health, and prosperity. "Life is eternal in the invisible kingdom of God." Emphasis on spiritual and mental healing, but without rejection of modern medicine. Worship services; prayer for the sick; discussion of New Thought authors and ideas. Writings of Quimby (such as the The Quimby Manuscripts) and other New Thought authors
Scientology

L. Ron Hubbard, 1954, California 70,000 or several million, depending on the source God(s) not specified; reality explained in the Eight Dynamics Human consists of body, mind and thetan; capable of great things.
Gain spiritual freedom by ridding mind of engrams.
Reincarnation Auditing, progressing up various levels until "clear". Focus on education and drug recovery programs. Writings of Hubbard, such as Dianetics and Scientology
Seventh-day Adventists

Rooted in Millerite movement; Ellen White was main leader; founded 1863 in New England 10 million [source] One God who is a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Second Coming of Christ is imminent; salvation is by faith in Christ; emphasis on quality of life both now and in afterlife A "peaceful pause" after death until the coming of Christ, then resurrection to judgment and eternity in heaven or hell Sabbath observance on Saturdays; healthful lifestyle; baptism by immersion. Bible only; but later prophets like Ellen White are authoritative when tested against Scriptures
Shinto

Indigenous religion of Japan. 3-4 million Polytheism based on the kami, ancient gods or spirits. Humans are pure by nature and can keep away evil through purification rituals and attain good things by calling on the kami. Death is bad and impure. Some humans become kami after death. Worship and offerings to kami at shrines and at home. Purification rituals. Important texts are Kojiki or 'Records of Ancient Matters' and Nihon-gi or 'Chronicles of Japan'
Sikhism

Guru Nanak, c. 1500 AD, Punjab, India. 23 million One God (Ik Onkar, Nam) Overcome the self, align life with will of God, and become a "saint soldier," fighting for good. Reincarnation until resolve karma and merge with God. Prayer and meditation on God's name, services at temple (gurdwara), turban and five Ks. Balance work, worship, and charity. No monasticism or asceticism. Adi Granth (Sri Guru Granth Sahib)
Taoism

Lao-Tzu, c. 550 BC, China. 20 million
(394 million adherents of Chinese religion)
Pantheism — the Tao pervades all. Yin-yang — opposites make up a unity. Purpose is inner harmony, peace, and longevity. Acheived by living in accordance with the Tao. Revert back to state of non-being, which is simply the other side of being. General attitude of detachment and non-struggle, "go with the flow" of the Tao. Tai-chi, acupuncture, and alchemy to help longevity. Tao Te Ching, Chuang-Tzu
Unification Church

Unification Church Symbol
Sun Myung Moon, 1954, South Korea. Over 1 million (3 million acc. to official sources) Monotheism, with the duality of God (esp. masculine and feminine) emphasized. No Trinity doctrine. Purpose is true love and world peace instead of selfish love. True love and the kingdom of God on Earth will be restored by the creation of "true families." Eternal life in a spirit world. Blessing Ceremony The Divine Principle (1954) by Rev. Moon.
Unitarian Universalism

Formal merger of Unitarians and Universalists in 1961, USA. 800,000 Not specified. Members might believe in one God, many gods, or no God. Salvation is "spiritual health or wholeness." Members seek "inner and outer peace," insight, health, compassion and strength. Not specified. Some believe in an afterlife, some do not. Very few believe in hell — "Universalism" indicates the belief that all will be saved. Ceremonies for marriages, funerals, etc. Church services have elements from various religions. Emphasis on civil rights, social justice, equality and environment. Most UUs are anti-death penalty and pro-gay rights. Many sacred texts are revered by various members; some none at all. The Bible is the most commonly used text.
Wicca

Based on ancient pagan beliefs, but modern form founded early 1900s. Founder generally said to be Gerald Gardner. 1-3 million Polytheism, centered on the Goddess and God, each in various forms; also a belief in a Supreme Being over all "If it harms none, do what you will." Reincarnation until reach the Summerland Prayer, casting a circle, Drawing Down the Moon, reciting spells, dancing, singing, sharing cakes and wine or beer. No sacred text; foundational texts include The Witch Cult in Western Europe and The God of the Witches
Zoroastrianism

Zoroaster in c.6th cent. BC, Persia. Official religion of ancient Persia. May have influenced Judaism and Vedic religion. c. 200,000 One God, Ahura Mazda, but a dualistic worldview in which an evil spirit, Angra Mainyu, is almost as powerful. Humans are free to do good or evil, must choose the side of good. Judgement followed by heaven or hell. Hell is temporary until final purgation and return to Ahura Mazda. Good deeds, charity, equality, hard work. Zend Avesta
Religion/Sect/
Belief System
Origins & History
Adherents Worldwide (approx.)
God(s) and Universe
Human Situation and Life's Purpose
Afterlife
Practices
Texts


References