ⓘ Blog | Major religious groups - religion. The worlds principal religions and spiritual traditions may be classified into a small number of major groups, although th ..



Judaism is an ethnic religion to the collective religious, cultural and legal traditions and civilization of the Jewish people. Judaism considers religious Jews to be the expression of the Covenant that God established with the children of Israel. It includes a wide body of texts, practices, theological positions, and forms of organization. The Torah is part of a larger text known as the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible, and extra oral tradition represented by later texts such as the Midrash and the Talmud. With between 14.5 and 17.4 million adherents worldwide, Judaism is the tenth largest religion in the world. In Judaism there are a variety of movements, most of which emerged from rabbinic Judaism, which believes that God revealed his laws and commandments to Moses on mount Sinai in the form of written and oral Torah. Historically, all or part of this assertion was challenged by various groups such as the Sadducees and Hellenistic Judaism in the Second Temple period, the Karaites and the sabbateans in the early and late middle Ages, and among the layers of the contemporary non-Orthodox denominations. Modern branches of Judaism such as humanistic Judaism may be non-theistic. Today, the largest Jewish religious movements Orthodox Judaism Haredi Judaism and modern Orthodox Judaism, conservative Judaism and reform Judaism. The main sources of differences between these groups are their approaches to Jewish law, the authority of Rabbinic tradition, and the value of the state of Israel. Orthodox Judaism believes that the Torah and Jewish law are divine in origin, eternal and unchanging, and that they must be strictly followed. Conservative and reform Judaism are more liberal, with conservative Judaism generally promoting a more traditionalist interpretation of the requirements of Judaisms than to reform Judaism. A typical reform position is that Jewish law should be viewed as a set of General guidelines, not as a set of restrictions and obligations whose observance is obligatory for all Jews. Historically, special courts were obliged by Jewish law, today, these courts still exist but the practice of Judaism is mostly voluntary. Authority on theological and legal matters is not owned by any one person or organization, but in the sacred texts and rabbis and scholars who interpret them. Judaism has its roots as an organized religion in the middle East in the bronze age. It evolved from the ancient Israeli religion around 500 BC, and is one of the oldest monotheistic religions. The Jews and the Israelites were called "Jews" in later books of the Tanakh such as the book of Esther, with the term Jews replacing the title "children of Israel". Judaisms texts, traditions and values strongly influenced later Abrahamic religions, including Christianity, Islam and the Bahai Faith. Many aspects of Judaism have also directly or indirectly influenced secular Western ethics and civil law. Hebraism was an equally important factor in the ancient era of the development of Western civilization, Hellenism and Judaism, since the background of Christianity, greatly shaped Western ideals and morality of early Christianity. Jews are an ethno-religious group, including those who are born Jewish, in addition to a convert to Judaism. In 2015, the world Jewish population is estimated at about 14.3 million, or about 0.2% of the total world population. About 43% of all Jews reside in Israel and 43% reside in the United States and Canada, most of the remainder living in Europe, and other minority groups spread throughout Latin America, Asia, Africa and Australia.



Buddhism is the worlds fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on original teachings attributed to the Buddha and resulting interpreted philosophies. It originated in ancient India as a Sramana tradition sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, spreading through much of Asia. Two major extant branches of Buddhism are generally recognized by scholars: Theravada and Mahayana. Most Buddhist traditions share the goal of overcoming suffering and the cycle of death and rebirth, either by the attainment of Nirvana or through the path of Buddhahood. Buddhist schools vary in their interpretation of the path to liberation, the relative importance and canonicity assigned to the various Buddhist texts, and their specific teachings and practices. Widely observed practices include taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, observance of moral precepts, monasticism, meditation, and the cultivation of the Paramitas perfections, or virtues. Theravada Buddhism has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. Mahayana, which includes the traditions of Pure Land, Zen, Nichiren Buddhism, Shingon and Tiantai Tendai, is found throughout East Asia. Vajrayana, a body of teachings attributed to Indian adepts, may be viewed as a separate branch or as an aspect of Mahayana Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism, which preserves the Vajrayana teachings of eighth-century India, is practised in the countries of the Himalayan region, Mongolia, and Kalmykia.



Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus is the Christ, whose coming as the messiah was prophesied in the Hebrew Bible, called the Old Testament in Christianity, and chronicled in the New Testament. It is the worlds largest religion with about 2.4 billion followers. Christianity remains culturally diverse in its Western and Eastern branches, as well as in its doctrines concerning justification and the nature of salvation, ecclesiology, ordination, and Christology. Their creeds generally hold in common Jesus as the Son of God - the logos incarnated - who ministered, suffered, and died on a cross, but rose from the dead for the salvation of mankind; as referred to as the gospel, meaning the "good news", in the Bible scripture. Describing Jesus life and teachings are the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John with the Jewish Old Testament as the gospels respected background. Christianity began as a Second Temple Judaic sect in the 1st century in the Roman province of Judea. Jesus apostles and their followers spread around Syria, the Levant, Europe, Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Transcaucasia, Egypt, and Ethiopia, despite initial persecution. It soon attracted gentile God-fearers, which led to a departure from Jewish customs, and, after the Fall of Jerusalem, AD 70 which ended the Temple-based Judaism, Christianity slowly separated from Judaism. Emperor Constantine the Great decriminalized Christianity in the Roman Empire by the Edict of Milan 313, later convening the Council of Nicaea 325 where Early Christianity was consolidated into what would become the State church of the Roman Empire 380. Constantine converted to Christianity before his death 337. The early history of Christianitys united church before major schisms is sometimes referred to as the "Great Church". The Church of the East split after the Council of Ephesus 431 and Oriental Orthodoxy split after the Council of Chalcedon 451 over differences in Christology, while the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church separated in the East–West Schism 1054, especially over the authority of the bishop of Rome. Similarly, Protestantism split in numerous denominations from the Latin Catholic Church in the Reformation era 16th century over theological and ecclesiological disputes, most predominantly on the issue of justification and the primacy of the bishop of Rome. Christianity and Christian ethics played a prominent role in the development of Western civilization, particularly in Europe from late antiquity and the Middle Ages. Following the Age of Discovery 15th–17th century, Christianity was spread into the Americas, Oceania, sub-Saharan Africa, and the rest of the world via missionary work. The four largest branches of Christianity are the Catholic Church 1.3 billion/50.1%, Protestantism 920 million/36.7%, the Eastern Orthodox Church 260 million and Oriental Orthodoxy 86 million/both together 11.9%, amid various efforts toward unity ecumenism. Despite a decline in adherence in the West, Christianity remains the dominant religion in the region, with about 70% of the population identifying as Christian. Christianity is growing in Africa and Asia, the worlds most populous continents. Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world, especially in the Middle-East, North Africa and South Asia.

Major religious groups

Major religious groups

The worlds principal religions and spiritual traditions may be classified into a small number of major groups, although this is by no means a uniform practice. This theory began in the 18th century with the goal of recognizing the relative levels of civility in societies.


1. History of religious categories

In world cultures, there have traditionally been many different groupings of religious belief. In Indian culture, different religious philosophies were traditionally respected as academic differences in pursuit of the same truth. In Islam, the Quran mentions three different categories: Muslims, the People of the Book, and idol worshipers. Initially, Christians had a simple dichotomy of world beliefs: Christian civility versus foreign heresy or barbarity. In the 18th century, "heresy" was clarified to mean Judaism and Islam; along with paganism, this created a fourfold classification which spawned such works as John Tolands Nazarenus, or Jewish, Gentile, and Mahometan Christianity, which represented the three Abrahamic religions as different "nations" or sects within religion itself, the "true monotheism."

Daniel Defoe described the original definition as follows: "Religion is properly the Worship given to God, but tis also applied to the Worship of Idols and false Deities." At the turn of the 19th century, in between 1780 and 1810, the language dramatically changed: instead of "religion" being synonymous with spirituality, authors began using the plural, "religions," to refer to both Christianity and other forms of worship. Therefore, Hannah Adamss early encyclopedia, for example, had its name changed from An Alphabetical Compendium of the Various Sects. to A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations.

In 1838, the four-way division of Christianity, Judaism, Mahommedanism archaic terminology for Islam and Paganism was multiplied considerably by Josiah Conders Analytical and Comparative View of All Religions Now Extant among Mankind. Conders work still adhered to the four-way classification, but in his eye for detail he puts together much historical work to create something resembling our modern Western image: he includes Druze, Yezidis, Mandeans, and Elamites under a list of possibly monotheistic groups, and under the final category, of "polytheism and pantheism," he listed Zoroastrianism, "Vedas, Puranas, Tantras, Reformed sects" of India as well as "Brahminical idolatry," Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Lamaism, "religion of China and Japan," and "illiterate superstitions" as others.

The modern meaning of the phrase "world religion," putting non-Christians at the same level as Christians, began with the 1893 Parliament of the Worlds Religions in Chicago. The Parliament spurred the creation of a dozen privately funded lectures with the intent of informing people of the diversity of religious experience: these lectures funded researchers such as William James, D. T. Suzuki, and Alan Watts, who greatly influenced the public conception of world religions.

In the latter half of the 20th century, the category of "world religion" fell into serious question, especially for drawing parallels between vastly different cultures, and thereby creating an arbitrary separation between the religious and the secular. Even history professors have now taken note of these complications and advise against teaching "world religions" in schools. Others see the shaping of religions in the context of the nation-state as the "invention of traditions."


2. Classification

Religious traditions fall into super-groups in comparative religion, arranged by historical origin and mutual influence. Abrahamic religions originate in West Asia, Indian religions in the Indian subcontinent South Asia and East Asian religions in East Asia. Another group with supra-regional influence are Afro-American religion, which have their origins in Central and West Africa.

  • Abrahamic religions are the largest group, and these consist mainly of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Bahai Faith. They are named for the patriarch Abraham, and are unified by the practice of monotheism. Today, at least 3.8 billion people are followers of Abrahamic religions and are spread widely around the world apart from the regions around East and Southeast Asia. Several Abrahamic organizations are vigorous proselytizers.
  • Middle Eastern religions
  • African diasporic religions practiced in the Americas, imported as a result of the Atlantic slave trade of the 16th to 18th centuries, building on traditional religions of Central and West Africa.
  • The religions of the tribal peoples of Sub-Saharan Africa, but excluding ancient Egyptian religion, which is considered to belong to the ancient Middle East;
  • Indian religions, originated in Greater India and partly of Indo-European origins, they tend to share a number of key concepts, such as dharma, karma, reincarnation among others. They are of the most influence across the Indian subcontinent, East Asia, Southeast Asia, as well as isolated parts of Russia. The main Indian religions are Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism.
  • African religions
  • Iranian religions, partly of Indo-European origins, include Zoroastrianism, Yazdanism, Uatsdin, Yarsanism and historical traditions of Gnosticism Mandaeism, Manichaeism.
  • East Asian religions consist of several East Asian religions which make use of the concept of Tao in Chinese or Dō in Japanese or Korean. They include many Chinese folk religions, Taoism and Confucianism, as well as Korean and Japanese religion influenced by Chinese thought.
  • New religious movement is the term applied to any religious faith which has emerged since the 19th century, often syncretizing, re-interpreting or reviving aspects of older traditions such as Ayyavazhi, Mormonism, Ahmadiyya, Pentecostalism, polytheistic reconstructionism, and so forth.
  • Indigenous ethnic religions, found on every continent, now marginalized by the major organized faiths in many parts of the world or persisting as undercurrents folk religions of major religions. Includes traditional African religions, Asian shamanism, Native American religions, Austronesian and Australian Aboriginal traditions, Chinese folk religions, and postwar Shinto. Under more traditional listings, this has been referred to as "paganism" along with historical polytheism.

3. Religious demographics

One way to define a major religion is by the number of current adherents. The population numbers by religion are computed by a combination of census reports and population surveys in countries where religion data is not collected in census, for example the United States or France, but results can vary widely depending on the way questions are phrased, the definitions of religion used and the bias of the agencies or organizations conducting the survey. Informal or unorganized religions are especially difficult to count.

There is no consensus among researchers as to the best methodology for determining the religiosity profile of the worlds population. A number of fundamental aspects are unresolved:

  • Whether to use multiple sources and ranges or single "best sources"
  • Whether to count "historically predominant religious culture"
  • Whether to rely only on official government-provided statistics
  • Whether to count only those who actively "practice" a particular religion
  • Whether to count based on a concept of "adherence"
  • Whether to count only those who expressly self-identify with a particular denomination
  • Whether to count only adults, or to include children as well.


3.1. Religious demographics Medium-sized religions

The following are medium-sized world religions:

Also Daesoon Jinrihoe, a Korean religion, claims six million followers.

Although" The Korean census in 1995 found 62.000 Koreans who indicated Daesoon Jinrihoe as their religious affiliation, and they were even less in the census of 2005. the census’ result was clearly grossly underestimated, and not consistent with the crowds attending both special ceremonies and the daily activities in thousands of Daesoon Jinrihoe’s branches throughout the country.”


4. By region

  • Religion in Africa
  • Muslim world SW Asia and N Africa
  • Religion by region
  • Religion in the Middle East
  • Religion in Asia
  • Religions by country according to The World Factbook - CIA
  • Religion in Antarctica
  • Religion in Europe
  • Religion in the European Union
  • Religion in Oceania
  • Religion in North America
  • Religion in South America

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