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Humans, throughout history, have always huddled in groups. It’s natural since we’re social beings. Over time, we created entire societies that have become civilizations.
Within these societies, there are different groups of people that have different philosophies and beliefs. Interestingly enough, there’s a group for everybody, including those who adhere their lifestyle to what they believe is divine and all-powerful.
Religions have been around for thousands of years, and they come in all forms. From societies that believed there were multiple gods and goddesses with different powers to monotheistic ones where people believe there’s only one God that reigns the world.
All around the world and across many cultures, there are many religions but we can divide the world’s main religions into two categories: Indian religions, which are Hinduism and Buddhism; and the Abrahamic religions, which are Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
Let’s take a look at which of these are the largest and most practiced religions of them all, and what makes them so popular.
Christianity is a religion that uses the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, who according to believers lived on this earth two thousand years ago. Christianity is by far the most extensive religion practiced, with more than two billion followers.
Christians divide themselves into different groups within the religion. There are those who follow the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Christians, and those who are considered Protestants.
Those who preach and practice Christianity learn the code from the sacred Bible, which contains records of Christ’s life, writings from his disciples, descriptions of his miracles, and his instructions. Christianity owes its popularity to missionaries and colonizers who spread it all over the world.
Islam is a monotheistic religion that has around 1.8 billion followers. They follow the teachings and customs as outlined in their sacred text, the Qur’ān. God in this context is known as Allah.
This religion has its origins in Mecca, a city in Saudi Arabia. It originated during the 7th Century A.D. by the prophet Muhammad. He is considered the last prophet Allah sent.
Muslims are divided into two major groups, Sunnis and Shi’a. The Sunnis make up around eighty percent of those who practice Islam, while the Shi’ah, make up around fifteen percent.
Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world. It has around one billion followers, and according to records, it’s considered one of the oldest religions. Anthropologists have found that its practices, customs, and beliefs date as far as 1500 B.C.E.
This religion has most of its followers in India, Indonesia, and Nepal. Hinduism’s philosophy has a deep and profound influence on all its followers.
Nowadays, you can see how the Western world has adopted some Hinduism practices. One of the most popular ones is Yoga, which many people practice thanks to its ability to make people feel better, physically and mentally. Yoga primarily consists of 84 poses or asanas along with different types of breathing exercises.
Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the world. It has approximately half a billion followers, and its foundations come from the teachings of Gautama Buddha. This religion originated in India, almost 2500 years ago.
Buddhists also divide themselves into two main branches, which are Mahayana Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism. Its followers usually adhere to pacifism and being ethical throughout life.
Believe it or not, almost half of its followers hail from China.
Judaism is a monotheistic religion that has around twenty-five million followers. It originated in the Middle East, and dates back around four thousand years, making it the oldest-known organized religion.
The characteristic of Judaism is that God revealed himself through prophets during certain periods in time. Nowadays, Jewish people sort themselves into three branches, which are Conservative Judaism, Reform Judaism, and Orthodox Judaism. Although these branches follow the same God, their interpretations may vary, and their followers may engage in different types of religious customs.
Daoism is a religion that has around fifteen million followers all around the world. It originated in China more than two thousand years ago. Daoism and Taoism are actually the same religion, just different names.
This religion focuses on living in harmonic balance with the fluctuations that life will have throughout time. Most often, the teachings of Daoism align themselves with the natural order. It has many philosophers, but the founder is considered to be Laozi, who wrote the Daodejing, Daoism’s main text.
Cao Dai is a Vietnamese philosophy that has approximately five million followers. It started out in Vietnam during the 1920s, spread by Ngo Van Chieu, who proclaimed that he had received a message from a god called the Supreme Being during a supernatural reading session.
This religion is one of the more recent ones around, and it gathers many elements and customs from other organized religions. Some customs are the same as Daoism, Judaism, and Christianity, with its main teaching being to spread tolerance, love, and peace.
Shintō is a polytheistic belief. This means that it fosters the idea that there’s more than one God. Shintō originated in Japan during the 8th Century A.D. It isn’t an organized religion per se, but it functions as the foundation for many customs in Japan.
Shinto has around one hundred million followers, and this religion revolves around what they call “kami,” which are the supernatural entities they believe inhabit the Earth. The followers of Shinto honor the kami and the divine spirits with shrines. These can include personal shrines in their household or public shrines dotted around Japan.
As you have seen in this article, there are many religions around the world. Some may follow similar concepts and belief systems, while others are totally different from others. Whatever the case may be, these religions have millions of followers concentrated around their respective territories while also consisting of smaller communities around the world. The religions with the most followers are monotheistic, with Christianity, Islam, and Judaism leading the way. Buddhism and Hinduism, which don’t have a monotheistic structure, also make the top 5 largest religions.
Of course, you can’t forget that this list is just a compilation of the largest religions and philosophies. There are countless other beliefs that don’t necessarily align with the ones we talked about here.