Religious of the world... (FAITH)

Belief System
Origins & History
Adherents Worldwide (approx.)
God(s) and Universe
Human Situation and Life's Purpose
More Info
Various prophet-healing churches founded since c.1918, West Nigeria.
1 million
Generally monotheistic; a mix of Anglican, Pentecostal and traditional African beliefs.
Strong emphasis on healing and salvation in this life through prayer, fasting and other rituals.
Not emphasized; views vary.
Spiritual healing is central. Mix of Anglican and African rituals; a prophet plays a prominent role.

Revival of Norse and Germanic paganism, 1970s Scandinavia and USA.
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)
Appears throughout history (including ancient Greek philosophy), 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 usually based on latest scientific findings.
Since there is no afterlife, this one life is of great importance. Only humans can help themselves and each other solve the world's problems.
Influential works include those by Marx, Freud, Feuerbach, and Voltaire. Notable modern authors include Richard Dawkins and Carl Sagan.
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

Best-Selling Bahai bookshttp://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=religi09-20&l=ur2&o=1
(from Amazon)
Indigenous religion of Tibet.
Nontheistic Buddhism, but meditation on peaceful and wrathful deities.
Purpose is to gain enlightenment.
Reincarnation until gain enlightenment
Meditation on mandalas and Tibetan deities, astrology, monastic life.
Bonpo canon

Best-Selling Bon bookshttp://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=religi09-20&l=ur2&o=1
(from Amazon)
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.
Belief System
Origins & History
Adherents Worldwide (approx.)
God(s) and Universe
Human Situation and Life's Purpose
More Info
Founded in 1926, Vietnam by Ngo Van Chieu and others based on a séance.
4-6 million
God represented by Divine Eye. Founders of Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity venerated, and saints including Victor Hugo.
Goal is peace and harmony in each person and in the world. Salvation by "cultivating self and finding God in self."
Reincarnation. Bad karma can lead to rebirth on a darker planet; good karma to better life on earth. Eventual attainment of nirvana or heaven.
Hierarchy similar to Roman Catholicism. Daily prayer. Meditation. Communication with spirit world (now outlawed in Vietnam).
Caodai canon
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.
Founded by Deepak Chopra in 1991, California
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).
Yoga, meditation, massage, nutrition, mindfulness, detox sessions, positive thinking.
Deepak Chopra's many books, such as the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success
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 (Communion), church on Sundays, numerous holidays.
The Bible
(Old and New Testaments)
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
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
Belief System
Origins & History
Adherents Worldwide (approx.)
God(s) and Universe
Human Situation and Life's Purpose
More Info

Thomas Paine
Especially popularized in the 18th-cent. Enlightenment under Kant, Voltaire, Paine, Jefferson, and others
One Creator God who is uninterested in the world. Reason is basis for all knowledge.
Not addressed
Not addressed
None prescribed, although some deists practice prayer.
Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason and similar texts
Best-Selling Deism bookshttp://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=religi09-20&l=ur2&o=1
(from Amazon)

Druze star
Al-Darazi in 11th century, Cairo, Egypt. Roots in the Isma'iliyya sect of Shia Islam.
Universal Intelligence (al-Aql al-Kulli) or Divine Essence (akin to Neoplatonism), of which al-Hakim is believed to be an incarnation.
Live a good life for a favorable reincarnation. Await the re-appearance of al-Hakim (a Fatimid caliph who disappeared in 1021), who will usher in a Golden Age for true believers.
Reincarnation. Heaven is a spiritual existence when one has escaped reincarnation. Hell is distance from God in lifetime after lifetime.
Modest lifestyles, fasting before Eid al-Adha. Beliefs and practices are hidden for protection from persecution. Special group of initiates called uqqal.
Al-Naqd al-Khafi (Copy of the Secret); Al-Juz'al-Awwal (Essence of the First)
Best-Selling Druze bookshttp://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=religi09-20&l=ur2&o=1
(from Amazon)

John Paul Twitchell in 1965, Las Vegas.
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
Epicurus in c.300 BC, Athens.
A deistic sort of polytheism: the gods exist, but take no notice of humans.
Materialism: everything is made of atoms, including gods and the soul.
No afterlife. The soul dissolves when the body dies.
Pursue the highest pleasures (friendship and tranquility) and avoid pain.
Letters and Principal Doctrines of Epicurus
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

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.

Variety of religions of ancient Greeks
ancient form extinct
Olympic pantheon (Zeus, etc.) mixed with eastern deities like Isis and Cybele
Human life is subject to the whim of the gods and to Fate; these can be controlled through sacrifice and divination.
Beliefs varied from no afterlife to shadowy existence in the underworld to a paradise-like afterlife (mainly in mystery religions).
Animal sacrifice, harvest offerings, festivals, games, processions, dance, plays, in honor of the gods. Secret initiations and rituals in mystery religions.
Epic poems of Homer and Hesiod.
Belief System
Origins & History
Adherents Worldwide (approx.)
God(s) and Universe
Human Situation and Life's Purpose
More Info
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
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.
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)
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.
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
Belief System
Origins & History
Adherents Worldwide (approx.)
God(s) and Universe
Human Situation and Life's Purpose
More Info
The religion of the Hebrews (c. 1300 BC), especially after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD.
14 million
One God, Yahweh (YHVH).
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
c.250 AD (rise of the Mayan civilization)
Historically, up to 2 million. Some survival today.
Many gods, including Itzamná, Kukulcán, Bolon Tzacab, and Chac
Appease and nourish the gods; determine luckiest dates for various activities.
The soul journeys through dark and threatening underworld; but sacrificial victims and women who die in childbirth go to heaven.
Astronomy, divination, human sacrifice, elaborate burial for royalty, worship in stone pyramid-temples
Dresden, Madrid, and Paris codices; Books of Chilam Balam; Popol Vuh; The Ritual of the Bacabs
Joseph Smith, 1830, New York, USA
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
Nation of Islam
Nation of Islam Flag
Wallace Fard Muhammad, 1930, Detroit, USA

« The letters stand for "Justice, Equality, Freedom, Islam"
Estimates range from 10,000 to 100,000
"One God whose proper name is Allah." Wallace Fard Muhammad became the divine messiah and incarnation of Allah in 1930. The Earth is over 76 trillion years old and all land was once called "Asia."
"The Blackman is the original man" (Message to the Blackman). Live righteously and worship Allah.
Mental resurrection of the righteous. Black people will be mentally resurrected first.
Prayer five times a day. Work for the equality of the African race. Respect laws of the land, don't carry arms, don't make war. Healthy living and abstinence from alcohol, smoking and substance abuse. Modest dress.
Qur'an and "Scriptures of all the Prophets of God" are holy texts. Influential writings include Elijah Muhammad's Message to the Blackman in America (1965)
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
Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-66) and others, late 19th century, USA.
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
Belief System
Origins & History
Adherents Worldwide (approx.)
God(s) and Universe
Human Situation and Life's Purpose
More Info
Teachings of Marcus Garvey (1920s, Jamaica) and coronation of Haile Selassie (1930, Ethiopia)
1 million
God is Jah, who became incarnate in Jesus (who was black) and Haile Selassie.
Humans are temples of Jah. Salvation is primarily in this world and consists of liberation from oppression and return to Africa.
Some Rastas will experience "everliving" (physical immortality). Heaven is a return to Eden, which is in Africa.
Many practices based on Jewish biblical Law. Abstinence from most or all meat, artificial foods, and alcohol. Use of marijuana in religious rituals and for medicine. Wearing of dreadlocks.
Holy Piby (the "Blackman's Bible). The Ethiopian epic Kebra Negast also revered.
inverted pentagram

The Church of Satan was founded in 1966 by Anton LaVey
The Church of Satan doesn't make membership numbers public
Atheistic and/or agnostic
Nine Satanic Statements
Rituals, church meetings, questioning authority
The Satanic Bible
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.
Auditing, progressing up various levels until "clear". Focus on education and drug recovery programs.
Writings of Hubbard, such as Dianetics and Scientology
Rooted in Millerite movement; founded 1863 in New England; early leaders: Ellen White, Hiram Edson and Joseph Bates
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, followed by eternity in heaven or nonexistence. No hell.
Sabbath observance on Saturdays; healthful lifestyle; baptism by immersion
Christian Bible; later prophets like Ellen White are inspired and authoritative when tested against Scriptures
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'
Religion/Sect/ Belief System
Origins & History
Adherents Worldwide (approx.)
God(s) and Universe
Human Situation and Life's Purpose
More Info
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)
Spiritualism, a.k.a. Spiritism
Modern movement: c.1850, USA, UK, France
11 million
Beliefs vary, but generally based in a Christian worldview.
Body and spirit are separate entities. Morality and contact with spirits affect afterlife.
A spiritual existence with access to the living. Condition depends on morality of life and advancement is possible.
Sunday services. Seances and other communication with departed spirits. Spirit healing.
No authoritative texts. Doctrine learned from spirit guides (advanced departed spirits).
Zeno in c.313 BC, Athens.
Pantheism: the logos pervades the universe.
Purpose is happiness, achieved by virtue, i.e., living reasonably.
Possible continued existence of the Soul, but not a personal existence.
Ethical and philosophical training, self-reflection, careful judgment and inner calm.
Fragments of founders plus later writers like Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius.
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
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.
Formal merger of Unitarians and Universalists in 1961, USA.
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.
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
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.
Judgment followed by heaven or hell. Hell is temporary until final purgation and return to Ahura Mazda.
Good deeds, charity, equality, hard work.
Zend Avesta

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