What is Religion? Major Religions in the World

Religion plays a very important role in how human individuals and society lives. Most of the world’s population follow one or the other religion. Nevertheless, there is no consensus on what exactly is religion or how to define religion. In very broad terms, a religion is a social-cultural system of behaviors and practices, morals, worldviews and ways of living. Often religion incorporates ideas and practices that connect humanity to a supernatural controlling power or spiritual elements.

According to the MacMillan Encyclopedia of Religions, “the very attempt to define religion, to find some distinctive or possibly unique essence or set of qualities that distinguish the religious from the remainder of human life, is primarily a Western concern.”

Definition of Religion: Anthropologist Clifford Geertz defined religion as “a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.”

There are more than 10,000 distinct religions on planet Earth. Over 80% of the world’s human individuals associate themselves with four major religions, namely Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.

Major Religions in the World

Some of the world’s major religions are (in alphabetical order):

  • Bahá’í
  • Buddhism
  • Cao Dai
  • Christianity
  • Hinduism
  • Islam
  • Jainism
  • Judaism
  • Shinto
  • Sikhism
  • Zoroastrianism

Although there is no accurate study available on this but Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam are considered to be the four most followed religions in the world.

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Several of the world’s most prominent religions evolved in the Indian subcontinent. These include Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism. Some of the key concepts on the Indian religions are  dharma, karma, immortality of the soul and reincarnation.

Abrahamic religions have roots in the Middle East. These religions include Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Bahá’í Faith. Abrahamic religions practice monotheism.

China, world’s most populous country, officially espouses state atheism. However,  Confucianism, Taoism (Daoism) and Buddhism, have culturally  been significant through the Chinese history.

A sizable number of people all around the world do not identify with any religion. Atheism refers to the belief that there are no deities. Thus atheist people out-rightly reject the idea of the existence of God, deities or supernatural controlling power. In contrast, agnostic people believe that humans are incapable of knowing whether the God exists or the God does not exist.

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