Major religious groups

Major religious groups

Overview
The world's principal religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

s 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 non-European societies.

For a more comprehensive list of religions and an outline of some of their basic relationships, please see the article list of religions.

In world cultures, there have traditionally been many different groupings of religious belief.
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Encyclopedia
The world's principal religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

s 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 non-European societies.

For a more comprehensive list of religions and an outline of some of their basic relationships, please see the article list of religions.

History of religious categories


In world cultures, there have traditionally been many different groupings of religious belief. In Indian culture
Culture of India
India's languages, religions, dance, music, architecture, food and customs differ from place to place within the country, but nevertheless possess a commonality....

, different religious philosophies were traditionally respected as academic differences in pursuit of the same truth. In Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

, the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

 mentions three different categories: Muslims, the People of the Book
People of the Book
People of the Book is a term used to designate non-Muslim adherents to faiths which have a revealed scripture called, in Arabic, Al-Kitab . The three types of adherents to faiths that the Qur'an mentions as people of the book are the Jews, Sabians and Christians.In Islam, the Muslim scripture, the...

, and idol worshipers. Initially, Christians were aware of a number of competing belief systems that were current then, including various other sects of Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

, Roman state paganism
Roman religion
The term Roman religion may refer to:*Ancient Roman religion*religions of the Roman Empire period **Imperial cult *** Sol Invictus**Mithraism**Early Christianity**Gnosticism**State church of the Roman Empire...

, Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil...

, Mithraism
Mithraism
The Mithraic Mysteries were a mystery religion practised in the Roman Empire from about the 1st to 4th centuries AD. The name of the Persian god Mithra, adapted into Greek as Mithras, was linked to a new and distinctive imagery...

, etc.; Church fathers of the early centuries also spoke out against "heresies" associated with Christianity, such as Montanism
Montanism
Montanism was an early Christian movement of the late 2nd century, later referred to by the name of its founder, Montanus, but originally known by its adherents as the New Prophecy...

 or Arianism
Arianism
Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius , a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father...

. In the 18th century, following the Protestant Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

, there were attempts to extend "heresy" to include Judaism and Islam; along with paganism
Paganism
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

, this created a fourfold classification discernible in such works as John Toland
John Toland
John Toland was a rationalist philosopher and freethinker, and occasional satirist, who wrote numerous books and pamphlets on political philosophy and philosophy of religion, which are early expressions of the philosophy of the Age of Enlightenment...

's Nazarenus, or Jewish, Gentile, and Mahometan Christianity, which represented the three Abrahamic traditions as different "nations" or sects within religion itself, the true monotheism.

Daniel Defoe
Daniel Defoe
Daniel Defoe , born Daniel Foe, was an English trader, writer, journalist, and pamphleteer, who gained fame for his novel Robinson Crusoe. Defoe is notable for being one of the earliest proponents of the novel, as he helped to popularise the form in Britain and along with others such as Richardson,...

 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 Adams
Hannah Adams
Hannah Adams was a Christian author, born in Medfield, Massachusetts and died in Brookline. She was the first woman in the United States who made literature a profession.-Biography:...

's 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" and Paganism was multiplied considerably by Josiah Conder
Josiah Conder (editor and author)
Josiah Conder, sometimes spelt Condor, , correspondent of Robert Southey and well connected to romantic authors of his day, was editor of the British literary magazine The Eclectic Review, the Nonconformist and abolitionist newspaper The Patriot, the author of romantic verses, poetry, and many...

's Analytical and Comparative View of All Religions Now Extant among Mankind. Conder's work still adheres 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
Druze
The Druze are an esoteric, monotheistic religious community, found primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan, which emerged during the 11th century from Ismailism. The Druze have an eclectic set of beliefs that incorporate several elements from Abrahamic religions, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism...

, Yezidis, Mandeans, and Elam
Elam
Elam was an ancient civilization located in what is now southwest Iran. Elam was centered in the far west and the southwest of modern-day Iran, stretching from the lowlands of Khuzestan and Ilam Province, as well as a small part of southern Iraq...

ites under a list of possibly monotheistic groups, and under the final category, of "polytheism and pantheism", he lists Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil...

, "Vedas, Puranas, Tantras, Reformed sects" of India as well as "Brahminical idolatry", Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

, Jainism
Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state...

, Sikhism
Sikhism
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded during the 15th century in the Punjab region, by Guru Nanak Dev and continued to progress with ten successive Sikh Gurus . It is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world and one of the fastest-growing...

, Lamaism, "religion of China and Japan", and "illiterate superstitions".

Even through the late 19th century, it was common for Christians to view these "pagan" sects as dead traditions which preceded Christianity, "the final, complete word of God". This in no way reflected the reality of religious experience: Christians supposed these traditions to have maintained themselves in an unchanging state since whenever they were "invented", but actually all traditions survived in the words and deeds of people, some of whom could make radical new inventions without needing to create a new sect. The biggest problem in this approach was the existence of Islam, a religion which had been "founded" after Christianity, and which had been experienced by Christians as intellectual and material prosperity. By the 19th century, however, it was possible to dismiss Islam as a revelation of "the letter, which killeth", given to savage desert nomads.

The modern meaning of the phrase "world religion", putting non-Christians at the same, living level as Christians, began with the 1893 Parliament of the World's Religions
Parliament of the World's Religions
There have been several meetings referred to as a Parliament of the World’s Religions, most notably the World's Parliament of Religions of 1893, the first attempt to create a global dialogue of faiths. The event was celebrated by another conference on its centenary in 1993...

 in Chicago, Illinois. This event was sharply criticized by European Orientalists up until the 1960s as "unscientific", because it allowed religious leaders to speak for themselves instead of bowing to the superior knowledge of the Western academic. As a result its approach to world religions was not taken seriously in the scholarly world for some time. Nevertheless, 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
William James
William James was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher who was trained as a physician. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and on the philosophy of pragmatism...

, D.T. Suzuki, and Alan Watts
Alan Watts
Alan Wilson Watts was a British philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known as an interpreter and popularizer of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience. Born in Chislehurst, he moved to the United States in 1938 and began Zen training in New York...

, 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
Invented traditions
Invented Traditions is a concept made prominent in a 1983 book edited by E. J. Hobsbawm and T. O. Ranger, The Invention of Tradition In their Introduction the editors argue that many "traditions" which "appear or claim to be old are often quite recent in origin and sometimes invented." They...

.

Western classification



Religious traditions fall into super-groups in comparative religion
Comparative religion
Comparative religion is a field of religious studies that analyzes the similarities and differences of themes, myths, rituals and concepts among the world's religions...

, arranged by historical origin and mutual influence. Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions are the monotheistic faiths emphasizing and tracing their common origin to Abraham or recognizing a spiritual tradition identified with him...

 originate in the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

, Indian religions in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and Far Eastern religions in East Asia
East Asia
East Asia or Eastern Asia is a subregion of Asia that can be defined in either geographical or cultural terms...

. Another group with supra-regional influence are African diasporic religions, which have their origins in Central
Central Africa
Central Africa is a core region of the African continent which includes Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda....

 and West Africa
West Africa
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

.
  • Abrahamic religions
    Abrahamic religions
    Abrahamic religions are the monotheistic faiths emphasizing and tracing their common origin to Abraham or recognizing a spiritual tradition identified with him...

     are the largest group, and these consist mainly of Christianity
    Christianity
    Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

    , Islam
    Islam
    Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

    , Judaism
    Judaism
    Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

     and Bahá'í Faith
    Bahá'í Faith
    The Bahá'í Faith is a monotheistic religion founded by Bahá'u'lláh in 19th-century Persia, emphasizing the spiritual unity of all humankind. There are an estimated five to six million Bahá'ís around the world in more than 200 countries and territories....

    . There are a number of smaller Abrahamic religions including Mandaeism
    Mandaeism
    Mandaeism or Mandaeanism is a Gnostic religion with a strongly dualistic worldview. Its adherents, the Mandaeans, revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enosh, Noah, Shem, Aram and especially John the Baptist...

    , Druzism, Yazdânism
    Yazdânism
    Yazdânism is a neologism introduced by Mehrdad Izady in 1992 to denote a group of native Kurdish monotheistic religions: Alevism, Yarsan and Yazidism....

    , Rastafari and Samaritanism. They are named for the patriarch Abraham
    Abraham
    Abraham , whose birth name was Abram, is the eponym of the Abrahamic religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

    , and are unified by the practice of monotheism
    Monotheism
    Monotheism is the belief in the existence of one and only one god. Monotheism is characteristic of the Baha'i Faith, Christianity, Druzism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Samaritanism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism.While they profess the existence of only one deity, monotheistic religions may still...

    . Today, around 3.4 billion people are followers of Abrahamic religions and are spread widely around the world apart from the regions around Southeast Asia
    Southeast Asia
    Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

    . Several Abrahamic religions are vigorous proselytizers
    Proselytism
    Proselytizing is the act of attempting to convert people to another opinion and, particularly, another religion. The word proselytize is derived ultimately from the Greek language prefix προσ- and the verb ἔρχομαι in the form of προσήλυτος...

    .
  • Indian religions originated in Greater India
    Greater India
    Greater India is a term that refers to the historical spread of the culture of India beyond the Indian subcontinent...

     and tend to share a number of key concepts, such as dharma
    Dharma
    Dharma means Law or Natural Law and is a concept of central importance in Indian philosophy and religion. In the context of Hinduism, it refers to one's personal obligations, calling and duties, and a Hindu's dharma is affected by the person's age, caste, class, occupation, and gender...

     and karma
    Karma
    Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

    . They are of the most influence across the Indian subcontinent
    Indian subcontinent
    The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

    , East Asia
    East Asia
    East Asia or Eastern Asia is a subregion of Asia that can be defined in either geographical or cultural terms...

    , Southeast Asia
    Southeast Asia
    Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

    , as well as isolated parts of Russia
    Russia
    Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

    . The main Indian religions are Hinduism
    Hinduism
    Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

    , Jainism
    Jainism
    Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state...

    , Buddhism
    Buddhism
    Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

     and Sikhism
    Sikhism
    Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded during the 15th century in the Punjab region, by Guru Nanak Dev and continued to progress with ten successive Sikh Gurus . It is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world and one of the fastest-growing...

    .
  • East Asian religions
    East Asian religions
    In the study of comparative religion, the East Asian religions form a subset of the Eastern religions...

     consist of several East Asian religions which make use of the concept of Tao (in Chinese) or Do (in Japanese or Korean), namely Taoism
    Taoism
    Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

     and Confucianism
    Confucianism
    Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius . Confucianism originated as an "ethical-sociopolitical teaching" during the Spring and Autumn Period, but later developed metaphysical and cosmological elements in the Han...

    , both of which are asserted by some scholars to be non-religious in nature.
  • African diasporic religions
    Afro-American religion
    Afro-American religions are a number of related religions that developed in the Americas among African slaves and their descendants in various countries of Latin America, the Caribbean, and parts of the southern United States...

     practiced in the Americas
    Americas
    The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

    , imported as a result of the Atlantic slave trade
    Atlantic slave trade
    The Atlantic slave trade, also known as the trans-atlantic slave trade, refers to the trade in slaves that took place across the Atlantic ocean from the sixteenth through to the nineteenth centuries...

     of the 16th to 18th centuries, building on traditional religions
    African Traditional Religion
    The traditional religions indigenous to Africa have, for most of their existence, been orally rather than scripturally transmitted. They are generally associated with animism. Most have ethno-based creations stories...

     of Central
    Central Africa
    Central Africa is a core region of the African continent which includes Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda....

     and West Africa
    West Africa
    West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

    .
  • Indigenous ethnic religion
    Ethnic religion
    Ethnic religion may include officially sanctioned and organized civil religions with an organized clergy, but they are characterized in that adherents generally are defined by their ethnicity, and conversion essentially equates to cultural assimilation to the people in question. Contrasted to this...

    s, formerly found on every continent, now marginalized by the major organized faiths, but persisting as undercurrents of folk religion
    Folk religion
    Folk religion consists of ethnic or regional religious customs under the umbrella of an organized religion, but outside of official doctrine and practices...

    . Includes African traditional religions, Asian Shamanism
    Shamanism
    Shamanism is an anthropological term referencing a range of beliefs and practices regarding communication with the spiritual world. To quote Eliade: "A first definition of this complex phenomenon, and perhaps the least hazardous, will be: shamanism = technique of ecstasy." Shamanism encompasses the...

    , Native American religion
    Native American religion
    Traditional Native American religions exhibit a great deal of diversity, largely due to the relative isolation of the different tribes that were spread out across the entire breadth of the North American continent for thousands of years, allowing for the evolution of different beliefs and practices...

    s, Austronesian and Australian Aboriginal
    Australian Aboriginal mythology
    Australian Aboriginal myths are the stories traditionally performed by Aboriginal peoples within each of the language groups across Australia....

     traditions, Chinese folk religion
    Chinese folk religion
    Chinese folk religion or Shenism , which is a term of considerable debate, are labels used to describe the collection of ethnic religious traditions which have been a main belief system in China and among Han Chinese ethnic groups for most of the civilization's history until today...

    , and postwar Shinto
    Shinto
    or Shintoism, also kami-no-michi, is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past. Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written...

    . Under more traditional listings, this has been referred to as "Paganism
    Paganism
    Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

    " along with historical polytheism.
  • Iranian religions (not listed below due to overlaps) originated in Iran
    Iran
    Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

     and include Zoroastrianism
    Zoroastrianism
    Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil...

    , Yazdanism
    Yazdânism
    Yazdânism is a neologism introduced by Mehrdad Izady in 1992 to denote a group of native Kurdish monotheistic religions: Alevism, Yarsan and Yazidism....

    , Ahl-e Haqq
    Ahl-e Haqq
    The Ahl-e Haqq or Yârsân , are members of a religion founded by Sultan Sahak in the late 14th century in western Iran. The total number of members is estimated at around 1,000,000, primarily found in western Iran and Iraq, mostly ethnic Kurds and Laks, though there are also smaller groups of Luri,...

     and historical traditions of Gnosticism
    Gnosticism
    Gnosticism is a scholarly term for a set of religious beliefs and spiritual practices common to early Christianity, Hellenistic Judaism, Greco-Roman mystery religions, Zoroastrianism , and Neoplatonism.A common characteristic of some of these groups was the teaching that the realisation of Gnosis...

     (Mandaeism
    Mandaeism
    Mandaeism or Mandaeanism is a Gnostic religion with a strongly dualistic worldview. Its adherents, the Mandaeans, revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enosh, Noah, Shem, Aram and especially John the Baptist...

    , Manichaeism
    Manichaeism
    Manichaeism in Modern Persian Āyin e Māni; ) was one of the major Iranian Gnostic religions, originating in Sassanid Persia.Although most of the original writings of the founding prophet Mani have been lost, numerous translations and fragmentary texts have survived...

    ). It has significant overlaps with Abrahamic traditions, e.g. in Sufism
    Sufism
    Sufism or ' is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a '...

     and in recent movements such as Bábism
    Bábism
    The Babi Faith is a religious movement that flourished in Persia from 1844 to 1852, then lingered on in exile in the Ottoman Empire as well as underground. Its founder was Siyyid `Alí Muhammad Shirazi, who took the title Báb—meaning "Gate"—from a Shi'a theological term...

     and the Bahá'í Faith
    Bahá'í Faith
    The Bahá'í Faith is a monotheistic religion founded by Bahá'u'lláh in 19th-century Persia, emphasizing the spiritual unity of all humankind. There are an estimated five to six million Bahá'ís around the world in more than 200 countries and territories....

    .
  • New religious movement
    New religious movement
    A new religious movement is a religious community or ethical, spiritual, or philosophical group of modern origin, which has a peripheral place within the dominant religious culture. NRMs may be novel in origin or they may be part of a wider religion, such as Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism, in...

     is the term applied to any religious faith which has emerged since the 19th century, often syncretizing
    Syncretism
    Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. The term means "combining", but see below for the origin of the word...

    , re-interpreting or reviving aspects of older traditions: Hindu reform movements
    Hindu reform movements
    Several contemporary groups, collectively termed Hindu reform movements, strive to introduce regeneration and reform to Hinduism. Although these movements are very individual in their exact philosophies they generally stress the spiritual, secular and logical and scientific aspects of the Vedic...

    , Eckankar
    Eckankar
    Eckankar is a new religious movement founded in the United States in 1965, though practiced around the world long before with a solid following in China. It focuses on spiritual exercises enabling practitioners to experience what its followers call "the Light and Sound of God." The personal...

    , Ayyavazhi
    Ayyavazhi
    Ayyavazhi is a dharmic belief system that originated in South India in the 19th century. It is cited as an independent monistic religion by several newspapers, government reports and academic researchers. In Indian censuses, however, the majority of its followers declare themselves as Hindus...

    , polytheistic reconstructionism
    Polytheistic reconstructionism
    Polytheistic reconstructionism is an approach to Neopaganism first emerging in the late 1960s to early 1970s, and gathering momentum in the 1990s to 2000s...

    , and so forth.

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 USA or France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan 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 world's population. A number of fundamental aspects are unresolved:
  • Whether to count "historically predominant religious culture[s]"
  • 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.
  • Whether to rely only on official government-provided statistics
  • Whether to use multiple sources and ranges or single "best source(s)"

Largest religions or belief systems by number of adherents


The table below lists religions classified by philosophy; however, religious philosophy is not always the determining factor in local practice. Please note that this table includes heterodox movements as adherents to their larger philosophical category, although this may be disputed by others within that category. For example, Cao Đài is listed because it claims to be a separate category from Buddhism, while Hoa Hao
Hoa Hao
Hòa Hảo is a religious tradition, based on Buddhism, founded in 1939 by Huỳnh Phú Sổ, a native of the Mekong River Delta region of southern Vietnam. Adherents consider Sổ to be a prophet, and Hòa Hảo a continuation of a 19th-century Buddhist ministry known as Bửu Sơn Kỳ Hương...

 is not, even though they are similar new religious movement
New religious movement
A new religious movement is a religious community or ethical, spiritual, or philosophical group of modern origin, which has a peripheral place within the dominant religious culture. NRMs may be novel in origin or they may be part of a wider religion, such as Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism, in...

s.

The population numbers below are computed by a combination of census reports, random surveys (in countries where religion data is not collected in census, for example USA or France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

), and self-reported attendance numbers, 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. Some organizations may wildly inflate their numbers.
Religious category | Number of followers
(in millions)
Cultural tradition Main regions covered
Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

2,000–2,200 Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions are the monotheistic faiths emphasizing and tracing their common origin to Abraham or recognizing a spiritual tradition identified with him...

 
Predominant in the Western world
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 (Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, the Americas
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

, Oceania
Oceania
Oceania is a region centered on the islands of the tropical Pacific Ocean. Conceptions of what constitutes Oceania range from the coral atolls and volcanic islands of the South Pacific to the entire insular region between Asia and the Americas, including Australasia and the Malay Archipelago...

), Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa as a geographical term refers to the area of the African continent which lies south of the Sahara. A political definition of Sub-Saharan Africa, instead, covers all African countries which are fully or partially located south of the Sahara...

, the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

, and East Timor
East Timor
The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, commonly known as East Timor , is a state in Southeast Asia. It comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecusse, an exclave on the northwestern side of the island, within Indonesian West Timor...

 in Southeast Asia. Minorities worldwide, see Christianity by country
Christianity by country
As of the early 21st century, Christianity has around 2.1 billion adherents. The faith represents nearly one-third of the world's population and is the largest religion in the world, with approximately 38,000 Christian denominations. Christians have composed about 33 percent of the world's...

.
Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

1,300–1,650
Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions are the monotheistic faiths emphasizing and tracing their common origin to Abraham or recognizing a spiritual tradition identified with him...

 
Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

, Northern Africa, Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

, South Asia
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

, Western Africa, Malay Archipelago
Malay Archipelago
The Malay Archipelago refers to the archipelago between mainland Southeastern Asia and Australia. The name was derived from the anachronistic concept of a Malay race....

 with large population centers existing in Eastern Africa, Balkan Peninsula
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

, Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

.
Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

828–1,000 Indian religions  South Asia
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

, Bali
Bali
Bali is an Indonesian island located in the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east...

, Mauritius
Mauritius
Mauritius , officially the Republic of Mauritius is an island nation off the southeast coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean, about east of Madagascar...

, Fiji
Fiji
Fiji , officially the Republic of Fiji , is an island nation in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean about northeast of New Zealand's North Island...

, Guyana
Guyana
Guyana , officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, previously the colony of British Guiana, is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America that is culturally part of the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana was a former colony of the Dutch and of the British...

, Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago officially the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is an archipelagic state in the southern Caribbean, lying just off the coast of northeastern Venezuela and south of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles...

, Suriname
Suriname
Suriname , officially the Republic of Suriname , is a country in northern South America. It borders French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west, Brazil to the south, and on the north by the Atlantic Ocean. Suriname was a former colony of the British and of the Dutch, and was previously known as...

, and among the overseas Indian communities.
Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

400–500

Indian religions  South Asia
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

, East Asia
East Asia
East Asia or Eastern Asia is a subregion of Asia that can be defined in either geographical or cultural terms...

, Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 and some regions of Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

.
Folk religion
Folk religion
Folk religion consists of ethnic or regional religious customs under the umbrella of an organized religion, but outside of official doctrine and practices...

s
400-500 Folk religion
Folk religion
Folk religion consists of ethnic or regional religious customs under the umbrella of an organized religion, but outside of official doctrine and practices...

s
Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

, Americas
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

Chinese folk religion
Chinese folk religion
Chinese folk religion or Shenism , which is a term of considerable debate, are labels used to describe the collection of ethnic religious traditions which have been a main belief system in China and among Han Chinese ethnic groups for most of the civilization's history until today...

s
(including Taoism
Taoism
Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

 and Confucianism
Confucianism
Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius . Confucianism originated as an "ethical-sociopolitical teaching" during the Spring and Autumn Period, but later developed metaphysical and cosmological elements in the Han...

)
400-500

The number of people who consider themselves party to a "folk tradition" is impossible to determine.
Chinese Religions
Religion in China
Religion in China has been characterized by pluralism since the beginning of Chinese history. The Chinese religions are family-oriented and do not demand the exclusive adherence of members. Some scholars doubt the use of the term "religion" in reference to Buddhism and Taoism, and suggest "cultural...

 
East Asia
East Asia
East Asia or Eastern Asia is a subregion of Asia that can be defined in either geographical or cultural terms...

, Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

, Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 and Malaysia.
Shinto
Shinto
or Shintoism, also kami-no-michi, is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past. Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written...

27–65 Japanese Religions
Religion in Japan
Most Japanese people do not exclusively identify themselves as adherents of a single religion; rather, they incorporate elements of various religions in a syncretic fashion known as . Shinbutsu Shūgō officially ended with the Shinto and Buddhism Separation Order of 1886, but continues in practice...

 
Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

Sikhism
Sikhism
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded during the 15th century in the Punjab region, by Guru Nanak Dev and continued to progress with ten successive Sikh Gurus . It is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world and one of the fastest-growing...

24–28
Indian religions  Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

, Australasia
Australasia
Australasia is a region of Oceania comprising Australia, New Zealand, the island of New Guinea, and neighbouring islands in the Pacific Ocean. The term was coined by Charles de Brosses in Histoire des navigations aux terres australes...

, Northern America
Northern America
Northern America is the northernmost region of the Americas, and is part of the North American continent. It lies directly north of the region of Middle America; the land border between the two regions coincides with the border between the United States and Mexico...

, Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

, the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

.
Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

14–18 Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions are the monotheistic faiths emphasizing and tracing their common origin to Abraham or recognizing a spiritual tradition identified with him...

 
Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 and the worldwide Jewish diaspora
Jewish diaspora
The Jewish diaspora is the English term used to describe the Galut גלות , or 'exile', of the Jews from the region of the Kingdom of Judah and Roman Iudaea and later emigration from wider Eretz Israel....

 (mostly North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

, Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, and Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

).
Jainism
Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state...

8–12 Figures for the population of Jains differ from just over six million to twelve million due to difficulties of Jain identity, with Jains in some areas counted as a Hindu sect. Many Jains do not return Jainism as their religion on census forms for various reasons such as certain Jain castes considering themselves both Hindu and Jain. Following a major advertising campaign urging Jains to register as such, the 1981 Census of India returned 3.19 million Jains. This was estimated at the time to still be half the true number. The 2001 Census of India had 8.4 million Jains. Indian religions  India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, and East Africa
East Africa
East Africa or Eastern Africa is the easterly region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics. In the UN scheme of geographic regions, 19 territories constitute Eastern Africa:...

.
Bahá'í Faith
Bahá'í Faith
The Bahá'í Faith is a monotheistic religion founded by Bahá'u'lláh in 19th-century Persia, emphasizing the spiritual unity of all humankind. There are an estimated five to six million Bahá'ís around the world in more than 200 countries and territories....

7.6–7.9
Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions are the monotheistic faiths emphasizing and tracing their common origin to Abraham or recognizing a spiritual tradition identified with him...

Historically, the Bahá'í Faith arose in 19th century Persia, in the context of Shi'a Islam
Shi'a Islam
Shia Islam is the second largest denomination of Islam. The followers of Shia Islam are called Shi'ites or Shias. "Shia" is the short form of the historic phrase Shīʻatu ʻAlī , meaning "followers of Ali", "faction of Ali", or "party of Ali".Like other schools of thought in Islam, Shia Islam is...

, and thus may be classed on this basis as a divergent strand of Islam, placing it in the Abrahamic tradition. However, the Bahá'í Faith considers itself an independent religious tradition, which draws from Islam but also other traditions. The Bahá'í Faith may also be classed as a new religious movement
New religious movement
A new religious movement is a religious community or ethical, spiritual, or philosophical group of modern origin, which has a peripheral place within the dominant religious culture. NRMs may be novel in origin or they may be part of a wider religion, such as Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism, in...

, due to its comparatively recent origin, or may be considered sufficiently old and established for such classification to not be applicable.
Noted for being dispersed worldwide but the top ten populations (amounting to about 60% of the Bahá'í World Faith adherents) are (in order of size of community) India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

, Kenya
Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

, DR of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a state located in Central Africa. It is the second largest country in Africa by area and the eleventh largest in the world...

, Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

, Zambia
Zambia
Zambia , officially the Republic of Zambia, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. The neighbouring countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to the south, and Angola to the west....

, South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

, Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, Bolivia
Bolivia
Bolivia officially known as Plurinational State of Bolivia , is a landlocked country in central South America. It is the poorest country in South America...

Cao Dai
Cao Dai
Cao Đài is a syncretistic, monotheistic religion, officially established in the city of Tay Ninh, southern Vietnam, in 1926. Đạo Cao Đài is the religion's shortened name, the full name is Đại Đạo Tam Kỳ Phổ Độ...

1–3 Vietnamese Religions
Religion in Vietnam
The earliest established religions in Vietnam are Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism . Significant minorities of adherents to Roman Catholicism, Cao Dai, and Hoa Hao and smaller minorities of adherents to Hinduism, Islam, Protestantism and Theravada Buddhism exist.The majority of...

 
Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

.
Cheondoism
Cheondoism
Cheondoism or Chondoism is a 20th-century Korean religious movement, based on the 19th century Donghak movement founded by Choe Je-u that had its origins in the peasant rebellions which arose starting in 1812 during the Joseon Dynasty...

3 Korean Religions
Religion in Korea
Religion in Korea encompasses a number of different traditions. Traditional Buddhism, Mugyo with a background of Korean Confucianism and later Christianity all play a role in Korea's religious tradition...

 
North
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

 and South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

Spiritism
Spiritism
Spiritism is a loose corpus of religious faiths having in common the general belief in the survival of a spirit after death. In a stricter sense, it is the religion, beliefs and practices of the people affiliated to the International Spiritist Union, based on the works of Allan Kardec and others...

2.5 Humanism
Humanism
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

 
Brazil
Religion in Brazil
Religion in Brazil has a higher adherence level compared to other Latin American countries, and is more diverse.In 1891, when the first Brazilian Republican Constitution was set forth, Brazil ceased to have an official religion. The present Constitution guarantees absolute freedom of religion...

.
Tenrikyo
Tenrikyo
Tenrikyo is a monotheistic religion originating in revelations to a 19th-century Japanese woman named Nakayama Miki, known as Oyasama by followers...

2 Japanese Religions
Religion in Japan
Most Japanese people do not exclusively identify themselves as adherents of a single religion; rather, they incorporate elements of various religions in a syncretic fashion known as . Shinbutsu Shūgō officially ended with the Shinto and Buddhism Separation Order of 1886, but continues in practice...

 
Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

.
Wicca
Wicca
Wicca , is a modern Pagan religious movement. Developing in England in the first half of the 20th century, Wicca was popularised in the 1950s and early 1960s by a Wiccan High Priest named Gerald Gardner, who at the time called it the "witch cult" and "witchcraft," and its adherents "the Wica."...

1 New Religious Movement
New religious movement
A new religious movement is a religious community or ethical, spiritual, or philosophical group of modern origin, which has a peripheral place within the dominant religious culture. NRMs may be novel in origin or they may be part of a wider religion, such as Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism, in...

s
United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

.
Church of World Messianity
Church of World Messianity
The Church of World Messianity , abbreviated COWM, is a "new religion" founded in 1935 by Mokichi Okada. The religion's key concept is Johrei, claimed to be a method of channeling divine light into the body of another for the purposes of healing...

1 Japanese Religions
Religion in Japan
Most Japanese people do not exclusively identify themselves as adherents of a single religion; rather, they incorporate elements of various religions in a syncretic fashion known as . Shinbutsu Shūgō officially ended with the Shinto and Buddhism Separation Order of 1886, but continues in practice...

 
Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

Seicho-no-Ie
Seicho-No-Ie
Seicho-no-Ie, sometimes rendered Seicho-no Iye , is a syncretic, nondenominational, monotheistic, New Thought religion, one of the Shinshūkyō in Japan that have spread since the end of World War II...

0.8 Japanese Religions
Religion in Japan
Most Japanese people do not exclusively identify themselves as adherents of a single religion; rather, they incorporate elements of various religions in a syncretic fashion known as . Shinbutsu Shūgō officially ended with the Shinto and Buddhism Separation Order of 1886, but continues in practice...

 
Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

.
Rastafari movement
Rastafari movement
The Rastafari movement or Rasta is a new religious movement that arose in the 1930s in Jamaica, which at the time was a country with a predominantly Christian culture where 98% of the people were the black descendants of slaves. Its adherents worship Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia , as God...

0.7 New religious movement
New religious movement
A new religious movement is a religious community or ethical, spiritual, or philosophical group of modern origin, which has a peripheral place within the dominant religious culture. NRMs may be novel in origin or they may be part of a wider religion, such as Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism, in...

s, Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions are the monotheistic faiths emphasizing and tracing their common origin to Abraham or recognizing a spiritual tradition identified with him...

 
Jamaica
Jamaica
Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

, Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

, Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

.
Unitarian Universalism
Unitarian Universalism
Unitarian Universalism is a religion characterized by support for a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning". Unitarian Universalists do not share a creed; rather, they are unified by their shared search for spiritual growth and by the understanding that an individual's theology is a...

0.63 New religious movement
New religious movement
A new religious movement is a religious community or ethical, spiritual, or philosophical group of modern origin, which has a peripheral place within the dominant religious culture. NRMs may be novel in origin or they may be part of a wider religion, such as Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism, in...

s
United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

.

By region


  • Religion in Africa
    Religion in Africa
    Religion in Africa is multifaceted. Most Africans adhere to either Christianity or Islam. Many adherents of either religion also practice African traditional religions, with traditions of folk religion or syncretism practised alongside an adherent's Christianity or Islam.Judaism also has roots in...

  • Religion in Asia
    Religion in Asia
    Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, with millions of different peoples following a wide variety of different religions...

    • Religion in India
      Religion in India
      Indian religions is a classification for religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent; namely Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. These religions are also classified as Eastern religions...

    • Religion in China
      Religion in China
      Religion in China has been characterized by pluralism since the beginning of Chinese history. The Chinese religions are family-oriented and do not demand the exclusive adherence of members. Some scholars doubt the use of the term "religion" in reference to Buddhism and Taoism, and suggest "cultural...

    • Muslim world
      Muslim world
      The term Muslim world has several meanings. In a religious sense, it refers to those who adhere to the teachings of Islam, referred to as Muslims. In a cultural sense, it refers to Islamic civilization, inclusive of non-Muslims living in that civilization...

       (SW Asia and N Africa)
  • Religion in North America
    Religion in North America
    Religion in North America spans the period of Native American dwelling, European settlement, and the present day. Its various faiths have been a major influence on art, culture, philosophy and law....

    • Religion in Canada
      Religion in Canada
      Religion in Canada encompasses a wide range of groups. The preamble to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms references "God", and the monarch carries the title of "Defender of the Faith". However, Canada has no official religion, and support for religious pluralism is an important part of...

    • Religion in Mexico
      Religion in Mexico
      Mexico has no official religion, and the Constitution of 1917 imposed limitations on the church and sometimes codified state intrusion into church matters. The government doesn't provide financial contributions to the church, nor does the church participate in public education...

    • Religion in the United States
      Religion in the United States
      Religion in the United States is characterized by both a wide diversity in religious beliefs and practices, and by a high adherence level. According to recent surveys, 83 percent of Americans claim to belong to a religious denomination, 40 percent claim to attend services nearly every week or...

  • Religion in South America
  • Religion in Australia
    Religion in Australia
    In the 21st century, religion in Australia is demographically dominated by Christianity, with 64% of the population claiming at least nominal adherence to the Christian faith as of 2007, although less than a quarter of those attend church weekly. 18.7% of Australians declared "no-religion" on the...

  • Religion in Europe
    Religion in Europe
    Religion in Europe has been a major influence on art, culture, philosophy and law. The largest religion in Europe for at least a millennium and a half has been Christianity. Two countries in Southeastern Europe have Muslim majorities, while two more Muslim countries located mostly in Asia have...

    • Religion in the European Union
      Religion in the European Union
      The most common religion in the European Union is Christianity, although many other religions are practiced as well. The European Union is officially secular, though some member states have state churches: these are Malta , Greece , Denmark , and part of the United Kingdom - England...


Trends in adherence


Since the late 19th century, the demographics of religion have changed a great deal. Some countries with a historically large Christian population have experienced a significant decline in the numbers of professed active Christians: see demographics of atheism
Demographics of atheism
The demographics of atheism are difficult to quantify. Different people interpret "atheist" and related terms differently, and it can be hard to draw boundaries between atheism, non-religious beliefs, and non-theistic religious and spiritual beliefs...

. Symptoms of the decline in active participation in Christian religious life include declining recruitment for the priest
Priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

hood and monastic life
Monastery
Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

, as well as diminishing attendance at church
Church service
In Christianity, a church service is a term used to describe a formalized period of communal worship, often but not exclusively occurring on Sunday, or Saturday in the case of those churches practicing seventh-day Sabbatarianism. The church service is the gathering together of Christians to be...

. On the other hand, since the 19th century, large areas of sub-saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa as a geographical term refers to the area of the African continent which lies south of the Sahara. A political definition of Sub-Saharan Africa, instead, covers all African countries which are fully or partially located south of the Sahara...

 have been converted to Christianity, and this area of the world has the highest population growth rate. In the realm of Western civilization, there has been an increase in the number of people who identify themselves as secular humanists
Secular humanism
Secular Humanism, alternatively known as Humanism , is a secular philosophy that embraces human reason, ethics, justice, and the search for human fulfillment...

. In many countries, such as the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

, communist governments have discouraged religion, making it difficult to count the actual number of believers. However, after the collapse of communism in numerous countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, religious life has been experiencing resurgence there, both in the form of traditional Eastern Christianity
Eastern Christianity
Eastern Christianity comprises the Christian traditions and churches that developed in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East, Northeastern Africa, India and parts of the Far East over several centuries of religious antiquity. The term is generally used in Western Christianity to...

 and particularly in the forms of Neopaganism
Neopaganism
Neopaganism is an umbrella term used to identify a wide variety of modern religious movements, particularly those influenced by or claiming to be derived from the various pagan beliefs of pre-modern Europe...

 and Far Eastern religions.

Following is some available data based on the work of the World Christian Encyclopedia
World Christian Encyclopedia
World Christian Encyclopedia is a reference work published by Oxford University Press, known for providing membership statistics for major and minor world religions in every country of the world, including historical data and projections of future populations.The first edition, by David B. Barrett,...

:
Trends in annual growth of adherence
1970–1985 1990–2000 2000–2005
3.65%: Bahá'í Faith 2.65%: Zoroastrianism 1.84%: Islam
2.74%: Islam 2.28%: Bahá'í Faith 1.70%: Bahá'í Faith
2.34%: Hinduism 2.13%: Islam 1.62%: Sikhism
1.67%: Buddhism 1.87%: Sikhism 1.57%: Hinduism
1.64%: Christianity 1.69%: Hinduism 1.32%: Christianity
1.09%: Judaism 1.36%: Christianity
1.09%: Buddhism
The annual growth in the world
population over the same period
is 1.41%.


Studies conducted by the Pew Research Center
Pew Research Center
The Pew Research Center is an American think tank organization based in Washington, D.C. that provides information on issues, attitudes and trends shaping the United States and the world. The Center and its projects receive funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts. In 1990, Donald S...

 have found that, generally, poorer nations had a larger proportion of citizens who found religion to be very important than richer nations, with the exceptions of the United States and Kuwait.

See also

  • Claims to be the fastest-growing religion

:Category:Religion by country
  • List of religions
  • Parliament of the World's Religions
    Parliament of the World's Religions
    There have been several meetings referred to as a Parliament of the World’s Religions, most notably the World's Parliament of Religions of 1893, the first attempt to create a global dialogue of faiths. The event was celebrated by another conference on its centenary in 1993...

  • Religious text
    Religious text
    Religious texts, also known as scripture, scriptures, holy writ, or holy books, are the texts which various religious traditions consider to be sacred, or of central importance to their religious tradition...

  • Religious conversion
    Religious conversion
    Religious conversion is the adoption of a new religion that differs from the convert's previous religion. Changing from one denomination to another within the same religion is usually described as reaffiliation rather than conversion.People convert to a different religion for various reasons,...

  • List of religious populations
  • dharma
    Dharma
    Dharma means Law or Natural Law and is a concept of central importance in Indian philosophy and religion. In the context of Hinduism, it refers to one's personal obligations, calling and duties, and a Hindu's dharma is affected by the person's age, caste, class, occupation, and gender...

    , sanatana dharma

External links