Religion

Religion

Overview


Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality
Spirituality
Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop...

 and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives
Mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

, symbol
Symbol
A symbol is something which represents an idea, a physical entity or a process but is distinct from it. The purpose of a symbol is to communicate meaning. For example, a red octagon may be a symbol for "STOP". On a map, a picture of a tent might represent a campsite. Numerals are symbols for...

s, tradition
Tradition
A tradition is a ritual, belief or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present, with origins in the past. Common examples include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes , but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings...

s and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life
Meaning of life
The meaning of life constitutes a philosophical question concerning the purpose and significance of life or existence in general. This concept can be expressed through a variety of related questions, such as "Why are we here?", "What is life all about?", and "What is the meaning of it all?" It has...

 or to explain the origin of life or the universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

. They tend to derive morality, ethics
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

, religious law
Religious law
In some religions, law can be thought of as the ordering principle of reality; knowledge as revealed by a God defining and governing all human affairs. Law, in the religious sense, also includes codes of ethics and morality which are upheld and required by the God...

s or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos
Cosmos
In the general sense, a cosmos is an orderly or harmonious system. It originates from the Greek term κόσμος , meaning "order" or "ornament" and is antithetical to the concept of chaos. Today, the word is generally used as a synonym of the word Universe . The word cosmos originates from the same root...

 and human nature
Human nature
Human nature refers to the distinguishing characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling and acting, that humans tend to have naturally....

.

The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with faith
Faith
Faith is confidence or trust in a person or thing, or a belief that is not based on proof. In religion, faith is a belief in a transcendent reality, a religious teacher, a set of teachings or a Supreme Being. Generally speaking, it is offered as a means by which the truth of the proposition,...

or belief system, but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect.
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Unanswered Questions
Quotations

Organized religion is a Choose Your Own Adventure novel for people of extremely limited imagination.

Jacob M. Appel in W:Arborophilia|Arborophilia (2005)

All religions, with their gods, demigods, prophets, messiahs and saints, are the product of the fancy and credulity of men who have not yet reached the full development and complete possession of their intellectual powers.

Mikhail Bakunin, God and the State (1871)

The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion.

Joel Barlow, in the Treaty of Tripoli, signed by President John Adams (1796)

One's religion is whatever he is most interested in.

J.M. Barrie The Twelve-Pound Look (1910)

The primary epiphenomenona of any religion’s foundation are the production and flourishment of hypocrisy, megalomania and psychopathy, and the first casualties of a religion’s establishment are the intentions of its founder.

Louis de Bernières|Louis de Bernières, in Birds Without Wings

Religion, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.

Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
Encyclopedia


Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality
Spirituality
Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop...

 and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives
Mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

, symbol
Symbol
A symbol is something which represents an idea, a physical entity or a process but is distinct from it. The purpose of a symbol is to communicate meaning. For example, a red octagon may be a symbol for "STOP". On a map, a picture of a tent might represent a campsite. Numerals are symbols for...

s, tradition
Tradition
A tradition is a ritual, belief or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present, with origins in the past. Common examples include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes , but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings...

s and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life
Meaning of life
The meaning of life constitutes a philosophical question concerning the purpose and significance of life or existence in general. This concept can be expressed through a variety of related questions, such as "Why are we here?", "What is life all about?", and "What is the meaning of it all?" It has...

 or to explain the origin of life or the universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

. They tend to derive morality, ethics
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

, religious law
Religious law
In some religions, law can be thought of as the ordering principle of reality; knowledge as revealed by a God defining and governing all human affairs. Law, in the religious sense, also includes codes of ethics and morality which are upheld and required by the God...

s or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos
Cosmos
In the general sense, a cosmos is an orderly or harmonious system. It originates from the Greek term κόσμος , meaning "order" or "ornament" and is antithetical to the concept of chaos. Today, the word is generally used as a synonym of the word Universe . The word cosmos originates from the same root...

 and human nature
Human nature
Human nature refers to the distinguishing characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling and acting, that humans tend to have naturally....

.

The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with faith
Faith
Faith is confidence or trust in a person or thing, or a belief that is not based on proof. In religion, faith is a belief in a transcendent reality, a religious teacher, a set of teachings or a Supreme Being. Generally speaking, it is offered as a means by which the truth of the proposition,...

or belief system, but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect. Most religions have organized behaviors
Religious behaviour
The religions of the world consist of religious images and religious behaviour. The images of the religions from the past and of present day religions, like gods, ghosts and worshipped ancestors, concepts of guilt, dogmatic teachings and ideas of the hereafter, are generally quite well known...

, including clerical hierarchies
Clergy
Clergy is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion. A clergyman, churchman or cleric is a member of the clergy, especially one who is a priest, preacher, pastor, or other religious professional....

, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, congregation
Local church
A local church is a Christian congregation of members and clergy.Local church may also refer to:* Local churches , a Christian group based on the teachings of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, and associated with the Living Stream Ministry publishing house.* Parish church, a local church united with...

s of laity
Laity
In religious organizations, the laity comprises all people who are not in the clergy. A person who is a member of a religious order who is not ordained legitimate clergy is considered as a member of the laity, even though they are members of a religious order .In the past in Christian cultures, the...

, regular meetings or services for the purposes of veneration of a deity
Deity
A deity is a recognized preternatural or supernatural immortal being, who may be thought of as holy, divine, or sacred, held in high regard, and respected by believers....

 or for prayer
Prayer
Prayer is a form of religious practice that seeks to activate a volitional rapport to a deity through deliberate practice. Prayer may be either individual or communal and take place in public or in private. It may involve the use of words or song. When language is used, prayer may take the form of...

, holy places (either natural or architectural), and/or scriptures. The practice of a religion may also include sermon
Sermon
A sermon is an oration by a prophet or member of the clergy. Sermons address a Biblical, theological, religious, or moral topic, usually expounding on a type of belief, law or behavior within both past and present contexts...

s, commemoration of the activities of a god
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 or gods, sacrifice
Sacrifice
Sacrifice is the offering of food, objects or the lives of animals or people to God or the gods as an act of propitiation or worship.While sacrifice often implies ritual killing, the term offering can be used for bloodless sacrifices of cereal food or artifacts...

s, festival
Festival
A festival or gala is an event, usually and ordinarily staged by a local community, which centers on and celebrates some unique aspect of that community and the Festival....

s, feasts
Banquet
A banquet is a large meal or feast, complete with main courses and desserts. It usually serves a purpose such as a charitable gathering, a ceremony, or a celebration, and is often preceded or followed by speeches in honour of someone....

, trance
Trance
Trance denotes a variety of processes, ecstasy, techniques, modalities and states of mind, awareness and consciousness. Trance states may occur involuntarily and unbidden.The term trance may be associated with meditation, magic, flow, and prayer...

, initiation
Initiation
Initiation is a rite of passage ceremony marking entrance or acceptance into a group or society. It could also be a formal admission to adulthood in a community or one of its formal components...

s, funerary services
Funeral
A funeral is a ceremony for celebrating, sanctifying, or remembering the life of a person who has died. Funerary customs comprise the complex of beliefs and practices used by a culture to remember the dead, from interment itself, to various monuments, prayers, and rituals undertaken in their honor...

, matrimonial services, meditation
Meditation
Meditation is any form of a family of practices in which practitioners train their minds or self-induce a mode of consciousness to realize some benefit....

, music
Music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

, art
Art
Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect....

, dance
Dance
Dance is an art form that generally refers to movement of the body, usually rhythmic and to music, used as a form of expression, social interaction or presented in a spiritual or performance setting....

, public service
Community service
Community service is donated service or activity that is performed by someone or a group of people for the benefit of the public or its institutions....

, or other aspects of human culture.

The development of religion
Development of religion
The development of religion describes the stages in the evolution of any particular religious system from a social sciences perspective. It includes such considerations as the evolutionary origin of religions and the evolutionary psychology of religion; the history of religions, including...

 has taken different forms in different cultures. Some religions place an emphasis on belief, while others emphasize practice. Some religions focus on the subjective experience of the religious individual, while others consider the activities of the religious community to be most important. Some religions claim to be universal, believing their law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

s and cosmology
Cosmology
Cosmology is the discipline that deals with the nature of the Universe as a whole. Cosmologists seek to understand the origin, evolution, structure, and ultimate fate of the Universe at large, as well as the natural laws that keep it in order...

 to be binding for everyone, while others are intended to be practiced only by a closely defined or localized group. In many places religion has been associated with public institutions such as education
Education
Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people lives on from one generation to the next. Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts...

, hospital
Hospital
A hospital is a health care institution providing patient treatment by specialized staff and equipment. Hospitals often, but not always, provide for inpatient care or longer-term patient stays....

s, the family
Family
In human context, a family is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies it is the principal institution for the socialization of children...

, government
Government
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

, and political
Politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

 hierarchies.

Some academics studying the subject have divided religions into three broad categories: world religions, a term which refers to transcultural
Transculturation
Transculturation is a term coined by Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortiz in 1940 to describe the phenomenon of merging and converging cultures....

, international
International
----International mostly means something that involves more than one country. The term international as a word means involvement of, interaction between or encompassing more than one nation, or generally beyond national boundaries...

 faiths; indigenous religions, which refers to smaller, culture-specific or nation-specific religious groups; and new religious movements, which refers to recently developed faiths. One modern academic theory of religion, social constructionism
Social constructionism
Social constructionism and social constructivism are sociological theories of knowledge that consider how social phenomena or objects of consciousness develop in social contexts. A social construction is a concept or practice that is the construct of a particular group...

, says that religion is a modern concept that suggests all spiritual
Spirituality
Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop...

 practice and worship
Worship
Worship is an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity. The word is derived from the Old English worthscipe, meaning worthiness or worth-ship — to give, at its simplest, worth to something, for example, Christian worship.Evelyn Underhill defines worship thus: "The absolute...

 follows a model similar to the 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...

 as an orientation system that helps to interpret reality and define human beings, and thus religion, as a concept, has been applied inappropriately
Reification (fallacy)
Reification is a fallacy of ambiguity, when an abstraction is treated as if it were a concrete, real event, or physical entity. In other words, it is the error of treating as a "real thing" something which is not a real thing, but merely an idea...

 to non-Western cultures that are not based upon such systems, or in which these systems are a substantially simpler construct.

Etymology


Religion (from O.Fr. religion "religious community," from L. religionem (nom. religio) "respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods," "obligation, the bond between man and the gods") is derived from the Latin religiō, the ultimate origins of which are obscure. One possibility is derivation from a reduplicated , an interpretation traced to Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

 connecting "read", i.e. re (again) + lego in the sense of "choose", "go over again" or "consider carefully". Modern scholars such as Tom Harpur
Tom Harpur
Thomas William Harpur is a Canadian author, broadcaster, columnist and theologian. An ordained priest, he is a proponent of the Christ myth theory, the idea that Jesus did not exist but is a fictional or mythological figure...

 and Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell
Joseph John Campbell was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience...

 favor the derivation from "bind, connect", probably from a prefixed , i.e. re (again) + ligare or "to reconnect," which was made prominent by St. Augustine
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

, following the interpretation of Lactantius
Lactantius
Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius was an early Christian author who became an advisor to the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine I, guiding his religious policy as it developed, and tutor to his son.-Biography:...

. The medieval usage alternates with order in designating bonded communities like those of monastic orders: "we hear of the 'religion' of the Golden Fleece
Order of the Golden Fleece
The Order of the Golden Fleece is an order of chivalry founded in Bruges by Philip III, Duke of Burgundy in 1430, to celebrate his marriage to the Portuguese princess Infanta Isabella of Portugal, daughter of King John I of Portugal. It evolved as one of the most prestigious orders in Europe...

, of a knight 'of the religion of Avys
Order of Aviz
The Military Order of Aviz , previously to 1910 Royal Military Order of Aviz , previously to 1789 Order of Saint Benedict of Aviz , previously Knights of St. Benedict of Aviz or Friars of Santa Maria of Évora, is a Portuguese Order of Chivalry...

'".

According to the philologist Max Müller
Max Müller
Friedrich Max Müller , more regularly known as Max Müller, was a German philologist and Orientalist, one of the founders of the western academic field of Indian studies and the discipline of comparative religion...

, the root of the English word "religion", the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 religio, was originally used to mean only "reverence for God or the gods, careful pondering of divine things, piety
Pietas
Pietas was one of the Roman virtues, along with gravitas and dignitas. It is usually translated as "duty" or "devotion."-Definition:The word pietas is originally from Latin. The first printed record of the word’s use in English is from Anselm Bayly’s The Alliance of Music, Poetry, and Oratory,...

" (which Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

 further derived to mean "diligence"). Max Müller
Max Müller
Friedrich Max Müller , more regularly known as Max Müller, was a German philologist and Orientalist, one of the founders of the western academic field of Indian studies and the discipline of comparative religion...

 characterized many other cultures around the world, including Egypt, Persia, and India, as having a similar power structure at this point in history. What is called ancient religion today, they would have only called "law".

Many languages have words that can be translated as "religion", but they may use them in a very different way, and some have no word for religion at all. For example, the Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 word 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...

, sometimes translated as "religion", also means law. Throughout classical 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...

, the study of law
Dharmasastra
Dharmaśāstra is a genre of Sanskrit texts and refers to the śāstra, or Indic branch of learning, pertaining to Hindu dharma, religious and legal duty. The voluminous textual corpus of Dharmaśāstra is primarily a product of the Brahmanical tradition in India and represents the elaborate scholastic...

 consisted of concepts such as penance through piety
Prayascitta
Prāyaścitta is the Hindu term for penance and, along with vyavahāra and ācāra makes up the dharmaśāstra. It is the word used for the portion of Hindu law and the dharmaśāstra that has to do with the expiation of sins...

 and ceremonial as well as practical traditions
Acara
Acara may refer to:* Acara , a former region of the Ottoman Empire in present-day Georgia* Blue acara, a colorful freshwater fish* Zebra acara, a tropical freshwater fish...

. Medieval Japan at first had a similar union between "imperial law" and universal or "Buddha law", but these later became independent sources of power.

There is no precise equivalent of "religion" in Hebrew, and Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 does not distinguish clearly between religious, national, racial, or ethnic identities. One of its central concepts is "halakha
Halakha
Halakha — also transliterated Halocho , or Halacha — is the collective body of Jewish law, including biblical law and later talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions.Judaism classically draws no distinction in its laws between religious and ostensibly non-religious life; Jewish...

", sometimes translated as "law"", which guides religious practice and belief and many aspects of daily life.

The use of other terms, such as obedience to God or Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 are likewise grounded in particular histories and vocabularies.

Religious movements



In the 19th and 20th centuries, the academic practice of 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...

 divided religious belief into philosophically defined categories called "world religions." However, some recent scholarship has argued that not all types of religion are necessarily separated by mutually exclusive philosophies, and furthermore that the utility of ascribing a practice to a certain philosophy, or even calling a given practice religious, rather than cultural, political, or social in nature, is limited. The current state of psychological study about the nature of religiousness suggests that it is better to refer to religion as a largely invariant phenomenon that should be distinguished from cultural norms (i.e. "religions"). The list of religious movements given here is therefore an attempt to summarize the most important regional and philosophical influences on local communities, but it is by no means a complete description of every religious community, nor does it explain the most important elements of individual religiousness.

The four largest religious groups by population, estimated to account for between 5 and 7 billion people, are Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism (with the relative numbers for Buddhism and Hinduism dependent on the extent of syncretism
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...

).
Four largest religions Adherents % of world population Article
World population 6.96 billion Figures taken from individual articles:
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...

2.1 billion – 2.2 billion 33% – 34% 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 ~~~...

1.5 billion – 1.6 billion 22% – 23% Islam by country
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...

500 million – 1.9 billion 7% – 29% Buddhism by country
Buddhism by country
Obtaining exact numbers of practicing Buddhists can be difficult and may be reliant on the definition used. Adherents of Eastern religions such as Buddhism with local Animism, Chinese folk religion, Confucianism, Shinto, and Taoism often have beliefs composed of a mix of religious ideas...

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...

1.0 billion – 1.1 billion 15.2% – 16.2% Hinduism by country
Hinduism by country
The percentage of Hindu population of each country was taken from the US State Department's International Religious Freedom Report 2006. Other sources used were the CIA World Factbook and adherents.com...

Total 5.1 billion – 6.8 billion 77% – 99%

  • 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 monotheistic religions which believe they descend from Abraham
    Abraham
    Abraham , whose birth name was Abram, is the eponym of the Abrahamic religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

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

    is the oldest Abrahamic religion, originating in the people of ancient Israel and Judea
    History of ancient Israel and Judah
    Israel and Judah were related Iron Age kingdoms of ancient Palestine. The earliest known reference to the name Israel in archaeological records is in the Merneptah stele, an Egyptian record of c. 1209 BCE. By the 9th century BCE the Kingdom of Israel had emerged as an important local power before...

    . Judaism is based primarily on the Torah
    Torah
    Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

    , a text which some Jews believe was handed down to the people of Israel through the prophet Moses
    Moses
    Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

     in 1,400 BCE. This along with the rest of the Hebrew Bible
    Hebrew Bible
    The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

     and the Talmud
    Talmud
    The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

     are the central texts of Judaism. The Jewish people were scattered after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem
    Temple in Jerusalem
    The Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple , refers to one of a series of structures which were historically located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock. Historically, these successive temples stood at this location and functioned as the centre of...

     in 70 CE. Today there are about 13 million Jews, about 40 per cent living in Israel and 40 per cent in the United States.
  • 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...

    is based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth (1st century) as presented in the New Testament
    New Testament
    The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

    . The Christian faith is essentially faith in Jesus as the Christ
    Christ
    Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

    , the Son of God
    Son of God
    "Son of God" is a phrase which according to most Christian denominations, Trinitarian in belief, refers to the relationship between Jesus and God, specifically as "God the Son"...

    , and as Savior
    Messiah
    A messiah is a redeemer figure expected or foretold in one form or another by a religion. Slightly more widely, a messiah is any redeemer figure. Messianic beliefs or theories generally relate to eschatological improvement of the state of humanity or the world, in other words the World to...

     and Lord. Almost all Christians believe in the Trinity
    Trinity
    The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons : the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial . Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being...

    , which teaches the unity of Father
    God the Father
    God the Father is a gendered title given to God in many monotheistic religions, particularly patriarchal, Abrahamic ones. In Judaism, God is called Father because he is the creator, life-giver, law-giver, and protector...

    , Son
    God the Son
    God the Son is the second person of the Trinity in Christian theology. The doctrine of the Trinity identifies Jesus of Nazareth as God the Son, united in essence but distinct in person with regard to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit...

     (Jesus Christ), and Holy Spirit
    Holy Spirit
    Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

     as three persons in one Godhead
    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...

    . Most Christians can describe their faith with the Nicene Creed
    Nicene Creed
    The Nicene Creed is the creed or profession of faith that is most widely used in Christian liturgy. It is called Nicene because, in its original form, it was adopted in the city of Nicaea by the first ecumenical council, which met there in the year 325.The Nicene Creed has been normative to the...

    . As the religion of Byzantine Empire
    Byzantine Empire
    The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

     in the first millennium and of 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...

     during the time of colonization, Christianity has been propagated throughout the world. The main divisions of Christianity are, according to the number of adherents:
    • Catholic Church, headed by the Pope
      Pope
      The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

       in Rome
      Rome
      Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

      , is a communion
      Communion (Christian)
      The term communion is derived from Latin communio . The corresponding term in Greek is κοινωνία, which is often translated as "fellowship". In Christianity, the basic meaning of the term communion is an especially close relationship of Christians, as individuals or as a Church, with God and with...

       of the Western church and 22 Eastern Catholic churches.
    • Protestantism
      Protestantism
      Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

      , separated from the Catholic Church in the 16th-century 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...

       and split in many denominations,
    • 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...

      which include Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy
      Oriental Orthodoxy
      Oriental Orthodoxy is the faith of those Eastern Christian Churches that recognize only three ecumenical councils — the First Council of Nicaea, the First Council of Constantinople and the First Council of Ephesus. They rejected the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Chalcedon...

       and the Church of the East
      Church of the East
      The Church of the East tāʾ d-Maḏnḥāʾ), also known as the Nestorian Church, is a Christian church, part of the Syriac tradition of Eastern Christianity. Originally the church of the Persian Sassanid Empire, it quickly spread widely through Asia...

      .
There are other smaller groups, such as Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses is a millenarian restorationist Christian denomination with nontrinitarian beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity. The religion reports worldwide membership of over 7 million adherents involved in evangelism, convention attendance of over 12 million, and annual...

 and the Latter Day Saint movement
Latter Day Saint movement
The Latter Day Saint movement is a group of independent churches tracing their origin to a Christian primitivist movement founded by Joseph Smith, Jr. in the late 1820s. Collectively, these churches have over 14 million members...

, whose inclusion in Christianity is sometimes disputed.

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

    refers to the religion taught by the Islamic prophet
    Prophets of Islam
    Muslims identify the Prophets of Islam as those humans chosen by God and given revelation to deliver to mankind. Muslims believe that every prophet was given a belief to worship God and their respective followers believed it as well...

     Muhammad
    Muhammad
    Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

    , a major political and religious figure of the 7th century CE. Islam is the dominant religion of northern Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. As with Christianity, there is no single orthodoxy in Islam but a multitude of traditions which are generally categorized as Sunni and Shia, although there are other minor groups as well. Wahhabi is the dominant Muslim schools of thought in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. There are also several Islamic republic
    Islamic republic
    Islamic republic is the name given to several states in the Muslim world including the Islamic Republics of Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, and Mauritania. Pakistan adopted the title under the constitution of 1956. Mauritania adopted it on 28 November 1958. Iran adopted it after the 1979 Iranian...

    s, including 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...

    , which is run by a Shia Supreme Leader
    Supreme leader
    A supreme leader typically refers to a figure in the highest leadership position of an entity, group, organization, or state, who exercises strong or all-powerful authority over it. In religion, the supreme leader or supreme leaders is God or Gods...

    .
  • 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....

    was founded in the 19th century in Iran and since then has spread worldwide. It teaches unity of all religious philosophies and accepts all of the prophets of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as well as additional prophets including its founder Bahá'u'lláh
    Bahá'u'lláh
    Bahá'u'lláh , born ' , was the founder of the Bahá'í Faith. He claimed to be the prophetic fulfilment of Bábism, a 19th-century outgrowth of Shí‘ism, but in a broader sense claimed to be a messenger from God referring to the fulfilment of the eschatological expectations of Islam, Christianity, and...

    .
  • Smaller regional Abrahamic groups, including Samaritanism (primarily in Israel and the West Bank), the 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...

     (primarily in Jamaica), and 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...

     (primarily in Syria and Lebanon).

  • Indian religions are practiced or were founded in 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...

    . Concepts most of them share in common include 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...

    , 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....

    , reincarnation
    Reincarnation
    Reincarnation best describes the concept where the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant...

    , mantra
    Mantra
    A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation"...

    s, yantra
    Yantra
    Yantra is the Sanskrit word for "instrument" or "machine". Much like the word "instrument" itself, it can stand for symbols, processes, automata, machinery or anything that has structure and organization, depending on context....

    s, and darśana.
    • 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...

      is a synecdoche
      Synecdoche
      Synecdoche , meaning "simultaneous understanding") is a figure of speech in which a term is used in one of the following ways:* Part of something is used to refer to the whole thing , or...

       describing the similar philosophies of Vaishnavism
      Vaishnavism
      Vaishnavism is a tradition of Hinduism, distinguished from other schools by its worship of Vishnu, or his associated Avatars such as Rama and Krishna, as the original and supreme God....

      , Shaivism
      Shaivism
      Shaivism is one of the four major sects of Hinduism, the others being Vaishnavism, Shaktism and Smartism. Followers of Shaivism, called "Shaivas," and also "Saivas" or "Saivites," revere Shiva as the Supreme Being. Shaivas believe that Shiva is All and in all, the creator, preserver, destroyer,...

      , and related groups
      Hindu denominations
      Hinduism comprises numerous sects or denominations. The denominations are roughly comparable to different religions. The main divisions in current Hinduism are Shaivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism, and Smartism...

       practiced or founded in 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...

      . Concepts most of them share in common include 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....

      , caste
      Caste
      Caste is an elaborate and complex social system that combines elements of endogamy, occupation, culture, social class, tribal affiliation and political power. It should not be confused with race or social class, e.g. members of different castes in one society may belong to the same race, as in India...

      , reincarnation
      Reincarnation
      Reincarnation best describes the concept where the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant...

      , mantra
      Mantra
      A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation"...

      s, yantra
      Yantra
      Yantra is the Sanskrit word for "instrument" or "machine". Much like the word "instrument" itself, it can stand for symbols, processes, automata, machinery or anything that has structure and organization, depending on context....

      s, and darśana. Hinduism is not a monolithic religion in the Romanic sense but a religious category containing dozens of separate philosophies amalgamated as Sanātana Dharma.
    • 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...

      , taught primarily by Parsva (9th century BCE) and Mahavira
      Mahavira
      Mahāvīra is the name most commonly used to refer to the Indian sage Vardhamāna who established what are today considered to be the central tenets of Jainism. According to Jain tradition, he was the 24th and the last Tirthankara. In Tamil, he is referred to as Arukaṉ or Arukadevan...

       (6th century BCE), is an ancient Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence for all forms of living beings in this world. Jains are found mostly in India.
    • 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...

      was founded by Siddhattha Gotama
      Gautama Buddha
      Siddhārtha Gautama was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the Indian...

       in the 6th century BCE. Buddhists generally agree that Gotama aimed to help sentient beings
      Sentient beings (Buddhism)
      Sentient beings is a technical term in Buddhist discourse. Broadly speaking, it denotes beings with consciousness or sentience or, in some contexts, life itself. Specifically, it denotes the presence of the five aggregates, or skandhas...

       end their suffering (dukkha)
      Dukkha
      Dukkha is a Pali term roughly corresponding to a number of terms in English including suffering, pain, discontent, unsatisfactoriness, unhappiness, sorrow, affliction, social alienation, anxiety,...

       by understanding the true nature of phenomena
      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...

      , thereby escaping the cycle of suffering and rebirth (saṃsāra
      Samsara
      thumb|right|200px|Traditional Tibetan painting or [[Thanka]] showing the [[wheel of life]] and realms of saṃsāraSaṅsāra or Saṃsāra , , literally meaning "continuous flow", is the cycle of birth, life, death, rebirth or reincarnation within Hinduism, Buddhism, Bön, Jainism, Sikhism, and other...

      ), that is, achieving Nirvana
      Nirvana
      Nirvāṇa ; ) is a central concept in Indian religions. In sramanic thought, it is the state of being free from suffering. In Hindu philosophy, it is the union with the Supreme being through moksha...

      .
      • Theravada
        Theravada
        Theravada ; literally, "the Teaching of the Elders" or "the Ancient Teaching", is the oldest surviving Buddhist school. It was founded in India...

         Buddhism
        , which is practiced mainly in Sri Lanka
        Sri Lanka
        Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

         and Southeast Asia alongside folk religion, shares some characteristics of Indian religions. It is based in a large collection of texts called the Pali Canon
        Pāli Canon
        The Pāli Canon is the standard collection of scriptures in the Theravada Buddhist tradition, as preserved in the Pāli language. It is the only completely surviving early Buddhist canon, and one of the first to be written down...

        .
      • Under the heading of Mahayana
        Mahayana
        Mahāyāna is one of the two main existing branches of Buddhism and a term for classification of Buddhist philosophies and practice...

        (the "Great Vehicle") fall a multitude of doctrines which began their development in China
        Buddhism in China
        Chinese Buddhism refers collectively to the various schools of Buddhism that have flourished in China since ancient times. Buddhism has played an enormous role in shaping the mindset of the Chinese people, affecting their aesthetics, politics, literature, philosophy and medicine.At the peak of the...

         and are still relevant in Vietnam
        Buddhism in Vietnam
        Buddhism in Vietnam as practiced by the ethnic Vietnamese is mainly of the Mahāyāna tradition. Buddhism came to Vietnam as early as the 2nd century CE through the North from Central Asia and via Southern routes from India...

        , in Korea, in Japan
        Buddhism in Japan
        The history of Buddhism in Japan can be roughly divided into three periods, namely the Nara period , the Heian period and the post-Heian period . Each period saw the introduction of new doctrines and upheavals in existing schools...

        , and to a lesser extent in Europe and the United States
        Buddhism in the West
        Buddhism in the West broadly encompasses the knowledge and practice of Buddhism outside of Asia. Occasional intersections between Western civilization and the Buddhist world have been occurring for thousands of years, but it was not until the era of European colonization of Buddhist countries in...

        . Mahayana Buddhism includes such disparate teachings as Zen
        Zen
        Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism founded by the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma. The word Zen is from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chán , which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "meditation" or "meditative state."Zen...

        , Pure Land
        Pure land
        A pure land, in Mahayana Buddhism, is the celestial realm or pure abode of a Buddha or Bodhisattva. The various traditions that focus on Pure Lands have been given the nomenclature Pure Land Buddhism. Pure lands are also evident in the literature and traditions of Taoism and Bön.The notion of 'pure...

        , and Soka Gakkai.
      • Vajrayana
        Vajrayana
        Vajrayāna Buddhism is also known as Tantric Buddhism, Tantrayāna, Mantrayāna, Secret Mantra, Esoteric Buddhism and the Diamond Vehicle...

         Buddhism
        , sometimes considered a form of Mahayana, was developed in Tibet
        Tibet
        Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people...

         and is still most prominent there and in surrounding regions.
      • Two notable new Buddhist sects are Hòa Hảo
        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...

         and the Dalit Buddhist movement, which were developed separately in the 20th century.
    • 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...

      is a monotheistic religion founded on the teachings of Guru Nanak and ten successive Sikh Gurus
      Sikh Gurus
      The Sikh Gurus established Sikhism from over the centuries beginning in the year 1469. Sikhism was founded by the first guru, Guru Nanak, and subsequently, all in order were referred to as "Nanak", and as "Lights", making their teachings in the holy scriptures, equivalent...

       in 15th century Punjab
      Punjab region
      The Punjab , also spelled Panjab |water]]s"), is a geographical region straddling the border between Pakistan and India which includes Punjab province in Pakistan and the states of the Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh and some northern parts of the National Capital Territory of Delhi...

      . Sikhs are found mostly in India.
    • There are dozens of new religious movements within Indian religions and 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...

      , such as 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...

       and Swaminarayan Faith
      Swaminarayan Faith
      Swaminarayan Hinduism, also known as the Swaminarayan faith or the Swaminarayan sect, is a modern tradition in the Vaishnava denomination of Hinduism, in which followers offer devotion to and worship Swaminarayan as the final manifestation of God....

      .

  • Iranian religions are ancient religions which roots predate the Islamization
    Islamization
    Islamization or Islamification has been used to describe the process of a society's conversion to the religion of Islam...

     of the Greater Iran
    Greater Iran
    Greater Iran refers to the regions that have significant Iranian cultural influence. It roughly corresponds to the territory on the Iranian plateau and its bordering plains, stretching from Iraq, the Caucasus, and Turkey in the west to the Indus River in the east...

    . Nowadays these religions are practiced only by minorities.
    • 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...

      is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster
      Zoroaster
      Zoroaster , also known as Zarathustra , was a prophet and the founder of Zoroastrianism who was either born in North Western or Eastern Iran. He is credited with the authorship of the Yasna Haptanghaiti as well as the Gathas, hymns which are at the liturgical core of Zoroastrianism...

       in the 6th century BC. The Zoroastrians worship the Creator
      Creator deity
      A creator deity is a deity responsible for the creation of the world . In monotheism, the single God is often also the creator deity, while polytheistic traditions may or may not have creator deities...

       Ahura Mazda
      Ahura Mazda
      Ahura Mazdā is the Avestan name for a divinity of the Old Iranian religion who was proclaimed the uncreated God by Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism...

      . In Zoroastrianism good and evil have distinct sources, with evil trying to destroy the creation of Mazda, and good trying to sustain it.
    • 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...

      is a monotheistic religion with a strongly dualistic
      Dualism
      Dualism denotes a state of two parts. The term 'dualism' was originally coined to denote co-eternal binary opposition, a meaning that is preserved in metaphysical and philosophical duality discourse but has been diluted in general or common usages. Dualism can refer to moral dualism, Dualism (from...

       worldview. Mandaeans are sometime labeled as the "Last Gnostics
      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...

      ".
    • Kurdish religions include the traditional beliefs of the Yazidi
      Yazidi
      The Yazidi are members of a Kurdish religion with ancient Indo-Iranian roots. They are primarily a Kurdish-speaking people living in the Mosul region of northern Iraq, with additional communities in Transcaucasia, Armenia, Turkey, and Syria in decline since the 1990s – their members emigrating to...

      , Alevi
      Alevi
      The Alevi are a religious and cultural community, primarily in Turkey, constituting probably more than 15 million people....

      , and 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,...

      . Sometimes these are labeled 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....

      .

  • 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...

    is a term applied loosely and vaguely to less-organized local practices. It is also called paganism
    Paganism
    Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

    , 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...

    , animism
    Animism
    Animism refers to the belief that non-human entities are spiritual beings, or at least embody some kind of life-principle....

    , ancestor worship, matriarchal religion
    Matriarchal religion
    The concept of a Matriarchal religion is a concept forwarded in second-wave feminism since the 1970s, based on the notion of a historical matriarchy first developed in the 19th century by J. J...

    , or totemism
    Totemism
    Totemism is a system of belief in which humans are said to have kinship or a mystical relationship with a spirit-being, such as an animal or plant...

    , although not all of these elements are necessarily present in local belief systems. The category of "folk religion" can generally include anything that is not part of an organization. Modern neopagan movement draws on folk religion for inspiration to varying degrees.
    • African traditional religion
      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...

      is a category including any type of religion practiced in Africa before the arrival of Islam and Christianity, such as Yoruba religion or San religion
      San religion
      The religion of the San people, or Bushmen, of southern Africa consists of a spirit world and our material world. To enter the spirit world, trancing has to be initiated by a shaman through the hunting of Power animal.-The trance dance & eland potency:...

      . There are many varieties of religions developed by Africans in the Americas
      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...

       derived from African beliefs, including Santería
      Santería
      Santería is a syncretic religion of West African and Caribbean origin influenced by Roman Catholic Christianity, also known as Regla de Ocha, La Regla Lucumi, or Lukumi. Its liturgical language, a dialect of Yoruba, is also known as Lucumi....

      , Candomblé
      Candomblé
      Candomblé is an African-originated or Afro-Brazilian religion, practised chiefly in Brazil by the "povo de santo" . It originated in the cities of Salvador, the capital of Bahia and Cachoeira, at the time one of the main commercial crossroads for the distribution of products and slave trade to...

      , Umbanda
      Umbanda
      Umbanda is an Afro-Brazilian religion that blends African religions with Catholicism, Spiritism and Kardecism, and considerable indigenous lore....

      , Vodou, and Oyotunji
      Oyotunji
      Oyotunji African Village is a village located near Sheldon, Beaufort County, South Carolina that was founded by the late Oba Efuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi I in 1970, as part of a "New World Yoruba" initiative....

      .
    • Folk religions of the Americas include Aztec religion
      Aztec religion
      Aztec religion is the Mesoamerican religion practiced by the Aztec empire. Like other Mesoamerican religions, it had elements of human sacrifice in connection with a large number of religious festivals which were held according to patterns of the Aztec calendar...

      , Inca religion
      Inca religion
      In the heterogeneous Inca Empire several polytheistic religions were practiced by its different people. Most religions had common traits such as the existence of a Pachamama and Viracocha...

      , Maya religion
      Maya religion
      The traditional Maya religion of western Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico is a southeastern variant of Mesoamerican religion. As is the case with many other contemporary Mesoamerican religions, it results from centuries of symbiosis with Roman Catholicism...

      , and modern Catholic beliefs such as the Virgin of Guadalupe
      Our Lady of Guadalupe
      Our Lady of Guadalupe , also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe is a celebrated Catholic icon of the Virgin Mary.According to tradition, on December 9, 1531 Juan Diego, a simple indigenous peasant, had a vision of a young woman while he was on a hill in the Tepeyac desert, near Mexico City. The lady...

      . Native American religion
      Native American mythology
      Native American mythology is the body of traditional narratives associated with Native American religion from a mythographical perspective. Native American belief systems include many sacred narratives. Such spiritual stories are deeply based in Nature and are rich with the symbolism of seasons,...

       is practiced across the continent of North America.
    • Australian Aboriginal culture
      Australian Aboriginal culture
      Aboriginal Australia comprises hundreds of tribal divisions and language groups, with a diverse range of cultural practices.-Practices and ceremonies:*A Bora is an initiation ceremony in which young boys become men....

      contains a mythology
      Australian Aboriginal mythology
      Australian Aboriginal myths are the stories traditionally performed by Aboriginal peoples within each of the language groups across Australia....

       and sacred practices characteristic of folk religion.
    • 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...

      , practiced by Chinese people
      Chinese people
      The term Chinese people may refer to any of the following:*People with Han Chinese ethnicity ....

       around the world, is a primarily social practice including popular elements of 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...

       and 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...

      , with some remnants of Mahayana Buddhism. Most Chinese do not identify as religious due to the strong Maoist influence on the country in recent history, but adherence to religious ceremonies remains common. New religious movements include Falun Gong
      Falun Gong
      Falun Gong is a spiritual discipline first introduced in China in 1992 by its founder, Li Hongzhi, through public lectures. It combines the practice of meditation and slow-moving qigong exercises with the moral philosophy...

       and I-Kuan Tao
      I-Kuan Tao
      I-Kuan Tao, also Yīguàn Dào, or usually initialized as IKT is a new religious movement that originated in twentieth-century China. It incorporates elements from Confucianism, Taoism, and Chinese Buddhism, and recognizes the validity of non-Chinese religious traditions such as Christianity and...

      .
    • Traditional Korean religion
      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...

      is a syncretic mixture of Mahayana Buddhism and Korean shamanism
      Korean shamanism
      Korean shamanism, today known as Muism or sometimes Sinism , encompasses a variety of indigenous religious beliefs and practices of the Korean people and the Korean area...

      . Unlike Japanese Shinto, Korean shamanism was never codified and Buddhism was never made a social necessity. In some areas these traditions remain prevalent, but Korean-influenced Christianity
      Christianity in Korea
      The practice of Christianity in Korea revolves around two of its largest branches, Protestantism and Catholicism, accounting for 8.6 million and 5.1 million members respectively. Roman Catholicism was first introduced during the late Joseon Dynasty period...

       is also influential in society and politics in South Korea.
    • Traditional Japanese religion
      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...

      is a mixture of Mahayana Buddhism and ancient indigenous practices which were codified as 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...

       in the 19th century. Japanese people retain nominal attachment to both Buddhism and Shinto through social ceremonies, but irreligion
      Irreligion
      Irreligion is defined as an absence of religion or an indifference towards religion. Sometimes it may also be defined more narrowly as hostility towards religion. When characterized as hostility to religion, it includes antitheism, anticlericalism and antireligion. When characterized as...

       is common.

  • A variety of 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
    still practiced today have been founded in many other countries besides Japan and the United States, including:
    • Shinshūkyō
      Shinshukyo
      is a Japanese term used to describe domestic new religious movements. They are also known as in Japanese, and are most often called simply Japanese new religions in English. Japanese theologians classify all religious organizations founded since the middle of the 19th century as Shinshūkyō. Thus,...

      is a general category for a wide variety of religious movements founded in Japan since the 19th century. These movements share almost nothing in common except the place of their founding. The largest religious movements centered in Japan include Soka Gakkai, Tenrikyo
      Tenrikyo
      Tenrikyo is a monotheistic religion originating in revelations to a 19th-century Japanese woman named Nakayama Miki, known as Oyasama by followers...

      , and 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...

       among hundreds of smaller groups.
    • Cao Đài is a syncretistic, monotheistic religion, established in 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 –...

       in 1926.
    • 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...

      is a religion characterized by support for a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning."
    • Scientology
      Scientology
      Scientology is a body of beliefs and related practices created by science fiction and fantasy author L. Ron Hubbard , starting in 1952, as a successor to his earlier self-help system, Dianetics...

      teaches that people are immortal beings who have forgotten their true nature. Its method of spiritual rehabilitation is a type of counseling known as auditing, in which practitioners aim to consciously re-experience painful or traumatic events in their past in order to free themselves of their limiting effects.
    • 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...

      is a religion with the purpose of making God an everyday reality in one's life.


Sociological classifications of religious movements
Sociological classifications of religious movements
Sociologists have proposed various classifications of religious movements. The most widely used classification in the sociology of religion is the church-sect typology. The typology states that churches, ecclesia, denominations and sects form a continuum with decreasing influence on society...

 suggest that within any given religious group, a community can resemble various types of structures, including "churches", "denominations", "sects", "cults", and "institutions".

Types of religion


Some scholars classify religions as either universal religions that seek worldwide acceptance and actively look for new converts, or 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
that are identified with a particular ethnic group and do not seek converts. Others reject the distinction, pointing out that all religious practices, whatever their philosophical origin, are ethnic because they come from a particular culture.

Interfaith cooperation


Because religion continues to be recognized in Western thought as a universal impulse, many religious practitioners have aimed to band together in interfaith
Interfaith
The term interfaith dialogue refers to cooperative, constructive and positive interaction between people of different religious traditions and/or spiritual or humanistic beliefs, at both the individual and institutional levels...

 dialogue and cooperation. The first major dialogue was the 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...

 at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair
World's Columbian Exposition
The World's Columbian Exposition was a World's Fair held in Chicago in 1893 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World in 1492. Chicago bested New York City; Washington, D.C.; and St...

, which remains notable even today both in affirming "universal values" and recognition of the diversity of practices among different cultures. The 20th century has been especially fruitful in use of interfaith dialogue as a means of solving ethnic, political, or even religious conflict, with Christian-Jewish reconciliation
Christian-Jewish reconciliation
Reconciliation between Christianity and Judaism refers to the efforts that are being made to improve understanding of the Jewish people and of Judaism, to do away with Christian antisemitism and Jewish anti-Christian sentiment...

 representing a complete reverse in the attitudes of many Christian communities towards Jews.

Recent interfaith initiatives include "A Common Word", launched in 2007 and focused on bringing Muslim and Christian leaders together, the "C1 World Dialogue", the "Common Ground" initiative between Islam and Buddhism, and a United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 sponsored "World Interfaith Harmony Week".

Secularism and irreligion


The terms "atheist" (lack of belief in any gods) and "agnostic" (belief in the unknowability of the existence of gods), though specifically contrary to theistic (e.g. Christian, Jewish, and Muslim) religious teachings, do not by definition mean the opposite of "religious". There are religions (including Buddhism and Taoism), in fact, that classify some of their followers as agnostic, atheistic, or nontheistic
Nontheism
Nontheism is a term that covers a range of both religious and nonreligious attitudes characterized by the absence of — or the rejection of — theism or any belief in a personal god or gods...

. The true opposite of "religious" is the word "irreligious". Irreligion
Irreligion
Irreligion is defined as an absence of religion or an indifference towards religion. Sometimes it may also be defined more narrowly as hostility towards religion. When characterized as hostility to religion, it includes antitheism, anticlericalism and antireligion. When characterized as...

 describes an absence of any religion; antireligion
Antireligion
Antireligion is opposition to religion. Antireligion is distinct from atheism and antitheism , although antireligionists may be atheists or antitheists...

 describes an active opposition or aversion toward religions in general.

Critics of religion consider it to be to be outdated, harmful to the individual (e.g. brainwashing of children, faith healing
Faith healing
Faith healing is healing through spiritual means. The healing of a person is brought about by religious faith through prayer and/or rituals that, according to adherents, stimulate a divine presence and power toward correcting disease and disability. Belief in divine intervention in illness or...

, circumcision
Circumcision
Male circumcision is the surgical removal of some or all of the foreskin from the penis. The word "circumcision" comes from Latin and ....

), harmful to society (e.g. holy war
Religious war
A religious war; Latin: bellum sacrum; is a war caused by, or justified by, religious differences. It can involve one state with an established religion against another state with a different religion or a different sect within the same religion, or a religiously motivated group attempting to...

s, terrorism
Terrorism
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

, wasteful distribution of resources), to impede the progress of science
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

, and to encourage immoral acts (e.g. blood sacrifice
Human sacrifice
Human sacrifice is the act of killing one or more human beings as part of a religious ritual . Its typology closely parallels the various practices of ritual slaughter of animals and of religious sacrifice in general. Human sacrifice has been practised in various cultures throughout history...

, discrimination against homosexuals
Homophobia
Homophobia is a term used to refer to a range of negative attitudes and feelings towards lesbian, gay and in some cases bisexual, transgender people and behavior, although these are usually covered under other terms such as biphobia and transphobia. Definitions refer to irrational fear, with the...

 and women
Misogyny
Misogyny is the hatred or dislike of women or girls. Philogyny, meaning fondness, love or admiration towards women, is the antonym of misogyny. The term misandry is the term for men that is parallel to misogyny...

). A major criticism of many religions is that they require beliefs that are irrational, unscientific, or unreasonable, because religious beliefs and traditions lack scientific or rational foundations.

As religion became a more personal matter in Western culture, discussions of society found a new focus on political and scientific meaning, and religious attitudes (dominantly Christian) were increasingly seen as irrelevant for the needs of the European world. On the political side, Ludwig Feuerbach recast Christian beliefs in light of humanism, paving the way for Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

's famous characterization of religion as "the opium of the people
Opium of the People
"Religion is the opium of the people" is one of the most frequently paraphrased statements of Karl Marx. It was translated from the German original, "Die Religion .....

". Meanwhile, in the scientific community, T.H. Huxley in 1869 coined the term "agnostic," a term—subsequently adopted by such figures as Robert Ingersoll
Robert G. Ingersoll
Robert Green "Bob" Ingersoll was a Civil War veteran, American political leader, and orator during the Golden Age of Freethought, noted for his broad range of culture and his defense of agnosticism. He was nicknamed "The Great Agnostic."-Life and career:Robert Ingersoll was born in Dresden, New York...

—that, while directly conflicting with and novel to Christian tradition, is accepted and even embraced in some other religions. Later, Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. At various points in his life he considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these things...

 told the world Why I Am Not a Christian
Why I Am Not a Christian
Why I Am Not a Christian is a 1927 essay by the British philosopher Bertrand Russell hailed by The Independent as "devastating in its use of cold logic", and listed in the New York Public Library's list of the most influential books of the 20th century....

, which influenced several later authors to discuss their breakaway from their own religious uprbringings from Islam to Hinduism.

Some modern-day critics, such as Bryan Caplan
Bryan Caplan
Bryan Caplan is an American economist, a Professor of Economics at George Mason University, Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center, adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute, and blogger for Econlog. He is best known for his work in public choice theory and for his libertarian ideology.-Personal...

, hold that religion lacks utility in human society; they may regard religion as irrational. Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi
Shirin Ebadi
Shirin Ebadi is an Iranian lawyer, a former judge and human rights activist and founder of Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran. On 10 October 2003, Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her significant and pioneering efforts for democracy and human rights, especially women's,...

 has spoken out against undemocratic Islamic countries justifying "oppressive acts" in the name of Islam.

Religion and superstition



Superstition has been described as "the incorrect establishment of cause and effect" or a false conception of causation. Religion is more complex and includes social institutions and morality. But religions may include superstitions or make use of magical thinking. Adherents of one religion sometimes think of other religions as superstition.
Some atheists, deists, and skeptics regard religious belief as superstition.

Greek and Roman pagans, who saw their relations with the gods in political and social terms, scorned the man who constantly trembled with fear at the thought of the gods (deisidaimonia), as a slave might fear a cruel and capricious master. The Romans called such fear of the gods superstitio. Early Christianity
Early Christianity
Early Christianity is generally considered as Christianity before 325. The New Testament's Book of Acts and Epistle to the Galatians records that the first Christian community was centered in Jerusalem and its leaders included James, Peter and John....

 was outlawed as a superstitio Iudaica, a "Jewish superstition", by Domitian
Domitian
Domitian was Roman Emperor from 81 to 96. Domitian was the third and last emperor of the Flavian dynasty.Domitian's youth and early career were largely spent in the shadow of his brother Titus, who gained military renown during the First Jewish-Roman War...

 in the 80s AD. In AD 425, when Rome had become Christian, Theodosius II
Theodosius II
Theodosius II , commonly surnamed Theodosius the Younger, or Theodosius the Calligrapher, was Byzantine Emperor from 408 to 450. He is mostly known for promulgating the Theodosian law code, and for the construction of the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople...

 outlawed pagan traditions as superstitious.

The Roman Catholic Church considers superstition to be sinful in the sense that it denotes a lack of trust in the divine providence of God and, as such, is a violation of the first of the Ten Commandments. The Catechism of the Catholic Church
Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the official text of the teachings of the Catholic Church. A provisional, "reference text" was issued by Pope John Paul II on October 11, 1992 — "the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council" — with his apostolic...

 states that superstition "in some sense represents a perverse excess of religion" (para. #2110). "Superstition," it says, "is a deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand is to fall into superstition. Cf. Matthew 23:16-22" (para. #2111)

Myth



The word myth has several meanings.
  1. A traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon;
  2. A person or thing having only an imaginary or unverifiable existence; or
  3. A metaphor for the spiritual potentiality in the human being.

Ancient polytheistic
Polytheism
Polytheism is the belief of multiple deities also usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, along with their own mythologies and rituals....

 religions, such as those of Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

, Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

, and Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

, are usually categorized under the heading of mythology
Mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

. Religions of pre-industrial peoples, or culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

s in development, are similarly called "myths" in the anthropology of religion
Anthropology of religion
The anthropology of religion involves the study of religious institutions in relation to other social institutions, and the comparison of religious beliefs and practices across cultures.-History:...

. The term "myth" can be used pejoratively by both religious and non-religious people. By defining another person's religious stories and beliefs as mythology, one implies that they are less real or true than one's own religious stories and beliefs. Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell
Joseph John Campbell was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience...

 remarked, "Mythology is often thought of as other people's religions, and religion can be defined as mis-interpreted mythology."

In sociology, however, the term myth has a non-pejorative meaning. There, myth is defined as a story that is important for the group whether or not it is objectively or provably true. Examples include the death and resurrection
Resurrection
Resurrection refers to the literal coming back to life of the biologically dead. It is used both with respect to particular individuals or the belief in a General Resurrection of the dead at the end of the world. The General Resurrection is featured prominently in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim...

 of Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

, which, to Christians, explains the means by which they are freed from sin and is also ostensibly a historical event. But from a mythological outlook, whether or not the event actually occurred is unimportant. Instead, the symbol
Symbol
A symbol is something which represents an idea, a physical entity or a process but is distinct from it. The purpose of a symbol is to communicate meaning. For example, a red octagon may be a symbol for "STOP". On a map, a picture of a tent might represent a campsite. Numerals are symbols for...

ism of the death of an old "life" and the start of a new "life" is what is most significant. Religious believers may or may not accept such symbolic interpretations.

Religion and health


Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit medical practice and medical research group specializing in treating difficult patients . Patients are referred to Mayo Clinic from across the U.S. and the world, and it is known for innovative and effective treatments. Mayo Clinic is known for being at the top of...

 researchers examined the association between religious involvement and spirituality, and physical health, mental health, health-related quality of life, and other health outcomes. The authors reported that: "Most studies have shown that religious involvement and spirituality are associated with better health outcomes, including greater longevity, coping skills, and health-related quality of life (even during terminal illness) and less anxiety, depression, and suicide."

Religion and violence


Charles Selengut characterizes the phrase "religion and violence" as "jarring", asserting that "religion is thought to be opposed to violence and a force for peace and reconciliation. He acknowledges, however, that "the history and scriptures of the world's religions tell stories of violence and war as they speak of peace and love."

Hector Avalos
Hector Avalos
Hector Avalos is a professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University and the author of several books about religion...

 argues that, because religions claim divine favor for themselves, over and against other groups, this sense of righteousness leads to violence because conflicting claims to superiority, based on unverifiable appeals to God, cannot be adjudicated objectively.

Critics of religion Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Eric Hitchens is an Anglo-American author and journalist whose books, essays, and journalistic career span more than four decades. He has been a columnist and literary critic at The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, Slate, World Affairs, The Nation, Free Inquiry, and became a media fellow at the...

 and Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins
Clinton Richard Dawkins, FRS, FRSL , known as Richard Dawkins, is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author...

 go further and argue that religions do tremendous harm to society by using violence to promote their goals, in ways that are endorsed and exploited by their leaders.

Regina Schwartz argues that all monotheistic religions are inherently violent because of an exclusivism that inevitably fosters violence against those that are considered outsiders. Lawrence Wechsler asserts that Schwartz isn't just arguing that Abrahamic religions have a violent legacy, but that the legacy is actually genocidal in nature.

Byron Bland asserts that one of the most prominent reasons for the "rise of the secular in Western thought" was the reaction against the religious violence of the 16th and 17th centuries. He asserts that "(t)he secular was a way of living with the religious differences that had produced so much horror. Under secularity, political entities have a warrant to make decisions independent from the need to enforce particular versions of religious orthodoxy. Indeed, they may run counter to certain strongly held beliefs if made in the interest of common welfare. Thus, one of the important goals of the secular is to limit violence."

Nonetheless, believers have used similar arguments when responding to atheists in these discussions, pointing to the widespread imprisonment and mass murder of individuals under atheist states
State atheism
State atheism is the official "promotion of atheism" by a government, sometimes combined with active suppression of religious freedom and practice...

 in the twentieth century:

Religion and the law



There are laws and statutes that make reference to religion. This has led scholar Winnifred Sullivan to claims that religious freedom is impossible. Others argue that the Western legal principle of separation of church and state
Separation of church and state
The concept of the separation of church and state refers to the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state....

 tends to engender a new, more inclusive civil religion
Civil religion
The intended meaning of the term civil religion often varies according to whether one is a sociologist of religion or a professional political commentator...

.

Religion and science


Religious knowledge, according to religious practitioners, may be gained from religious leaders, sacred texts (scriptures), and/or personal revelation
Revelation
In religion and theology, revelation is the revealing or disclosing, through active or passive communication with a supernatural or a divine entity...

. Some religions view such knowledge as unlimited in scope and suitable to answer any question; others see religious knowledge as playing a more restricted role, often as a complement to knowledge gained through physical observation. Some religious people maintain that religious knowledge obtained in this way is absolute and infallible (religious cosmology
Religious cosmology
A Religious cosmology is a way of explaining the origin, the history and the evolution of the universe based on the religious mythology of a specific tradition...

).

The scientific method
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

 gains knowledge by testing hypotheses to develop theories through elucidation of fact
Fact
A fact is something that has really occurred or is actually the case. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability, that is whether it can be shown to correspond to experience. Standard reference works are often used to check facts...

s or evaluation by experiments and thus only answers cosmological
Physical cosmology
Physical cosmology, as a branch of astronomy, is the study of the largest-scale structures and dynamics of the universe and is concerned with fundamental questions about its formation and evolution. For most of human history, it was a branch of metaphysics and religion...

 questions about the physical universe
Physical universe
In religion and esotericism, the term "physical universe" or "material universe" is used to distinguish the physical matter of the universe from a proposed spiritual or supernatural essence....

. It develops theories
Theory
The English word theory was derived from a technical term in Ancient Greek philosophy. The word theoria, , meant "a looking at, viewing, beholding", and referring to contemplation or speculation, as opposed to action...

 of the world which best fit physically observed evidence. All scientific knowledge is subject to later refinement in the face of additional evidence. Scientific theories that have an overwhelming preponderance of favorable evidence are often treated as facts (such as the theories of gravity or evolution).

The social constructionists


In recent years, some academic writers have described religion according to the theory of social constructionism
Social constructionism
Social constructionism and social constructivism are sociological theories of knowledge that consider how social phenomena or objects of consciousness develop in social contexts. A social construction is a concept or practice that is the construct of a particular group...

, which considers how ideas and social phenomena develop in a social context. Among the main proponents of this theory of religion are Timothy Fitzgerald, Daniel Dubuisson and Talal Assad. The social constructionists argue that religion is a modern concept that developed from Christianity and was then applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures.

Dubuisson, a French anthropologist, says that the idea of religion has changed a lot over time and that one cannot fully understand its development by relying on etymology, which "tends to minimize or cancel out the role of history". "What the West and the history of religions in its wake have objectified under the name 'religion'", he says, " is ... something quite unique, which could be appropriate only to itself and its own history." He notes that St. Augustine
St. Augustine
-People:* Augustine of Hippo or Augustine of Hippo , father of the Latin church* Augustine of Canterbury , first Archbishop of Canterbury* Augustine Webster, an English Catholic martyr.-Places:*St. Augustine, Florida, United States...

's definition of religio differed from the way we used the modern word "religion". Dubuisson prefers the term "cosmographic formation" to religion. Dubuisson says that, with the emergence of religion as a category separate from culture and society, there arose religious studies
Religious studies
Religious studies is the academic field of multi-disciplinary, secular study of religious beliefs, behaviors, and institutions. It describes, compares, interprets, and explains religion, emphasizing systematic, historically based, and cross-cultural perspectives.While theology attempts to...

. The initial purpose of religious studies was to demonstrate the superiority of the "living" or "universal" European world view to the "dead" or "ethnic" religions scattered throughout the rest of the world, expanding the teleological project of Schleiermacher
Schleiermacher
Schleiermacher is the name of:* Friedrich Schleiermacher - German theologian and philosopher* Ruth Schleiermacher - speedskater* Steffen Schleiermacher - composer...

 and Tiele
Cornelis Petrus Tiele
Cornelis Petrus Tiele, was a Dutch theologian and scholar.-Life:He was born at Leiden. He was educated at Amsterdam, first studying at the Athenaeum Illustre, as the communal high school of the capital was then named, and afterwards at the seminary of the Remonstrant Brotherhood.He was destined...

 to a worldwide ideal religiousness. Due to shifting theological currents, this was eventually supplanted by a liberal-ecumenical interest in searching for Western-style universal truths in every cultural tradition. Clifford Geertz
Clifford Geertz
Clifford James Geertz was an American anthropologist who is remembered mostly for his strong support for and influence on the practice of symbolic anthropology, and who was considered "for three decades...the single most influential cultural anthropologist in the United States." He served until...

's definition of religion as a "cultural system" was proposed in the 20th century and continues to be widely accepted today.

According to Fitzgerald, the history of other cultures' interaction with the religious category is not about a universal constant, but rather concerns a particular idea that first developed in Europe under the influence 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...

. Fitzgerald argues that from about the 4th century CE Western Europe and the rest of the world diverged. As Christianity became commonplace, the charismatic authority
Charismatic authority
The sociologist Max Weber defined charismatic authority as "resting on devotion to the exceptional sanctity, heroism or exemplary character of an individual person, and of the normative patterns or order revealed or ordained by him." Charismatic authority is one of three forms of authority laid out...

 identified by Augustine, a quality we might today call "religiousness", exerted a commanding influence at the local level. This system persisted in the eastern Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 following the East-West Schism
East-West Schism
The East–West Schism of 1054, sometimes known as the Great Schism, formally divided the State church of the Roman Empire into Eastern and Western branches, which later became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, respectively...

, but Western Europe regulated unpredictable expressions of charisma through the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

. As the Church lost its dominance during 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...

 and Christianity became closely tied to political structures, religion was recast as the basis of national sovereignty
Sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

, and religious identity gradually became a less universal sense of spirituality and more divisive, locally defined, and tied to nationality. It was at this point that "religion" was dissociated with universal beliefs and moved closer to dogma
Dogma
Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, or a particular group or organization. It is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from, by the practitioners or believers...

 in both meaning and practice. However there was not yet the idea of dogma as personal choice, only of established churches. With the Enlightenment religion lost its attachment to nationality, says Fitzgerald, but rather than becoming a universal social attitude, it now became a personal feeling or emotion. Friedrich Schleiermacher in the late 18th century defined religion as das schlechthinnige Abhängigkeitsgefühl, commonly translated as "a feeling of absolute dependence". His contemporary Hegel disagreed thoroughly, defining religion as "the Divine Spirit becoming conscious of Himself through the finite spirit."

Asad argues that before the word "religion" came into common usage, Christianity was a disciplina, a "rule" just like that of the Roman Empire. This idea can be found in the writings of St. Augustine
St. Augustine
-People:* Augustine of Hippo or Augustine of Hippo , father of the Latin church* Augustine of Canterbury , first Archbishop of Canterbury* Augustine Webster, an English Catholic martyr.-Places:*St. Augustine, Florida, United States...

 (354–430). Christianity was then a power structure opposing and superseding human institutions, a literal Kingdom of Heaven. It was the discipline taught by one's family, school, church, and city authorities, rather than something calling one to self-discipline through symbols.

These ideas are developed by N. Balagangadhara. In the Age of Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

, Balagangadhara says that the idea of Christianity as the purest expression of spirituality was supplanted by the concept of "religion" as a worldwide practice. This caused such ideas as religious freedom, a reexamination of classical philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 as an alternative to Christian thought, and more radically Deism
Deism
Deism in religious philosophy is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of an all-powerful creator. According to deists, the creator does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the...

 among intellectuals such as Voltaire
Voltaire
François-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...

. Much like Christianity, the idea of "religious freedom" was exported around the world as a civilizing technique, even to regions such as 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...

 that had never treated spirituality as a matter of political identity. In 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...

, where Buddhism was still seen as a philosophy of natural law
Natural law
Natural law, or the law of nature , is any system of law which is purportedly determined by nature, and thus universal. Classically, natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze human nature and deduce binding rules of moral behavior. Natural law is contrasted with the positive law Natural...

, the concept of "religion" and "religious freedom" as separate from other power structures was unnecessary until Christian missionaries demanded free access to conversion, and when Japanese Christians refused to engage in patriotic events.


Other writers


Similar views have been put forward by writers who are not social constructionists. George Lindbeck
George Lindbeck
George Arthur Lindbeck is an American Lutheran theologian. He is best known as an ecumenicist and as one of the fathers of postliberal theology.-Early life and education:...

, a Lutheran and a postliberal theologian, says that religion does not refer to belief in "God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

" or a transcendent Absolute, but rather to "a kind of cultural and/or linguistic framework or medium that shapes the entirety of life and thought ... it is similar to an idiom that makes possible the description of realities, the formulation of beliefs, and the experiencing of inner attitudes, feelings, and sentiments.” Nicholas de Lange
Nicholas de Lange
Nicholas Robert Michael de Lange is Professor of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at the University of Cambridge and is an ordained Reform rabbi...

, Professor of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Cambridge University, says that "The comparative study of religions is an academic discipline which has been developed within Christian theology faculties, and it has a tendency to force widely differing phenomena into a kind of strait-jacket cut to a Christian pattern. The problem is not only that other 'religions' may have little or nothing to say about questions which are of burning importance for Christianity, but that they may not even see themselves as religions in precisely the same way in which Christianity sees itself as a religion."

See also


  • Belief
    Belief
    Belief is the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise to be true.-Belief, knowledge and epistemology:The terms belief and knowledge are used differently in philosophy....

  • Economics of religion
  • Faith
    Faith
    Faith is confidence or trust in a person or thing, or a belief that is not based on proof. In religion, faith is a belief in a transcendent reality, a religious teacher, a set of teachings or a Supreme Being. Generally speaking, it is offered as a means by which the truth of the proposition,...

  • Humility
    Humility
    Humility is the quality of being modest, and respectful. Humility, in various interpretations, is widely seen as a virtue in many religious and philosophical traditions, being connected with notions of transcendent unity with the universe or the divine, and of egolessness.-Term:The term "humility"...

  • Life stance
    Life stance
    A person's life stance, or lifestance, is their relation with what they accept as being of ultimate importance, the presuppositions and theory of this, and the commitments and practice of working it out in living....

  • List of religious populations
  • List of religious texts
  • Nontheistic religions
    Nontheistic religions
    Nontheistic religions are traditions of thought within religions, some otherwise aligned with theism, others not, in which nontheism informs religious beliefs or practices...

  • Philosophy of religion
    Philosophy of religion
    Philosophy of religion is a branch of philosophy concerned with questions regarding religion, including the nature and existence of God, the examination of religious experience, analysis of religious language and texts, and the relationship of religion and science...

  • Prayer
    Prayer
    Prayer is a form of religious practice that seeks to activate a volitional rapport to a deity through deliberate practice. Prayer may be either individual or communal and take place in public or in private. It may involve the use of words or song. When language is used, prayer may take the form of...

  • 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...

  • Religion and business
    Religion and business
    Religion and business have throughout history interacted in ways that relate to and affected one another, as well as influenced sociocultural evolution, political geographies, and labour laws.-Religious tourism:...

  • Religions by country
    Religions by country
    This article gives an overview about religion by country. Note that the Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, will show dual figures; those are the percentage of people who believe in God and the percentage of nominal adherents who celebrate traditional religious holidays although...

  • Religion and happiness
    Religion and happiness
    Religion and happiness have been studied by a number of researchers. The science of positive psychology has identified many components of happiness, and religion seems adapted to satisfy many of them...

  • 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,...

  • Sociology of religion
    Sociology of religion
    The sociology of religion concerns the role of religion in society: practices, historical backgrounds, developments and universal themes. There is particular emphasis on the recurring role of religion in all societies and throughout recorded history...

  • Temple
    Temple
    A temple is a structure reserved for religious or spiritual activities, such as prayer and sacrifice, or analogous rites. A templum constituted a sacred precinct as defined by a priest, or augur. It has the same root as the word "template," a plan in preparation of the building that was marked out...

  • Theocracy
    Theocracy
    Theocracy is a form of organization in which the official policy is to be governed by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided, or simply pursuant to the doctrine of a particular religious sect or religion....

  • Timeline of religion
    Timeline of religion
    The timeline of religion is a comparative chronology of important events in human religious history and prehistory.The history of religion refers to the written record of human religious events, experiences, and ideas...

  • Wealth and religion
    Wealth and religion
    There has been some research on the correlation of wealth and religion. Wealth is the status of being the beneficiary or proprietor of a large accumulation of capital and economic power...

  • Worldview


External links