The 15 religions of the world that are about to be showcased below form a part of the whopping 4300 that are estimated to be practiced, though, these are only estimates and we do not know how many actually exist. Every world religion has unique things to teach us and lead us to achieve happiness that we humans crave for our entire lives. Apart from the sects and groups that each one of these religions possess, there are unique sets of beliefs that are associated with them. These are the core beliefs upon which a particular religion thrives and survives. So, if you think you need that elixir of life to help you lead your lives with success and satisfaction, do read through our collection of major religions of the world and give a meaning to your existence.
Among the major religions of the world that are presented below, Hinduism is perhaps counted not merely as a religion, but a philosophy of leading life. Hinduism lays importance on a person’s karma and allows each one of its followers free will to work at attaining spirituality. The religion gives freedom to people to worship any entity as one wishes to and also lays stress on observing rites and rituals towards attaining ‘moksha’ or salvation. According to Hindu belief, a person’s present birth is the result of his actions in his previous birth. If a person has committed sins, he will suffer for them in his next birth, so says Hindu philosophy.
Christianity believes in leading meaningful lives guided by Jesus Christ, and in doing so, a human being develops a personal relationship with Jesus while not putting too much emphasis on rites and rituals. Christians believe in enjoying this relationship with god and all their deeds are directed towards knowing him deeper. The Bible is the holy book which includes the written messages directly from god and are meant for humans. Christianity is a religion that focuses on one point-to lead a life that’s lit up by god’s directions. Most Christians believe in praying to the lord for getting the solutions to their life problems.
Among the many religious beliefs, Islam’s teachings are different than others. Islam propagates the belief that there is only one god and that’s the supreme god Allah, and he is the one that is the most superior to anyone. According to Muslims, Allah has created this universe and whatever one does in his or her life is actually his will. The more devoted a Muslim is towards following the diktat of Allah, the more he will be likely to go to heaven. Humans worshiping him are like servants to him and must follow his guidelines strictly. As per Islam, a person has to follow five religious practices strictly, like, they have to chant or repeat a set of beliefs propagated by Allah and Muhammad, pray five times in a day, make at least one trip to the holy city of Mecca, and observe Ramadan for one month every year. A true Muslim is one that follows all these duties diligently.
Sikhism is one of the 15 major religions of the world that we are writing about, and this religion is all about preaching the humankind of divine presence, and in liberating the soul from the continuous cycle of birth and death. Sikhism was founded by the first guru of the Sikhs called Guru Nanak who is regarded holy by them. This religion is an amalgamation of elements that are drawn from Hinduism and Islam. Its followers are said to believe that a person can free himself from the eternal cycle of karma once his soul becomes one with the spirit of god. They worship and believe in Sat, Akal Purakh and Sat Guru, meaning truth, true guru and timeless being. They also believe in Kartar, Wahi Guru, meaning creator and ‘praise of the guru’. Sikhism preaches humans to let go of ego and lead a life by contemplating the name of god or gurus. The Adi Granth is the holy book of the Sikhs and contains the preachings of all the 10 gurus.
Preached by the Chinese Sage Confucius, Confucianism is a religion cum philosophy followed by people living in East Asia. This religion was used widely as a political system by Emperor Wu of Han Dynasty to control the states under his rule. Confucianism is embodied in a vast series of texts like books on rituals, music, poetry and texts on I Ching. It was repressed during the cultural revolution in the People’s Republic of China in the 20th century as modern Chinese stopped believing in it. The whole religion lays importance on teaching good manners to a human being and aims at making a virtuous being that is bestowed with the qualities like those of a scholar and a saint. Its a practical religion that allows the followers to lead their lives guided by certain virtues instead of believing in superstitious beliefs and rituals.
In this list of religions that are considered major and are still followed hugely is the Japanese religion called Shintoism or Shinto. Its a religion having elements from Buddhism as well as other religious practices of China. Shintoism was not founded by any god or prophet and its followers believe in following diverse rituals and ceremonies. According to Shinto followers, there is no ‘one powerful god’, but there are in-fact many gods called Kami. These gods relate to nature like mountains, sun, animals, trees and springs. People practicing Shintoism observe prayers to these gods and offer them foods that are eaten later. The rituals associated with Shintoism consist of dances and blessings by priests to the offerings that are made by followers. The priests bless the offerings by dipping the branches of the Sakaki tree in holy water.
Counted as one of the oldest religions to exist in the modern world, Judaism is followed by Jews. The main principals and ethics are embodied in the sacred books of Tanakh and the Talmud that lay down the various sets of beliefs and customs associated with it. According to this religion, the god is omnipresent, omnipotent and he is the creator of the entire universe. Judaism in ancient times laid importance on offering prayers in temples which had priests to do the rituals. However, after the Jews were forced out of Jerusalem and its destruction, they stopped holding their prayers at temples. Instead of sacrifices that were common during the old Jewish rituals, the rabbis started praying and leading the followers.
The religious beliefs of Jainism are based on the preachings of the 24 teachers or ‘Tirthankaras’, the most prominent among them being Lord Mahavira, the ‘Great Hero’ of the Jains. Jainism lays stress on leading austere lives devoid of any pleasure or ‘moh maya’. According to it, its followers can achieve enlightenment only when they expel all kinds of attractions from their lives. There is no god that’s worshiped as per Jainism and according to it, a person has to renounce everything in order to end his cycle of rebirths. It also preaches its followers to practice non violence or Ahimsa and in this quest to seek the eternal truth, a person must not harm any living thing. The Jain textbook is called Agama that is studied by monks only and is written in Prakrit language.
Founded in the 5th century BCE by Gautama Buddha, Buddhism preaches ahimsa or non violence much like Jainism. A Buddhist leads his life by believing in the important points that are considered fundamental to his existence. These include – a firm belief in the Buddha who is considered as the teacher of all Buddhists, a belief that enlightenment is not something that is reserved only for the priests or monks (even common men and women can achieve it), a belief in non violence, four noble truths and the eight-fold path, and the attainment of Buddhahood that is the highest form of enlightenment.
The Baha’i religion can trace its origin in Iran where it was founded by Mirza Husayn Ali in the middle of the 19th century. Mirza Husayn Ali was the prophet as forecasted by a religious leader called Bab. Bab, many people believed him to be the direct descendant of the prophet Muhammad. Mirza Husayn was also fondly addressed as Baha’ullah and was sent to prison on a lot of occasions because of his modernist views about other religions whom he considered were equal, unlike Islam. The Baha’i believe in respecting all religions that preach the same truth and also believe in world peace and equality of education. Their religion also stresses upon a belief that the men and women share the same rights and must enjoy freedom in choosing whatever they want to do and that includes sex too. All kinds of racial and political agendas are banned from this religion.
In a list of major religions of the world, we have to mention about a pre Islamic religion called Zoroastrianism that originated in Iran and is still surviving today. The Parsis follow this religion which is laid on the foundation of the 12 main principals or beliefs. These include the belief in the existence of one and mighty god called Ahura Mazda while also believing in the preachings of Zoroaster-the prophet, a belief in the practice of rituals and purification as part of worshiping Ahura Mazda, a belief that good deeds of people eventually succeed over the evil doings, a belief in the sacred fire, and also a belief in the presence of soul. Apart from these principals, the people following this religion also lay focus on believing in the universal order. They also believe in the existence of both heaven as well as hell. Like Islam, Zoroastrianism also believes in the Judgement day the destruction of the world by fire and liquid metal.
Shendao or Shenism are other names of Chinese folk religion, a religion that’s practiced by Han Chinese people. This religion propagates the veneration of natural forces as well as calling upon the ancestors. Believers of this faith also follow exorcism of evil forces. Its also called the religion of gods and immortals. Gods in this religion are believed to be existing in various forms like nature and culture. Followers of Shendao worship demi gods and ancestors as well. They believe in the existence of heaven, the home of the supreme god and in the universe, the breath of universe, and in the concepts of fate and relationship between god and humans.
This religion is called the Tribal Religionists and is not ‘a religion’ but a mix of different tribal customs and faiths practiced all over Africa and Asia. The customs of these faiths are unique and quite different than most other religions like the use of an oral language for preaching and prayers. People following these faiths are often bound together as groups and follow their own sets of beliefs and rituals. Though, earlier it was believed that primal indigenous religion had similarities to animism and paganism, now, however, things and perceptions have changed. The tribes or people following these religions believe in the existence of one supreme god while also acknowledging the others. Such people are called Henotheistic and they believe that there is a deep connection between the spiritual world and the human world. They also believe in the concept of timelessness.
Juche may not be found in many lists of major religions of the world, but it surely is one of the main religions practiced in North Korea. With a following of 24 million people, Juche was believed to be a socio-political ideology. With its foundation that is based on Christianity, Juche, however differs a little. Unlike Christians that believe in one god or father, Juche lays stress on the worship of only one man – a dictator called Kim II-Sung who was the first dictator of North Korea. Though he died way back in 1994, Kim II-Sung still remains as the eternal president of the state. According to this religion, its followers upon death are bound to reunite with Kim II-Sung. The followers of this religion also worship his son Kim Jong-il and wife Kim Il-Sung. As per the Juche, every North Korean has to do certain rituals daily, like bowing before the portraits of the three gods that must be hung on the most important wall of a house. Those that do not take care of the portraits are punished by the state.
A French educator named Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail founded Spiritism, a 19th century philosophy that lays stress on the study of nature and the study of spirits. He codified this philosophy under a fake name Allan Kardec and went onto study the concept of spirits and their relationship with the human world. Spiritism, like the name suggests lays focus on the belief that the universe is home to not merely human beings and animals, but also non physical beings and spirits. These spirits exist in a spirit world that cannot be seen by naked eyes but a connection can be made by way of mediums. Most spiritists follow a ritual of gathering together in a circle and then contacting the spirits through a medium.
All these above mentioned religions teach us-the living beings to lead lives virtuously without harming anyone and also propagate many beliefs that guide humans in attaining oneness with the supreme god. Everyone of us stands to gain something valuable from practicing a religion which we believe in. If you wish to add anything to this list of major religions of the world, do let us know in the comments section below.