About Religions and
Belief Systems in
the World
Buddhism currently has about 376 million
followers and is generally listed as the world's
fourth largest religion after Christianity, Islam and
Hinduism. It was founded in Northern India by
Siddhartha Gautama (circa 563 to 460 BCE).
To many, Buddhism goes beyond religion and is more of a
philosophy or 'way of life'. It is a philosophy because
philosophy 'means love of wisdom' and the Buddhist path
can be summed up as:
(1) to lead a moral life,
(2) to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and
(3) to develop wisdom and understanding.
The three largest groups in the world of Christianity are
the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox
churches, and the various churches of Protestantism.
The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox patriarchates
split from one another in the East-West Schism of
1054 AD, and Protestantism came into existence during
the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, splitting
from the Roman Catholic Church.
As of the early 21st century, Christianity has around
2.2 billion adherents. Christianity represents about a
quarter to a third of the world's population and is the
world’s largest religion.
The Kaaba, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is the center of
Islam. Muslims from all over the world gather there to
pray in unity.
With about 1.57 billion Muslims comprising about
23% of the world’s population, Islam is the secondlargest religion and arguably the fastest-growing
religion in the world.
Muslims also believe that Islam is the complete and
universal version of a primordial faith that was
revealed at many times and places before, including
through the prophets Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.
The Five Pillars of Islam are 5 simple rules or 5 obligations
that every Muslim must satisfy.
1. The shahadah, which is the basic creed of Islam that
must be recited wholeheartedly with the statement: "I
testify that there is none worthy of worship except God
and I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of God."
This testament is a foundation for all other beliefs and
practices in Islam. Muslims must repeat the shahadah in
prayer, and non-Muslims wishing to convert to Islam are
required to recite the creed.
2. Salah (daily prayers)
3. Sawm (fasting during the month of Ramadan every
4. Zakat (alms-giving)
5. Hajj (once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca)
Judaism claims a historical continuity spanning more than
3000 years. It is one of the oldest monotheistic religions,
and the oldest to survive into the present day.
In 2007, the world Jewish population was estimated at 13
million, of whom about 40% reside in Israel and 40% in the
United States.
Shabbat, the weekly day of rest lasting from shortly
before sundown on Friday night to nightfall Saturday
night, commemorates God's day of rest after six days of
Judaica (clockwise from top): Shabbat
candlesticks, handwashing cup, Chumas and
Tanakh, Torah pointer, shofar, and etrog box.
Major religious holidays include Passover, Rosh
Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Hanukkah, historically a
minor holiday, has become more prominent in the
last century for Jews who live in areas that celebrate
At the age of 13 (12 for girls), a boy becomes a Bar
Mitzvah, or "Son of the Commandment" and a girl
becomes a Bat Mitzvah, "Daughter of the
Commandment." The occasion is marked by the
youth's first public reading of the Torah in the
synagogue (only boys may do this in Orthodox
congregations), followed by a large and joyous
The symbols of fourteen
religions are shown.
Clockwise from the North
Pole, they are:
Baha'i, Buddhism,
Christianity, Confucianism,
Hinduism, Islam, Jainism,
Judaism, Shinto, Sikhism,
Taoism, Wicca,
Zoroastrianism, and
Submitted By: Chris Brooks,
Ohio Wesleyan University