Religion is a collection of cultural systems, beliefs, and world views. It establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes to moral values. Religion is hard to define; one standard model of religion used in religious study courses was proposed by Clifford Geertz. He simply called it a “cultural system.” (Clifford, 1973). However, Talal Asad categorized religion as “an anthropological category.” (Asad, 1982). Many world religions have narratives, symbols, traditions, and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life. Some explain the origin of life or the universe. These world religions derive morality, ethics, religious laws, and a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature.
Religion is a rich and fascinating dimension of human experience that includes an exploration of beliefs and ritual practices. World religions are different for different people and cultures. Some world religions are part of the culture of a given people that it has become the spiritual aspects of that culture/ tradition. This is especially true of the indigenous traditions of a geographical area. Religion could be described as a way of explaining a supreme/absolute power, whether personal or impersonal.
The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with ‘faith’ or ‘belief system’. But religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect. Most world religions have:
- organized behaviors,
- clerical hierarchies,
- what constitutes adherence or membership,
- congregations of laity,
- regular meetings or services (This is usually for the veneration of a deity or prayers),
- holy places (natural or architectural), and/ or
- religious texts.
Some world religions also have a sacred language often used in liturgical services. This paper will centrally discuss five world religions in terms of their beliefs, practices, and relationship with the Almighty God.
The world contains a variety of scriptures, prophets, holy cities, and spiritual traditions. There are probably as many reasons to study the religions of the world as there are believers and seekers, doubters, and devotees.
One reason to study world religions is to bring greater understanding to a planet dangerously divided by competing claims of faith. Religious violence and persecution have escalated to the point where the United Nations now reports that almost half of the armed conflicts raging on the earth at any moment are holy wars. This has led some international experts to predict that the major threats to peace in the post-cold war era will come from the clash of religious orthodoxies. If we are to achieve peace, it is critical to come to a deeper appreciation of people whose folkways and faith-ways differ from our own.
Another reason to study world religions might be to learn to relate respectfully to others within our heterogeneous communities. The days when North Americans could be comfortably classified according to Will Herberg’s typology of Protestant, Catholic, and Jew are long gone (if such a time ever actually existed). Our next-door neighbors and children’s classmates are increasingly likely to be Buddhist or Muslim or Hindu, and we risk becoming parochial in outlook unless we deliberately extend our horizons to embrace the diversity that characterizes our society.
Islam is one of the famous world religions. It began in the early 7th century. Originating in Mecca, it quickly spread in the Arabian Peninsula, and by the 8th century, the Islamic empire was extended from Iberia in the west to the Indus River in the east. Islam is a religion articulated by the Quran, a text considered by its adherents to be the verbatim word of God (Allāh), and, for the vast majority of adherents, the teachings and normative example (called the sunnah, composed of accounts called hadith) of Muhammad (c. 570–8 June 632 CE). It is the world’s second-largest religion and the fastest-growing major religion in the world, with over 1.7 billion followers or 23% of the global population, known as Muslims (Najeebabadi, 2001).
Population and where they Live: 1.6 billion, making up 23% of all people worldwide. Although the population of the Middle East and North Africa are 93% Muslim, these regions only represent 20% of the worldwide Muslim population. The Asia-Pacific region—due to its dense population—is home to 9.9 million Muslims. Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world. About 3.48 million Muslims are living in North America. In 2015 there were 50 Muslim-majority nations.
Growth Rate: Expected to increase from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.8 billion in 2050
Year Founded: 622 A.D.
Holy Books: Qur’an and Hadith
Significant Figures: Muhammed Ali – Professional boxer; Malala Yousafzai – Pakistani schoolgirl who opposed the Taliban’s stance on female education; Janet Jackson – Singer, songwriter, and actress
View of Jesus: Islam viewed Jesus as a Prophet
Islam is a monotheistic religion founded by their Prophet—Muhammad—in the seventh century. Muslims believe the angel Gabriel visited Muhammad to reveal the words of Allah. These revelations are documented in the Qur’an. The framework of the Islamic faith includes five tenets that must be upheld to enter paradise—Heaven.
- Shahada: the testimony of faith
- Salat: prayer rituals occurring five times a day
- Sawm: A month-long fast known as Ramadan takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. They are not allowed to eat or drink from dawn to sunset.
- Zakat: 2.5% of income is required to be given to the poor once a year
- Hajj: If possible, Muslims are to take a pilgrimage to Mecca—located in Saudi Arabia—at least once in their lives.
There are two primary sects of Islam—Sunni and Shia. The division between these groups formed due to differing views of leadership succession after Muhammad’s death. Sunni Muslims (90% of all Muslims) believe that those in the lineage of the first four caliphs—Muhammad’s successors—are rightful religious leaders. In contrast, Shia Muslims believe that only those in the lineage of the fourth caliph—Ali—are worthy successors of Muhammad.
God: Islam is often seen as having the simplest doctrines of the major religions. Its most fundamental concept is a rigorous monotheism, called tawḥīd. God is described in chapter 112 of the Quran as: “Say, He is God, the One and Only; God, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him” (112:1-4). Muslims repudiate polytheism and idolatry, called Shirk, and reject the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and divinity of Jesus. In Islam, God is beyond all comprehension, and Muslims are not expected to visualize God (Nigosian, 2004). God is described and referred to by certain names or attributes, the most common being Al-Rahmān, meaning “The Compassionate” and Al-Rahīm, meaning “The Merciful”.
Angels: Belief in angels is fundamental to the faith of Islam. The Arabic word for angel means “messenger”. According to the Quran, angels do not possess free will, and therefore worship and obey God in total obedience.
Revelations: The Islamic holy books are the records that most Muslims believe were dictated by God to various prophets. Muslims believe that parts of the previously revealed scriptures, the Tawrat (Torah) and the Injil (Gospels), had become distorted—either in interpretation, in text, or both. Muslims believe that the verses of the Quran were revealed to Muhammad by God through the archangel Gabriel (Jibrīl) on many occasions between 610 CE until his death on June 8, 632.
Prophets and sunnah: Muslims identify the prophets of Islam as those humans chosen by God to be his messengers. According to the Quran, the prophets were instructed by God to bring the “will of God” to the peoples of the nations. Muslims believe that God finally sent Muhammad as the last law bearing prophet (Seal of the Prophets) to convey the divine message to the whole world (to sum up and to finalize the word of God).
Resurrection and judgment: Belief in the “Day of Resurrection”, Yawm al-Qiyāmahis also crucial for Muslims. They believe the time of Qiyāmah is preordained by God but unknown to man. The trials and tribulations preceding and during the Qiyāmah are described in the Quran and the hadith, and also in the commentaries of scholars. The Quran emphasizes bodily resurrection, a break from the pre-Islamic Arabian understanding of death.
Divine will: The concept of divine will is referred to as al-qadā wa’l-qadar, which literally derives from a root that means to measure. Everything, good and bad, is believed to have been decreed.
Muslims repudiate polytheism and idolatry, called Shirk, and reject the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and divinity of Jesus. In Islam, God is beyond all comprehension, and Muslims are not expected to visualize God (Nigosian, 2004). Muslims believe that the creation of everything in the universe was brought into being by God’s sheer command, “‘Be’ and so it is,” and that the purpose of existence is to worship God.
Muslims believe that the creation of everything in the universe was brought into being by God’s sheer command, “‘Be’ and so it is,” and that the purpose of existence is to worship God. He is viewed as a personal god who responds whenever a person in need or distress calls him. There are no intermediaries, such as clergy, to contact God who states, “I am nearer to him than (his) jugular vein.” God’s consciousness is referred to as Taqwa.
Another world religion that is of note is Hinduism. Hinduism is one of the numerous Indian religious groupings. It is a religion, or a way of life found most notably in India and Nepal. Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, and some practitioners and scholars refer to it as Sanātana Dharma, “the eternal law,” or the “eternal way, beyond human origins. Scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no founder. This “Hindu synthesis” started to develop between 500 BCE and 300 CE following the Vedic period (1500 BCE to 500 BCE).
Although Hinduism contains a broad range of philosophies, it is linked by shared concepts, recognizable rituals, cosmology, shared textual resources, and pilgrimage to sacred sites. Hindu texts are classified into Shruti (“heard”) and Smriti (“remembered”). These texts discuss theology, philosophy, mythology, Vedic yajna, Yoga, agamic rituals, and temple building, among other topics.
Founder: Unknown (it does not have a single founder)
Population and where they live: The Hindu faith originated in Pakistan. Although Hinduism is the third largest world religion, its breadth is confined to one primary region of the world—South Asia. This region includes countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. India is home to the largest percentage of all Hindus (94%), followed by Nepal (2%) and Bhutan (1%). More than 2.25 million Hindus reside in North America. 1 billion, comprising 15% of the world’s population
Growth Rate: Expected to increase from 1 billion in 2010 to 1.4 billion in 2050
Year Founded: Unknown, but Hindu writings dating back to 1500 B.C.
Holy Books: The Vedas, Upanishads, Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Puranas
Significant Figures: Mahatma Gandhi – non-violent leader of the Indian independence movement Julia Roberts – American actress Amartya Sen – Indian economist who won the Nobel Prize in 1988
View of Jesus: The Hindus see Christ as the incarnation of their supreme god, Brahmin, hence, in Hindu, Jesus is not the messiah or savior.
Hinduism is a polytheistic religion with over 330 million gods and goddesses and one supreme and the impersonal god known as Brahmin. Originating in modern-day Pakistan, this faith system is based on reincarnation and a caste system. Hindus do not seek salvation but desire to be released from their karmic debt to end the cycle of rebirth. This is called moshka and is accomplished through works, devotion, and knowledge.
Purusharthas (objectives of human life)
Classical Hindu thought accepts four proper goals or aims of human life: Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha. These are known as the Puruṣārthas:
Dharma (righteousness, ethics): Dharma is considered the foremost goal of a human being in Hinduism (Fowler, 1997). The concept Dharma includes behaviors that are considered to be in accord with RTA, the order that makes life and universe possible, and includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues, and “right way of living”.
Artha (livelihood, wealth): Artha is the objective and virtuous pursuit of wealth for livelihood, obligations, and economic prosperity. It is inclusive of political life, diplomacy, and material well-being. The Artha concept includes all “means of life”, activities and resources that enable one to be in a state one want to be in, wealth, career, and financial security. The proper pursuit of artha is considered an important aim of human life in Hinduism.
Kāma (sensual pleasure): Kāma means desire, wish, passion, longing, the pleasure of the senses, the aesthetic enjoyment of life, affection, or love, with or without sexual connotations. In Hinduism, Kama is considered an essential and healthy goal of human life when pursued without sacrificing Dharma, Artha, and Moksha.
Mokṣa (liberation, freedom from samsara): Moksha or Mukti is the ultimate, most important goal in Hinduism. In one sense, Moksha is a concept associated with liberation from sorrow, suffering, and saṃsāra (birth-rebirth cycle). A release from this eschatological cycle, in afterlife, particularly in theistic schools of Hinduism is called moksha.
Karma and samsara
Karma translates literally as action, work, or deed, and also refers to a Vedic theory of “moral law of cause and effect” (Wink, 1991). The theory is a combination of (1) causality that may be ethical or non-ethical; (2) ethicization, that is good or bad actions have consequences; and (3) rebirth.
The ultimate goal of life referred to as moksha, nirvana or samadhi, is understood in several different ways: as the realization of one’s union with God; as the realization of one’s eternal relationship with God; realization of the unity of all existence; perfect unselfishness and knowledge of the Self; as the attainment of perfect mental peace; and as detachment from worldly desires.
Brahmins: Priests, academics
Kshatriyas: Soldiers, king-warrior class
Vaishyas: merchants, farmers, laborers, craftspeople
Sudras: commoners, peasants, servants
Harijahns: the “untouchables”
Karma—a system of cause and effect—weighs into where a person ranks in the caste system … determining the blessings and comfort they experience throughout life. An individual’s good and bad actions influence where they rank and what form they reincarnate into—spanning from insects to people. Although this system of karmic consequences was abolished in 1948, great social implications remain since people are considered responsible for their lots in life.
Hinduism is a diverse system of thought with beliefs spanning monotheism, polytheism, panentheism, pantheism, pandeism, monism, and atheism among others; and its concept of God is complex and depends upon each individual and the tradition and philosophy followed. It is sometimes referred to as henotheistic (i.e., involving devotion to a single god while accepting the existence of others), but any such term is an overgeneralization. Hindus believe that all living creatures have a soul. This soul – the spirit or true “self” of every person, is called the ātman. The soul is believed to be eternal. Samkhya, Mimamsa, and Carvaka schools of Hinduism, were non-theist/atheist, arguing that “God was an unnecessary metaphysical assumption”.
In general, Hinduism considers god as the Supreme All-powerful Gigantic One. It recognizes that god commands humanity to tread the way He/She/It says. It also recognizes a personal god whom an individual can worship out of love and not necessarily out of fear. The fear brings one only up to a certain point and beyond that, it repels, but love takes through to the point.
Devotion or bhakti as often referred to is a very key concept in Hinduism, even for the philosophically inclined ones. While the Shastras – be it Vedas, Agamas, Puranas – describe the Glory of God, one finds an abundance of stotras that praise God in love.
The Isavasya Upanishad says that the whole Universe is pervaded by Isvara or God, who is both within and without it. He is moving and the unmoving, He is far and near, He is within all these and without all these.
The Kena Upanishad says that the Supreme Reality is beyond the perception of the senses and the mind because the senses and the mind can visualize and conceive only the objects, while Reality is the Supreme Subject, the very precondition of all sensation, thinking, understanding, etc. No one can behold God because He is the beholder of all things.
The Kathopanishad has it that God is the Root of this Tree of world existence. The realization of God is regarded as the Supreme blessedness or Shreyas, as apart from Preyas or temporal experience of satisfaction.
Let’s look at the what makes Buddhism a world religion.
Founder: Gautama Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama
Population and where they live: Buddhism was founded in India and is the fourth largest world religion. Due to its Asian roots, close to 99% of all Buddhists live in the regions of East, South, and Southeast Asia. China has the largest percentage of Buddhists (50%), followed by Thailand (13%), Japan (9%), and Myanmar (8%). There are 2.8 million Buddhists who call North America home. 488 million, reflecting 7.1% of the global population (Klein, 1995).
Growth Rate: Expected to decrease from 488 million in 2010 to 486 million in 2050.
Year Founded: 5th century B.C.
Holy Books: The Sutras (Sayings of Buddha) and the Tripitaka (Teachings of Buddha)
Significant Figures: Dalai Lama – Tibetan monk; Tiger Woods – Professional golfer; Hank Johnson – U.S. Congressman from Georgia
View of Jesus: The Buddha faith sees Christ as an Enlightened Master rather than a savior or messiah.
“To avoid all evil. To do good. To purify one’s mind. This is the teaching of all the Buddhas.” Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) left his life of luxury as Indian royalty in search of truth and meaning. After six years of yoga, asceticism, deprivation, and days spent meditating under a tree, Buddha claimed to find enlightenment. The results of his experiment formed Buddhism. Although founded without belief in a higher power, a majority of Buddhists now worship Buddha as a god and believe in his Four Noble Truths.
- Dukkha: to live is to suffer
- Samudaya: suffering is caused by desire
- Nirodha: one can eliminate suffering by eliminating all attachments
- Magga: This is achieved by following the Noble Eightfold Path—having a right understanding, thought, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration.
Generally, we use the term ‘God’ to designate a supreme power, who is the creator of the entire universe and the chief law-giver for humans. The God or Almighty is considered to be concerned with the welfare of His creations and the ‘moksha’ or salvation for those who follow His dictates. Different religions and sects follow God differently by different names, but as far as Buddhism is concerned, it has a different perception for Him.
Therefore, instead of believing in God, the Buddhists believe in humanity. They believe that each human being is precious and important and all have the potential to develop into a Buddha – a perfect human being by replacing hatred, anger, spite, and jealousy with love, patience, generosity, and kindness.
There is yet another world religion found in within central Asia. This religion is called Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrianism, or more natively Mazdayasna, is one of the world’s oldest extant religions, “combining a cosmogonic dualism and eschatological monotheism in a manner unique among the major religions of the world”. Ascribed to the teachings of the Iranian prophet Zoroaster (or Zarathustra), it exalts a deity of wisdom, Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord), as its Supreme Being. With possible roots dating back to the second millennium BCE, Zoroastrianism enters recorded history in the 5th-century BCE, and along with a Mithraic Median prototype and a Zurvanist Sassanid successor it served as the state religion of the pre-Islamic Iranian empires from around 600 BCE to 650 CE (Verlag, 2008).
Founder: Prophet Zarathushtra (Zoroaster).
Place Founded and Population: Founded in Iran, Zoroastrianism spread from central Asia to Iran around the ninth century b.c.e., where it was propagated by priests called the magi or mobeds. Scholars are equally divergent about the birthplace of Zoroaster. They suggest such locations as eastern Iran, Azerbaijan (south of the Caspian Sea), Balkh (the capital of Bactria, in present-day Afghanistan), Chorasmia, and Sogdia (in present-day Tajikistan), or near the Aral Sea (in present-day Kazakhstan) (Ford, 1996).
Year Founded: Was founded as early as 1400 to 1200 B.C.E.
Death Ritual: If someone dies then their corpse is moved to the Tower of Silence. The tower is organized into three concentric circles, one for men, one for women, and one for children. The corpse is in the center stripped naked. They then wait for the vultures to come, and tear the body pieces until there is nothing but bone left. After the bones have been dried by the sun they are pushed into a well, and then four days late it is believed that the departed soul reaches the next world and appears before God to be judged (Armstrong, 1993).
Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds: Zoroastrianism revolves around three basic tenets- Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds.
God: Ahura Mazda is the beginning and the end, the creator of everything that can and cannot be seen, the Eternal, the Pure, and the only Truth (Malandra, 2005).
Basic tenets: Humata, Hukhta, Huvarshta (Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds) are the basic tenets of the religion.
Active participation: The religion states that active participation in life through good deeds is necessary to ensure happiness and to keep chaos at bay. This active participation is a central element in Zoroaster’s concept of free will.
Water and fire: In Zoroastrianism, water and fire are agents of ritual purity, and the associated purification ceremonies are considered the basis of ritual life.
Daena: Daena (din in modern Persian) is the eternal Law, whose order was revealed to humanity through the Mathra-Spenta (“Holy Words”). Daena has been used to mean religion, faith, law, and even as a translation for the Hindu and Buddhist term Dharma.
Renovation and judgment: Zoroastrianism also includes beliefs about the renovation of the world and individual judgment (cf. general and particular judgment), including the resurrection of the dead.
Head covering: The Zarathushtri also practice traditional head covering ritual similar to that of Judaism. It is vital to the practice, and according to Hoshang Bhadha,
Belief in a Supreme and Universal God. They believe Ahura Mazda is the ultimate, omniscient, and omnipotent god. He protects the good from the evil.
Belief in the duality of existence. They believe that the world is a constant battleground between good and evil and that even though good will eventually triumph, humans still have a responsibility to stay away from evil.
Belief in the divinity of creation. Zoroastrians believe that the world, both the visible and the invisible one was made from Ahura Mazda’s own body, and we, therefore, have a responsibility to keep it pure.
Belief in the spiritual nature of the world and human beings. Zoroastrians believe that God created spiritual entities and beings before manifesting their counterparts in the material plane (Smith, 1991).
The full name by which Zoroaster addressed the deity is Ahura, The Lord Creator, and Mazda, Supremely Wise. He proclaimed that there is only one God, the singularly creative and sustaining force of the Universe. Zoroastrians believe that there is one universal, transcendent, supreme god, Ahura Mazda, or the “Wise Lord”. (Ahura means “Being” and Mazda means “Mind” in Avestan language). In Zoroastrian tradition, the “chaotic” is represented by Angra Mainyu (also referred to as “Ahriman”), the “Destructive Principle”, while the benevolent is represented through Ahura Mazda’s Spenta Mainyu, the instrument or “Bounteous Principle” of the act of creation. It is through Spenta Mainyu that transcendental Ahura Mazda is immanent in humankind, and through which the Creator interacts with the world (Boyce, 1979).
Zoroastrians do believe in one God, Ahura Mazda, meaning Wise Lord. They believe He created the world. The truth was revealed through His prophet Zoroaster, who is not worshipped but is followed as his directed path of truth and righteousness. Hence, Zoroastrians relate to God through the Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord.
Judaism is also classified as a world religion. It is somewhat a Jewish religion that came through Moses. Judaism encompasses the religion, philosophy, culture, and way of life of the Jewish people. Judaism is an ancient monotheistic religion, with the Torah as its foundational text (part of the larger text known as the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible), and supplemental oral tradition represented by later texts such as the Midrash and the Talmud. Judaism is considered by religious Jews to be the expression of the covenantal relationship that God established with the Children of Israel. With between 14.5 and 17.4 million adherents worldwide, Judaism is the tenth-largest religion in the world.
Founder: Moses was the main founder of Judaism, but Jews can trace their history back as far as Abraham.
Founding Date: Judaism originated in the Middle East over 3500 years ago. Judaism has about 13 million followers throughout the world, mostly in the USA and Israel. Approximately 270,100 people in the UK said that their religious identity was Jewish.
Holy Books: The holiest Jewish book is the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible) which was revealed by God to Moses on Mount Sinai over 3,000 years ago. The Torah, together with the Talmud (commentary on the Torah), gives the Jewish people rules for everyday life. Observing these rules is central to the Jewish religion.
Jews believe that there is only one God. Jews believe they have a special agreement or covenant with God. In exchange for all the good that God has done for them, Jewish people keep God’s laws and try to bring holiness into every aspect of their lives. Judaism is a faith of action and Jews believe people should be judged not so much on what they believe as on the way they live their faith – by how much they contribute to the overall holiness of the world (Waskow, 1982).
Worship: Jews worship in Synagogues. A Jewish Religious leader is called a Rabbi (literally ‘teacher’)
Shabbat (The Sabbath): The family and community are very important within Jewish life. The most important day of the week is Shabbat (the Sabbath). It is the day on which Jews remember the seventh day of creation on which God rested. On Shabbat Jews stop working and make time for God and family life.
Jewish ethics: Jewish ethical practice is typically understood to be marked by values such as justice, truth, peace, loving-kindness, compassion, humility, and self-respect.
Prayers: Traditionally, Jews recite prayers three times daily, Shacharit, Mincha, and Ma’ariv with a fourth prayer, Mussaf added on Shabbat and holidays.
Passover: Passover (Pesach) is a week-long holiday beginning on the evening of the 14th day of Nisan (the first month in the Hebrew calendar), that commemorates the Exodus from Egypt. Outside Israel, Passover is celebrated for eight days.
Shavuot: (“Pentecost” or “Feast of Weeks”) celebrates the revelation of the Torah to the Israelites on Mount Sinai. Also known as the Festival of Bikurim, or first fruits, it coincided in biblical times with the wheat harvest.
Sukkot: (“Tabernacles” or “The Festival of Booths”) commemorates the Israelites’ forty years of wandering through the desert on their way to the Promised Land.
Yom Kippur: (“Day of Atonement”) is the holiest day of the Jewish year. It is a day of communal fasting and praying for forgiveness for one’s sins.
Purim: A joyous Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Persian Jews from the plot of the evil Haman, who sought to exterminate them, as recorded in the biblical Book of Esther.
Judaism is the oldest monotheist religion that beliefs in only one God. Judaism includes a wide corpus of texts, practices, theological positions, and forms of organization. Within Judaism, there are a variety of movements, most of which emerged from Rabbinic Judaism, which holds that God revealed his laws and commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai in the form of both the Written and Oral Torah. Thus, to relate with God means keeping the commandments given to Moses. Also, Judaism belief in praying to God as a means of communication between human and God Almighty.
The Jewish God is not merely a philosophical concept, a final cause that explains the existence of the universe. Rather, the Jewish God is a personal God, the true hero of the biblical stories, and a guide and mentor. In the Bible, God has one proper name and a host of other appellations.
Most of classical Judaism views God as a personal god, meaning that humans can have a relationship with God and vice versa. Much of the Midrash and many prayers in the siddur portrays God as caring about humanity in much the same way that humans care about God. Rabbi Samuel S. Cohon wrote that “God, as conceived by Judaism, is not only the First Cause, the Creative Power, and the World Reason, but also the living and loving Father of Men. He is not only cosmic but also personal. According to traditional Judaism, people’s actions cannot affect God positively or negatively (Levinas, 1990).
Bábism is a world religion / religious movement that flourished in Persia from 1844 to 1852. It then lingered on in exile in the Ottoman Empire (especially Cyprus) as well as underground. Its founder was Sayyid `Alí Muhammad Shirazi, who took the title Báb—meaning “Gate”—from a Shi’i theological term. Unlike other Islamic messianic movements, the Bábí movement signaled a break with Islam and attempted to start a new religious system.
While the Bábí movement was violently opposed and crushed by the clerical and government establishments in the country in the mid-1850s, the Bábí movement led to the founding of the Bahá’í Faith which sees the religion brought by the Báb as a predecessor to their religion and gives a renewed significance to the Bábí movement (Saiedi, 2008).
The Báb’s teachings, beliefs, and practices can be grouped into three broad stages which each have a dominant thematic focus. His earliest teachings are primarily defined by his interpretation of the Qur’an and other Islamic traditions.
Hidden Imam: In Twelver Shi’a Islamic belief there were twelve Imams, the last of which, known as Imam Mahdi, who communicated with his followers only through certain representatives. According to the Twelver’s belief, after the last of these representatives died, Imam Mahdi went into a state of Occultation; while still alive, he was no longer accessible to his believers. Shi’a Muslims believe that when the world becomes oppressed, Imam Mahdi (also termed the Qa’im) will come out of occultation and restore true religion on Earth before the cataclysmic end of the world and judgment day. In Bábí belief the Báb is the return of Imam Mahdi, but the doctrine of the Occultation is implicitly denied; instead, the Báb stated that his manifestation was a symbolic return of the Imam and not the physical reappearance of Imam Mahdi who had died a thousand years earlier.
Resurrection, Judgment Day, and cyclical revelation: The Báb taught that his revelation was beginning an apocalyptic process that was bringing the Islamic dispensation to its cyclical end, and starting a new dispensation. He taught that the terms “resurrection”, “Judgement Day”, “paradise” and “hell” used in Shi’a prophecies for the end-times are symbolic. He stated that “Resurrection” means that the appearance of a new revelation, and that “raising of the dead” means the spiritual awakening of those who have stepped away from true religion. He further stated that “Judgement Day” refers to when a new Manifestation of God comes, and the acceptance or rejection of those on the Earth.
He whom God shall make manifest: While the Báb claimed a station of revelation, he also claimed no finality for his revelation. One of the core Bábí teachings is the great Promised One, whom the Báb termed He whom God shall make manifest, promised in the sacred writings of previous religions would soon establish the Kingdom of God on the Earth. In the books written by the Báb, he constantly entreats his believers to follow He whom God shall make manifest when he arrives and not behave like the Muslims who have not accepted his revelation.
The Babi believed in “He whom God shall be made manifest” not in Almighty God. All their beliefs and practices are centered on him because he is supposed to be the one who directly relates to the Bab.
The Báb abrogated Islamic law and in the Persian Bayán promulgated a system of Bábí law, thus establishing a separate religion distinct from Islam. Some of the new laws included changing the direction of the Qibla to the Báb’s house in Shiraz, Iran and changing the calendar to a solar calendar of nineteen months and nineteen days (which became the basis of the Bahá’í calendar) and prescribing the last month as a month of fasting (Hutter, 2005).
The Báb also created a large number of rituals and rites which remained largely unpracticed. Some of these rituals include the carrying of arms only in times of necessity, the obligatory sitting on chairs, the advocating of the cleanliness displayed by Christians, the non-cruel treatment of animals, the prohibition of beating children severely, the recommendation of the printing of books, even scripture and the prohibition on the study of logic or dead languages (Walbridge, 2002).
The Bahá’í Faith was founded by Bahá’u’lláh in 19th-century Persia. Bahá’u’lláh was imprisoned and exiled from Persia to the Ottoman Empire because of his association with the Babi movement. He was still officially under house arrest at the time of his death, more than forty years later. Under the leadership of his son, `Abdu’l-Bahá, the religion gained a footing in Europe and America, but it still suffers intense persecution where it originated, in present-day Iran (Abrahamian, 1982).
The Bahá’í Faith is a monotheistic world religion that emphasizes the spiritual unity of all humankind. Three core principles establish a basis for Bahá’í teachings and doctrine: the unity of God, that there is only one God who is the source of all creation; the unity of religion, that all major religions have the same spiritual source and come from the same God; and the unity of humanity, that all humans have been created equal, coupled with the unity in diversity, that diversity of race and culture are seen as worthy of appreciation and acceptance. According to the Bahá’í Faith’s teachings, the human purpose is to learn to know and to love God through such methods as prayer, reflection, and being of service to humanity.
God: Bahá’í teachings state that God is too great for humans to fully comprehend, or to create a complete and accurate image of, by themselves. Therefore, the human understanding of God is achieved through his revelations via his Manifestations.
Revelation and manifestation of God: Bahá’í notions of progressive religious revelation result in their accepting the validity of the well-known religions of the world, whose founders and central figures are seen as Manifestations of God. In Bahá’í belief, this process of progressive revelation will not end; however, it is believed to be cyclical. Bahá’ís do not expect a new manifestation of God to appear within 1000 years of Bahá’u’lláh’s revelation.
Human relationship: The Bahá’í writings state that human beings have a “rational soul”, and that this provides the species with a unique capacity to recognize God’s station and humanity’s relationship with its creator.
The Bahá’í writings describe a single, personal, inaccessible, omniscient, omnipresent, imperishable, and almighty God who is the creator of all things in the universe. The existence of God and the universe is thought to be eternal, without a beginning or end. Though inaccessible directly, God is nevertheless seen as conscious of creation, with a will and purpose that is expressed through messengers termed Manifestations of God (Adamson, 2006).
What made Druze a world religion? The Druze faith is a monotheistic and Abrahamic religion based on the teachings of Hamza ibn-‘Ali, al-Hakim, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and Akhenaten. The Epistles of Wisdom is the foundational text of the Druze faith. The Druze faith incorporates elements of Ismailism, Judaism, Christianity, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, Pythagoreanism, Hinduism according to some, and other philosophies and beliefs, creating a distinct and secretive theology known to esoterically interpret religious scriptures and to highlight the role of the mind and truthfulness (Corduan, 2013:107). The Druze follow theophany and believe in reincarnation or the transmigration of the soul. At the end of the cycle of rebirth, which is achieved through successive reincarnations, the soul is united with the Cosmic Mind (Al Aaqal Al Kulli).
God: The Druze conception of the deity is declared by them to be one of strict and uncompromising unity. The main Druze doctrine states that God is both transcendent and immanent, in which he is above all attributes but at the same time he is present.
Scripture: Druze Sacred texts include the Kitab Al Hikma (Epistles of Wisdom). Other ancient Druze writings include the Rasa’il al-Hind (Epistles of India) and the previously lost (or hidden) manuscripts such as al-Munfarid bi-Dhatihi and al-Sharia al-Ruhaniyya as well as others including didactic and polemic treatises.
Reincarnation: Reincarnation is a paramount principle in the Druze faith. Reincarnations occur instantly at one’s death because there is an eternal duality of the body and the soul and it is impossible for the soul to exist without the body. A human soul will only transfer to a human body in contrast to the Hindu and Buddhist belief system where souls can transfer to any living creature.
Esotericism: The Druze believe that many teachings were given by prophets, religious leaders and holy books have esoteric meanings preserved for those of intellect, in which some teachings are symbolic and allegorical, and divide the understanding of holy books and teachings into three layers.
In their desire to maintain a rigid confession of unity, they stripped from God all attributes (tanzīh). In God, there are no attributes distinct from his essence. He is wise, mighty, and just, not by wisdom, might, and justice, but by his essence. God is “the whole of existence”, rather than “above existence” or on his throne, which would make him “limited”. There is neither “how”, “when”, nor “where” about him; he is incomprehensible. In this dogma, they are similar to the semi-philosophical, semi-religious body which flourished under Al-Ma’mun and was known by the name of Mu’tazila and the fraternal order of the Brethren of Purity (Ikhwan al-Ṣafa).
Confucianism shouldn’t have been a world religion, but a way of life. But since religion also determines a way of life, it is added among world religions. Confucianism, also known as Ruism, is described as tradition, a philosophy, a religion, a humanistic or rationalistic religion, a way of governing, or simply a way of life (Littlejohn, 2010).
Confucianism developed from what was later called the Hundred Schools of Thought from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius (551–479 BCE), who considered himself a retransmitter of the values of the Zhou dynasty golden age of several centuries before (Yao, 2000). In the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE), Confucian approaches edged out the “proto-Taoist” Huang-Lao, as the official ideology while the emperors mixed both with the realist techniques of Legalism.
Humaneness: Rén is the Confucian virtue denoting the good feeling a virtuous human experiences when being altruistic. It is exemplified by a normal adult’s protective feelings for children. It is considered the essence of the human being, endowed by Heaven, and at the same time how man can act according to the principle of Heaven and become one with it.
Rite, right: Li embodies the entire web of interaction between humanity, human objects, and nature. Confucius includes in his discussions of li such diverse topics as learning, tea drinking, titles, mourning, and governance.
Loyalty: Loyalty is particularly relevant for the social class to which most of Confucius’ students belonged because the most important way for an ambitious young scholar to become a prominent official was to enter a ruler’s civil service. Confucius himself did not propose that “might makes right”, but rather that a superior should be obeyed because of his moral rectitude. Besides, loyalty does not mean subservience to authority. This is because reciprocity is demanded from the superior as well.
Filial piety: In Confucian philosophy, filial piety is a virtue of respect for one’s parents and ancestors.
Tiān, a key concept in Chinese thought, refers to the sky, or the heavens, nature, “heaven and earth” (that is, “all things”), and to the awe-inspiring forces beyond human control. A person can know the movement of the Tiān, giving the sense of having a special place in the universe. (9.5) Confucius wrote that Tian spoke to him, though not in words (17.19), the scholar Ronnie Littlejohn (2010), warns that Tian was not a personal God comparable to the God of the Abrahamic faiths in the sense of an independent creator of transcendent Being. Regarding personal gods (shén, energies who emanate from and reproduce the Tiān) enlivening nature, in Analects 6.22 Confucius says that it is appropriate for people to worship them, though through proper rites, implying respect of positions and discretion. Confucius himself was a ritual and sacrificial master.
Taoism is the last of the world religions we are discussing today. Taoism, also known as Daoism, is a world religious or philosophical tradition of Chinese origin which emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao (literally “Way”, also romanized as Dao). The Tao is a fundamental idea in most Chinese philosophical schools; in Taoism, however, it denotes the principle that is both the source, pattern, and substance of everything that exists (Lowe, 2003).
Taoism differs from Confucianism by not emphasizing rigid rituals and social order. Taoist ethics vary depending on the particular school, but in general tend to emphasize wu Wei (effortless action), “naturalness”, simplicity, spontaneity, and the Three Treasures: Jing (sperm/ovary energy, or the essence of the physical body), qi (“matter-energy” or “life force”, including the thoughts and emotions), and shén (spirit or generative power).
Vegetarian diet: The Taoist diet encourages fasting and vegetarianism.
Rituals: At certain dates, food may be set out as a sacrifice to the spirits of the deceased or the gods, such as during the Qingming Festival. This may include slaughtered animals, such as pigs and ducks, or fruit. Another form of sacrifice involves the burning of Joss paper, or Hell Bank Notes, on the assumption that images thus consumed by the fire will reappear—not as a mere image, but as the actual item—in the spirit world, making them available for revered ancestors and departed loved ones. At other points, a vegan diet or full fast may be observed.
Physical cultivation: A recurrent and important element of Taoism are rituals, exercises, and substances aiming at aligning oneself spiritually with cosmic forces, at undertaking ecstatic spiritual journeys, or at improving physical health and thereby extending one’s life, ideally to the point of immortality (Aronson, 2002). Enlightened and immortal beings are referred to as xian.
Taoism can be defined as pantheistic, given its philosophical emphasis on the formlessness of the Tao and the primacy of the “Way” rather than anthropomorphic concepts of God. This is one of the core beliefs that nearly all the sects share (Yamamoto, 1998).
Taoist orders usually present the Three Pure Ones at the top of the pantheon of deities, visualizing the hierarchy emanating from the Tao. Laozi (Laojun, “Lord Lao”), is considered the incarnation of one of the Three Purities and worshipped as the ancestor of the philosophical doctrine. Different branches of Taoism often have differing pantheons of lesser deities, where these deities reflect different notions of cosmology. Lesser deities also may be promoted or demoted for their activity. Some varieties of popular Chinese religion incorporate the Jade Emperor, derived from the main of the Three Purities, as a representation of the highest God (Chung, 2001).
There are many other world religions not added in this research paper. You can find them here. The world religions and spiritual traditions may be classified into a small number of major groups, although this is by no means a uniform practice. This theory began in the 18th century to recognize the relative levels of civility in societies. In world cultures, there have traditionally been many different groupings of religious belief. In Indian culture, different religious philosophies were traditionally respected as academic differences in pursuit of the same truth.
Initially, Christians had a simple dichotomy of world beliefs: Christian civility versus foreign heresy or barbarity. In the 18th century, “heresy” was clarified to mean Judaism and Islam; along with paganism, this created a fourfold classification which spawned such works as John Toland’s Nazarenus, or Jewish, Gentile, and Mahometan Christianity, which represented the three Abrahamic religions as different “nations” or sects within religion itself, the “true monotheism.”
The religions explained above represented one of all four groupings of the Abrahamic religion which forms the largest grouping, Indian religions, Iranian religions, East Asian religion, and the African traditional religion.
Some academics studying the subject of religion have divided religions into three broad categories: world religions, a term which refers to transcultural, international faiths; indigenous religions, which refers to smaller, culture-specific or nation-specific religious groups; and new religious movements, which refers to recently developed faiths (Harvey, 2000:6). One modern academic theory of religion, social constructionism, says that religion is a modern concept that suggests all spiritual practice and worship follows a model similar to the Abrahamic religions as an orientation system that helps to interpret reality and define human beings, and thus religion, as a concept, has been applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures that are not based upon such systems, or in which these systems are a substantially simpler construct (Vergote, 1997: 89).
Certain religions have a sacred language often used in liturgical services. The practice of a religion may include sermons, a commemoration of the activities of a god or gods, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, initiations, funerals, marriages, meditation, music, art, dance, public service, or other aspects of human culture. Religious beliefs have also been used to explain parapsychological phenomena such as out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences, and reincarnation, along with many other paranormal experiences.
Among all these religions, Christianity remains the only faith in which the founder died for the sake of His followers, and also lives in His followers.
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