Religion

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A religion is a system of beliefs that asserts the existence of at least one of:

  1. a human soul or spirit,
  2. a deity or "higher being", or
  3. the continuation of the self after the death of one's body.

As an uncountable noun, religion is a "way of living" or the set of customs or rituals that follows from such beliefs.

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It is notoriously difficult to define what does and does not constitute a religion, due to the sheer variety of human religious beliefs and practices. Taoism and Confucianism, for instance, are sometimes described as philosophies rather than religions.

Contents

Classification

Many religions are subdivided into sects or denominations, resulting in a huge number of labels for the religious to choose from. The major world religions are typically, however, divided into three large groups:

  1. Abrahamic religions
  2. Dharmic religions
  3. Taoic religions

Largest world religions

According to 2005 data collected by Adherents.com, the religious traditions with the most "adherents" around the world (including traditions outside of the three major divisions listed above) are:

  1. Christianity (2.1 billion)
  2. Islam (1.3 billion)
  3. Non-religious, including secularism, atheism, agnosticism and nontheism (1.1 billion)
  4. Hinduism (900 million)
  5. Chinese folk religion (394 million)
  6. Buddhism (376 million)
  7. Primal indigenous or "pagan" (300 million)
  8. African traditional and diasporic (100 million)
  9. Sikhism (23 million)
  10. Juche (19 million)
  11. Spiritism (15 million)
  12. Judaism (14 million)
  13. Bahá'í Faith (7 million)
  14. Jehovah's Witnesses (6.5 million)
  15. Jainism (4.2 million)
  16. Shinto {4 million)
  17. Cao Dai (4 million)
  18. Zoroastrianism (2.6 million)
  19. Tenrikyo (2 million)
  20. Neo-Paganism (1 million)
  21. Unitarian Universalism (800,000)
  22. Rastafari movement (600,000)

Major approaches to religion

Note that statements below about "God" can also generally be made about "gods".

  • Lack of (belief in / certainty about / support for) religion
    • Ignosticism — statements about God are ill-defined or meaningless
    • Agnosticism — lack of knowledge about God
    • Atheism — lack of belief in God; belief in the nonexistence of God
    • Humanism — supports reason and ethics; rejects superstition and the supernatural; humans have to solve their own problems
    • Antitheism — opposition to belief in God; belief in God seen as harmful
  • Forms of deism
    • Deism — God created the universe but is not presently active in it; typically rejects miracles and other supernatural events
    • Pandeism — the universe is God
    • Panendeism — the universe is part of God
    • Polydeism — multiple gods created the universe and are not presently active in it
  • Forms of theism
    • Theism — belief in one or more gods
    • number of gods
      • Monotheism — belief in one god
      • Monolatrism — worship of one god among many, the others of which are not worthy of worship
      • Henotheism — worship of one god among many, some of whom may also be worthy of worship
      • Kathenotheism — worship of "one god at a time" from among many
      • Duotheism — two complementary (often male and female) gods
      • Polytheism — worship of many Gods
    • number of aspects of a single god
    • nature of God
      • Dystheism — God is partly or wholly evil
      • Pantheism — God is the universe
      • Panentheism — God is "immanent" in the universe but transcends it

Other belief systems

(This list is being merged into the one above. Stand By...)

  • Acosmism — the observable world is an illusion
  • Animism — unification of matter and spirit; all material things have souls or spirits
  • Determinism — everything follows causally from prior events; there is only one completely determined future (as opposed to many possible futures)
  • Esotericism — knowledge of the divine is available to only a few enlightened individuals
  • Gnosticism — knowledge of God
  • Monism
  • Nondualism
  • Thelema
  • Theopanism
  • Theosophy

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