Religion may be defined as a cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, world views, texts, sanctified places, prophesies, ethics, or organizations, that relate humanity to the supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual. Different religions may or may not contain various elements ranging from the divine, sacred things, faith, a supernatural being or supernatural beings or “some sort of ultimacy and transcendence that will provide norms and power for the rest of life”. Religious practices may include rituals, sermons, commemoration or veneration (of deities), sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trances, initiations, funerary services, matrimonial services, meditation, prayer, music, art, dance, public service, or other aspects of human culture. Religions have sacred histories and narratives, which may be preserved in sacred scriptures, and symbols and holy places, that aim mostly to give a meaning to life. Religions may contain symbolic stories, which are sometimes said by followers to be true, that have the side purpose of explaining the origin of life, the universe, and other things. Traditionally, faith, in addition to reason, has been considered a source of religious beliefs.
The beliefs supporting the existence of God or against it, including the middle positions have resulted in an array of doctrines, the most prominent among them are; Theism, Monotheism, Theodicy, Deism, Agnosticism and Atheism.
Most—but not all—of the world’s major religions are theistic: having as the basis of their practice a belief and faith in the existence of one or more deities, or gods, that are distinctly separate from mankind and with whom it is possible to have a relationship.
There are different ways in which the world’s religions have practiced theism. Theoretically, there is an infinite variation in what people might mean by the term “God,” but there several common attributes are frequently discussed, in particular among those who come from a Western tradition of religion and philosophy. Because this type of theism relies so much upon a broad framework of intersecting religious and philosophical inquiry, it is often referred to as “classical theism,” “standard theism,” or “philosophical theism.” Classical/ Philosophical Theism comes in many forms, but in essence, religions falling into this category believe in the supernatural nature of the god or gods that underpin the religious practice.
Whereas atheism and theism deal with belief, agnosticism deals with knowledge. The Greek roots of the term combine a (without) and gnosis (knowledge). Hence, agnosticism literally means “without knowledge.” In the context where it is normally used, the term means: without knowledge of the existence of gods. Since it is possible for a person to believe in one or more gods without claiming to know for sure that any gods exist, it’s possible to be an agnostic theist.
The term monotheism comes from the Greek monos, (one) and theos (god). Thus, monotheism is the belief in the existence of a single god. Monotheism is typically contrasted with polytheism (see below), which is a belief in many gods, and with atheism, which is an absence of any belief in any gods.
Deism is actually a form of monotheism, but it remains distinct enough in character and development to justify discussing separately. In addition to adopting the beliefs of general monotheism, deists also adopt the belief that the single existing god is personal in nature and transcendent from the created universe. However, they reject the belief, common among monotheists in the West, that this god is immanent— presently active in the created universe.
Henotheism and Monolatry
Henotheism is based upon the Greek roots heis or henos, (one), and theos (god). But the term is not a synonym for monotheism, despite the fact that it has the same etymological meaning.
Another word expressing the same idea is monolatry, which is based on the Greek roots monos (one), and latreia (service or religious worship). The term appears to have been first used by Julius Wellhausen to described a type of polytheism in which just a single god is worshiped but where other gods are accepted as existing elsewhere. Many tribal religions fall into this category.
The term polytheism is based on the Greek roots poly (many) and theos (god). Thus, the term is used to describe belief systems in which several gods are acknowledged and worshiped. Throughout the course of human history, polytheistic religions of one sort or another have been the dominant majority. The classic Greek, Roman, Indian and Norse religions, for example, were all polytheisms.
The word pantheism is built from the Greek roots pan (all) and theos (god); thus, pantheism is either a belief that the universe is God and worthy of worship, or that God is the sum total of all there is and that the combined substances, forces, and natural laws that we see around us are therefore manifestations of God. The early Egyptian and Hindu religions are regarded as pantheistic, and Taoism is also sometimes considered a pantheistic belief system.
The word panentheism is Greek for “all-in-God,” pan-en-theos. A panentheistic belief system posits the existence of a god that interpenetrates every part of nature but which is nevertheless fully distinct from nature. This god is, therefore, part of nature, but at the same time still retains an independent identity.
In the philosophy of Impersonal Idealism, universal ideals are identified as god. There are elements of impersonal idealism, for example, in the Christian belief that “God is love,” or the humanist view that “God is knowledge.”
One of this philosophy’s spokesmen, Edward Gleason Spaulding, explained his philosophy thus:
God is the totality of values, both existent and subsistent, and of those agencies and efficiencies with which these values are identical. …
There are an estimated ten thousand distinct religions worldwide, but about 84% of the world’s population is affiliated with one of the five largest religions, namely Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or forms of folk religion.
The religiously unaffiliated demographic includes those who do not identify with any particular religion, atheists and agnostics. While the religiously unaffiliated have grown globally, many of the religiously unaffiliated still have various religious beliefs. The study of religion encompasses a wide variety of academic disciplines, including theology, comparative religion and social scientific studies. Theories of religion offer various explanations for the origins and workings of religion. [Read more …….. ]
Abrahamic religions are monotheistic religions which believe they descend from Abraham. They basically claim to be followers of Abrahamic monotheism. The chain of Prophets from Abraham, Issac, Ishmael, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus came to close at Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Read more …. […..]
Judaism is the oldest Abrahamic religion, originating in the people of ancient Israel and Judea. The Torah is its foundational text, and is part of the larger text known as the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible. It is supplemented by oral tradition, set down in written form in later texts such as the Midrash and the Talmud. 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; historically, this assertion was challenged by various groups. The Jewish people were scattered after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem 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. The largest Jewish religious movements are Orthodox Judaism (Haredi Judaism and Modern Orthodox Judaism), Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism. Read more on … Judaism
Christianity is based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth (1st century) as presented in the New Testament. The Christian faith is essentially faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and as Savior and Lord. Almost all Christians believe in the Trinity, which teaches the unity of Father, Son (Jesus Christ), and Holy Spirit as three persons in one Godhead. Most Christians can describe their faith with the Nicene Creed. As the religion of Byzantine Empire in the first millennium and of Western Europe during the time of colonization, Christianity has been propagated throughout the world. The main divisions of Christianity are, according to the number of adherents:
The Catholic Church, led by the Bishop of Rome and the bishops worldwide in communion with him, is a communion of 24 Churches sui iuris, including the Latin Church and 23 Eastern Catholic churches, such as the Maronite Catholic Church. Eastern Christianity, which include Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and the Church of the East. Protestantism, separated from the Catholic Church in the 16th-century Protestant Reformation and is split into thousands of denominations. Major branches of Protestantism include Anglicanism, Baptists, Calvinism, Lutheranism, and Methodism, though each of these contain many different denominations or groups. There are also smaller groups, including: Restorationism, the belief that Christianity should be restored (as opposed to reformed) along the lines of what is known about the apostolic early church. Latter Day Saint movement, founded by Joseph Smith in the late 1820s. Jehovah’s Witnesses, founded in the late 1870s by Charles Taze Russell. More on Christianity ..[….]
Islam is based on the Quran, one of the holy books considered by Muslims to be revealed by God, and on the teachings (hadith) of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), a major political and religious figure of the 7th century CE. Islam is based on the unity of all religious philosophies and accepts all of the Abrahamic prophets of Judaism, Christianity and other Abrahamic religions before Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It is the most widely practiced religion of Southeast Asia, North Africa, Western Asia, and Central Asia, while Muslim-majority countries also exist in parts of South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Europe. There are also several Islamic republics, including Iran, Pakistan, Mauritania, and Afghanistan.
Sunni Islam is the largest denomination within Islam and follows the Quran, the hadiths which record the sunnah, whilst placing emphasis on the Sahabah, companions of Prophet (may Allah be please with them) . Shia Islam is the second largest denomination of Islam and its adherents believe that Ali (may Allah be please with him) succeeded Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and further places emphasis on Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) family.
Ahmadiyya (Qadyani) adherents, declared to be non Muslims in constitituion of Pakistan, because believe that the awaited Imam Mahdi and the Promised Messiah has arrived, believed to be Mirza Ghulam Ahmad by Ahmadis (the false Messiah).
There are also Muslim revivalist movements such as Muwahhidism and Salafism.
Other denominations of Islam include Nation of Islam, Ibadi, Sufism, Quranism, Mahdavia, and non-denominational Muslims. Wahhabism is the dominant Muslim schools of thought in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The five largest religious groups by world population, estimated to account for 5.8 billion people and 84% of the population, are Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism (with the relative numbers for Buddhism and Hinduism dependent on the extent of syncretism) and traditional folk religion.
A global poll in 2012 surveyed 57 countries and reported that 59% of the world’s population identified as religious, 23% as not religious, 13% as convinced atheists, and also a 9% decrease in identification as religious when compared to the 2005 average from 39 countries. A follow up poll in 2015 found that 63% of the globe identified as religious, 22% as not religious, and 11% as convinced atheists. On average, women are more religious than men. Some people follow multiple religions or multiple religious principles at the same time, regardless of whether or not the religious principles they follow traditionally allow for syncretism.
East Asian religions
East Asian religions (also known as Far Eastern religions or Taoic religions) consist of several religions of East Asia which make use of the concept of Tao (in Chinese) or Dō (in Japanese or Korean). They include:
Taoism and Confucianism
Taoism and Confucianism, as well as Korean, Vietnamese, and Japanese religion influenced by Chinese thought. Chinese folk religion
The indigenous religions of the Han Chinese, or, by metonymy, of all the populations of the Chinese cultural sphere. It includes the syncretism of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, Wuism, as well as many new religious movements such as Chen Tao, Falun Gong and Yiguandao.
Other folk and new religions of East Asia and Southeast Asia such as Korean shamanism, Chondogyo, and Jeung San Do in Korea; Shinto, Shugendo, Ryukyuan religion, and Japanese new religions in Japan; Satsana Phi in Laos; Cao Đài, Hòa Hảo, and Vietnamese folk religion in Vietnam. Read more on East Asian religions .[……]
Indian religions are practiced or were founded in the Indian subcontinent. They are sometimes classified as the dharmic religions, as they all feature dharma, the specific law of reality and duties expected according to the religion.
Hinduism is preferentially self-designated by the term Vaidika Dharma. It is a synecdoche describing the similar philosophies of Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and related groups practiced or founded in the Indian subcontinent. Concepts most of them share in common include karma, caste, reincarnation, mantras, yantras, and darśana. Hinduism is one of the most ancient of still-active religions, with origins perhaps as far back as prehistoric times. Hinduism is not a monolithic religion but a religious category containing dozens of separate philosophies amalgamated as Sanātana Dharma, which is the name by which Hinduism has been known throughout history by its followers.
Jainism, taught primarily by Rishabhanatha (the founder of ahimsa) is an ancient Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence, truth and anekantavada for all forms of living beings in this universe; which helps them to eliminate all the Karmas, and hence to attain freedom from the cycle of birth and death (saṃsāra), that is, achieving (nirvana). Jains are found mostly in India. According to Dundas, outside of the Jain tradition, historians date the Mahavira as about contemporaneous with the Buddha in the 5th-century BCE, and accordingly the historical Parshvanatha, based on the c. 250-year gap, is placed in 8th or 7th century BCE. Digambara Jainism (or sky-clad) is mainly practiced in South India. Their holy books are Pravachanasara and Samayasara written by their Prophets Kundakunda and Amritchandra as their original cannon is lost. Shwetambara Jainism (or white-clad) is mainly practiced in Western India. Their holy books are Jain Agamas, written by their Prophet Sthulibhadra.
Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama in the 6th century BCE. Buddhists generally agree that Gotama aimed to help sentient beings end their suffering (dukkha) by understanding the true nature of phenomena, thereby escaping the cycle of suffering and rebirth (saṃsāra), that is, achieving nirvana. Theravada Buddhism, which is practiced mainly in Sri Lanka 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. Mahayana Buddhism (or the Great Vehicle) under which are a multitude of doctrines that became prominent in China and are still relevant in Vietnam, Korea, Japan and to a lesser extent in Europe and the United States. Mahayana Buddhism includes such disparate teachings as Zen, Pure Land, and Soka Gakkai. Vajrayana Buddhism first appeared in India in the 3rd century CE. It is currently most prominent in the Himalaya regions and extends across all of Asia (cf. Mikkyō).
Two notable new Buddhist sects are Hòa Hảo and the Navayana (Dalit Buddhist movement), which were developed separately in the 20th century.
Sikhism is a panentheistic religion founded on the teachings of Guru Nanak and ten successive Sikh gurus in 15th-century Punjab. It is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world, with approximately 30 million Sikhs. Sikhs are expected to embody the qualities of a Sant-Sipāhī – a saint-soldier, have control over one’s internal vices and be able to be constantly immersed in virtues clarified in the Guru Granth Sahib. The principal beliefs of Sikhi are faith in Waheguru—represented by the phrase ik ōaṅkār, meaning one God, who prevails in everything, along with a praxis in which the Sikh is enjoined to engage in social reform through the pursuit of justice for all human beings.
Incense burner in China
Indigenous religions or folk religions refers to a broad category of traditional religions that can be characterised by shamanism, animism and ancestor worship, where traditional means “indigenous, that which is aboriginal or foundational, handed down from generation to generation…”. These are religions that are closely associated with a particular group of people, ethnicity or tribe; they often have no formal creeds or sacred texts. Some faiths are syncretic, fusing diverse religious beliefs and practices.
Australian Aboriginal religions.
Folk religions of the Americas: Native American religions
Folk religions are often omitted as a category in surveys even in countries where they are widely practiced, e.g. in China.
African traditional religion encompasses the traditional religious beliefs of people in Africa. In West Africa, these religions include the Akan religion, Dahomey (Fon) mythology, Efik mythology, Odinani, Serer religion (A ƭat Roog), and Yoruba religion, while Bushongo mythology, Mbuti (Pygmy) mythology, Lugbara mythology, Dinka religion, and Lotuko mythology come from central Africa. Southern African traditions include Akamba mythology, Masai mythology, Malagasy mythology, San religion, Lozi mythology, Tumbuka mythology, and Zulu mythology. Bantu mythology is found throughout central, southeast, and southern Africa. In north Africa, these traditions include Berber and ancient Egyptian.
There are also notable African diasporic religions practiced in the Americas, such as Santeria, Candomble, Vodun, Lucumi, Umbanda, and Macumba.
Iranian religions are ancient religions whose roots predate the Islamization of Greater Iran. Nowadays these religions are practiced only by minorities.
Zoroastrianism is based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster in the 6th century BCE. Zoroastrians worship the creator Ahura Mazda. In Zoroastrianism good and evil have distinct sources, with evil trying to destroy the creation of Mazda, and good trying to sustain it.
Mandaeism is a monotheistic religion with a strongly dualistic worldview. Mandaeans are sometime labeled as the Last Gnostics.
Kurdish religions include the traditional beliefs of the Yazidi, Alevi, and Ahl-e Haqq. Sometimes these are labeled Yazdânism. … [Source: Wikipedia]
Atheism, A New Religion:
Atheism is sometimes considered a religion option on surveys and in the resulting graphs that are products of those. Certain atheist organisations such as American Atheists contain some of the trappings of a religion, such as a symbol, a website, and sometimes meetings of believers in such organisations as Skepticon. There are also atheistic religions such as Sunday Assembly, and religions where many of the attendees do not believe in God, such as Unitarian Universalism. These can be considered the religious form of atheism, as opposed to normal atheism that does not require any ritual. The most radical atheists, such as some New Atheism-affiliated people, tend to encourage or tolerate proselytizing of atheism, making atheism more like a religion.
Many of the people who believe that atheism is a religion are conservative Christians who find that they cannot understand how others lack faith, and so just presume that is it in fact is a religion. This is also often done when it is politically expedient, framing atheism as a religion so that it can be disconnected from its base in a lack of support of faith from other realms of knowledge besides religion. Some forms of Confucianism and Buddhism also lack any gods. Almost any blogging site or social media platform with any conservative presence at all will eventually have a few people claiming that atheism is a religion because of their view of the divide between science and religion. Quora has quite a few conservative writers claiming that atheism is a religion, sometimes in conjunction with liberalism. Atheists Outline Their Global Religious Agenda is a notable example of a creationist, Ken Ham, claiming that atheism is a religion of sorts.
Many people are under the impression that religious truths cannot be proved scientifically. But inferring truths from things, as religion does, is the very reasoning which scientists employ in their everyday deductions.
In ancient times water was just water. Then, in the 19th century, the microscope was invented. When water was looked at under a microscope, it was discovered that water was not just water; it also contained countless live bacteria. In the same way man used to think that there were no more stars in the sky than those which can be seen with the naked eye. But in modem times the sky has been examined with telescopes and many more stars than can be seen with the naked eye have been discovered.
These two examples show the difference between ancient and modem times. Modern research has shown with certainty that there are many more realities than man had previously thought when he was limited to the sphere of simple observation. But these new discoveries so excited those who were making them that they made another claim: that reality is that which can be directly observed; that which we can not experience or observe is mere hypothesis, and does not exist.
In the nineteenth century this claim was made with great enthusiasm. It was most damaging to religion. Religious creeds are based on belief in the unseen; they cannot be directly observed or experienced. For this reason many people came to think of religion as hypothetical and unreal.
Twentieth century research has completely changed this state of affairs. Advanced study has shown that there is more to life than meets the eye: all the great realities of life lie beyond our comprehension.
According to Bertrand Russell there are two forms of knowledge: “Knowledge of Things” and “Knowledge of Truths”. Only “Things” can be directly observed: “Truths” can only be understood by indirect observation, or, in other words, inference. The existence of light, gravity, magnetism and nuclear energy in the universe is an undisputed fact, but man cannot directly observe these things. He knows them only by their effects. Man discovers certain “Things” from which he infers the existence of “Truths”.
This change in the concept of knowledge which occurred in the twentieth century changed the whole situation radically. Man was forced to accept the existence of things which he could not directly see, but only indirectly experience. With this intellectual revolution the difference between seen and unseen – reality disappeared. Invisible objects became as important as visible objects. Man was compelled to accept that the indirect, or inferential argument, was academically as sound as direct argument.
This change in the concept of knowledge has, in the present age, made divine reasoning truly scientific. For instance, the greatest argument for religion is what philosophers call the argument from design. Nineteenth century scholars, in their zeal, did not accept this reasoning. To them it was an inferential argument which could not be accepted academically. But in the present age this objection has been invalidated. Nowadays man is compelled to infer the existence of a designer of the universe from the existence of a design in the universe, just as he accepts the theory of the flow of electrons from the movement of a wheel.
A statement of Bertrand Russell throws some light on this matter. In the preface to his book; “Why I Am Not a Christian” he writes: “I think all the great religions of the world-Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Communism both untrue and harmful. It is evident as a matter of logic that, since they disagree, not more than one of them can be true. With very few exceptions, the religion which a man accepts is that of the community in which he lives, which makes it obvious that the influence of environment is what has led him to accept the religion in question. It is true that Scholastics [Adhering rigidly to scholarly methods; pedantic, Characterized by a narrow, often ostentatious concern for book learning and formal rules] invented what professed to be logical arguments proving the existence of God, and that these arguments, or others of a similar tenor, have been accepted by many eminent philosophers, but the logic to which these traditional arguments appealed is of an antiquated Aristotelian sort which is now rejected by practically all logicians except such as are Catholics. There is one argument that is purely logical. I mean the argument from ‘Design’. This argument, however, was destroyed by Darwin; and in any case, could only be made logically acceptable at the cost of abandoning God’s omnipotence [Having unlimited or universal power, authority, or force; all-powerful.].”
Arguing the existence of a Designer from Design is, as Russell admits, a scientific argument in itself. It is the very argument which science uses to prove anything. Russell then rejects this argument by citing Darwin’s theory of evolution. This rejection would only be (considered) acceptable if Darwin’s theory was itself scientifically established. But scientific research has proved Darwinism to be mere hypothesis, rather than established scientific fact. [Even if hypothetically Darwin’s theory of evolution is accepted, the argument of Design is not negated, because the Evolution could be part of His Design of Creation]. Thus it is Russell’s first statement, therefore, concerning the validity of the argument from Design that must prevail. His rejection of that argument on the basis of Darwinism is groundless.
[By Maulana Waheed uddin Khan, courtesy Monthly Tazkeer, January 2009, LahorePakistan ]