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World Religions: The 8 Most Followed Faiths

Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism... Which are the world's main religions?

faith and religion
World Religions: The 8 Most Followed Faiths | iSTOCK

A religion is a way to see the relationship between man and divinity, a way to conceive the world and answer the ultimate existential questions: where do we come from, why are we here, where are we going... Thus, we can mention some like Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism... Which are the world's main religions? Find out here.

Which are the main world religions?

In the following article we'll find out about the different religions across the world, which are the main ones, and how the religion map of the world spreads out; that is, where are the most believers.

1. Christianity

The first religion on the planet if we add up together its different confessionals. It has over 2000 million believers across the world. This religion started in Palestine and recognises Jesus Christ as God's child. Its basis remains on the Bible, in the Old and New Testament.

The main religions of Christianity are divided in Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox, each with their own internal system.

The world religion map shows that most Christians live in the American continent, nearly 800 million. The Evangelical current, derived from Protestantism, spreads out through Latin America and Central Africa.

2. Islam

Islam is the second main world religion. It has over 1000 million believers, and some sources state that the number might range somewhere between 1400 and 1500 million. Islam was founded by Mahoma in Arabia around the 7th century, and the religious basis of this faith is Quran.

Its five pillars are prayer, profession of faith, Ramadan fasting, money for the poor and pilgrimage to Mecca. Islam has two types of main religions, Sunni and Shia, and several other underground currents such as Sufism. When it comes to the world religion map, it might be a surprise to many that, unlike what might be thought, the biggest believer concentration isn't in Arab countries, but in Asia instead. So much so, that Indonesia is the largest of Muslim countries.

3. Hinduism

Third place goes to hinduism, with a little under 1000 million believers. It's a sort of religion usually linked to India, where there are nearly 900 million believers. It was here where Hinduism was born, deriving from Vedism, based on the Brahman texts of Veda, written around 2000 B.C. Hindus carry out worship in temples and pray to their main deities Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Society is divided in four castes, and Buddha is one of the main spiritual masters.

The world religion map points to China, Europe and the United States as the main countries with Hinduism believers.

4. Traditional Chinese religion

Up to 458 million people believe in the traditional Chinese religion, a current that few think about when asked about the main world religions. It is a faith born in China before the Han dynasty settled, around 206 B.C. This popular religion is syncretism-based, and so it is inspired by many other beliefs. The basic practice is the worshipping of ancestors.  While Christianity and Islam are monotheistic, believers of this religion seek the protection of several gods. The world religion map also points to China, Europe and the United States as the main believer locations.

5. Buddhism

The fifth world religion, with 400 million believers, is Buddhism, born in India in the 6th century B.C. It brings together spirituality, philosophy and a moral principle for life.  It owes its name to Buddha, a deity that chose to give up the world and lead a hermit life from a young age. Buddhism scattered across several expressions: Theravada, Mahayana, Hinayana and finally, Tibetan Buddhism, the way we know it now, with Dalai Lama as its guide. China, Europe and the United States are the top Buddhist believers in the world religion map.

6. Tribal and ethnic African religions

Here we include several faiths that differ depending on what continent and country we're talking about, especially Sub-Saharan Africa. It tallies up to 261 million believers, and settles it upon the sixth place of our ranking. Among the features of these religious beliefs are sacred dance routines, prayers, sacrifices and a high priest,  usually the tribe's chief. Their beliefs sometimes border on Animism, which attributes a soul to each and every object on Earth. Included here are Chamanism, Cuban santeria or Candomblé, among other religions.

7. New religious faiths

The seventh place in the world religions' ranking would include new religious faiths, which add up to more than 64 million believers. They are inspired by Christianity in some cases, and Asian faiths in others. These are faiths that are sometimes classed along cult-like movements, with activities that are dangerous and nearly illegal.

Here we include all Christian churches founded since the 1800s, such as Jehova's Witnesses or Mormons, and others like Scientology. The world religion map places them in Japan, America, Africa and Europe.

8. Remaining religions

To continue with our list, Sikhism is the eighth world religion with 24 million believers (a monotheistic religion born in India), Judaism takes the ninth (the third most important monotheistic religion, coming from the Middle East), and spiritism takes the tenth (a faith with 14 million believers around the world, who follow the guidelines that Allan Kardec formulated).

Symbols for world religions

Religious symbolism is the use of symbols, including archetypes, actions, works of art, events or natural phenomena, from a religion.

The symbols for world religions help to create a sense of reminiscent mythology  that expresses the moral values of society or religious lessons, promote solidarity among believers, and get members closer to their worshipping target.

Here's some of the most popular:

  • Christianity: The cross (representation of Jesus Christ's crucifixion instrument), the fish or Ichtus, alpha and omega.
  • Islam: The star and half-moon, Solomon's star (or Rub El Hizb).
  • Hinduism: Om, the lotus flower (from ancient times, the lotus has been a sign of divinity in Asian traditions, and represents the virtues of sexual purity and detachment).
  • Buddhism: Lotus flower and Dharmic wheel.
  • Ethnic religions: Among other symbols of tribal world religions, we can mention the pentagram, which has been used across many world cultures and religions; ancient Pagans, ancient Israelites, Christians, wizards, Wiccans, just to name a few.
  • Judaism: David's star, and the menorah.