Religion is a subject that becomes contentious when challenged scientifically, it is a source or rather a set of well defined practices and rituals that aims to improve people’s moral visions. For some, practicing religion is part of daily fixture while many have redefined religion with their unparalleled reverence toward the almighty. Religion or faith as it is called in some culture has many well crafted ways to follow. Religion followed by us has either descended from many previous generations to the other or it has been adopted based due to self enlightenment. Any particular religion is mainly followed on the basis of how well its preaching resonates with the answer seeking individual.
Though there are religions that have originated in only one part of the world, they have still been able to cross the gesographical boundaries through articulation and by the number of followers recorded. Therefore, we bring you the 10 biggest religion of the world exercising all our rationale only to sum up its essence without any affiliations.
The early years of Judaism’s origin can be traced back to 3000 years ago during the Bronze Age when it was the primarily religion of people situated in the place known as Middle East in the modern times. A monotheistic religion, the most prominent movement Rabbian Judaism follows is the written and oral Torah. Followers of Judaism are seen mainly in Israel, United States, and Canada. Some of the major festivals and holidays of this religion are Shabbat, Yom Kippur and Hannukah. Judaism now has 17 million followers worldwide which makes it the tenth largest religion in the world.
One of the newest religions, Sikhism has spread rapidly across the world as the ninth largest religion practiced by approximately 28 million people worldwide. The faith follows the concept of “Ik Onkar” or the one supreme reality. It is based on the teaching of its founding leader Guru Nanak Sahib who propagated the basis of the religion on the principles of peace, humanity and selfless service. Sikhism uses the terminology and scriptural references from the Vedas, books of importance in the Hindu faith. The faith which has had ten gurus or mentors has had suffered horrors of brutality in the early years of existence due to Islam persecutions and forced conversions faced by two of the gurus Guru Arjan and Guru Teg Bahadur.
An ancient Indian religion that has seen its decline due to Hindu reforms, the philosophy of Jainism has very few takers in the present world. But one cannot brush aside the fact that Jainism has been one of the finest messengers of non-violence and commitment toward religion by adhering to its practical limitations. Samayika, a form of meditation in Jainism is practiced by its followers to achieve sanctity of mind. Karma and living an austere life is what defines Jainism that has major sites of pilgrimage in India. Jainism is another religion to have been victimized by the Islamic aggressors like Mohammad Ghazni and Mohammad Ghauri who had been on a rampage which mainly targeted the destruction of religious places of worship.
The religion of Confucianism lays emphasis on the traditional aspect of leading life which is known as Hundred School of Thought in contemporary times. Confucians are imbibed the ethics of knowledge, integrity, proper rites, righteousness. The concept of Confucianism has both strong followers and critics. Chinese traditional school of Confucianism also has influences of Islam brought forth from the Hui Muslims of China. Despite strong presence and respected in the quartets of religion, modern times has seen people following this faith having obscure view.
Bahai faith originated in the Middle East and has been preached in developed as well as developing parts of the world. The religion now has ten million plus followers. Bahai faith has some hard and fast rule in regards to exercising one’s life without malice or having sinister motives. It strictly prohibits engaging into acts of adultery, politics and homosexuality.
One of the four religions to have originated in India, Buddhism has been followed for the past 2500 years albeit it is now restricted only in few Asian countries like Japan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Burma. Siddartha or Gautam Buddha’s articulated faith, Buddhism details the concept of dukkha, rebirth, dharma and liberation. Buddhist monasteries have drawn significant amount of people due to its preaching of amicability, austerity and sense of social service. Of late Buddhism has grown immensely in China and Sri Lanka with the preaching of Zen Buddhism finding hordes of followers in the last decade or so.
4. Korean Shamanism
Korean Shamanism is divided into several types of Mu which have the sole goal to let the world know the concept of “one god for all”. The most important ritual in the faith is the act of purification of body and mind. Gut is the ritual performed through songs, oracles by adopting the three-fold pattern which may include dancing or singing in three repeated times.
Perhaps the only religion as oldest as the world we live in. Some call it sanatana, the others call the faith as simply Hinduism. But the fact remains it is a way of life and perhaps the most minutely documented religion of the world. The realms of Hinduism are almost unfathomable, the interpretations as contradicting as the other that follow. For centuries, this faith has caught the fancy of the world by the reverence of its followers in the deities worshipped in idol’s form. Hindusim has been the harbinger of world peace, tolerance and achieving the true purpose of life by performing one’s own “Karma”. Followers of Hindus account for 15% of world population thickly resided in the Indian subcontinent without any aggressive promotion of reforms and fanaticism to take over as the world’s most followed faith.
The fastest growing major religion of the word, Islam professes the Allah or almighty is the supreme of all forces. The faith that started as crusade some 1500 years ago states that Muhammad is the last messenger of god and that the spirit of brotherhood must be followed. Islam has spreads its tentacle almost in every corner of the world devising tools of scrupulous teachings and by teasing curiosity among minds with its concept of attaining salvation once converted. Islam as religion has seen polarized opinions with its critics arguing that it promotes fanaticism by treating non followers/ non Muslims as “Kaafir”. There have been many religious prophets that have jumped into the repair work but the disturbing fact remains that the religion is stared at with the view of what is described as “Islamophobia”.
A religion based on the life preaching Jesus Christ, Christianity remains the largest faith to be followed in the world as the latest data shows its number of followers going up close to 2 billion internationally. Christians worship the holy book of Bible that is believed to be the source of all answer for life’s miseries. The faith has primarily two big schools of thoughts namely Catholic and Protestant, each having its followers in huge numbers. Rationality has hardly been challenged in the faith but the genesis of the religion and the references of Hebrew Bible have been questioned over the time.
Religion is followed for the betterment of society and to promote universal harmony. It is not an article to brandish one’s self esteem based on a sense of entitlement. No faith has ever sought for reverence from its followers by holding condescending attitude towards other faith and its people who are meant to co- exist.
To put in the words of Mahatma Gandhi; “The essence of all religions is one. Only their approaches are different”.