religious symbols
Image from QG Cuffs

Origins

 

Religion
Judaism The covenant after the Great Flood between the man Abram and God
Christianity Jewish roots; teachings and life of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, in the first decades of the common era
Islam Revelations from the angel Gabriel to the prophet Muhammad in the 7th century
Hinduism Synthesis of various cultural traditions and native beliefs in India
Buddhism Teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, a prince who became the Buddha in the 6th century B.C.

Population*

Religion
Judaism 14 million adherents, 0.2% of the global population
Christianity 2.4 billion adherents, 33% of the global population
Islam 1.6 billion adherents, 23% of the global population
Hinduism 1.1 billion adherents, 16% of the global population
Buddhism 488-535 million adherents, 9-10% of the global population
*Populations listed are from 2010 statistics

Major beliefs

Religion
Judaism
  • Belief in one eternal, infallible God
  • Divine creation of the universe
  • Belief in the Torah as God-breathed text
  • The coming of a messiah
Christianity
  •  Belief in one eternal, infallible God
  • The Trinity of God
  • Divine creation of the universe
  • Belief in the Bible as God-breathed text
  • Existence of sin
  • Belief in Jesus as the Messiah
Islam
  • The Five Pillars: shahadah, salah, zakat, sawm, hajj
  • The six articles of faith,  arkān al-īmān: belief in Allah, the Prophets, the Holy Books, the angels, the Day of Judgment, and predestination
  • Belief in Muhammad being the last and greatest of prophets of Allah
Hinduism
  • Belief in the supreme spirit Brahman
  • The four goals of human life (the puruṣārtha): dharmaarthakama, moksha
  • The cycle of birth and death (samsara)
  • The causality of action and result (karma)
  • The three yogic paths (Karma, Bhakti, and Nyan)
Buddhism
  • The Four Noble Truths on suffering
  • The Eightfold Path through which one ends suffering
  • The Five Moral Precepts
  • The cycle of birth and death and existence of Nirvana
  • The six realms of existence (heaven, human, asura [demi-gods], hungry ghost, animals, or hell)

Holy books

Religion
Judaism
  •  The Written Torah (the Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim)
  • The Oral Torah (Mishnah and Talmud)
Christianity  The Christian Bible (Old and New Testament)
Islam
  • The Quran (القرآن الكريم)
  • The Hadith
Hinduism
  • The Vedas, ancient texts with Vedic roots (Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajuveda, Atharvaveda)
  • The four Vedangas, on the language and science of the Vedas
  • The four Upavedas, on the arts and sciences
Buddhism
  • The Tripitika, or Pali CanonVinaya PitakaSutra Pitaka, and Abhidharma Pitaka
  • Mahayana Sutras for Mahayana Buddhists
  • The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment and the Tibetan Book of the Dead for Tibetan Buddhists

Sects

Religion
Judaism Three main branches: Orthodox, Reform, and Conservative
Christianity  Three main branches: Catholicism, Protestantism, Orthodoxism
Islam Two main denominations: Sunni and Shia
Hinduism Four main denominations: Saivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism, Smartism
Buddhism Three main divisions: Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayan (Tibetan)

Worship

Religion
Judaism
  • House of worship: synagogue
  • Components: readings from the Torah, recitation of prayer
Christianity
  •  House of worship: church
  • Organization varies by denomination
  • Components: music, readings from Scripture, and sermons
Islam
  •  House of worship: mosque
  • Components: memorization and recitation of the Quran, observance of the Five Pillars, personal and everyday actions
Hinduism
  •  House of worship: temples
  • Components: individual worship to personal deities, puja [ceremonial worship], including prayers and songs
Buddhism
  •  House of worship: temples that vary by region, such as pagodas in East Asia and stupas in India
  • Components: offerings of goods, lights, candles, chants, and prayers; worship at a home shrine

Celebrations

Religion
Judaism
  •  Shabbat (God’s creation of the world)
  • Rosh Hashanah (beginning of the Jewish new year)
  • Yom Kippur (“a Sabbath of complete rest”)
  • Sukkot (fall harvest; forty-year wandering in the wilderness)
  • Simchat Torah (end of the annual Torah reading cycle)
  • Hanukkah (miracle of the menorah)
  • Purim (rescue of the Jews from Haman in the Book of Esther)
  • Passover (exodus from Egypt)
  • Shavuot (harvest festival; celebration for the gift of the Law)
  • Tisha B’Av (destruction of the First and Second Temples)
Christianity
  •  Advent season and Christmas (Jesus’ birth)
  • Lent (spiritual preparation in the forty days leading to Good Friday)
  • Good Friday, Easter (death and resurrection of Jesus)
  • Ascension Thursday (Jesus’ return to heaven forty days after His resurrection)
  • Pentecost (the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus’ followers after His departure)
Islam
  • Eid-Al-Adha (end of hajj rites)
  • Eid Al-Fitr (end of Ramadan)
  • Mawlid an-Nabi (birthday of the Prophet Muhammad)
Hinduism
  •  Diwali (Festival of Lights; triumph of light over darkness)
  • Holi (arrival of spring; triumph of good over evil)
  • Navratri (dedication to the goddess Durga, the wife of Shiva)
Buddhism Celebrations vary by country and sect. A key shared festival is Vesak, or Wesak, which celebrates the life of the Gautama Buddha.

For the complete posts on the major world religions, please view the following links: