While there are thousands of different religions in the world, the five oldest religions are generally described as the main world religions. These religions are Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. Discover some basic facts about these religions and get an overview of their core beliefs.
5 main world religions
Population Percentages By Religion
The followers of the five main religions make up a significant majority of the world’s population. The faiths considered to be the "big five" world religions are the oldest ones but not necessarily the ones with the most followers. They are generally considered to be the most widely recognized and influential religions. Close to three-quarters of the world's population practices one of the five main religions. Population percentages by religious affiliation break out as follows:
no religious affiliation
Christianity is the largest religion in the world, with more than 2 billion believers worldwide. The United States is home to the largest Christian population, but Christianity is widespread in many other places, including Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, several African nations, many European countries, and numerous Caribbean islands. There are many versions of Christianity, including Catholicism and various protestant denominations, each differing in many ways yet remaining similar in central teachings.
- Christianity is a monotheistic religion, which means that followers believe there is only one true God.
- Worship of God is an important aspect of Christianity.
- Christians believe in the Holy Trinity, represented by the divinity of the Father (God), son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit.
- Christian teachings are grounded in the Old Testament and the New Testament that together form the Holy Bible. There are several editions of the Christian bible; not all denominations use the same version.
- Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, sent to earth as a man and a messiah to save people from their sins.
- A central focus of this religion is the belief that Jesus died as a result of being crucified on a cross, leading to the forgiveness of mankind’s sins.
- After being entombed for three days, Jesus rose from the dead and then ascended from earth to heaven to be reunited with God.
- Christians have faith that there will be a second coming in which Jesus will return to Earth and take Christian believers back to heaven with him.
- The Ten Commandments play an important role in Christian teachings.
Islam is the second largest religion in the world, with an estimated 1.8 billion followers. Muslim is the term for people who follow the Islamic religion. This religion is believed to have begun in the 7th century B.C. in what is now Saudi Arabia. While Muslims live in many countries worldwide, they make up the majority of the population in several countries. There are seven countries where more than 90% of the population is Muslim (Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Pakistan). Some places follow Islamic (Sharia) law. Key facts about Islam include:
- The Islamic faith is monotheistic, believing in Allah as the one true God.
- Islamic places of worship are referred to as mosques.
- Those who follow Islam commit to living life in submission to the will of Allah.
- The Islamic faith teaches that the prophet Muhammad is Allah’s final messenger, who continued to receive messages from Allah to share with the people.
- After Muhammad’s death, other leaders rose in his place under a system called the caliphate, with the individual leaders being referred to as caliphs.
- There are two major sects within Islam: Sunnis and Shiites. The majority (90%) of Muslims are Sunnis.
- Muslims pray at five specific times throughout each day, following a specific prayer ritual.
- Followers of Islam are required to fast during the month of Ramadan.
- Muslims are expected to complete a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca at least once in their lives.
- Many Muslim women wear a hijab that covers their hair, while others wear a niquab or burka, which conceals more of their appearance.
- The Quaran is the holy book of Islam.
Hinduism began in India around 2300 B.C. and remains prevalent on that subcontinent. As of 2018, about 94% of those who follow the Hindu faith live in India. It is third largest religion in the world, with fewer followers than only Christianity and Islam. As with all religions, there are multiple sects of Hinduism, each with some variations in their practices. Core beliefs of Hinduism include:
- Hinduism teaches that God’s presence exists in all of creation.
- In the Hindu faith, god goes by many names and manifests in infinite ways.
- Brahman is the recognized supreme deity (God) responsible for creating everything in the universe. Brahaman has no gender and is all-knowing and all-present.
- Shiva and Vishnu are the other primary Hindu deities (gods).
- There are many other deities (called devis), demi-gods (called devas) and goddesses, with significant variations among specific sects.
- The divine essence (called atman) dwells within each person.
- Hindus believe in reincarnation, with a constant cycle of being born, living and dying on the path to enlightenment.
- A person’s karma, which refers to the net of their good and bad deeds in the last life, determines the level into which they’ll be reborn.
- Rather than a single religious book, Hinduism has a number of sacred texts, including the Vedas, the Samhitas, the Upanishads, the Ramayana, and the Bhagavad Gita.
- Yoga practice is an integral component of Hinduism.
- Cows are viewed as sacred in the Hindu faith; eating beef is prohibited.
Buddhism was founded in the fifth century B.C. by Siddhartha Gautama, who later became known as the Buddha. After giving up an extravagant life of excess, the man who came to be known as the Buddha discovered enlightenment through giving up his wealth and position to live a simple life as a monk. His efforts to teach others how to do the same became the foundation of Buddhism.
The vast majority of Buddhists live in the eastern and southeastern regions of Asia. There are numerous traditions within Buddhism, each with varying practices. Theism is not fundamental to Buddhism, though it is part of some Buddhist traditions. Fundamental beliefs of Buddhism include:
- The primary focus of Buddhism is to seek enlightenment.
- The Buddha is not worshiped as a god. He was a man and is recognized by Buddhists as such.
- The foundation of Buddhism is based on a set of three universal truths and four noble principles.
- Consistent with philosophy’s principles and truths, Buddhists follow a path of moral living, thinking and behavior, as well as seeking wisdom.
- Buddhism has five precepts to which followers are expected to adhere. These precepts dictate that Buddhists refrain from killing, stealing, lying, misusing sex, and using drugs or alcohol.
- Karma is an important factor in Buddhism, focusing on each individual’s responsibility and accountability for their own actions.
- Buddhists believe in reincarnation and rebirth. In the Buddhist tradition, being reincarnated means coming back as yourself multiple times, while rebirth involves returning as an entirely different entity.
- The Buddhist religion includes a number of sacred writings, in the form of scriptures and texts, that share the Buddha’s philosophy and teachings.
Judaism is the smallest of the top five religions. The worldwide population of Jewish people is estimated to be approximately 14 million. About 41% of the Jewish population lives in Israel and 41% lives in the United States, with the majority of the remainder concentrated in Europe and elsewhere in North America. There are multiple denominations of Judaism, including orthodox, conservative and reform. Core teachings and practices of the faith include:
- Judaism is a monotheistic religion, with followers recognizing and worshiping only one true God.It is actually the oldest monotheistic religion.
- The Ten Commandments play an important role in the teachings of Judaism.
- Even beyond God’s law outlined in the Ten Commandments, righteousness and justice are central to the teachings of Judaism.
- Israel is an important place in the hearts and minds of the Jewish people, both for its historical significance in relation to their faith and its designation as the promised land in the Bible.
- The Hebrew Bible, which is also referred to as the Tanakh, is the primary holy text of the Jewish faith. It includes the same books as the Old Testament of the Christian bible, though they are in a different order. The first five books of the Hebrew bible form the Torah.
- The Talmud is another holy text in Judaism. It includes an extensive collection of Jewish laws and various teachings specific to the faith.
- Synagogue is the name for Jewish houses of worship.
- Young people in the Jewish faith go through Bar Mitzvah (boys) and Bat Mitzvah (girls) ceremonies to symbolize that they have reached adulthood in terms of their responsibilities to the faith.
15 Most Widely Practiced Religions
While the five oldest religions, as detailed above, are generally considered to be the five main world religions, they are certainly not the only ones. Some newer religions are among the most popular faiths, defined as those religions that are most widely practiced worldwide.
- Christianity (2.1 billion)
- Islam (1.3 billion)
- Hinduism (900 million)
- Chinese traditional religion (394 million)
- Buddhism 376 million
- Primal-indigenous (300 million)
- African traditional and Diasporic (100 million)
- Sikhism (23 million)
- Juche (19 million)
- Spiritism (15 million)
- Judaism (14 million)
- Bahai (7 million)
- Jainism (4.2 million)
- Shinto (4 million)
- Cao Dai (4 million)
Learn More About World Religions
These religions are among the oldest and most widely practiced, which is why they can be said to represent the five top religions in the world. There are multiple traditions within each one and many other religions exist. The United Religions Initiative (URI) is a great resource for learning more about other faiths. Now that you know some basic facts about five of the top religions in the world, it’s a good time to further explore the topic of religion. Start by learning how to identify differences between a cult and a religion.
Mary Gormandy White
Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism are five of the great religions of the world.What are the 5 basic beliefs? ›
While there are thousands of different religions in the world, the five oldest religions are generally described as the main world religions. These religions are Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism.What do all 5 religions have in common? ›
The five great world religions — Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism — all believe in some version of a “self”, variously named, which mostly survives death. But they imagine its origin, journey, and destination in some quite different and distinctive ways.What are basic beliefs in religion? ›
Rajaei (1, 20, 23) mentioned three basic religious beliefs: Human being (self and others), Existence, and God. In one research, Rejaei and others (23) found that basic religious beliefs have a negative relationship with identity crisis, and a positive relationship with general health.What are the basic types of beliefs? ›
Typically, beliefs are divided into two basic categories: core and dispositional.What are the 5 major religions in order from oldest to newest? ›
- What is the Timeline of World Religions?
- 2300 BCE to 1500 BCE - Hinduism.
- 600 BCE to 500 BCE - Judaism.
- 600 BCE to 400 BCE - Buddhism.
- 1st Century CE - Christianity.
- 7th Century CE - Islam.
- 16th Century CE - Sikhism.
The world's primary religions fall into two categories: Abrahamic religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam; and Indian religions, which include Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and others. Of the world's major religions, Christianity is the largest, with more than two billion followers.Where did the 5 major religions originate? ›
|Faith||Approximate start date||Place of origin|
|Buddhism||c. 500 BCE||Northern India|
|Confucianism||c. 500 BCE||Northern China|
|Daoism (Taoism)||c. 550 BCE||Northern China|
|Christianity||c. 100 CE||Middle East|
Sometimes called the official religion of ancient Persia, Zoroastrianism is one of the world's oldest surviving religions, with teachings older than Buddhism, older than Judaism, and far older than Christianity or Islam. Zoroastrianism is thought to have arisen “in the late second millennium B.C.E.What are some examples of religious beliefs? ›
Here are examples of religious beliefs: the belief of some Christians that you should wear a cross as a symbol of your faith. the belief within Islam that a woman should cover her head or her whole body. the belief in creationism or intelligent design.
According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions, churches, denominations, religious bodies, faith groups, tribes, cultures, movements, ultimate concerns, which at some point in the future will be countless.What do all religions have in common answers? ›
One thing that all religions have in common is that they help their followers to find meaning in the world. Many people want to know where the world came from. Many also want to know what happens after death. Most religions offer some sort of answer to these great questions.What religions dont believe in God? ›
1. Atheism/Agnosticism. Atheism refers to either the absence of a belief in the existence of deities or to an active belief that deities do not exist.What is the main religion in the world 2022? ›
Christianity. The world's largest religion, Christianity, is practiced by about 2.4 billion people. The country with the highest number of practicing Christians is the United States, with a Christian population of 253 million.How many religions are there in the world in 2022? ›
Worldwide more than 85 percent of the population believes in a religious group. Worldwide there are an estimated 4,200+ religions.How many religions and beliefs are there? ›
It may surprise you to know that there are over 4,000 recognized religions in the world. These religions consist of churches, congregations, faith groups, tribes, cultures, and movements.Why are beliefs important in religion? ›
As mental structures, they influence the way we perceive the world around us and the values we accept or reject. As social structures, they provide a supporting network and a sense of belonging. In many cases, religions have become the basis of power structures and have become intertwined with it.What are the basic beliefs of Hinduism? ›
Hindus believe in the doctrines of samsara (the continuous cycle of life, death, and reincarnation) and karma (the universal law of cause and effect). One of the key thoughts of Hinduism is “atman,” or the belief in soul. This philosophy holds that living creatures have a soul, and they're all part of the supreme soul.What are the 7 main beliefs of Islam? ›
- 1 Belief in the Oneness of God. ...
- 2 Belief in the Angels of God. ...
- 3 Belief in the Revelations (Books) of God. ...
- 4 Belief in the Prophets of God. ...
- 5 Belief in the Day of Judgment. ...
- 6 Belief in Premeasurement (Qadar) ...
- 7 Belief in Resurrection after Death.
- Belief in Allah as the one and only God.
- Belief in angels.
- Belief in the holy books.
- Belief in the Prophets... e.g. Adam, Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), Dawud (David), Isa (Jesus). ...
- Belief in the Day of Judgement... ...
- Belief in Predestination...
A belief is an idea that we hold as being correct. It is an acceptance that something exists or is true, whether there is proof or evidence. For example, a belief that the earth is round or that fairies exist.What are basic beliefs and values? ›
Examples of Values: loyalty, fairness, courage, compassion, respect, etc. Examples of Beliefs: lying is bad, God created the world, cheating is immoral, etc.Why are the 6 beliefs important? ›
What is the importance of the six articles of faith? Knowing that there is only one God, Sunni Muslims believe that people should live following his rules. The holy books help with this as they give guidance on how Muslims can live their lives on the right path.Which religion is most in world? ›
Five religious principles that may positively impact on issue of teenage pregnancy are: 1) Avoid drinking and taking intoxicants at a young age. 3) Teenagers should avoid going for night out without any elder guidance. 4) Younger children should not be allowed to go on trips for days without some elder guidance.What are the 7 main religions of the world? ›
Through countless conflicts, conquests, missions abroad, and simple word of mouth, these religions spread around the globe and forever molded the huge geographic regions in their paths.Who is the oldest known God? ›
Inanna is among the oldest deities whose names are recorded in ancient Sumer. She is listed among the earliest seven divine powers: Anu, Enlil, Enki, Ninhursag, Nanna, Utu, and Inanna.Who started religion? ›
|Founder Name||Religious tradition founded||Life of founder|
|Gautama Buddha||Buddhism||563 BC – 483 BC|
|Confucius||Confucianism||551 BC – 479 BC|
|Pythagoras||Pythagoreanism||fl. 520 BC|
|Mozi||Mohism||470 BC – 390 BC|
Brahma the creator
In the beginning, Brahma sprang from the cosmic golden egg and he then created good and evil and light and dark from his own person. He also created the four types: gods, demons, ancestors and men, the first of whom was Manu. Brahma then made all the other living creatures upon the earth.
Belief in God the Father, Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit. The death, descent into hell, resurrection and ascension of Christ. The holiness of the Church and the communion of saints. Christ's second coming, the Day of Judgement and salvation of the faithful.Who is the mother of all religion? ›
Hinduism - "mother of all religions"Do all religions believe in God? ›
Most religions, in some way, attempt to contemplate the divine; and some of them get closer than others. In this sense we can say that all religions lead to God.What religion believes in all religions? ›
Omnism is the recognition and respect of all religions and their gods or lack thereof. Those who hold this belief are called omnists, sometimes written as omniest.Who is the No 1 religion in the world? ›
Christianity. The world's largest religion, Christianity, is practiced by about 2.4 billion people.What are the 6 main world religions? ›
The six main worldwide religions are Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism and Sikhism.What are the 10 religion in the world? ›
- Christians—2.2 billion followers (representing 31.5% of the world's population)
- Muslims—1.6 billion (23.2%)
- Non-religious people—1.1 billion (16.3%)
- Hindus—1 billion (15.0%)
- Buddhists—500 million (7.1%)
- Indigenous religions—400 million (5.9%)
- Other religions—58 million (0.8%)
- Jews—14 million (0.2%)
There are an estimated 10,000 distinct religions worldwide. About 84% of the world's population is affiliated with Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or some form of folk religion. The religiously unaffiliated demographic includes those who do not identify with any particular religion, atheists, and agnostics.How many religions are there in the world list? ›
The world's faithful account for 83% of the global population; the great majority of these fall under twelve classical religions--Baha'i, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism.What is the first religion? ›
Sometimes called the official religion of ancient Persia, Zoroastrianism is one of the world's oldest surviving religions, with teachings older than Buddhism, older than Judaism, and far older than Christianity or Islam. Zoroastrianism is thought to have arisen “in the late second millennium B.C.E.
Christianity is the most widely professed religion in the United States, with Protestantism being its largest branch, although its share of the total population has been declining to varying degrees. A large variety of faiths have historically flourished within the country.Who founded Christianity? ›
Christianity originated with the ministry of Jesus, a Jewish teacher and healer who proclaimed the imminent Kingdom of God and was crucified c. AD 30–33 in Jerusalem in the Roman province of Judea.What are the basics of all religions? ›
Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature.How many beliefs are there? ›
It may surprise you to know that there are over 4,000 recognized religions in the world. These religions consist of churches, congregations, faith groups, tribes, cultures, and movements. Even though there are so many, three-quarters of the world's population practice one of the five major religions.What are the 3 main religions? ›
Three of the world's major religions -- the monotheist traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam -- were all born in the Middle East and are all inextricably linked to one another. Christianity was born from within the Jewish tradition, and Islam developed from both Christianity and Judaism.