Since the late 19th century the demographics of religion have changed worldwide. There is no really clear data available on how many religions there are in this world, nor on how many people profess to follow each religion. But, taking approximate figures, these are the 10 religions which have the most followers.
Christianity is based on the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Their Scriptures are called The Bible, including the Old and New Testament. They have many sub-sects, but the three main ones are Roman Catholics, Protestants and Eastern Orthodoxy.
Islam is a monotheistic religion, derived from the teachings of Mohammed, a 7th century Arab religious figure. The Qurán and the Sunnah are regarded as the main sources of their beliefs. There are two major denominations in Islam – Shia and Sunni.
The world’s oldest organised religion, it has no founder as such, since it is a combination of various beliefs and tenets. Their main scriptures are the Vedas and the Upanishads, The Bhagavad Gita, excerpted from the Mahabharata is considered to be the summary of their ancient teachings and beliefs.
Gautam Buddha or the enlightened one founded this religion in India in 5th century BC. There are many sects to Buddhism, but they all believe in four basic principles – That Buddha is their teacher: that they all follow the Middle way; that both monks and laymen can teach you how to achieve enlightenment; and that Buddhahood is the highest seat they can attain.
Guru Nanak, Sikhism’s first Holy Guru founded the religion in the late 15th century. He was followed by a lineage of nine other Gurus, and their religious scripture the Adi Granth was written by their fifth Guru. Their focus of worship is this Holy Book, which is placed in all their places of worship and their homes.
The Jewish religion is based on the principles embodied in the Tanakh and the Talmud. They believe Abraham to be their patriarch, and they still follow the covenants laid down between him and God. Today they have three groups – Orthodox, Conservative and Liberal.
Mirza Husayn Ali founded this religion in the mid 19th century. They believe that all religions teach the same truth, and they include Mohammed, Jesus and Adam among their prophets. They lay a lot of stress on peace, education and equality among sexes.
The sage Confucius taught a set of political and ethical tenets in 600 BC, which later became the foundations of Confucianism as a religion. It has had a major influence on East Asia even till the present day. There are no dogmas attached to this religion, and most worship centres around offerings to those who have died.
Founded by Mahavira (the latest among a long line of teachers), it is one of the oldest religions in the world. They do not believe in earthly possessions, and do not pray to any God. They seek enlightenment through self denial and through a life of austerity and charity.
Shintoism originated in Japan and has its foundations in Buddhism and other Chinese religions. They believe in a variety of Gods, and do not have a set of written dogmas to follow. They trace their origins to 300 BC.