Just the facts on religion.

The Big Religion Chart

This "Big Religion Chart" is our attempt to summarize the major religions and belief systems of the world - Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and dozens more - into a quick-reference comparison chart. Oversimplication is unavoidable in charts like these, and it is not intended to be a substitute for advanced religious study and exploration, but simply a fast overview. It is our hope that this chart becomes a useful tool for you to compare basic religious beliefs and practices of the world's religions and belief systems.

Over 40 religions and belief systems are currently listed. If a group does not appear, it doesn't mean it's not a religion or doesn't matter; the chart is not comprehensive and will continue to grow. See also our list of religions and definitions of religion. Links within the chart will take you to more detailed information on ReligionFacts on that religion or topic.

On a mobile device? You can scroll right to see more columns, but you'll probably have to use a larger device to have a decent view of the chart. Sorry about that.

 AdherentsHistoryGodsMeaning of LifeAfterlifePracticesTexts
Aladura 1 millionVarious prophet-healing churches founded since c.1918, West Nigeria.Generally monotheistic; a mix of Anglican, Pentecostal and traditional African beliefs.Strong emphasis on healing and salvation in this life.Not emphasized; views vary.Spiritual healing is central. Mix of Anglican and African rituals; a prophet plays a prominent role.

Aladura Practices
Asatru unknownRevival of Norse and Germanic paganism, 1970s Scandinavia and USA.

History of Asatru
Polytheistic, Norse gods and goddesses, Norse creation myths.

Asatru Gods
Salvation or redemption not emphasized. Fatalistic outlook. Valhalla (heaven) for death in battle; Hel (peaceful place) for most; Hifhel (hell) for the very evil.Sacrifice of food or drink, toast to the gods, shamanism (less frequently), celebration of solstice holidays. Nine Noble Virtues is moral code.

Asatru Practices
Eddas (Norse epics); the Havamal (proverbs attributed to Odin)

Asatru Texts

7.4 million self-identified atheists; 1.1 billion are religiously "unaffiliated"Appears throughout history (including ancient Greek philosophy), but especially after the Enlightenment (19th cent).There is no God or divine beings.Not addressed. But many atheists believe that since there is no afterlife, this one life is of great importance. Only humans can help themselves and each other solve the world's problems.nonenoneInfluential works include those by Marx, Freud, Feuerbach, Voltaire, and Mark Twain. Notable modern authors include Richard Dawkins and Carl Sagan.
Baha'i Faith

5-7 millionFounded by Bahá'u'lláh, 1863, Tehran, Iran.

History of the Baha'i Faith
One God, who has revealed himself progressively through major world religions.

Baha'i Beliefs about God
The soul is eternal and essentially good. Purpose of life is to develop spiritually and draw closer to God.

meaning of life (Bahai)
Soul separates from the body and begins a journey towards or away from God. Heaven and hell are states of being.

afterlife (Baha'i)
Daily prayer, avoidance of intoxicants, scripture reading, hard work, education, work for social justice and equality.

Baha'i Practices
Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and other Bahá'í leaders.

Baha'i Texts
Bon 100,00011th-century TibetNontheistic Buddhism, but meditation on peaceful and wrathful deities. Gain enlightenment.Reincarnation until gain enlightenmentMeditation on mandalas and Tibetan deities, astrology, monastic life. Bonpo canon
 AdherentsHistoryGodsMeaning of LifeAfterlifePracticesTexts

500 millionBased on teachings of Siddharta Gautama (the Buddha) in c. 520 BC, NE India.

History of Buddhism
Buddhist gods include buddhas, bodhisattvas, arhats and deities; such as Tara, Kuan Yin, and Amida Buddha.

Buddhist Gods & Deities
Escape the cycle of rebirth and attain nirvana (Theravada Buddhism). Become a boddhisatva then help others attain enlightenment (Mahayana Buddhism).

The Meaning of Life in Buddhism
Rebirth or nirvana. Nirvana is seen simply as the cessation of suffering by some and as a heavenly paradise by others.

Buddhism on the Afterlife
Meditation, mantras, devotion to deities (in some sects), mandalas (Tibetan)

Buddhist Practices
Tripitaka (Pali Canon); Mahayana sutras like the Lotus Sutra; others.

Buddhist Texts
Cao Dai

4-6 millionFounded in 1926, Vietnam by Ngo Van Chieu and others based on a séance.God represented by Divine Eye. Founders of Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity venerated, and saints including Victor Hugo. Goal is peace and harmony in each person and in the world. Salvation by "cultivating self and finding God in self." reincarnation until Nirvana/HeavenHierarchy similar to Roman Catholicism. Daily prayer. Meditation. Communication with spirit world (now outlawed in Vietnam). Caodai canon
Chinese Religion

394 millionIndigenous folk religion of China.

History of Chinese Religion
Dualistic yin and yang; mythological beings and folk deities.

Chinese Traditional Religion Theism
A favorable life and peaceful afterlife, attained through rituals and honoring of ancestors. judgment, then paradise or punishment and reincarnation

afterlife (Chinese Religion)
Ancestor worship, prayer, longevity practices, divination, prophecy and astrology, feng shui.

Chinese religious rituals and practices
Christian Science

400,000Founded by Mary Baker Eddy in 1879, Massachusetts.

History of Christian Science
One God. No Trinity (in traditional sense). Matter and evil do not exist. "Life, Truth, and Love understood and demonstrated as supreme over all; sin, sickness and death destroyed." Heaven is "not a locality, but a divine state of Mind in which all the manifestations of Mind are harmonious and immortal."Spiritual healing through prayer and knowledge, Sunday services, daily Bible and Science & Health reading.

Christian Science Practices
Christian Bible, Science & Health with Key to the Scriptures

2.2 billion

Christianity Adherents
Life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth (born c. 4 BCE), a Jew from Palestine under Roman rule

Christian History
One God, who is a Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit; angels; demons; saints

God & Spiritual Beings in Christianity
All have sinned and are thereby separated from God. Salvation is through faith in Christ and, for some, sacraments and good works. Resurrection of body and soul; eternal heaven or hell (most denominations); temporary purgatory (Catholicism)

Christianity on the Afterlife
Prayer, Bible study, baptism, Eucharist (Communion), church on Sundays, numerous holidays.

Christian Practices
Bible (Hebrew Bible + New Testament)

Christian Texts
 AdherentsHistoryGodsMeaning of LifeAfterlifePracticesTexts

5-6 millionBased on the teachings of Confucius (551–479 BCE, China)

History of Confucianism
not addressedTo fulfill one's role in society with propriety, honor, and loyalty. not addressednone

Confucian Practices

Confucian Texts
Deism unknownEspecially popularized in the 18th-cent. Enlightenment under Kant, Voltaire, Paine, Jefferson, and othersOne Creator God who is uninterested in the world. Reason is basis for all knowledge.not addressednot addressedNone prescribed, although some deists practiced prayer.Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason and similar texts

500,000Founded by Al-Darazi in 11th century, Cairo, Egypt. Roots in the Isma'iliyya sect of Shia Islam.Universal Intelligence (al-Aql al-Kulli) or Divine Essence (akin to Neoplatonism), of which al-Hakim is believed to be an incarnation. Live a good life for a favorable reincarnation. Await the re-appearance of al-Hakim (a Fatimid caliph who disappeared in 1021), who will usher in a Golden Age for true believers. Reincarnation. Heaven is a spiritual existence when one has escaped reincarnation. Hell is distance from God in lifetime after lifetime.Modest lifestyles, fasting before Eid al-Adha. Beliefs and practices are hidden for protection from persecution. Special group of initiates called uqqal. Al-Naqd al-Khafi (Copy of the Secret); Al-Juz'al-Awwal (Essence of the First)

50,000-500,000Founded by Paul Twitchell in Las Vegas, 1965

History of Eckankar
The Divine Spirit, called "ECK.""Each of us is Soul, a spark of God sent to this world to gain spiritual experience." Salvation is liberation and God-realization. Reincarnation. The Soul is eternal by nature and on a spiritual journey. Liberation possible in a single lifetime.Spiritual Exercises of ECK: mantras, meditation, and dreams. These enable Soul travel and spiritual growth.

Eckankar practices
Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad and books by Harold Klemp.

Eckankar sacred texts
Epicureanism n/aBased on the teachings of Epicurus, c. 300 BCE, Athens.Polytheism, but the gods take no notice of humans.Pursue the highest pleasures (friendship and tranquility) and avoid pain. No afterlife. The soul dissolves when the body dies.noneLetters and Principal Doctrines of Epicurus
 AdherentsHistoryGodsMeaning of LifeAfterlifePracticesTexts
Falun Gong

3 million (acc. to official sources); 100 million (acc. to Falun Gong sources)Li Hongzhi in 1992 in China

History of Falun Gong
Countless gods and spiritual beings. Demonic aliens. Good health and spritual transcendence, achieved by practicing Falun Gong. Not addressedFive exercises to strengthen the Falun. Cultivation of truthfulness, benevolence and forbearance. Meat eating discouraged.

Falun Gong Practices
Zhuan Falun and other writings by Master Li

Falun Gong Texts
Gnosticism ancient form extinct; small modern revival groupsVarious teachers including Valentinus, 1st-2nd cents. ADThe supreme God is unknowable; the creator god is evil and matter is evil. Humans can return to the spiritual world through secret knowledge of the universe. Return to the spiritual world.Asceticism, celibacyGnostic scriptures including various Gospels and Acts attributed to apostles.
Greek Religion ancient form extinct; various modern revivalsIndigenous religion of the ancient Greeks, c. 500 BCE to 400 CE.Olympic pantheon (Zeus, etc.) mixed with eastern deities like Isis and Cybele.

Ancient Greek Gods
Human life is subject to the whim of the gods and to Fate; these can be partially controlled through sacrifice and divination. Beliefs varied from no afterlife to shadowy existence in the underworld to a paradise-like afterlife (mainly in mystery religions).Animal sacrifice, harvest offerings, festivals, games, processions, dance, plays, in honor of the gods. Secret initiations and rituals in mystery religions.

Greek religious practices
Epic poems of Homer and Hesiod.
Hare Krishna

250,000-1 millionBhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, 1966, USA (with roots in 15th-century Hindu movement)Krishna is the Supreme God.Salvation from this Age of Kali is by a return to Godhead, accomplished through Krishna-Consciousness. Reincarnation until unite with the Godhead.Chanting, dancing, evangelism, vegetarianism, temple worship, monastic-style living The Bhagavad-Gita As It Is

1 billionIndigenous religion of India as developed to present day. Earliest forms (Vedic religion) date to 1500 BCE or earlier; major developments 1st-9th centuries CE.

Hindu History
One Supreme Reality (Brahman) manifested in many gods and goddesses

Hindu Gods & Goddesses
Humans are in bondage to ignorance and illusion, but are able to escape. Purpose is to gain release from rebirth, or at least a better rebirth.

meaning of life (Hinduism)
Reincarnation until gain enlightenment.Yoga, meditation, worship (puja), devotion to a god or goddess, pilgrimage to holy cities, live according to one's dharma (purpose/ role).

Hindu Rituals & Practices
Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, etc.

Hindu Sacred Texts
 AdherentsHistoryGodsMeaning of LifeAfterlifePracticesTexts

1.6 billionBased on teachings of the Prophet Muhammad; founded 622 CE in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

History of Islam
One God (Allah in Arabic); the same God revealed (imperfectly) in the Jewish and Christian BiblesSubmit (islam) to the will of God to gain Paradise after death.eternal Paradise or eternal Hell

Islamic Beliefs About the Afterlife
Five Pillars: Faith, Prayer, Alms, Pilgrimage, Fasting. Mosque services on Fridays. Ablutions before prayer. No alcohol or pork. Holidays related to the pilgrimage and fast of Ramadan.

Muslim rituals and practices
Qur'an (sacred text); Hadith (tradition)

Islamic sacred texts

4 millionFounded by Mahavira, c. 550 BCE, eastern India

History of Jainism
Polytheism and pantheism. The universe is eternal; many gods exist. Gods, humans and all living things are classified in a complex hierarchy.

Jain theism
Gain liberation from cycle of rebirth, by avoiding all bad karma, especially by causing no harm to any sentient being.

meaning of life (Jainism)
Reincarnation until liberation.

afterlife (Jainism)
Monasticism under the Five Great Vows (Non-Violence, Truth, Celibacy, Non-Stealing, Non-Possessiveness); worship at temples and at home. Meditation and mantras.

Jain practices
The teachings of Mahavira in various collections.
Jehovah's Witnesses

6.5 millionFounded by Charles Taze Russell, 1879, Pittsburgh

History of the Jehovah's Witnesses
One God: Jehovah. No Trinity. Christ is the first creation of God; the Holy Spirit is a force.Salvation is through faith in Christ and obeying Jehovah's laws. The End of the World is soon.Heaven for 144,000 chosen Witnesses, eternity on new earth for other Witnesses. All others annihilated. No hell.No blood transfusions, no celebration of holidays, no use of crosses or religious images. Baptism, Sunday service at Kingdom Hall, strong emphasis on evangelism.

Jehovah's Witnesses Practices
New World Translation of the Scriptures

Jehovah's Witnesses Sacred Texts

14 million

Adherents of Judaism
The religion of Abraham (c. 1800 BCE) and the Hebrews, especially after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.

History of Judaism
One God: Yahweh (YHVH)

God in Judaism
Obey God's commandments, live ethically. Focus is more on this life than the next.Not emphasized; views vary: no afterlife, shadowy existence, World to Come (similar to heaven), Gehenna (similar to hell), reincarnation

The Afterlife in Judaism
Circumcision at birth, bar/bat mitzvah at adulthood, observing Sabbath, wearing tallit and tefilin, prayer services

Jewish Rituals and Practices
Hebrew Bible (Tanakh); Talmud

Jewish sacred texts
Mayan Religion Several million Maya practice a Catholicism that retains many elements of traditional Mayan religion.Began c.250 CE (rise of the Mayan civilization)Many gods, including Itzamná, Kukulcán, Bolon Tzacab, and ChacAppease and nourish the gods; determine luckiest dates for various activities.The soul journeys through dark and threatening underworld; but sacrificial victims and women who die in childbirth go to heaven.Astronomy, divination, human sacrifice, elaborate burial for royalty, worship in stone pyramid-templesDresden Codex; Madrid Codex; Paris Codex; Books of Chilam Balam; Popol Vuh; The Ritual of the Bacabs
 AdherentsHistoryGodsMeaning of LifeAfterlifePracticesTexts

12.2 millionRevelations to Joseph Smith, 1830, New York.

Mormon History
God the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate individual beingsReturn to God by faith in Christ, good works, ordinances, and evangelism.All return to spirit world instruction before resurrection. Then Mormons to heaven with God and families; others rewarded apart from God; hell for those who still reject God.

The Afterlife in Mormonism
Abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea; baptism for the dead; eternal marriage; temple garments under daily clothes; active evangelism.

Mormon Practices
Christian Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price

Mormon Texts
Nation of Islam 10,000-100,000Founded by Wallace Fard Muhammad, 1930, Detroit, USA."One God whose proper name is Allah." Wallace Fard Muhammad became the divine messiah and incarnation of Allah in 1930."The Blackman is the original man." Live righteously and worship Allah.Mental resurrection of the righteous. Black people will be mentally resurrected first.Prayer five times a day. Work for the equality of the African race. Respect laws of the land, don't carry arms, don't make war. Healthy living and abstinence from alcohol, smoking and substance abuse. Modest dress.Qur'an and "Scriptures of all the Prophets of God" are holy texts. Influential writings include Elijah Muhammad's Message to the Blackman in America (1965)
New Age 5 millionHelena Petrovna Blavatsky and Annie Besant in the 19th C, Alice A. Bailey (1880-1949), flourished in 1970s and 80sThe Divine is an impersonal life force that pervades all thingsDawning of a New Age of heightened consciousness and international peace. Individuals can obtain a foretaste of the New Age through spiritual transformation ("Ascension"). More emphasis on the latter now. Evil comes from ignorance.ReincarnationAstrology; mysticism; use of crystals; yoga; tarot readings; holistic medicine; psychic abilities; angelic communications; channeling; amulets; fortune-tellingWorks of a variety of New Age writers
New Thought 160,000Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-66) and others, late 19th century, USA.Generally monism (all is One), but members might be theists, pantheists or panentheists. God is immanent; the universe is essentially spiritual.Man is divine, essentially spirit, and has infinite possibility. Mind can control the body. Sin and sickness caused by incorrect thinking. Man can live in oneness with God in love, truth, peace, health, and prosperity."Life is eternal in the invisible kingdom of God."Emphasis on spiritual and mental healing, but without rejection of modern medicine. Worship services; prayer for the sick; discussion of New Thought authors and ideas.Writings of Quimby (such as the The Quimby Manuscripts) and other New Thought authors
Olmec Religion extinct in original formIndigenous religion of the Olmecs, Guatemala and Mexico, c. 1500-400 BCEMostly unknown due to lack of written records. Many gods represented in art, including the Olmec Dragon, Maize Deity, Bird Monster, and Were-Jaguar.unknown, but art indicates importance of fertility (rain, corn, etc.)unknownsacrifices, large sculptures of human heads, cave rituals, pilgrimages, ball-courts, pyramidsnone
 AdherentsHistoryGodsMeaning of LifeAfterlifePracticesTexts
Rastafarianism 1 millionFounded by Marcus Garvey in the slums of Jamaica in the 1920s and 30s

History of Rastafarianism
God is Jah, who became incarnate in Jesus (who was black); Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I was messiah.Humans are temples of Jah. Salvation is primarily in this world and consists of liberation from oppression and return to Africa.Some Rastas will experience "everliving" (physical immortality). Heaven is a return to Eden, which is in Africa.Many practices based on Jewish biblical Law. Abstinence from most or all meat, artificial foods, and alcohol. Use of marijuana in religious rituals and for medicine. Wearing of dreadlocks.

Rastafarian Practices
Holy Piby (the "Blackman's Bible"). The Ethiopian epic Kebra Negast also revered.

Rastafarian Texts
Satanism The Church of Satan was founded in 1966 by Anton LaVey

70,000 or several million, depending on the sourceFounded by L. Ron Hubbard, 1954, California

History of Scientology
God(s) not specified; reality explained in the Eight DynamicsHuman consists of body, mind and thetan; capable of great things. Gain spiritual freedom by ridding mind of engrams.ReincarnationAuditing, progressing up various levels until "clear". Focus on education and drug recovery programs.Writings of Hubbard, such as Dianetics and Scientology
Seventh-Day Adventism

25 millionRooted in Millerite movement; founded 1863 in New England; early leaders: Ellen White, Hiram Edson and Joseph BatesTrinitarian monotheismLive in accordance with the Bible, including the Old Testament. The Second Coming will happen soon.A "peaceful pause" after death until the coming of Christ, then resurrection to judgment, followed by eternity in heaven or nonexistence. No hell.24-hour Sabbath observance starting Friday at sunset; adult baptism by immersion; church services emphasizing sermonChristian Bible; writings of Ellen G. White as helpful supplement

3-4 millionIndigenous religion of Japan

Shinto History
kami: ancient gods or spiritsHumans are pure by nature and can keep away evil through purification rituals and attain good things by calling on the kami.Death is bad and impure. Some humans become kami after death.Worship and offerings to kami at shrines and at home. Purification rituals.

Shinto Practices
Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters); Nihon-gi (Chronicles of Japan)

Shinto Texts
 AdherentsHistoryGodsMeaning of LifeAfterlifePracticesTexts

23 millionFounded by Guru Nanak, c. 1500, Punjab, India.

History of Sikhism
one God: Ik OnkarOvercome the self, align life with will of God, and become a "saint soldier," fighting for good.Reincarnation until resolve karma and merge with God.Prayer and meditation on God's name, services at temple (gurdwara), turban and five Ks. Balance work, worship, and charity. No monasticism or asceticism.Adi Granth (Sri Guru Granth Sahib)
Spiritualism 11 millionc.1850, USA, UK, FranceGenerally accepts the Christian GodBody and spirit are separate entities. Morality and contact with spirits affect afterlife.A spiritual existence with access to the living. Condition depends on morality of life and advancement is possible.Sunday services. Seances and other communication with departed spirits. Spirit healing.No authoritative texts. Doctrine learned from spirit guides (advanced departed spirits).
Stoicism Zeno in c.313 BC, Athens.Pantheism: the logos pervades the universe.Happiness, which is achieved by living reasonably.Possible continued existence of the Soul, but not a personal existence.Ethical and philosophical training, self-reflection, careful judgment and inner calm.writings of Zeno, Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius

20 million specifically of Taoism (Chinese religion contains Taoist elements)Based on teachings of Lao-Tzu, c. 550 BC, China.Pantheism - the Tao pervades all.

Taoist Pantheism
Inner harmony, peace, and longevity. Acheived by living in accordance with the Tao.

meaning of life (Taoism)
Revert back to state of non-being, which is simply the other side of being.

Afterlife in Taoism
General attitude of detachment and non-struggle, "go with the flow" of the Tao. Tai-chi, acupuncture, and alchemy to help longevity.Tao-te Ching; Chuang-tzu

Taoist Texts
Unification Church over 1 million (3 million acc. to official sources)Founded by Sun Myung Moon, 1954, South Korea.Monotheism, with the duality of God (esp. masculine and feminine) emphasized. No Trinity.True love and world peace instead of selfish love. True love and the kingdom of God on earth will be restored by the creation of "true families."Eternal life in a spirit world.Blessing CeremonyThe Divine Principle (1954) by Rev. Moon.
 AdherentsHistoryGodsMeaning of LifeAfterlifePracticesTexts
Unitarian Universalism 800,000Formal merger of Unitarians and Universalists in 1961, USA.

History of Unitarian-Universalism
Has no set beliefs, which is its defining characteristic.Salvation is "spiritual health or wholeness." Members seek "inner and outer peace," insight, health, compassion and strength.Not specified. Some believe in an afterlife, some do not. Very few believe in hell - "Universalism" indicates the belief that all will be saved.Ceremonies for marriages, funerals, etc. Church services have elements from various religions. Emphasis on civil rights, social justice, equality and environment. Most UUs are anti-death penalty and pro-gay rights.

Unitarian Universalist practices
Many sacred texts are revered by various members; some none at all. The Bible is the most commonly used text.

Unitarian Universalism Texts

1-3 millionBased on ancient pagan beliefs, but modern form founded early 1900s. Founder generally said to be Gerald Gardner.Polytheism, centered on the Goddess and God, each in various forms; also a belief in a Supreme Being over all"If it harms none, do what you will."reincarnation until reach the Summerland

afterlife (Wicca)
Prayer, casting a circle, Drawing Down the Moon, reciting spells, dancing, singing, sharing cakes and wine or beer

Wiccan practices
No sacred text; foundational texts include The Witch Cult in Western Europe and The God of the Witches

200,000Based on teachings of Zoroaster in 6th cent. BCE Persia. Official religion of ancient Persia. May have influenced Judaism and Vedic religion.

History of Zoroastrianism
One God, Ahura Mazda, but a dualistic worldview in which an evil spirit, Angra Mainyu, is almost as powerful.Humans are free to do good or evil, must choose the side of good.Judgment followed by heaven or hell. Hell is temporary until final purgation and return to Ahura Mazda.prayers; tending the sacred fire; coming of age rituals; burial by exposure in the Tower of Silence

Zoroastrian rituals and practices
Zend Avesta

Zoroastrian texts

For sources, please see linked articles.

Article Info

Title The Big Religion Chart
Last UpdatedNovember 21, 2016
URL www.religionfacts.com/big-religion-chart
Short URLrlft.co/1851
MLA Citation “The Big Religion Chart.” ReligionFacts.com. 21 Nov. 2016. Web. Accessed 28 Oct. 2020. <www.religionfacts.com/big-religion-chart>

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