The Big Religion Chart

The Big Religion Chart is an attempt to summarize a selection of religions as concisely as possible for purposes of quick comparison. It is not intended to be a substitute for advanced religious study and exploration. Our hope is that this chart simply serves as a useful starting point to compare and understand the world's religions. Please note that, as throughout ReligionFacts, we have been quite inclusive. Some groups listed here may not properly be called “religions.” Conversely, if a group is not included in the Big Religion Chart, it doesn't mean it's not a religion or doesn't matter - the chart is not comprehensive. Links in the chart lead to ReligionFacts articles, where you can find more information and references for the basic data compared here.

  History Adherents Gods Meaning of Life Afterlife Practices Texts
Aladura Various prophet-healing churches founded since c.1918, West Nigeria. 1 million 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. none
Asatru Revival of Norse and Germanic paganism, 1970s Scandinavia and USA. Polytheistic, Norse gods and goddesses, Norse creation myths. 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. Eddas (Norse epics); the Havamal (proverbs attributed to Odin)
Bahā'ī Faith Founded by Bahá'u'lláh, 1863, Tehran, Iran. 5-7 million One God, who has revealed himself progressively through major world religions. The soul is eternal and essentially good. Purpose of life is to develop spiritually and draw closer to God. Soul separates from the body and begins a journey towards or away from God. Heaven and hell are states of being. Daily prayer, avoidance of intoxicants, scripture reading, hard work, education, work for social justice and equality. Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and other Bahá'í leaders.
Bon Indigenous religion of Tibet. 100,000 Nontheistic Buddhism, but meditation on peaceful and wrathful deities. Purpose is to gain enlightenment. Reincarnation until gain enlightenment Meditation on mandalas and Tibetan deities, astrology, monastic life. Bonpo canon
Buddhism Based on teachings of Siddharta Gautama (the Buddha) in c. 520 BC, NE India. 360 million Varies: Theravada atheistic; Mahayana more polytheistic. Buddha taught nothing is permanent. Avoid suffering and gain enlightenment and release from cycle of rebirth, or at least attain a better rebirth by gaining merit. The Buddha said of death: Life is a journey. Death is a return to earth. The universe is like an inn. The passing years are like dust. Regard this phantom world As a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream, A flash of lightning in a summer cloud, A flickering lamp - a phantom - and a dream Meditation, mantras, devotion to deities (in some sects), mandalas (Tibetan) Tripitaka (Pali Canon); Mahayana sutras like the Lotus Sutra; others.
Cao Dai Founded in 1926, Vietnam by Ngo Van Chieu and others based on a séance. 4-6 million 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/Heaven Hierarchy similar to Roman Catholicism. Daily prayer. Meditation. Communication with spirit world (now outlawed in Vietnam). Caodai canon
Chinese Religion Indigenous folk religion of China. 394 million Dualistic yin and yang; mythological beings and folk deities. A favorable life and peaceful afterlife, attained through rituals and honoring of ancestors. reincarnation Ancestor worship, prayer, longevity practices, divination, prophecy and astrology, feng shui. none
The Chopra Center founded by Deepak Chopra (b. 1947) monism - God or Supreme Reality pervades all things; all is unity Humans have limitless potential, but do not recognize this. Health and success can be had by focusing on whole self (mind, body, spirit). reincarnation Yoga, meditation, massage, nutrition, mindfulness, detox sessions, positive thinking. Deepak Chopra's many books, such as the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success
Christianity based on life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth (born c. 4 BCE), a Jew from Palestine under Roman rule 2 billion Holy Trinity = God the Father + God the Son + God the Holy Spirit All have sinned and are thereby separated from God. Salvation is through faith in Christ and, for some, sacraments and good works. Eternal heaven or hell (most denominations); temporary purgatory (Catholicism) Prayer, Bible study, baptism, Eucharist (Communion), church on Sundays, numerous holidays. Bible (Hebrew Bible + New Testament)
Confucianism Founded by Confucius (551–479 BC), China 5-6 million Not addressed To fulfill one's role in society with propriety, honor, and loyalty. Honesty, politeness, propriety, humaneness, perform correct role in society, loyalty to family, nation Analects
Druze Founded by Al-Darazi in 11th century, Cairo, Egypt. Roots in the Isma'iliyya sect of Shia Islam. 500,000 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)
Eckankar Founded by Paul Twitchell in Las Vegas, 1965 50-500,000 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. Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad and books by Harold Klemp.
Epicureanism Based on the teachings of Epicurus, c. 300 BCE, Athens. unknown A deistic sort of polytheism: the gods exist, but take no notice of humans. Materialism: everything is made of atoms, including gods and the soul. No afterlife. The soul dissolves when the body dies. Pursue the highest pleasures (friendship and tranquility) and avoid pain. Letters and Principal Doctrines of Epicurus
Falun Gong Li Hongzhi in 1992 in China 10 million Countless gods and spiritual beings. Demonic aliens. The Falun (wheel) is an energy source located in the navel. Goal is spritual transcendence, achieved by practicing Falun Gong. Not addressed Five exercises to strengthen the Falun. Cultivation of truthfulness, benevolence and forbearance. Meat eating discouraged. Zhuan Falun and other writings by Master Li
Gnosticism Various teachers including Valentinus, 1st-2nd cents. AD ancient form extinct; small modern revival groups The 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, celibacy Gnostic scriptures including various Gospels and Acts attributed to apostles.
Greco-Roman religion Various indigenous religions of the ancient Greeks and Romans, c. 500 BCE to 400 CE. ancient form extinct Olympic pantheon (Zeus, etc.) mixed with eastern deities like Isis and Cybele Human life is subject to the whim of the gods and to Fate; these can be 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. Epic poems of Homer and Hesiod.
Hare Krishna Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, 1966, USA (with roots in 15th-century Hindu movement) 250,000-1 million 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
Hinduism Indigenous religion of India as developed to present day. 900 million One Supreme Reality (Brahman) manifested in many gods and 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. 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). The Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, etc.
Islam Based on teachings of the Prophet Muhammad; founded 622 CE in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. 1.3 billion One God (Allah in Arabic); the same God revealed (imperfectly) in the Jewish and Christian Bibles Humans must submit (islam) to the will of God to gain Paradise after death. Paradise or Hell. 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. Qur'an (sacred text); Hadith (tradition)
Jainism Founded by Mahavira, c. 550 BCE, eastern India 4 million The universe is eternal; many gods exist. Gods, humans and all living things are classified in a complex hierarchy. Gain liberation from cycle of rebirth, by avoiding all bad karma, especially by causing no harm to any sentient being. Reincarnation until liberation. Monasticism under the Five Great Vows (Non-Violence, Truth, Celibacy, Non-Stealing, Non-Possessiveness); worship at temples and at home. Meditation and mantras. The teachings of Mahavira in various collections.
Jehovah's Witnesses Founded by Charles Taze Russell, 1879, Pittsburgh 6.5 million 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. New World Translation of the Scriptures
Judaism The religion of the Hebrews (c. 1300 BC), especially after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD. 14 million One God: Yahweh (YHVH) Obey God's commandments, live ethically. Focus is more on this life than the next. Not historically emphasized. Beliefs vary from no afterlife to shadowy existence to the World to Come (similar to heaven). Circumcision at birth, bar/bat mitzvah at adulthood. Synagogue services on Saturdays. No pork or other non-kosher foods. Holidays related to historical events. Hebrew Bible (Tanakh); Talmud
Mayan religion Began c.250 CE (rise of the Mayan civilization) At one time up to 2 million. Today, several million Maya practice a Roman Catholicism that retains many elements of traditional Mayan religion. Many gods, including Itzamná, Kukulcán, Bolon Tzacab, and Chac Appease 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-temples Dresden Codex; Madrid Codex; Paris codex; Books of Chilam Balam; Popol Vuh; The Ritual of the Bacabs
Mormonism Founded by Joseph Smith, 1830, New York. 12.2 million God the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate individual beings Return to God by faith in Christ, good works, ordinances, and evangelism. All return to spirit world for period of instruction before resurrection. Mormons to heaven with God and families; others rewarded but not with God; hell for those who reject God after death. Abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea; baptism for the dead; eternal marriage; temple garments under daily clothes; active evangelism. Christian Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price
Nation of Islam Founded by Wallace Fard Muhammad, 1930, Detroit, USA. Estimates range from 10,000 to 100,000 "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 Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Annie Besant in the 19th C, Alice A. Bailey (1880-1949), flourished in 1970s and 80s 5 million The Divine is an impersonal life force that pervades all things Dawning 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. Reincarnation Astrology; mysticism; use of crystals; yoga; tarot readings; holistic medicine; psychic abilities; angelic communications; channeling; amulets; fortune-telling Works of a variety of New Age writers
New Thought Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-66) and others, late 19th century, USA. 160,000 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 mostly extinct Mostly 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.) sacrifices, large sculptures of human heads, cave rituals, pilgrimages, ball-courts, pyramids none
Rastafarianism Founded by Marcus Garvey in the slums of Jamaica in the 1920s and 30s 1 million 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. Holy Piby (the "Blackman's Bible"). The Ethiopian epic Kebra Negast also revered.
Scientology Founded by L. Ron Hubbard, 1954, California 70,000 or several million, depending on the source God(s) not specified; reality explained in the Eight Dynamics Human consists of body, mind and thetan; capable of great things. Gain spiritual freedom by ridding mind of engrams. Reincarnation Auditing, progressing up various levels until "clear". Focus on education and drug recovery programs. Writings of Hubbard, such as Dianetics and Scientology
Seventh-Day Adventist Church Rooted in Millerite movement; founded 1863 in New England; early leaders: Ellen White, Hiram Edson and Joseph Bates 25 million (same as Christianity); Ellen G. White considered a prophet Live 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 sermon Christian Bible; writings of Ellen G. White as helpful supplement
Shinto Indigenous religion of Japan 3-4 million kami: ancient gods or spirits Humans 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. Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters); Nihon-gi (Chronicles of Japan)
Sikhism Founded by Guru Nanak, c. 1500, Punjab, India. 23 million one God: Ik Onkar Overcome 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 Modern movement: c.1850, USA, UK, France 11 million Generally based in a Christian worldview. Main focus is spirits of deceased humans. Body 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).
Taoism Based on teachings of Lao-Tzu, c. 550 BC, China. 20 million (394 million of Chinese religion in general) Pantheism - the Tao pervades all. Yin-yang - opposites make up a unity. Inner harmony, peace, and longevity. Acheived by living in accordance with the Tao. Revert back to state of non-being, which is simply the other side of being. General attitude of detachment and non-struggle, "go with the flow" of the Tao. Tai-chi, acupuncture, and alchemy to help longevity. Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters); Nihon-gi (Chronicles of Japan)
Unification Church Founded by Sun Myung Moon, 1954, South Korea. Over 1 million (3 million acc. to official sources) 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 Ceremony The Divine Principle (1954) by Rev. Moon.
Zoroastrianism Based on teachings of Zoroaster in 6th cent. BCE Persia. Official religion of ancient Persia. May have influenced Judaism and Vedic religion. 200,000, mostly in India 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. Good deeds, charity, equality, hard work. Zend Avesta