Five world religions christianity

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Christianity is the most popular religion in the world with over 2 billion adherents. 42 million Britons see themselves as nominally Christian, and there are 6 million who are actively practicing.

  • Christians believe that Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.

  • Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

  • Christians believe that God sent his Son to earth to save humanity from the consequences of its sins.

  • One of the most important concepts in Christianity is that of Jesus giving his life on the Cross (the Crucifixion) and rising from the dead on the third day (the Resurrection).

  • Christians believe that there is only one God, but that there are three elements to this one God:

    1. God the Father

    2. God the Son

    3. The Holy Spirit

  • Christians worship in churches.

  • Their spiritual leaders are called priests or ministers.

  • The Christian holy book is the Bible, and consists of the Old and New Testaments.

  • Christian holy days such as Easter and Christmas are important milestones in the Western secular calendar

Christianity Beliefs

God, Jesus and the Saints


Christians believe that there is only one God, whom they call Father as Jesus Christ taught them.


Christians recognize Jesus as the Son of God who was sent to save mankind from death and sin.

Jesus Christ taught that he was Son of God. His teachings can be summarized, briefly as the love of God and love of one's neighbour.

Jesus said that he had come to fulfill God's law rather than teach it.

The Trinity

Christians believe in the Trinity - that is, in God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Some confuse this and think that Christians believe in three separate gods, which they don't.

Christians believe that God took human form as Jesus Christ and that God is present today through the work of the Holy Spirit and evident in the actions of believers.

Life after death

Christians believe that there is a life after earthly death.

While the actual nature of this life is not known, Christians believe that many spiritual experiences in this life help to give them some idea of what eternal life will be like.

Prayer and ritual

Prayer is the means by which Christians communicate with their God.

The New Testament records that Jesus taught his disciples how to pray and that he encouraged them to address God as Father. Christians believe that they continue this tradition.

Sometimes the prayers are formal and part of a ritual laid down for hundreds of years.

Others are personal and spontaneous, and come from personal or group need.

Whilst prayer is often directed to God as Father, as taught by Jesus, some traditions


Judaism at a glance

Judaism is the original of the three Abrahamic faiths, which also includes Christianity and Islam. According to information published by The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, there were around 13.1 million Jewish people in the world in 2007, most residing in the USA and Israel. According to the 2001 census 267,000 people in the UK said that their religious identity was Jewish, about 0.5% of the population.

  • Judaism originated in the Middle East over 3500 years ago

  • Judaism was founded by Moses, although Jews trace their history back to Abraham.

  • Jews believe that there is only one God with whom they have a covenant.

  • In exchange for all the good that God has done for the Jewish people, Jewish people keep God’s laws and try to bring holiness into every aspect of their lives.

  • Judaism has a rich history of religious text, but the central and most important religious document is the Torah.

  • Jewish traditional or oral law, the interpretation of the laws of the Torah, is called halakhah.

  • Spiritual leaders are called Rabbis.

  • Jews worship in Synagogues.

  • 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust in an attempt to wipe out Judaism.

Jewish faith and God

The relationship with God

Jews believe that there is a single God who not only created the universe, but with whom every Jew can have an individual and personal relationship.

They believe that God continues to work in the world, affecting everything that people do.

The Jewish relationship with God is a covenant relationship. In exchange for the many good deeds that God has done and continues to do for the Jewish People...

  • The Jews keep God's laws

  • The Jews seek to bring holiness into every aspect of their lives.

Judaism is the faith of a Community

Jews believe that God appointed the Jews to be his chosen people in order to set an example of holiness and ethical behaviour to the world.

Jewish life is very much the life of a community and there are many activities that Jews must do as a community.

  • For example, the Jewish prayer book uses WE and OUR in prayers where some other faiths would use I and MINE.

Jews also feel part of a global community with a close bond Jewish people all over the world. A lot of Jewish religious life is based around the home and family activities.

Judaism is a family faith

Judaism is very much a family faith and the ceremonies start early, when a Jewish boy baby is circumcised at eight days old, following the instructions that God gave to Abraham around 4,000 years ago.

Many Jewish religious customs revolve around the home. One example is the Sabbath meal, when families join together to welcome in the special day.

A religious Jew tries to bring holiness into everything they do, by doing it as an act that praises God, and honours everything God has done. For such a person the whole of their life becomes an act of worship.

Being part of a community that follows particular customs and rules helps keep a group of people together, and it's noticeable that the Jewish groups that have been most successful at avoiding assimilation are those that obey the rules most strictly - sometimes called ultra-orthodox Jews..

The word Islam means 'submission to the will of God'.

Islam is the second largest religion in the world with over 1 billion followers. The 2001 census recorded 1,591,000 Muslims in the UK, around 2.7% of the population.

  • Muslims believe that Islam was revealed over 1400 years ago in Mecca, Arabia.

  • Followers of Islam are called Muslims.

  • Muslims believe that there is only One God.

  • The Arabic word for God is Allah.

  • According to Muslims, God sent a number of prophets to mankind to teach them how to live according to His law.

  • Jesus, Moses and Abraham are respected as prophets of God.

  • They believe that the final Prophet was Muhammad.

  • Muslims believe that Islam has always existed, but for practical purposes, date their religion from the time of the migration of Muhammad.

  • Muslims base their laws on their holy book the Qur'an, and the Sunnah.

  • Muslims believe the Sunnah is the practical example of Prophet Muhammad and that there are five basic Pillars of Islam.

These pillars are the declaration of faith, praying five times a day, giving money to charity, fasting and a pilgrimage to Mecca (atleast once).

Basic articles of faith

Muslims have six main beliefs.

  • Belief in Allah as the one and only God

  • Belief in angels

  • Belief in the holy books

  • Belief in the Prophets...

    1. e.g. Adam, Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), Dawud (David), Isa (Jesus).

    2. Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the final prophet.

  • Belief in the Day of Judgement...

    1. The day when the life of every human being will be assessed to decide whether they go to heaven or hell.

  • Belief in Predestination...

    1. That Allah has the knowlege of all that will happen.

    2. Muslims believe that this doesn't stop human beings making free choices.


Allah is the name Muslims use for the supreme and unique God, who created and rules everything.

The heart of faith for all Muslims is obedience to Allah's will.

  • Allah is eternal, omniscient, and omnipotent...

    1. Allah has always existed and will always exist.

    2. Allah knows everything that can be known.

    3. Allah can do anything that can be done.

  • Allah has no shape or form...

    1. Allah can't be seen.

    2. Allah can't be heard.

    3. Allah is neither male nor female.

  • Allah is just...

    1. Allah rewards and punishes fairly.

    2. But Allah is also merciful.

  • A believer can approach Allah by praying, and by reciting the Qur'an.

  • Muslims worship only Allah...

    1. because only Allah is worthy of worship.

The one and only God

All Muslims believe that God is one alone:

  • There is only one God.

  • God has no children, no parents, and no partners.

  • God was not created by a being.

  • There are no equal, superior, or lesser Gods.

Hinduism is the religion of the majority of people in India and Nepal. It also exists among significant populations outside of the sub continent and has over 900 million adherents worldwide.

In some ways Hinduism is the oldest living religion in the world, or at least elements within it stretch back many thousands of years. Yet Hinduism resists easy definition partly because of the vast array of practices and beliefs found within it. It is also closely associated conceptually and historically with the other Indian religions Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism.

Unlike most other religions, Hinduism has no single founder, no single scripture, and no commonly agreed set of teachings. Throughout its extensive history, there have been many key figures teaching different philosophies and writing numerous holy books. For these reasons, writers often refer to Hinduism as 'a way of life' or 'a family of religions' rather than a single religion.

Defining Hinduism

The term 'Hindu' was derived from the river or river complex of the northwest, the Sindhu. Sindhu is a Sanskrit word used by the inhabitants of the region, the Aryans in the second millennium BCE. Later migrants and invaders, the Persians in the sixth century BCE, the Greeks from the 4th century BCE, and the Muslims from the 8th century CE, used the name of this river in their own languages for the land and its people.

The term 'Hindu' itself probably does not go back before the 15th and 16th centuries when it was used by people to differentiate themselves from followers of other traditions, especially the Muslims (Yavannas), in Kashmir and Bengal. At that time the term may have simply indicated groups united by certain cultural practices such as cremation of the dead and styles of cuisine. The 'ism' was added to 'Hindu' only in the 19th century in the context of British colonialism and missionary activity.

The origins of the term 'hindu' are thus cultural, political and geographical. Now the term is widely accepted although any definition is subject to much debate. In some ways it is true to say that Hinduism is a religion of recent origin yet its roots and formation go back thousands of years.

Some claim that one is 'born a Hindu', but there are now many Hindus of non-Indian descent. Others claim that its core feature is belief in an impersonal Supreme, but important strands have long described and worshipped a personal God. Outsiders often criticise Hindus as being polytheistic, but many adherents claim to be monotheists.

Some Hindus define orthodoxy as compliance with the teachings of the Vedic texts (the four Vedas and their supplements). However, still others identify their tradition with 'Sanatana Dharma', the eternal order of conduct that transcends any specific body of sacred literature. Scholars sometimes draw attention to the caste system as a defining feature, but many Hindus view such practices as merely a social phenomenon or an aberration of their original teachings. Nor can we define Hinduism according to belief in concepts such as karma and samsara (reincarnation) because Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists (in a qualified form) accept this teaching too.

Although it is not easy to define Hinduism, we can say that it is rooted in India, most Hindus revere a body of texts as sacred scripture known as the Veda, and most Hindus draw on a common system of values known as dharma.

  • Hinduism originated around the Indus Valley near the River Indus in modern day Pakistan.

  • About 80% of the Indian population regard themselves as Hindu.

  • Most Hindus believe in a Supreme God, whose qualities and forms are represented by the multitude of deities which emanate from him.

  • Hindus believe that existence is a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, governed by Karma.

  • Hindus believe that the soul passes through a cycle of successive lives and its next incarnation is always dependent on how the previous life was lived.

  • The main Hindu texts are the Vedas and their supplements (books based on the Vedas). Veda is a Sanskrit word meaning 'knowledge'. These scriptures do not mention the word 'Hindu' but many scriptures discuss dharma, which can be rendered as 'code of conduct', 'law', or 'duty'

  • Hindus celebrate many holy days, but the Festival of Lights, Diwali is the best known.

Standing Buddha in Bangkok, Thailand.
Buddhism is a spiritual tradition that focuses on personal spiritual development and the attainment of a deep insight into the true nature of life. There are 376 million followers worldwide.

Buddhists seek to reach a state of nirvana, following the path of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, who went on a quest for Enlightenment around the sixth century BC.

There is no belief in a personal god. Buddhists believe that nothing is fixed or permanent and that change is always possible. The path to Enlightenment is through the practice and development of morality, meditation and wisdom.

Buddhists believe that life is both endless and subject to impermanence, suffering and uncertainty. These states are called the tilakhana, or the three signs of existence. Existence is endless because individuals are reincarnated over and over again, experiencing suffering throughout many lives.

It is impermanent because no state, good or bad, lasts forever. Our mistaken belief that things can last is a chief cause of suffering.

The history of Buddhism is the story of one man's spiritual journey to enlightenment, and of the teachings and ways of living that developed from it.

The Buddha

Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, was born into a royal family in present-day Nepal over 2500 years ago. He lived a life of privilege and luxury until one day he left the royal enclosure and encountered for the first time, an old man, a sick man, and a corpse. Disturbed by this he became a monk before adopting the harsh poverty of Indian asceticism. Neither path satisfied him and he decided to pursue the ‘Middle Way’ - a life without luxury but also without poverty.

Buddhists believe that one day, seated beneath the Bodhi tree (the tree of awakening), Siddhartha became deeply absorbed in meditation and reflected on his experience of life until he became enlightened.

By finding the path to enlightenment, Siddhartha was led from the pain of suffering and rebirth towards the path of enlightenment and became known as the Buddha or 'awakened one'.

Schools of Buddhism

There are numerous different schools or sects of Buddhism. The two largest are Theravada Buddhism, which is most popular in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Burma (Myanmar), and Mahayana Buddhism, which is strongest in Tibet, China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and Mongolia.

The majority of Buddhist sects do not seek to proselytise (preach and convert), with the notable exception of Nichiren Buddhism.

All schools of Buddhism seek to aid followers on a path of enlightenment.

Key facts

  • Buddhism is 2,500 years old

  • There are currently 376 million followers worldwide

  • There are over 150,000 Buddhists in Britain

  • Buddhism arose as a result of Siddhartha Gautama's quest for Enlightenment in around the 6th Century BC

  • There is no belief in a personal God. It is not centred on the relationship between humanity and God

  • Buddhists believe that nothing is fixed or permanent - change is always possible

  • The two main Buddhist sects are Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism, but there are many more

  • Buddhists can worship both at home or at a temple

The path to Enlightenment is through the practice and development of morality, meditation and wisdom.

BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 05 May 2015.

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