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Culture and traditions

What are the main religions of the world?

At present, it is estimated that there are between 4,000 and 5,000 different religions throughout the world, although it is not possible to give an exact figure. However, we do know which are the religions with the most followers:

ReligionApproximate number of followers
Christianity2,100,000,000
Islam1,155,000,000
Hinduism1,010,000,000
Buddhism776,000,000
Traditional chinese religion394,000,000

Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.

Christianity

From Latin christianismus, Christianity has its historical origin in Judaism from the beginning of the current era. This is because Jesus of Nazareth, the greatest exponent of the Christian religion, always identified himself as a devout Jew, both in his doctrine and in his teachings.

This monotheistic Abrahamic religion is based on its life, which is included in the Bible.

St. Peter's Square in the Vatican

The set of canonical books of Judaism and Christianity are collected in the Bible or holy book, whose purpose is none other than to convey the word of God. Currently, the Bible has been translated into 2,454 languages.

In itself, the Bible is a compilation of texts that were written in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic in the first place, and which were subsequently assembled to form the Jewish Tanakh or Old Testament for Christians and, later, the New Testament.

While the Old Testament tells the story of the Hebrew people, the New Testament deals with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, as well as the message it conveyed and the history of the early Christians.

Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain

The Bible is, in short, a spiritual work that for believers constitutes the way in which God revealed himself and manifested his will to save Humanity.

It is worth mentioning that, throughout its history, Christianity has gone through numerous divisions, which have given rise to several groups of beliefs with the consequent variations depending on the place and the culture that surrounds them.

Since the Protestant Reformation (16th century), this religion is divided into three main branches, which predominate in the following areas and countries of the world:

  • Catholics: Southeast Europe, North and Central Africa, South America, Mexico, Canada and the Philippines.
  • Protestants: Nordic countries, United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, United States of America and Greenland.
  • Orthodox: Russia and Ukraine.

The main Christian belief is what dictates the Trinity doctrine: God is one and, at the same time, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is the creator and responsible for preserving the universe and caring for the human race through his Word.

Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

What he seeks in the human being is the accomplishment of good works. In general, Jesus Christ is the Messiah described in the Old and New Testaments, and at the same time he is completely God and human at the same time.

Another of the main doctrines of Christianity is that which deals with salvation through conversion and forgiveness of sins, which results in victory over all the consequences of sin.

Salvation can be granted by the grace of God and is what Jesus Christ achieved in his crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. If God grants salvation, eternal life is obtained, hence the ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven, that is, the Kingdom of God that dictates the Bible.

The practices carried out by Christians involve the establishment of a relationship with God.

Therefore, to be a good Christian, the seven sacraments must be fulfilled (in chronological order): baptism (introduction of the person to Christianity), confirmation, Eucharist, penance, priestly order, marriage and anointing of the sick.

Views of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

Islam

Islam is a monotheistic religion based on the holy book of the Quran, whose fundamental premise for its adherents is that "There is no God but Allah" and, in turn, Muhammad is the last messenger of Allah (in Arabic, Allah, what does it mean God).

The followers of Islam are called Muslims, term from Arabic muslim that literally means who submits, and its official language is Arabic.

The main countries where Islamism is practiced are Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Afghanistan, whose percentage of Muslim population is close to 100%. 98-99% of the population of countries such as the Maldives, Western Sahara, Turkey, Iran, Algeria, Mauritania and Yemen are also estimated to be made up of followers of this religion.

The Quran or holy book of Muslims

Islam is not only a religion, but a culture in which aspects such as social, family, educational and judicial life, and even the way of dressing are governed by the guidelines set by religion.

This means that the commandments of the Quran are those that govern the functioning of the State, that is, the law that governs society. Thus, the Constitution of Muslims is the so-called Sharia or Islamic law, where the rights and duties of man, penalties, crimes …

Muslims have three holy places, which are cited below:

  • Mecca: It is the city to which Muslims must go on pilgrimage at least once in their life. In her Muhammad was born and is where the Masjid al-Haram mosque is located (literally, sacred mosque), in which prayer means obtaining a reward equivalent to 100,000 prayers.
Mecca, Hijaz region, Saudi Arabia
  • Medina: it is the place that saw the Prophet Muhammad arrive when he emigrated to Mecca, gave him refuge and accepted his message. Its inhabitants then became known as the "Ansar" for having welcomed it. There he died and was buried too.
  • Al-Aqsa Mosque: Muslim tradition tells us that this mosque located in Jerusalem is the place where Mohammed ascended to heaven. Praying in the Al-Aqsa Mosque is equivalent to the reward of 500 prayers, since it is considered as the place where Muhammad communicated with God and prayer was established.
Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem

For Islam, each member of society has a set of rights and duties, so every individual who accepts this religion must orient his life in accordance with these rules.

These rights are included in the Risalatul Huquq, which includes the Law of God, the Rights of the tongue, the Rights of women and the Rights of the enemy, among many others.

However, in general, the law of Islam imposes four types of rights and duties on man:

  • Duties to God: every man is obliged to fulfill them. According to the Quran, man must reflect and constantly remember God, as well as obey him, accept his will and be aware at all times that his function on Earth is to worship and please one God.
  • Duties of man with respect to himself: The Quran dictates that God does not change the situation of a people or society, but that it is the individuals that compose it that change what is in themselves, that is, body, mind and soul.
Qol Sharif Mosque in Kazan Kremlin, Russia
  • Rights of others with him: The family, parents, marriage and community are its four main pillars. Holding kinship ties and pleasing parents are two principles linked to complacency to God. Within marriage, there are obligations of the husband with respect to the wife and vice versa, as well as obligations and rights of the children.

Hinduism

It is called hinduist to all those who practice some of the religions of Hinduism and are part of that same culture. It is a religion that lacks a founder, since it actually encompasses several different religions, which are mistakenly called in the same way.

Lord Shiva statue in Rishikesh (India)

Hinduism is the majority religious tradition in Bali, Nepal, India and the African island of Mauritius. India specifically is the cradle of Hinduism and is considered as its holy land, where 80.5% of the population professes it.

However, there are important communities of Hindu immigrants in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Burma, Indonesia, Mexico, Panama, South Africa and Thailand. In Western countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States, important groups of Hinduists can also be found.

Hinduism has two sacred texts Main:

  • Shruti: consists of a group of sacred texts that can only be followed to the letter. On the one hand, it covers all four Vedas and, on the other hand, the Upanishad.
  • Smiriti: the term means I remembered or the tradition. This group of sacred texts includes the epic text Majabhárata, the Ramaiana or epic story of the king-god Rama, the 18 main Puranas and ancient texts on ayurveda (traditional Hindu medicine).

The basis of all Hinduism is governed by the reality called Brahman or inner essence, that is, the idea that the set of all things and events that surround us are nothing more than different manifestations of ultimate reality.

Prambanan set, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Yes Brahman refers to an intangible and incomprehensible sphere for the individual of the underworld, its manifestation in the human soul is called Atman. The idea that Brahman and Atman merge into one is the essence of Upanishad previously mentioned.

It is important to emphasize the fact that Hinduism does not mean a religion or a philosophy, but rather a large and complex socio-religious organism, where there is room for a host of ceremonies, rituals, disciplines and gods.

For Hinduism, the world works through the self-sacrifice of God, where the term sacrifice it is used in the sense of make sacred. Thus, it implies the fact that God transforms into a world that eventually ends up becoming God, and so on. This activity is called lilac.

Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia

The Hindu Pantheon has a multitude of gods, although there are three most relevant:

  • Brama: He is the creator god of the universe and is usually represented with 4 heads and 4 arms, each of them holding the 4 Vedas, and supported on a goose. The continuation of life will only be possible if Brama remains awake; When he sleeps, everything dies except the gods. The Brahma temple in Pushkar (India) is dedicated to him.
  • Vishnu: it is represented with 4 arms that hold a mallet (symbol of power), a lotus flower (symbol of creation and life), a cogwheel (weapon that makes it invincible) and a conch shell (the sound when blowing through it symbolizes the origin of the universe). He is the most popular God in India and is considered to have already completed 9 of the 10 reincarnations that must take place, the tenth in the form of the Kalki warrior.
  • Shiva: He is the god in charge of destruction, but not in a cruel and ruthless sense, but in order to allow everything to be created again. In fact, the only time Brama can sleep for a day is when Shiva destroys the universe to create it again and thus start a new cycle.

Buddhism

Buddhism is at the same time non-theistic religious doctrine and philosophical current belonging to the Dharmic family, term from Sanskrit dharmawhose meaning is religion or religious law.

The Buddhist religion was founded by Gautama Buddha in India during the 6th century B.C. Since then, it has evolved and resulted in the creation of a wide range of schools and practices.

Buddhist monks in the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Bangkok, Thailand)

At the beginning of Buddhism, Gautama's life and doctrine were transmitted orally until they were first compiled in the Canon Pali or Tipitaka, the first written compilation of Buddhism, although a complete biographical compilation was not developed until several centuries later, specifically in the first century AD at the hands of the Hindu master Aśvaghoṣa.

The stories of the life of Buddha Gautama are not only a set of biographical data, but a guide for the life of his followers.

Buddhism encompasses a series of foundations that form the basis of Buddhist teachings. Although there is a wide range of schools and demonstrations, Buddhists share a series of philosophical principles and common concepts:

  • The Four Noble Truths: 1) life includes duḥkha, that is, suffering, dissatisfaction or discontent; 2) the origin of duḥkha is he tṛṣṇā or longing; 3) suffering or duḥkha it can be extinguished if its cause is known; 4) Once the cause is found, the method for its extinction is the Noble Eightfold Path, which comprises wisdom, cultivation of mind and heart, and ethical conduct.
  • The Three Characteristics of Existence (Tri-Laksana): This principle explains the nature of the phenomena of the perceived world, which is composed of three universal characteristics: anitya or impermanence, anātman or non-existence of a permanent ego and duḥkha or suffering
  • Karma: its meaning in Sanskrit is causality or cause and effect law. Karma would be all intentional action, since it derives one or more effects that appear when circumstances are prone. The "good" or "bad" karma are distinguished according to the origin of the actions.
Big Buddha of Ko Samui in Thailand
  • Conditioned emergence (pratītya-samutpāda): This is a very elaborate formulation that refers to the process of existing and how individuals are trapped in a cycle of suffering and, therefore, in ignorance. This cycle covers several links from the avidyā or ignorance until jarā-maraņa or death, and implies the fact that "being" is an environment that is created and destroyed moment after moment.
  • Renaissance: It should be noted that the principle of rebirth does not amount to the concept of reincarnation present in Hinduism. For Buddhism, rebirth is not seen as desirable or equivalent to a destiny of being. The road to rebirth means that the being will be freed from karma or chain of causes and effects over time.
  • Samsara: Although it is an existing concept in Hinduism and other philosophical traditions, for Buddhists it corresponds to the suffering of the material world. The human being must learn to free himself from samsara to reach nirvana, but this depends on spiritual practices and karma accumulated in previous lives.
  • Nirvana: nirvana or nirvana It is the awakening, the illumination of being. When the individual reaches this state, it means that he has managed to free himself spiritually from the duḥkha or suffering and the cycle of rebirths. In short, it is a state of supreme happiness.

Buddhism is the predominant religion in China, Mongolia and Japan, although historically it was considered the majority religion throughout Asia. The large number of countries and regions through which Buddhism has passed along its historical journey has made it a religion where there is room for endless approaches.

Big Buddha of Leshan, China

It is one of the largest religions in the world after Christianity, Islam and Hinduism, and in turn above the traditional Chinese religion. Approximately 6% of the current world population is Buddhist.

Traditional Chinese religion and Taoism

Traditional Chinese religion is rather a religious tradition in which public authorities and ordinary citizens share a series of religious practices and beliefs. These range from the veneration of the forces of nature and ancestors to the exorcism of harmful or harmful forces.

Below we mention the main concepts of traditional Chinese religion and Taoism:

  • Tian: this word means day or sky in Chinese and constitutes the absolute principle of universal reality. He Tian It is a transcendental and immanent reality.
  • Yin and yang: these are two concepts typical of Taoism that refer to the duality of all things present in the universe, that is, two opposing and complementary forces. According to this principle, every thought, being or object has a complement on which it depends to exist, which, in turn, exists within itself.
Temple of Heaven in Beijing (China)
  • Hun and po: they are the names that Chinese philosophy has granted to two different types of souls, thus forming a dualism according to which every human being has a spiritual and ethereal part (hun), at the same time as a corporeal soul that remains in the body of the deceased (po).
  • Bao ying and ming yun: the first concept can be translated as reciprocity and, according to him, all manifestations of being have a limited life time and a predetermined destiny. For its part, the ming yun It refers to the fact that nothing we can see is chance, but that everything is part of the rhythm of our destiny, which was already established before the appearance of a certain event.
  • Ling and xian ling: the idea of ling it refers, on the one hand, to the sacred and, on the other, to the supernatural power. The term Shen it is used as a synonym in the sense of spiritual. He xian ling it refers to the manifestation of a god in a specific place or in a temple.

Although with some variations, 30% of the Chinese population is a follower of the traditional Chinese religion. In Taiwan, however, it has been incorporated into Taoism's own set of beliefs, which constitutes the religion of 33% of the population. It is also present in 3% of the Malaysian population.

Sacred Mountain of Hua-Shan (China)

On the other hand, Taoism constitutes rather a philosophy of life that is fundamentally based on the Tao Te King attributed to the Chinese philosopher Lao Tsé. The main teaching of Taoism refers to the concept of CAT, which is an absolute and at the same time mutable unit that governs the cosmological and ontological principle of all things.

We have included Taoism in the same section as the traditional Chinese religion because the truth is that the latter has inherited the basic principles and spiritual doctrine of Taoism, as well as Buddhism and Confucianism, which makes them share several saints.

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