Philosophy of Religion

Chapter  1. OVERVIEW

Section 5 .   Religions of the World 

There have been many forms of social and individual experience that have been characterized as religious by scholars.  Some of the forms of religious belief and association and action are no longer experienced by humans.  Others are quite actively experienced and constitute some of the most important elements in the lives of humans all over this globe. Those that are still being practiced are often termed "living". 

At the start of  this millennium there are over 6.2 billion people on the planet earth.  Most of them would declare that they are religious in some way.  Rough estimates are made that place people in the various traditions.

Here is a tabulation from and available at:

(Sizes shown are approximate estimates, and are here mainly for the purpose of ordering the groups, not providing a definitive number. This list is sociological/statistical in perspective.)  Last modified 13 June 2001.

  1. Christianity: 2 billion
  2. Islam: 1.3 billion
  3. Hinduism: 900 million
  4. Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 850 million
  5. Buddhism: 360 million
  6. Chinese traditional religion: 225 million
  7. primal-indigenous: 190 million
  8. Sikhism: 23 million
  9. Yoruba religion: 20 million
  10. Juche: 19 million
  11. Spiritism: 14 million
  12. Judaism: 14 million
  13. Baha'i: 6 million
  14. Jainism: 4 million
  15. Shinto: 4 million
  16. Cao Dai: 3 million
  17. Tenrikyo: 2.4 million
  18. Neo-Paganism: 1 million
  19. Unitarian-Universalism: 800 thousand
  20. Scientology: 750 thousand
  21. Rastafarianism: 700 thousand
  22. Zoroastrianism: 150 thousand

 This information is from : a growing collection of over 62,000 adherent statistics and religious geography citations -- references to published membership/adherent statistics and congregation statistics for over 4,200 religions, churches, denominations, religious bodies, faith groups, tribes, cultures, movements, ultimate concerns, etc.

The three religions that are proselytizing religions, seeking more members actively are: Christianity, Islam and Buddhism.  Islam is the fastest growing of the traditions and will most likely have the most adherents in the world by 2020.

Characteristics of Religion

These are the common characteristics or family traits of those members of the category or “family” of religion.  Just as with family members not every member must have every trait but most have most of the traits.  The more any human phenomena demonstrates these traits the more likely it is that it will be included into this category of social institutions known as religion.

Common Characteristics: (family traits)

  • notion of a deity or absolute, that which is of ultimate concern and importance

  • ideas on the nature of human beings

  • the idea of divine providence, destiny, fate

  • the idea and meaning of human history

  • problem of evil explained

  • description of the central problem of human life and suffering idea of an afterlife-life after death

  • a concept of the world

  • ideas of human community and ethics-a moral code

This text will present information the largest of the world's religions in chapter two.  in that presentation it should become fairly obvious how those religions do exemplify the characteristics or traits listed above that has each of them accepted as a "religion".


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© Copyright Philip A. Pecorino 2001. All Rights reserved.

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