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Pronunciation: ri-'li-j&n
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English religioun, from Anglo-French religiun, Latin religion-, religio supernatural constraint, sanction, religious practice, perhaps from religare to restrain, tie back 

1 a : the state of a  religious<a nun in her 20th year of religion> b (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
2 : a personal set or institutionalized system of  religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
3 archaic : scrupulous conformity
4 : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

Source:Webster's Dictionary

NOUN: 1a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe. b. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship. 

2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order. 

3. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader. 

4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.


get religion Informal 

1. To become religious or devout. 

2. To resolve to end one's immoral behavior.

Source: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition


World Religion By Estimated Number of Adherents

1.Christianity: 1.8-2.1 billion

2.Islam: 1.5-1.9 billion

3.Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 1.1 billion

4.Hinduism: 1 Billion

5.Chinese traditional religion: 394 million

6.Buddhism: 376 million

7.primal-indigenous: 300 million

8.African Traditional & Diasporic: 100 million

9.Sikhism: 23 million

10.Juche: 19 million

11.Spiritism: 15 million

12.Judaism: 14 million

13.Baha'i: 7 million

14.Jainism: 4.2 million

15.Shinto: 4 million

16.Cao Dai: 4 million

17.Zoroastrianism: 2.6 million

18.Tenrikyo: 2 million

19.Neo-Paganism: 1 million

20.Unitarian-Universalism: 800 thousand

21.Rastafarianism: 600 thousand

22.Scientology: 500 thousand


Atheism is the absence of belief in any Gods or spiritual beings. The word Atheism comes from a, meaning without, and theism meaning belief in god or gods.

•Atheists don't use God to explain the existence of the universe.
•Atheists say that human beings can devise suitable moral codes to live by without the aid of Gods or scriptures.
Reasons for non-belief
People are atheist for many reasons, among them:

•They find insufficient evidence to support any religion.
•They think that religion is nonsensical.
•They once had a religion and have lost faith in it.
•They live in a non-religious culture.
•Religion doesn't interest them.
•Religion doesn't seem relevant to their lives.
•Religions seem to have done a lot of harm in the world.
•The world is such a bad place that there can't be a God.
Many atheists are also secularist, and are hostile to any special treatment given to organised religion.

It is possible to be both atheist and religious. Virtually all Buddhists manage it, as do some adherents of other religions,such as Judaism and Christianity.


Buddhism is a spiritual tradition that focuses on personal spiritual development and the attainment of a deep insight into the true nature of life.

Buddhism teaches that all life is interconnected, so compassion is natural and important.

•Buddhism is 2,500 years old
•There are currently 376 million followers worldwide
•There are around 151, 816 Buddhists in Britain according to the 2001 census
•Buddhism arose as a result of Siddhartha Gautama's quest for Enlightenment in around the 6th Century BCE
•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
•Buddhism is a very colourful faith with many festivals throughout the year
•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.


Christianity was founded in the early 1st century AD, with the teaching, miracles, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

The central teachings of traditional Christianity are that Jesus is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit ; that his life on earth, his crucifixion, resurrection , and ascension into heaven are proof of God's love for humanity and God's forgiveness of human sins; and that by faith in Jesus one may attain salvation and eternal life (see creed ). This teaching is embodied in the Bible , specifically in the New Testament, but Christians accept also the Old Testament as sacred and authoritative Scripture.

•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:
•God the Father
•God the Son
•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


Islam  is a monotheistic religion based upon the teachings of Muhammad, a 7th century Arab religious and political figure. It is the second-largest religion in the world today, with an estimated 1.4 billion adherents, known as Muslims.

Muslims believe that God revealed his final message to humanity through Muhammad ibn Abdullah (c. 570 - July 6, 632) via the angel Gabriel on numerous occasions between the years 610 and his death on July 6, 632. Muhammad is considered to have been God's final prophet, the "Seal of the Prophets". The revelations Muhammad preached form the holy book of Islam, the Qur'an. The Qur'an is believed to be the flawless final revelation of God to humanity, valid until the day of the Resurrection.

  • Muslims believe that Islam was revealed to humanity by the Prophet Muhammad

  • Muhammad was a human being, not a god

  • Islam says all Muslims are equal before God, and all Muslims belong to one community, regardless of ethnic or national background. 

  •  Islam was founded by the prophet Mohammed, who Muslims believe was the last and most important in a series of prophets, including Abraham, Moses and Jesus.

  • Muslims believe that there is only one god. The Arabic word for God is Allah

  • The word Islam means submission to God

  • The Muslim scripture is the Holy Qur'an (Koran)which means "the timeless words of God." It has 114 chapters and comprises the main teachings of Islam.

  • The Muslim building for communal worship is called a Mosque

  • The Five Pillars of Islam are practices through which Muslims put their faith into action:

    • Shahadah: declaration of faith
    • Salat: ritual prayer 5 times a day
    • Zakat: giving a fixed proportion to charity
    • Sawm: fasting
    • Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca
  • Muslims are from many different nations and races
  • There are two main groups of Muslims:
    • Sunni Muslims make up 90% of the world's Muslims
    • The other main group are the Shi'ite Muslims
  • Islamic law forbids the artistic representation of God, the prophets and -- sometimes -- of human beings in general.

    Divisions of Islam 


    The Sunni are the largest group in Islam. In Arabic, as-Sunnah literally means "principle" or "path." The sunnah, or example of Muhammad is described as a main pillar of Sunni doctrine, with the place of hadith having been argued by scholars as part of the sunnah. Sunnis recognize four major legal traditions, or madhhabs: Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanafi, and Hanbali. All four accept the validity of the others and a Muslim might choose any one that he/she finds agreeable to his/her ideas. There are also several orthodox theological or philosophical traditions. The more recent Salafi movement among Sunnis, adherents of which often refuse to categorize themselves under any single legal tradition, sees itself as restorationist and claims to derive its teachings from the original sources of Islam.


    Shi'a Muslims, the second-largest branch of Islam, differ from the Sunni in rejecting the authority of the first three caliphs. They honor different accounts of Muhammad (hadith) and have their own legal traditions. The concept of Imamah, or leadership, plays a central role in Shi'a doctrine. Shi'a Muslims hold that leadership should not be passed down through a system such as the caliphate, but rather, descendants of Muhammad should be given this right as Imams. Furthermore, they believe that the first Imam, Ali ibn Abu Talib, was explicitly appointed by Muhammad to be his successor.


    Sufism is a mystical form of Islam followed by some Muslims within both the Sunni and Shi'a sects. Sufis generally believe that following Islamic law is only the first step on the path to perfect submission; they focus on the internal or more spiritual aspects of Islam, such as perfecting one's faith and subduing one's own ego. Most Sufi orders, or tariqas, can be classified as either Sunni or Shi'a. However, there are some that are not easily categorized as either Sunni or Shi'a, such as the Bektashi. Sufis are found throughout the Islamic world, from Senegal to Indonesia. Their innovative beliefs and actions often come under criticism from Salafis, who consider certain practices to be against the letter of Islamic law.


Judaism is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people. Originating in the Hebrew Bible (also known as the Tanakh) and explored in later texts such as the Talmud, it is considered by Jews to be the expression of the covenantal relationship God developed with the Children of Israel. According to traditional Rabbinic Judaism, God revealed his laws and commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai in the form of both the Written and Oral Torah. 

•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.
There are many people who identify themselves as Jewish without necessarily believing in, or observing, any Jewish law.

There are 20 million Sikhs in the world, most of whom live in the Punjab province of India. 

Sikhism was founded in the 16th century in the Punjab district of what is now India and Pakistan. It was founded by Guru Nanak and is based on his teachings, and those of the 9 Sikh gurus who followed him.

The most important thing in Sikhism is the internal religious state of the individual.

•Sikhism is a monotheistic religion
•Sikhism stresses the importance of doing good actions rather than merely carrying out rituals
•Sikhs believe that the way to lead a good life is to:
•keep God in heart and mind at all times
•live honestly and work hard
•treat everyone equally
•be generous to the less fortunate
•serve others
•The Sikh place of worship is called a Gurdwara
•The Sikh scripture is the Guru Granth Sahib, a book that Sikhs consider a living Guru
The tenth Sikh Guru decreed that after his death the spiritual guide of the Sikhs would be the teachings contained in that book, so the Guru Granth Sahib now has the status of a Guru, and Sikhs show it the respect they would give to a human Guru.

The community of men and women who have been initiated into the Sikh faith is the Khalsa. The Khalsa celebrated its 300th anniversary in 1999.

Guru Gobind Singh decreed that where Sikhs could not find answers in the Guru Granth Sahib, they should decide issues as a community, based on the principles of their scripture.


Hinduism is the religion of the majority of people in India and Nepal. 

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.

•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.


Taoism is an ancient tradition of philosophy and religious belief that is deeply rooted in Chinese customs and worldview. Taoism is also referred to as Daoism, which is a more accurate way of representing in English the sound of the Chinese word. Taoism is about the Tao. This is usually translated as the Way. But it's hard to say exactly what this means. The Tao is the ultimate creative principle of the universe. All things are unified and connected in the Tao. •Taoism originated in China 2000 years ago •It is a religion of unity and opposites; Yin and Yang. The principle of Yin Yang sees the world as filled with complementary forces - action and non-action, light and dark, hot and cold, and so on •The Tao is not God and is not worshipped. Taoism includes many deities, that are worshipped in Taoist temples, they are part of the universe and depend, like everything, on the Tao •Taoism promotes: •achieving harmony or union with nature •the pursuit of spiritual immortality •being 'virtuous' (but not ostentatiously so) •self-development •Taoist practices include: •meditation •feng shui •fortune telling •reading and chanting of scriptures

Credit: CIA Worldbook,The BBC