List of religions and spiritual traditions

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Religion is a collection of cultural systems, beliefs, and world views that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes to moral values. While religion is hard to define, one standard model of religion, used in religious studies courses, was proposed by Clifford Geertz, who simply called it a "cultural system."[1] A critique of Geertz's model by Talal Asad categorized religion as "an anthropological category."[2] Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions, and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws, or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.[3]

The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system", but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect. Most religions have organized behaviors, including clerical hierarchies, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, congregations of laity, regular meetings or services for the purposes of veneration of a deity or for prayer, holy places (either natural or architectural), and/or religious texts. Certain religions also have a sacred language often used in liturgical services. The practice of a religion may also include sermons, commemoration of the activities of a god or gods, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, initiations, funerals, marriages, meditation, music, art, dance, public service, or other aspects of human culture. Religious beliefs have also been used to explain parapsychological phenomena such as out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences and reincarnation, along with many other paranormal experiences.[4][5]

Some academics studying the subject have divided religions into three broad categories: world religions, a term which refers to transcultural, international faiths; indigenous religions, which refers to smaller, culture-specific or nation-specific religious groups; and new religious movements, which refers to recently developed faiths.[6] One modern academic theory of religion, social constructionism, says that religion is a modern concept that suggests all spiritual practice and worship follows a model similar to the Abrahamic religions as an orientation system that helps to interpret reality and define human beings,[7] and thus religion, as a concept, has been applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures that are not based upon such systems, or in which these systems are a substantially simpler construct.

Abrahamic religions

Main article: Abrahamic religions

A group of monotheistic traditions sometimes grouped with one another for comparative purposes, because all refer to a patriarch named Abraham.


Main article: Bábism

Bahá'í Faith

Main article: Bahá'í Faith


Main article: Christianity
Western Christianity
Main article: Roman Catholic Church
Main article: Protestantism
Eastern Christianity

Other Christian

Certain Christian groups are difficult to classify as "Eastern" or "Western."

No-longer-extant Christian groups

Latter-Day Saints movement (Mormonism)


Many Gnostic groups were closely related to early Christianity, for example, Valentinism. Irenaeus wrote polemics against them from the standpoint of the then-unified Catholic Church.[8]

Main article: Gnosticism

The Yazidis are a syncretic Kurdish religion with a Gnostic influence:

Persian Gnosticism
Syrian-Egyptic Gnosticism

None of these religions are still extant.

Neo-Gnostic Groups


Main article: Islam
Kalam (philosophical schools)
Main article: Ilm al-Kalam
Main article: Khawarij
Shia Islam
Main article: Shia Islam
Main article: Sufism

Recent Sufi groups

Sunni Islam
Main article: Sunni Islam
Universalist movements
Main article: Islamism
Main article: Quranism
Black Muslims
Main article: Ahmadiyya
Other Islamic groups
Sufi and Shia Sects


Main article: Druze

Judaism and related religions

Main article: Judaism
Rabbinic Judaism
Main article: Rabbinic Judaism
Karaite Judaism
Main article: Karaite Judaism
Main article: Samaritans

Samaritans use a slightly different version of the Pentateuch as their Torah, worshiping at Mount Gerizim instead of Jerusalem, and are possibly the descendants of the lost Northern Kingdom. They are definitely of ancient Israelite origin, but their status as Jews is disputed.[9]

Falasha or Beta Israel
Main article: Noahidism

Noahidism is a monotheistic ideology based on the Seven Laws of Noah, and on their traditional interpretations within Rabbinic Judaism. According to Jewish law, non-Jews are not obligated to convert to Judaism, but they are required to observe the Seven Laws of Noah.

Historical groups

Second Temple Judaism

Black Hebrew Israelites

Rastafari movement

Main article: Rastafari movement

Mandaeans and Sabians

Main articles: Mandaeism and Sabians


Indian religions

Main article: Indian religions

Indian religions are the religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent; namely Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism and religions and traditions related to, and descended from, them.

Bhakti movement

Main article: Bhakti movement


Main article: Schools of Buddhism

Din-e Ilahi


Main article: Hinduism
Major schools and movements of Hindu philosophy
Main article: Hindu philosophy


Main article: Jainism



Main article: Sikhism

Iranian religions

Main article: Iranian religions


Main article: Zoroastrianism

Gnostic religions

Bábí movement


Main article: Yazdânism

East Asian religions

Main article: East Asian religions


Main article: Confucianism


Main articles: Shinto and Shinto sects and schools

Shinto-inspired religions


Main article: Taoism

Contemporary Taoism-inspired religions





African diasporic religions

African diasporic religions are a number of related religions that developed in the Americas among African slaves and their descendants in various countries of the Caribbean Islands and Latin America, as well as parts of the southern United States. They derive from African traditional religions, especially of West and Central Africa, showing similarities to the Yoruba religion in particular.

Mesoamerican religions

Indigenous traditional religions

See also: Paganism and Folk religion

Traditionally, these faiths have all been classified "Pagan", but scholars prefer the terms "indigenous/primal/folk/ethnic religions".


Northern Africa
West Africa
Central Africa
East Africa
Southern Africa

North American




Cargo cults

Main article: Cargo cults

Historical polytheism

Further information: Prehistoric religion and History of religion

Ancient Near Eastern



Main article: Hellenistic religion


Mysticism and occult

Esotericism and mysticism

Main articles: Esotericism and Mysticism

Western mystery tradition

Occult and magic

Modern Paganism

Main article: Modern paganism



See also: Ethnic religion

New religious movements


See also: Ethnic religion



Native American

New Thought

Main article: New Thought


Left-hand path religions

Post-theistic and naturalistic religions


Parody or mock religions

Fictional religions

Other categorisations

By demographics

By area

Further information: Religion geography

See also


  1. (Clifford Geertz, Religion as a Cultural System, 1973)
  2. (Talal Asad, The Construction of Religion as an Anthropological Category, 1982.)
  3. "World Religions Religion Statistics Geography Church Statistics". Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  5. "Key Facts about Near-Death Experiences". Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  6. Harvey, Graham (2000). Indigenous Religions: A Companion. (Ed: Graham Harvey). London and New York: Cassell. Page 06.
  7. Vergote, Antoine, Religion, belief and unbelief: a psychological study, Leuven University Press, 1997, p. 89
  8. "Irenaeus of Lyons". Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  9. "Samaritans". Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  10. Melton, J. Gordon (2003). Encyclopedia of American Religions (Seventh edition). Farmington Hills, Michigan: The Gale Group, Inc., p. 1112. ISBN 0-7876-6384-0
  11. Melton, J. Gordon (2003). Encyclopedia of American Religions (Seventh edition). Farmington Hills, Michigan: The Gale Group, Inc., p. 1001. ISBN 0-7876-6384-0
  12. Melton, J. Gordon (2003). Encyclopedia of American Religions (Seventh edition). Farmington Hills, Michigan: The Gale Group, Inc., p. 997. ISBN 0-7876-6384-0
  13. Melton, J. Gordon (2003). Encyclopedia of American Religions (Seventh edition). Farmington Hills, Michigan: The Gale Group, Inc., p. 1004. ISBN 0-7876-6384-0
  14. 1 2 "Welcome to Jainworld - Jain Sects - tirthankaras, jina, sadhus, sadhvis, 24 tirthankaras, digambara sect, svetambar sect, Shraman Dharma, Nirgranth Dharma". Retrieved 2012-04-24.
  15. Smith, Christian; Joshua Prokopy (1999). Latin American Religion in Motion. New York: Routledge, pp. 279-280. ISBN 978-0-415-92106-0
  16. Melton, J. Gordon (2003). Encyclopedia of American Religions (Seventh edition). Farmington Hills, Michigan: The Gale Group, Inc., p. 841. ISBN 0-7876-6384-0

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