Major Religious Groups

The world’s spiritual traditions and primary religions may be categorized to a minute figure of major religious groups, even though this is with no means an identical practice. This kind of theory started the eighteenth century which has the aim of identifying the civility’s relative levels in societies.

The History for Having Different Religious Categories

Traditionally in the world culture, there are various religious beliefs groups. In the Indian culture, for instance, there are many traditional and distinct philosophies that were appreciated as academics distinctions in the pursuit of similar truth. In Islam, on the other hand, the Quran talks about 3 different categories which are the idol worshippers, Muslims and People of the Book.

Primarily, the Christians encompassed a plain dichotomy of the world’s beliefs: Foreign barbarity or heresy versus Christian civility. In the eighteenth century, the word “heresy” means Islam and Judaism, alongside with paganism that made a fourfold categorization which produced such works as the Jewish Gentile, Nazarenus by John Toland, Mahometan Christianity that stood the 3 Abrahamic religions being different sects or “nations” within religion itself, the “real monotheism.

An original definition was described by Daniel Defoe as, “Religion refers to the proper worship offered to God, but it is also being applied to worshipping of false Deities and Idols.” But at the time in between 1780-1810, this language was dramatically altered. Instead of using religion which is similar to spirituality, some authors started utilizing the plural form of religion—religions, to refer to Christianity and any other worship forms.

In 1838, Christianity, Mahommedanism, (Islam’s terminology), Paganism and Judaism’s 4-way division was multiplied significantly by the Analytical and Comparative View of All Religions Now Extant among Mankind of Josiah Conder. This work of Conder still remained to the 4-way classification, but he lays together more historical effort to produce something that resembles the image of modern West. He includes Yezidis, Mandeans, Elamites and Druze under a possible monotheistic group list and under the ultimate category of “pantheism and polytheism”, Conder listed Zoroastrianism, “Puranas, Tantras, Vedas, Renewed sects” of the country of India, the “Brahminical idolatry”, Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Lamaism, “religion of Japan and China” and other illiterate superstitions.

The “world religion” means in the modern world, putting Christians and non-Christians in the same level, started in Chicago’s Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1893. This parliament stimulated the development of many privately-funded sermons which has the intention of acquainting people of religions’ different experiences: these sermons funded researchers like William James, Alan Watts and D.T. Suzuki who significantly influenced the conception of people with regard to world religions.

In the middle period of the twentieth century, the world religion category fell into severe questions, most especially for creating similarities between enormously various cultures and thus, making a random division between the secular and the religious. Even professors of history have currently considered these hitches and advice against the teaching of world religions in all schools. On the other hand, there are also people who see religion’s shaping in the perspective of the nation’s state which is the “invention of traditions”.


Classification of Religion in the Western Tradition


Religious traditions tend to fall down to super groups in relative religion, arranged through mutual influence and historical origin. Abrahamic religions mainly originated from the Middle East, the Indian religions are from the religion in the East Asia and from the Indian subcontinent. Another group with a wide influence in the religions of the world are the Afro-American religion that originated from the West and Central Africa.


  • Religions in the Middle East

The largest group of religions in the Middle East are the Abrahamic religions that mainly consist of Islam, Judaism, Baha’i Faith and Christianity. Their name came from the patriarch Abraham and they are unified through the monotheism practice. As of now, approximately 3.4 billion are the avid followers of the Abrahamic religions. These religions are broadly spread throughout the world from the Southeast Asia and East regions. Various organizations of Abrahamic religions are strong proselytizers.

  • Religions in Iran partly originated from the Indo-Iranian religions that include Yazdânism, Ahl-e Haqq, Zoroastrianism and Gnosticism (Manichaeism, Mandaeism) historical traditions. It contains important overlaps with the Abrahamic traditions such as in Sufism, Babism and Baha’i Faith.
  • Indian religions also partly originated in the Indo-Euporean origins that are developed in the Greater India and more likely to share some figure of major concepts such as karma and dharma. These religions are one of the most influential religions all over the East Asia, Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia and also some isolated places in Russia. Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism are the main religions in India.
  • Religions in East Asia include various religions that use the Tao (Chinese) concept or the Do (Korean or Japanese). They consist of many Taoism, Confucianism and religions of Chinese folks and also Japanese and Korean religions influenced by the Chinese thought.
  • Religions in Africa
    • The religions in Africa are mainly consisting of the Sub-Saharan Africa’s tribal people. However, they do not include prehistoric Egyptian religion, because these considerably belong to ancient Middle East.
    • The diasporic religions in Africa are from the American countries. They are imported due to the slave trade of the Atlantic of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. This built the traditional religions in the West and Central Africa.
  • Indigenous tribal religions, found on each continent in the early times are now observed by many prearranged faiths in various parts all over the world or determined as undercurrents of major religions. This includes Asian shamanism, prehistoric African religions, tribal American religions, folk religions of the Chinese, post-war Shinto and Austronesian and traditions in the Australian Aboriginal.
  • New religious movement is the name being applied to religious faith that has emerged from the nineteenth century up to now which are often re-interpreting, syncretizing or reviving aspects of the older traditions. Included here are Eckankar, reform movement of Hindu, Pentecostalism, Ayyavazhi, polytheistic recontructionism and many others.

Largest religions


The four largest religions all over the world are the Christianity with 2.200 billion followers, Islam with 1.600 billion followers and Hinduism with 1.100 billion followers and Buddhism with 488 million followers. These religions are categorized by philosophy but religious philosophy isn’t always used as the determining factor to local practice. As the world populates every day, these four religions only get higher and higher in followers.