Life – Terror. Ecstasy. Fight. Denial. Flight. Failure. PAIN. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Hope. Love. Peace – Death.

There are an estimated 10,000 distinct religions worldwide

About 84% of the world’s population is affiliated with Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or some form of folk religion.

In religious studies and folkloristics, folk religion, popular religion, or vernacular religion comprises various forms and expressions of religion that are distinct from the official doctrines and practices of organized religion. The precise definition of folk religion varies among scholars.

The 12 major religions of the world – Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Taoism, Judaism, Confucianism, Bahá’í, Shinto, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism.

Major religious groups

  • Christianity (31.2%)
  • Islam (24.1%)
  • Hinduism (15.1%)
  • Buddhism (6.9%)
  • Folk religions (5.7%)
  • Sikhism (0.29%)
  • Judaism (0.18%)

Which Religion is the Oldest?

The oldest religion is Hinduism. Hindu is an exonym, and while Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, many practitioners refer to their religion as Sanātana Dharma (Sanskrit: सनातन धर्म: “the Eternal Way“), which refers to the idea that its origins lie beyond human history, as revealed in the Hindu texts.

There are 33 Million Gods of Hinduism.

Why Hindus worship so many gods and goddesses is a real mystery for most people. In the West, where the mass majority of people are part of the Abrahamic faith tradition with one God, the concept of polytheism is nothing more than fantasy or mythology worthy of comic book material.

Monotheism is distinguished from henotheism, a religious system in which the believer worships one god without denying that others may worship different gods with equal validity, and monolatrism, the recognition of the existence of many gods but with the consistent worship of only one deity.

Encyclopedia of Gods offers concise information on more than 2,500 of these deities, from the most ancient gods of polytheistic societies – Hittite, Sumerian, Mesopotamian – to the most contemporary gods of the major monotheistic religions – Allah, God, Yahweh. Among the cultures included are African peoples, Albanian, Pre-Islamic Arabian, Aztec, Babylonian, Buddhist, Canaanite, Celtic, Egyptian, Native American, Etruscan, Germanic, Greek, Roman, Hindu, Persian, Polynesian, and Shinto.

The Encyclopedia includes not only the most significant gods of each culture but minor deities as well. Here you will find information not only on Zeus, Thor and Astarte but also on Tozi, the Aztec goddess of healing, Annamurti, the Hindu patron deity of the kitchen, and Nyakaya, the Shilluk crocodile goddess.

Each entry provides details on what culture worshiped the god, the role of the god, and the characteristics and symbols used in identification. In the case of the more important personalities, references in art and literature and known dates of worship are also provided. Indexes by civilization and role of the god enable the researcher to compare gods across cultures or to find information on specific topics of interest.

Religion v Faith?

The terms religion and faith are sometimes used interchangeably, to mean a practice or system of belief. For instance, the description faith group is used to mean a community that practices the same religion. However, when unpacked and carefully considered, each term carries its own separate, singular meaning. Religion is a system of faith and worship. It is the structure that organises one’s devotion to something. Faith, conversely, describes one’s inward belief in a doxology or teaching, based on their personal conviction, trust and confidence in something or someone.

In essence, religion is knowing the Our Father prayer off head, while faith is knowing that God hears and will answer your prayers. A cynic or sceptic could argue that it essentially boils down to this: faith is controlled by the whims of an individual, while religion is ordered by a collective, controlling, dictator-like organisation or, in some cases, single person. That is, the private vs. public practice of belief.

Bear Grylls recently discussed his journey to disentangle his faith from religion, now viewing faith as the more personal, people-focused aspect of belief. Furthermore, the crimes of large-scale organised religion, the invocation of God for political gains, and the tragic histories which have come as a result have led many people to prefer to identify as a person of faith, or just spiritual, rather than as a religious person.

On the other hand, some desire to hold on to religion through the preservation of old buildings and practice of traditions such as baptisms and baby naming ceremonies, only without the faith and devotion to God that these practices are tied to.

They seek to retain the perceived benefits of religion without attaching to their behaviour the private, personal connotations of faith.  Both sides of this spectrum are extreme and, ultimately, empty. 

Religion and faith are not mutually exclusive.

At least, they do not have to be. The existence of one in someone’s life does not mean that they cannot also have the other, wherever they are in their faith journey. The amount of public debate, online think pieces and potential for private contemplation over one’s personal decision about their faith and/or religion can be overwhelming and leave most not wanting to associate with either faith or religion.

To help drown out the noise, let’s look at the example of one, specific prominent religious, and spiritual, figure: Jesus. According to the Bible, Jesus was without sin, i.e. He did not break any rules for living a holy life by God’s standard. However, Jesus was hated by the religious authorities of His day, who considered Him a blasphemous rebel, that is, bad at religion. However, we cannot forget that Jesus knew and understood scripture thoroughly.

Indeed, the Bible teaches that we need both. Being spiritual, or having faith, without a religious doctrine is like using a compass that does not have a hand or magnetic field, so ultimately leads you nowhere. On the other hand, religion without faith in God is just as dangerous, because it is vacant, unfruitful, and against God’s desire for our lives. God wants to commune with us in a relationship with Him, through Jesus Christ. This relationship shapes our character and desires in a way that points back to Him.

Agnosticism is the view that the existence of God, of the divine or the supernatural is unknown or unknowable. … Agnosticism is the doctrine or tenet of agnostics with regard to the existence of anything beyond and behind material phenomena or to knowledge of a First Cause or God, and is not a religion.

What’s the difference between religion and spirituality? …

Religion – is a specific set of organised beliefs and practices, usually shared by a community or group. 

Spirituality – is more of an individual practice, and has to do with having a sense of peace and purpose.

It also turns out that people who have religious or spiritual beliefs are happier than those who don’t, no matter what their beliefs. Religious beliefs, “give people a sense of meaning.” It also gives them a social network”  “It gives a sense of well being or comfort.”

Spiritual but not religious” (SBNR), also known as “Spiritual but not affiliated” (SBNA), is a popular phrase and initialism used to self-identify a life stance of spirituality that takes issue with organized religion as the sole or most valuable means of furthering spiritual growth.

Religious Conflicts

Religion is a powerful force in the world, so it’s not surprising it has resulted in tremendous conflict throughout history. One of the most notable conflicts stemming from religious differences were the Crusades, taking place between Christian Europe and the Muslim-controlled Middle East region between the 11th and 15th centuries. Under the leadership of Pope Urban II, Christians in Europe sought to regain control of the Holy Land, what is now Israel, which at that time was Muslim-controlled territory. The Crusades were actually a series of wars, with some being more successful than others.

The Thirty Years War, taking place between 1618 and 1648, is another example of a religious conflict, this time fought primarily between Catholic and Protestant Christians. The war broke out when the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand II, tried to impose Roman Catholicism on all his subjects, causing Protestant Christians to rebel. Many of the battles were fought on German soil, but numerous European countries were involved in the war, including Sweden, France, Spain, and Austria. The war involved widespread atrocities and resulted in millions of casualties. The Peace of Westphalia ended the conflict, and ultimately reshaped the European map, allowing for the emergence of new nation-states.

Today we can see that religious conflict continues.

This is especially true in the Middle East, where various religious groups compete for territory and influence. Terrorist groups like ISIS are usually considered to be motivated by religion. In other places, however, religious conflict is avoided through compromise and negotiation.

The country of India, for example, has a diverse religious make-up, including Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and others. In many democracies the United States, the  we’re fortunate to UK we can practice the religion of our choice freely. ….this is not always the same in ‘other’ countries, where’some’ religions are banned. Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan have significant restrictions against the practice of religion in general, and other countries like China discourage it on a wide basis. Several countries in Asia establish a state religion, with Islam (usually Sunni Islam) being the most common, followed by Buddhism.

According to the Encyclopedia of Wars, out of all 1,763 known/recorded historical conflicts, 123, or 6.98%, had religion as their primary cause. The total of deaths is between 16 million and 31 million deaths due to religion in recorded history. By comparison, 60 million people died in World War II. 

Thanks for Reading


Published by Riff

Husband to my inspirational, (long suffering,) wife Gail, father to two, amazing (adult) children, Aubrey & Perri, teacher, former guitarist. When I started this blog I quickly became granda(r) to my beautiful, first grandson Henderson. Grandparenting, something I was relishing but had began to believe I would not get to experience. I now have three incredible grandsons, Henderson, Fennec and just days ago Nate. I Love people. I love my family, my incredible friends, I have love(d) what I do (my Job), I love Music, Glastonbury Festival, Cars, Everton .... I love many things but, most of all, I fucking love life.

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