Want to know which is the largest religion in the world? Here’s a list of the world’s largest religions ranked by the number of followers.
Even though some of these religions date back thousands or several hundreds of years, religion continues to have an integral role in today’s society.
At least 6 billion people around the world belong to some kind of religious belief, and more than 57% of the world population are either Christians or Muslims.
Christianity is the largest religion in the world with 2.4 billion followers in total. There are several denominations within the Christian beliefs where Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodox are the three main branches.
This is one of the three Abrahamic religions, and it is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. Christians believe in the holy trinity which consists of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—as “one God in three Divine Persons”.
Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world and it currently has 1.8 billion followers worldwide. Indonesia is the country with the largest number of Muslims, although Islam originated in Mecca or Medina.
Islam started some time in the 7th century during the prophet Muhammad’s life, who they believe is the last prophet of Allah. It’s also one of the Abrahamic religions and shares many similarities with Christianity and Judaism.
The holy book of Islam is known as the Quran, and there are two main branches of Muslims, Sunni, and Shia. Islam is spreading and growing particularly in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Hinduism is the largest religion in India and the third largest religion in the world with 1.1 billion followers. Contrary to the other two world-leading religions, Hinduism believes in many gods and is a so-called polytheistic religion.
Followers of Hinduism are known as Hindus, and it has been practiced in one way or another for more than 4000 years, perhaps even longer. The major scriptures of Hinduism are the Vedas and Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana, and the Āgamas.
It is mainly practiced in India, Nepal, Mauritius as well as Bali in Indonesia.
Hindus believe in Dharma (ethics/duties), Artha (prosperity/work), Kama (desires/passions) and Moksha (liberation/freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth/salvation), karma (action, intent, and consequences), Saṃsāra (cycle of death and rebirth)
Buddhism is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who lived in the 6th century BCE in modern-day India. Today, there are various branches of Buddhism around the world, where Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism are the two main teachings.
Although Buddhism is generally labeled as a religion, the founder actually said many times that it is not a religion, it’s simply a way of life. There is no central God in the Buddhist beliefs, and Siddhartha Gautama also said that he should never be worshiped.
Worldwide, there are about 500 million followers of Buddhism, primarily found in Southeast Asia. Buddhism shares many similarities with Hinduism, and it follows the Wheel of Dharma, which is the eightfold path in life to live a righteous life.
Shintoism is mainly practiced in Japan and has an estimated following of about 104 million people. The word Shinto means “Way of the gods” and the practice dates back to the 8th century.
There are more than 80,000 Shinto shrines in Japan, and it’s well-integrated into Japanese society and daily life. Another unique aspect of Shintoism is the fact that a follower doesn’t have to declare its faith publicly.
Sikhism has around 30 million followers, which mainly reside in the Punjab region. It’s one of the younger faiths among the largest religions in the world, and it is thought to have originated in the 15th century.
The followers of Sikhism are known as Sikhs, and they are often recognized by their turbans, which are sometimes mistaken as a Muslim practice, but Sikhism and Islam are not related.
In recent decades, many Sikhs have also moved to other countries such as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom which have given rise to minority populations of Sikhs outside India.
Judaism is the oldest of the Abrahamic Religions and is the main religion in Israel. There are around 15 million Jews around the world and the religion has been practiced since at least 500 BCE.
There are three main branches within Judaism, which are Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. Additionally, there are smaller Jewish sects who follow their own beliefs and interpretation of the religion.
The whole book in Judaism is known as the Torah, and their religious laws can be found in the Talmud, which contains the 613 commandments of Moses, also known as the Mosaic law.
Taoism, also known as Daoism developed around 2000 years ago in China, and today, there are some 12 million followers of the religion.
The founder of Taoism is considered to be Laozi, who is thought to have written Daodejing, which is the central text of Taoism. The followers are known to believe in the occult and the metaphysical.
In addition to the 12 million active Taoists, some additional 90 million are known to join Taoism activities from time to time.
Korean Shamanism, also known as Muism is a belief system with several deities and spirits. There are some 10 million followers of Korean Shamanism and in recent years there has been a resurgence in South Korea.
In North Korea, it’s estimated that around 16% continue to follow Muism despite the totalitarian regime of Kim Jong Un. The practice of Muism dates back to prehistoric times on the Korean peninsula before Confucianism and Buddhism were introduced.
Photo: Johnathan21 / Shutterstock.com
Confucius is regarded by many as one of the greatest humans to ever live, and Confucianism is simply based on his teachings. There are approximately 6 million Confucians in the world, and most of these reside in China.
There are 5 virtues within Confucianism:
- Jen – goodwill, empathy, generosity.
- Yi – rightness, duty as guardians of nature and humanity.
- Li – right conduct and propriety, demonstrating your inner attitude with your outward expressions.
- Chih – wisdom.
- Hsin – faithfulness and trustworthiness.
Caodaism, also known as Cao Dai is a belief system in Vietnam, which was founded by Ngo Van Chieu in 1926. There are approximately 4.4 million followers of Caodaism, primarily in the southern part of the country with Tay Ninh as its main religious center.
It’s somewhat of a mix of the largest religions in the world and the followers believe in one Supreme Being, and they put a great emphasis on peace, love, tolerance, and justice.
List of the World’s largest religions
|Religion||Number of followers|
|Korean shamanism||10 million|
More about the largest religion in the world
Christianity is the world’s most practiced religion in 2019, and experts estimate that it will remain as the largest religion in the world for many years to come.
Sometime in the future, Islam is likely to surpass Christianity considering the fact that it’s the fastest-growing religion due to more people converting in new countries as well as a growing Muslim population.
Many countries that have been Christian traditionally are seeing a decline in devotees who are more likely to become atheists or non-religious. This is particularly true in Europe, but there is also a trend with churches being closed down in the United States and Canada.
In Africa, there is a growing trend for both Christianity and Islam and a decline of traditional African religions. Most African countries have chosen either of these religions to follow, and some have a mixed religious population.
Another aspect that is worth noting when ranking the largest religions in the world is the method of measuring the number of followers.
For example, there aren’t 2.4 billion Christians who regularly attend mass or always live according to the Bible, but they still refer to Christianity as their religion. The same goes for Muslims and Hindus as well as Buddhists and all other world religions.
Our modern society doesn’t involve religion as much as it used to, which leads to a more passive approach to religious beliefs.
How many people in the world are religious?
More than 6 billion people in the world are religious in one way or another.
How many religions are there in the world?
Most scholars estimate that there are around 4200 active religions in the world.
How many atheists are in the world?
Atheism is the absence of religious belief, and it’s a growing trend in many countries, particularly in Europe. Religious experts are estimating that there are somewhere between 500 to 750 million atheists in the world.
Will Islam become the largest religion in the world?
Religious experts estimate at some point, Islam will become the largest religion in the world. This is because of a younger age and higher fertility rate among Muslims compared to Christians.
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