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Religious organizations

The world’s principal religions and spiritual traditions may be classified into a small number of major groups, although this is by no means a uniform practice. This theory began in the 18th century with the goal of recognizing the relative levels of civility in non-European societies. However, it quickly transformed into a subset of the universalist belief that all religious figures teach of a single, cross-cultural truth.

For a more comprehensive list of religions and an outline of some of their basic relationships, please see the article list of religions

In world cultures, there have traditionally been many different groupings of religious belief. In Indian culture, different religious philosophies were traditionally respected as academic differences in pursuit of the same truth. In Islam, the Qur’an mentions three different categories: Muslims, the People of the Book, and idol worshipers. Initially, Christians had a simple dichotomy of world beliefs: Christian civility versus foreign heresy or barbarity. In the 18th century, "heresy" was clarified to mean Judaism and Islam; along with outright paganism, this created a fourfold classification which spawned such works as John Toland’s Nazarenus, or Jewish, Gentile, and Mahometan Christianity, which represented the three Abrahamic traditions as different "nations" or sects within religion itself, the true monotheism.

At the turn of the 18th century, in between 1780 and 1810, the language dramatically changed: instead of "religion" being synonymous with spirituality, authors began using the plural, "religions", to refer to both Christianity and other forms of worship. This new definition was described as follows by Daniel Defoe: "Religion is properly the Worship given to God, but ’tis also applied to the Worship of Idols and false Deities."

In 1838, the four-way division of Christianity, Judaism, "Mahommedanism" and Paganism was multiplied considerably by Josiah Conder’s Analytical and Comparative View of All Religions Now Extant among Mankind. Conder’s work still adheres to the four-way classification, but in his eye for detail he puts together much historical work to create something resembling our modern Western image: he includes Druze, Yezidis, Mandeans, and Elamites under a list of possibly monotheistic groups, and under the final category, of "polytheism and pantheism", he lists Zoroastrianism, "Vedas, Puranas, Tantras, Reformed sects" of India as well as "Brahminical idolatry", Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Lamaism, "religion of China and Japan", and "illiterate superstitions".

Even through the late 19th century, it was common for Christians to view these "pagan" sects as dead traditions which preceded Christianity, "the final, complete word of God". This in no way reflected the reality of religious experience: Christians supposed these traditions to have maintained themselves in an unchanging state since whenever they were "invented", but actually all traditions survived in the words and deeds of people, some of whom could make radical new inventions without needing to create a new sect. The biggest problem in this approach was the existence of Islam, a religion which had been "founded" after Christianity, and which had been experienced by Christians as intellectual and material prosperity. By the 19th century, however, it was possible to dismiss Islam as a revelation of "the letter, which killeth", given to savage desert nomads.

The modern meaning of the phrase "world religion", putting non-Christians at the same, living level as Christians, began with the 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, Illinois. This event was sharply criticized by European Orientalists up until the 1960s as "unscientific", because it allowed religious leaders to speak for themselves instead of bowing to the superior knowledge of the Western academic. As a result its approach to world religions was not taken seriously in the scholarly world for some time. Nevertheless, the Parliament spurred the creation of a dozen privately funded lectures with the intent of informing people of the diversity of religious experience: these lectures funded researchers such as William James, D.T. Suzuki, and Alan Watts, who greatly influenced the public conception of world religions.

In the latter half of the 20th century, the category of "world religion" fell into serious question, especially for drawing parallels between vastly different cultures, and thereby creating an arbitrary separation between the religious and the secular. Even history professors have now taken note of these complications and advise against teaching "world religions" in sch

An 1883 map of the world colored divided into "Christians, Buddhists, Hindoos, Mohammedans, Fetichists".

Religious traditions fall into super-groups in comparative religion, arranged by historical origin and mutual influence. Abrahamic religions originate in the Middle East, Indian religions in India and Far Eastern religions in East Asia. Another group with supra-regional influence are African diasporic religions, which have their origins in Central and West Africa.

Religious category↓ Number of followers
(in millions)↓
Cultural tradition↓ Main regions covered
Christianity 2,000–2,200 Abrahamic religions Predominant in the Western world (Europe, the Americas, Oceania), Sub-Saharan Africa, the Philippines, and South Korea. Minorities worldwide, see Christianity by country.
Islam 1,570–1,650

Abrahamic religions Middle East, Northern Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, Western Africa, Malay Archipelago with large population centers existing in Eastern Africa, Balkan Peninsula, Russia and China.
Hinduism 828–1,000 Indian religions South Asia, Bali, Mauritius, Fiji, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, and among the overseas Indian communities.
Buddhism 400–1,500

Indian religions South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia and some regions of Russia.
Folk religions 600? None
Folk religions Africa, Asia, Americas
Chinese folk religions (including Taoism and Confucianism) 400? None

Chinese Religions East Asia, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia.
Shinto 27–65 Japanese Religions Japan
Sikhism 24–28
Indian religions Indian subcontinent, Australasia, Northern America, Southeast Asia, the United Kingdom and Western Europe.
Judaism 14–18 Abrahamic religions Israel and the worldwide Jewish diaspora (mostly North America, South America, Europe, and Asia).
Jainism 6–12 Indian religions India, and East Africa.
Bahá’í Faith 7.6–7.9
Abrahamic religions Noted for being dispersed worldwide but the top ten populations (amounting to about 60% of the Bahá’í World Faith adherents) are (in order of size of community) India, United States, Vietnam, Kenya, DR of the Congo, Philippines, Zambia, South Africa, Iran, Bolivia
Cao Dai 1–8
Vietnamese Religions Vietnam.
Cheondoism 3 Korean Religions North Korea, South Korea.
Tenrikyo 2 Japanese Religions Japan, Brazil.
Wicca 1 New Religious Movements United States, Australia, Europe, Canada.
Church of World Messianity 1 Japanese Religions Japan, Brazil
Seicho-no-Ie 0.8 Japanese Religions Japan, Brazil.
Rastafari movement 0.7 Abrahamic religions Jamaica, Caribbean, Africa.
Unitarian Universalism 0.63 New religious movements United States, Canada, Europe.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia : Religious organizations
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