Table of World Religions

This information in this table is lifted almost entirely from the first chapter of A Tapestry of Faiths by Winfried Corduan. As time goes on it will likely morph into something different but for the present I felt I needed a rough overview of World Religions and this will serve well. I know and Corduan admits that this material does not do justice to the topic and so there will be much more to come.

The other classification systems on the Schools pages are helpful to tie together religious concepts and possible the history of the development of various sects but it imposes a notion that these religions came out of one or the other, which would likely not be admitted by adherents to any of the religions in the group.

Religion Origin Essential beliefs and practices Scriptures Major Contemporary Divisions
Judaism Many say Abraham, but the law (Torah)was given through Moses;
Formally with Moses, fifteenth century BC.
Monotheism, obedience to a divinely revealed law. The Hebrew Scriptures, containing the law, Prophets and Writings; the Tanakh (the Christian Old Testament); collections of interpretations of the law, particularly the Talmud. Orthodox, Who obey the law literally.
Conservative, who obey the law, but adapt it.
Reform, who do not consider the law binding.

That is the Hazy, Lazy and the Crazy, likely in the reverse order given above (but none of my friends will commit to which is which). Go figure.

Zoroastrianism Zoroaster, circa 6th century BC Monotheism. Conflict between God (Ahura Mazda) and the lesser evil spirit (Angra Mainyu) who opposes him.  Adherents side with Ahura Mazda through practices of ethical purity (truth and goodness) and ritual cleanliness. The Avesta, the oldest part of which (Gathas) may contain writing of Zoroaster himself. Although there are some minor distinctions in practice between some groups, based on their geographic locations (Iran vs. India primarily), none are significant.
Christianity Jesus, First century AD Trinitarian Monotheism, Jesus Christ is the messiah of the Jews--He is both God and Human, and made atonement for the sins of the human race by being crucified and resurrected. The Bible, Old and New Testaments. Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant.
Islam Muhammad (AD 570-632).  Muhammad himself claimed to be reestablishing the religion of Abraham. Monotheism, revelation of God (Allah) through the prophets and their books (the final one being Muhammad), judgment on human beings based on their obedience to God's requirements. The Qur'an and further teaching of Muhammad (Hadith).

Sunnite (the majority), who base their authority on the consensus of Muslims after Muhammad's death.

Various groups of Shi'ites, who trace their origins to Ali, Muhammad's son in law.

Baha'i Baha'ullah, initially a follower of a nineteenth-century man, "the Bab," who proclaimed himself a new gateway to god. Baha'u'llah was a Manifestation of God; unity of all religions; principles that will bring about a new world order (abolition of poverty and war; education for all human beings; a universal language, etc.) The writings of Baha'u'llah, includingThe Most Holy Book andThe Book of Certitudes. None, some early attempts at division were eliminated.
Hinduism Circa 1500 BC, religion of the Arians who invaded the Indian subcontinent; numerous subsequent developments. Extremely diverse; many different conceptions of deities with approximately equal divisions between theists and pantheists; most forms of Hinduism center on release from he endless cycle of reincarnation (samsara), which is propelled by the law of karma (resent actions have consequences for the next incarnation). The Vedas, followed by the Upanishads (Vedanta). Epic myths, particularly the Ramayana and the Mahabharata (which includes the Bhagavad Gita). Numerour Brahmanas, Sutras and Puranas. Monistic groups, who follow the pantheistic doctrines of the Vedanta.

Bhakti groups, who devote themselves to a deity or deity's manifestations. Of the latter there are three major divisions:

  • Vaishnavites, who associate themselves in various ways with the god Vishnu;
  • Shaivites, who focus on the god Shiva and his associates;
  • Shaktites, who worship a goddess (known by many names) in her various expressions.

There are uncountable other schools and sub schools.

Buddhism Guatmn Buddha, Circa 600 BC Salvation consists of, first, deliverance from they cycle of reincarnation and, second, entering a state of Nirvana. The Tripitka, "Three Baskets" (also known as the Pali canon: a large tripartite collection of writings in the Pali language), the Lotus Sutra, numerous other sutras.

Theravada (also known as Hinayana), the most traditional form of Buddhism, centering on monks.

Mahayana, a collection of many adaptive schools of Buddhism that make provisions for the laity, including schools known as Zen, Pure Land (Jodo Shinshu), Nichiren Shoshu (Soka Gakkai), Vajrayana (Tibetan), and numerous others.

Jainism Hahavira, circa 600 BC Redemption by elimination of solid karma matter from one's soul, particularly through the avoidance of any harm to living beings.  Worship of Mahavria and his predecessors, known as Tirthankaras. Diverse writings, including the Angas, a collection that is said to contains Mahavira's own writings. Digambaras (in which the monks wear no clothes) and Svetambaras(in which the monks wear loin cloths and have a few other distinctive beliefs, such as a female Tirthankara.)
Sikhism Guru Nanak, sixteenth century AD An apparent fusion of Islam and Hinduism. There is one God (the "True Name"), who is represented on earth through the holy book the Adi Granth. There will be as state of bliss after one escapes the cycle of reincarnations and karma. Adi Granth No divisions per se. Most Sikhs identify with the Khalsa, the military society in which all men carry the surname Singh, "Lion," and women are called Kaur, "Princess."
Daoism Based on the philosophy of the, perhaps legendary, Laozi, many transformations turned a quiet philosophy into a religion that stresses magic and the worship of personal gods. There is an essential harmony of yin and yang in the world, which needs to be kept in balance through correct spiritual practice. Daodejing By its vary nature, religious Daoism has tended to attach itself to other religious forms, particularly Buddhism and Confucianism.
Confucianism Confucius, circa sixth century BC An ethical system ordering one's duties and obligations in society; includes certain religious observances but does not directly address gods or rituals. Analects, other Confucian writings. None, Confucianism had made itself an underpinning of traditional Chinese, Japanese and Korean societies.
Shinto Japanese traditional religion with no definite point of origin, codified in the eighth century AD. A system of practices, not doctrines, for the regular veneration of the Kami (spiritual reality that may assume the form of personal beings). The Kojiki and Nihongi are collections of the ancient myths; the Amatsu Norito is a collection of prayers. Traditionally divided into State, Shrine and Domestic Shinto, these are merely different dimensions of the basic orientation toward the Kami. Shinto exists more often than not in fusion with Buddhist beliefs and practices; many so-called new religions in Japan incorporate Shinto concepts, and the collection of these cult like groups is called Sectarian Shinto.