Religion: Concept, History, Types and Examples

We explain what religion is and the types of religions that exist. Also, the history of these beliefs and the main religions.

There are an estimated 4000 different religions in the world.

What is religion?

Religion is understood as a set of cultural beliefs, behaviors and values, ethical and social, through which a human collective shares a vision of the world and of existence, and is linked to an idea of ​​the sacred, the transcendent, that is, they give meaning and value to the experience of living.

Religions played a key role in the earliest stages of human civilization, as matrices of a moral, ethical, social or political code, and even of an exercise of law (jurisprudence), through which each human civilization built its lifestyle and its specific concept of duty, all under the idea of that there would be one or more vigilant gods, capable of giving terrible punishment or just reward.

On the other hand, religions provided man with a method to inherit from his descendants a sense of community and belonging, as well as a specific belief regarding the creation of the world, of life and with what happens after death.

Most religions hold dogmas regarding these momentous issues and are based on the teachings of a founding prophet, usually contained in a holy book (such as the Bible, the Koran, etc.).

There are an estimated 4000 different religions in the world, and each one has its communion rites, its sacred places of pilgrimage, its symbols of faith and its mythology and conception of the divine.

In many cases this means a pantheon of deities, in others an abstract and omnipresent entity. The majority, however, profess the faith as one of their highest values, and distinguishes the followers of their philosophy from the practitioners of other creeds or, also, from those who profess none (called atheists or agnostics).

Types of religions

Monotheistic religions believe in the existence of a unique God.

It is common to distinguish between three types of religious doctrines, according to their particular conception of God and the divine. These types are:

  • Religions monotheists. They are those religions that believe in the existence of a unique God, creator of the universe, and defend their moral and existential codes as the only ones, universal and true. A good example of this is Islam or Orthodox Christianity.
  • Religions politheists. Instead of a single God, they believe in a more or less hierarchical pantheon of deities, to whom they attribute dominion over the various aspects of human life and nature. A good example of this is the religion of the ancient Greeks, which survived in their literature and mythology.
  • Religions panteists. In this case the religions defend that both the creator and the creation, that is, both the physical and the spiritual world, have the same substance and respond to a unique philosophy. A good example of them is Taoism.
  • Non-theists. They do not postulate the existence of creators and creations, but of universal laws that govern human existence. Zen Buddhism is a good example of this.

History of religion

Religion has accompanied man since the dawn of time and its appearance, however primitive, represents an important step towards building a civilization of your own. Funeral rites, annual festivities and other rites of commemoration of existence are part of its most important manifestations.

Religion played a vital role in the constitution of the first hierarchical societies and the first monarchies, from Ancient Egypt, the Ancient Mayans and Chinese civilization.

It motivated wars, cultural exchanges and architectural developments throughout the world, until in the western nations it was confronted with the rationalist thought of the Enlightenment, in the seventeenth century, and finally lost the battle for political control, becoming today in most countries a related issue to cultural identity and citizen privacy, away from the government and the new secular state.

Major world religions

Christianity has 33.06% of faithful in the world.

The main religions of the world according to their number of followers are:

  • Christianity. With 33.06% of the faithful in the world, it is the majority religion today, grouping its different sects such as Catholicism, Protestantism and evangelical churches.
  • Islam. The sister religion of Christianity, of Asian origin, has 20.28% of the world’s faithful in its various expressions, more or less orthodox. It has become infamous in the early 21st century by radical Islamic factions like the Islamic State.
  • Hinduism. With 13.33% of the faithful, the Hindi religion survives despite the conditions of economic and cultural colonialism suffered by its cradle, the nation of India, during the 19th and part of the 20th centuries.
  • Chinese religion. The traditional Chinese religion is the one with the most followers (6.27% of the world) in its territory, despite being a mixed religion whose practices are not always uniform, and present a high degree of syncretism.
  • Buddhism. With 5.87% of the total faithful, Buddhism is the fifth largest religion in the world.