Table of the Major Faiths

  Judaism Christianity Islam Hinduism Buddhism
Founder The Hebrew leader Abraham founded Judaism around 2000 B.C. Moses gave the Jews the Torah around 1250 B.C. Jesus Christ, who was crucified around A.D. 30 in Jerusalem. Muhammad, who was born in A.D. 570 at Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. Hinduism has no founder. The oldest religion, it may date to prehistoric times. Siddhartha Gautama, called the Buddha, in the 4th or 5th century B.C. in India.
How Many Gods One One One Many (all gods and goddesses are considered different forms of one Supreme Being.) None, but there are enlightened beings (Buddhas)
Holy Writings The most important are the Torah, or the first five books of Moses. Others include Judaism's oral tradition, the written form of which is known as the Talmud. The Bible is the main sacred text of Christianity. The Koran is the sacred book of Islam. The most ancient are the four Vedas. The most important are the Tripitaka, the Mahayana Sutras, Tantra, and Zen texts.
Beliefs Jews believe in the laws of God and the words of the prophets. In Judaism, however, actions are more important than beliefs. Jesus taught love of God and neighbor and a concern for justice. The Five Pillars, or main duties, are: profession of faith; prayer; charitable giving; fasting during the month of Ramadan; and pilgrimage to Mecca at least once. Reincarnation states that all living things are caught in a cycle of death and rebirth. Life is ruled by the laws of karma, in which rebirth depends on moral behavior. The Four Noble Truths: (1) all beings suffer; (2) desire—for possessions, power, and so on—causes suffering; (3) desire can be overcome; and (4) the path that leads away from desire is the Eightfold Path (the Middle Way).
Types The three main types are Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. Conservative Jews follow most traditional practices, but less strictly than the Orthodox. Reform Jews are the least traditional. In 1054 Christians separated into the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. In the early 1500s the major Protestant groups (Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Episcopalian) came into being. A variety of other groups have since developed. Almost 90% of Muslims are Sunnis. Shiites are the second-largest group. The Shiites split from the Sunnis in 632 when Muhammad died. No single belief system unites Hindus. A Hindu can believe in only one god, in many, or in none. Theravada (Way of the Elders) and Mahayana (Greater Vehicle) are the two main types.
Where There are large Jewish populations in Israel and the U.S. Through its missionary activity Christianity has spread to most parts of the globe. Islam is the main religion of the Middle East, Asia, and the north of Africa. Hinduism is practiced by more than 80% of India's population. Buddhism is the main religion in many Asian countries.

Religion Major Religions of the World

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