- Buddhism currently has about 376 million followers and is generally listed as the world’s fourth largest religion after Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. It was founded in Northern India by Siddhartha Gautama (circa 563 to 460 BCE).
- To many, Buddhism goes beyond religion and is more of a philosophy or ‘way of life’. It is a philosophy because philosophy ‘means love of wisdom’ and the Buddhist path can be summed up as:(1) to lead a moral life,
(2) to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and
(3) to develop wisdom and understanding.
- The three largest groups in the world of Christianity are the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox churches, and the various churches of Protestantism. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox patriarchates split from one another in the East-West Schism of 1054 AD, and Protestantism came into existence during the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, splitting from the Roman Catholic Church.
- As of the early 21st century, Christianity has around 2.2 billion adherents. Christianity represents about a quarter to a third of the world’s population and is the world’s largest religion.
- The Kaaba, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is the center of Islam. Muslims from all over the world gather there to pray in unity.
- With about 1.57 billion Muslims comprising about 23% of the world’s population, Islam is the second-largest religion and arguably the fastest-growing religion in the world.
- Muslims also believe that Islam is the complete and universal version of a primordial faith that was revealed at many times and places before, including through the prophets Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.
- The Five Pillars of Islam are 5 simple rules or 5 obligations that every Muslim must satisfy. 1. The shahadah, which is the basic creed of Islam that must be recited wholeheartedly with the statement: “I testify that there is none worthy of worship except God and I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” This testament is a foundation for all other beliefs and practices in Islam. Muslims must repeat the shahadah in prayer, and non-Muslims wishing to convert to Islam are required to recite the creed.2. Salah (daily prayers)
3. Sawm (fasting during the month of Ramadan every year)
4. Zakat (alms-giving)
5. Hajj (once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca)
- Judaism claims a historical continuity spanning more than 3000 years. It is one of the oldest monotheistic religions, and the oldest to survive into the present day.
- In 2007, the world Jewish population was estimated at 13 million, of whom about 40% reside in Israel and 40% in the United States.
- Shabbat, the weekly day of rest lasting from shortly before sundown on Friday night to nightfall Saturday night, commemorates God’s day of rest after six days of creation.
- Major religious holidays include Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Hanukkah, historically a minor holiday, has become more prominent in the last century for Jews who live in areas that celebrate Christmas.
- At the age of 13 (12 for girls), a boy becomes a Bar Mitzvah, or “Son of the Commandment” and a girl becomes a Bat Mitzvah, “Daughter of the Commandment.” The occasion is marked by the youth’s first public reading of the Torah in the synagogue (only boys may do this in Orthodox congregations), followed by a large and joyous celebration.