A religion It is a set of cultural, ethical and social behaviors and practices that constitute a worldview and link humanity with an idea of the sacred and timeless, that is, they provide a sense of transcendence to the experience of living. For instance: Buddhism, Judaism, Islam.
Religions played a key role in the early stages of civilization, since they often reveal a moral code, ethical and even a jurisprudence, through which a lifestyle and a specific concept of the duty or purpose of existence is built.
It is estimated that there are around 4000 religions different in the world, each one with its communion rituals, its sacred places, its symbols of faith and its own mythology and its own conception of the divine, the sacred and of its God (or its Gods).
Most profess the faith as one of the highest human values, since they are dogmatic in nature (it is believed without question) and distinguishes the followers of its specific philosophy from the practitioners of other creeds or, also, from the atheists or agnostics.
This concept generally evokes a mixture of hope, devotion, charity and other virtues considered spiritually elevated or enlightening, but it has also served as ideological support for bloody wars, persecutions, discrimination and even governments, as is the case of theocracy. Catholic during medieval Europe and its “Most Holy” Inquisition.
At present it is asserted that around a 59% of the world population professes some type of religion, although many people profess multiple religions or diverse religious practices and rituals at the same time, regardless of the specific cultural tradition they obey and whether their creed allows it or not. This is one of the forms of the call cultural syncretism.
Types of religions
Commonly, three types of religious doctrines are distinguished, according to their conception of God and the divine, namely:
- Monotheists. This is the name given to the religions that profess the existence of a unique God, creator of all things, and defend their moral and existential code as the universal and true one. A good example of this is Islam.
- Polytheists. Instead of a single God, these religions create a hierarchical pantheon of deities to whom they attribute the rulership of various aspects of human life and the universe. An example of this was the religion of the ancient Hellenic Greeks, embodied in their rich literature.
- Pantheists. In this case, religions maintain that both creator and creation, both the world and the spiritual, have the same substance and respond to a single or universal essence. An example of them is Taoism.
- Non-theists. Finally, these religions do not postulate the existence of creators and creations as such, but of universal laws that govern human spirituality and existence. Buddhism is a good example of this.
Examples of religions
- Buddhism. Originally from India, this non-theistic religion often attributes its teachings to Gautama Buddha (Sidarta Gautama or Sakyamuni), a sage whose doctrine aspired to a balance between asceticism and deprivation, and indulgence in the sensual. The religion spread throughout much of Asia, and that is why today it is the fourth largest religion in the world, with 500 million followers in two different tendencies: Theravada and Mahayana. It has a large number of schools and interpretations, as well as ritual practices and paths of enlightenment, since it does not have a God dictating sentence to his faithful.
- Catholicism. Main sect of Christianity in the West, organized more or less around the Catholic Church based in the Vatican and represented by the Pope. He has in common with all Christians the faith in Jesus Christ as the messiah and son of God, and they await his second coming, which will mean the final judgment and the leading of his faithful to eternal salvation. Its sacred text is The Bible (both new and old testaments). One sixth of the world’s population is Catholic and so are more than half of the world’s Christians (more than 1.2 billion faithful).
- Anglicanism. Anglicanism is the name of Christian doctrines in England, Wales and Ireland after the reform suffered by Catholicism in the 16th century (known as the Protestant Reformation). Anglican churches place their faith in the Bible, but reject the future of the church of Rome, so they gather around the Archbishop of Canterbury. They are known in their entirety as the Anglican Communion, a front of 98 million faithful around the world.
- Lutheranism. Known as the Protestant movement, it is a sect that adheres to the teachings of Martin Luther (1438-1546) on Christian doctrine, known as the Protestant Reformation, from which they were the first group to emerge. Although there is not really a Lutheran church, but a group of evangelical churches, its number of followers is estimated to reach 74 million faithful and, like Anglicanism, it accepts the faith of Jesus Christ but rejects the papacy and the the need for a priesthood, since all the faithful can act as such.
- Islam. One of the three great monotheistic religious strands, along with Christianity and Judaism, whose sacred text is the Koran and Muhammad its prophet. While recognizing other texts such as the Torah and the Gospels as sacred, Islam is governed by the teachings (the Sunna) of his prophet, according to two currents of interpretation called Chiita and Sunni. It is estimated that there are around 1200 million Muslims in the world of more or less radical currents in their attachment to religious principles, which makes it the second religion with the most faithful in the world.
- Judaism. This is the name given to the religion of the Jewish people, the oldest of the three great monotheists, despite being the one with the least number of faithful professed (about 14 million). Its base text is the Torah, although there is no complete body of the laws of this religion, but it is part of the so-called Old Testament of Christians. However, the Jewish religion unifies its faithful as a belief, a cultural tradition, and a nation, profoundly distinguishing them from the rest.
- Hinduism. This religion belongs mainly to India and Nepal, and is the third religion with the most faithful in the world: about one billion followers. It is actually a set of different dogmas, grouped under the same name, without a single founder or any type of central organization, but a multicultural tradition called the dharma. This is the reason why Hinduism, like Judaism, represents not only a belief but a complete cultural belonging, in which pantheism, polytheism and even agnosticism have a place, since it also lacks a single doctrine.
- Taoism. More than a mere religion, it is a philosophical system that pursues the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, collected in the book Tao Te King. They point to a conception of the world governed by three forces: the yin (passive force), the yang (active force) and the CAT (reconciling superior force that contains them), and that man must aspire to harmonize within. In that sense, Taoism does not profess a code or dogma to which the faithful must adhere, but a series of ruling philosophical principles.
- Shintoism. This polytheistic religion is native to Japan and its object of worship is the kami or spirits of nature. Among its practices are animism, the veneration of ancestors, and it has few sacred texts of local origin, such as the Shoku Nihongi or the Kojiki, the latter being rather a text of a historical nature. It also has no predominant or unique deities, or established methods of worship, and it was the state religion until 1945.
- Santeria (Rule of Oshá-Ifá). This religion is the product of the syncretism between European Catholicism and the Yoruba religion of African origin, and it occurred within the framework of the American colonization in which both cultures contaminated each other. It is a popular religion in Latin America, the Canary Islands and with a presence in Europe and North America, despite being linked to the traditions of the Nigerian peoples scattered as slaves by the European conquering hand. It has been discredited by Eurocentric conceptions, which have seen in its polytheism and its ritual practices, which often include dancing, alcohol and animal sacrifices, a front for the hegemonic Christian precepts.