Exploring the world’s religions using the comparison charts below offers fascinating insights into cultures and beliefs. It opens doors to understanding human history, values, and connections.
Whether you’re curious about the world or an academic explorer, studying world religions offers a wealth of knowledge.
Understanding different faiths reveals the core values that guide entire societies, explains long-standing traditions, and provides insights into human nature and the universal quest for meaning.
Explore 25 world religions using the comparison charts below in areas like origins, beliefs, practices, size, location, sacred texts, and more.
The aim of the comparison charts is to offer readers a helpful starting point toward understanding the religions of the world.
Also, see What’s the Difference Between Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox? to learn more.
How the World Religions Started: Time and Place
Discovering how world religions started is a captivating journey through time and culture. Uncover the roots of beliefs that have shaped societies, inspired art, and guided morals.
Learning the origins of these faiths offers unique insights into human history and a deeper connection to our shared global heritage.
|Originated prehistorically with each tribe’s unique spiritual development.|
|Asatru||Revived in the 20th century, based on ancient Norse practices.|
|Bahai||Founded in mid-19th century Persia by Bahá’u’lláh.|
|Buddhism, Mahayana||Emerged 1st century BC, a development from earlier Buddhism.|
|Buddhism, Theravada||Began 5th century BC, a continuation of Early Buddhism.|
|Chinese Religion||Evolved over centuries; Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BC) earliest records.|
|Confucianism||Established in the late Zhou Dynasty, China, around 500 BC.|
|Christianity, Catholic||Originated in the 1st century AD from early Christianity.|
|Christianity, Protestant||Started with the Reformation in Europe in the 16th century AD.|
|Christianity, Orthodox||Solidified post-Great Schism from Catholicism, 1054 AD.|
Also, see Christian Denominations Comparison Chart to learn more.
|Hinduism||Roots are traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization, 2000 BC.|
|Islam, Shia||Began after Prophet Muhammad’s death, 632 AD.|
|Islam, Sunni||Originated after Prophet Muhammad’s death, 632 AD, majority sect.|
|Jehovah’s Witness||Began in the USA, late 19th century (1870s).|
|Judaism||Dates back to Abraham, approximately 2100 BC, in Middle East.|
|Mormonism||Founded by Joseph Smith in the USA, 1830.|
|New Age||Emerged in the late 20th century, integrating various beliefs.|
|Rastafari||Started in Jamaica in the 1930s, post-coronation of Haile Selassie.|
|Scientology||Established by L. Ron Hubbard in the USA, 1953.|
|Sikhism||Founded by Guru Nanak in the Punjab region, 15th century.|
|Shinto||Indigenous faith of Japan, originating in prehistoric times.|
|Taoism||Developed in China, late Zhou Dynasty, around 4th century BC.|
|Emerged in the USA, 1961, combining two Christian denominations.|
|Founded in the UK, mid-20th century, by Gerald Gardner.|
|Zoroastrianism||Originated in ancient Persia, approx. 5th century BC or earlier.|
Also, see Christianity vs. Islam: What’s the Difference? to learn more.
Religious Beliefs: Similarities and Differences
Understanding what people hold sacred, including their moral codes and spiritual aspirations, fosters cultural awareness.
Exploring religious beliefs enriches personal perspectives and invites a shared appreciation for the complexities of human values and convictions.
|Ancestor reverence, spirit belief, tribal community emphasis, oral traditions.|
|Asatru||Honors old Norse gods, nature, and ancestry with modern perspectives.|
|Bahai||Unity of religions, equality, peace, and human purpose to know God.|
|Buddhism, Mahayana||The path to becoming a Buddha involves following the bodhisattva ideal.|
|Buddhism, Theravada||Enlightenment through self-discipline, wisdom, and meditation; follows Buddha’s original teachings.|
|Chinese Religion||Mix of Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism; ancestral veneration, harmony balance.|
|Confucianism||Moral integrity, family loyalty, respect for hierarchy, and ancestor veneration.|
|Christianity, Catholic||Jesus as Savior, sacraments, Pope’s authority, Virgin Mary’s significance.|
|Christianity, Protestant||Salvation through faith in Jesus, Bible as the ultimate authority.|
|Christianity, Orthodox||Holy Trinity, sacraments, Apostolic tradition, divinization through God’s grace.|
Also, see Christianity vs. Judaism: What’s the Difference? to learn more.
|Hinduism||Dharma (duty), Karma (cause-effect), Moksha (liberation), diverse deities, and reincarnation.|
|Islam, Shia||Allah’s unity, Prophethood, Ali’s rightful succession, Day of Judgement.|
|Islam, Sunni||One God (Allah), Muhammad’s Prophethood, Five Pillars, community consensus.|
|Jehovah’s Witness||Strict Bible interpretation, Jesus as God’s son, not Trinity.|
|Judaism||Monotheism, covenant relationship with God, Torah adherence, ethical living.|
|Mormonism||Jesus Christ’s gospel, latter-day revelation, additional scriptures, eternal progression.|
|New Age||Personal spirituality, reincarnation, holistic health, psychic phenomena, universal truth.|
|Rastafari||African redemption, Emperor Selassie divinity, rejection of Western oppression.|
|Scientology||Humans as spiritual beings (thetans), self-knowledge, spiritual rehabilitation.|
|Sikhism||One God, equality, truthful living, community service, meditating on God.|
|Shinto||Kami (spiritual beings) reverence, purification rituals, love of nature.|
|Taoism||Balance of Yin-Yang, harmony with Tao (universal principle), simplicity.|
|Open-minded search for spiritual growth, all are welcomed.|
|Dual deity worship, nature reverence, magic use, seasonal celebrations.|
|Zoroastrianism||Monotheism with Ahura Mazda, good thoughts/words/deeds, cosmic dualism.|
Also, see Christianity vs. Buddhism: What’s the Difference? to learn more.
The Size of World Religions Compared
Learning about the size of world religions offers a glimpse into their influence and reach. Understanding the number of followers helps to recognize the impact these faiths have on politics, culture, and society.
|Millions practice, mostly in Africa, highly localized and varied.|
|Asatru||Thousands globally, primarily in Northern Europe and North America.|
|Bahai||Over 5 million worldwide, with no centralized geographical concentration.|
|Buddhism, Mahayana||Approximately half of global Buddhists, primarily in East Asia.|
|Buddhism, Theravada||Majority in Southeast Asia, about 40% of global Buddhists.|
|Chinese Religion||Hundreds of millions in China, mixture of several philosophies.|
|Confucianism||Millions, mainly in China, influences more through cultural assimilation.|
|Christianity, Catholic||Over a billion followers, widespread globally.|
|Christianity, Protestant||Estimated 800 million to 1 billion worldwide, many denominations.|
|Christianity, Orthodox||Over 200 million, mainly Eastern Europe and Russia.|
Also, see Christianity vs. Hinduism: What’s the Difference? to learn more.
|Hinduism||Over a billion, largely in India and Nepal.|
|Islam, Shia||Approximately 10-15% of Muslims, especially in Iran and Iraq.|
|Islam, Sunni||Constitutes 85-90% of about 1.8 billion Muslims globally.|
|Jehovah’s Witness||Over 8 million worldwide, most active in evangelism.|
|Judaism||Around 14 million globally, largest populations in Israel and USA.|
|Mormonism||Over 16 million, mostly in USA, rapidly growing globally.|
|New Age||Hard to quantify, millions globally following various individual practices.|
|Rastafari||Estimated at a million, mainly in Jamaica and diaspora.|
|Scientology||Hundreds of thousands globally, concentrated in the USA.|
|Sikhism||About 25 million globally, majority in Punjab, India.|
|Shinto||Majority in Japan, roughly 100 million practitioners.|
|Taoism||Tens of millions in China, globally influenced by Taoist philosophy.|
|Several hundred thousand, mostly in USA and Canada.|
|Hundreds of thousands to a few million, mainly in English-speaking countries.|
|Zoroastrianism||Approximately 100,000-200,000, mostly in India and Iran.|
Also, see Conservative vs. Liberal Christianity: Comparison to learn more.
Contrasting the Practices of Religions
Learning about the practices of religions illuminates the rituals and traditions of people groups around the world. From daily prayers to seasonal festivals, these practices are rich in symbolism and purpose.
|Ancestor worship, divination, initiation rites, and spirit propitiation.|
|Asatru||Blot (sacrifice), Sumbel (ritual toasting), honoring gods, ancestors, and nature.|
|Bahai||Prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, communal worship, working towards social justice.|
|Buddhism, Mahayana||Meditation, sutra study, devotion to bodhisattvas, mindfulness of Buddha nature.|
|Buddhism, Theravada||Buddhism, Theravada|
|Chinese Religion||Ancestral worship, divination, Taoist and Buddhist practices, festivals.|
|Confucianism||Filial piety, ancestor veneration, ritual propriety, cultivation of personal character.|
|Christianity, Catholic||Mass, sacraments like Baptism and Eucharist, prayer, confession.|
|Christianity, Protestant||Bible study, prayer, communion, baptism, congregational worship.|
|Christianity, Orthodox||Sacraments, Divine Liturgy, prayer, fasting, icon veneration.|
Also, see Christianity vs. Confucianism: Comparison to learn more.
|Hinduism||Puja (worship), yoga, meditation, festival observance, pilgrimage, life-cycle rites.|
|Islam, Shia||Prayer, fasting, Hajj, Khums (tax), belief in Imam’s leadership.|
|Islam, Sunni||Five Pillars – Faith, Prayer, Fasting, Alms-giving, Pilgrimage (Hajj).|
|Jehovah’s Witness||Evangelism, Kingdom Hall meetings, Bible study, rejecting blood transfusions.|
|Judaism||Shabbat observance, Torah study, prayer, dietary laws, holiday rituals.|
|Mormonism||Baptism, temple rituals, tithing, proselytizing mission, Word of Wisdom adherence.|
|New Age||Meditation, channeling, crystal healing, reincarnation exploration, self-help practices.|
|Rastafari||Ital diet, dreadlocks, ganja for religious rituals, Bible reading.|
|Scientology||Auditing (counseling), training routines, ethical codes, Sunday services.|
|Sikhism||Prayer, community kitchen (Langar), wearing five articles of faith.|
|Shinto||Shrine rituals, nature veneration, purification rites, festival participation.|
|Taoism||Meditation, feng shui, reading Tao Te Ching, ritual ceremonies.|
|Open discussion, group worship, social justice work, covenant affirmation.|
|Ritual magic, celebrating Sabbats and Esbats, nature veneration, divination.|
|Zoroastrianism||Fire temple worship, ethical living, Navjote initiation, Farvardin rites.|
Also, see Christianity vs. Taoism: Comparison to learn more.
Divisions within World Religions
Examining the divisions within world religions reveals the complex nuances that shape beliefs and traditions.
|Varies by tribe and region, many unique belief systems.|
|Asatru||Some divergence between universalist and folkish views, different national groups.|
|Bahai||Largely unified, though some division over leadership succession.|
|Buddhism, Mahayana||Diverse schools including Zen, Pure Land, and Nichiren.|
|Buddhism, Theravada||Generally unified, with minor regional and monastic variations.|
|Chinese Religion||Blends of Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and folk religion.|
|Confucianism||Divided into classical texts and Neo-Confucian philosophy interpretations.|
|Christianity, Catholic||Differences in practice and emphasis, but unified by papal authority.|
|Christianity, Protestant||Many denominations such as Lutheran, Baptist, and Methodist.|
|Christianity, Orthodox||Divisions by national churches like Russian and Greek Orthodox.|
Also, see Christianity vs. Rastafari: Comparison to learn more.
|Hinduism||Diversity of sects like Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism.|
|Islam, Shia||Main divisions are Twelvers, Ismailis, and Zaidis.|
|Islam, Sunni||Four main schools of jurisprudence: Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, and Hanbali.|
|Jehovah’s Witness||Generally unified, though minor splinter groups have been formed.|
|Judaism||Divided into Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist movements.|
|Mormonism||Main split between LDS Church and Community of Christ, plus polygamous sects.|
|New Age||Broad and diverse with no central authority, individual paths vary.|
|Rastafari||Mansions include Bobo Shanti, Twelve Tribes of Israel, and Nyabinghi.|
|Scientology||Main church and Independent Scientologists (“Freezoners”) following L. Ron Hubbard.|
|Sikhism||Divided into sects like Khalsa, Sahajdhari, and various deras.|
|Shinto||Divisions include Shrine Shinto, Sect Shinto, and Folk Shinto.|
|Taoism||Primarily divided into philosophical Taoism (Daojia) and religious Taoism (Daojiao).|
|Largely unified, differences more in individual belief than doctrine.|
|Various traditions, including Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Dianic, and solitary practitioners.|
|Zoroastrianism||Primarily divided into Iranian Zoroastrians and Indian Parsis.|
Also, see Christianity vs. Scientology: Comparison to learn more.
The Central Locations of Major Religions
Studying the locations of world religions unlocks a geographical understanding of faith. See how beliefs have spread, mingled, or remained rooted in specific regions.
|Mainly practiced in sub-Saharan Africa, differing by region/tribe.|
|Asatru||Predominantly in Scandinavia, USA, UK, and other Northern European countries.|
|Bahai||Distributed worldwide, significant communities in India, Iran, and USA.|
|Buddhism, Mahayana||Predominant in East Asia – China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.|
|Buddhism, Theravada||Prominent in Southeast Asia – Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia.|
|Chinese Religion||Practiced largely in China, Taiwan, and Chinese diaspora globally.|
|Confucianism||Central in East Asian societies, especially China, Korea, Japan.|
|Christianity, Catholic||Strong presence globally, especially in Europe, Latin America, and Africa.|
|Christianity, Protestant||Predominant in North America, Northern Europe, and Sub-Saharan Africa.|
|Christianity, Orthodox||Primarily in Eastern Europe, Russia, and the Middle East.|
Also, see Christianity vs. Bahai: Comparison to learn more.
|Hinduism||Mostly in India and Nepal, large diaspora worldwide.|
|Islam, Shia||Concentrated in Iran, Iraq, Yemen, and parts of South Asia.|
|Islam, Sunni||Most prevalent globally, particularly in Middle East, Africa, and Indonesia.|
|Jehovah’s Witness||Global presence, most significant in USA, Mexico, and Brazil.|
|Judaism||Primarily in Israel and USA, sizable populations in France and Canada.|
|Mormonism||Predominantly in the USA, especially Utah, with international growth.|
|New Age||Diffuse globally, often individual practices, prevalent in Western countries.|
|Rastafari||Predominantly in Jamaica, with smaller populations worldwide.|
|Scientology||Notably in USA, but claims members in many countries.|
|Sikhism||Primarily in Punjab, India, with significant diaspora worldwide.|
|Shinto||Practiced mainly in Japan, with small groups internationally.|
|Taoism||Predominantly in China, Taiwan, and among Chinese communities globally.|
|Largely in North America and Western Europe, particularly USA.|
|Primarily in English-speaking countries, especially USA, UK, and Australia.|
|Zoroastrianism||Mainly in India (Parsis) and Iran, with global diaspora.|
Also, see Christianity vs. Satanism: Comparison to learn more.
Comparing the Sacred Texts of World Religions
Exploring the sacred texts of world religions unveils the profound wisdom, stories, and teachings that have guided generations.
These writings are the heart of many faiths, offering insights into ethics, philosophy, and the human condition.
|Oral traditions and symbols vary widely among different tribes.|
|Asatru||“Eddas” and “Sagas” are key texts, preserving Norse myths and poems.|
|Bahai||Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, notably the “Kitáb-i-Aqdas.”|
|Buddhism, Mahayana||Various Sutras, like the “Lotus Sutra.”|
|Buddhism, Theravada||“Pali Canon,” foundational Theravadin text.|
|Chinese Religion||Includes “I Ching,” “Tao Te Ching,” and Confucian texts.|
|Confucianism||“Five Classics” and “Four Books” central to thought.|
|Christianity, Catholic||The Bible, including Old and New Testaments and Deuterocanonical books.|
|Christianity, Protestant||The Bible, Old and New Testaments.|
|Christianity, Orthodox||The Bible, including additional Old Testament texts.|
Also, see Christianity vs. Mormonism: Comparison to learn more.
|Hinduism||“Vedas,” “Upanishads,” “Bhagavad Gita,” and other scriptures.|
|Islam, Shia||The Quran and Hadith, with emphasis on the Imams’ teachings.|
|Islam, Sunni||The Quran and Hadith, focusing on the Prophet’s practices.|
|Jehovah’s Witness||Their own translation of the Bible called the “New World Translation.”|
|Judaism||The “Tanakh,” “Talmud,” and various rabbinical commentaries.|
|Mormonism||“The Book of Mormon,” “Doctrine and Covenants,” and “Pearl of Great Price.”|
|New Age||No specific text; draws from various spiritual and philosophical sources.|
|Rastafari||The Bible, especially the King James Version, with unique interpretations.|
|Scientology||“Dianetics” by L. Ron Hubbard, along with his other writings.|
|Sikhism||The “Guru Granth Sahib,” central scripture of Sikhism.|
|Shinto||“Kojiki” and “Nihon Shoki,” ancient texts recording Japanese myths.|
|Taoism||“Tao Te Ching” and other texts focusing on Taoist philosophy.|
|Draws inspiration from various religious and secular texts.|
|“Book of Shadows,” containing rituals and lore, often personalized.|
|Zoroastrianism||“Avesta,” including “Gathas,” ancient hymns attributed to Zoroaster.|
Also, see Christianity vs. Jehovah’s Witnesses: Comparison to learn more.
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