The Top 5 Religions In The World

The Top 5 Religions In The World

The crucial question underlying the identity of each human being on Planet Earth concerns religion. Indeed, before your family background, your educational qualification, or your monetary status, the faith you follow is seen as your unique recognition. And interestingly, this might be the very reason why some people ask you your name, just to gauge whether your appearance is similar to that of the followers of a certain belief. Our faith is a characteristic which we obtain with our birth, or it may also be one that a person can adopt during the course of lifetime. Religions are seen as the medium of upliftment of the human race. While they aren’t the epitome of supreme power, they sure are regarded as means to reach the power. In today’s world, where crime and stress has taken a toll on our lives, religions act as a compass to help people take the right direction, both morally and socially. There are lots of beliefs in the whole wide world; while some of them are new, others are quite ancient.

Going by the statistics, about 60% of the world’s population believe in religions, whereas 35% are non-religious, who don’t really practice rituals to appease the deities. The rest 5% are considered atheists who don’t believe in any supreme power at all.

Considering the everyday hype around beliefs, we have presented you with a rundown of the top 5 religions of the world, ranked on the basis of popularity as well as follower count.

#1 CHRISTIANITY

Christianity tops the list of the most popular religions in the world. As of 2016, around 30% of population spanning the globe are Christians. Followers of Christianity are spread everywhere, from west to east, though they are more specifically clustered in the Occident. In concrete numbers, Christians have reached a whopping 2.2 billion worldwide. There are three major branches of Christianity, namely, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic. Among the 2.2 billion followers of Christianity, approximately 50% of them are Roman Catholics, 240 million comprise the Orthodox Christians and a smaller percentage of them are Protestants. The religion, Christianity was founded approximately 2000 years ago, in the middle of the first century. Christians believe in a supreme being, better known as God. They opine that God exists in three different forms- the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son. Christianity was apparently founded by Jesus Christ. Since his stepped the summit of Earth, history has been divided into two broad eras, B.C (Before Christ) and A.D (anno Domini). Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God. They follow the religious text, Bible and visit the church for all their religious gatherings, commonly known as masses.

#2 ISLAM

Established way back in the 1400s, Islam is one of the most ancient religions on Earth and stands second in the list of the top 5 most popular religions. Founded by Prophet Muhammad, Islam has a little over 1.5 billion followers that are categorized in two different communities called Shiites and the Sunnis. Their holy book is Qur’an, and they carry out all their religious proceedings in mosques. The followers of Islam are known as Muslims. They are pretty diverse in distribution, and scattered in many different countries of the world like India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Saudi Arab, as well as other states of the middle east Asian country. The Muslims believe in an omnipotent being, Allah, who is their supreme creator and from whom all living things have come from. Their major festival is Eid-Ul-Fitr, which falls every year on the first day of “shawaal”, or the tenth month of Muslim year and following the month of fasting or Ramadan. Muslims celebrate Eid with much fervor and gaiety by donating food and clothes to the poor and feasting on delicacies to mark the end of the arduous month of fasting. The Kaaba, in Mecca (Saudi Arabia) is considered the epicenter of Islam. Muslims gather from far and wide to pray in unity and pay their respects to the Kabba.  In recent years Islam has been the focal point of extremist sect’s which is extensively reported on by alternative news sites.  These sites can bring an info alternative that most of the times goes against the grain of the main stream media.

#3 HINDUISM

Hinduism is undoubtedly the most ancient religion in the world. At present it has approximately about 900 million followers clustered primarily in the Orient and an occasional few living as expats in the Western countries. In fact, Hinduism is the most popular religion practiced in the East. Founded way back in 1500 BC, it’s believed that Hinduism has a non-human founder. As a matter of fact, there is no single founder of Hinduism, as founders hailing from almost every part of the world have contributed in its development. The followers of Hinduism are known as Hindus. Their sacred book is the Bhagwad Gita. Hinduism exists primarily in two main countries- India and Nepal. It preaches the importance of thoughts and attitudes on the control of one’s life. While the religions discussed above entail the worship of a single God, Hinduism begs to differ. Their has umpteen Gods and Goddess associated with this religion.

#4 BUDDHISM

Buddhism is the religion of oneness. The name is derived from Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, who sacrificed his princely comforts and life of luxury for an ascetic life replete with struggles and a constant need of surviving the extreme in a bid to experience extreme purging and gain complete liberation from worldly desires and sins. Buddhism has its roots in India and in the recent date, it has over 380 million followers worldwide, with a predominant distribution in the South-East Asian countries. There are two main branches of Buddhism-Mahayana and Theravada. While Mahayana is found all throughout East Asia, Theravada has followers in Sri-Lanka and certain parts of South-East Asia. Buddhism preaches about the transient nature of materialism and the fact that the prime goal of every individual should be to perfect themselves over the course of their lifetime. Buddhism goes beyond behind just a sect; rather it is a set of doctrines that dictate a disciplined way of life, one that is bound to bring forth personal satisfaction and freedom from the chains of desires.

#5 SIKHISM

Sikhism stands fifth in the list of top 5 popular religions in the world. Globally, it has more than 20 million followers. Sikhism was founded in India by Guru Nanak more than 500 years ago. India, being a secular country welcomes several religions with open arms. Thus it is not surprising that the main center for Sikhism is India. Sikhism preaches about equality, discipline and compassion and shuns the age-old superstitions and blind rituals that cloud the minds of people, thereby preventing them for progressing. It also preaches in the message of devotion, as well as remembrance of the Almighty at all times.

It is said that religions can be explained in various ways. Irrespective of the founder, the place of origin or the age, each and every aforementioned religion preaches the same basic doctrines of peace, equality, compassion and control over self. They outline the victory of good over evil, and in doing so act as a reliable anchor against the turmoil and unpredictability of our fast-paced life.

 

The Growth Of Christianity Today

There are three main related factors that contributed to the growth and expansion of Christianity, and ultimately its success. These were a combination of political, social and economic factors. The rise of early Christianity has been the topic of much debate and historical analyses. I will be attempting to simply outline and comment on some of the main social factors that lead to the rise of Christianity.

Christianity seems to have come at the right time, in an age where life was uncertain and many circumstances could not be controlled such as the barbarians invading; fires burning down whole cities and plagues killing off quite a lot of the population, whether you were rich or poor it made no difference, life in the Greco-Roman world was very fragile and short. Life expectancy was not great and the average person lived until around the age of 30 or even considerably less. Life expectancy was very low and what may have appealed to pagans was that the Christian religion and doctrines offered hope and certainty in the afterlife and even some personal divine protection in this world. These new doctrines would have seemed attractive to pagans, when there was growing discontent with pagan practices and a general spiritual unrest. Like Christianity the Roman Religion was for the ordinary man but interest was waning and the mystery religions were far too complicated for the common Roman, thus the people’s choice was likely to be Christianity.

Christianity also offered hope to a usually pessimistic society that believed that their destinies were fixed, either to be in the Gods’ favour or to be out of it, with no hope of redemption. Christianity offered an alternative with the much desired possibility of salvation.

Christianity was primarily an urban movement, in these urban centre’s Christianity grew at a steady pace, the urban areas of cities such as Antioch, were very condensed with people it is estimated that there were 117 people per acre. In comparison to modern cities of today this is rather overcrowded. The overcrowding was so extreme, entire families were living together in single room apartments; this left little personal space and allowed everyone to know each other’s business. Given that urban centre’s were dramatically overcrowded and that early Roman Greco cities had minimal sanitation or sewerage to the average apartments people would often just throw their bodily waste out the window of their apartments onto the streets. Starks describe the situation in these urbanized areas as:

Given limited water and means of sanitation and the incredible density of humans and animals, most people in the Greco-Roman world would have lived in filth beyond our imagining.

Apartment buildings were often Smokey, dark, damp and always dirty. The air was filled with the smell of sweat, urine and faces. Onto of these conditions the rodents and bugs were everywhere in these apartments. The city streets were not much better they had open sewers, animal manure and crowds in some places it was so bad there were dead human corpses abandoned in the streets. When cities were in a constant state of filth, insects and crowding, disease was rife in these conditions, especially when these Roman societies had no antibiotics or knowledge of germs. Often plagues would strike and physical illness was most likely a part of daily life. An example of this was the analysis of human faeces that were found in a cesspit in Jerusalem showed large amounts of tapeworm and whipworm eggs, which shows poor sanitary conditions where humans often came into contact with human faeces.

Christianity revitalized the way of life in Greco-Roman society offering social change, which dealt with some of the consequences of urban problems. Charity and hope was offered to homeless and the poor, often the cities were full of newcomers and strangers and Christianity offered an extended family and a base for attachments as well as effective nursing services in times of disaster, that were often brought on by plagues, earthquakes and fires.

Christianity’s attitude towards society and its social impact greatly resulted in the expansion and success of the church. The church was particularly well-known for its acts of charity, it is likely that the charity itself was one of the most influencing factors to the growth of Christianity.

The church offered this charity to everyone, including pagans and Jews. By the third century the Church was looking after one thousand five hundred widows in need. The church itself was well off and according to Eusebius, by the year 251 the church in Rome supported the bishop, 46 presbyters, 7 deacons, 7 sub deacons, 42 acolytes and 52 exorcists, reader and doorkeepers, but also more than 1500 widows and needy persons. The churches obvious financial stability leads it to be popular and it successfully expanded because it helped those in need, it offered help and often people were converted to Christianity as a result of the kindness and attention they received. Even though the Roman Empire did have some charitable services such as the bread dole, Christian charity far outweighed the state’s charity.

Throughout the first century to the fourth century there was government enforced persecution of early Christianity, though not constantly. Persecution and martyrdom became a sign of the strength of Christianity, which often shows if the movement was attracting attention from the Roman state. Such emperors that instigated severe persecution were Decius and Diocletian. There were sufficient amounts of Christians in North Africa for martyrdoms to be noticed, one of these martyrdoms were Perpetua and her slave girl, Felicity who were thrown to the lions after a trial.

Tertullian wrote that “the blood of Christians is seed” which is often misquoted as “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Tertullian may have been saying this because he believed that martyrdoms created new converts or may have strengthened the church.

The Roman Empire wanted to exterminate this new religion as quickly as possible and it seems it tried in the beginning to exterminate every Christian they could find but later under Decius they started new methods to try and exterminate Christianity one way was by removing the clergy and the bishops and also taking away lands and churches from the Christians, irrespective of rank while forcing them to sacrifice to the states pagan gods or be punished severely with torture, exile, slavery and sometimes execution, depending on numerous reasons and the time of persecution.

This would have had to give this new religion much publicity, especially if it was in the circus arenas being killed by wild beats would have been creating attention, it seems many would have seen these peculiar people willing to suffer excruciating torture and even die for their God and religion, this must have left the pagan with something further to think about and consider if they were willing to die for their pagan gods.

The Christians may even have won converts in some areas, because of their courage during the persecutions, the strength of their faith and the support they showed one another, Tertullian said that pagans had exclaimed in the arenas during martyrdoms “See how these Christians love one another” this indicated the social nature of the Christian faith. The persecutions also created apologists these were people who would be writing trying to convince the authorities they had done nothing wrong, whether or not the Emperors read these long letters of apology no one knows, it seems rather unlikely however one could suggest State officials having read these letters of apology.

Another aspect of Christian growth was that Christianity and its friendships formed from within the Church lead to its successful growth because those who had become a Christian felt that they were to fulfil the great commission as taught by Jesus and the apostles and they were to pass the message onto their friends and family, this quite often led to a close knit community and this was appealing in an era when it was expected of you to look after yourself. In this Greco-Roman era religious and social life was very much interlinked. It was taught in the church that if Christian travellers came from outside of the city or were strangers to a new city, Christians were to provide their needs and provide shelter to these Christians, this was not only taught in the teachings of Jesus but also by the apostle Paul. So it was an incentive to be a Christian as there was always help and social networks that could support you in a large empire. It was like an extended family where ever you went in the Roman Empire. Eusebius writes that the Christian missionaries were so inspired by the Holy Spirit that they saw mass conversions occur, this may also be a contributing factor.

Christianity also gained some favour in society because of its improvement in the treatment of women, and it elevation of their social status. Christianity taught that marital unfaithfulness in one partner as serious as in the other and that in according to the New Testament, husbands should treat their wives with such consideration and love as Christ manifested for his Church, though women were still considered homemakers and wives. It is believed that Christianity made its way into the aristocracy in Rome at the time through the influence of their wives.

The Greco-Roman world was quite different woman had far less rights than men. It was a very male orientated society where male babies were wanted and female babies rejected this resulted in infant side of female babies. Some excavations have found hundreds of babies bones in an underground sewer thought to be female babies. It was not uncommon that girls were offered in marriage before they had reached puberty to much older men and the cultural custom was that the women were the property of the man, either the father or the husband. Women played a big role in the early Christian church this may have been because they received more rights in the Christian community when compared to women in the Greco-Roman world. We see in some early writings in regards to the persecution of Christians that many more females clothing were stored or found than men’s, more than double, this may suggest there were far more females than males in the early church.

If this is true that there were far more females than males in the early church then that allows for many secondary conversions. Secondary conversions are ones that are a result of someone else being converted because of the first conversion, for instance a woman is converted but then shortly after her husband is converted which most likely would not have occurred if the woman was not originally converted. Christian doctrines were against abortion and infanticide. This may have had some effect on the birth-rates of Christian woman compared to their pagan counterparts.

The spread of Christianity also involved Christian writings by the end of the first century the writings of Paul and the apostles of Jesus had been spread sporadically through the Roman Empire. Apart for the early apostolic writers, others set about advocating, defending and propagating Christianity. Justin Martyr who lived around Ad 100-160 was a Christian teacher and philosopher, he wrote the first and second apology. There were many subsequent Christian writers throghought the early years of the church, most often they were well-educated, such as Origen, Tertullian and many others. In the pagan mystery religions only the elite could read the sacred and secret texts, however in Christianity often the Gospels and Paul’s epistles were read out aloud for all to hear in the church, this may have appealed to the pagans when considering a choice in further religious observance. The Christian writings also acted as a means of spreading the Gospel message from place to place, often reaching further than the Roman Empire itself.

Overall there are many factors that contributed to the success of the church. The caring for widows, the poor and the sick, the Christians attitudes to death, when faced with martyrdom, better equality among women and men and the treatment of slaves, all this made an impact on society were these things were rare. Christianity was less likely to succeed by any ordinary standard of expectation however it did through the Christian application of charity and its simple guide to salvation. We cannot say or point to one cause and say it was the sole reason why Christianity was a successful religion; the causes mentioned build a substantial cumulative case for the rise of Christianity.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Justina_Daniels/1103282

 

Santa Is The Big Christian News Item This Time Of Year

We all know Santa’s story by now. He was originally a bishop back in the day, and after he died he became known as Saint Nicholas, or Saint Nick for short. And even way back then, before Christmas became a major holiday, the anniversary of his death was a day to celebrate by giving out gifts. But most of us don’t know that Saint Nick actually had a bad rap for a while, and that is actually how he got all of the other names we know him by today.

During the time of great change in the Christian Church known as the Protestant Reformation, which occurred in the 1500s, the famous Martin Luther declared that all good Christians should stop celebrating saints. For the devout followers of Luther, that meant also stopping the celebration of Saint Nick, no matter how fun the gift giving had become.

But of course, not all Christians stopped celebrating Saint Nick, not even all of the Protestants. Instead of stopping the celebration, they crafted a plan to enjoy the Saint Nick holiday in secret. This is when Saint Nick became known in England as “Father Christmas”. In Germany, people referred to Santa as “Christmas Man”, and the Dutch created the name “Sinterklass.”

About this time, a large majority of Dutch settlers moved to New Amsterdam in America—what would later become New York—and brought their celebration of Sinterklass with him. Americans caught on to the idea, and tried to pronounce his name right. But instead, what came out was “Santa Claus.”

However, Santa Claus did not hit the big time until the author of “Sleepy Hollow,” Washington Irving, got wind of Santa Claus and promoted him the American press. This happened in the early 1800s, when Washington Irving wrote a story called the “A History of New York,” in which he went into great detail about a man called “Sinterklass.” This Saint Nick was fat and short, wore a funny costume, and would travel around on the Eve of Saint Nicolas on a horse.

The idea of jolly gift-giving man caught on in the American press. Another writer, the poet Clement Clark Moore, wrote a poem called “A Visit from St. Nicolas,” which is better known as, “The Night Before Christmas.” It was Moore who made Saint Nick a jolly old elf who flies around the night in a magical sleigh powered by eight flying reindeer. We all know the names of those reindeer, right? Well, Moore also included them in his poem.

Americans would get their best images of Santa Claus in the magazines of the late 1800s, when the cartoonist Thomas Nast put out his own visions of Saint Nick in Harper’s Weekly. For Nast, Santa was a bigger man with a big fat belly, who wore a red suit lined with fur and a big leather belt. Nast also started drawing images of Santa’s workshop in the North Pole, and Santa using a list to keep track of his kids who were naughty and nice.

Of course, these are all the images of Santa that we use today in the newspapers, in cartoons, and on TV. Or should we say, perhaps, images of Sinterklass?

Randy Stocklin is the co-owner of Mail from Santa Claus. Mail from Santa Claus offers memorable letters from Santa Claus that helps keep the Christmas spirit alive. For more information about Mail from Santa Claus and to purchase letters from Santa Claus please visit http://www.mailfromsantaclaus.com/ .

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