According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world. Why so many? Do they have anything in common?
Religions are a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews. They attempt to give meaning to life and death and to help us make sense and cope with being in an unpredictable world. Yet despite the differences in their ritual practices that emerge from a diversity of cultural backgrounds, major religions are in accord with this one awareness: humans have a soul that comes from a divine source and this soul is immortal. (See "Oh My Soul") At death, this soul leaves the body and moves on to another existence and may even return to its creator. (See subject "Death") But what is and where is this other existence?
In part the “where” may depend on each one of us. Why? Because if the major religions of the world are correct and they are in general agreement about this, then a person's destination after death is influenced by how that person has conducted their self while living on earth. The general teaching of the major religions is that in death each person will be judged to determine their journey's end, which may possibly be one or more of the following:
(H) - Heaven: Eternity is spent in Heaven or Paradise with God, in a state that is beautiful beyond our ability to conceive.
(h) - Hell: Eternity is spent in Hell with demons. All are tormented and tortured, in isolation from God, there is no love. Each soul is totally alone in their self. Hell is a process of eternally dying.
(P) - Purgatory: is similar to Hell in its state of torment; the main difference is that one is there for purification and will eventually be released to Heaven.
(R) - Reincarnation: Our soul and spirit are reborn into another living entity - not necessarily human.
(Res) - Resurrection: dead will be brought back to life at some point in the future. Souls will be reunited with their body.
(S) – Soul Sleep: the deceased does not begin to enjoy a reward or suffer a punishment until Judgment Day.
(B) -Brahman: there is no sense of individuality, but only pure being, consciousness, and bliss. The purpose is to become united with Brahman the eternal, universal spirit.
(T) -Transmigration of the soul: Our soul and spirit are reborn into a human fetus or newborn child.
(E) – End of Life: There is nothing after death. Death is the end of our existence.
(N) - No opinion (A) – Afterlife, not defined
The following table lists the top world religions or cults in order of adherents
Religion or cult
Creed (See above)
1 AD Jesus Christ
622 AD Muhammad
No set of beliefs; Secular; Atheist; Agnostics;
1500-500 BC no single founder
A collection of philosophical and religious traditions native to India. Hinduism has neither a specific moment of origin nor a specific founder
Chinese traditional religion
Combination of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism, as well as traditional non-scriptural/local practices and beliefs
624 BC Buddha Shakyamuni
More a philosophy than a religion.
stems from various oral traditions
Broad classification, not a single religion. This grouping includes thousands of distinct religious traditions, mostly the religious-cultural worldviews of peoples
1469-1538 AD Guru Nanak
Considers Soul (atma) to be part of God
1840 Allan Kardec
Based on the five books of the Spiritist Codification written by French educator Hypolite Léon Denizard Rivail
1300-1809 BC Abraham
*Abrahamic religion. No official teaching on afterlife
1884 AD Miza Husayn-AliNuri
*Some consider it an Abrahamic religion.
599-527 BC Mahavira
Almost entirely confined to India and to ethnic Jains
Shinto is simply the indigenous ethnic practice of Japan and its importance is almost entirely historical and cultural, not contemporary.
1926 AD Vietnam
Almost entirely a Vietnamese movement. The religion was banned under communist repression until 1997.
580-500 BC Lao Tse
A philosophical, ethical, and religious tradition of Chinese origin
628-527 BC Zoroaster
Religion and religious philosophy arose in the eastern region of the ancient Persian Empire
1838 AD Miki Nakayama
One of the 13 sects of Shinto
* Monotheistic faiths of West Asian origin, emphasizing and tracing their common origin to Abraham. Abrahamic religions in chronological order of founding are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Bahá'í Faith
(Numbers of adherents shown are estimates, and are mainly for the purpose of ordering the groups, not for providing a definitive number. This list is sociological/statistical in perspective.)
The above statistics were gathered in 2005 and show a population of over 6.5 billion people. The percentage of the population that express a belief in life beyond death by their adherence to a religion is over 83.2 percent. Albeit not all have the same comprehension of afterlife, however the large number of people that believe in an afterlife cannot be ignored.
Also taking into account the over three thousand years of world religious antiquity, a history that crosses every continent, nation and culture, a tale begins to emerge. There is a searching, a longing, an intuition, a calling back, deep in the center of the human spirit that beckons us to return to some mysterious place… possibly to our origin. It is much like the monarch butterfly that will travel 2000 miles to a given place it has never been before. Every one of them is mysteriously beckoned and every one of them responds. It is their destiny.
We may not know for sure in our human capacity what awaits us in the afterlife but like the caterpillar is to the butterfly, we instinctively know that there is a place out there waiting for us.
“Seeing death as the end of life is like seeing the horizon as the end of the ocean.” ― David Searls - Novelist
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