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fireside's avatar

What are the three major religions?

Asked by fireside (12275 points ) January 29th, 2009

Twice this week on Fluther I’ve seen references to “the three major religions” and I was just wondering what everyone thought those were?

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56 Answers

KrystaElyse's avatar

1. Christianity
2. Islam
3. Judaism Atheism

I think…

lapilofu's avatar

I thought of the same three as KrystaElyse. Though it did occur to me that those might not actually be the most populated.

VisionaryAdvait's avatar

1. Christianity
2. Islam
3. Hinduism

ark_a_dong's avatar

@KrystaElyse &
@lapilofu

Those three are the major Abrahamic religions.

Vinifera7's avatar

I would guess Christianity and Islam as the top two, but I wouldn’t know about the third. Apparently it’s Hinduism.

@KrystaElyse
Atheism is not a religion.

kevbo's avatar

There are six: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Confucianism(sp?), Hinduism, and Buddhism.

KrystaElyse's avatar

@Vinifera7
Yeah, thanks for pointing that out…I’m not the only one who thought it was.

Vinifera7's avatar

It’s my pleasure to point out blatant misinformation when I see it.

elijah's avatar

I think her point is that the third largest group of people in the world are non-religious. You are right that atheism isn’t a religion, but I’m sure you knew exactly what she meant and were just looking for a reason to point out your obviously superior knowledge.

Vinifera7's avatar

Just to refresh your memory, the question was “What are the three major religions?”

I agree that there has to be a non-religious category if you are plotting religious adherents, but “none of the above” is still not a religion. Just like bald is not a hair color.

I’m not pretending to be superior. I am pointing out an error.

PupnTaco's avatar

Three major Western religions = Judaism, Christianity, Islam.

Three major worldwide religions = ???

elijah's avatar

I don’t need you to refresh my memory, I know how to read. I just pointed out her reasoning for why she said what she said. Maybe you could just find a nicer way to point out her mistake, instead of acting like a snarky dick.

artificialard's avatar

PupnTaco Good point! Asia and Africa probably have poor census data this due to political and pragmatic reasons and I think maybe they’re the most populous of all the continents. But I guess we’re assuming with ‘going with what we know’.

Response moderated
tennesseejac's avatar

@tscoyk it seems like you should be more afraid of elijahsuicide with the snarky dick blow. the last time i heard that it was followed by a hammerfist/ rabbit punch combo

Nimis's avatar

I really don’t see anything inherently snarky about:
Atheism is not a religion.

I’m much more concerned about their views on pedophilia. Eesh.

Jeruba's avatar

I know a professional atheist who regards atheism as his religion. He says his belief is just as strong and just as supportable as that of any religionist.

Jack79's avatar

First of all I agree that “bald is not a hair colour”. So Atheism is not a religion, though it is a religious view. Just like walking is a means of transport, but it’s not a car brand.

As for the major religions (which is what the question was, and I am sure the questioneer did not want to know the number of atheists):

I am not 100% sure about this, but my guess is that with so many Chinese and Indians around, their religions should top the list. I think Christianity is 3rd.

Ok so I cheated, and found out that Christians make up 33% of the world’s population, Muslims 20% and Hindus 13%.

Jews are only 0.23% (which says a lot about Israeli propaganda) and official Atheists 2.35%, though almost 12% of the world’s population are “non-religious” (I think that’s where all the Chinese went).

loser's avatar

1. Eating
2. Drinking
3. Love
(Ziggy Marley’s song “Love Is My Religion” playing in the background…)

artificialard's avatar

Seeing as over 90% of the people in China believe in a form of Buddhism, I’m not sure how you can say “that’s where all the Chinese went”.

Jack79's avatar

I found the numbers on wikipedia, which in term quotes various recent surveys.

Chinese are around 25% of the world’s population, so that means that Buddists should be over 20% by your calculation, but apparently they’re not. This is (I assume) must be partly because there are also other religions in China, but also because China is communist. I have no evidence to back this up, but it’s the only thing that makes sense. These calculations assume for example that all Russians are Orthodox, all Italians are Catholics, all Egyptians are Muslims and so on. They do not take into account people that may have been christened but do not believe in God for example. Many flutherers belong to this category. So they are statistically counted as “Christians” when they are in fact atheists or agnostics. I assume that similarly many Chinese would not be officially religious, yet practise their religion in private. Just my assumption though.

(btw your link does not mention percentages)

tb1570's avatar

Op’s original question was quite straight-forward, so is the answer, so why all the hub-bub? by numbers, the world’s three biggest religions are: christianity, islam and hinduism, in that order. the only other religion that even comes close to the numbers of these three is buddhism, which has about half as many adherants as hinduism. people who listed judaism have obviously been influenced by living in a western country, but judaism’s numbers are really quite miniscule. in fact, there are more mormons now than jews. and if u want to include non-religious folk in the mix they’d come in 4th, somewhere around buddhism. why the fuss?

Jack79's avatar

We’re not really fussing. artificialard asked something which also puzzled me: if the Chinese are so many, then how come their religion is not #1 (which I also assumed it should be)? It’s an interesting fact that the surveys show something different than what we expected to see. And I would really like to know the answer to that, which for me is more interesting than who has the most followers.

fireside's avatar

Thanks everyone, great answers.

tb1570's avatar

jack79, i’m not positive about the answer to that, but my guess would be that it’s probably b/c the chinese gov’t still officially does not recognize any religion for its people, and officially religion is still illegal here, though the gov;t in recent years has been softening its stance on that issue. yes, many chinese are buddhists, but many also still adhere to confuciusism and taoism, while most “religious” chinese probably follow a mix of all three, and many also would call themselves athiests.

Vinifera7's avatar

As far as I know, Buddhists and Taoists are typically atheists.

tb1570's avatar

Vinifera7, guess it all depends on ur definitions. now we’re talking semantics.

Vinifera7's avatar

The standard definition of “theist”: one who believes in a god or gods.
The standard definition of “atheist”: one who does not believe in a god or gods.

It can’t get any simpler than that.

Jack79's avatar

yes, that was also my guess tb1570

wundayatta's avatar

This is how it goes, according to adherents.com (notice that judaism is pretty far down the list):

Christianity: 2.1 billion
Islam: 1.5 billion
Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 1.1 billion
Hinduism: 900 million
Chinese traditional religion: 394 million
Buddhism: 376 million
primal-indigenous: 300 million
African Traditional & Diasporic: 100 million
Sikhism: 23 million
Juche: 19 million
Spiritism: 15 million
Judaism: 14 million
Baha’i: 7 million
Jainism: 4.2 million
Shinto: 4 million
Cao Dai: 4 million
Zoroastrianism: 2.6 million
Tenrikyo: 2 million
Neo-Paganism: 1 million
Unitarian-Universalism: 800 thousand
Rastafarianism: 600 thousand
Scientology: 500 thousand

tb1570's avatar

Vinifera7, if u think buddhists do not believe in god/gods, u r mistaken. i’m not trying to sound condescending here, but many buddhists most definitely believe in spirits & gods.

tb1570's avatar

daloon, it’s funny that the list u provided does not include mormon. i suppose they’ve been lumped under christianity, but of course most christians consider mormons blasphemers.

wundayatta's avatar

I dunno. If you follow the link, they might say something about their reasoning.

Well, here you go: ”Groups which self-identify as part of Christianity” are counted as Christians.

marinelife's avatar

Ego, Golf, Football.

*An argument could be made for money.

wundayatta's avatar

Sounds like a patriarchal set of religions to me.

marinelife's avatar

@daloon It’s a patriarchal world much to my dismay.

wundayatta's avatar

Hmmm, there’s a question there….

Siren's avatar

The three major religions, as is spoken around the watercooler, is Christianity, Islam and Judaism. They are all pretty much linked together, and considered sister religions. This is because they all seem to believe variations of the same thing: that there were prophets on this earth (Adam, Moses, Abraham, David, Solomon, etc) and they were chosen to lead the people. The differentiations among them is that in Judaism they are still waiting for the next prophet, or messiah to show up, as foretold in the Torah, whereas Christians and Muslims believe Jesus was that next Messiah. The difference between Christians and Muslims is that the Christians believe the Messiah was also the Son of God, whereas the Muslims believe he was only another prophet in the line of prophets, and that God has no son. Furthermore, Muslims believe another final prophet, Muhammed came after Jesus (around 590AD), and he is the seal of the prophets, meaning no other prophet will appear to guide anyone.

Therefore, although Buddhism, Hinduism and Zoriastrism may have been around during the inception of these religions, the other three historically have been tied to each other geographically and in cross-referencing them with each other.

tb1570's avatar

as spoken aroud western water coolers, i think you mean.

fireside's avatar

@tb1570 – thanks for your insights. That was my point of this whole thread. Too often we get used to our comfortable westernized view of the world, rather than thinking globally.

@daloon and tb1570 – I would guess that Mormons are segmented into Christianity because their prophet was still Christ, but that is a great question since technically they had a prophet who received new revelations.

@Marina – Those do seem to be the big three here in the States, though I would probably go with Ego, Money, Ego

@Siren – the Bahai faith is also from the same Abrahamic line or prophecy and they have quite a following for only being around for 150 years.

Siren's avatar

@tb1570: At pretty much all water coolers worldwide, in my opinion. Kind of the inferred reference. But, maybe the UK, Australian and other fluther members can correct me.

@fireside: Yes, but Bahai faith is based on Ba’hullah (forgive my spelling), a prophet claiming to be the very last in the line of the prophets. Since this religion is relatively recent, I didn’t include it.

I think we’re referring to the religions during the time and history of the Crusades At least I am

fireside's avatar

@Siren – Baha’u’llah didn’t claim to be the last, he said to expect another in “not less than a thousand years”. And, from what I understand, he was actually of the Eastern line of prophets (Krishna, Zoroaster, Buddha, Muhammad) while his precursor the Bab was of the Western line of Prophets (Abraham, Moses, Christ).

I didn’t take offense to the non-inclusion, just wanted to point out the significance of the fact that there are half as many followers of the Bahai faith as there are of the Jewish faith.

I was asking about the three major religions, or at least what people were referring to when they used that term.

Also, tb1570’s point still hold true even if people in the UK and Australia think along the same lines as people in the US since they are all considered “Western influenced societies”

Siren's avatar

@fireside: Certainly no offence intended, my friend. I know many people of the Bahai faith who vote high in my opinion for whatever it’s worth

Siren's avatar

@fireside: Forgive me if I’m incorrect, but Abraham, Moses and Christ are also of the eastern line of prophets: Jerusalem, Mesopotamia, etc. I don’t think there is a “Western line of prophets” – they all’ originated from the middle east, bro

I like your groupings though, he he

tb1570's avatar

@Siren do you really think around chinese, japanese, indian, malaysian, etc., etc., water coolers the three religions you listed are regarded as the most important? how can you dismiss buddhism and hinduism, both of which have hundreds of millions more followers than judaism, and both of which outdate most western religions by at least a few hundred years. i think your stripes are starting to show…

Siren's avatar

@tb1570: Where can you quote that I wrote “most important”? The question was: What are the three major religions.

For all historical, geographical, demographical purposes, that was my answer. People reference the “three major religions” as such because they are related historically.

I’m not sure I would care to comment on what I thought were the three most important religions…that question would have more of a baiting nature to it, don’t you think? And I don’t wear stripes

fireside's avatar

@Siren – The Middle East is further West than the Far East, thus the Western and Eastern Line of Prophets. I thought I saw a map somewhere detailing the understood birthplaces but I can’t find it now.

Siren's avatar

@fireside: Ahhhh…apples and oranges. I still like your grouping though eastern line of prophets, western line of prophets. The names are cute. :)

By the way: I meant no insult to other religions, beliefs, etc. Certainly not my intentions (as I’ve said before…arrggh). I like to argue facts, not beliefs. I took the question in the symantic tone it was asked. Perhaps the numbers have all changed and the three major religions are now quantitatively something else. But, historically and via common reference, that is my answer.

I am actually fascinated with other people’s religions and respect many people of different faiths who have made themselves prominent through deed or word, such as Ghandi, the Dalai Lamai, and so on. I could probably tell you something about each religion that fascinates me but I won’t bore you…unless you ask me nicely

tb1570's avatar

Siren—whose history?? whose common reference?? the question was not “what are the three major western religions.”
So, the answer still stands:
Christianity
Islam
Hinduism
and the only other one even close would be Buddhism, which might well surpass all three if we knew exactly how China’s population was counted in to the mix.

fireside's avatar

@Siren – I was wrong earlier when I said that i thought Baha’u’llah was from the Eastern line. According to everything I can find, he is a descendant from the House of David

Siren's avatar

@tb1570: That’s your opinion, based on your bias/beliefs/computations,facts, etc. and you’re welcome to them. I voiced an opinion, then backed it up with the set of facts I have at my disposal. If I’m wrong, it won’t ruin my day. It’s not a big deal in the big scheme of things.

@fireside: Cool. As I mentioned above, I should put disclaimers on all my comments. I only answer a question if I believe I have heard the answer before. I try to comment with what I know are facts, not what I hope are facts. What use is disseminating bad info And no offence to flutherers, but all facts listed on this site and anywhere on the internet should be taken with a grain of salt

fireside's avatar

@Siren – All you can do is offer your thoughts based on your perspective. Thanks for your responses, I thought they were positive contributions to the discussion.

Siren's avatar

@fireside: Thank you, and you as well.

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