Major religious groups  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The world's principal religions and spiritual traditions may be classified into a small number of major groups or world religions. According to the 2005 survey of Encyclopædia Britannica, the vast majority of religious and spiritual adherents follow Christianity (33% of world population), Islam (20%), Hinduism (13%), Chinese folk religion (6.3%) or Buddhism (5.9%). The irreligious and atheists make up about 14%, and about 4% follow indigenous tribal religions. A number of classical "world religions" (including Sikhism, Judaism, Bahá'í, Jainism, Shinto and others) are each followed by under 0.5% of the world's population; they are sometimes considered world religions in terms of cultural significance and historic recognition, but are not deemed to be "major religious groups" due to their size.

Religious demographics

One way to define a major religion is by the number of current adherents. The population numbers by religion are computed by a combination of census reports and population surveys (in countries where religion data is not collected in census, for example the United States or France), but results can vary widely depending on the way questions are phrased, the definitions of religion used and the bias of the agencies or organizations conducting the survey. Informal or unorganized religions are especially difficult to count.

There is no consensus among researchers as to the best methodology for determining the religiosity profile of the world's population. A number of fundamental aspects are unresolved:

  • Whether to count "historically predominant religious culture[s]"
  • Whether to count only those who actively "practice" a particular religion
  • Whether to count based on a concept of "adherence"
  • Whether to count only those who expressly self-identify with a particular denomination
  • Whether to count only adults, or to include children as well.
  • Whether to rely only on official government-provided statistics
  • Whether to use multiple sources and ranges or single "best source(s)"

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Major religious groups" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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