By Jaclyn Wallander
Christianity was founded in the early 1st century AD, with the teaching, miracles, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Today it is the largest religion in the world, with around 2 billion followers. Especially dominant in the western world, today's Christianity has a wide variety of forms, beliefs and practices but all center around faith in Jesus Christ.
God(s): monotheist, The Lord or God
Holy Book: the Bible
Holidays: Christmas and Easter
Rituals: Church on Sundays, Baptisms, Communion
Islam is a monotheistic religion based on revelations received by the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century, which were later recorded in the Qur'an (Koran), Islam's sacred text. The faith spread rapidly and today Islam is the second largest religion in the world. The Arabic word islam means "submission," reflecting the religion's central tenet of submitting to the will of God. Islamic practices are defined by the Five Pillars of Islam: faith, prayer, fasting, pilgrimage and alms.
God(s): monotheistic, God or Allah
Holy Book: Qur'an
Holidays: Ramadan and Ashura
Rituals: Five Pillars of Islam, Pilgrimage to Mecca
Judaism is one of the oldest religions still existing today. It began as the religion of the small nation of the Hebrews, and through thousands of years of suffering, persecution, dispersion, and occasional victory, has continued to be a profoundly influential religion and culture. Today, 14 million people identify themselves as Jewish. Modern Judaism is a complex phenomenon that incorporates both a nation and a religion, and often combines strict adherence to ritual laws with a more liberal attitude towards religious belief.
God(s): monotheistic, God or The Messiah
Holy Book: the Torah, Talmud, and Tanakh
Holidays: Hanukkah, Rash Hashanah
Rituals: the Sabbath, keeping Kosher, 613 commandments
Founded in India 2,500 years ago, Buddhism remains the dominant religion of the Far East and is increasingly popular in the West. Over its long history Buddhist has developed into a wide variety of forms, ranging from an emphasis on religious rituals and worship of deities to a complete rejection of both rituals and deities in favor of pure meditation. But all share in common a great respect for the teachings of the Buddha, "The Enlightened One."
God(s): polytheistic, Buddha
Holidays: Vesak, Sangha Day
Rituals: meditation, mantras
Hinduism is an ancient religion with no founder or known date of origin. The term "Hinduism" simply derives from the word "India" and refers to a wide variety of religious traditions and philosophies that have developed in India over thousands of years. Most Hindus worship one or more deities, believe in reincarnation, value the practice of meditation, and observe festive holidays like Diwali and Holi.
Holidays: Diwali, Holi
Rituals: meditation, yoga