The story

Characteristics of religions


Although each religion has its own elements, it is also possible to establish a series of elements that are common to the various religions and which may allow a better understanding of the religious phenomenon.

Religions have great narratives that explain the beginning of the world or that legitimize their existence. The best known example is perhaps the Genesis narrative in the Jewish and Christian tradition. As for the legitimacy of the existence and validity of a religious system, it usually calls for revelation or wisdom from a founder, as in Buddhism, where the Buddha attained enlightenment while meditating under a fig tree or Islam, in which Muhammad received the revelation of the Koran of God.

Religions also tend to sacralize certain places. The reasons for this sacralization are varied and may be related to a particular event in the history of religion (for example, the importance of the Wailing Wall in Judaism) or because these places are associated with miraculous events (Catholic sanctuaries of Fatima or Lourdes) or because they are milestones of religious events related to the mythology of religion itself (megalithic monuments such as Stonehenge in the case of pagan religions). In ancient Greek religion, the temples were not places for religious practice, but places where it was believed that the deity dwelt and were therefore sacred.


Megalithic Monuments

Religions establish that certain temporal periods are special and dedicated to an interaction with the divine. These periods may be annual, monthly, weekly or may even unfold over the course of a day. Some religions consider that certain days of the week are sacred (Shabbat in Judaism or Sunday in Christianity), others mark these sacred days according to nature phenomena, such as the phases of the moon in the Wicca religion, where every first day of the moon. full fade is considered sacred. Religions propose feasts or periods of fasting and meditation that develop throughout the year.

Religion in the contemporary world

Since the late nineteenth century, and particularly since the second half of the twentieth century, the role of religion, as well as its membership, has changed profoundly.

Some countries whose religious tradition was historically linked to Christianity, specifically the countries of Europe, experienced a significant decline in religion. This decline has manifested itself in the decrease in the number of people attending religious services or the number who wish to embrace a monastic or priesthood-related life.

In contrast, in the United States, Latin America, and Africa, Christianity is growing significantly; For some scholars these places will in the near future be the new centers of this religion. Islam is now the fastest growing religion in numbers, which are not limited to the Arab world, but also to Southeast Asia, and to communities in Europe and the Americas. Hinduism, Buddhism and Shinto have their major area of ​​influence in the Far East, although the first two traditions increasingly influence the spirituality of the inhabitants of the western world. India, where about 80 percent of the population is Hindu, is one of the most religious countries in the world, ranking second after the United States. Explanations for the growth of religions in these regions include disillusionment with the great ideologies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, such as nationalism and socialism.

On the other hand, the Western world is marked by syncretic religious practices, linked to each one's "individual religion" and the emergence of the so-called "new religious movements". While not all of these movements are so recent, the term is used to refer to neochristian (Jesus Movement), Judeo-Christian (Jews for Jesus), Eastern-inspired movements (Hare Krishna), and groups that appeal to development of human potential through eg meditation techniques (Transcendental Meditation).

Also present in Europe and the United States of America is what researchers call a "mystical-esoteric nebula" that appeals to practices such as shamanism, tarot, astrology, mysteries, and whose activities revolve around the organization of conferences, internships, magazines and books. Some of the characteristics of this mystic-esoteric nebula are the centralities of the individual who must travel a personal path of improvement through the use of practices such as yoga, meditation, the idea that all religions can converge, the desire for world peace and emergence of a new era marked by a higher level of consciousness.

Number of supporters by religion

  • Catholicism: 2100 million
  • Islam: 1300 million
  • Hinduism: 870 million
  • Without religion: 769 million
  • Chinese Traditional Religions: 405 Million
  • Protestantism: 375 million
  • Orthodox Christianity: 220 million
  • Anglicanism: 80 million
  • Independent Christians: 430 million
  • Buddhism: 379 million
  • Sikhism: 25 million
  • Judaism: 15 million
  • African Traditional Religions: 100 Million
  • New Religions: 108 Million