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Largest Religions in the World

You have probably never even heard of hundreds of religions worldwide.

You have probably never even heard of hundreds of religions worldwide.

By Meagan Drillinger, updated on November 15, 2022

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Religions often define a culture’s behaviors, morals, and customs, affecting all walks of life. Music, art, marriage, funerals, holiday celebrations — you name it, religion often casts its influence one way or another. And that’s not to mentionthat religious places of worship are some of the most visited among locals and tourists. 

But when it comes to religions of the world, how many do you know? There are hundreds of beliefs that you have likely never even heard of. These religions date as far back as several-thousand years to as recently as just 60 years ago. Some religions are concentrated in a tiny portion of the globe and ones that have adherents (or followers) in the majority of the world’s countries.

So which ones are the world’s most popular? We took a look at the top 20 most-practiced religions across the globe and broke them down for you to see just how popular they are, where they are practiced and what makes each of them unique. Do you see your chosen faith on the list?

20. Rastafarianism

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Number of adherents: 600,000

Percentage of all religions: .01%

Countries it’s most popular in:

  • Jamaica
  • Anglophone Caribbean
  • United States
  • Canada
  • United Kingdom
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Anglophone parts of Africa

* Religion demographics came from Pew Research Center

About Rastafarianism

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Rastafarianism was born in Jamaica following the coronation of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I in 1930. The movement is spiritual and believes that Selassie is of divine power. The roots can be traced to the 18th century when Ethiopianism and Pan-Africanism emphasized an idealized Africa, especially during slavery. Selassie is believed to be a descendant of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Jamaican preachers began speaking of him as the ruling authority over King George V back when Jamaica was a colony of England. 

Modern Rastafarians believe in the Christian God, called Jah. They believe Christ came to Earth, though Emperor Selassie is regarded as the messiah and rebirth of Christ. To be Rastafarian means to believe that God is testing you, and Rastas await their deliverance from captivity and return to Zion, the symbolic name for Africa. This one might be more familiar to some because Bob Marley used his music to bring global attention to religion.

19. Unitarian Universalism

Unitarian Universalist Association

Number of adherents: 800,000

Percentage of all religions: .01%

Countries it’s most popular in:

  • United States
  • Philippines
  • Canada
  • U.S. Virgin Islands

About Unitarian Universalism

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Stemming from the Protestant Reformation, Unitarian Universalism began in Poland and Eastern Europe in the 16th century. It moved to England by the mid-17th century. Today, there are about 1,000 congregations in North America. The North American church is much more about “humanism” than theism. 

Today, the religion encompasses Christians, Jews, Buddhists, humanists, and neopagans. The foundation of North American Unitarianism rests on the unity of God and rejection of the Trinity, the importance of reason in understanding the Bible, human nature in discovering religious truths, God as having a loving heart, and the denial of original sin. Religion has also been influenced by philosophies from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

18. Neopaganism

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Number of adherents: 1 million

Percentage of all adherents: .01%

Countries it’s most popular in:

  • Ireland
  • Latin Europe
  • Scandinavia
  • United Kingdom
  • Baltics
  • United States
  • Australia

About Neopaganism

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Neopaganism is represented by various movements and organizations, though the largest is the Wicca movement. Second is the Neo-Druidism religion. Both were introduced during the 20th century in Great Britain. Gerald Gardner introduced Wicca in 1964. It is a modern Pagan religion with no central authority figure. There are many variations, even those divided into sects and denominations that are referred to as traditions. 

The religion typically worships a Goddess and a God, like the Moon Goddess and the Horned God. Celebrations revolve around the cycles of the moon. Many Wiccans believe in magic, and ritual practices are often part of the tradition. Wiccans believe that they are positive forces against the powers of destruction that threaten the world.

17. Tenrikyo

Tenrikyo Mission HQ in America & Canada

Number of adherents: 2 million

Percentage of all religions: .02%

Countries it’s most popular in:

  • Japan
  • United States
  • Colombia
  • Philippines
  • United Kingdom

About Tenrikyo

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One of the newer Japanese religions, Tenrikyo, is neither monotheistic nor polytheistic. It is based on the teachings of a woman named Nakayama Miki, whom her followers call Oyasama. Tenrikyo followers believe in Tsukihi, the God of Origin, and Ogamisama, God the Parent, who revealed themselves to Oyasama and other leaders. 

The religion aims to promote the Joyous Life, achieved through charitable acts. Joyous Life lacks greed, selfishness, hatred, anger, and arrogance. Many of the principles rely on causality, which is a karmic belief.

16. Zoroastrianism

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Number of adherents: 2.6 million

Percentage of all religions: .02%

Countries it’s most popular in:

  • Iran
  • India

About Zoroastrianism

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This ancient Persian religion has roots that trace as far back as 4,000 years. Some say it’s even more ancient than Judaism. Zoroastrianism was the state religion of three Persian empires until the Muslim conquest of Persia in the seventh century. It began with the prophet Zoroaster, who is considered to be the founder of the religion. He is said to have been born in northeastern Iran or southwestern Afghanistan and lived in a tribe that followed a polytheistic religion, similar to Hinduism. 

Religion helped shape the Persian Empire, and its beliefs spread across Asia via the Silk Road. Concepts include the idea of a single god, heaven, hell, and a Judgment Day. It relies heavily on fire and water symbols, and each temple contains an altar with an eternal flame. 

15. Cao Dai

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Number of adherents: 4 million

Percentage of all religions: .04%

Countries it’s most popular in:

  • Vietnam

About Cao Dai

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Caodaism is a monotheistic religion established in Southern Vietnam in the 1920s. Cao Dai translates to Highest Power and is the guardian deity that followers believe created the universe. The first to receive messages from Cao Dai was Ngo Van Chieu, a head of the French administration in Cochinchina. Followers believe that in 1925 God identified himself with the first group of Cao Dai mediums, who continued to play integral roles in the growth of the religion. 

According to the doctrine of religion, God and humanity are destined to unite and establish faith for the salvation of living beings before the apocalypse. Through its teachings, Caodaism says that God speaks through prophets, but these messages have been ignored as humans select worldly pleasures instead. Caodaism believes people have a duty to themselves, their families, and society. They renounce riches and luxury, believe in one God, and strive for harmony with their environment.

14. Shintoism

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Number of adherents: 4 million

Percentage of all religions: .04%

Countries it’s most popular in:

  • Japan
  • Brazil
  • United States

About Shintoism

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Shinto refers to the indigenous religious beliefs of Japan. It came into being to help distinguish the native Japanese ideas from Buddhism, which came to Japan in the sixth century. There is no founder of Shintoism. Its principles rely on the connection with the Japanese value system. Isn’t much known about its origins? Still, it was established that society consisted of clans, and the head of each family was in charge of worshiping the clan’s origami or guardian deity. Ancient Shinto was polytheistic. 

When Buddhism was introduced in 552, the two started to fuse characteristics. For example, shrines for Shinto gods were built within Buddhist temples. At the core of Shinto beliefs is the attitude of being true of heart, sincere, pure and upright. It encourages people to do their best in the work they have chosen or in their relationships with others.

13. Jainism

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Number of adherents: 4.2 million

Percentage of all religions: .04%

Countries it’s most popular in:

  • India: 0.3%
  • Suriname: 0.3%
  • Fiji: 0.2%
  • Kenya: 0.2%
  • Nepal: 0.1%

About Jainism

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Jainism is a religion founded in India that teaches a path to enlightenment through nonviolence to all living things. It is one of the oldest Indian religions, alongside Hinduism and Buddhism. There are many similarities between Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism; however, Jains believe that their tradition does not have a historical founder. 

Jains believe that no one can achieve liberation in this lifetime because corruption is everywhere. The goal is to completely purify the soul, which only happens when our souls are free from our physical bodies. Through karma, people can achieve full self-realization and freedom of the soul. Jain doctrine states that all phenomena are linked in a chain of cause and effect. At the very base of it, Jains must show kindness to every living thing.

12. Baha’i

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Number of adherents: 7 million

Percentage of all religions: .07%

Countries it’s most popular in:

  • Belize: 2.5%
  • Bolivia: 2.2%
  • Zambia: 1.8%
  • Mauritius: 1.8%
  • Guyana: 1.6%
  • Vanuatu: 1.4%
  • Barbados: 1.2%
  • Trinidad and Tobago: 1.2%
  • Panama: 1.2%
  • Kenya: 1.0%
  • Lesotho: 0.9%
  • Papua New Guinea: 0.9%
  • Reunion: 0.9%
  • Chad: 0.9%
  • Botswana: 0.8%
  • Gambia: 0.8%
  • Suriname: 0.8%
  • Republic of the Congo: 0.6%
  • Solomon Islands: 0.6%
  • Venezuela: 0.6%

About Baha’i

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Born out of what is now Iran in 1844, the Baha’i faith grew out of the Shi’ite branch of Islam. Started by a young man who called himself The Bab; he proclaimed that a messenger would arrive from God, who would be the next prophet. His teachings spread rapidly, though they were viewed as heretical by the government of Persia, and more than 20,000 followers were brutally executed during that time. The Bab was also performed in the year 1850. 

A nobleman named Mirza Husayn Ali gave up his life of privilege to become one of the leaders of the religion. He gained a substantial following throughout his life, even though he was forced to live in exile. In his will, he named his son as the head of the faith and interpreter of God’s teachings. The succession has remained in the family since. In 1963, the Universal House of Justice was elected to direct the affairs of the worldwide Baha’i community.

11. Judaism

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Number of adherents: 14 million

Percentage of all religions: 0.18%

Countries it’s most popular in:

  • Israel: 73.6%
  • Gibraltar: 2.0%
  • United States: 1.76%
  • Canada: 1.07%
  • France: 0.7%
  • Hungary: 0.485%
  • Uruguay: 0.483%
  • Australia: 0.47%
  • United Kingdom: 0.44%
  • Argentina: 0.41%
  • U.S. Virgin Islands: 0.36%
  • Belgium: 0.259%
  • Panama: 0.250%
  • Latvia: 0.24%
  • Switzerland: 0.22%
  • Netherlands: 0.17%
  • New Zealand: 0.16%
  • Estonia: 0.154%
  • Bermuda: 0.154%
  • Sweden: 0.152%

About Judaism

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Have you ever wondered what the world’s oldest monotheistic religion is? It turns out it’s Judaism — even though it is one of the least widely practiced religions in the world. Essential to the Jewish faith is the belief in one God who has built a covenant, or agreement, with his people. God communicates through prophets, rewards good deeds, and punishes evil ones. Judaism believes that their Messiah has not yet arriitsnlike Christianity or Islam. 

According to Jewish history, God first presented himself to a man called Abraham, who became known as the father of Judaism. It was with Abraham that God made his covenant. Abraham had a son Isaac and one son Jacob, but Jacob took the name Israel, and thus his people became known as Israelites. Throughout history, Jewish people have been persecuted for their religious beliefs, which over time led to the creation of Israel. There are various sects of Judaism, ranging from liberal to highly conservative.

10. Spiritism

US Spiritist Federation/Facebook

Number of adherents: 15 million

Percentage of all religions: 0.19%

Countries it’s most popular in:

  • Cuba: 10.3%
  • Jamaica: 10.2%
  • Brazil: 4.8%
  • Suriname: 3.6%
  • Haiti: 2.7%
  • Dominican Republic: 2.2%
  • The Bahamas: 1.9%
  • Nicaragua: 1.5%
  • Trinidad and Tobago: 1.4%
  • Guyana: 1.3%
  • Venezuela: 1.1%
  • Colombia: 1.0%
  • Belize: 1.0%
  • Honduras: 0.9%
  • Puerto Rico: 0.7%
  • Panama: 0.5%
  • Iceland: 0.5%
  • Guadeloupe: 0.4%
  • Argentina: 0.2%
  • Guatemala: 0.2%

About Spiritism

International Spiritist Council/Facebook

Spiritism is a philosophy that began in the 1800s by a French educator named Hippolyte Leon Denizard Rivail, though he went by the name Allan Kardec. The philosophy of Spiritism says that humans and other living creatures are immortal spirits that temporarily inhabit a physical body. It also relies heavily on the belief that spirits without bodies still exist in the physical world. Kardec developed his theory after reported observations during seances. 

Spiritism does believe in a god. It also holds the tenet that spirits can communicate with living people and that other planets in the universe are inhabited. Mediums are the people who help communicate between the physical world and the spiritual world. Today, Spiritism has a presence all over the world, but most of its followers live in Latin America and the Caribbean.

9. Sikhism

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Number of adherents: 30 million

Percentage of all religions: 0.37%

Countries it’s most popular in:

  • India: 1.9%
  • United Kingdom: 1.2%
  • Canada 0.9%
  • Malaysia: 0.5%
  • Fiji: 0.3%
  • Singapore: 0.3%
  • United States: 0.2%
  • New Zealand: 0.2%
  • Australia: 0.1%
  • Italy: 0.1%

About Sikhism

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Sikhism originates from the Punjab state in India, where about 61 percent of the population adheres to the Sikh religion. While Sikhs have emigrated worldwide, Punjab is where they hold most of the people. The Sikh faith dates back to 1500 when  Guru Nanak began teaching a religion different from Hinduism and Islam

Sikhs are monotheists, believing in only one God, unlike Hindus who have beliefs that span across many different belief systems. Today, a true religious Sikh identifies as one who serves the community around them, as well as cultivating their own spiritual self.

8. African Traditional Religions

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Number of adherents: ~100 million

Percentage of all religions: 1%

Countries they’re most popular in:

  • Congo
  • Kenya
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Ethiopia
  • Zambia
  • Malawi
  • South Africa
  • Ghana
  • Ivory Coast
  • Benin
  • Togo
  • Nigeria
  • Cameroon
  • Benin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Niger
  • Senegal
  • Gambia
  • Mauritania

About African Traditional Religions

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The traditional religions of Africa are among some of the oldest in the world, and while they are all greatly different from one another, they have a few things in common. First, these traditions are oral, meaning they are passed down by word of mouth, rather than in scripture. Many of them also have a system of deities, including higher and lower gods, such as a supreme creator and then a council of other spirits. 

Animism is a core of many African religions, including worshipping ancestors and human beings. Many of them also hold a belief in the afterlife. Deities are honored through the sacrifice of animals, libations, and the presentation of food, flowers, and semi-precious stones. The Sub-Saharan African religions are spread among 43 countries.

7. Ethnic and Indigenous Religions

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Number of adherents: ~170 million

Percentage of all religions: 1.7%

Countries they’re most popular in:

  • Haiti: 50%
  • Guinea-Bissau: 50%
  • Cameroon: 40%
  • Togo: 33%
  • Côte d’Ivoire: 25%
  • Sudan: 25%
  • Benin: 23%
  • Burundi: 20%
  • Burkina Faso: 15%
  • New Zealand: 15%
  • South Africa: 15%
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo: 12%
  • Central African Republic: 10%
  • Gabon: 10%
  • Lesotho: 10%
  • Nigeria: 10%
  • Sierra Leone: 10%
  • Indonesia: 9%
  • Kenya: 9%
  • Palau: 9%

About Ethnic and Indigenous Religions

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Ethnic religions are indigenous to a culture and are a defining part of that culture, language, and customs. These religions can be found across all continents, especially in communities affected by colonialism. 

They differ from religions like Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism in that they do not seek converts. Some examples of ethnic or indigenous religions include African traditions, the Shinto of Japan, and the Maya of Mexico, and many others.

6. Chinese Traditional Religion

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Number of adherents: ~300 million

Percentage of all religions: 3%

Countries it’s most popular in:

  • Taiwan: 33-80%
  • China: 30%
  • Hong Kong: 28%
  • Macau: 13.9%
  • Singapore: 8.5%
  • Malaysia: 2.6%
  • South Korea: 0.2-1%
  • Philippines: 0.01%-0.05%
  • Indonesia: 0.05%

About Chinese Traditional Religion

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Chinese folk religion is the most popular form of religion throughout China and Taiwan. The beliefs rely heavily on nature, ancestors, and the dispelling of harmful forces, spirits and gods. 

During the 11th century, these beliefs were melded with Buddhist ideas and Taoist teachings, which now make up the principles of the modern-day iteration of Chinese folk religion. One concept you might be familiar with surrounding Chinese folk religion is that of yin and yang, which describes the order of the universe.

5. Buddhism

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Number of adherents: 521 million

Percentage of all religions: 6.9%

Countries it’s most popular in:

  • Cambodia: 96.9%
  • Thailand: 93.2%
  • Myanmar: 80.1%
  • Bhutan: 74.70%
  • Sri Lanka: 69.3%
  • Laos: 66.0%
  • Mongolia: 55.1%
  • Japan: 36.2%
  • Taiwan: 35.1%
  • Singapore: 33.2%
  • South Korea: 22.9%
  • Malaysia: 19.8%
  • China: 18.2%
  • Macau: 17.3%
  • Vietnam: 16.4%
  • Hong Kong: 13.2%
  • Nepal: 10.3%

About Buddhism

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The history of Buddhism can be traced back to Siddhartha Gautama, “Buddha” himself, who founded the religion more than 2,500 years ago in India. Siddhartha Gautama was born as a prince in present-day Nepal and gave up his royal lifestyle, seeking to live a life without indulgences but also without deprivation. After his passing around 483 B.C., his followers organized the movement that evolved into Buddhism.

Buddhism’s principles involve focusing on living life in such a way as to achieve enlightenment, which is a state of inner peace. There is no focus on a supreme god or deity. Once followers have reached this spiritual plane, they are said to have attained Nirvana. To reach enlightenment, followers of Buddhism must live their lives morally, using meditation and wisdom to help awaken truth. The most important teachings of Buddhism are known as the Four Noble Truths. Like Hinduism, Buddhists believe in karma as well as reincarnation. 

4. Hinduism

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Number of adherents: 1.15 billion

Percentage of all religions: 15.1%

Countries it’s most popular in:

  • Nepal: 81.3%
  • India: 79.8%
  • Mauritius: 48.54%
  • Fiji: 27.9%
  • Bhutan: 25%
  • Guyana: 24.8%
  • Suriname: 22.3%
  • Trinidad and Tobago: 18.2%
  • United Arab Emirates: 15%
  • Sri Lanka: 12.6%
  • Kuwait: 12%
  • Bangladesh: 9.6%
  • Bahrain: 8.1%
  • Reunion: 6.7%
  • Malaysia: 6.3%
  • Singapore: 5.1%
  • Oman: 3%
  • Seychelles: 2.1%
  • New Zealand: 2.0%
  • Pakistan: 1.8%

About Hinduism

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If you were wondering what the world’s oldest religion is, meet Hinduism. The roots of Hinduism stretch back more than 4,000 years. Unlike Christianity and Islam, there is no one founder of Hinduism. It’s not a single religion, but one that is made up of many different beliefs. At the core, Hinduism is referred to as a “way of life” instead of a religion. Most forms of Hinduism worship a single God, Brahman, but recognize other gods and goddesses. Hindus believe in reincarnation as well. 

Most scholars believe Hinduism originated near modern-day Pakistan. Hinduism relies heavily on the concept of karma and dharma. Karma is the universal law of cause and effect, in that people’s actions and thoughts determine their current and future lives. Dharma is what all Hindus strive to achieve, a code of living rooted in morality and balance.

3. Atheism

American Atheists/Facebook

Number of adherents: 1.2 billion

Percentage of all religions: 16%

Countries it’s most popular in:

  • Estonia: 77%
  • Czech Republic: 76%
  • Japan: 76%
  • Denmark: 72%
  • Sweden: 64%
  • Vietnam: 63%
  • Macau: 62%
  • Hong Kong: 57%
  • France: 54%
  • Norway: 52%
  • China: 47%
  • Netherlands: 47%
  • Finland: 44%
  • New Zealand: 42%
  • United Kingdom: 42%
  • South Korea: 41%
  • Germany: 40%
  • Hungary: 39%
  • Belgium: 39%
  • Bulgaria: 37%

About Atheism

American Atheists/Facebook

The simplest definition of atheism is the absence of belief in any God. It is the direct contrast to theism, which is the belief that at least one god exists. It is the inherent lack of a belief system and the lack of religion. American Atheists define it as “If atheism is a religion, then not collecting stamps is a hobby.” 

Other terms you may hear with respect to atheism are agnostic, humanist, secular, bright or freethinker. But atheism is its own terminology that most accurately describes what atheism is: the absence of religion.

2. Islam

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Number of adherents: 1.8 billion

Percentage of all religions: 24.1%

Countries it’s most popular in:

  • Afghanistan: 99.7% (predominantly Sunni)
  • Tunisia: 99.5% (predominantly Sunni)
  • Iran: 99.4% (mostly Shi’a)
  • Azerbaijan: 99.2% (65-75% Shi’a)
  • Yemen: 99.1% (35-40% Shi’a)
  • Mauritania: 99.1%
  • Morocco: ~99%
  • Iraq: 99% (65-70% Shi’a)
  • Niger: 98.6% (predominantly Sunni)
  • Somalia: 98.5% (predominantly Sunni)
  • Maldives: 98.4% (predominantly Sunni)
  • Comoros: 98.3% (predominantly Sunni)
  • Algeria: 98%
  • Turkey: ~98%
  • Saudi Arabia: ~97% (10-15% Shi’a)
  • Djibouti: 96.9% (predominantly Sunni)
  • Libya: 96.6% (predominantly Sunni)
  • Pakistan: 96.4%
  • Kuwait: ~95% (20-25% Shi’a)
  • Egypt: 94.6% (predominantly Sunni)

About Islam

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The roots of Islam go back centuries, though most scholars date the creation of the religion to the seventh century. So, while it is the second-widest practiced religion globally, it is the youngest of the major world religions. Islam started in the city of Mecca, which is in modern-day Saudi Arabia and centers around the life of the prophet Mohammed. Muslims, or those who practice Islam, believe that Allah’s (God’s) word was shown to the prophet Mohammed through the angel Gabriel and that prophets were sent to teach Allah’s law. 

The holy text of Islam is the Quran. Muslims believe Mohammed was the final prophet sent by God to bring their religion to the rest of the world. When Mohammed died, a debate arose about who was to replace him, which led to the two different sects of Islam: Sunnis and Shiites, though there are others. Today, Islam is the world’s fastest-growing religion, and experts believe it will surpass Christianity by the middle of the 21st century, which leads us to the No. 1 spot on this list…

1. Christianity

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Number of adherents: 2.3 billion

Percentage of all religions: 31.2%

Countries it’s most popular in:

  • Vatican City: 100% (100% Roman Catholic)
  • the Pitcairn Islands: 100% (100% Seventh-day Adventist)
  • Samoa: ~99% (primarily Protestant)
  • Romania: 99% (primarily Romanian Orthodox)
  • American Samoa: 98.3% (mainly Protestant)
  • Malta: 98.1% (predominantly Roman Catholic)
  • Venezuela: 98% (predominantly Roman Catholic)
  • Greece: 98% (95% Greek Orthodox)
  • the Marshall Islands: 97.2% (mainly Protestant)
  • Tonga: 97.2% (mainly Protestant)
  • San Marino: 97% (~97% Roman Catholic)
  • Paraguay: 96.9% (predominantly Roman Catholic)
  • Peru: 96.5% (predominantly Roman Catholic)
  • El Salvador: 96.4% (predominantly Roman Catholic)
  • Kiribati: 96% (primarily Protestant)
  • Federated States of Micronesia: ~96% (primarily Protestant)
  • Barbados: 95.1% (primarily Protestant)
  • Papua New Guinea: 94.8% (primarily Protestant)
  • East Timor: 94.2% (predominantly Roman Catholic)
  • Armenia: 93.5% (primarily Armenian Orthodox)

About Christianity

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Christianity is the world’s most popular and recognized religion, with dozens of sects and spinoffs. The faith centers on the belief in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christians believe in only one God and that he created the heavens and Earth. His son, Jesus Christ, was sent to save the world and crucified on the cross to offer forgiveness for his sins. 

Christians follow the book of the Bible, which is a collection of 66 books written by different authors. According to the Bible, the first church organized itself 50 days after Jesus’ death. Early on, Christianity was considered illegal until Roman Emperor Constantine converted, lifting the ban on the religion. Hundreds of wars have been fought in the name of Christianity throughout the centuries.

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