World Religions Explained with Useful Charts: Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity & More

It does­n’t take an expert in the field to know that, around the world, there is much dis­agree­ment on the sub­ject of reli­gion. But as explained in the Use­fulCharts video above by Matt Bak­er, whose PhD in Reli­gious Stud­ies makes him an expert in the field, every source does agree on the fact that the four largest reli­gions in the world are Chris­tian­i­ty, Islam, Hin­duism, and Bud­dhism. “These are the undis­put­ed ‘big four,’ ” Bak­er says, and they’ve thus been the sub­jects of the var­i­ous videos and charts he’s made explain­ing their his­to­ries and char­ac­ter­is­tics. But in his area of exper­tise, he adds, “it is often said that there are five major world reli­gions.”

The fifth major reli­gion, as you may have already guessed, is Judaism, though its six­teen mil­lion adher­ents don’t enter the same numer­i­cal league as the world’s 1.9 bil­lion Mus­lims or 2.4 bil­lion Chris­tians. The Jew­ish faith punch­es well above its weight in respects like its age, and its being “the par­ent reli­gion to both Chris­tian­i­ty and Islam.” Com­ing in at 400 mil­lion believ­ers is a reli­gion, or cat­e­go­ry of reli­gions, that to many read­ers may seem much less famil­iar than Judaism: Chi­nese folk reli­gion, or as Bak­er calls it, “Chi­nese Syn­cretism,” refer­ring to its mix­ture of dif­fer­ent ideas and tra­di­tions.

You can get up to speed on Chi­nese Syn­cretism, as well as Islam, Hin­duism, and Bud­dhism, in the two-hour video at the top of the post, which com­piles Bak­er’s Use­fulCharts expla­na­tions of those reli­gions’ evo­lu­tions and all the intel­lec­tu­al, doc­tri­nal, and cul­tur­al branch­es that have grown in the process. To Chris­tian­i­ty, the biggest of the big four, Bak­er has devot­ed an entire series, pre­sent­ed in its entire­ty in the three-hour video just above.  You may be able to describe the dif­fer­ences between Catholi­cism and Protes­tantism, but what about the dif­fer­ences between, say, the Syr­i­ac Catholic Church, the Evan­gel­i­cal Free Church of Amer­i­ca, and the Mekane Yesus Church of Ethiopia?

Bak­er can and does describe those dif­fer­ences, using his own fam­i­ly tree-style charts as a visu­al aid. Only one view­ing may not be enough to gain a clear under­stand­ing of what sep­a­rates each Chris­t­ian denom­i­na­tion from every oth­er. But it will cer­tain­ly be enough to instill an under­stand­ing that, in an impor­tant sense, there is such thing as Chris­tian­i­ty, sin­gu­lar; bet­ter, per­haps, to speak of the many and var­ied Chris­tian­i­ties than have been prac­ticed over the mil­len­nia. The same goes, in dif­fer­ent ways, for the oth­er major world reli­gions, and if you zoom in far enough, even the minor ones turn out to be rich with their own com­plex­i­ties. But then, as Bak­er sure­ly would agree, there are no minor reli­gions — at least if you’re curi­ous enough about them.

Relat­ed con­tent:

An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to the World’s Five Major Reli­gions: Hin­duism, Judaism, Bud­dhism, Chris­tian­i­ty & Islam

180,000 Years of Reli­gion Chart­ed on a “His­tom­ap” in 1943

A Visu­al Map of the World’s Major Reli­gions (and Non-Reli­gions)

Ani­mat­ed Map Shows How the Five Major Reli­gions Spread Across the World (3000 BC — 2000 AD)

70,000+ Reli­gious Texts Dig­i­tized by Prince­ton The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary, Let­ting You Immerse Your­self in the Curi­ous Works of Great World Reli­gions

Phi­los­o­phy of Reli­gion: A Free Online Course

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities and the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.