How Many Religions Are There?

Have you ever wondered how many religions there are, or which ones are the most popular? The answer may not be what you assumed.

Contributing Writer
Updated Oct 21, 2022
How Many Religions Are There?

Have you ever wondered how many religions there are, or which ones are the most popular? The answer may not be what you assumed.

What Defines a Religion?

A religion is what a person regards as holy, sacred, divine, true, and worthy of reverence. Religion is the guiding force in a person’s life. People base their values on what their religion teaches. It is a person’s spiritual guidepost. Most people who have a religion also pray to their god or meditate. Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Judaism is based on the Old Testament, and they pray to God and keep His commandments.

How Many Recognized Religions Currently Exist in the World?

More than 80 percent of the world’s people follow some religion. There are so many religions that no one has a clear answer to how many exist. Experts have estimated anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 or more. Religions can be broken into the ones with the most followers. Religions can also be broken down by country or where they are most prevalent: East Asian religions, Chinese religions, Japanese religions, Korean religions, African religions, American religions, and many others.

Because it’s so complicated, researchers tend to talk about the top six religions with the most followers: Christianity, Judaism, Muslim, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Pew Research Center puts many smaller religions under categories like “folk religionists” (indigenous religions) and “other religions” (like Wicca, Ba’hai, Taoism, and many others). Most religions can also be broken into many distinct varieties (or denominations). For example, Christianity has Catholics, Methodists, Episcopalians, Baptists, etc.

What Are the Most Popular Religions in the World?

The most popular religions in the world are Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Christianity is the most popular religion in the world. Islam is the second-largest religion in the world. Judaism is the world’s oldest monotheistic religion going back 4,000 years. says there are over two billion Christian followers in the world. The Christian faith centers around Jesus Christ being the Son of God. Christians are also monotheistic and believe that there is only one God. We believe in the Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The hallmark of the Christian faith centers around the life and times of Jesus Christ.

Christians believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, died on the cross, and rose three days later. Jesus’ coming to the world was necessary to provide a pathway for man to atone for his sins. Forgiveness of sins is important in getting to heaven. Throughout the history of Christianity and since the fall of man, God has worked to get humanity back in His good graces. Christians worship in churches, cathedrals, and other houses of worship and study the Bible, including the Old and New Testaments. The cross is the symbol of Christianity.

If you read the Old Testament, you will see that there were prophets sent to help people along the way. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments to deliver to the children of Israel. God had already promised Abraham that His seed would be blessed and cut a covenant with him. Jesus came so that Gentiles (those not of Jewish heritage or faith) would have a pathway to redemption.

Christians believe that you go to heaven or hell when you die, and your name needs to be found in the Lamb’s Book of Life to avoid hell. They believe that you get baptized and that you can receive the Holy Ghost, which the Father sent to the earth to comfort and help man until Jesus’ return.

There are 1.8 billion followers of Islam in the world. That number is remarkably close to those of us who call ourselves Christians. Although the roots of Islam may extend back to the days of Ishmael, who was the son of Abraham through the handmaid of his wife Sarah, historians placed the start around the seventh century. This would make it the youngest of the world’s religions. If you read the book of Genesis 25 and look at the generations of Ishmael, there were twelve tribes born from him. However, God cut a covenant with Abraham and Sarah through Isaac, from which the religion of Judaism springs.

Followers of Islam are called Muslims. They worship one all-knowing God called Allah. They live a complete submission to Allah, but humans have free will. Islam teaches that God’s word was revealed through the prophet Muhammad through the angel Gabriel. They believe several prophets were sent to teach Allah’s word. They even believe Jesus was a prophet. They also believe Abraham, Noah, and Moses were prophets. They believe that Muhammad was the final prophet. They study the Quran and worship in Mosques. They believe that there will be a day of judgment and life after death. Important holy places include the Kaaba Shrine in Mecca, the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and the Prophet Muhammad’s Mosque in Medina.

Judaism is the world’s oldest monotheistic religion. There are about 14 million Jews worldwide. Most live in the United States and Israel. They believe in one God who revealed Himself through many prophets. Christians are quite aware of God cutting covenant with Abraham in the book of Genesis through Isaac (Genesis 26). The twelve tribes of Israel spring from this union of Abraham and Sarah through their son Isaac.

Most Jews (except for a few groups, including Messianic Jews) believe the Messiah has not yet come but will one day. Christians believe that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, has already come and will return in the last days. Jewish people worship in holy places called synagogues. Their worship leaders or teachers are called rabbis. They read the Torah, which includes the same books as the Old Testament in the Christian Bible (in a slightly different order).

How Can Christians Engage with People from Other Religions?

It is important to respect other people’s religions. Many people have had their religions since childhood. Others were acclimated to various religions at significant times in their life. As Christians, it is important to witness to non-Christians when the opportunity presents itself. Many Christians spend their time witnessing to people who are already Christians in hopes that they will join their particular ministry. So, a person already Christian who joins a different church is not a new convert. Many times, God plants people in ministries. This is not to say that they have a lifetime assignment at a particular ministry, but it is significant at a particular time in their life. That is why it is important to study the Bible for yourself. Develop a relationship with Jesus Christ for yourself. It is so easy to turn people away if you have a spirit of manipulation and are merely trying to promote your agenda rather than God’s agenda.

The body of Christ is a talented bunch. We as Christians have to be careful how we manage ourselves in public and private. Someone is always watching, even if it is God.

There are so many religions out there, and people are seeking truth. As Christians, we should seek to be powerful witnesses. Unfortunately, there are also cults. You may have seen news reports about particular cults like Jim Jones and the People’s Temple. Jones proclaimed himself to be the messiah. More than 900 souls participated in a mass suicide with him. There was also the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, Texas. Here 75 people, including their charismatic leader David Koresh, perished in a blaze that destroyed their compound. Some cults make headlines, but we hear people in smaller cults talking about how they escaped.

People are searching for significance, especially when life starts to have twists and turns. As people grow and mature and realize that humans can’t be depended on for everything, they start searching for a higher power. We are merely flesh and bones and are limited by our power and what we can do. As Christians, we need to show people the light, Jesus. The Bible says, “If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). You have to lift up God through Jesus and not man.

Further Reading:

What Is Christianity? Guide to the Basics of Faith

What Is the Jewish Bible?

Christians and Muslims - 601 AD-900 AD Church History Timeline

What Is the Oldest Religion?

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Dr. Sandra SmithDr. Sandra Hamer Smith is a Christian and wife to Sylvester Smith. She has one stepson, Greg. Smith lives and resides in Memphis, Tennessee. The University of Memphis alumnae has been in education for about 20 years after receiving the call to teach. Dr. Smith primarily teaches language arts. Prior to education, she worked in local and national television news for 13 years including positions as an overnight news anchor, reporter, and assignments editor at two local network affiliate stations. Smith was also a freelance correspondent for BET news. Dr. Smith has freelanced for the Tri-State Defender newspaper and Contempora magazine.  She is the author of the self-published novel GLORY…THE HAIR.  Smith is also a playwright and poet. The Tennessee native is a member of Temple of Deliverance COGIC, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc, Omicron Delta Kappa, The Golden Key International Honour Society, and Kappa Delta Pi.



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