Types of religion (and their differences of beliefs and ideas)
The phenomenon of religions is not something homogeneous and easy to understand just by reading one of the sacred texts of a certain religious faith.
The fact that religion has been present since the beginning of the intellectual activity of our species has made the amount of beliefs, rituals and customs so great that it is necessary take into account the different types of religion to understand what this way of understanding the world consists of. You can not take the part for the whole.
Next we will see in broad strokes which are the characteristics of these types of religions and in what aspects they are different.
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Different kinds of religion
Classifying different religions is not easy, among other things because there is not a single criterion to divide them into groups. In addition, the whole religious phenomenon is based on interpretations , which means that there is no absolute truth when it comes to understanding them (beyond the religious dogma of the most fundamental believers).
This type of religion is made up of currents of thought and traditions that they do not articulate around the belief in divine beings with their own intelligence and will .
For example, certain branches of Buddhism and Taoism are often considered non-theistic religions. However, there is also the possibility of understanding them as philosophies, although a broad definition of the concept of religion may include them, since they are based on dogmas and certain traditions and rituals.
Forms of pantheism
Pantheism is based on the idea that the divine and nature are the same, a single unit that can not be divided. That means the divine does not exist beyond the natural and vice versa and that, in addition, there is no metaphysical subject that orders everything that happens in nature, since it is self-sufficient.
In a way, pantheism can be seen as a romantic philosophy through which atheism is seen.
This is the most widespread type of religion today, and is based on the idea that the world has been created or is run by entities with a supernatural power that, in addition, exert like moral referents .
Theistic religions can be divided into two categories: monotheistic and polytheistic.
1. Monotheistic religions
In this type of religion it is clearly established that there is only one god , which is the entity with the greatest virtue and power. If there are other supernatural entities, they are below that divinity in terms of their power, or they have been created by it.
The three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity, belong to this branch, but also others less known, such as Mazdaism (related to the Prophet Zarathustra) or Sikhism, well known in India.
2. Dualistic religions
In dualistic religions there are two supernatural entities of the same rank that embody opposite essential principles and that fight with each other. This struggle, in turn, explains all the processes that can be proven in the nature and behavior of people.
An example of this type of religion is Manichaeism.
3. Polytheistic religions
In polytheistic religions there is no god or duality, but several, regardless of their rank or degree of power, that they form a pantheon . Hinduism or known religions of antiquity such as that of Egypt or Greco-Roman culture are examples of this category, as well as the deities of Scandinavian mythology.
Sorting by descent
The types of religion can also be divided according to criteria that have nothing to do with the content of the beliefs on which they are based, but rather by their geographical origins and the ethnic groups to which they are linked .
Hundreds of categories and subtypes can be included in this classification, but I will include only the largest and best known types.
Also known as Abrahamic religions, are those that are based on beliefs related to the figure of Abraham and the Fertile Crescent region .
This category includes the many religions originating in the area of India , like Jainism, Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism.
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The diversity of cultures present in the continent in which our species appeared is reflected in a great proliferation of different cults , many of which are based on animism, that is, the idea that numerous elements of our environment (whether animals, objects or landscapes) contain a spirit and concrete intentions.However, animism has also been very present in cultures spread throughout the planet.
This type of religions belongs to the peoples of America prior to colonization. Historically, like African women, they have been based on oral tradition , and among them there is a lot of diversity.
Types of religions according to their influence
It is also possible to differentiate types of religions according to the way in which they have transcended their ethnic origins .
This group of religions contains the most widespread, such as Christianity or Islam, which do not adhere to a specific nation or culture.
They are very localizable religions in specific areas and closely linked to family tribes and lineages.
They are cults that were born recently from a recovery of the rituals and the basic beliefs of old religions displaced by the dominant ones. Wicca, for example, is an example of this group .
New religious movements
This is a category of very diffuse limits that includes forms of religious expression that have appeared recently and that do not respond to the need to recover traditional values, but assume their birth in a globalized society.
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Beliefs are changing
Although it is possible to create categories to classify the different types of religions, we must not forget that in all cases these are belief systems with limited boundaries and that change over time. A clear example is that of Christianity, based on a series of sacred writings describing a God who is sometimes infinitely kind and sometimes terribly cruel, and who sometimes encourages his faithful to behave like saints, and sometimes encourages them to behave like warriors, and that in many regions has been mixed with the beliefs prior to Christianization resulting in syncretic religions.
The borders that we want to establish between religions are always like any other frontier: social constructs generated by consensus. The reality of what is embodied in this kind of faith escapes definitions.
- Artigas, M. (2000). The mind of the universe. 2nd ed.
- Jaki, S. L. (1985). The Road of Science and the Ways to God. 3rd ed.