World Religions

World Religions

World religions, designation for those religions that claim universal validity in the sense of universal religions with their message, operate supraregional (worldwide) missions and / or extend over a larger part of the earth or comprise a larger part of the world’s population.

In a narrower sense, the world religions are Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, and in a broader sense also Hinduism (according to its share in the world population) and Judaism (according to its worldwide distribution). – The worldwide distribution of religions can only be recorded statistically through approximate estimates. In many countries there are no reliable figures on religious affiliation, but in some cases there is also a lack of clarity due to multiple religious affiliations (e.g. Buddhism and Shintoism in Japan or Christianity and Afro-American religions in South America).

World religions: Share of religions in the world population

World religions: The proportion of religions *) in the world population (in%)
Religions 1900 2000 2010
Christians 33.4 33.0 33.0
Muslims 12.4 19.6 22.5
Hindus 12.5 13.4 13.6
Buddhists 7.8 5.9 6.7
Chinese folk religion **) 6.4 6.6
ethnic religions 6.6 3.8 3.9
new religions 0.4 1.7 0.9
Sikhs 0.2 0.4 0.3
Jews 0.8 0.2 0.2
Non-religious / atheists 0.2 15.2 11.6
*) Daoists, Baha’i, followers of religious Confucians are not taken into account. Currents outside of China, Jaina and Shintoists.**) No data available.

African American religions

According to, African American religions,religions originating in Latin America whose beliefs arose from the amalgamation of African religious traditions with elements of non-African religions and spirituality. In traditional religious studies, the Afro-American religions represent syncretistic religions; Determined and tuned in their roots and basic religious tones “African”, the specific connections with the non-African elements shape the individual “religious faces” of the various Afro-American religions. Of great importance from the African heritage are ancestor worship and belief in spirits. Catholic-Christian elements (especially popular Catholicism; e.g. the veneration of saints) and traditions of Indian religions found; in the 19th century also elements of European Spiritism (Kardecism). The Afro-American religions are now widely spread in Latin America, for which Brazil and the Afro-Brazilian religions are particularly important Candomblé, Macumba, Umbanda and Xango are available. In Venezuela, an Afro-American religion emerged under the name Maria Lionza, which is the youngest Afro- American religion, alongside the Rastafarian religion, which originated in Jamaica. The cult of voodoo achieved great importance in the Caribbean; in Cuba v. a. the religion of the Yoruba (Santería). Beyond Latin America, African-American religiosity also radiates to the so-called “Black Churches” in the south of the USA.

The historical background of the origins of the Afro-American religions is the forced settlement of slaves from West Africa, which began as early as the first phase of the colonization of America by the Spaniards (slavery). The slaves could only take memories of their traditional religion with them to their new forced home. In addition, Africans of different origins mixed up in America, which over time resulted in the loss of their original ethnic identities. With regard to the worship of the slaves, the masters forbade the practice of “pagan rites”. On the other hand, since they often only had a superficial view of the Christian instruction of their slaves, they developed their own forms of worship, which were often held in secret. The African gods have often been identified with Catholic saints. A free exercise of belief was only possible after the liberation of slaves in the 19th century. Since that time v. a. Contract workers from Africa brought new religious impulses into Afro-American religiosity, in which the old African homeland as a topos is still a target of religious longings. The popularity of the Afro-American religions in the past was based on the fact that they offered the oppressed a community and the possibility of cultural resistance; today they offer help in dealing with everyday problems (healing rituals, oracles).

World Religions