The phenomenon of religions is not something homogeneous and easy to understand by simply 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’t participate at all.
Below we will see in general terms what are the characteristics of these types of religions and in what aspects they differ.
The different classes of religion
The classification of different religions is not easy, among other things because there is no single criterion for dividing them into groups.
Moreover, 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 fundamentalist believers).
This type of religion is made up of currents of thought and traditions which they do not revolve around the belief in divine beings with their own intelligence and will.
For example, some branches of Buddhism and Taoism often consider 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, as 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, one unit that cannot be divided. That means the divine is not beyond what is natural and vice versa and that in addition there is no metaphysical subject who controls everything that happens in nature, since it is sufficient in itself.
In a way, pantheism can be seen as a romantic philosophy through which atheism is seen.
It is the most common type of religion today, and is based on the idea that the world was created or is ruled by entities with supernatural power who, in addition, exercise as moral referents.
Theistic religions can be divided into two categories: monotheistic and polytheistic.
1. Monotheistic religions
In this kind of religion it is clearly established that there is only one god, Who is the entity with the greatest virtue and power. If other supernatural entities exist, they are below this deity in terms of power, or were created by it.
The three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity, belong to this branch, but also others less known, such as Mazdaism (linked to the prophet Zarathustra) or Sikhism, well known in India.
2. Dualistic religions
In dualistic religions, they exist two supernatural entities of the same rank who embody opposing essential principles and fight with each other. This struggle, in turn, explains all the processes that can be verified in the nature and behavior of people.
An example of this type of religion is Manichaeism.
3. Polytheistic religions
In polytheistic religions, there is not one god or duality, but several, whatever their rank or degree of power, who they form a pantheon. Hinduism or the well-known religions of antiquity such as Egypt or the Greco-Roman culture are examples of this category, as are the deities of Scandinavian mythology.
Classification by ancestry
The types of religion can also be divided according to criteria which have nothing to do with the content of the beliefs on which they are based, but in 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 only include the broadest and best known types.
1. Semitic religions
Also known as Abrahamic religions, they are based on beliefs related to the figure of Abraham and the Fertile Crescent region.
2. Dharmic religions
This category includes the many religions native to the region of India, Such as Jainism, Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism.
- You may find this article interesting: “Karma: what is it exactly?”
3. African religions
The diversity of cultures present on the continent in which our species appeared is reflected in a large proliferation of different cults, Many of which are based on animism, that is, the idea that many elements of our environment (whether animals, objects or landscapes) contain a spirit and specific intentions. However, animism has also been very present in cultures spread all over the planet.
4. Native American religions
This type of religion belongs to the peoples of America before colonization. Historically, like Africans, they were based on oral tradition, And among them there is a lot of diversity both for the relative isolation of these peoples and for the rather small size of their communities, which facilitates the emergence of unique characteristics.
Types of religions according to their influence
It is also possible to differentiate the types of religions depending on how they transcended their ethnic origins.
1. Intercultural religions
This group of religions contains the most widespread, such as Christianity or Islam, which do not adhere to any particular nation or culture.
2. Indigenous religions
They are religions very localizable in specific areas and closely linked to tribes and family lineages. Of course, this category encompasses a wide variety of belief systems, but in general all are generally characterized by the attribution of a soul, reasoning ability and clear intentionality to several types of animals, plants and people. objects, and the absence of sacred texts.
They are cults recently born from a recovery of the rituals and fundamental beliefs of the old religions displaced by the dominant ones. Therefore, they try to investigate the rituals and doctrines of the past to generate their usual symbols and practices. Wicca, for example, is an example of this group.
4. New religious movements
It is a category of very diffuse borders which includes recently emerged forms of religious expression which do not respond to the need to recover traditional values, but assume their birth in a globalized society.
While it is possible to create categories to classify different types of religions, it should be remembered that in all cases these are belief systems with vague boundaries and that over time they change. A clear example is that of Christianity, based on a series of sacred scriptures in which is described a God who is sometimes infinitely kind and sometimes terribly cruel, and who sometimes encourages his devotees to behave like saints, and sometimes encourages them to behave. like warriors. , and this in many areas has been mixed with pre-Christian beliefs resulting in syncretic religions.
The borders that we want to establish between religions are always like any other border: social constructions generated by consensus. The reality of what is embodied in this kind of faith escapes definition.
- Artigas, M. (2000). The spirit of the universe. 2nd ed.
- Jaki, SL (1985). The path of science and the paths to God. 3rd ed.