In our world today there are as many types of religion as there are cultural units and types of civilization .
Since ancient times, men have tried to explain the mystery of life and death through faith and belief, that is, religion. Different cultures and successive stages of civilization development have given rise to various religious beliefs that share some essential similarities and differences.
- You can also read: Agnosticism: meaning, definition and differences with atheism.
The meaning of religion
Although some theories appeared in the 19th century that considered that man is by nature “atheist” even though he may be culturally “religious”, which would reduce religion to a mere cultural phenomenon, later structural and phenomenological analyzes confirmed that it is rather the opposite: man is by nature religious, although he may be culturally atheist .
An anthropological approach to the question reveals that religion is a transversal phenomenon that is found in the cultural structure of all peoples since the dawn of humanity. Its function was to answer the great unknowns that anguished man and, ultimately, provide him with a transcendent meaning.
Instead, while religion has been at the root of peoples, cultures and civilizations throughout history, atheism is a recent cultural product that is part of the process of enlightenment and has continuity with industrialization and the technical process that influence the progressive dehumanization of societies.
Types of religions
In the search for this transcendence, the different types of religion have adjusted to the cultural framework in which they were developed , and based on that we can develop a classification based on two questions: if there is a god or there is no god, and if There is only one god or more than one.
1. Non-theistic religions
Although in Western culture we link the concept of religion to the existence of one or more divinities, in some religions there is no such natural force. They are religions without god, called non-theists.
Some Eastern currents such as Taoism or certain branches of Buddhism can be considered a religion. If we focus on Taoism, for example, we see that it has a dogma, collected in the book of way and power (Daodejing) and ritual and traditional practices that are included in the broad concept of religion . Others, however, tend to regard them as philosophical systems.
Within non-theistic religions, but as a particular category, we find the various forms of pantheism, a current that considers the divine and the natural as a single unit. Therefore, nature is autonomous and is not ordered by divine beings , who have no powers beyond the natural.
2. Theistic religions
The most widespread religious concept is one in which there is one or more divinities that have supernatural powers: that is, they not only act outside of nature, but are the creators and organizers of it .
The religions that today extend through the layer of the Earth are theistic, and are divided into monotheistic (those with only one god) and polytheistic (with several gods).
2.1 Monotheistic religions
The belief in a Supreme Being who creates the world and orders all its spheres, including nature, animals, men and inferior deities, is a primitive idea. The first men already believed, in an abstract way, that there was a sovereign supernatural power that governed everything else.
However, monotheistic religions are not found at the beginning of humanity but at the end, as a process of reconstruction of the role of this supreme being and his relationship with men.
While for primitive man the supreme being created the world and then moved away from men, who were rather related to other lower divinities, in monotheistic religionsGod is in the daily life of men and there is a more or less direct relationship (rites and traditions).
- You can also read: Jehovah’s Witnesses: what are they and what are their rules.
The most widespread monotheistic religions are the so-called Abrahamic religions, which start from the spiritual tradition related to Abraham and which today have some 3,800 million faithful:
It is the religion based on the Koran, the sacred book that contains its dogma of faith. This is based on the existence of a creator and almighty God called Allah , and on his rule over all things, including man who, created from clay, owes him submission and worship. Although he picks up the existence of Jesus as herald of the arrival of the prophet Muhammad, he denies his divinity.
Its dogma is contained in the Bible, and contemplates the existence ofa single divinity with three different forms (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) . The theory of the Trinity has divided Christian theologians throughout history, but today it is accepted by almost all branches of Christianity. These branches can be classified into three large groups: Catholicism, which recognizes the Pope of Rome as the only supreme authority, the Orthodox Church, with various centers of power (autocephalous churches), and the variants of the Protestant Reformation, among which find for example Anglicanism.
Its sacred text is the Torah, collected in five books (Pentateuch) in which Abraham is recognized as the first Hebrew and the prophetwho, called by God, came to Canaan from Mesopotamia. The essence of Judaism is that it considers Israel as God’s chosen people: Israel, as the “promised land”, thus has a central element in Judaism. In addition, its most important element is the “knowledge of God”, the recognition of Jahve as the only God, creator and almighty.
religions In polytheistic religions there is more than one god and they all share the same range of importance: they are part of a pantheon. Ancient religions used to organize their dogma through the belief that each natural element, as well as forms of human behavior or even events and phenomena, were represented by various divinities.
The Greek cosmogony or the Egyptian religion formed the most powerful religious universes, whose mythologies have reached our days through their texts in rich legendary narratives starring various gods.
- To know more: Cosmogony: definition and 6 great myths.
At present, polytheistic religions are a minority, leaving only Hinduism as its great representative. This is based on the belief that behind the universe is the Absolute (Brahman) that can be recognized as god: the goal of Hindus is to leave the cycle of reincarnations (samsara) to achieve divinity.
And the peculiarity is that God transcends all things in such a way that all things, including each man, can represent his own divinity of him. Originally, three divinities (Brahma, Visnu and Shiva) are recognized in Hinduism, although today the unification of them in Brahman is more common.
3. Dualistic religions
The types of religion that explain the creation and origin of the world through two perpetual, supreme, independent and antagonistic forces are dualistic: good and evil. Theological dualism arose in China and Persia, with religions such as Mazdaism (Zoroaster religion) that recognizes two divinities in the same rank: Hormuz (good) and Ahriman (evil).
Dualism has given rise to various heretical religions such as Manichaeism, Bogomilism, Gnosticism or the Albigensians, basing their theories on the fact that everything material comes from Evil and that it is useless to fight against temptations, since sin does not come from man and it is unavoidable