Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are sometimes classiﬁed as Abrahamic faiths. Although the speciﬁc details differ, each of these faiths has a historical association with Abraham, who is thought to have lived in the Middle East in the 19th century BCE. In contrast, Hinduism and Buddhism are two Vedic faiths. The Vedas are India’s oldest sacred writings and inﬂuenced the development of Hinduism. Buddhism later diverged from Hinduism. Neither Abrahamic nor Vedic, Sikhism draws from both Islam and Hinduism. Our discussion begins with the Abrahamic faiths.
Judaism Although there are more than 13 million Jews worldwide, Israel is the only country in which a majority of the population is Jewish. Even so, the largest numbers of Jews reside in Israel and the United States, and both countries have roughly 5 million Jews each. Abraham is considered the patriarch of the Jews, a monotheistic people who trace their origins to the Middle East. As recorded in the Torah, which is part of Judaism’s sacred scripture and is sometimes referred to as the Hebrew Bible, Moses led the Jews out of slavery in Egypt.
This event is called the Exodus and constitutes a signiﬁcant development in the Jewish tradition. The Torah also describes a covenant or an agreement that God made with Abraham. According to this covenant, the Jews are “chosen people” selected to uphold and abide by God’s law. At Mount Sinai, in Egypt, this law was revealed to Moses. After a long desert journey the Jews settled in Canaan, the Promised Land, in what is today Israel.
Christianity Christianity, the largest religion in the world with an estimated 2.3 billion adherents, promises forgiveness for one’s sins and an eternal life in heaven through belief in Jesus and his resurrection. Most Christians share a belief in the Trinity; namely, that God is three persons in one: the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. The Bible is the holy book of Christians. Of particular importance are the Gospels, which chronicle the life of Jesus. Since its establishment Christianity has splintered. There is not one form of Christianity; rather, many different varieties exist. As Christianity spread across Europe, it split into Western and Eastern branches. Western Christianity,
ÀÃÌ>ÌÞÊ>`ÊÌÃÊÃ vÌÊÃÕÌ Ê UÊ Ê Ê}ÕÀiÊx°Î a. Composition of Christianity Slightly more than half of Christians who afﬁliate with a church are Catholics. Followers of independent churches are also proportionally important. Many of these churches began in the late 20th century from grassroots movements in Africa and Latin America and see themselves as distinct from the European-derived Christian churches classiﬁed as Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox. The category “Other Christians” includes Latterday Saints and Unitarians, among others. The accompanying photo shows a member of an African independent church being baptized at a beach in Durban, South Africa. afﬁliation*, by percent** m
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