Essay Example. Types of World Religions

Published: 2023-05-21
Essay Example. Types of World Religions
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Religion Society Christianity Church
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1678 words
14 min read

Religion is defined as a belief in the controlling powers of a superhuman who is believed to be a god or God. It is one of the world's oldest social institution in existence, and almost all the cultures that have existed over the years in the world has practiced it. Apart from the theologian's perspective of religion as well as the belief that the practice entails the speaking of truth, beliefs, and spirits, sociologists view it as a social construction of society. Sociologists focus their study on the functions of religion socially as well as the provision of both social cohesion and control. Sociologists, therefore, measure the significance of faith in the lives of believers and examine religious attitudes depicted by different members involved in society. The world has significant religions that are different from various perspectives. Their differences emerge from the organization of the religion and the belief system they are upholding.

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Additionally, differences may come about in the form of the power ordained to the highest power, the history of the beginning of the world, and the usage of sacred objects and texts in holy places. All these differences come about because of the type of organizations that religions have. To avoid these differences, we have to understand the existing organizations and religions in the world so that we may embrace each other's religious beliefs as people with positive goals.

Types of Religious Organizations

Religious organizations are institutions that are well-organized with structures and practitioners in an elegant manner. An example of the organization is the emergence of the Roman Catholic Church where it derived its principles of the organization from the ancient Roman military where they could promote their senators to cardinals (OpenStax CNX 338). Different terms are however used by sociologists to give definition meanings to these terms effectively. The terms include ecclesia, denomination, as well as sect. For instance, Christianity started as a cult, then transformed into a sect and exists today as an ecclesia.


These are upcoming religious groups. In regions of the world like America, the word cult carries a lot of connotations. Apart from the U.S, the majority of religions across the world began as cult groups and transformed gradually into the sizes of organizations (OpenStax CNX 339). Cultic members are always disparaged as confidential and secretive, and very controlling to the lives of its members and are always dominated by a single powerful leader.


A sect is a relatively small new group. The majority of identified Christian denominations in America came up as a result of sects. A good example is the Methodists and Baptist which protested against their founder church Anglican in England. The protest started from the Catholic Church when Henry VIII left the church and formed the Anglican Church (OpenStax CNX 338). Due to the protests, a 'Protestants' churches emerged.

In most cases, a sect is always used as a breakpoint to groups that are in the tension of a larger society (OpenStax CNX 338). Sect groups, in most cases, claim that they are returning to the fundamentals or contest the integrity of specific doctrines. When their number increases with time, the result may be a denomination. Additionally, some of the sect groups dissolve without attaining the denominational title and finally wan away (OpenStax CNX 339). According to sociologists, such sect groups are referred to as established sects. For instance, Jehovah's Witnesses are known as an established sect because they fall halfway between denomination and sect in the ecclesia (OpenStax CNX 339). This happens because they practice a mixture of sects and denominations at the same time.


Denominations are large religious mainstream organizations, but they do not claim to be official or sponsored by the state. They have one religion that exists in many dimensions (OpenStax CNX 339). An example is the Catholic, Baptist, and Seventh-day Adventist, which are Christian denominations.


Ecclesia was initially referring to a citizens' legislative assembly in ancient Athens. Nowadays, the term refers to a congregation (OpenStax CNX 338). According to sociology, the ecclesia is defined as a religious group that the majority of members of the society belong to.

Types of Religion

Religions can be classified into broad categories that may help people understand the difference in the belief system. Considering the classification method, religions tend to fall into basic categories as follows: polytheism, monotheism, atheism, animism, and totemism. It is good to note that some of these religions may be understood in different categories as well.


Polytheism is a term derived from Greek's word 'Polutheos' meaning many gods. It represents theological systems that involve a belief in the veneration of several deities or gods (Lamb 1). The term polytheism was popularized through writing for the first time in the eighteenth century by European ethnographers in their pursuit to identify the religious beliefs of reserved people. Polytheism indicates that multiple beings are worshipped. These beings include goddesses, gods, both evil and good spirits, the spirits of departed souls, and semi-divine beings (Lamb 1). Depending on the traditions of the people, there may be a hierarchy established as a channel followed during worship. The hierarchy is closely connected other and works in conjunction with cross purposes (Lamb 2). Polytheism has significant characteristics that accompany its existence which include, specific functionality of each being or divinity to control different realms of nature, possession of particular forms such as human, animal, or even nature, and devotion to numerous divinities.


The majority of people following the monotheistic religions believe in the existence of only one god. These believers include the Christian community, Judaism and Islam (Beyer). The resemblance of monotheistic deities is very close to each other, and the majority of their believers accept that what they worship is what other monotheists are also worshipping (Beyer). The deities in monotheism are general and encompass all beings involved with precision. Therefore, they are always seen as the only existing deity. Additionally, the deities are believed to be Omni-scient, Omni-potent, and Omni-present (Beyer). The majority of monotheistic deities are usually non-anthropomorphic, and they believe that it is unholy to depict this deity in any form.


Atheism is defined as a strong belief in the non-existence of deities or the lack of belief in the existence of deities. This type of belief dictates the construction of an organized religion or theological perspective (Tomar). A good number of people that refer to themselves as atheists claim so because they believe that there is no scientific proof that presents the need to believe in the deity. It is difficult to determine the specific number of people practicing atheism because they do not have a unifying religion. When polls are conducted globally, a wide variance was attained, indicating that the majority of atheists are residing in East Asia and Europe (Tomar). There is also a close relation of this idea to agnosticism which is a group of people who does not know whether there is a deity or not. Agnosticism reasons that the limits in which human beings reason and understand make the existence of God, the origin of the universe, and the chances of life after death as unknowable (Tomar).


Animism is a situation in which people believe that non-human things have beings and that there are supernatural powers that are possessed by natural phenomena. Some scholars consider it both as a religion and a culture because religion and culture are always inseparable (Sitton 69). There are various indicators that almost 50 million people living in America believe in astrologists and even consult horoscopes. This behavior shows that these people believe in cosmic forces that influence their lives which forms the basic belief in overall, animism involves a lot of materialism (Taylor 79). Animistic people have controlling emotions that torment their spirits despite having physical strength. Additionally, they are capable of enduring sharp pain with strong evidence of courage, but they also tremble when they think of witches, ghosts, and spirits (Sitton 71). This primitive culture also involves a theory of the transmigration of souls.


Totemism is a definite tendency of social units of becoming associated with symbols or objects of emotional value. A totem is an object which in most cases is an animal or even a plant that members of a community have held high with special regard because they feel a unique bond that identifies themselves and the totem. Totemism involves taboos and cultures in which in most cases, they prohibit the killing or eating of the totem, abolishing intermarriages within similar totems. Most of the people practicing totemism consider totems as emblems that reflect the image of their communal beliefs.

All these religions rotate around human beings, living and non-living things, indicating that they will always be part of us despite our differences in beliefs. This marks respect to people with different beliefs and cultures as the only option in maintaining peace and order in our lives. We can never embrace all beliefs and customs equally, but we can respect people's choices on what to believe.

In conclusion, world religion is very diverse and different in several dimensions. Looking into these perspectives makes it possible to gain more in-depth knowledge and understanding of how they take place. Additionally, this understanding leads to the embrace of other beliefs with positive attitudes.

Works Cited

Beyer, Catherine. (2018). Learning Religions. Monotheistic Religions of the World. Dotdash, 2018. Accessed 17 April 2020

Lamb, Ramdas. (2005). Polytheism. [In Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Edited by James Birx, Thousand Oaks (CA): Sage Publications, 2005]. file:///C:/Users/Belfer%20Consulting/Downloads/polytheism.pdf.pdf. Accessed 17 April 2020

OpenStax CNX. Introduction to Sociology 2e. Module 9: Religion and Education. Rice University, 2017. file:///C:/Users/Belfer%20Consulting/Downloads/Introduction%20to%20Sociology,%202nd%20Edition%20by%20OpenStax%20( Accessed 17 April, 2020

Sitton, David. (1998). The Basics of Animism Spiritual Warfare in Tribal Contexts. International Journal of Frontier Missions, 1998. Accessed 17 April 2020

Taylor, Bron. (2005). Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature, 2005. Accessed 17 April 2020

Tomar, David. (2019). 18 Major World Religions - Study Starters. The Best School, 2019 Accessed 17 April 2020

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