There are many ways of classifying religions. There are those which emphasise individual spirituality
and encourage their members to perfect themselves. Others promote spiritual knowledge and understanding, emphasising prayer
and mysticism, whilst yet others are more concerned with avoiding wrong and present a legalistic aspect of Creation.
Another approach is historical – for instance it is common to link those religions that derive
from the Judaism in one group and those that derive from the Hinduism in another, with the remainder loosely lumped together.
A different approach to classification seeks to group religions by concentrating on key, universally-held
beliefs and the way that individual faiths approach them. For instance, it is common to divide religions into those which
are polytheistic (believe in many gods) and those which are monotheistic. (believe in only one God).
However, in many cases religions have “borrowed” from one another and a wide range
of elements can often be found in the same belief system. Broadly-speaking, however, most of the world’s religions can
be divided into key types, based largely on their origins and this is the approach that will be followed hereunder.
· There are those whose beginnings are lost in the mists of antiquity
– they have no known individual as their founder, and their actual origins are unknown or merely inferred from history.
Such faiths often emphasise mysticism and their modern leaders may well claim Divine authority for their own teachings.
· There are those whose authors are known and who, it is claimed,
have been granted a New Revelation of the Truth. Hence their Teachings are regarded with reverence and often seen to be infallible
and later leaders are usually restricted to “interpreting” their words. Mysticism is rare and usually discouraged.
· Finally there are those religions
that are unashamedly eclectic or syncretic – they are derived by combining ideas and teachings from various sources,
either in an endeavour to choose the “best” from each, or in an attempt to create coherent and self-consistent
A brief discussion of the key aspects of
these three different types is provided hereunder: