People and Faith: A Comparison of Religions

Religion means different things to different people so it is hard to define. Think of religion as a set of beliefs; worship in or of a higher power, most know as God. People are either monotheistic, meaning one God; or polytheistic, meaning the worship of more than one God. Currently, there are three major religions - Christianity, Islam, and Judaism - and about 40 smaller religious groups exist throughout the world.


Christianity is a Christ-centered religion that includes both Catholics and Protestants. There are over two billion adherents making it the largest monotheistic faith in the world. Catholics are divided into Orthodox Catholic and Roman Catholic. The head of the Roman Catholic Church, on earth, is the Pope. But the head of all Catholic churches is God. The same holds true for all Protestant Churches. There are over 20 major Protestant denominations in the United States and some estimates place the count as over 10,000 worldwide.

Of the Protestant Churches, the Southern Baptist, United Methodist, Mormon, Lutheran, Episcopal, Assembly of God, and Presbyterian denominations are the largest and most well known. There are countless non-denominational community churches scattered throughout the world.

There are many beliefs and ways that Christians practice their faith. They do hold three core beliefs in common—that there is but one God, there is a Heaven and there is a Hell. How each person merits either Heaven or Hell is most often the reason for the differences in denominations. Catholics rely heavily on church tradition and the teachings of the Pope to guide them through the Bible. Fundamentalists like some Southern Baptist denominations rely solely and literally on the Bible. Yet both Catholics and Southern Baptists believe that only God can send a person to either Heaven or Hell.


Islam is the second largest faith system in the world with over 1.3 adherents. Their belief system is different than Christianity. They believe that there is one God, so they are monotheistic, like Christians. They also believe in Christ’s virgin birth and that there will be a second coming of Jesus. Islam’s sacred text is the Qur’an, often spelled Koran. The Qur’an is non-canonical (not a law), but inspired, revealed to the world by the Prophet Muhammad. The Bible is canonical, revealed by God as Jesus, and the prophets. Islam believes Jesus did not die, but rose into Heaven during crucifixion. Christianity believes that Jesus suffered, was crucified and died on the cross for sins; and, was buried only to rise from the dead before ascending into Heaven.


The Jewish faith is the world’s oldest faith, with around 14 million followers, making it the 12th largest faith system in the world. Like Christianity and Islam, Judaism believes in one God. However, they believe that Jesus was a false prophet and are still waiting for the Savior to deliver their people from oppression. They do not believe that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary as followers of Islam and Christianity do, but that his birth was just like everyone else’s. Since Jews do not believe that Jesus was a prophet as in Islam or the Son of God as in Christianity, they neither believe in the resurrection or Jesus’s second coming. Judaic sacred text is the Old Testament of the Bible while Christians are Judeo-Christian, using both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Politically and nationally, church and state are integrated in Islam, while they are separate in Judaism and Christianity.


Islam’s main day of worship is Friday, the Jewish Sabbath is Saturday, while the Christian Sabbath is Sunday. Muslim’s worship in a mosque, Jews in a synagogue and Christians in churches, chapels and cathedrals. Catholics liturgy is called the Mass and its central celebration is Holy Communion, where the bread and wine literally becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus. Other Christian faiths rely and center on the sermon or the message of God given by the pastor; and, not on Communion, although they often receive it once a year. Islam centers on prayer several times each day.

Other Beliefs

There are many other belief systems in the world, including those that remain spiritual, but do not believe in God or other supreme being. Some rely on the spirit of the Earth or of themselves. Some beliefs are not religions at all, but are secular. Secular means that certain attitudes, activities and beliefs have no basis in religion or any other spirituality. Those beliefs are of this world only. Some of these beliefs are atheism and agnosticism. Buddhism believes in non-permanence in the world, that humans keep being reincarnated until they reach Enlightenment. Scientology is a recent fellowship invented by writer L. Ron Hubbard, that specifies no God, but an ultimate reality gained by ridding oneself of anything that does not make you gain this “clear” reality. The Baha’i believe that there is one God, but that God reveals himself through all religions. Christian Scientists believe that Heaven is a state of mind. Mormons believe that God the Father is separate and distinct from Jesus, His Son and that the Holy Spirit is also separate. Christians believe in one Triune God, that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is one and the same.


The Big Religion Chart: Summarizes 43 different religions and their complexities.

World Religions for Kids: Find out the differences between religion and spiritual tradition.

The Vatican: See current and past encyclicals, what the Pope is doing and the activities of the national offices of the Holy See.

Christianity: Examines what Christianity is and who is considered Christian.

Buddhism: Who is Buddha? What are the four noble truths that Buddhists live by?

Islam: See an introduction to Islam, discover what Ramadan is and about the Hajj.

Religious History for Kids: Explore religion from an ancient and medieval point of view.

Episcopalian and Catholic Differences: They came from the same roots, but the Episcopal (Anglican) church allows women to preach, allows divorce and remarriage, but they are not under the Pope’s authority like Catholics are.

The Mormons: The Mormon Church added another book to the Bible called the “Book of Mormon.” This is forbidden in the Christian faith. The church is officially called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Multifaith Calendar 2011: Religious and holy days for the world’s religions.

Oriental Religions: A comparison chart shows you the differences between such Oriental religions as Hinduism, Shintoism and Confucianism. It also compares with Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

Judaism: Understanding the Jewish religious life, with a glossary and maps.

Greek Religion: How did the Greek polytheistic religion evolve into a monotheistic one?

Scientology: Is it a religion or a cult?

Southern Baptist: What does it mean to be a Southern Baptist? See their statement of faith, missions, and prayer life.

American Baptist: A gateway to local congregations that comprise over 1.3 million people in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

EWTN Kids: Faith-based games and fun for Catholic kids.

What is Ramadan? Find out what Ramadan is and why Muslims fast during the daylight hours.

World Religion Map: See where the world’s religions flourish.

Jewish Kids Learning Network: Teaching the basics of the Jewish faith to children through history, fun and games.

Youth and Religion Project: Growing up Hindu in America and other stories.

Religious Movements: Lists many faith traditions and how they came to be.

Baha'i Kids' Page: Games, prayers, and holy days of the Baha’i faith.

The Jewish Calendar: A combined solar and lunar calendar telling what a Jewish year and a day looks like.

Bible Stories for Kids: Stories to help kids understand the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

Kids' Corner: Learn about Islam through stories and activities.

Judaism and Resources: Everything you need to know about being Jewish.

Religious Dictionaries: A collection of religious dictionaries and a definition search.

Biblical Christianity: Learn about God, man, and his universe, salvation and the afterlife, as well as morals and about worship.

The Holy Bible: Read the Old and New Testaments and see how and why they are divided into their book sections.

Catholic Prayers: Much of what Catholics believe and how they live are shown in the context of their prayers.

Christian Prayers: Geared less toward doctrine, general Christian prayers provide spiritual comfort and inspiration.

The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey: Compare the religious demographics, beliefs and practices, social and political views of U.S. religions.