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Symbols of various religions of the world.

Religion may be defined as a cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual elements. However, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion.

Different religions may or may not contain various elements ranging from the divine, sacred things, faith, a supernatural being or supernatural beings or "some sort of ultimacy and transcendence that will provide norms and power for the rest of life". Religious practices may include rituals, sermons, commemoration or veneration (of deities), sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trances, initiations, funerary services, matrimonial services, meditation, prayer, music, art, dance, public service, or other aspects of human culture. Religions have sacred histories and narratives, which may be preserved in sacred scriptures, and symbols and holy places, that aim mostly to give a meaning to life. Religions may contain symbolic stories, which are sometimes said by followers to be true, that have the side purpose of explaining the origin of life, the universe, and other things. Traditionally, faith, in addition to reason, has been considered a source of religious beliefs.

There are an estimated 10,000 distinct religions worldwide, but about 84% of the world's population is affiliated with one of the five largest religion groups, namely Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or forms of folk religion. The religiously unaffiliated demographic includes those who do not identify with any particular religion, atheists and agnostics. While the religiously unaffiliated have grown globally, many of the religiously unaffiliated still have various religious beliefs.

The study of religion encompasses a wide variety of academic disciplines, including theology, comparative religion and social scientific studies. Theories of religion offer various explanations for the origins and workings of religion, including the ontological foundations of religious being and belief.

Selected article

A torii at Itsukushima Shrine.
Shinto(神道) is the native religion of Japan and was once its state religion. It involves the worship of kami (), gods. Some kami are local and can be regarded as the spiritual being/spirit or genius of a particular place, but others represent major natural objects and processes: for example, Amaterasu, the Sun goddess, or Mount Fuji. Shinto is an animistic belief system. The word "Shinto" was created by combining two kanji: "" (shin), meaning gods or spirits (when read alone, it is pronounced "kami"), and "" (tō), meaning a philosophical way or path (the same character is used for the Chinese word Tao). As such, Shinto is commonly translated as "the Way of the Gods".

After World War II, Shinto lost its status as the state religion of Japan; some Shinto practices and teachings, once given a great deal of prominence during the war, are no longer taught or practiced today, and others exist today as commonplace activities such as omikuji (a form of fortune-telling) and Japanese New Year that few give religious connotations.

Selected image

Damsel of the Sanct Grael
Credit: Dante Gabriel Rossetti

In Christian mythology, the Holy Grail was the dish, plate, or cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper, said to possess miraculous powers.

Selected religious figure or deity

Rama (center) with wife Sita (right), brother Lakshmana (left standing) and devotee Hanuman (left, bottom).
Rāmachandra, or Rama (rāma in IAST, राम in Devanāgarī or Śrī Rāma (श्रीराम in Devanagari), was a king of ancient India whose grand story is portrayed in the epic Ramayana, one of the two great epics of India. In Hinduism, he is also considered to be the Seventh Avatara of Vishnu and one of the most important manifestations of God. He is one of the most popular heroes of Hindu mythology and folktales in South and Southeast Asia. Born as the eldest son of Kausalya and Dasaratha, king of Kosala, he is the embodiment of the Supreme Brahman and Dharma. Rama is Maryada Purushottama, literally The Perfect Man. He is the hero of the ancient Hindu epic poem, The Ramayana (from Sanskrit, The Journey of Rama). Rama is the husband of Sita, who is also considered the Avatara of Lakshmi and the embodiment of perfect womanhood.

Did you know...

  • ...that the word, Christian, only appears three times in the Bible?
  • ...that according to the Torah, Moses lived to be 120 years old?

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Gnostic Cross
The Kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty.
Gospel of Thomas, (3)

Selected scripture

The Urantia Book is a spiritual and philosophical tome that discusses God, science, religion, history, philosophy, and destiny. Sometimes it is referred to as "The Urantia Papers", or the " Fifth Epochal Revelation" or by the abbreviation of "TUB". The book originated in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. sometime between 1924 and 1955, but its authorship is considered to be a mystery. (See Mysterious origin.)

The authors of The Urantia Book state their intent is to "present enlarged concepts and advanced truth" in an "endeavor to expand cosmic consciousness and enhance spiritual perception". Among many other topics, it expands on the origin and meaning of life, describes humankind's place in creation, discusses the relationship between God and man, and presents a detailed biography of Jesus. The book is 2,097 pages long, and consists of a Foreword and 196 papers, divided into four parts.

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