Religion is by no means an unpopular subject throughout the world.
In fact, there are about 4,200 religions on Earth. Although it’s tough to estimate how many religions are in the United States, the population is 78.4 percent Christian, breaking down into a number of denominations from there, according to the Pew Research Center.
With so many religions around the world, it’s tough to keep track of them all. Here’s a list of 15 religions you may not have heard of:
Druze — a spinoff of Shiite Islam — has been around since the 11th century and is now primarily found in Lebanon and Syria, according to Pew. It’s been estimated that anywhere between 700,000 and 2 million people in the world follow this religion. One of those was the late radio host Casey Kasem, who was highly acclaimed by the religion, according to Deseret News National.
The Yezidi sect has popped up in the news a little more recently with the conflict in Iraq. American troops have actually been sent to Iraq to help free the trapped Yezidis, The Daily Star reported. But what’s the faith about? It’s actually a combination of Shiite and Sufi Islam and has been referenced more often as an ethnoreligious group rather than a solidified religion.
Church of All Worlds
The Church of All Worlds is one of the oldest offshoots of neopaganism and centers on the mother Earth goddess, according to the religion’s main website. Believers worship a divine being connected to the Earth, which flows into their everyday beliefs.
“CAW as a religion is a system of values, customs and ideas organized in an organic fashion,” reads their website. “It will grow, develop and evolve in a way that brings about the best in humanity and honors Divinity.”
The Force is surely with these believers. Everyone’s heard of Jedis, but did you know it’s also an actual religion? The religion has accumulated thousands of supporters in recent years (about 5,000 in the United States alone), promoting the idea that all living things are connected and bound together by an omnipresent force, according to The Daily Mail.
“No, we don't worship Yoda,” said believer Ally Thompson to The Daily Mail. “And telekinesis is not something that we necessarily do — at least not like in the ('Star Wars') movies. ... But I won't deny that the Force is very present in our teachings. Some people call it magic. Some call it Ashe. The scientific community calls it energy. But it's everywhere. You can find it in the Bible. When Moses parted the Red Sea — how did he do that? With energy. With the Force.”
As with the Church of All Worlds’ emphasis on nature, Mami Wata is an African religion that focuses heavily on water. The Smithsonian explained that the religion worships the water spirit Mami Wata, who can bring good fortune through the use of water.
Jainism is an extremely popular religion in India — accounting for more than 4 million of the near 2 billion that live there — with about 6 million followers worldwide, Patheos reported. The main focus of the religion is for followers to clear themselves of all karma and take themselves out of the rebirthing process — which makes one into a “conquerer,” where the religion gets its name, according to Patheos.
You hear a lot about Catholicism being popular in Brazil. But Candomblé has its pull too in the South American country. As NPR reported in September 2013, the religious belief is that one top-level divine being rules with the help of smaller ones. It’s been around since West African slave ships docked with the country and has seen an uptick in recent years, according to the Pew Research Center.
Zoroastrianism is primarily based in Iran and has a number of offshoots attached to it, according to The Heritage Institute. It’s a less popular religion across the world, though, with just more than 100,000 believers total, according to Heritage. The main teachings focus on how good is all good and that evil can try to influence it but isn’t impactful, according to Religion Facts.
Raelism is all about extraterrestrial life. The religion — as seen on its website — has a heavy emphasis on extraterrestrials coming down and offering messages about how to live. As Patheos reported, there are 70,000 believers of the faith from 97 countries.
Greek Gods. Vikings. Sounds like a blockbuster movie or hit TV show, but it’s actually the making of Asatru. The beliefs of Asatru are similar to those in early European times, focusing on Norse mythology and other religious stories — like the tales of Odin, Thor and Loki — that were popular during those times, according to Religion Facts.
Touting itself as a “spiritual way of life” on its website, Sant Mat is all about looking inward at oneself and believing that the life you live, and the person you are, are the real versions of heaven that people are searching for.
Similar to Sant Mat, Eckankar is about linking religious exercises — like yoga — to the spiritual light of God and religious figures. It’s estimated that about 50,000 people follow this religion, according to Religious Facts.
Aladura is primarily based in African nations and focuses on prophets and religious leaders offering faith-based healings, according to Religious Facts. It’s amassed quite a following, with more than 1 million people finding their beliefs aligning with this faith.
Falun Gong is about truthfulness, wisdom and compassion, much like Buddhism, according to the religion’s website. Despite its popularity in China, the discipline has fallen victim to persecution and attacks by the Chinese government, The Guardian reported.
Builders of Adytum
You can call it Builders of Adytum or BOTA for short. This religious organization aims to bring people together and spread the message that love is the most powerful thing on the planet, the religion’s website indicates.
“Its ultimate purpose is to hasten the true Brotherhood of mankind and to make manifest the truth that love is the only real power in the universe,” the website says.