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Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014

15 interesting religions you may not know about

Compiled by Herb Scribner, Deseret News National Edition

Published: Thu, Aug. 14 11:40 a.m. MDT

 Blurred people in cathedral

Blurred people in cathedral

(Jose antonio Sanchez reyes, Getty Images/Hemera)

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

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.

Yezidi

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.”

Jediism

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.”

Mami Wata

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

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.

Candomblé

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

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

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.

Asatru

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.

See the rest of the list in the slideshow above and to the right.

Email: hscribner@deseretdigital.com, Twitter: @herbscribner

Recommended
1. Church member
North Salt Lake, UT,
Aug. 14, 2014

I loved this article. Whenever anyone tells me that they "know their church is true" I like to tell them that there are over 4,000 religions in the world. Most of the people in those 4,000 religions know that they belong to the true church. So I have two questions that maybe someone can help me answer.

1. Can there really be more than one true church?

2. Why is God telling so many different people that their church is true?

Maybe people are just getting the answer that they want when they ask God.

2. Michael Hunt
Murray, UT,
Aug. 14, 2014

@Church member

The notion that there exists an ethereal entity willing to respond to human pleading is comforting - loneliness and isolation has always been man's most loyal companion. The best indicator of the truthfulness of religious claims is the coincidence of God's responses correlating to the individuals own goals and beliefs. Almost without exception, God seems to have interest in keeping men's natural inclinations toward younger women satiated; ie Muhammed, Joseph Smith, Warren Jeffs, Jim Jones, L Ron Hubbard, etc. If God were to call me to prophet status, I'm sure his dictates would involve plenty of bourbon consumption and skiing.

3. Casey See
FLOWER MOUND, TX,
Aug. 15, 2014

Actually very few churches claim to be the only true church. Instead, some religious groups claim the truth, such as Christianity, Muslim, Jews, but very few say they are the only true church in that category, instead they will say that the way to Heaven is via the teachings or proscription to various rituals. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is unique in that it claims to be the only true church.

Many of the other religions claim that it is only by following practices found in their teachings that one can move on to higher planes or to heaven.

What is universal in nearly all churches is the belief in a higher being or beings that may or may not an active interest in us.

With few exceptions, most would agree that their teachings are inspired and that men should be few to choose. Again only one actually teaches that those seeking should go to the source for confirmation that the teachings are from that supreme being.

Unfortunately, way to many adherents of these faiths take it upon themselves to enforce their beliefs on others.

4. RG
Buena Vista, VA,
Aug. 15, 2014

Very interesting article. And I almost didn't read it, because I thought, based on the title that contained a number, that it was going to be one of those "lists" the DN is famous for, where you have to click to a new page for each item. So I was happily surprised it wasn't one of those.

5. Church member
North Salt Lake, UT,
Aug. 16, 2014

To: Casey See

I see your point but I don't think you understand how many people know they are right. A few that come to mind are FLDS, Scientology, Muslims, and Jehovah Witnesses. All of these religions "know" they are right. Their faith and God have told so. Mormons are no different.

To say that other people don't really believe that they are part of the only true church is both false and rude.