Lesser-Known Religions

I've been working for a while on my quiz Largest Religion by Country with Exceptions. It's a hard quiz with a hard to articulate premise, and I doubt it will be popular by any means. Still, this has probably been the most educational quiz for me. There's a large variety of religions I'd never heard of or didn't know anything about, so I thought I'd post the most interesting ones here. But first, I also want to talk a little about my methodology.

Where did I get the data?
As I said in one of the quiz's caveats, I sourced my data from Wikipedia, The CIA World Factbook, and the ARDA. They each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Wikipedia is the least reliable (obviously), but also takes a lot of smaller sources into account that wouldn't show up in the normal graphs and charts. That is especially important in many countries, such as the ones in the Middle East and South America, where over 95% of religious people belong to one major religion. The CIA World Factbook is pretty accurate and sourced based on their own information gathering rather than the country's (which is often skewed towards state religions), but they also have a hard time differentiating any folk religions, often grouping them up as "Animism". The ARDA has the most accurate data and takes from a variety of sources, but groups a lot of smaller religions in "other," which is unhelpful for the purposes of this quiz.

Concessions I had to make
The problems I pointed out above resulted in a lot of difficulties when it came to using the data for the quiz. When 99% of religious people in 99% of countries adhere to Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Irreligion, Islam, or Judaism, a difference of a few hundred people can change the results. The reason so many countries fall under Baháʼí is because the religious institution keeps very good track of their members, giving estimates within 10 people of the total amount of adherents in nearly every country. Compared to folk religions and neopagan movements, there's just so much more data for Baháʼí people, so they often were the largest minor religion. Many folk religions, especially in Africa and Asia, also don't have a name besides something generic like "Animism" or just named after their country like "Chinese Folk Religion". I don't like using these because it feels inconsistent and difficult for a quiz, not to mention the fact that these religions are often worshipped alongside other ones by the same adherents, but in the end I included them as I couldn't find an alternative solution.

You know the old Norse religion of the vikings with Thor, Odin, Valhalla and all that? Well, after the popularization of Christianity in the Northern Germanic regions, the religion basically died out. But in recent times, Neopagan movements around Europe have sprung up, aiming to revitalize these pre-Christian folk religions of Europe. The specific Nordic Neopagan movement is called Heathenry, though Asatru is a specific version that very closely follows the specific religion mentioned above. Pretty neat, huh?

As mentioned before, the institutions for this religion keep good track of their official adherents. Some of you might have noticed that the thumbnail for this page is also a famous Baháʼí temple shaped like a lotus. The Baháʼí Faith is based on the belief that an Abrahamic God reveals pieces of the truth through divine messengers periodically, such as Abraham, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammed, and Baháʼu'lláh, the founder of the religion. The faith emphasizes human equality and peace.

Chinese Folk Religion
Also known as popular religion. This one is pretty interesting because it isn't mutually exclusive with other religions. There are a lot of people who practice this alongside Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism (which is considered religion by some and philosophy by others). The term itself is kind of a blanket term that covers a variety of specific religions, but they all share quite a few aspects, so I likened it to blanketing Catholicism and Mormonism under the blanket of Christianity. Generally, these religions share four common beliefs and concepts: Tian, the objective morality; Qi, the vital force in all living things as well as the universe; Jingzu, the veneration of ancestors; and Bao Ying, moral reciprocity. You've probably heard of Yin and Yang as well, the concept of balance between giving and receiving. After the fall of the empire in 1911, the Chinese government tried to destroy these religions, but in recent decades, both China and Taiwan have seen its historical value and allowed it to grow.

A lesser-known Abrahamic religion that claims to be descended from Jethro of Midian, father-in-law to Moses. The religion incorporates aspects of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, just to name a few. It is unique among Abrahamic religions in believing in reincarnation. The original adherents to this faith were Shia, however Druze no longer identify as Muslims. Due to that as well as their distinct beliefs, I Druze as its own religion for the quiz as well. There are over 800,000 Druze adherents, mostly in the Levant.

Remember Åsatru? Were you wondering if there was also a modern-day continuation of Ancient Greek Religion? You're in luck! In 2017, the Greek government officially recognized this religion. There's no official name for the religion, as it was 5,000 years ago, which is why it is also known by Hellenismos, Dodekatheism, Olympianism, among other names. Major concepts important to the religion are Eusebia (piety), Arete (virtue), and Xenia (hospitality). Most historians agree the original religion had died out by the ninth century, so the adherents today practice a reconstructed version of it.

You've heard of a few Neopagan religions now. Well, Modekngei is a similar concept with a twist. Its origins aren't fully known, but it is believed to have been founded around 1915 by a native of Palau named Temedad. It combines indigenous animistic beliefs with Christian ones, allowing for the simultaneous worship of Jesus Christ and Palauan deities. The main goal of the religion is to preserve Palauan traditions whilst aligning with Christian beliefs. The religion prohibits all alcohol and drug usage, and even non-adherents who live in the village Ibobang will avoid bringing alcohol or tobacco in the city limits.

Although Rastafari beliefs are based on an interpretation of the Bible, the interpretation is so different from other Christian sects that I decided to keep it separate from Christianity in the quiz. You've probably heard of Rastafari and know about its Jamaican roots already. Adherents believe in a single God, known as Jah. Many regard Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia during WWII, as the second coming of Jesus. Many Rastas call for the resettlement of Africa from the Western World. Practices include making and listening to music, chanting, smoking cannabis, adhering to Ital dietary requirements, and wearing dreadlocks. Branches of Rastafari are called Mansions.

The native religion of Japan whose famous gateways have become a symbol for the country. Shinto is a polytheistic religion that focuses on Kami, supernatural entities believed to inhabit all things. Because of the belief in interconnectedness, some consider Shinto to be pantheistic or animistic. The Kami are worshipped at shrines— small ones in households or large dedicated buildings. The religion is full of unique myths and practices that I recommend you read more about (further reading links at the bottom). Shinto emphasizes life over afterlife, though most priests will tell you the dead live on and work for prosperity for their descendants and land.

If there's a religion that most people would recognize on this list, it's this one. According to Wikipedia, Sikhism is the fifth largest religion, presumably not counting irreligion. I doubt official counts include Chinese Folk Religion either, which has at least 500 million adherents. Sikhism was founded in India around the 15th century, developed from the teachings of Guru Nanak and his nine successors. Sikhs believe in a singular God, yet also reject the notion that any religion has entirely absolute truth.

This is another well-known one, but one worth mentioning anyways. Many consider Taoism a philosophy rather than a religion, but many of my sources classified it as such, so I did too. Taoism gets its roots from Naturalist philosophies as well as the I Ching, or The Book of Changes. Taoists emphasize naturalness, spontaneity, simplicity, detachment from desires, and wu wei (action through inaction).

Tengrism is an ancient religion that originated in central Asia and is still common in Turkic nations, and a few Slavic ones. The religion is centered around the sky god Tengri, as well as other gods called tngri. In some Mongolian varieties, Genghis Khan is believed to be an embodiment of Tengri's will. Some historians believe that Tengri shares common roots with the Chinese Tian. Adherents also believe that there exists a celestial world of the gods and an underworld, connected to each other and to Earth by the Tree of Worlds. Since the end of the Mongol Empire, Tengrism has been assimilated into other religions, such as Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity, however many still adhere to the original religion.

Yazidism is an ethnic religion of the Yazidis in and around Iraq that centers around a monotheistic god named Xwedê. Along with him are seven angels he created, each with their own domain. The chief angel is Tawûsê Melek, who leads the others and has authority over the world. Yazidis also believe in reincarnation.

If you noticed these were in alphabetical order, then you might have guessed which one would come last. Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest continually practiced religions ever, probably only beaten out by indigenous animism and Hinduism. The religion was founded by an Iranian prophet named Zoroaster. It focuses on the duality of good and evil, and is thought to have majorly influenced all of the Abrahamic religions, as well as Greek philosophies and Buddhism. Zoroastrianism is one of the first major religions to believe in a singular God, messianism, judgment after death, heaven and hell, and free will. Fun fact- did you know that Freddie Mercury was a Zoroastrian?

This quiz was one of the most tedious to make, right up there with Countries That Haven't Had Civil Wars. It was worsened by the fact that GIMP decided it would turn all my SVGs into PNGs, so I had to edit the map as a text file. Still, I'm happy with how it turned out, even though I know it's extremely difficult and probably not very fun. If you have anything you want to add, be sure to comment.

Further Reading
Want more? Read what I read!
Åsatru, Baháʼí, Chinese Folk Religion, Druze, Hellenism, Modekngei, Rastafari, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism, Tengrism, Yazidism, Zoroastrianism.
Level 51
Feb 6, 2021
I knew about Baha'i, Chinese Folk Religion, Druze, Hellenism, Rastafari, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism.
Level 55
Feb 6, 2021
Great Blog! Might want to add Jainism when you get the chance. A lot people don't know about it
Level 56
Feb 6, 2021
Level 51
Feb 6, 2021
Level 56
Feb 6, 2021
Amazing blog! I knew about a lot of these but I learnt about multiple new religions today.
Level 43
Feb 6, 2021
Interesting! Happy that Christianity is the most popular religion in the world! Thought that Wicca (argh 😑), would be here. I would like never know about it.
Level 68
Feb 7, 2021
Amazing blog! I will now take the quiz.
Level 39
Apr 25, 2021
I know all of them except Asatru and Modekngei.