The Major World Religion Founders
By T.L. Winslow (TLW), the Historyscoperô
© Copyright by T.L. Winslow. All Rights Reserved.
Last Update: Nov. 24, 2015.
The Major world religions originated in the Middle East (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha'i), Iran (Zoroastrianism), India (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism), and East Asia (Confucianism, Taoism). The founders are those who first codified them. Today the top world religions by percentage of world pop. are Christianity (31.5%), Islam (23.2%), unafilliated (incl. atheism) (16.3%), Hinduism (15%), Buddhism (7.1%), folk religions (incl. Yoruba) (5.9%), other (0.8%), and Judaism (0.2%).
The beginnings of religion are shrouded in darkness. Obviously, people in the wild will worship anything that seems to work, a tree, an animal, a Big Dick rock, a celestial object, a river, whoo hoo, it's a mixture of skiing and hang-gliding for speed junkies. The Sun seems to be better to worship than other things, because, one, how can you be an atheist, are you blind? (if so we'll pin you down out in the desert on your back for a week until you see the light), and two, no human power can touch it, it's so far up there no arrow or missile can reach it, it never fails to come back and is therefore immortal, and besides, can't you feel it's heat, obviously it's the source of all life and warmth. Of course, after the big brains began figuring out the implications of their god dying and being resurrected every day, and waxing and waning in yearly cycles, then correlated this with the regularities in the motions of the Moon, other planets and stars, they began to believe in a higher reality behind the observations, and manufactured the more heavy duty and long-lasting cerebral religions, disguise this connection as they might. It's only too easy to then stage a coverup and claim that the god or gods revealed the religion to them ready-made, and they just took dictation, I like opening presents on Christmas morning and miss our aluminum tree.
But we're talking about major religions that survived to modern times, so let's start with India, way back in the Early Harappan Period (-5500 to -2600), where India's original jackpot lotto game, Hinduism, oldest religion in the world was developed, based on Shruti ("that which is heard"), incl. the four Vedas, which incl. the Samhitas ("joined") (prayers), Brahmanas (legends), Aranyakas (ritual sacrifice), and Upanishads (abstract spiritual philosophy), which describe the ultimate reality of Brahman and the form of human salvation (moksha); the Trimurti (Great Trinity) ("three forms") consists of Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva (Maheswara) the Destroyer, who are three manifestations of the Supreme Being called Ishvara, Bhagavan, Parameshwara, or Deva/Devi; some claim he has five forms, Ganesha, Shiva, Shakti, Vishnu, and Surya; all living creatures have an atman or soul; Hinduism split into four sects incl. Shaivism, whose devotees worship Shiva and wander about with ashen faces performing self-purification rituals, Vaishnavaism, whose devotees worship Vishnu, Shaktism, whose devotees worship Shakti or Devi the Divine Mother and perform animal sacrifice, and Smartha (Smarta), who worship all five forms and hold the Smriti ("that which is remembered") as the most authoritative texts, recognizing Brahman as the highest principle in the Universe, pervading all existence. As far back as the 8th cent. B.C.E. the Later Upanishads ("sitting down near") began to be composed (ends -400?); traditionally, 108 of them exist, varying from 1-50 printed pages in length, forming the lit. foundation of Hinduism, incl. the Brahman (universal spirit), the Atman (individual self), and the divine syllable Aum, and how the non-dual Brahman-Atman is the all inclusive ground of the Universe while all reality in the Universe is but an illusion, we won't mention sacred cows.
The next big breakthrough came from an Egyptian pharaoh, Akhenaten (-1384 to -1334) (formerly Amenhotep IV), who overthrew the age-old polytheistic religion in Egypt and came up with ta-da monotheism before he got his effeminate butt kicked and died before reaching 50, the orginal Elvis and Joseph Smith. Too bad, the Egyptian religion embodied in the Book of the Dead didn't survive, since it was written in hieroglypics and people forgot how to read them until the 19th cent. C.E.
According to big brain Karl Jaspers (1883-1969), the Axial (Axis) Age was from 800 B.C.E. to 200 B.C.E., when "the great world traditions that have continued to nourish humanity came into being: Confucianism and Daoism in China; Hinduism and Buddhism in India; monotheism in Israel; and philosophical rationalism in Greece", and where "What mattered was not what you believed but how you behaved", and the concept of kenosis (Greek for emptying), "spirituality of self-surrender" was the goal.
As far back as the 9th cent. B.C.E. the Later Upanishads ("sitting down near") began to be composed (ends -400?); traditionally, 108 of them exist, varying from 1-50 printed pages in length, forming the lit. foundation of Hinduism, incl. the Brahman (universal spirit), the Atman (individual self), and the divine syllable Aum, and how the non-dual Brahman-Atman is the all inclusive ground of the Universe while all reality in the Universe is but an illusion.
Hinduism once had a great rival, I'm just a poor boy from a poor family, let me go Figaro. In the 9th cent. B.C.E. Rishabha (Adinatha) (First Protector) AKA Adishvara or Adeshvara (Primal Lord), the 23rd Tirthankara (ford maker) allegedly founded Jainism (Sansk. "to conquer"), the religion of not hurting a fly (non-violence and self-control), which peaked in India in the 8th cent. B.C.E., and after all the carnage is now down to 4M followers, albeit 90+% literate. Too bad, the Jain Flag features a Swastika, which became a big embarrassment in the 20th cent. when the Nazis adopted it.
From today's perspective, all major religions of er, today seemed to spring up in the 6th century B.C.E., that is, from 599 B.C. to 500 B.C. If it's negative and starts with a five, it's a keeper.
Enter the wild card, the eternal rebels, the Hebrews, and their main man Moses, founder of Judaism, a lover, a fighter, a great businessman, and bestselling author, with a publishing house that copies worn-out manuscripts with 100% accuracy guaranteed, who allegedly lived in the time of Pharaoh Ramses or Pharaoh Merneptah (1200 B.C.E.) Trouble is, he might have been a mythical figure made up in the guess what century (6th cent. B.C.E.) by the Jews during their Babylonian Captivity (Exile) (-597 to -538), but if you believe them he lived way before that, usually the 13th cent. B.C.E., back in the day of all-powerful pharaohs that only Jehovah and his annointed messiah Moses could have beaten, but after Akhenaten probably. Maybe the Jews stole monotheism from the Egyptians during their 400 years of making bricks for them in Goshen, check back after you do more historyscoping.
Back to Jaspers. First is Persia. In 588 B.C.E. (traditional date) the Revelation of Zoroaster (Zarathustra) is given by Zoroaster (Zarathustra) (-660 to -583), a Median religious reformer who got the goods from Thirta, who got it from King Fiedoon, who got it from King Jamshid, who got it from Homa; later Zoroaster's son-in-law Jamaspa writes it down in the Zend Avesta, which incl. the Visperad (Visperad) ("Worship"), describing religious rituals, and Vendidad ("Given Against the Demons"), an ecclesiastical code, which mentions 16 perfect lands of Ahura Mazda incl. Airyanem Vaejah (Ariana Vaeja), ("expanse of the Aryans"), the original homeland of Iranians; meanwhile Zoroaster introduces monotheistic semi-dualistic (Light v. Dark) Zoroastrianism (Zarathustraism) (Mazdaism) (Magianism) to the Medes and Persians, banning animal sacrifice and the use of intoxicants, introducing the idea of individual salvation through the freewill choice of Ahura Mazda (Good) over Ahriman (Angro-Mainyu) (Evil), and introducing the Zoroastrian Eschatology, where Time will end and the Universe will be cosmically renovated; the priests come from the Median tribe of Magi. Trouble is, the religion didn't export well, although its ideas did. Today after all the other religions ran amok through his homeland, his followers are down to maybe enough to populate Boise, Idaho.
Coming in second (or third, depending on whether you believe their cover story) is China, with Lao-Tzu (Laozi) (-604 to -531), founder of Taoism (Daoism). He's another one that may have been backdated, this time from the 4th cent. B.C.E. to compete with Confucius.
India is next with a whole new major religion once you get too much sex with that Hinduism stuff and want to try self-denial. In -563 Indian sage Siddhartha (Sans. "he whose aim is accomplished") was born, starting life as Prince Fo of the Sakya tribe of the Gautama clan, then later getting enlightened while sitting under a special fig tree called the Bodhi (Bo) Tree near Patna, India, and becoming the Buddha (-563 to -483) (Sans. "awake", "enlightened"), seeing the folly of materialism and getting that big happy face because of the big fix of reincarnation, founding Buddhism, which teaches the Four Noble Truths: 1. Life means suffering. 2. The origin of suffering is attachment. 3. The cessation of suffering is attainable. 4. The Path to the cessation of suffering is the Eightfold Path; it also teaches the 31 Planes of Existence that beings are reborn into during their long wandering through samsara.
In the isolated islands of Japan, Shinto (Kami no Michi) (Jap. "Way of the Gods"), from the Chinese Shin Dao (Way of the Spirits), which believes in kami (spirits) is otherwise similar to Buddhism. Its origins are murky, and claims are made as far back as -660, but the first historical record is in the 8th cent. C.E. Today there are 4M followers in Japan. Mt. Fuji is sacred to the Shinto goddess Sengen-Sama.
Next comes the second big Chinese religion founder Confucius (-551 to -479), who founded Confucianism, based on reverence of ancestors, an ideal religion for a country that is forever overpopulated with people with revolving names.
Just when the religions seemed to be settled, along came the Greeks and Romans, who just conquered everything in sight and foisted their unique pantheon of dog-eat-dog-gods topped by king god Zeus/Jupiter on their subject peoples, causing many centuries of bad moments as everybody else had to adjust, finally copping out by worshipping the Roman emperor along with whatever else they were worshipping to get by. Too bad, just when the Romans empire seemed to be fated to rule the world forever with its tolerant accomodating views of religion, as long as you worship their secular ruler as a god, the pesky intolerant monomaniacal Jewish religion just had to be different, upsetting them with claims that a new Messiah would come and destroy all their enemies, causing them to wipe out the Jewish religious center of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., and be stupid enough to believe that Jews forget and don't get even. Voila, a kinky new religious development in the land of Moses arose and spelled their demise, although it took hundreds of years, a repackaged Moses called Jesus Christ, who definitely had a deal with Adam and the joke's going to be on them goy Romans.
Sooner or later love is gonna getcha. After centuries of wars among pagans, enter passionate Jewish man-god Jesus Christ (-7/-2 to 26-36), a Jew from Nazareth who allegedly once visited Egypt with expenses paid by Persian Magi, then rode into Jerusalem as a king on the back of an ass and upset the apple cart, refounding all religion with welcome-to-the-final-truth Christianity, with himself as the be-all and end-all, a revolution, combining all that's best in pagan religion and Judaism and offering them the total jackpot of resurrection if they chuck their current lives to worship Him with a capital H, and accept Him as their Lord with a capital L, whose wishes are their commands.
Trouble is, if you believe his, er, His claims, you sound like you're crazy, especially when you try to explain how you're talking to Him while eating His flesh and drinking His blood, don't even try explaining that three-gods-in-one thang. But if you deny His, er, his claims, you sound crazy too, because you seem to be throwing your eternal happiness away. Good ad slogan. For the first 300 years, the biggest problem was that if you became a Christian you had to drop out of the Roman system and become an outlaw, until Roman emperor Constantine I the Great (274-337) changed that by making Christianity the state religion, with later theological help by St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), although it had the effect of corrupting the church hierarchy with the lust for grate wealth and powah and ultimately fractured it into thousands of sects. But government dole or not, the difference between Jesus' religion, which spread and took over Europe, Egypt, Persia and parts unknown (until the coming of Muhammad stopped and partially reversed it) is that, pull up a chair, Jesus promises to come back one day to kick your butt and settle all scores, with the soundbyte that a rich man can no more enter his kingdom than a camel pass through the eye of a needle, causing the kinky historical mentality of Millennium Fever to take over Christians' minds and compete with the have-it-now mentality, making them spend their entire lives waiting for or worrying about the return of Jesus to judge the world and right all wrongs, even though he never does, so that by 1000 C.E. even the densest were forced to come to terms with it, and did, by taking Jerusalem from the pesky Muslims in 1099 in the hopes that that was what Jesus was waiting for. Too bad, he wasn't, despite nine Crusades, so there went 13 centuries of wasted history, which the Christians neatly got around by renumbering the years starting with his alleged birth (before which they used the Roman system starting with the Founding of Rome in -753, or the Hebrew Dating System starting with the alleged Creation of the world by Jehovah in -3,761). Of course, they had to admit that it's now one thousand something, but at least it sounds better than 1,753 something, or 4,761 something. But that was then. Now we're past the 2,000 mark with the aging Christian A.D. system, which the secular minded have renamed the C.E. system while keeping the same numbering scheme just in case knock on wood, and still no Christ has been spotted returning in the clouds with the angels in glory. So it's still up to you to decide what to do, keep waiting while joining one of the 3K-38K different confusing Christian denominations, or forget him like a deadbeat dad who owes too much back child support and get a life.
Had enough, then switch to Muhammadol, reverse the curse? After 500 years of Christians telling them that Jew-Zeus is coming and never does, enter the Big 8-Ball that causes the Religious Pool Table to become a money game, Muhammad (570-632), founder of Islam, the counter-revolution to Jewish everything, tracing the root problem back to Father Abraham, who came long before Moses and Isaac AKA Jacob (father of Joseph), and had another son, Ishmael, the father of the Arabs, who were blasphemed by the Jews in their perverted Bible, which is now being set straight by the recitation (Quran) straight from the heart of their Prophet, listen people, this is the deal, you have five minutes to get five hundred shekels worth of stuff in your carts. True, M-Mad didn't claim to be the son of God, or God, or to rise from the dead, indeed the location of his grave is a jealously-guarded secret because, unlike Jesus', it's not empty, and even his physical appearance is supposed to be a no-no, in case somebody stumbles on a skeleton of a man with three dongs and gets an idea. But Big M does claim to be the final religious founder, because he's gonna make it final, happily transmitting orders from the one and only god Alpha, AKA Allah to kill kill kill, kill everybody else on Earth who doesn't submit to make it the final religion, so there, infidels. The world has been one Hell ever since, on top of its other problems. Check back with me later in paradise to see if everybody went with his program or if the quarantine and immunization programs were effective.
Meanwhile in 1054, during a lull in the Muslim-Catholic war, the Catholics of the once-great extinct Roman Empire decided to call it splits in the Great East-West Schism, with one group considering the Latin Roman archbishop to be the pope (father), and the other considering the Byzantine Constantinople archbishop to be their papa, going on to develop different practices regarding the celibacy of priests, the date of Easter, and other fast facts, especially that the Romans like to speak Latin while they're doing their Mass, while the Orthodox like to speak Greek. Call it a coincidence, but at the same time the Crab Nebula first became visible, maybe it's an alien conspiracy from outer space.
Muhammad came and went, the Muslims split into multiple warring sects and slowed down their planned conquest of Europe, allowing the Euros to regroup, finish Christianizing the remaining pesky pagans (especially the Vikings), then discover America and haul in shiploads of loot to pay for a military buildup and put the Muslims on the defensive, and things ossified, until along came Roman Catholic Church reformers Martin Luther (1483-1546) (Germany), John Calvin (1509-64) (Switzerland), and John Knox (1505-72) (Scotland), who gave up on the RCC and ended up schisming and creating their own Protestant churches, Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Presbyterianism. Let's not forget to mention thin-is-not-in Henry VIII (1491-1547) of England, who schismed from the RCC and set up his own national church, the Church of England (Anglicanism), which, as England became the #1 world power, permanently messed the Protestants up, along with the world, causing their King James Bible, created by James I (1566-1625) (and Shakespeare?) to be considered as better than the original by some.
After this schism caused a horrible series of Catholic-Protestant wars, and things seemed to be settling down, along came a new wave of Protestants, who wanted to reform the Church of England, including Roger Williams (1603-83), founder of the Baptists, George Fox (1624-91), founder of the Quakers (Friends), and John Wesley (1703-91), founder of Methodism, all of whom found British North America to be a fertile field for recruiting. Meanwhile pesky Voltaire (1694-1778) of France and Thomas Paine (1737-1809) of England and America rocked the boat with freethinking Rationalism, which analyzed the Bible with the rose tint off the glasses and exposed it as a pile of incredible merde, the product of pre-scientific nitwits, parting the Red Sea and walking on water, come on, I'm sweet but I ain't naive. Okay, by the 19th century the Bible debunkers went a bit too far, causing more respectible Higher Criticism to be built up by the academic establishment, especially in Germany, allowing people to give up literal belief in the Bible and still go to church, feeding and helping spawn Unitarianism, Christian Universalism, Transcendentalism, Humanism, and Unitarian-Universalism.
They never give up founding new religions. In just the last couple of centuries there are Joseph Smith Jr. (1805-44), founder of Mormonism, Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910), founder of Christian Science, Ellen Gould White (1827-1915), founder of Seventh-Day Adventism, Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-91), founder of Theosophy, Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916), founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses, The Bab (Siyyid Ali Muhammad Shirazi) (1819-50) and Baha'u'llah (Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri) (1817-92), founders of Baha'ism, L. Ron Hubbard (1911-86), founder of Scientology, and Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977), founder of Hare Krishna. Note that beginning in 19th cent. women were allowed by men to found religions, so don't be surprised if new ones spring up in the 21st cent. that call for an end to all men, knock on wood.
In 1859 poor peasant farmer Kawate Bunjiro (1814-83) founds the syncretic pantheistic Japanese Shinto splinter religion of Konkokyo (Konko), worshipping the neuterless god Tenchi Kane No Kami (Golden Kami of Heaven and Earth) by making the world a happier place, reaching 450K members by modern times.
Enter the Age of Science, where religious skepticism is king, fed by their prophet (rebel from the Anglican Church) Charles Robert Darwin (1809-82), 1859 founder of the original wonder-mop Darwinian Theory of Evolution, a body blow to the fundamentalist belief in the Bible, whose devotees can reduce all religion to the size of a circus peanut, but is currently experiencing a crisis with the problem of maybe-it's-maybelline irreducible complexity. Meanwhile in 1848 German Jewish big brain Karl Marx (1818-83). used it as a foundation for Marxism, the religion of a lot of atheists, just don't put it that way, even though when you don't call it a religion people take it seriously as a way of life and seek to impose it on others with an all-powerful state, causing an eventual day of reckoning when the fit hits the shan and the Berlin Wall comes down.
In 1859 poor peasant farmer Kawate Bunjiro (1814-83) founds the Japanese religion of Konkokyo, worshiping the god Tenchi Kane No Kami by making the world a happier place.
Too bad, in 1861-5 the horrific U.S. Civil War sees the invention of the first modern weapon when N.C.-born agricultural equipment maker Richard Jordan Gatling (1818-1903) patents the 10-barrel hand-cranked hundreds-of-rounds-per-min. Gatling Gun (the first practical machine gun) just in time for use on some Johnny Rebs; it is first used by the Union Army in 1864, but luckily never sees extensive use.
In 1926 the syncretistic monotheistic vegetarian religion of Cao Dai (Vietnamese "high place") is founded in Tay Ninh (55 mi. NW of Saigon), South Vietnam, growing to 4M-6M adherents by modern times, complete with a Roman Catholic Church-like hierarchy and Holy See, building a temple (holy see) in 1933-55, later cloning it in Dallas, Tex. and other countries.
On Mar. 31, 1930 Ras Gugsa Wells is KIA, and on Apr. 2 empress (since 1916) Zewditu I (b. 1876) dies; on Nov. 2 Ras ("Prince") Tafari ("Respected") Makonnen is crowned emperor Haile Selassie ("Might of the Holy Trinity") I (1892-1975) of Ethiopia, claiming to be a direct descendant of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba; in Jamaica, marijuana-smoking Rastafarians are wowed by his claims plus his status as the only black African monarch of a fully independent state, and declare him their messiah, the Second Coming of Christ the King on Earth; by 1997 there are 1M followers worldwide.
Too bad, in 1939-45 horrific $3.5T World War II resulted in 24M military and 49M civilian deaths, and featured the low point of the Jewish Holocaust (Shoah) by the German Nazis, I guess it was the Jews' fault for not ransoming themselves to go to Israel before they could round them up for the camps. The whole experience turned Jews from lovers into fighters, ramping up the Zionist movement with full world sympathy and support by new world superpower U.S., which had its own guilt trip because on Nov. 24, 1942 Budapest-born Am. Zionist leader Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise (1874-1949) announced in a press conference in Washington, D.C. that he was authorized by the U.S. State Dept. to confirm that the Nazis had murdered 2M Jews as part of a plan to exterminate all Jews in Europe; too bad, the nat. newspapers didn't consider it front page news, and the U.S. govt. did nada. After the war ended and Americans toured the concentration camps in horror, Polish-born Jewish scholar Raphael Lemkin (1900-59), who single-handedly led an unsuccessful campaign to get the League of Nations to give internat. protections against genocide starting in 1933 finally got what he wanted after his own people got it, namely the Dec. 9, 1948 U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Gen. Assembly Resolution 260), which didn't come in force until Jan. 12, 1951, and which the U.S. still didn't ratify until 1988.
On Feb. 27, 1959 (his birthday) the Mahikari (Jap. "true light") cult in Japan (1M members by 1978) was founded when founder Yoshikazu Okada (1901-74) allegedly received a revelation that he has been appointed to save humanity from destruction; it relies on the Takenouchi Documents, unveiled in 1928, which claim that all religions trace to Japan, and that all the religious leaders of the past either visited or died there incl. Lao Tzu, Moses, and Jesus; too bad, the Japanese govt. confiscated them during WWII, and they were lost in air raids.
Think that today's enlightened atheistic scientists are immune from the urge to create yet another religion? How about Vernor Steffen Vinge (1944-), author of the 1993 essay "The Coming Technological Singularity", predicting the Singularity, a point at which artificial intelligence will exponentially take off, leaving humans behind to worship their new god of Silicon. I might try to tell him that if sand or other inert chemical elements could become infinitely intelligent, it would already have happened, and he'd call himself Jehovah and send you to Hell for idolatry. I also have to mention Rael (RaŽl) (Claude Maurice Marcel Vorilhon) (1946-) and his Raelian Movement, which believes in extraterrestrial intelligence and the potential of human cloning, with vague hand-waving arguments about uploading the contents of your mind to your new brain so that it's immortality and not just duplication of people who look like you but have a different religion; in actual practice Rael attracts beautiful female scientists who are willing to have sex like rabbits with him, what charisma.
What's the current count on major religious believers (granted that many of them are counted even when they were just born into it, and aren't active)?
Here's the Major League Scorecard:
Christianity: 2.1B, including 1.3B Roman Catholics, 500M Protestants, 200M Orthodox, and 100M Anglicans.
African Traditional & Diasporic: 100M
Down in the mud: Sikhism: 23M Juche (Kim-il-sungism): 19M Spiritism: 15M Judaism: 14M Baha'i: 7M Jainism: 4.2M Shinto (Japan): 4M Cao Dai (South Vienam): 4M Tenrikyo (Japan): 2M Neo-Paganism (Wicca): 1M Unitarian-Universalism: 800K Rastafarianism (Jamaica): 600K Scientology: 500K Zoroastrianism: 200K.
So, while historyscopying, keep in mind that either:
1. Jesus is coming soon.
2. A Muslim is going to convert or kill you soon.
3. A Jehovah's Witness, Mormon, Scientologist, Hare Krishna, or other on-the-make cult is going to intercept and score on you.
4. It doesn't matter as you will die no matter what, and be reincarnated, or vanish forever like an erased computer program, or will live forever with the new god of Science and Technology, that is, if the mean old aliens from other star systems or superintelligent machines don't kill or enslave humanity.
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