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10 Most Ancient Religions in the World You Must Know 

The world is home to several religions, each with its unique history, beliefs, practices, and followers. While Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism are often considered the major religions, many other faiths have played significant roles in shaping human societies. From the animistic beliefs of indigenous cultures to the complex polytheistic systems of ancient civilizations, these religions offer fascinating insights into the human experience. Let’s dig deep into the ancient religions. 

List of 10 Oldest Religions in the World

  • Hinduism 
  • Judaism  
  • Zoroastrianism 
  • Jainism  
  • Shinto Religion 
  • Confucianism 
  • Buddhism 
  • Taoism 
  • Christianity
  • Islam 

1- Hinduism (15th – 5th Century BCE)

Hinduism is the world’s oldest religion which originated in the Indus River Valley. It has evolved over thousands of years and absorbed various cultural influences. The origins of Hinduism are complex, with no single founder or specific event marking its inception. It is believed to have emerged between 2300 B.C. and 1500 B.C, with the Vedas, the ancient Hindu scriptures, being the earliest evidence of its existence. 

The central belief of Hinduism is the concept of Dharma, which refers to the moral and ethical principles that guide an individual’s actions and behavior. Other key beliefs include the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth (Samsara), the ultimate goal of liberation from this cycle (Moksha), and the importance of self-realization and spiritual growth (Yoga).

Hindu practices are diverse, with different communities and regions following their unique customs and rituals. Some common practices include daily prayer and meditation (Puja), visiting temples, observing various festivals and holidays, and following dietary restrictions (Vegetarianism or Veganism).

Hinduism is the third-largest religion in the world, with an estimated 1.2 billion followers. The majority of these followers reside in India, where it is the dominant religion, but there are also significant Hindu communities in other countries, particularly the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.

Read More: Famous Temples in India You Must Visit                          

2- Judaism 

Judaism is one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions. It originated among the ancient Hebrews in the region of Canaan, which today constitutes Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The origins of Judaism can be traced back more than 3500 years to the ancient Near Eastern region of Canaan. It originated from the customs and beliefs of the people referred to as “Israel,” who believed that they had a sacred covenant with God that guaranteed them a country. 

Judaism is rooted in the Abrahamic heritage, which it shares with Christianity and Islam, and is based on the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Jewish practices include daily prayer and meditation, visiting synagogues, and observing various festivals and holidays. 

Judaism is a monotheistic religion, with Jews believing in and worshiping one transcendent God, Yahweh. They follow the many laws outlined in their holy book, the Tanakh, which includes food laws and rules for observing Shabbat, the day of rest. Jews also believe in the importance of the Ten Commandments and the covenant with God.

Judaism’s special relationship with Christianity has had a significant impact on Western culture and civilization. Jews have also played a significant role in the development of Western culture, with numerous contributors to diverse aspects of Western life, including science, politics, and the arts. Despite the challenges faced by Jews throughout history, including the Holocaust, their impact on the world has been significant. 

Judaism is the eighth-largest religion in the world, with an estimated 14.8 million followers. The majority of these followers reside in Israel, where it is the dominant religion, but there are also significant Jewish communities in other countries, particularly in the United States. 

3- Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s oldest living religions, originated in ancient Iran (Persia) around 4000 years ago and has influenced many subsequent religions, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. 

Zoroastrianism developed from the ancient Indo-Iranian religion shared by the ancestors of nomadic herding tribes that later settled in Iran and northern India. It is thought to have taken root in Central Asia during the second millennium BCE and spread south to Iran.

Zoroastrianism is based on the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster, who believed in the profound dichotomy between good and evil and the idea that the world was created by God, Ahura Mazda, so that the two forces could engage with one another and the evil one will be incapacitated. 

Zoroastrianism is centered on three main beliefs: the ultimate defeat of evil at the end of time, the revival of the planet to its former perfect state, and a future life that is influenced by decisions made during one’s lifetime on Earth.

There are currently between 100,000 and 200,000 followers of Zoroastrianism worldwide, and it is still followed as a minority religion in some areas of Iran and India.

4- Jainism

The spiritual concepts and historical narrative of Jainism are traced through the twenty-four Tirthankaras, the first of whom is Rishabhadeva in the current cycle. According to Jainism, the Tirthankaras are the guides for each cosmological time cycle. There are three main concepts of Jainism; ahimsa (non-violence), anekantavada (non-absolutism), and aparigraha (asceticism).

The first tirthankara, Rishabhadeva, is believed to have lived millions of years ago, while the last tirthankara, Mahavira, lived around 600 BCE. One of the world’s oldest religions, Jainism was formed by rejecting several Hindu customs, such as animal sacrifice and the idea that the soul can be freed from the cycle of death and rebirth.

Jains believe in the concept of karma, which is the idea that actions have consequences and that these consequences can influence the future. They also believe in the concept of non-violence, which is one of the three main pillars of Jainism. Jains hold that the ultimate goal is to attain liberation from the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, known as moksha.

The five primary vows taken by Jain monks are ahimsa (non-violence), sati (truth), asteya (not stealing), brahmacharya (chastity or faithfulness to a spouse), and aparigraha (non-attachment). Jains also practice severe austerity to attain liberation and avoid inflicting harm on others through any means.

Jainism has evolved and continues to exert its influence through its principles of non-violence, respect for all life forms, and self-control. Jainism is an integral part of the world culture with around four million followers. The majority of Jains reside in India, but there are also significant Jain communities in Eastern Africa and other parts of the world.

Read More: Different Religions In The US

5- Shinto Religion 

Shinto is the indigenous religious practice of Japan, with its origins dating back to ancient times. It is often described as a “way” rather than a religion. Shinto has maintained its core principles over the millennia despite not having a founder, canonical sacred texts, and set laws.

Shinto has its roots in the Yayoi culture, which emerged around 300 BC and lasted until 300 AD. During this period, the people of ancient Japan held beliefs, worshipped ancestors, and communicated with the spirit world via shamans. Shinto’s fundamental principles include individual subordination to the group, harmony, purity, and respect for the family.

Shinto’s beliefs are centered around the concept of kami, which refers to the various gods or deities that inhabit the natural world. These gods are thought to govern nature in all its forms and are believed to inhabit places of particular natural beauty. Shinto also emphasizes the importance of purity, both physical and spiritual, and the maintenance of harmony in all aspects of life.

Shinto practices involve visiting shrines. There are approximately 80,000 shrines in Japan, and these places of worship are integral to the daily lives of many Japanese people. Shinto also incorporates elements from other belief systems.

Shinto is Japan’s largest religion, with a significant portion of the country’s population taking part in both Shinto and Buddhist activities. The religion has a large following of 84.24 million people.

6- Confucianism

Confucianism is a belief that has been an integral part of Chinese culture since the 6th century BCE. Confucianism is a set of pragmatic rules for daily life, derived from the teachings of the philosopher Confucius, the importance of ethics and morality, and the lessons of Chinese history.

Confucianism was first established as the orthodox doctrine during the Han Dynasty (205 BCE – 220 CE) and remained a significant part of Chinese culture until the end of the last dynasty in 1911.

The core values of Confucianism include benevolence, humanity, and the pursuit of self-transcendence. Confucianism teaches that true learning is moral learning and that society should be ruled by a meritocracy based on such learning.

Confucianism has had a profound impact on Chinese culture and society. It has also influenced the development of Chinese politics and government, with the normative Chinese leadership being identified as Confucian leadership. 

Some scholars have highlighted Confucianism as an alternative kind of capitalism that has contributed significantly to the economic progress of East Asia.

It is estimated that Confucianism has influenced the lives of billions of people in East Asia, particularly in China, Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea.

7- Buddhism

Buddhism is one of the world’s oldest religions founded in the late 6th Century B.C. by Siddhartha Gautama, also known as the Buddha. Buddhism is based on the teachings of the Buddha and the Four Noble Truths, which center around the origins and cessation of human suffering. 

The Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, was born around the late 6th century BCE in northern India, where he renounced his wealthy lifestyle and became enlightened under the Bodhi Tree, realizing the Four Noble Truths. Buddhism spread throughout Central, East, and Southeast Asia, developing a strong presence in most Asian regions by the 12th century CE.

Buddhism is a religion and philosophy centered around a way of life that tries to overcome human suffering. It emphasizes compassion, detachment, and enlightenment. Buddhist practices include meditation, spiritual and physical labor, and good behavior as ways to achieve enlightenment or nirvana. 

Buddhism has been influential in the development of modern psychology, particularly the practice of Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and other similar mindfulness-based modalities. It has also influenced various forms of modern psychoanalysis.

Buddhism is the world’s fourth-largest religion and has a following of over 520 million people in various countries, including Cambodia and Bhutan, where it is recognized as the state religion and receives government support. It has also spread to the West, where it is seen as exotic and progressive. 

Read More: Famous Indian Muslim Scholars

8- Taoism

Taoism is also an ancient Chinese philosophy and religion that was founded between 500 to 400 B.C. It is attributed to Lao Tzu, who wrote the influential book “Tao Te Ching.” 

Taoism emphasizes the harmonious coexistence of humans and nature, seeking balance with the universe (Tao). Spiritual immortality is believed to occur when the body’s spirit joins the universe at death. 

Central to Taoism are the concepts of yin and yang, representing the balance of opposing forces, interconnectedness, and unity in the universe. Taoism promotes self-awareness and advocates for nonviolence, overcoming worry, and living in accordance with the natural flow of life.

Taoism teaches that humans and animals are in balance in the universe and that spiritual immortality occurs when the spirit joins the universe after death. The concept of Wu Wei, or non-action, is central to Taoist philosophy, advocating for living in accordance with the natural flow of life.

Taoism has had a significant impact on Chinese culture and has influenced various fields such as art, literature, music, and philosophy. There are currently about 9 million followers globally, with the majority of them residing in China but also spread throughout East Asia, including Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.

9- Christianity 

Christianity is the world’s most-followed religion in 2024. It originated in the Middle East around 30 CE, with the teachings of Jesus, who is considered the founder of the religion.

Christianity began as a small sect within Judaism, with Jesus’ teachings and the actions of his followers spreading the religion across the Roman Empire and beyond. Over the years, the religion gained popularity due to its emphasis on love, forgiveness, and the imminent Kingdom of God, which appealed to both Jews and non-Jews. 

Read More: Top 10 Megachurches in the USA 

Christianity is based on the belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ, who is considered the Messiah and the savior of humanity. Christians believe in the Holy Trinity – God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit – and in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is central to their faith.

Christian practices include regular worship, prayer, and participation in sacraments such as baptism and the Eucharist. Christianity has also influenced various aspects of Western culture, law, morality, and philosophies.

Christianity is the largest religion in the world, with an estimated 2.4 billion followers. The religion has a significant presence in various parts of the world, including the Americas, Europe, and Africa.

Read More: Religious Leaders of Christianity of All the Times

10- Islam 

Islam is one of the world’s major religions with a rich and fascinating history. It originated in the Arabian Peninsula in 610 A.D., with the teachings of the prophet Muhammad, who is considered the last in a line of prophets that includes Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. 

Islam began with Muhammad’s mission in Mecca and Medina at the start of the 7th century CE. Muhammad began receiving divine revelations in 610 CE, which called for submission to the one God, preparation for the imminent Last Judgement, and charity for the poor and needy.

As Prophet Muhammad’s message attracted followers, he faced increasing hostility and persecution from Meccan elites, leading him to migrate to Medina in 622 CE. From there, he unified the tribes of Arabia under Islam and returned to Mecca to take control in 630 CE.

Islam is based on the belief in one God, Allah, and the submission to His will. Muslims believe that Muhammad is the final messenger of God and that the Qur’an, revealed to him, is the final and complete revelation of God’s will. Islam emphasizes the importance of good deeds, with rewards in the afterlife for those who follow the teachings of the Qur’an.

Islam has a wide range of practices, including daily prayer, fasting during the month of Ramadan, giving to charity, and making a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime for those who are privileged.

Islam is the second-largest religion in the world, with an estimated 1.9 billion followers. The religion has a significant presence in many parts of the world, including the Middle East, Africa, Asia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Europe. 

Read More: Why Islam Is the Fastest Growing Religion in the World?                      


These ancient religions, including Hinduism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Shinto Religion, Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, and Islam, have shaped the course of human history and continue to influence modern society. Each of these religions offers unique perspectives on the nature of existence, the role of the individual in society, and the path to spiritual enlightenment. 

As we move forward into an increasingly interconnected and globalized world, it is essential to recognize the shared cultural heritage that these ancient religions represent. By promoting a deeper understanding of these religions, we can promote greater empathy, tolerance, and understanding among people of different faiths and backgrounds. 


1- Which Religion Came Last in the World?

In Punjab, South Asia, almost 500 years ago, a man by the name of Guru Nanak Dev Ji established the Sikh faith.

2- Which Religion has Largest Following in 2024?

Christianity is the world’s most-followed religion in 2024 with 2.4 billion believers.  

3- What Will be the Largest Religion in 2050?

According to the Pew Research Center’s religious projection for 2050, the number of Muslims worldwide will increase more quickly than Christians. 

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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