Universalizing religion

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In a morphological classification of religions,[1] a universalizing religion is a religion that attempts to operate on a global scale and to appeal to all people wherever they reside, compared to an ethnic religion which primarily attracts one group of people living in one place. Most universalizing religions are divided into branches, denominations, and sects. Differences between branches, denominations, and sects tend to be minor since they can't drift away too much from the Book or the Cannons without being challenged. By far the most practiced universalizing religion is Christianity. Islam and Buddhism are other large universalizing religions.[2] About 62% of the world's population identify with a universalizing religion, with about 24% adhering to an ethnic religion and 14% to no religion in particular.

"Universalizing religion" is different from but related to the term "universalism", which is one strategy of being "universalizing" (i.e. absorb any possible pre-existing religion into your framework as a matter of principle, or phrased more negatively, water everything down to the point where all religions are the same anyway). It is not synonymous with "universalism".


Foundation, Age, and Nature of Ceremonies

Universalizing religions can usually be traced to a single founder, a result of the fact that most universalizing religions are younger than ethnic religions. For example, Christianity can be traced to Christ, Islam can be traced to Muhammad, and Buddhism can be traced to Siddhartha Gautama ("the Buddha"). These religions can be traced back to their founders because they were established within recorded history, a characteristic of all universalizing religions. In fact, almost all universalizing religions were founded Anno Domini, with the notable exception being Buddhism.

Another notable characteristic of universalizing religions that stems from their having known founders is the nature of their ceremonies.[3] Most universalizing religions' holidays and ceremonies correspond to events in the lives of their founders. For example, the major Christian holidays of Easter and Christmas correspond to significant events in the life of Christ, with several minor holidays corresponding to the lives of saints.


Yet another characteristic of universalizing religions that are rarely found in ethnic religions is the ease of conversion. Because most universalizing religions operate on a global scale, conversion to universalizing religions is usually relatively easy and highly encouraged by practitioners of the faith. Some universalizing religions, like Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism, diffused through the use of missionaries to travel with the intent of encouraging those met along the way to convert. Some even may force conversion through conquest, as Islam did in the first half of the second millennium AD. From the 17th through the early 20th centuries, Christianity was primarily spread through European countries' colonization of places like North and South America and Africa.


Cults exhibit many characteristics of universalizing religions, including having specific founders and a mission to convert. Some argue that universalizing religions started out as cults and grew to religious status over the years, though others argue that to say such a thing would be to demean the world's largest and most powerful religions.

List of Universalizing Religions

This list may be impartial, but these are by far the most notable and largest universalizing religions.[4]


  1. https://www.britannica.com/topic/classification-of-religions
  2. Rubenstein, James M. (2008). The Cultural Landscape: An Introduction to Human Geography. Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-134681-4. 
  3. Rubenstein, James M. (2008). The Cultural Landscape: An Introduction to Human Geography. Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-134681-4. 
  4. Rubenstein, James M. (2008). The Cultural Landscape: An Introduction to Human Geography. Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-134681-4. 
  5. http://www.truthmagazine.com/archives/volume34/GOT034138.html
  6. Jainism oldest personally founded Religion.