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Other Religions and Beliefs

As well as the main world religions, there are thousands of other religions and belief systems practised by people all over the world.

These include some you may have heard of, such as Paganism or Rastafari, as well as ones you probably haven't.

Baha'l is one of the world's youngest religions and was only established in the 19th century, and Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest, with a history stretching back 3,500 years.

Atheism

Atheism is a major belief system, but it is not a religion.

  • Atheists believe there is no such thing as a god or spiritual being
  • It is possible to be religious and an atheist, for example, Buddhists do not believe in a god, but do have strong religious beliefs
  • As with any religion, levels of belief differ. Some atheists say that the chance of a god existing is hard to prove, while others say that it is impossible for a god to exist
  • There are many reasons why someone might not believe in the existence of god. They may think that a god would prove itself by giving us signs that it exists, or that the existence of evil means that god cannot be real
  • Sometimes a person is an atheist because they find it impossible to believe that there is a spiritual presence beyond what humans can prove to exist. Believing that the entire universe and all of creation can be explained by evolution and scientific explanations, we don't need the existence of another entity called God
  • Being an atheist doesn’t mean a person doesn’t have morals just because they don’t have the guiding principles of a religion to help them make moral decisions. Humanism is a type of atheism that is focussed on all the virtues and morals of human nature with a positive relationship with the world
  • Some people just can't be sure whether or not there is a god. This type of belief is called agnostic

Baha'Í

The Bahá'í faith is one of the youngest of the world's major religions founded in Iran in 19th century.

  • Iran was mainly a Muslim country at the time the faith was proclaimed by a young Iranian, who called himself The Báb. He said that a messenger would soon arrive from God, who would be the latest in a line of prophets including Moses, Muhammad and Jesus Christ
  • Bahá'ís believe that Bahá'u'lláh is the most recent Manifestation of God, however the Bahá'u'lláh himself stated that he is not God's final messenger
  • The Bahá'í faith accepts all religions with the Bahá'u'lláh teaching that God intervenes at different times to reveal more of himself through his messengers (called Divine Messengers, or Manifestations of God)
  • The central idea of the faith is that of unity, that people should work together for the common benefit of humanity
  • There are 6 million Bahá'ís in the world, in 235 countries with around 6,000 living in Britain

Paganism

Pagansim is based on the worship of nature and the natural cycles of life and death.

  • Pagans believe in the 'divine' in many different forms with a strong belief in equality between men and women
  • Paganism dates back to pre-Christian times in the UK
  • Paganism covers a wide range of beliefs throughout the world with some groups concentrating on specific traditions or practices such as ecology, witchcraft, Celtic traditions or certain gods
  • Wiccan’s (modern Pagans), Druids (originally ancient Celtic priests), Shamans (who communicate with natural forms of conscious energy to heal and guide people), Sacred Ecologists (who study knowledge and beliefs held by indigenous people around the world), Odinists and Heathens (who follow Norse religions that pre-date Christianity in Northern Europe) all make up parts of the Pagan community
  • The meaning of the term 'Pagan' has been misrepresented in history after it became negatively associated with witchcraft and was thought to be anti-Christian. Pagans are not evil deviants who worship the devil and practice 'black magic', their beliefs and practices do not involve harming people or animals
  • Between the years 1500 to 1660, around 50,000 - 80,000 suspected witches were executed in Europe. About 80% of those killed were women
  • There are between 50,000 - 200,000 pagans in the UK

Paranormal

The paranormal is not a religion but it encompasses the belief in things that happen that seem to defy any scientific explanation.

  • Unidentified flying objects (UFOs), ghost sightings, ESP and unexplained occurrences such as the Bermuda Triangle are considered to be paranormal

Rastafari

Rastafari is a young, Africa-centred religion which developed in Jamaica in the 1930’s, following the coronation of Haile Selassie I as King of Ethiopia in 1930.

  • Rastafarians believe Haile Selassie is God, follow a number of Old Testament Laws but believe reincarnation follows death and that life is eternal
  • Rastafari beliefs developed from the ideas of Marcus Garvey, a political activist who wanted to improve the status of fellow black people
  • Followers of Rastafari are known by a variety of names: Rastafarians, Rastas, Sufferers, Locksmen, Dreads or Dreadlocks
  • The religion spread globally following the success of Bob Marley and his music in the 1970s
  • Rastafarians believe that black people are the chosen people of God and are concerned with their oppression and treatment in society
  • Rastafari religious ceremonies consist of chanting, drumming and meditating and the ritual inhalation of marijuana, to reach a state of heightened spirituality
  • Rastafarians follow strict dietary laws and generally do not eat meat, especially pork and don’t drink alcohol
  • There is a separate code of religious practice for women in Rastafari
  • The lion is used as a symbol to represent Haile Selassie I, who is referred to as the 'Conquering Lion of Judah'
  • Rastafarians are forbidden to cut their hair; instead, they grow it and twist it into dreadlocks and these represent the lion's mane
  • There are approximately one million Rastafarians worldwide with around 5,000 living in England and Wales

Scientology

Scientology is a collection of beliefs and practices created by L. Ron Hubbard, starting in 1952.

  • Scientology believes that a human being is actually an alien who is immortal, such as an extraterrestrial or spiritual manifestation
  • That spiritual being is trapped as a physical body on planet earth, and known as a "Thetan"
  • This thetan, according to Scientology beliefs, has lived many times before in outer space before coming to earth
  • Scientology teaches that people have forgotten their true nature and carry out a type of counseling known as auditing, in which people try to consciously re-experience painful or traumatic events in their past in order to free themselves
  • Scientology is very controversial coming into conflict with the governments and police forces of several different countries. However in recent years it has been popularised by certain celebrities becoming members of the Church of Scientology

Spiritualism

Spiritualism is a religious movement which is based on the belief that spirits of the dead can be contacted by mediums.

  • Spiritualism began in the1840’s and continued to be widely popular in Europe until the 1920s
  • Spiritualists believe spirits are on a higher level than the living and want to communicate to provide moral guidance or pass on messages

Zoroastrians

Zoroastrians believe there is one God called Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord) and He created the world.

  • Zoroastrianism is one of the world's oldest religions, founded by the Prophet Zoroaster (or Zarathustra) in ancient Iran approximately 3500 years ago
  • For 1000 years Zoroastrianism was one of the most powerful religions in the world. It was the official religion of Persia (Iran) from 600 BCE to 650 CE. It is now one of the world's smallest religions
  • Zoroastrians believe that fire represents God's light or wisdom
  • Zoroastrians traditionally pray several times a day

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