Major World Religion’s Charts


Western: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity

Eastern: Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism





Rick Allbee

Heartland Community College


(The Following charts are posted on this web site:,

 with Rick Allbee’s permission)

















God/Prime Reality


God: Transcendent Creator, Sovereign, Almighty, Yahweh, One


Allah: Monotheism; All Powerful, All Knowing, Merciful, Compassionate


Tawhid (God’s absolute unity; and Allah’s  sovereignty over the universe) 

 99 Beautiful Names; Creator; Sovereign Judge


Fullness of the Godhead: God the Father Creator, Christ the Son (Creator, Lord, Redeemer), and The Holy Spirit



Nature of World

And Nature of History




Nature of Knowledge

Real Created World: Structured, Dynamic


Linear History

God is sovereign over the world, and immanent in Israel’s history


Truth: truth integrated with concrete life

Real Created World

Linear history

Prophets bring new dispensations

Angels involved in history

Knowledge: knowledge of Allah (in religious commitment and the knowledge of his will) is most important.  Also, true knowledge is the true nature of reality

Real Created World: Structured, Dynamic


Linear History

God is sovereign over and immanent in  history; Redemptive in history through

Christ the Promised One

Faith and Reason (Faith seeks reason)

Truth:Integrity between belief & behavior

Nature of Humanity


Created in God’s image: Self-Transcendent, Creative,

Biological/Psycho/Social/Spiritual Unity, Intellectual moral being

Exercises limited sovereignty via the Creation Mandate


Created in God’s image

Sovereign next to God


Created in God’s image: Self-Transcendent, Creative,

Tripartite (body, soul, spirit),

Intellectual moral being,

Exercises limited sovereignty via the Creation Mandate,

Fallen and in need of redemption

Goal: Salvation or



“Salvation” from God’s judgment via obedience to the law


Human society advanced and healed via following God’s natural law (“Torah”)


Salvation via deeds, and Allah’s mercy


Day of Judgment






Salvation from sin and its ultimate consequence (death) via Christ


Reconciliation to God  


Summing up all things in Christ

Judgment Heaven/Hell




Ten Commandments (apodictic law)

613 commandments (casuistic law)

Prophetic Ethics: Justice, mercy, etc



Submission to Allah

Practice the Five Pillars of Islam

Follow the example of Muhammed (Sunnah)

Live all of Life according to Islamic Law (Shariah); 5 categories of behavior: required, recommended, permitted, discouraged, prohibited)

Jihad (“Greater” and “lesser”)

Dietary Rules: Surah 5:3 (Prohibited foods- swine, improperly killed food); unblessed food  


Faith in God and Christ


Love of God and Love of Neighbor


Imitatio Christi

Be transformed into His (Christ’s) image

Life in and in accordance with the Holy Spirit






Country of Origin and Practice




Eastern Europe







Northern Africa


The Near East

Baltic Basin





The Nations: Western Civilization,

Global (Americas, Africa, Europe); less so in the Muslim countries and the Far East

Sacred Texts



Hebrew Bible:




Rabbinic Writings : Mishnah, Talmuds, Midrashim, Tosefta, Halakah and Hagadah



Koran (Supreme Revelatory Authority)

Hadith—Narrative Traditions

Shariah—Comprehensive Law Codes


Previous Revelations (now partially corrupted): Hebrew Bible, the Gospels

Sufi Poetry


Hebrew Old Testament


New Testament:

-Gospels (biographical narratives)

-Acts (early church history)

-Apostolic letters

-The Apocalypse


Important Dates

Abrahamic Tradition (1800-1500 BCE)

Mosaic Tradition (15TH Cent BCE)

Prophetic Tradition (9th-5th Cent BCE)

Wisdom Tradition (9th Cent; and the Inter-Testamental period)

Exiles and destruction of temples; Rise of the Synagogue (586 BCE)

Roman dispersion (70 CE)

Re-founding the Nation of Israel (1948 CE)


571 CE: Birth of Muhammed


622 CE: Hijra (considered birth of Islam; Year one)


630 CE: Mecca Conquered


Old Testament Dates


Birth of Christ


Day of Pentecost (birth of the church)


1517 Protestant Reformation


Important People

Abraham and Isaac

Israel, Joseph, and the 12 Tribes



The Prophets (major and minor)

Major Rabbis and Philosophers (early: e.g. Hillel, and Philo) and (later: e.g.: Maimonides, and Issac Wise-Reformed)


Abraham, and Ishmael

Muhammad, Shia Ali, Husyan, Fatima 

The Caliph

Ulama (Religious scholars and clergy)

Imans (Sunnis = leaders of prayers; Shiites = Religious/Political intercessory successors of Muhammad)

The Hidden Iman. The Mahdi. Sufi Masters

Shaykh (elder leader; also, head of Sufi Order)

Abraham and David


Jesus of Nazareth; the Christ


The 12 Apostles


Reformation: Luther, Calvin, Arminius

Sacred Places





Mt. Sinai

The Tabernacle

Israel, Jerusalem

The Temple, The Synagogue


Tetragrammaton, Star of David, Tablets of the Decalogue, Torah scroll, Menorah, Harp of David, Shofar


Medina, Jerusalem

The Ka‘bah

Sufi Master’s relics

Tomb-shrines of Shiite Imans (at Karbala, Najaf, etc)


Star and Crescent, The Mosque

The “Holy Land”

Orthodox Churches

Catholic Pilgrimage Sites, etc


The Cross, Crown of Thorns, Dove and Olive Branch, Triqueta, the Fish, Stained Glass Windows, Prayer Hands, The Rosary, The Eucharist Elements, the Alter, the Nativity, the Halo, the Holy Familly     






Worship and Liturgical Practices


Levitical Sacrificial and Ceremonial laws

Dietary Regulations (prohibited foods, and proper food preparation-Kosher)

The Sabbath

Synagogue Services

The Shema

Amidah and other Prayers

Bar Mitvah

The Five Pillars of Islam:

-Declaration of Faith

-Prayer five times a day facing Mecca

-Almsgiving (2.5% of wealth)

-The Hajj  (Pilgrimage required once)

-Fasting during the month of Ramadan

The Fatiha (Koran 1:1-7)

Friday Islamic Mosque’s Services

Reciting the Koran; also formulaic Koranic pious expressions (e.g.: the basmalah)

Shiites: Martyrdom of Husain (on Ashurah)

Sufi’s “Whirling Dervishes”



Sunday Church worship, Music, Prayer

The Lord’s Model Prayer

The 7 Sacraments of Roman Catholicism (baptism, communion, penance, marriage, ordination, holy unction, confirmation)

Catholic Sacerdotalism

Eastern Orthodoxy’s use of icons

High Church Liturgies


Festivals and Pilgrimages



Day of Atonement


Feast of Booths

Festival of lots


The Jewish New Year



Hajj (the greater pilgrimage)

‘Umrah (visitation ritual, “lesser pilgrimage”)

Islamic New Year (1st of Muharram)

‘Ashurah: (a beneficent holy day, 10th Muharram)

Muhammad’s birth day (12th of Rabi al Awwal)

The Night Journey (27th of Rajab)

Feast of Fast Breaking (at end of Ramadan)

Feast of Sacrifice (commemorating Abraham’s sacrifice; 10th of Dhu-l-Hijjah)

Shiite: birth and death anniversaries of Imans, pilgrimages to tomb-shrines of Imans, Sufis: death anniversaries of Sufi Saints






High Church’s Liturgical Calendar (Lent, etc)


Catholic Pilgrimages

Social Institutions



Bar Mitvah


Jewish Community (identity as a people)



Israeli Government




Ummah (Islamic community)

The Government

Law (4 major schools: Hanafi, Hanbali Maliki, and Shafi). Islamic family law

Education; Madrasas [4 Religious subjects: Tradition (Hadith), law (fiqh), theology (kalam), Exegesis of Koran (Tafsir)]

The Mosque

Islamism and various “Fundamentalist” Organizations (e.g. Muslim Brotherhood)




Civic Government


Paradigmatic Relationships between  Christ and Culture (against, in paradox, of, revolutionizing, transforming)


Church (community of saints)

Paradigmatic Structure, and Religious Organization

Four Divisions:




Hasidim (mystics)




Levitical Priesthood


Three Divisions:

Sunnis (90%)

Shiites (party of Ali)

Sufis (mystics)


Imans (Sunnis = leaders of prayers, heads of Mosques; honorific title of various leaders--e.g. heads of the schools of law; Shiites = Religious/Political intercessory successors of Muhammad)

Shaykh (head of a Sufi Order)

Four Divisions:






Several Denominations

Preachers, Priests, Nuns, Bishops, Popes 

Saints, Elders, Deacons, Missionaries







God/Prime Reality

Vedic Pantheon of Nature Gods

Way of Knowledge:  Brahman

Ishvara: Lord; Brahman as object of worship in relation to the world; Also, expressed in the Trimurti

Way of Devotion: Trimurti: Brahma (Creator), Vishnu (Preserver), Shiva (Destroyer).Avataras of Vishnu (10)

Devi (goddess), and shakti 

Devotional gods (found in Puranas, Ramayana, etc): Ganesha, et. al.


Theravada: Nirvana

Mahayana: Shunyata/ Emptiness (all  things are devoid of essences; inter-dependently arisen; mere appearances; total insubstantiality; beyond existence and non-existence). 

Trikaya body: the three “bodies” possessed by a Buddha; transcendental reality, also the manifest in the relative

Zen: Shunyata: Absolute truth and Buddha reality)


Tien: Heaven  (moral order)


Neo-Confucianism: “The Great Ultimate”-T’ai chi: Li in its cosmic aspect; the ultimate principle; creative, unlimited. [Li (normative rational structural principle) combines with chi (primordial vital matter) to produce all else (yin and  yang, the five elements-earth, fire, metal, water, wood; and the world)]



The Tao: Nameless, Self-So, Whole, undifferentiated, formless, infinite, boundless;

Source of all force and power in existent things; the mother and  matrix of all life: Heaven, Earth, and human kind


The way of the universe


Nature of World

And Nature of History




Nature of Knowledge


Prakriti (matter, nature)

Maya: Illusion. Veil of being

Samsara: Cyclical

Polyvalent. A state of permanently unconstricted knowledge of the oneness of Brahman; non-discursive


Duhka: all is suffering


Mahayana:Metaphysical Trikaya

Dharma (factors of existence)

Cyclical history

Conventional truth (relative), and Absolute truth (non-mediated)

Zen truth: I am the Buddha reality

Harmonious (ideally)

The Tao (accounts for harmony)

Yin and Yang (accounts for being, becoming, and change) 

The world is a dynamic harmony


Cyclical history, but meaningful

Real knowledge possible

All is manifestations of The Tao

Yin and Yang

Chi (breath, primordial and vital energy)

Heaven, Earth, and Human kind

Cyclical History


Sage’s Mystical knowledge of the Tao- the nameless.

Epistemological relativism

Nature of Humanity


Atman: soul




The Castes



Theravada: Anatta (unreality of the self; no atman); Karma and Dependent Origination: The 5 Skandhas (functional unity in flux)


Mahayana: Absolute Relativism

Zen: all is the Buddha reality

Confucius: Follow mandate of Heaven-Tien. Man is a social being (in a social context); Li- is a set of social relationships ideally realized

Mencius: man in social context,

Humanity is naturally good: Jen, humanness

Neo-Confucianism: the mind also exhibits Li, or it’s the source of reason

Instantiation of the Tao


Exhibits one’s te (power/virtue); also, one obtains it by attaining to the Tao 


Relativism: ontological, epistemological, ethical, and aesthetical

Goal: Salvation or


Way of Duty (Karma Marga): Better Rebirth

Way of Knowledge (Jnana Marga): moksha/Liberation; through Yoga meditation

Way of Devotion (Bhakti Marga): Ultimate devotion/ dependence

All: Enlightenment, liberation to  



Theravada: Arhat (Buddhist Saint; completed the eight-fold path, conquered the three intoxicants, attained the six perfections, and enjoys the higher vision) 

Mahayana: Bodhisattva



-“salvation”: Idealized harmonious relationships



-identity with Li (cosmic)

Classical: Accommodate the Tao



Magico/Religious: Extend life; become a hsien- an immortal


Four Goals/Paths of Life: 2 of desire (pleasure, material success); 2 of renunciation (Duty, Moksha-liberation)

Way of Duty: Karma, Dharma; law codes; Caste duties

Way of Knowledge: becoming a Sannyasin, and a Sadhu


The Four Noble Truths

Negative: Avoidances Lists

Positive: Eightfold Path, perfections

Three Jewels/Refuges

Theravada: Ten Precepts Mahayana: Bodhisattva ideal (practicing the ten perfections (paramita) and progressing through the ten stages-bhumis)

Dharma (cosmic law; great norm)

Laity: Dana (giving), the 5 precepts

Five Cardinal Virtues (Li: propriety,

jen: humanness, i: righteousness, hsiao: faithfulness, and chih: wisdom)

The Five Great Relationships and  the Ten Appropriate Attitudes

The Rectification of Names

Shu: Reciprocity (“Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you”)

Chun tzu: The (Morally) Superior Man

Classical: Live in accordance with the Tao: Let Tao operate in the realm of being- Naturalness, Wu-Wei- actionless action, Spontaneity, Principle of Return, Chang Tzu: complete ontological, epistemological ethical, & aesthetical relativism







Country of Origin and Practice






Sri Lanka








South East Asia

Sri Lanka


Japan, Korea











Sacred Texts


Shruti: Four Vedas, Brahmanas, Upanishads


Smriti: Dharma Shastras, Nibandhas, Puranas, Ramayana, Mahabharta, Bhagavad Gita

Sutras: Dharma, Grihya, Shrauta


Tripitika: Discipline, Discourse, Special Teachings


Mahayana Cannon


Tibetan Cannon, and Tantric Manuals-Tantras


Five Chinese Classics: Book of Changes (I Ching), Book of History (Shu Ching), Book of Poetry (Shih Ching),  Spring and Autumn Annals (Ch’un ch’iu), Book of Rites (Li Chi)


Four Books: Analects, Doctrine of the Mean, Great Learning, Mencius


Classical Taoism (Tao-chia) :

Tao-Te-Ching, Chang Tzu


Magico/Religious (Tao-chiao):

Taoist Canon (the Three Caverns), Talismans

Important Dates


Aryan Arrival (1800-1500 BCE)


Vedic Age (1200 BCE-600 CE)


Classical Period (600-1200 CE)


563 BCE Birth of Siddhartha Gautama


273 BCE Asoka Enthroned 


551 BCE Birth of Confucius


371 BCE Birth of Mencius


Renaissance of Neo-Confucianism (12th Century CE)




604 BCE Birth of Lao Tzu


369 BCE Birth of Chang Tzu



Important People

Brahmin Priests, Gurus, Yogins, 

Sannyasins, Sadhus


Originators or Influential Members of the Six Orthodox Philosophies: Nyaya (Gotama), Vaisheshika (Kanada), Sankhya (Ishvarakrishna), Raja-Yoga (Patanjali), Mimamsa (Jaimini),Vedanta: (Shankara, Ramanuja, Madhva)

Siddhartha Gautama

Buddhist Monks

Originators of Mahayana Buddhist Schools of Philosophy (e.g.s: Nagarjuna, Asanga, and Vasubandhu)

Arhats (Theravada)

Mahayana: Bodhisattvas, and also Transcendental Bodhisattvas (e.g.s.: Avalokiteshvara, and Maitreya)

Dalai Lama (Tibetan Buddhism)





Chu Hsi

Wang Yangming


Founders of Various Confucian  Schools/Traditions

Lao Tzu, Chang Tzu

Various heads of schools/traditions

Magico/Religious: The Three Pure ones (one of whom is the deified Lao- Tzu);The Eight Immortals (exemplars of sages transformed via Taoist practices-meditation, alchemy, etc.); and also Taoist and Popular Deities

(Pantheon, nature, and popular deities)

Wang Pi - a Neo-Taoist   

Sacred Places








Himalayas, Ganges River (various sites-Hardwar, Allahabad), Cities (e.g.s.: Kasi, Banaras), Temples (e.g. Minaksi temple), Many Others


Om; The Trimurti; Various gods: Shiva, Ganesha, Kali, etc; Sacred Footprints, Yoga, the Lingam and Yoni, the Bull, the Cow




Buddha Paradises or Pure Lands


The Buddha, The Wheel, The Hands of Buddha, Dharma Chakra, Stupas, the Vajra, the Lotus Flower, Prayer wheel, the Parasol, the Conch shell








Magical Religious: Mountains, Caves, Taoist Temples, The Big Dipper


The Ying-Yang Circle

Chinese symbols “appropriated”: (animals): Crane, Dragon, Tortoise, Cicada; (Plants): e.g. the Peach Tree







Worship and Liturgical Practices

Brahmin Sacrifices

Yoga (Patanjali; eight steps)



Puja (worship)

Use of idols and images (murti)

Darshana (seeing god or the holy)

Visiting Temples

Shrauta rites (public); Grihya rites (private, domestic)

Sacred Thread Ritual (e.g. of a rite of passage, to adulthood)


Meditation; Samadhi; Dhyana

Three Jewels: Refuge in the Buddha, in the Dharma, and in the Sangha.

Scripture recitation. Dana (giving alms)

Mahayana: prajna (wisdom) & karuna (compassion); Bodhicitta and the Bodhisattva vow

Zen: zazen (meditation), satori (enlightenment), koan (technique used to show limitations of discursive subject/ object reason)

Tibetan: tantras, mandalas, mantras, mudras, prayer wheels, puja, etc).

Sacrifices to Heaven (past)

Ancestor Veneration (shrines, offerings, ancestral tablets, grave site visitations, etc). Pre-dates, but survives Confucianism 


Social Obligations


Rites honoring Confucius (hymns of praise, etc); state cult of Confucius up until 1911 offered sacrifices, etc at state temples

Classical: live in accordance with the Tao

Copying & handing down Scripture  

Communication between heaven, human beings and earth

Magical/Religious: hsien -immortal, alchemy (inner and outer), breathing exercises, Tai-Chi ch’uan, Use of Talismans (charm texts) & registers

Veneration of the Immortal Ones

Communal rituals (e.g. Chiao) and private rites (e.g. curing illnesses)


Festivals and Pilgrimages


Festivals vary with location and deities honored: E.G.: Divali Festival (Lakshmi, god of wealth and good fortune puja); Birthday of the god Rama (Ramayana); Sarasvati festival (goddess of the arts and learning (celebrated the 1st day of Spring)


Pilgrimages: E.G.: To the river Ganges (e.g. city of Varanasi associated with the god Shiva); to Mt Kailas in Himalayas; Hundreds of Pilgrimage sites (sacred rivers, mountains, temples, shrines, etc)


Festivals:  Most Theravada festivals include the practice of Paritta- a chanting ceremony)


Pilgrimages: Sites include: images of the Buddha, temples, stupas, pagodas, mountains, and bodhi-trees; Sites associated with Siddhartha, Sites associated with various Bodhisattvas, etc


Chinese Holidays:


Chinese New Year

Ching Ming (ancestors are venerated; First of Spring- April 4th or 5th)




Cosmic Renewal Festival (Chiao)

Other Festivals are based on and consistent with the Chinese calendar


Public rituals (there are several private rituals as well) also include: the Consecration of Images, and the P’u-tu ritual (to redeem ghosts; sometimes held on the same day as the Chinese “Ghost Festival”)


Social Institutions


Four Castes: Brahmin, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Shudras;+ Jatis. Outcastes


Four Stages of Life: student, householder, hermit, sannyasin


Six Darshanas (systems of philosophy) (Nyaya-logic, Vaisheshika-6 pardarthas, Sankhya-union of consciousness and matter, RajaYoga-meditation, Mimamsa-  rituals, Vedanta-non-dualism)  







Schools of Mahayana Buddhist Philosophy (e.g.: Madhyamaka, and Yogacara)












Government- Kings follow the Dao, then “Lazze Fair”


Nature integrated

Paradigmatic Structure, and Religious Organization


Three Ways of Liberation:


Way of Knowledge

Way of Duty

Way of Devotion


Brahmin Priests, Gurus, Yogins, 

Sannyasins, Sadhus








Tibetan (Vajrayana)




Temple Priests



Classical Confucianism




Temple Priests


Classical Taoism

Magico/Religious Taoism




Taoist Sage

Taoist Priest


Select Reference Bibliography for terms, practices, etc contained in the above charts

(For a more complete annotated Bibliography see “Major World Religions Bibliography”

Posted on this website under the World Religions link)



Breuilly, Elizabet; et. al. Eds. Religions of the World: The Illustrated Guide to Origins, Beliefs, Traditions, and Festivals. Facts on File, 1997.

Brown, Colin.  New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology.  4 vols. Harper Collins Publishers, Incorporated, 1997.

Cohn-Sherbok, Dan.  A Short Introduction to Judaism.  Oneworld, 1999.

Diener, M.; Friedrichs, K.; Ehrhard, F.; and Fischer-Schreiber, I.  Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion. Verlag, 1989; B & N, 1999.

Esposito, John L.  Islam: The Straight Path. 3rd ed. Oxford, 1998.

Ferguson, Everett.  Backgrounds of Early Christianity. 2nd ed. Eerdmans, 1994.

Glasse, Cyril. Ed.  New Encyclopedia of Islam: A Revised Edition of the Concise Encyclopedia of Islam. AltaMira Press, 2001.

Hamilton, Sue.  Indian Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction. OUP, 2001.

Klostermaier, Klaus.  Buddhism: A Short Introduction. Oneworld, 1999.

Klostermaier, Klaus K.  A Survey of Hinduism. 2nd ed. State University of New YorkPress, 1994.

Livingstone, E.A.;  Cross, F.L.; and Elizabeth A. Livingstone. Eds. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. 3rd ed. Oxford, 1997.

Miller, James. Daoism: A Short Introduction. Oneworld Press, 2003.

Noss, John B.  A History of the World's Religions. 11th Rev. Ed. N.Y.: MacMillian, 2003.

Pas, Julian F.; and Jon Woronoff.  Eds.  Historical Dictionary of Taoism. Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1998.

Sire, James.  The Universe Next Door: A Basic World View Catalogue.  IVP, 1997. 

Strauss, James D. Part II Of The Demise Of Truth In Postmodern Inter-Religious Pluralism: Death Of Truth: From Truth To Relevance. At

   (under the World Religions link)

Xinzhong Yao. An Introduction to Confucianism. Cambridge University Press, 2000.