Religious denomination

Last updated
Major denominations and religions of the world Prevailing religious population by country percentage.svg
Major denominations and religions of the world
Religious Denomination in 2020
Other Christians
Sunni Islam
Shia Islam
Other Hinduism
Folk religion
Other religions

A religious denomination is a subgroup within a religion that operates under a common name and tradition among other activities. The term refers to the various Christian denominations (for example, Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and the many varieties of Protestantism). It is also used to describe the five major branches of Judaism (Karaite Judaism, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist). Within Islam, it can refer to the branches or sects (such as Sunni, Shia), [1] [2] as well as their various subdivisions such as sub-sects, [3] schools of jurisprudence, [4] schools of theology [5] and religious movements. [6] [7]


The world's largest religious denomination is Sunni Islam. [8] [9] [10] [11]


A Christian denomination is a generic term for a distinct religious body identified by traits such as a common name, structure, leadership and doctrine. Individual bodies, however, may use alternative terms to describe themselves, such as church or fellowship. Divisions between one group and another are defined by doctrine and church authority; issues such as the biblical interpretation, the authority of apostolic succession, eschatology, and papal primacy often separate one denomination from another. Groups of denominations often sharing broadly similar beliefs, practices and historical ties are known as branches of Christianity.


In Hinduism, the major deity or philosophical belief identifies a denomination, which also typically has distinct cultural and religious practices. The major denominations include Shaivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism and Smartism.


Historically, Islam was divided into three major sects well known as Sunni, Khawarij and Shi‘ah. Nowadays, Sunnis constitute about 90% of the overall Muslim population, the Shi'ahs are around 10%, [12] while Ibadis, from the Kharijites, have diminished to a level below 0.15%.

Today, many of the Shia sects are extinct. The major surviving Imamah-Muslim Sects are Usulism (with nearly more than 8.5%), Nizari Ismailism (with nearly more than 1%), Alevism (with slightly more than 0.5% [13] but less than 1% [14] ). The other existing groups include Zaydi Shi'a of Yemen whose population is nearly more than 0.5% of the world's Muslim population, Musta’li Ismaili (with nearly 0.1% [15] whose Taiyabi adherents reside in Gujarat state in India and Karachi city in Pakistan. There are also significant diaspora populations in Europe, North America, the Far East and East Africa [16] ).

On the other hand, new Muslim sects like African American Muslims, Ahmadi Muslims [17] (with nearly around 1% [18] ), non-denominational Muslims, Quranist Muslims, and Wahhabis (with nearly around 0.5% [19] of the world's total Muslim population) were later independently developed.

A survey by Pew Research Center suggests that up to 25% of Muslims globally self-identified as non-denominational Muslims. [20]


Jewish religious movements, sometimes called "denominations" or "branches", include different groups which have developed among Jews from ancient times. Today, the main division is between the Orthodox, Reform and Conservative lines, with several smaller movements alongside them. This threefold denominational structure is mainly present in the United States, while in Israel the fault lines are between the religious Orthodox and the non-religious.

The movements differ in their views on various issues. These issues include the level of observance, the methodology for interpreting and understanding Jewish law, biblical authorship, textual criticism and the nature or role of the messiah (or messianic age). Across these movements there are marked differences in liturgy, especially in the language in which services are conducted, with the more traditional movements emphasizing Hebrew. The sharpest theological division occurs between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews who adhere to other denominations, such that the non-Orthodox movements are sometimes referred to collectively as the "liberal denominations" or "progressive streams."


The term "multi-denominational" may describe (for example) a religious event that includes several religious denominations from sometimes unrelated religious groups. Many civic events include religious portions led by representatives from several religious denominations to be as inclusive or representational as possible of the expected population or audience. For example: the Sunday thanksgiving mass at Campamento Esperanza (English: Camp Hope) in Chile, where services were led by both a Roman Catholic priest and by an Evangelical preacher during the Chilean 2010 Copiapó mining accident. [21] [22]

Chaplains - frequently ordained clergy of any religion - are often assigned[ by whom? ] to secular organizations to provide spiritual support to its members who may belong to any of many different religions or denominations. Many of these chaplains, particularly those serving with the military or other large secular organizations, are specifically trained to minister to members of many different faiths, even faiths with opposing religious ideology from that of the chaplain's own faith. [23]

Military organizations that do not have large numbers of members from several individual smaller but related denominations will routinely hold multi-denominational religious services, often generically called "Protestant" Sunday services, so minority Protestant denominations are not left out or unserved. [24] [25]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Demographics of Lebanon</span> Aspect of human geography in Lebanon

This is a demography of the population of Lebanon including population density, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sect</span> Subgroup of a particular religious or ideological doctrine

A sect is a subgroup of a religious, political, or philosophical belief system, usually an offshoot of a larger group. Although the term was originally a classification for religious separated groups, it can now refer to any organization that breaks away from a larger one to follow a different set of rules and principles. Sects are usually created due to perception of heresy by the subgroup and/or the larger group.

In religion, heterodoxy means "any opinions or doctrines at variance with an official or orthodox position". Under this definition, heterodoxy is similar to unorthodoxy, while the adjective 'heterodox' could be applied to a dissident.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Christian denomination</span> Identifiable Christian body with common characteristics

A Christian denomination is a distinct religious body within Christianity that comprises all church congregations of the same kind, identifiable by traits such as a name, particular history, organization, leadership, theological doctrine, worship style and sometimes a founder. It is a secular and neutral term, generally used to denote any established Christian church. Unlike a cult or sect, a denomination is usually seen as part of the Christian religious mainstream. Most Christian denominations self-describe themselves as churches, whereas some newer ones tend to interchangeably use the terms churches, assemblies, fellowships, etc. Divisions between one group and another are defined by authority and doctrine; issues such as the nature of Jesus, the authority of apostolic succession, biblical hermeneutics, theology, ecclesiology, eschatology, and papal primacy may separate one denomination from another. Groups of denominations—often sharing broadly similar beliefs, practices, and historical ties—are sometimes known as "branches of Christianity". These branches differ in many ways, especially through differences in practices and belief.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Islam in Turkey</span> Overview of the role of the Islam in Turkey

Islam is the most practiced religion in Turkey. The established presence of Islam in the region that now constitutes modern Turkey dates back to the later half of the 11th century, when the Seljuks started expanding into eastern Anatolia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Islamic schools and branches</span> Overview of sectarian divisions within Islam

Islamic schools and branches have different understandings of Islam. There are many different sects or denominations, schools of Islamic jurisprudence, and schools of Islamic theology, or ʿaqīdah (creed). Within Islamic groups themselves there may be differences, such as different orders (tariqa) within Sufism, and within Sunnī Islam different schools of theology and jurisprudence. Groups in Islam may be numerous, or relatively small in size. Differences between the groups may not be well known to Muslims outside of scholarly circles, or may have induced enough passion to have resulted in political and religious violence. There are informal movements driven by ideas as well as organized groups with a governing body. Some of the Islamic sects and groups regard certain others as deviant or accuse them of being not truly Muslim. Some Islamic sects and groups date back to the early history of Islam between the 7th and 9th centuries CE, whereas others have arisen much more recently or even in the 20th century. Still others were influential in their time but are not longer in existence.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Religion in Russia</span> Religious beliefs in Russia

Religion in Russia is diverse, with Christianity, especially Russian Orthodoxy, being the most widely professed faith, but with significant minorities of non-religious people and adherents of other faiths. A 1997 law on religion recognises the right to freedom of conscience and creed to all the citizenry, the spiritual contribution of Orthodox Christianity to the history of Russia, and respect to "Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and other religions and creeds which constitute an inseparable part of the historical heritage of Russia's peoples", including ethnic religions or paganism, either preserved, or revived. According to the law, any religious organisation may be recognised as "traditional", if it was already in existence before 1982, and each newly founded religious group has to provide its credentials and re-register yearly for fifteen years, and, in the meantime until eventual recognition, stay without rights.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Islam in Djibouti</span> Religion in Djibouti

Islam in Djibouti has a long history, first appearing in the Horn of Africa during the lifetime of Muhammad. Today, 98% of Djibouti's 490,000 inhabitants are Muslims. According to Pew, 77% follow the denomination of Sunnism, whilst 8% are non-denominational Muslim, and the remaining 13% follow other sects such as Quranism, Shia, Ibadism etc.. After independence, the nascent republic constructed a legal system based in part on Islamic law.

A schism is a division between people, usually belonging to an organization, movement, or religious denomination. The word is most frequently applied to a split in what had previously been a single religious body, such as the Great East–West Schism or the Western Schism. It is also used of a split within a non-religious organization or movement or, more broadly, of a separation between two or more people, be it brothers, friends, lovers, etc.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Religion in Bulgaria</span> Religious beliefs in Bulgaria

Religion in Bulgaria has been dominated by Christianity since its adoption as the state religion in 864. The dominant form of the religion is Eastern Orthodox Christianity within the fold of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. During the Ottoman rule of the Balkans, Islam spread to the territories of Bulgaria, and it remains a significant minority today. The Catholic Church has roots in the country since the Middle Ages, and Protestantism arrived in the 19th century; both of them remain very small minorities. Today, a significant part of the Bulgarians are not religious, or believers who do not identify with any specific religion, and Bulgaria has been the cradle of some new religions, notably the Neo-Theosophical movement of Dunovism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Religion in Ethiopia</span>

Religion in Ethiopia consists of a number of faiths. Among these mainly Abrahamic religions, the most numerous is Christianity totaling at 67.3%, followed by Islam at 31.3%. There is also a longstanding but small Jewish community. Some adherents of the Baháʼí Faith likewise exist in a number of urban and rural areas. Additionally, there is also a substantial population of the adherents of traditional faiths.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Religion in Turkey</span> Summary of religious following within the nation of Turkey

Islam is the largest religion in Turkey according to the state, with 99.8% of the population being initially registered by the state as a Muslim. As much as 85-90% of the population follows Sunni Islam. Most Turkish Sunni Muslims belong to the Hanafi school of jurisprudence. The remaining 0.2% are Christians or adherents of other officially recognised religions like Judaism. The official number of Muslims include people with no religion; converted people and anyone who is of a different religion from their Muslim parents, but has not applied for a change of their individual records. These records can be changed or even blanked out on the request of the citizen, by filing an e-Government application since May 2020, using a valid electronic signature to sign the electronic application. Any change in religion records additionally results in a new ID card being issued. Any change in religion record also leaves a permanent trail in the census record, however, record of change of religion is not accessible except for the citizen in question, next-of-kin of the citizen in question, the citizenship administration and courts.

All three major Abrahamic religions originated from the Middle East and are present in the Middle East. Islam is the most prevalent religion in the contemporary Middle East.

Islam is the official religion in Kuwait, and the majority of the citizen population are Muslim. There are also small native Christian and Baháʼí Faith populations. Most expatriates in Kuwait are Muslim, Hindu, Christian or Buddhist.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Religion in Syria</span>

Religion in Syria refers to the range of religions practiced by the citizens of Syria. Historically, the region has been a mosaic of diverse faiths with a range of different sects within each of these religious communities. The majority of Syrians are Muslims, of which the Sunnis are the most numerous, followed by the Shia groups, and Druzes. In addition, there are several Christian minorities. There is also a small Jewish and Yazidi community.

The Constitution of Bahrain states that Islam is the official religion and that Shari'a is a principal source for legislation. Article 22 of the Constitution provides for freedom of conscience, the inviolability of worship, and the freedom to perform religious rites and hold religious parades and meetings, in accordance with the customs observed in the country; however, the Government has placed some limitations on the exercise of this right.

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion and creeds and the exercise of all religious rites provided that the public order is not disturbed. The Constitution declares equality of rights and duties for all citizens without discrimination or preference but establishes a balance of power among the major religious groups. The Government generally respected these rights; however restricted the constitutional provision for apportioning political offices according to religious affiliation since the National Pact agreement. There were periodic reports of tension between religious groups, attributable to competition for political power, and citizens continued to struggle with the legacy of the civil war that was fought along sectarian lines. Despite sectarian tensions caused by the competition for political power, Lebanese continued to coexist.

In Qatar, the Constitution, as well as certain laws, provide for freedom of association, public assembly, and worship in accordance with the requirements of public order and morality. Notwithstanding this, the law prohibits proselytizing by non-Muslims and places some restrictions on public worship. Islam is the state religion.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Non-denominational Muslim</span> Muslim who does not belong to an identifiable Islamic school or branch

Non-denominational Muslims are Muslims who do not belong to, do not self-identify with, or cannot be readily classified under one of the identifiable Islamic schools and branches.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Schools of Islamic theology</span> Set of theological beliefs in the Islamic faith

Schools of Islamic theology are various Islamic schools and branches in different schools of thought regarding ʿaqīdah (creed). The main schools of Islamic Theology include the Qadariyah, Falasifa, Jahmiyya, Murji'ah, Muʿtazila, Batiniyya, Ashʿarī, Māturīdī, and Aṯharī.


  1. Aaron W. Hughes (2013). Muslim Identities: An Introduction to Islam. Columbia University Press. p. 62. ISBN   9780231531924.
  2. Theodore Gabriel, Rabiha Hannan (2011). Islam and the Veil: Theoretical and Regional Contexts. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 58. ISBN   9781441161376.
  3. Aaron W. Hughes (2013). Muslim Identities: An Introduction to Islam. Columbia University Press. p. 129. ISBN   9780231531924.
  4. Muzaffar Husain Syed, Syed Saud Akhtar, B D Usmani (2011). Concise History of Islam. Vij Books India. p. 73. ISBN   9789382573470.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. Ali Paya (2013). The Misty Land of Ideas and The Light of Dialogue: An Anthology of Comparative Philosophy: Western & Islamic. ICAS Press. p. 23. ISBN   9781904063575.
  6. Joseph Kostiner (2009). Conflict and Cooperation in the Gulf Region. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 212. ISBN   9783531913377.
  7. Muhammad Moj (2015). The Deoband Madrassah Movement: Countercultural Trends and Tendencies. Anthem Press. p. 13. ISBN   9781783084463.
  8. "Number of Muslims ahead of Catholics, says Vatican | Religion | The Guardian". Retrieved 2021-08-26.
  9. Bialik, Carl (2008-04-09). "Muslims May Have Overtaken Catholics a While Ago". Wall Street Journal. ISSN   0099-9660 . Retrieved 2021-08-26.
  10. CARL BIALIK (9 April 2008). "Muslims May Have Overtaken Catholics a While Ago". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  11. Connie R. Green, Sandra Brenneman Oldendorf, Religious Diversity and Children's Literature: Strategies and Resources, Information Age Publishing, 2011, p. 156.
  12. "Mapping the Global Muslim Population". 7 October 2009. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  13. According to David Shankland, 15% of Turkey's population. in Structure and Function in Turkish Society. Isis Press, 2006, p. 81.
  14. According to Krisztina Kehl-Bodrogi, Syncretistic Religious Communities in the Near East edited by her, B. Kellner-Heinkele, & A. Otter-Beaujean. Leiden: Brill, 1997.
  15. "Tehelka - India's Independent Weekly News Magazine". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-11-10.
  16. Paul, Eva (2006). Die Dawoodi Bohras – eine indische Gemeinschaft in Ostafrika (PDF). Beiträge zur 1. Kölner Afrikawissenschaftlichen Nachwuchstagung. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2022-10-09.
  17. Simon Ross Valentine (2008-10-06). Islam and the Ahmadiyya Jamaʻat: History, Belief, Practice. Columbia University Press. p. 61. ISBN   978-0-231-70094-8.
  18. Larry DeVries; Don Baker & Dan Overmyer (January 2011). Asian Religions in British Columbia. University of Columbia Press. ISBN   978-0-7748-1662-5 . Retrieved March 29, 2014. The community currently numbers around 15 million spread around the world
  19. Destined Encounters - Page 203, Sury Pullat - 2014
  20. "Preface". 9 August 2012.
  21. Chile mine: Rescued men attend service of thanks, BBC News, 17 October 2010
  22. Raphael, Angie (18 October 2010). "Freed miners return to Chile's Camp Hope". Herald Sun. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
  23. Christmas in Prison - A Quiet One, Independent News, New Zealand, Press Release: Department Of Corrections, 13 December 2007
  24. Obamas Make Rare Trip to Church While in Hawaii, ABC News (US), MARK NIESSE 26 December 2010
  25. New chapel heralds more North Fort Hood construction [ permanent dead link ], First U.S. Army, Sgt. 1st Class Gail Braymen, 19 July 2010