I   INTRODUCTION The Qur’an The inscription on buildings of verses from the Qur’an symbolizes the living presence of the holy book in Islamic society. This tower with decorative Qur’anic inscriptions is in Delhi, India. Gillian Darley/Edifice/Corbis Islam, one of the three major world religions, along with Judaism and Christianity, that profess monotheism, or… Read More


  Buddha (563?-483?bc), Indian philosopher and the founder of Buddhism, born in Lumbinī, Nepal. He was the son of the head of the Sakya warrior caste, with the private name of Siddhartha; in later life he was known also as Sakyamuni (Sage of the Sakyas). The name Gautama Buddha is… Read More

Roman Catholic Church

I INTRODUCTION Roman Catholic Church, the largest single Christian body, composed of those Christians who acknowledge the supreme authority of the bishop of Rome, the pope, in matters of faith. The word catholic (Greek katholikos) means “universal” and has been used to designate the church since its earliest period, when… Read More

Losing My Religion

R.E.M. R.E.M., American rock-music group, pioneers of the so-called alternative style of rock music, and one of the most popular and critically acclaimed bands of the 1980s and 1990s. Formed in Athens, Georgia, in 1980, its members included guitarist Peter Buck, singer Michael Stipe, bassist Mike Mills, and drummer Bill… Read More

Pre-Columbian Religions

I INTRODUCTION Pre-Columbian Religions, religions of the native cultures of Mesoamerica, the Andes, and adjacent regions before they were conquered by Europeans in the 16th century. Most prominent among these cultures were three major civilizations, the Classic-period Maya culture of Mesoamerica (300?-900?), the Aztec Empire (1428-1521) of Mesoamerica, and the… Read More


I INTRODUCTION Religion, sacred engagement with that which is believed to be a spiritual reality. Religion is a worldwide phenomenon that has played a part in all human culture and so is a much broader, more complex category than the set of beliefs or practices found in any single religious… Read More

The Geography of Religion

Geographers study religion not only because national boundaries are often influenced by the religious makeup of a population but also because religion can help shape the very way that a culture looks at its landscape. The idea that sacred places exist, whether in the form of mountains or rivers, is… Read More


Mosque Mosque, a building that serves as the main place of worship for Muslims. Mosques are of various sizes and types; the Friday mosque—in which the entire congregation assembles to perform the ritual Friday prayers—is by far the largest and most important. The great age of mosque building extends from… Read More


I INTRODUCTION God, the center and focus of religious faith, a holy being or ultimate reality to whom worship and prayer are addressed. Especially in monotheistic religions (see Monotheism), God is considered the creator or source of everything that exists and is spoken of in terms of perfect attributes—for instance,… Read More

Freedom of Religion

Freedom of Religion, right of a person to form personal religious beliefs according to his or her own conscience and to give public expression to these beliefs in worship and teaching, restricted only by the requirements of public order. Religious liberty differs from toleration in that toleration presupposes preferential treatment… Read More