5 . JainismJainism was founded in India over 2500 years ago. It survives today with approximately four million believers, called J. This polytheistic faith preaches that many gods exist alongside humans in a complex hierarchy. The Jain gods are symbolic of common human ideas. Similar to Buddhism, the goal of “Jain Life” is to achieve spiritual perfection and free the soul from the cycle of rebirth. Those who succeed in this endeavor are called jinas. Jain worship centers on icons and numerous Jain temples in India contain images of the 24 tirthankaras, revered spiritual leaders. Offerings are frequently made to these images as part of Jain ritual. Meditation and monasticism are also key features of Jainism.
4 . AladuraFounded in the early 20th century, this religion is based around so-called “prophet healing” churches in Africa. It claims around one million adherents, mostly in Nigeria. Aladura is directly related to the Anglican movement of Christianity. It was founded as a response to missionary movements in Africa. The religion emphasizes divine healing and a strict moral code. Its practices mix Anglican traditions with African rituals. Many ritual objects are involved in the practice, and the faiths leaders are known as prophets who are entrusted with healing believers through rituals and prayer.
3 . Cao DaiThis Vietnamese religion combines elements of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Catholicism. It was founded in 1926 and claims up to 6 million adherents. Believers worship a vast array of saints, which includes such notable figures as Julius Caesar and Pericles. The ecclectic nature of Cao Dai complements its idealistic mission to create a more tolerant world. Adherents see all humans as sharing a divine heritage. The practicies of this faith are somewhat occult and derived from Taoist traditions. Believers hold seances in addition to group prayer and elaborate ritual ceremonies.
2 . Unification ChurchEstablished in South Korea in 1954, the Unification Church ascribes to a unique interpretation of Christianity. Its 3 million believers praise the faith’s founder Sun Myung Moon, the religion’s founder, as the Messiah and ascribe to a doctrine known as the “Divine Principle”. This doctrine emphasizes duality in nature and the harmonious union of masculine and feminine. Subsequently, the aim of the Unification Church is to create “true families,” which is often achieved through mass weddings. These unions are also a means of fulfilling the faith’s version of God’s purpose, which is to experience joy and love through life. True joy and love can only be achieved by creating a perfect, sinless family. Only in this way does the Unification Church believe the Kingdom of God can be created. While there is no description of an afterlife, the faith preaches that the spirit will live for all eternity.
1 . Falun GongFalun Gong is a recent religious movement with roughly three million practitioners. It was founded in China in 1992 by Li Hongzhi. It combines elements of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism with traditional Chinese folklore. Falun Gong aims to obtain mental and spiritual renewal through meditation. Adherents practice special exercises to awaken their center of spiritual energy and rid themselves of physical and spiritual ailments. The faith has received extensive criticism from the Chinese government, which initially saw the new cult as a threat. Outsiders also tend to ridicule Falun Gong’s contention that antagonistic space aliens are manipulating world leaders.
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