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Chapter 6


Religion helps define people and how they understand the world around them. Universalizing religions appeal to people of many cultures. Represents 60% of the worlds population. Ethnic religions appeal primarily to one group of people living in one place (25%)

Distribution of Religions
Universalizing religions
Christianity Islam Buddhism

Ethnic religions
Hinduism Other ethnic religions

World Distribution of Religions

Fig. 6-1: World religions by continent.

World Population by Religion

Fig. 6-1a: Over two thirds of the worlds population adhere to Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism. Christianity is the single largest world religion.

Global Religions
Divided into branches, denominations and sects. Branch: a fundamental division within a religion. Denomination: a division of a branch (Protestant denominations of Christianity) Sect: a group that is smaller than a denomination

Christian Branches in Europe

Fig. 6-2: Protestant denominations, Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy are dominant in different regions of Europe a result of many historic interactions.

Christian Branches in the U.S.

Fig. 6-3: Distribution of Christians in the U.S. Shaded areas are counties with more than 50% of church membership concentrated in Roman Catholicism or one of the Protestant denominations.

Religions of the United States

Religion by the Numbers

Buddhism 300 million mostly in China and Southeast Asia Christianity 2 billion and is the worlds most geographically widespread Islam 1 billion and is dominant in North Africa, the Middle East as well as Bangladesh and Indonesia Hinduism 300 million is the largest ethnic religion mostly located in India Judaism, Shintoism and Animism

The three universalizing religions diffused from hearths associated with the lives of their founders. Christianity diffused through both relocation and expansion. Islam diffused from Mecca through military conquest and trade. Buddhism diffused from its hearth in northern India eastward as a result of missionary activity and trade.

Diffusion of Christianity

Fig. 6-5: Christianity diffused from Palestine through the Roman Empire and continued diffusing through Europe after the fall of Rome. It was later replaced by Islam in much of the Mideast and North Africa.

Diffusion of Islam

Fig. 6-6: Islam diffused rapidly and widely from its area of origin in Arabia. It eventually stretched from southeast Asia to West Africa.

Diffusion of Buddhism

Fig. 6-7: Buddhism diffused gradually from its origin in northeastern India to Sri Lanka, southeast Asia, and eventually China and Japan.

Universalizing religions have supplanted and mingled with ethnic religions in various parts of the world. In Africa some animistic religions have merged with Christianity In East Asia, Buddhism and Shintoism have merged.

Shintoism & Buddhism in Japan

Fig. 6-8: Since Japanese can be both Shinto and Buddhist, there are many areas in Japan where over two-thirds of the population are both Shinto and Buddhist.

Holy Sites
Most religions have holy places that are associated with the history of that religion. Adherents will make a pilgrimage (religious journey) to holy places. Buddhist holy places mark the location of important events in Buddhas life.

Holy Sites in Buddhism

Fig. 6-9: Most holy sites in Buddhism are locations of important events in Buddhas life and are clustered in northeastern India and southern Nepal.

Buddhist Temple
Bodh Gaya, India

The holiest locations in Islam are associated with the life of Mohammed and include in order of importance Makka (Mecca), Madinah (Medina) and Jerusalem..

Makkah during the Haj Pilgrimage

The Kaba stands at the center of the Great Mosque (al-Haran al Sharif) in Makkah.

Hindu Holy Places

Holy places in ethnic religions are closely tied to geography. To Hindus the River Ganges is the holiest river in India and they believe that bathing in the waters will achieve purification.

Ritual Bathing in the Ganges River

Hindu pilgrims achieve purification by bathing in the Ganges.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar

The Golden Temple (Darbar Sahib) in Amritsar, India is the holiest structure for Sikhism.

Religions have different understanding of the relationship between the people and their environment. The set of religious beliefs that concern the origin of the universe. Calendar Ethnic religions are very much tied to physical geography

Religion and Landscape

Christian churches were originally modeled after Roman basilicas Mosques are the most important religious buildings in the Islamic world and also serve as places for the community to gather. Most Hindus worship at home, although temples serve as shrines. The pagoda is the most visible religious architecture of the Buddhist.

Religion and Landscape

Burial practices of different religions are also visible on the landscape. Christians, Muslims, and Jews usually bury their dead in cemeteries. Cremation has replaced burial as a means of disposing of the dead in many parts of the world because of the pressure on agricultural land. (China and Western Europe) Toponyms also show the impact of religion on the landscape. Many places are named for Saints.

Bahai Temple in Uganda

Cremation near Taj Mahal

Place Names in Qubec

Fig. 6-12: Place names in Qubec show the impact of religion on the landscape. Many cities and towns are named after saints.

Religious Structures
Roman Catholic Church hierarchical religion with a well defined geographical structure and division of territory into local administrative units. Islam and some Protestant denominations are good examples of autonomous religions because they are relatively self-sufficient, with little interaction between communities within the religions.

Roman Catholic Hierarchy in U.S.

Fig. 6-13: The Catholic church divides the U.S. into provinces headed by archbishops. Provinces are divided into dioceses, headed by bishops.

Religious Conflicts Religion identification can lead to religious conflict. The Hindu caste system led to social and ethnic conflict in India. The rise of communism was also a challenge to organized religion, especially in Eastern Europe and Asia.

Religious Conflicts
Religious conflicts continue in many parts of the world especially at the boundaries between different religions, branches and denominations. There have been religious wars in Ireland between Catholics and Protestants. Longstanding conflict in the Middle East. The city of Jerusalem contains the sites that are sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Distribution of Protestants in Ireland, 1911

Fig 6-14: When Ireland became independent in 1937, 26 northern districts with large Protestant populations chose to remain part of the United Kingdom.

Catholic Protestors in Northern Ireland


Fig. 6-15: The Old City of Jerusalem contains holy sites for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Boundary Changes in Palestine/Israel

Fig. 6-16: The UN partition plan for Palestine in 1947 contrasted with the boundaries that were established after the 1948-49 War. Major changes later resulted from the 1967 War.

Israel, the West Bank and Gaza

Political and Physical maps

Fig. 6-17: The West Bank and Gaza have been under Israeli control since 1967, and numerous Israeli settlements have been established there. The area includes three physical regions: the coastal plain, the hills, and the Jordan River Valley.

Section of Israeli Security Barrier

Fig. 6-1.1: A typical section of the security barrier built by Israel in the West Bank.

Israels Barrier in the West Bank

Fig. 6-1.2: The planned route of Israels security barrier in the West Bank includes many of Israels settlements in the territory.

The Temple Mount, Jerusalem

Temple Mount contains sites holy to both Jews and Muslims, including the Western Wall of the Second Temple, al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Dome of the Rock.

Praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem

Potala Palace, Lhasa Tibet