World Religion 101 Quiz

RELIGION

Laura DeFazio

7 Min Quiz

"In the name of the Father, the Son and ..." Can you complete the Holy Trinity according to Christianity?

Christians believe that although there's only one God, he has three aspects: The Father (the God of the Old Testament, who's the same God worshipped by Jewish people), the Son (Jesus Christ, the son of God and the Virgin Mary) and the Holy Spirit, a somewhat less well-defined being also referred to as the Holy Ghost.

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In which year (approximately) was Jesus Christ born?

The calendar we use today was created by a Russian monk named Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century A.D. He used Jesus' birth to divide history into two epochs, "Before Christ" and "Anno Domini," which means "the year of our Lord" in Latin and refers to all the years from Christ's birth onward. Exiguus used the data available to him at the time to calculate this year, but most modern scholars think Jesus was actually born in 4 B.C. or a little earlier.

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Do you know which of the following is a Jewish holy text?

The Torah comprises the first five books of the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) and contains stories, rules and regulations for Jewish people to live by. These five books also correspond with the Old Testament of the Christian Bible.

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Practitioners of Islam are most commonly called ...

People who practice Islam are known as Muslims. "Islamist," on the other hand, is a word whose meaning is often debated but generally has more to do with political ideology than religious identity.

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Catholicism and Protestantism are two major branches of Christianity that split up in the 16th century A.D. Do you know which of the following statements is true about their differences?

The Protestant faith split off from the Catholic Church due to various ideological differences. Protestants wanted the Mass to be more accessible (not given in Latin), and they thought churches should be decorated plainly and priests dressed simply. They thought people could pray directly to God rather than go through a priest for forgiveness. They also placed less emphasis on worshipping Mary, Jesus' mother.

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Do you know the name of the supreme being in the Islamic faith?

Allah is the name Muslims call God by, whereas Muhammad was the political leader who founded the religion in the 7th century A.D. Muhammad is also considered a prophet by members of the faith, and their holy text was written based on the revelations he received from Allah.

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Do you know which of the following Asian religions is indigenous to Japan?

Shintoism is a polytheistic faith (one in which many gods are worshipped) that centers around gods/spiritual entities called "kami." These kami imbue things in the world around them with divine essence. The religion is heavily connected to the natural world and is estimated to have between 4 and 5 million practioners, most of whom live in Japan.

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Can you name the traditional Jewish Holy Land?

Traditionally, the land that is approximately the modern-day country of Israel, with Jerusalem as its capital, is the site of the Holy Land. Mecca, on the other hand, is the holiest Muslim city, Egypt is the land from which Hebrew (Jewish) slaves fled and Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

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What is Mecca?

Located in western Saudi Arabia, Mecca is the holiest city of Islam. The prophet Muhammad was born there, and every year millions of Muslims make a pilgrimage (called the Hajj) to visit the holy site. All Muslims financially and physically able to do so are required to make a pilgrimage to Mecca once in their lives.

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This belief system was based on the writings of ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-tze (also written as Laozi). Do you know it?

Taoism dates to the 4th century B.C., possibly earlier. As with Confucianism and other traditional Chinese belief systems, the yin and yang symbol of harmony and duality is central to the philosophy.

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Dharma, karma and samsara are major attributes of one of the world's most widely practiced religions. Can you name it?

With roots stretching back 4,000 years, Hinduism is considered to be the oldest major religion still widely practiced today. Most sources estimate that it has about 900 million followers, the vast majority of whom live in India. "Dharma" is the way of conducting one's life morally and correctly, "karma" is a cosmic principle of cause and effect that rewards correct behavior and punishes incorrect behavior and samsara is the cycle of death and rebirth that living beings are bound to until they reach enlightenment.

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Which of the following best describes the Muslim holiday of Ramadan?

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is devoted to reflection and self-purification. Adult Muslims (those who are in good health, aren't pregnant, aren't very elderly, etc.) fast between sunup and sundown. They also abstain from tobacco, sex, alcohol and other indulgent behaviors.

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Can you name the religion that the god Shiva belongs to?

Also called "Shiva the Destroyer" within the Hindu trinity that includes Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, Shiva is one of the primary deities of the faith. (In Shaivism, a subset of contemporary Hinduism, he's *the* primary being.) His name means "the auspicious one" and, along with his destruction aspects, he's the patron of the arts, yoga and meditation.

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Do you know which of the following religions is the least likely to be considered monotheistic?

"Monotheism" is the belief in one god, whereas "polytheism" is the belief in many. (Think of the pantheons of Ancient Greece and Rome.) While Hindus believe in one god, Brahman, there are several forms of Brahman and most Hindus select one as their personal god or goddess.

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According to most estimations, which of the following world religions has over one billion followers today?

The Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs at Georgetown University estimates that there are about 1.5 billion adherents to Islam worldwide. (Other sources say anywhere from 1.3 to 1.9 billion.) Most of these practitioners live in the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Asia. Islam is considered to be the second-most widely practiced religion today, after Christianity.

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Do you know which of the following is major symbol of Taoism?

The yin-and-yang symbol represents Taoist beliefs about duality, harmony and the masculine/feminine balance. The cross is a Christian symbol, the crescent moon is associated with Islam and, although it was unfortunately later co-opted by the Nazis, the swastika has been symbolic in many faiths over the course of history including Hinduism and certain Native American belief systems.

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This liberal faith system grew out of Christianity but embraces a broad range of teachings from religions and philosophies around the world. Do you know what it is?

Unitarian-Universalism espouses principles from many religions, from the spiritual philosophies of the East to the Golden Rule of Christianity and Judaism ("Do unto others as you would like done unto you.") Practitioners also advocate living in harmony with nature, applying reason/science and thinking for oneself.

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Can you identify the following religious term that is NOT a place of worship?

A mosque is a Muslim place of worship, and a mandir is a place of worship in the Hindu faith. "Temple" is a term for the same used across various faiths. A mezuzah, on the other hand, is an amulet traditionally placed on a doorpost by practitioners of the Hebrew faith (Judaism).

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Protestantism is one of the major branches of Christianity. Do you know which of the following is *not* a subset of Protestantism?

The Christian Orthodox Churches comprise another major branch of Christianity, along with Protestantism and Catholicism. There's also an Orthodox branch of Judaism; these Jews are very traditional, strict in their practice of the faith and regard the Torah (the Jewish holy text) as the literal word of God.

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Siddhartha Gautama was a key figure in religious history. Do you know who he was?

The specifics are debated, but most scholars agree that Gautama was born a prince in present-day Nepal sometime between the 6th and 4th century B.C. He gave up his riches in favor of seeking spiritual enlightenment and teaching others to do the same. "Buddha" means "enlightened one," and thus others who achieve enlightenment can become buddhas as well.

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This religion was founded in the 6th century B.C. (or possibly much earlier) in Persia. Do you know what it is?

Zoroastrianism is one of the world's oldest practiced monotheistic religions. Scholars debate exactly when it was founded, but it comes from the region that is modern-day Iran and definitely predates Islam.

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In Punjabi, this faith is called "Gurmat," or, "the Way of the Guru." Can you name it?

Sikhism developed in the Punjabi region of India in the 15th century AD. According to tradition, it was founded by a man named Guru Nanak, the first "Guru." Nine successive Gurus led the religion after him, all said to be inhabited by the same spirit. After the tenth Guru passed away in 1708, this spirit was said to have transferred into the sacred text, Guru Granth Sahib.

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Do you know which of the following is the name for a movement that aims to bring back ancient polytheistic religions?

Like the ancient European and Middle Eastern spiritualities it's based upon, Neo-Paganism is highly focused on nature and its cycles. Its practicioners believe that the natural world is imbued with divine spirit. Neo-Paganism overlaps with modern witchcraft and folk magic.

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According to Buddhist tradition, what is "nirvana"?

Buddhism focuses on achieving enlightenment ("nirvana") through meditation and moral living. It does not specifically acknowledge a deity or deities, and many religious scholars prefer to classify it as a belief system or spiritual tradition rather than a religion per se. Buddhism is a particularly tolerant way of life, and many practitioners of other religions also consider themselves Buddhists.

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Do you know which of the following is not one of the main branches of Islam?

A caliphate refers to the reign of a Muslim ruler. The split between the Sunnis and Shi'ites happened because of a controversy as to who the rightful caliph was after the death of the first caliph, Muhammad. Sufis are a smaller sect focused on introspection and mysticism.

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This religion was formed in present-day Iran (then Persia) in the 19th century A.D. Although it grew out of Shia Islam, it was distinct in many ways. Can you name it?

Followers of the Baha'i believe that more prophets (like Moses, Jesus and Muhammad) are on the way. They also believe in the essential unity of all religions and the inherent equality of all people.

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The Four Noble Truths are essential to the philosophy of which of the following?

According to Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths provide a plan to deal with suffering. To sum them up (extremely briefly), these Truths are that suffering exists, that suffering is caused by the ego and by misplaced desire, that an end to suffering is available to us and that the path to liberation can be mapped out in a code of living called "The Eight-Fold Path."

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Religious scholars and researchers agree that this is the most widely practiced religion today. Can you name it?

Over 2 billion people (over one third of the global population) are practicioners of Christianity, a faith which encompasses Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Protestantism and all their individual subsets.

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Do you know which of the following religious texts pertains to the Hindu faith?

The Vedas ("Books of Knowledge") are comprised of four Hindu holy texts: The Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda. They were written between about 1200 B.C. and about 100 A.D. The Koran is the primary Muslim holy text, the Eddas (the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda) are two examples of medieval Icelandic literature concerning the old Norse gods, and the Mahayana Sutra is a Buddhist text.

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According to the Jewish faith, God gave his people 613 of these instructions to live properly. Do you know what they're called?

Mitzvahs are the Jewish commandments. The Jewish coming-of-age ceremonies ("Bar Mitzvah" for boys, "Bat Mitzvah" for girls) signify that their recipients are now adults in the faith and thus obligated to live according to these principles.

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This relatively new Japanese religion is currently one of the 13 state-recognized sects of Shintoism, although it's also been affiliated with Buddhism in the past. Can you name it?

Tenrikyo originated in the 19th century with a 40-year-old woman named Nakayama Miki. She said she was possessed by a god called Tenri-O-no-Mikoto and developed a set of spiritual practices involving dancing, shamanism, healing and charitable acts.

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Although it shares many cultural roots with Hinduism and Buddhism, this old religion is considered to be distinct from both. Can you name it?

Jainism derives from ancient India. Scholars estimate that it was founded between the 7th and 5th centuries B.C., making it one of India's three oldest religions along with Buddhism and Hinduism. The word "Jainism" comes from an old Sanskrit verb "to conquer," and it refers to the battle its practitioners fight against their own bodily urges in the pursuit of purity.

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This event occured in 1054 A.D. and was a defining moment of Christian history. Can you name it?

The Great Schism, also called the East-West Schism, occured when ideological differences and longstanding tensions led the Christian Church to permanently split into two factions. These were the Roman Catholic Church, led by Pope Leo IX, and the Eastern Orthodox Church led, by Michael Cerularius, the patriarch of Constantinople. Each side excommunicated the other, a measure that wasn't lifted until 1965.

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Do you know what the eight-day Jewish holiday of Hanukkah celebrates?

Hanukkah has its origins in 2nd century AD Jerusalem, when the Jewish people staged a revolt and overturned their Greco-Syrian rulers. (After a period of religious tolerance, these rulers had decided to force conversion and desecrated the Jewish temple.)

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Do you know the name of the state ideology of North Korea?

Juche was founded by Kim Il-sung, the previous ruler of Korea and the father of current head of state Kim Jong-Il. Although "Juche" has been translated to "independent stand" and "spirit of self-reliance," the faith centers heavily on the deification (making into a god) of its founder.

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Image: anuchit kamsongmueang/ Moment/ Getty Images

About This Quiz

From Judaism to Islam, Buddhism to Neo-Paganism, Christianity, Juche and everything in between, the religions of Planet Earth are as diverse as its people. Some faith systems have their roots thousands and thousands of years ago, whereas others are younger than electricity. Some are liberal, evolving and open to interpretation, whereas some religions (or sects of religions) adhere to tradition and regard their religious texts as the literal "Word of God." Some belief systems are mutually exclusive and others allow room for multiple traditions.

Some religions are labeled "monotheistic" (believing in only one god) and others "polytheistic" (believing in many). That being said, matters of the spirit aren't always cut and dried, and many faiths, whether scholars label them as such or not, are somewhere in between, with beliefs about many aspects of one divine entity. Some religions take place strictly between an individual and the divine, whereas others rely heavily on community and shared cultural heritage.

Religions evolve over time, or else their relationships with the changing world around them evolve out of necessity. Some faiths have been historically intertwined in politics; others have not. The history of religion is rife with prophets, teachers, messiahs, wars, corruption, phenomenal acts of goodwill, clashing ideologies and the struggle for peace. Despite differences and tensions, most faith systems (at least at their theoretical core philosophies) work to better the world and provide meaning and spiritual sustenance to the human beings in search of it. Amen! 

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