World Religion Database: traditions

Data source: Gina A. Zurlo, ed., World Religion Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2023).

Tradition Definition
Buddhists Followers of the Buddha, mostly across Asia, including three main traditions: (a) Mahayana (Greater Vehicle); (b) Theravada (Teaching of the Elders); (c) Tibetan (Lamaists); plus (d) traditional Buddhist sects, but excluding neo-Buddhist new religions or religious movements.
Mahayanists The Greater Vehicle school of Buddhists (qv), or Northern Buddhism (China, Japan, et alia).
Theravadins (Theraveda). The Teaching of the Elders or the Hinayana school of Buddhists (qv), or Southern Buddhism (in Sri Lanka, India, Burma Thailand, Cambodia, Laos).
Lamaists Tantrayana, or the Tantrism school of Buddhism (qv).
Christians Followers of Jesus Christ, including: (a) Catholics; (b) Protestants; (c) Orthodox; (d) Independents; and (e) unaffiliated.
unaffiliated Christians Persons professing allegiance and commitment to Christ but who have no church affiliation.
Orthodox In 4 traditions: Eastern (Chalcedonian), Oriental (Pre-Chalcedonian, Non-Chalcedonian, Monophysite), Assyrian Church of the East (Nestorian), and non-historical Orthodox.
Catholics All Christians in communion with the Church of Rome, also known as Roman Catholics. Affiliated Catholics are defined here as baptized Catholics plus catechumens.
Protestants Christians in churches originating in, or reformulated at the time of, or in communion with, the Western worlds 16th-century Protestant Reformation in European languages usually called Evangéliques (French), Evangelische (German), Evangélicos (Italian, Portuguese, Spanish), though not usually Evangelicals (in English).
Independents Christians who identify as independent of the major Christian traditions (Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant). Independent of historic, organised, institutionalized and denominationalist Christianity.
doubly-affiliated Christians Persons who are baptized members of 2 or more denominations at the same time.
Hindus Followers of the main Hindu traditions: Vaishnavism; Shaivism; Shaktism; neo-Hindu movements and modern sects; and other Hindu reform movements.
Vaishnavites Worshippers of Vishnu in any of his forms or incarnations, in several schools, including Sri Sampradayins, Vadagalai, Tengalai, Ramanandis, Vallabhacharins, Chaitanyas, Nimbarkas, Madhvas, and others.
Shaivites Worshippers of Shiva (Siva) in several schools, including Pasupata, Kashmiri, Siddha, Gorakhnatha, Vira; also diversity according to geographic location in India.
Saktists Worshippers of Shakti/Devi (Hindu Divine Mother) who is also depicted as Kali, Durga, and Parvati (consort of Shiva).
Muslims Followers of Islam, in two primary branches: (a) Sunni; and (b) Shia. Other, significantly smaller, branches include Kharijite, Sanusi, Mahdiya, Ahmadiya, Druzes, and Sabbateans.
Sunnis Followers of the larger of the major branches of Islam, that adheres to the orthodox tradition of the sunna (qv), acknowledges the first 4 caliphs, and recognizes 4 schools of jurisprudence: Hanafite, Hanbalite, Malikite, Shafiite.
Shias (Shiis). Followers of the smaller of the 2 great divisions of Islam, rejecting the Sunna and holding that Mohammeds son-in-law Ali was the Prophets successor and itself divided into the Ithna-Ashari Ismaili, Alawite and Zaydi sects.
Islamic schismatics Followers of Islam, in other than its 2 main branches of Sunni or Shia. Islamic schismatics include Kharijite and other orthodox sects; reform movements (Sanusi, Mahdiya), also heterodox sects (Ahmadiya, Druzes, Sabbateans).
Page 1 of 1


Data on 18 categories of religion, including non-religious, by country, province, and people.

Countries and regions

Data on all religions, Christian activities, and trends.


Membership data, year begun, and rates of change.

Cities & provinces

Population and religion data on all major cities & provinces.

Peoples & languages

Detailed information covering religion, culture, and geography.


A repository of historical data, including a chronology of Christianity from the 1st to 21st centuries.