Popular Religions: Allegiance to a Single Religion Is Professed by at Least Two Thirds of the Population in More Than 80 per Cent of the World's States

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While 80 per cent of people worldwide profess some religious allegiance, what this means differs from country to country and even from religion to religion.

In Islam, the notion that religion is separate from daily life is unthinkable: it's a way of life rather than a faith. Similarly, Hindus see what they believe as being how they live. There is no sense of one set of beliefs for everyday life and another for religious life. In fact, Hinduism as a term of reference to a 'religion' is an external creation: the name was introduced by the Persians to describe all beliefs in India--across the River Indus. Judaism is also particular, since it's both a way of life and an ethnic identity--although not always linked to religious belief or practice.

For many people, religious identity goes hand in hand with ethnic, social and cultural identity. Thus, questions about how much a religion is practised aren't appropriate to Indonesia, for example, nor to large swathes of Africa, South America or even China. …