Just because there are some old and popular religions out there doesn’t mean that the quest to answer the unknowns that plague men and women’s hearts everywhere, and that have been doing so since the dawn of humanity, is over.
Human beings have always tried to come up with explanations for their apparent and (so far) unique quality of consciousness and developed intelligence, for the microscopic and macroscopic mysteries of the universe not yet explained by science, for what is good and evil, indeed if these even exist in reality, and ultimately for death. That bane of mortal creatures everywhere, including us, that patiently bides its time and has never failed in its duties once.
With that specter hanging over each life and the most important question it poses, whether there is some continuity after that or it was all meaningless, it’s only natural to feel an impulse towards fear and anxiety.
How we deal with that impulse is another matter. Some choose to adopt a calm rational attitude (based on the belief that it is beyond their power to do anything against it anyway) and accept the possibility that there is nothing but this life. Or they manage to ignore the problem entirely and wait to see what happens after the actual moment of passing.
Others choose to rage and obsess about it towards no good end and without occupying their time with anything else, which quickly leads to isolation and madness.
Others choose to submerge themselves in the pleasures of this world (be they of the mind, of the body or both). Sometimes to excess, which hastens the arrival of the nemesis. But at least they feel that they had a good bargain, compacting all there was to experience into a life that burned fast, like a falling star, instead of a slow-burning unexceptional existence.
Others choose to focus on their legacy and hope to live on through it. That legacy varying from great works of art to great works in the form of children that can carry on the torch and maybe find the elusive answers that their parents could not.
Others choose to work with the ever-increasing scientific knowledge to achieve immortality in this life, or at least to prolong it as much as possible, so that they may gain more time to figure things out.
While still others opt to place all their hopes in faith. An act which, as any mystic or religious person will tell you, paradoxically justifies its claims through belief in said claims alone, hence the expression “a leap of faith”. No proof, evidence or scientific methodology can be asked of faith, to the ire of many scientists. Faith is by definition irrational, so it cannot be judged by rational means.
And the function or rewards it has for its believers is known only by them.
As demonstrated by these following 5 relatively new religions as well.
A monotheistic religion originating in Japan, where its followers say the founder a woman called Nakayama Miki was chosen as the Shrine of God by the one god called Tenri-O-no-Mikoto, who in this way transferred what would be the tenets of the religion.
Among them, the fact that humans have complete control over their minds, but not over their bodies which are lent by God and burrowed by them, hence their most basic teaching “a thing borrowed, a thing lent” (kashimono-karimono). Out of gratitude for kashimono-farimono, humans should practice hinokishin, which is a voluntary effort to practice The Joyous Life, avoiding negative tendencies which are not considered sins in Tenrikyo, but “dust” on the soul and mind which should be removed.
This religion derived from Shintoism, but with many elements in common to Western monotheistic counterparts also includes reincarnation.
It currently has about 2 million followers worldwide (1.75 million in Japan) and is one of the fastest growing religions in Japan.
2. Bahá’í Faith
Is a religion that conceptually aims for more than Ecumenism (the Christian concept of cooperation between Christian denominations), as one of its core beliefs is that all religions in the world have their spiritual origin in the same God and indeed are sent by that god into the world in the form of messengers who are adequate for their particular time and place.
A corollary (and another core belief) is that there is just one God, the same for everyone. And another one is that all humans are fundamentally equal despite their diversity as regards culture, race and other characteristics which should be at least tolerated and ideally celebrated as unity in diversity, in an interesting religious parallel to the same modern political concept, which is also reflected in the EUs motto (“United in diversity”).
The Bahá’í Faith came into being in the 19th century in Persia/Iran (the names are interchangeable in case you didn’t know), being founded by Bahá’u’lláh (born Mírzá Ḥusayn-`Alí Núrí) and spread after his death by his son `Abdu’l-Bahá.
It currently has around 5 million followers (Bahá’ís) worldwide and still exists, under persecution, in Iran.
A religion whose roots are tightly connected to the famous and controversial Aleister Crowley and his own religious movement called Thelema, Wicca was founded by Gerald Gardner, who was greatly influenced by the aforementioned Crowley and his works (along with other influences from Freemasonry and ceremonial magic).
Though Gardner is the founder of Wicca, Gardnerian Wicca or British Traditional Wicca is just one branch of this religion (or “tradition” as Wiccans call them), because Wicca is a de-centralized religion which evolved and continues to evolve into something different constantly.
As such, there are too many different branches/traditions to discuss here.
However, the concept of both a God and a Goddess is common in all, making Wicca (in its many forms) a duotheistic religion. The worship of the Goddess takes place by rituals which take into account the phases of the moon, while the worship of the God is based on solar focused rituals.
As Gardner claims to have been inducted in the New Forest coven of witches in 1939 which he claimed was a pre-Christian witches coven that endured to that time, magic is also a prominent part in Wicca, but not compulsory for worship or belief per se.
Here’s one for the scientists (perhaps). Deism proposes that there is one God that created everything, but this deity can only be known by the reason that human beings were endowed with by it and by observing and understanding the natural processes of this universe.
As such, deists reject the idea of religious or holy knowledge being delivered by God through any sacred book or scripture, they reject religious dogma, authority and organization (which hinder the quest for knowledge) and are, at the minimum, skeptical of any claims of supernatural occurences, miracles, magic etc.
Worth mentioning is that there are two main “variations” of Deism: the classical form and the modern one. In the classical form, Deism saw God as a non-interventionist deity that just created the universe and endowed it with all the necessary laws and impulses to function, as well as endowing humans with all the necessary components to discover these laws, processes and God. While the modern form accepts an interventionist deity as well
Also of note is that many of the intellectual elite in the age of Enlightenment, including the American Founding Fathers and the figures behind the French Revolution and after (as well as other such figures in other countries in Europe), were adherents to Deism.
Rastafarianism is a monotheistic religion that originated from an accretion of ideas following the appearance and rise in popularity of Pan-Africanism movements at the end of the 18th century, but was developed in Jamaica in the 1930s.
In an interesting take on the Messiah concept, this religion claims that Haile Selassie I, born Tafari Makonnen Woldemikael and Emperor of Ethiopia between 1930 and 1974 was the (second) incarnation of Jah (their shortened form of Jahweh, or God), in fact as the second coming of Christ as prophesied.
There are other interesting concepts. Like the fact that they abhor the division of human beings and as such don’t believe in “-isms”, which is why they do not like the term Rastafarianism. They even have their own linguistic dialect (Rastafarian Lyaric) in which the pronouns are changed to emphasize unity. There is no he, she, we, them etc. For example “I and I” is used to refer to “we” and “you”. And for he/she there are many indirect ways, including “that I”.