Religion and beliefs

Where can I find information about different religions and beliefs?

Image: We are Golden by Frida Aguilar Estrada on Unsplash.

Entry last updated: 28/11/17

Introduction

Religion is important to many people, forming part of their identity and beliefs. Combined with superstition, religion has been very important during human history. There are many different religions and also non-religious belief systems around the world.

World religions

While there are many local beliefs and religions, some have spread around the world and gained followers in many different countries. Those with the largest following are:

  • Christianity: The most popular religion in the world with over 2 billion followers. It's centred on belief in God and Jesus Christ, and has the Bible as its holy book.
  • Islam: The second largest religion in the world, its followers are called Muslims. They believe there is only one God who has spoken through his Prophet Mohammed. The Muslim holy book is called the Qur'an (or Quran).
  • Judaism: One of the oldest religions, appearing in the Middle East over 3,500 years ago. Jews believe that there is only one God and use part of the same Bible as Christianity.
  • Hinduism: The religion of the majority of people in India and other significant populations worldwide. It has no single founder or holy book.
  • Buddhism: A widespread religion coming from Asia which believes that elimination of the self and earthly desires is the highest goal.

Religion, belief and superstition

These sites have facts and information about different religions and belief systems around the world. There's also information about superstitions - beliefs about the spiritual world that may not be connected to a particular religion.

BBC Religions

This is a great resource providing useful facts about different religions. Although this page has been archived and is no longer updated, the information that's there is reliable and easy to follow.

Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.

Britannica School

This is one of the EPIC resources, a collection of reliable databases that help to answer questions like this. You may need a password from your school or local library to access it.

  • Choose the level you would like to search.
  • Search for the religion you are looking for, or try a particular keyword like 'Koran'.

You can also search for information about superstitions. Superstitions are often cultural or personal, like using the phrase 'touch wood' or avoiding the number 13.

Tips: Search words, or keywords, are the most important words in our question. We can always change our keywords or add more if we need to.

World Religions Reference Library

This is part of the Gale Virtual Reference Library, another EPIC resource.

  • Use the search box to find the religion you're looking for.
  • This detailed resource covers the history and traditions of the mainstream religions as well as the smaller ones.
Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.

Religion in New Zealand

New Zealand has its own history of religion and beliefs, from Māori beliefs to religions that came with the European settlers and more recent immigration.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

This is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa.

  • Start with a keyword search for 'religion.
  • Select Traditional Māori religion to find out about early Māori beliefs and practices.
  • Choose Religion and society for an overview of religion in New Zealand from the days of the early settlers.
  • Go to Diverse religions to find out about different religions that have come into New Zealand since.

The first page of each story has a quick summary - look through the different headings to find more detail. Each story has External links and sources where you can find more information.

Tips: If we scroll down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

NZ Interfaith Group

This website has lots of discussion and events related to different religions and beliefs. The aim of this organisation is to encourage groups of different faiths to work together and understand each other.

Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the organisation's mission and values are.

Indigenous beliefs

Indigenous peoples are those who are native to a particular country rather than people who arrived and settled at a later date. Some examples are the Māori of New Zealand, the Aborigines of Australia and the Native American peoples of North America.

Te Ara: Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Once again we can use Te Ara to find out about the beliefs and rituals of the early Maori population. Look at the story Traditional Maori religion to find out more.

Australian Indigenous Cultural Heritage

The official government website of Australia provides a good introduction to the beliefs and traditions of the indigenous communities of Australia. You will also find here some detailed information about the Aboriginal belief known as The Dreaming or 'Dreamtime'.

Tips: We like sites that are from government or other reputable organisations, because we can trust the information. You can sometimes tell these sites by their web address – they might have .gov or .govt in their address – or by looking at their About us or Contact pages.

Britannica School

This is a good place to find an overview of Native American beliefs.

  • Search for the keywords Native American religion to find their article.
  • Try the heading Web's Best Sites to find other recommended resources.
Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.

Non-religious beliefs

There are also a number of non-religious beliefs, for example atheism, humanism and communism. Here are some good resources to find out more about them.

Britannica School

This encyclopedia has a good description of these different belief systems.

  • Try searching the Secondary level.
  • Each topic will have an in-depth article, with links to other resources.

World History in Context

This is another good EPIC resource.

  • You will see a panel headed Religions on the front page, with the option to view all.
  • Select a belief system from the list, and you will find a range of resources to choose from.
Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.

Alternative points of view

Try these sites for some alternative and different viewpoints on religious issues in today's society.

Opposing Viewpoints in Context

This is another EPIC resource so you may need a password from your school or local library to access it.

  • Using the Society and Culture window, select the heading Religious Issues.
  • There are resources in lots of formats under the different sections.

Global Issues in Context

This EPIC resource has current information about lots of important issues around the world.

  • Use the search bar to find information about the religion or topic you're researching.
  • Lots of resources will come up - we suggest starting with those under the heading Reference.
Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.

Books

The following are a few titles you may like to have a look at. Check for others at school or local public library.

SCIS no: 1845892
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