Information about the Christianity Religion
Descending from Judaism, Christianity's central belief maintains Jesus of Nazareth is the promised messiah of
the Hebrew Scriptures, and that his life, death, and resurrection are salvific for the world. Christianity is one
of the three monotheistic Abrahamic faiths, along with Islam and Judaism, which traces its spiritual
lineage to Abraham of the Hebrew Scriptures. Its sacred texts include the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament
(or the Christian Gospels).
Catholicism (or Roman Catholicism): This is the oldest established western Christian church and the world's largest
single religious body. It is supranational, and recognizes a hierarchical structure with the Pope, or Bishop of Rome,
as its head, located at the Vatican. Catholics believe the Pope is the divinely ordered head of the Church
from a direct spiritual legacy of Jesus' apostle Peter. Catholicism is comprised of 23 particular Churches, or
Rites - one Western (Roman or Latin-Rite) and 22 Eastern. The Latin Rite is by far the largest,
making up about 98% of Catholic membership. Eastern-Rite Churches, such as the Maronite Church and the
Ukrainian Catholic Church, are in communion with Rome although they preserve their own worship traditions
and their immediate hierarchy consists of clergy within their own rite. The Catholic Church has a
comprehensive theological and moral doctrine specified for believers in its catechism, which makes it
unique among most forms of Christianity.
Mormonism (including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints): Originating in 1830 in the
United States under Joseph Smith, Mormonism is not characterized as a form of Protestant
Christianity because it claims additional revealed Christian scriptures after the Hebrew Bible and
New Testament. The Book of Mormon maintains there was an appearance of Jesus in the New World following
the Christian account of his resurrection, and that the Americas are uniquely blessed continents. Mormonism
believes earlier Christian traditions, such as the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant reform faiths,
are apostasies and that Joseph Smith's revelation of the Book of Mormon is a restoration of true Christianity.
Mormons have a hierarchical religious leadership structure, and actively proselytize their faith; they are
located primarily in the Americas and in a number of other Western countries.
Jehovah's Witnesses: Structure their faith on the Christian Bible, but their rejection of the Trinity is distinct
from mainstream Christianity. They believe that a Kingdom of God, the Theocracy, will emerge following Armageddon
and usher in a new earthly society. Adherents are required to evangelize and to follow a strict moral code.
Orthodox Christianity: The oldest established eastern form of Christianity, the Holy Orthodox Church, has
a ceremonial head in the Bishop of Constantinople (Istanbul), also known as a Patriarch, but its various
regional forms (e.g., Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox) are
autocephalous (independent of Constantinople's authority, and have their own Patriarchs). Orthodox
churches are highly nationalist and ethnic. The Orthodox Christian faith shares many theological tenets with the
Roman Catholic Church, but diverges on some key premises and does not recognize the governing authority of the Pope.
Protestant Christianity: Protestant Christianity originated in the 16th century as an attempt to reform Roman
Catholicism's practices, dogma, and theology. It encompasses several forms or denominations which are extremely
varied in structure, beliefs, relationship to state, clergy, and governance. Many protestant theologies
emphasize the primary role of scripture in their faith, advocating individual interpretation of Christian
texts without the mediation of a final religious authority such as the Roman Pope. The oldest Protestant
Christianities include Lutheranism, Calvinism (Presbyterians), and Anglican Christianity (Episcopalians),
which have established liturgies, governing structure, and formal clergy. Other variants on Protestant
Christianity, including Pentecostal movements and independent churches, may lack one or more of these
elements, and their leadership and beliefs are individualized and dynamic.