World History/World Religions
This page is for an elementary explanation of the origins and nature of the religions. It is not meant to be an in depth study by any means.
Animism (from Latin animus, -i "soul, life") is the worldview that non-human entities (animals, plants, and inanimate objects or phenomena), possess a spiritual essence.
The Bahá'í Faith is the youngest of the world's independent religions. Its founder, Bahá'u'lláh (1817–1892), is regarded by Bahá'ís as the most recent in the line of Messengers of God that stretches back beyond recorded time and that includes Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ and Muhammad.
The central theme of Bahá'u'lláh's message is that humanity is one single race and that the day has come for its unification in one global society. God, Bahá'u'lláh said, has set in motion historical forces that are breaking down traditional barriers of race, class, creed, and nation and that will, in time, give birth to a universal civilization. The principal challenge facing the peoples of the earth is to accept the fact of their oneness and to assist the processes of unification. 
Wikipedia article: Bahá'í Faith
Buddhism is a religion based largely around the teachings of the Siddhārtha Gautama (although his exact status is still controversial and changes by sect), and is now the central religion of most of Southeast Asia, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, and parts of China, India, and a small part of Russia. It is also a major religion in Korea and Japan, and has growing influence in the west.
Gautama was born in ancient Nepal around the 6th century BC, son of a King and relieved of all tasks. One day, while being brought around by his charioteer, he saw the four passing sights (an old man, a sickly man, a decaying corpse, and a holy man), which brought him to the realization that birth, old age, sickness, and death happen to all people over countless lives. He left his wife, children, rank, and his entire life to solve that problem. Gautama tried everything to achieve inner peace (he nearly killed himself numerous times), but found nothing that worked. He then tried sitting peacefully under a Bohdi tree and meditating. This proved very successful, and he soon achieved the inner peace he wanted. He then traveled the lands, preaching his new faith.(Postscript-Buddhism is largely based on Jainism, and shares many beliefs with Jainism.)
Within the context of postclassical China, dominations such as pure land and Zen Buddhism appealed to both aristocratic elites and the mass peasantry. A commonality of religion in the global context: the induction of fervent belief system in the presence of societal corruption and lack of intellectual synthesis.
Modern Buddhism still follows the ideals of Gautama-peace, kindness to man, and love of nature (including vegetarianism). There are three modern sects of Buddhism - Theravada, Mahāyāna, and Vajrayāna (practiced in southeast Asia, East Asia, and scattered parts of Asia, respectively).
For information on the sects of Buddhism, or some tenents of Buddhism, go to:
Hinduism is a term coined to designate the traditional socio-religious systems of the people of India. This term does not appear in any of the sacred literature of India. Hindus refer to their religion as Sanatana Dharma which loosely translated means “The Eternal Path”. Sanatana means eternal, perpetual or sustained. Dharma means any method by which one sees reality for what it is, and that by which one is drawn closer to the Absolute Truth and Ultimate Reality — it is the Philosophia Perenis.
In a context of world history, the Hindu emphasis placed upon social divisions as ample means for a productive society led to the highly stratified caste system in which birth and socio-economic position determined semi-permanent placement.
There are two world religions which have formed the cultural and ethical basis of the world as we know it. Both have an unbroken history going back thousands of years. Judaism with a 5000 year old tradition is the mother of the western civilisation through its offshoot Christianity. Hinduism is the older of the two with a literature going back to the beginning of recorded history.
Hindu civilisation originated in the Gangetic and Indus valleys and from there spread out over the entire region of southeast Asia. Its offshoot — Buddhism, shaped and molded the civilizations of Japan, China, Tibet and the rest of Asia. There is evidence to suggest that the Ancient pre-Biblical kingdom of the Mittani in Asia minor was ruled by Kings with Hindu/Sanskrit names. The Hittites were an Indo-European people and according to some sources are said to have originated in the Gangetic Basin of India. Hindu philosophy/theology influenced the ancient Greeks since the time Alexander the Great conquered parts of north India. A remarkable similarity has also been demonstrated between the religion and mythology of the ancient Scandinavian people and that of the people of India.
The ancient civilizations such as the Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Sumerian, Babylonian, Mayan, Aztec, and Inca have all passed away. Even the Jewish culture has undergone many radical changes since its inception 5000 years ago – yet the Hindu civilisation continues as a vibrant and living vector, and has remained virtually unchanged for over 6000 years. Today, Hindu communities are to be found in almost every country on earth.