Ethnic religion

Altar to Inari Ōkami at the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto. Shinto is the ethnic religion of the Japanese people.

In religious studies, an ethnic religion (or indigenous religion) is a religion associated with a particular ethnic group. Ethnic religions are often distinguished from universal religions which claim to not be limited in ethnic or national scope, such as Christianity, Islam, Buddhism.[1] Ethnic religions are not only independent religions. Some localised denominations of global religions are practised solely by certain ethnic groups. For example, the Assyrians have a unique denominational structure of Christianity known as the Assyrian Church of the East.


A number of alternative terms have been used instead of "ethnic" or "indigenous" religions.

The term "primal religion" was coined by Andrew Walls in the University of Aberdeen in the 1970s to provide a focus on non-Western forms of religion as found in Africa, Asia, and Oceania.[2] Terms such as "primal religion," "primitive religion," and "tribal religion" have been contested by Walls' student, Jim Cox, who argues that such terms suggest an undeveloped religion which can be seen as a preparation for conversion to Christianity. Cox prefers to use the term "indigenous religion."[3]

Another term that is often used is "folk religion." While "ethnic religion" and "folk religion" have overlapping uses, the latter term implies "the appropriation of religious beliefs and practices at a popular level."[4] The term "folk religion" can therefore be used to speak of Chinese and African indigenous religions, but can also refer to popular expressions of more multi-national and institutionalized religions such as Folk Christianity or Folk Islam.

Other Languages
asturianu: Relixón étnica
한국어: 민족 종교
հայերեն: Ազգային կրոն
Kiswahili: Dini za jadi
lietuvių: Etninė religija
Nederlands: Natuurgodsdienst
Nedersaksies: Natuurgodsdienst
日本語: 民族宗教
norsk nynorsk: Naturreligion
português: Religião étnica
slovenščina: Etnična religija
svenska: Naturreligion
Türkçe: Etnik din