This work explores the underlying features of the world's major religions and comparable secular systems of thought. It considers Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Marxist-Leninism, Maoism, nationalism, as well as a number of minor, more local systems of belief. Smart demonstrates that these diverse systems of belief are united by a number of recurring themes: the tendency to worship, the use of visual icons, story-telling, the holding of a rigid, somewhat inflexible view of history, ethical instruction, guidelines on bodily practices and dependence on ritual. The book breaks down each of these themes, and examines them in relation to specific belief systems. For example, it shows the varying beliefs which are held about survival after death (immortality, hell, purgatories, rebirth, final death) and different rituals (greeting, blaspheming, cursing, blessing, praying, bathing, meditiating and initiating).