Christianity started to spread in Georgia from the 1st century, and became established as a state religion of Kartli in the 330s and about the same time in West Georgia as well. It meant an orientation toward Rome and Byzantium that would prove a decisive factor in the evolution of the national consciousness and culture. By the mid 400s, 30 bishops were in Kartli. The leader of an anti-Iranian struggle, King of Kartli Vakhtang Gorgasali further strengthened the Kartlian church by making it autocephalic, having secured permission from Constantinopole to elevate the status of the bishop of Mtskheta to that of Catholicos. Christianity destroyed the old Georgian literature and began to create a literature of its own, mostly translations.
the wide variety of peoples inhabiting Georgia has meant a correspondingly rich array of active religions. Today most of the population in Georgia practices Orthodox Christianity, primarily the Georgian Orthodox Church. Of these (83.9%), around 2% follow the Russian Orthodox Church. Around 3.9% of the population follow the Armenian Apostolic Church, almost all of which are ethnic Armenians. Muslims make up 9.9% of the population, and are mainly found in the Adjara and Kvemo Kartli regions and as a sizeable minority in Tbilisi. Roman Catholics make up around 0.8% of the population and are mainly found in the south of Georgia and a small number in Tbilisi. There is also a sizeable Jewish community in Tbilisi served by two synagogues.
The Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church is one of the world's most ancient Christian Churches, founded in the 1st century by the Apostle Andrew the First Called. In the first half of the 4th century Christianity was adopted as the state religion. This has provided a strong sense of national identity that has helped to preserve a national Georgian identity, despite repeated periods of foreign occupation and attempted assimilation.
Georgia has a long history of religious harmony within its borders despite the historical conflicts with the surrounding nations. Different religious minorities have lived in Georgia for thousands of years and religious discrimination is virtually unknown in the country. Jewish communities exist throughout the country, with major concentrations in the two largest cities, Tbilisi and Kutaisi. Azerbaijani groups have practiced Islam in Georgia for centuries, as have Ajarians and some of the Abkhazians concentrated in their respective autonomous republics. The Armenian Apostolic Church, whose doctrine differs in some ways from that of Georgian Orthodoxy, has autocephalous status.
The Georgian Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. Citizens generally do not interfere with traditional religious groups; however, there have been reports of violence and discrimination against nontraditional religious groups.