A religious mutual fund isn't something you'll find nestled in a pew every week, praying for salvation and robust returns for shareholders. But religion-based mutual funds do exist, and they're growing in number. Learning this made me curious to see what such funds look like.

First up, the Timothy funds. There are, according to Morningstar, 23 of them, from the Timothy Plan company. On its website, the Timothy Plan folks explain:

We are glad you have found us. The Timothy Plan is a family of mutual funds offering individuals, like yourself, a biblical choice when it comes to investing. If you are concerned with the moral issues (abortion, pornography, anti-family entertainment, non-married lifestyles, alcohol, tobacco and gambling) that are destroying children and families you have come to the right place.

The site further said that Timothy "avoids investing in companies that are involved in practices contrary to Judeo-Christian principles" and that it tries to "recapture traditional American values." I didn't see much mention of aspiring to market-beating returns.

I didn't examine all 23 funds, but I did focus on two. Its Timothy Plan Large/Mid-Cap Growth fund, invested in the likes of Tiffany (NYSE:TIF), Legg Mason (NYSE:LM), and Nokia (NYSE:NOK), has underperformed the S&P 500 in every year since its inception in 2000. The fund is relatively focused, though, with fewer than 60 holdings. That can be effective when the holdings perform well. The expense ratio, at 1.53%, though, is on the steep side.

On the other hand, the Timothy Plan Large/Mid-Cap Value fund sported better results, such as a five-year average annual return of almost 13% that topped the S&P 500. Its top holdings recently included ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) and First Data (NYSE:FDC). It's interesting that First Data, which is very involved in the credit card industry, wasn't shunned. One could argue that credit card debt is harming American families as much as many other frowned-upon activities.

An Islamic fund
Christians aren't alone in sporting their own mutual funds. The Amana fund family invests its funds in companies according to Islamic principles, which include avoiding interest, gambling, pornography, liquor, and pork. Both the Amana Trust Growth fund and the Amana Trust Income fund have respectable, market-beating records. The latter's top holdings recently included United Parcel Service (NYSE:UPS) and Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG).

Find great funds
If either of these ideologies is aligned with your own, consider looking into them. I don't believe, though, that any religion-based or socially responsible mutual fund is ever likely to completely avoid investing in some companies with some objectionable practices -- UPS surely delivers some pornography, for example, and Legg Mason is itself invested in many companies that the Timothy funds would avoid. 

We'd love to help you find some top-notch funds. I invite you to test-drive (for free, with no obligation) our Motley Fool Champion Funds newsletter. I've found a bunch of great funds there myself.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article. First Data and Legg Mason are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. United Parcel Service is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Try any of our investing services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.