Site hosted by Angelfire.com: Build your free website today!


Contained on this page is some “Religion” Terms that you might just find useful. I do not claim all rights to these things within this page but I do take some credit on some of the things. I forgot where I got this from so when someone helps me to remember then I will happily give credit where credit is due.

Abba: An Aramaic word for father, typically used by children when addressing their own parent. Jesus used the term when addressing God. "Papa" might be the best translation in English.

Abramic: A group of religions that recognize Abraham as a patriarch. This includes Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Sometimes, the Baha'i World Faith is included in the list.

Acolyte: (From a Greek word for follower) A layperson who performs minor duties during a religious service.

Adoptionism: The belief that Jesus was born as any other human. God later gave him supernatural powers at his baptism.

Advent: From the Latin word "adventus" or coming: A period of time before Christmas, beginning on the Sunday closest to NOV-30 when the birth of Jesus is recalled. Advent candles are often lit.

Agnostic: a person who believes that, at our present level of knowledge, we cannot know whether or not a God exists.

Alexandrian School: One of the two great schools of biblical interpretation in the early Church. They incorporated Greek Pagan philosophical beliefs from Plato's teachings into Christianity. They interpreted much of the Bible allegorically. It was established in Alexandria, Egypt in the late second century CE.

Aliyah: A Jewish term, which means an immigration of Jews to Israel. An "oleh" is a single Jew immigrating into Israel. (Plural is olim).

Allah: This is an Arabic word, which means "the One True God." Muslims in the West use Allah and God interchangeably.

Al-Hijra: An Islamic holy day that recalls the trek by Mohammed and his followers to Medina.

Al-Sajdah: This is the act of prostration by a Muslim during which seven parts of the body are to touch the ground: the forehead, palms, knees and big toes.

All Saints Day: A Christian day of remembrance of the saints of the faith- both recognized and unknown. It has been observed since 609 CE. The Western church celebrates it on NOV-1; Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate All Saints Day in the springtime -- the Sunday after Pentecost.

All Souls' Day (a.k.a. the Day of the Dead) is celebrated yearly on NOV-2. This is a day for prayer and almsgiving in memory of ancestors who have died. Believers pray for the souls of the dead, in an effort to hasten their transition from Purgatory to Heaven. Roman Catholics primarily celebrate it.

Amillennialism: (a.k.a Nonmillennialism) A belief taught by Roman Catholicism, Reformed Protestantism and some Baptist churches concerning the end of the world. We are currently in the "millennium." End time events described in the New Testament have mostly taken place. The Antichrist is viewed figuratively and not as a real person. This was the universal belief of Christianity up until the 19th century.

Anabaptists: A Christian movement at the time of the reformation, whose origins are a matter of debate. They believed in adult baptism, freedom of belief, separation of church and state, the rejection of war, and other beliefs that were rather advanced for their time. They were terrible persecuted, both by Roman Catholicism and Protestanism.

Anagogy: From the Greek word "anago" - to lead. Interpreting the scriptures, or other writings, mystically, in order to uncover hidden meanings.

Ancestor worship: The veneration or worship of deceased people by their living kin. It exists in about 60% of the world's cultures.

Angel: The English word comes from the Greek "angelos" (messenger). In the Bible they were described as an intelligent and immortal species, usually presented as being visually indistinguishable from humans -- i.e. without wings. They delivered messages from God, and either harmed or helped humans. Satan is described in the Bible as an evil angel. Because the Bible's cosmology asserts that the earth was flat, that it was covered by a metal firmament or dome, and that God resided in Heaven above the dome, angels have often been portrayed as having wings so that they could fly from Heaven to earth and back.

Anglicanism: The beliefs and organization of the Church of England and the national churches that together form the Anglican Communion. The Communion includes the Episcopal Church in the U.S. and the Anglican Church of Canada. The denomination is theologically diverse, having members whose beliefs range from Fundamentalism to liberal Christianity. The Communion is coordinated by the Lambeth Conference, which meets once every decade.

Anglo-Catholicism: A movement within the Anglican Communion which promotes a return to pre-Reformation beliefs and rituals, including the mass, confession and monasticism.

Animism: a belief that all components of the universe, including humans, animals, plant life, rocks, etc. contain some form of life force, soul or spirit.

Annihilationism: From the Latin word "nihil" -- which means nothing. The beliefs that: After death, unsaved people will cease to exist in any form. Most Adventist groups, by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other Christian groups teach it. This contrasts with the historical Christian belief that the wicked will be tormented for all eternity in Hell without hope of mercy or cessation. Both views can be supported by selected biblical passages.
The belief that unsaved people spends a time in Hell; they are then exterminated and cease to exist. This view is also supported by some biblical passages.
The belief -- common among Agnostics, Atheists, Humanists and others -- that after death everyone will cease to exist. After death, we live on only in the DNA that we have passed on to the next generation, and in the influences that we have had on other people and society.

Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary: This is a Christian holy day, which recalls the Archangel's announcement to Mary of her pregnancy.

Annihilation: The belief that after death, the unsaved will cease to exist in any form.

Annunciation: This refers to the announcement to Joseph (in Matthew 1:20) and to Mary (Luke 1:26-35) of Jesus' future birth.

Antedeluvian: The interval of time preceding the great flood of Noah, described in Genesis 2:6-8. Some Christians believe that the climate was more uniform that it is at the present, and that the earth was surrounded by a gigantic vapor cloud. Essentially all geologists reject these beliefs.

Anthem: A Christian term for a hymn whose words come from the Bible.

Anthropology: The study of humanity.

Anthropomorphism: The representation of a non-human as a human. God in the earlier parts of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) is described in human terms, as having a body. Sometimes anthropomorphism is extended to animals that are assumed to have human feelings

Antibaptists: Christians who deny the validity of baptism. Most believe that water baptism has been replaced by spirit baptism.
Christians who do not recognize earlier baptism that convert's from other denominations had received.

Antichrist: An individual whose appearance is prophesized in two books of the Christian Scriptures (1 John and 2 John). He is expected by some Christians to appear near the End Time, when he will act as Satan's chief representative. Ronald Reagan, Bill Gates and many other people have been called the Antichrist. So has at least one computer.

Antidisestablishmentarianism: Being opposed to the belief that there should no longer be an official church of the country. The word is sometimes quoted as the longest word in the English language. There is a town in Wales with a larger number of letters, but it is a name, not a word.

Antinomianism: the belief that once a believer is saved, they are not bound to follow moral laws.

The belief that a saved believer can freely sin because he is forgiven of past and future transgressions.

Antiochan School: One of the two great schools of biblical interpretation in the early Church. They incorporated Greek Pagan beliefs from Aristotle's teachings into Christianity.

Antisemitism: Hatred, prejudice, oppression, or discrimination against Jews or Judaism. Actually, the term is misnamed. "Semitic" originally meant the descendents of Shem, which include both Jews and Muslims in the Middle East. Now, the term is used mainly to refer to Jews.

Antitrinitarians: Christians who deny the Trinity.

Apocalypse: A style of Jewish and Christian writing that was common from 200 BCE to 300 CE. The writings prophesized the destruction of evil and triumph of good. Sometimes narrowly used to refer to the Book of Revelation in the Bible.

Apocrypha: A collection of fourteen books written after the last book of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and before the first book of the Christian Scriptures (New Testament). It is accepted by the Roman Catholic Church as part of the inspired cannon of the Bible, but is rejected by most Protestant denominations.

Appollinarianism: An early Christian belief promoted by Apollinarius (b 310) who lived in Syria. He believed that Jesus was entirely divine and had no human nature. The belief was declared a heresy, first at the Council of Alexandria (378 CE) and later at two other Councils.

Apologetics: A systematic defense of a belief system. It is derived from the Greek "apologia" which means to create a defense. See 1 Peter 3:15. Most apologetics texts are directed to members of another religion, or to secularists. However they tend to be read in practice by the faith group whose beliefs are defended. See Polemics. In Christianity: Classical Apologetics: uses rational arguments to prove that God exists, and relies on evidence to support biblical claims and miracles.

Presuppositional Apologetics: starts with the assumption that God exists and that the Bible is true. They argue from this that their view of the Trinity, salvation, Heaven, Hell, etc. is valid.

Evidential Apologetics: uses evidences such as miracles, fulfilled prophecies, etc. to prove that God exists and that the biblical account of Christ and his message are valid and trustworthy. 1

Apologist: A Christian who gives an intellectual defense of their religion.

Apostate: From the Greek apo - histanai ("depart from a stand.") A person, who was once affiliated with a faith group, but has since "fallen away" and left the group. One group's apostate is often another group's convert. Very severe penalties exist in some countries of the world against individuals who abandon the state religion in favor of another faith. It can theoretically mean execution in some Islamic countries. The Christian church stopped burning apostates at the stake in 1792 CE.

Apostle: A Christian term to refer to Jesus' immediate followers. An apostle must generally someone who was personally chosen by Jesus, and to have seen him. Sometimes, the term is used to refer only to the twelve disciples, or to the disciples and Paul. Other times, it has been used to refer to the 70 disciples selected by Jesus. In Romans 16:7, Paul refers to a female apostle, Junia, as "outstanding among the apostles." (NIV)

Apostle's Creed: A summary of Christian beliefs. Many Christians believe that the Apostles personally wrote the creed so that they could coordinate their missionary efforts as they spread out through the known world. However, there is evidence that the creed was written near the end of the second century CE, about a century after the time of the apostles.

Apostolic succession: The Catholic belief that the twelve apostles ordained bishops who ordained their successors in an unbroken sequence up until the present day.

Archangel: a member of the highest rank of angels. Only two are mentioned in the Bible: Gabriel and Michael.

Archbishop: (Derived from a Greek word for chief overseer). A bishop who has administrative responsibilities over other bishops in an archdiocese.

Archdiocese: A diocese -- a geographical area -- in which a group of priests are under the direction of a single archbishop. The Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion use the term.

Arhat: A Buddhist saint who has liberated himself or herself from samsara: the endless cycle of life, death and rebirth into the world. They typically lead a monastic live.

Arianism: An early Christian heresy named after Arius (250-336 CE). He taught that Jesus was not in existence for all time, but was created by God near the end of the first century BCE. He also taught a form of monotheism in which there is only one person in the Godhead -- the Father -- and not a Trinity. The church at the time was evenly divided over whether Arianism was truth or a heresy. Constantine's vote swayed the balance, and it became a heresy.

Armageddon: A battle that is prophesized to occur in the plain of Megiddo, Israel. Jesus and Satan, and their armies, will fight a final battle (as stated in the biblical Book of Revelation).

Arminianism: A set of Christian beliefs suggested by Arminius, a theologian from the Netherlands, in reaction to Calvin's five points. He maintained that everyone has free will and can chose to be saved;
God selected some individuals to be saved on the basis of his foreknowledge of who would respond;
Jesus died for all;
People can resist the call of God.
One cannot lose one's salvation unless they abandon it.
Calvinists regard these as a heresy. The controversy continues to the present time, because both Calvinists and Arminians can justify their positions through reference to biblical passages.

Aryan: A term used by the German Nazi government to refer to Caucasians of the Nordic type. Originally, the term referred to persons who speak an Indo-European language.

Ascended Masters: A New Age belief that there are spiritual, non-physical, entities that live on an astral plane and can communicate spiritual truths to humans through channeling.

Ascension: This refers to the Christian belief that Jesus ascended to heaven to sit at God's right hand. According to two gospels, Mark and Luke, Jesus ascended to heaven on the same day as his resurrection. Acts explained that it occurred 40 days later.

Ascension, feast of: A Christian holy day celebrating Jesus' ascension up to heaven. It is celebrated on a Thursday, 39 days after Easter Sunday.

Ascension of Abdul Baha: A celebration by the Baha'i world faith of Abdul Baha's spirit rising to heaven.

Ascension of Baha'u'llah: A remembrance by the Baha'i world faith of the death of its founder, Mirza Husayn Ali, and the ascension of his spirit to heaven.

Asceticism: The belief that a conflict exists between one's body and spirit. By renouncing the needs and desires of the body, one can attain a higher spirituality. This is concept is found in many religions and faith groups, from Christianity to Native American spirituality.

Ashoora: A one-day fast which recalls the creation of the universe, the day that Noah left the ark, and Moses survival.

Ashram: A Hindu term for a religious retreat center where a student can learn under the guidance of a guru (teacher).

Ash Wednesday: This is the first day of Lent, observed by Christians. It is held on the Wednesday, which is 40 days prior to Easter.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary: A Roman Catholic holy day which commemorates the Virgin Mary's death and direct ascension to heaven.
The declaration on 1950-NOV-1 that the Virgin Mary's body and soul directly ascended to heaven. This event does not appear in the Bible. However, it has been argued on the basis that Jesus would not have allowed his mother's body to decay in the earth.

Astrology: a belief that the positions of the planets affect events and states of being on earth. It was developed independently in Greece and India circa 300 BCE.

Atheism: According to most Atheists: having no belief about a deity.

According to most non-Atheists, actively denying that a deity exists.

Atheist: According to Atheists themselves, a person who has no belief about a deity. An infant, for example has no belief in God and is thus an Atheist.

Atlantis: An sunken island. generally believed to be in the Atlantic Ocean, which some people assert once held an advanced civilization.

Atonement: In general, an act that unites enemies as friends. In Christianity, the doctrine that Christ's death has the power of canceling the sins of those Christians who are "saved."

Atonement, limited: One of the five points of Calvinism: Christ died to atone for certain sins of specific individuals -- only those who are saved. He did not die for the all sins of all humanity.

Attributes of God: God, as viewed by followers of Judaism, Christianity and Islam is traditionally thought to be omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), omnipresent (present everywhere) and all loving. Other attributes include holy, good, wise, and just.

Aura: An energy field believed by some to surround humans or objects. Some people believe that they can detect an aura visually and determine an individual's emotional and physical state from its color and variation. 2

Authorized Version: Synonym for the King James Version of the Bible.

Autosoterism: The belief that a person is responsible for their own salvation, which is attained through their good works.

Avatar: A Hindu concept of a God adopting a human or animal form. A God-man Krishna is an avatar of Vishnu.

Ayyam-I-Ha: The first intercalary day, required to balance the Baha'i calendar. Members of the Baha'i world faith engage in acts of hospitality and charity towards others on this day.

Babel, tower of: A tower mentioned in Genesis 11. The Bible describes how there was only one language used prior to construction of the tower. God was offended by the construction, and caused its builders to speak in different languages.

Backmasking: A type of subliminal message in which a second audio track is recorded backwards on top of a record's music. It is a common belief among the public that such messages bypass the conscious brain, enter the subconscious and motivate the individual to take certain actions. One rock group actually inserted a backmasking section on one of their records as a joke. There is no evidence that backmasking works.

Bahá'í World Faith: A world religion, founded in 1844 CE by Baha'u'llah (Glory of God) in Iran. Its roots are based in Islam. With the exception of its beliefs about homosexuality, and the makeup of its Universal House of Justice, it promotes democracy with equal rights to all, regardless of gender, race, nationality, etc. It has spread across the world. Its followers experience heavy oppression in Iran.

Bahomet (a.k.a. Sigl of Baphomet): A pentagram (a five pointed star) with one point downwards and two upwards, within a circle. A goat's head is drawn within the star. Many Satanists use this as a religious symbol.

Baisakhi: The Sikhs New Year's celebration.

Baptism: The English words "baptize" and "baptism" are derived from a Greek root: "baptizr," which means "to immerse," "to dip under," or "to wash." Within Christianity, a member of the clergy in a church setting, thus welcoming an individual into the church, usually performs it. Denominations disagree about the method (immersion or sprinkling), the age at which the ritual is done, and additional consequences of baptism. Some Christian groups maintain that baptism is required before a person can be saved; some say that only those baptized in their denomination or in a certain way can be saved.

Baptism for the dead: This is a procedure that was employed among some Christian groups during the second century CE. Today, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- the Mormons, follow it. Ancestors who died outside the church can be baptized by their descendents who are alive today.

Baptists: A group of Christian denominations that do not baptize infants, but who baptize individuals by immersion after they have personally professed their faith. Baptist congregations are independent; full authority resides in the membership of each church. The largest American denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, deviated from centuries of tradition by expelling congregations who had decided to welcome sexually active gays and lesbians as members.

Beltane: One of the four major Sabbats celebrated annually by Wiccans and other Neopagans on the evening of APR-30. It is based on an ancient Celtic seasonal day of celebration.

Bhagavad-Gita: The "Song of the Lord" a holy text revered by followers of Hinduism and Iskcon.

Bible: The holy text used by Christians. It is includes Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament), Christian Scripture (New Testament). Some faith groups also include a group of writings called the Apocrypha.

Bible Code: A book by Michael Drosnin, which promoted the concept that, the Bible contains prophecies, which are hidden by a special code. This belief became popular during the 1990s, but collapsed when it was found that similar codes could be extracted from any book of similar length.

Birth of the Bab: Baha'i honoring of the founder, Mirza 'Ali-Muhammed, (1819-1850 CE). He assumed the title Bab ("the Gate.")

Birth of Baha'u'llah: Baha'i celebration of the birth of their teacher and Messiah, Mirza Husayn-'Ali-i-Nuri (1817-1892). He was the Manifestation predicted by the Bab.

Birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji: Sikhs commemorate the birthday of their founder.

Bishop: (From the Greek word episkopos: supervisor). In the early church, he was a chief priest at a church. Later, the role became that of a priest with administrative duties over a group of churches.

Bitheist: Synonym for duotheist; a person who believes that there are two deities -- typically one female and the other male, as in Wicca, or one all good and the other all bad, as in Zoroastrianism.

Black Mass: An imaginary inverted form of the Roman Catholic mass involving black candles, desecrated materials stolen from a church, prayers recited backwards in Latin, etc. Members of the Church of Satan as a publicity stunt have performed such rituals.

Black Muslims: A group of Muslim or quasi-Muslim religious organizations for Afro-Americans, including the Nation of Islam.

Black theology: The belief that Israel, as described in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). was a nation of blacks. Jesus was black; his purpose was to liberate fellow blacks from oppression by white Gentiles.

Blasphemy: Swearing in the name of God, denying the existence of God, saying evil things about God, etc. One religion's affirmation of their God is another religion's blasphemy about their God.

Blessed be: A frequently used greeting blessing by Wiccans and other Neopagans.

Blood Atonement: A belief in the Mormon Church led by Brigham Young. Some crimes were considered so serious that the perpetrator's salvation required that he be killed and his blood mixed with the earth.

Blood libel: A false belief, which has endured since the 1st century BCE. It states that members of a religious group kidnap, abuse, ritually murder and sometimes eat the body of a member of another religion. Groups creating this groundless fable include ancient Greek and Roman Pagans, Christians, Nazis, and Muslims. Innocent religious groups victimized by the fable include Jews, Christians, Wiccans, Druids and other Neopagans, and Roma (Gypsies). The hoax exists today mostly among some Muslims (against Jews) and some Fundamentalist Christians (against Wiccans, Satanists and other religious minorities).

Bodhi: A Buddhist term which means to have achieved enlightenment; to understand the ultimate reality.

Bodhi Day: The day when Buddha decided to sit under the bodhi tree, and remain there until he reached enlightenment

Bon Festival: This is a day when the followers of Shinto honor the souls of their ancestors. People visit graveyards.

Book of Life: In Christianity, a list of saved individuals, which is maintained by God.

Book of Mormon: One of four texts considered to be divinely inspired and authoritative scripture by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) and other Mormon denominations.

Book of Shadows: A personal diary of a Wiccan or other Neopagan in which she/he records their ritual activities.

Born again: The process by which a person repents of their sins and trusts Jesus of Nazareth as Lord and Savior. Conservative Protestants believe that this is the only way that one can get to heaven. Some denominations do not require that a person repent first.

Brahma: The creator God and member of the Hindu trinity of deities, which also includes Shiva and Vishnu.

Brahmin: A member of the priestly class in Hinduism -- the highest caste in India.

Brainwashing: A non-violent method that uses mind control techniques to convince a person to abandon some of their basic beliefs and adopt the beliefs of the indoctrinator. The anti-cult movement teaches that many small religious groups, which they call cults, engage in brainwashing. Sociologists and mental health researchers who are not involved in the anti-cult movement generally reject the concept.

Branch Davidians: Popular name for a doomsday, destructive cult, the Students of the Seven Seals, which was led by David Koresh. Dozens of their members died when their compound burned to the ground in Waco, TX.

British Israel movement: A belief that the ten lost tribes of Israel -- those conquered and assimilated by the Assyrians circa 722 BCE -- became the British people, and sometimes the inhabitants of the former British Empire, including the U.S. and Canada.

Buchmanism: The Moral Rearmament movement founded by Frank Buchman (1878 - 1961). He organized the Oxford Group in 1929, which became Moral Rearmament, an inter-faith group, in 1938. Its goal was to change society one person at a time, by promoting absolute purity, unselfishness, honesty and love.

Buddha: A Buddhist term used to refer to Prince Siddhartha, (560 - 480 BCE) after his enlightenment.

Buddha Day: A celebration of the birthday of the Buddha.

Buddhism: A world religion, founded in the 6th century BCE by Siddhartha Gautama, (Buddha). It has about 300 million followers, almost all located in Asia.

Bull: From the Latin word "bulla" a seal. A papal statement in which he speaks ex cathedra on a matter of belief or morality. Roman Catholics regard such a statement as infallible.

Burning Man Festival: An annual gathering in Black Rock Desert, NV, of creative individuals who create artistic works, dance, chant, sing, etc. At the end of the festival, a wooden image in the form of a man is burned. This is apparently derived from the burning of a wicker statue of the spirit of vegetation by the ancient Celts. That statue also was in the form of a man.

Bull, papal: A letter from the pope to the Roman Catholic Church. The name is derived from the Latin word "bulla" which means "seal."

Cabala, Cabbalah: A Jewish mystical tradition with roots in Palestine during the 1st century CE and which developed during the 12th century. It uses occultic (hidden) knowledge to interpret the Torah. Also spelled Kabala, and Kabbala.

Calvinism: A system of Christian belief laid down by John Calvin. It emphasizes predestination -- that certain people are fated to be saved and are not selected by God on the basis of anything that they have done in life.

CAN: An acronym for the Cult Awareness Network.

Canon: The Canon of Scripture in Christianity refers to the set of books selected from among the books of the Hebrew Scriptures, the dozens of gospels, and many dozens of epistles, to form the Bible. Some canons contain just the 39 books of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and 27 books in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament). Other canons include the Apocrypha. Some liberal theologians have recommended that the canon be opened for additional writings.

Canon law: A term used primarily within the Roman Catholic Church to refer to a collection of church laws.

Canonization: The process by which a Christian becomes a saint.

Cardinal: Bishops in the Roman Catholic Church who advise the pope. They meet as a group to elect a new pope when needed.

Catechism: From the Greek "katecheo" -- to sound aloud. A training program to educate a person in the fundamentals of Christianity. It is often organized in a question and answer format.

Catholic: This means "universal," implying a worldwide faith, rather than one which is local. The Nicene Creed, recited in the churches of many Christian denominations, speaks of "one holy catholic and apostolic church." Many faith groups refer to themselves as Catholic: the Roman Catholic Church, centered in the Vatican, Anglo-Catholics (within the Anglican Communion), and Evangelical Catholics (among Lutherans).

Catholic Charismatic Renewal: The acceptance of certain Pentecostal beliefs and practices within the Roman Catholic Church. This has also happened within Protestant denominations, where it is generally referred to as Charismatic Movement.

Celibate, Celibacy: This is a word in transition. In the past, it has simply meant to be unmarried. More recently, it has evolved to mean the act of sexual abstinence. We recommend that the word never be used, unless it is carefully pre-defined. We recommend "unmarried" and "sexually inactive" or "a virgin" as preferred, unambiguous terms.

Celibrant: A minister or priest -- or in some denominations, a member of the laity -- who leads a worship service which includes communion.

Cessationism: The belief that tongues, and other special gifts enjoyed by believers in the early Christian movement faded in the early fourth century CE, and are thus not present today.

Chakra: This is a term used in some traditions in Buddhism and the New Age to refer to points of energy concentration in the body.

Chalice: A special drinking cup used in some Christian communion services to hold wine. Among Wiccans and other Neopagans, it is a goblet used to hold either a beverage or water for ritual use.

Channeling: A practice common among New Agers in which the spirit of a master teacher is contacted in order to receive guidance and knowledge.

Charismatic movement: The adoption of certain Pentecostal beliefs and practices within Protestant denominations. The same phenomenon has occurred within the Roman Catholic Church where it is called the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

Chiromancy: The prediction of a person's past and future through palm reading.

Christ: From a Greek word meaning to rub down an athlete with lineament. It refers to a Hebrew word (Messiah in English) that means "an anointed one," e.g. a king of Israel or a prophet. Jesus' real name was Yeshua ben Nazareth.

Christadelphianism: A small Christian religious group with non-traditional beliefs. They teach that Jesus was a created being, that the Holy Spirit is a power or energy rather than the third personality in the Trinity. They deny the traditional concepts of heaven and hell

Christian: This term was derived indirectly from the Greek word for Messiah. It has many meanings: Census offices consider any person or group to be Christian if they devoutly, seriously regard themselves to be Christian. Thus, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Roman Catholic, and members of the Unification Church are Christians. Many groups, particularly conservative Christians, regard many of these denominations as "cults" and not part of Christianity.
Webster's New World Dictionary: "A person believing in Jesus as the Christ, or in the religion based upon the teachings of Jesus."

Concise Oxford Dictionary: "Person believing in, professing or belonging to the religion of Christ." (They don't define exactly what the religion of Christ is, or which of the thousands of denominations and sects represent this religion.)
Evangelical/Fundamentalist usage: often used to refer only to fellow conservative Christian faith groups or to "saved" individuals.

Christian Atheism: see: Death of God Theology

Christian evidences: A branch of Apologetics that deals with attempts to prove that Christianity and/or the Bible is true. Much effort is expended by conservative Christians to prove that creation, the great flood, the tower of Babel, virgin birth, resurrection, Exodus, attack on Canaan etc. happened exactly as explained in the Bible. Their expectation is that no evidence from archeology, geology, cosmology, astronomy or any other science will disprove the inerrancy of the Bible.

Christian Identity: A small, racist, radical group within Christianity, which has adopted a belief similar to that of British Israelism. They teach that the ten lost tribes of Israel became the Anglo-Saxon race. Many Identity groups teach that Eve engaged in sexual relations with the serpent in the Garden of Eden, and that the Jews were the product of that union.

Christian Science: A Christian denomination founded in 1879 in Boston, MA, by Mary Baker Eddy. It promotes spiritual healing, that sickness and matter is not real, and that one should avoid medical help. The life expectancy of Christian Scientists appears to be significantly shorter than for the general population.

Christology: The study of Jesus. The term is derived from two Greek words, for "messiah" and "formal study."

Christmas: This is held on DEC-25, the nominal date of the birth of Yeshua of Nazareth, after whose life the Christian religion is patterned. The western church uses the Gregorian calendar and the Eastern Church uses the Julian calendar. So Christmas is celebrated on two different days.

Chupah: A Jewish wedding canopy which represents the home that the groom is expected to maintain.

Church: The Greek word ekklesia (to call out) in the Bible is generally translated as "church." It may refer to all those, living or dead, who are Christians. it may refer to a specific Christian group in a specific area.

Circumcision of Jesus: A Christian holy day held in remembrance of Jesus' circumcision.

Coming, second: (a.k.a. Parousa): The belief that Jesus will descend to earth as described in the Biblical book Revelation, leading a massive army. Approximately one in four American adults believes that this will happen during their lifetime.

Communion: A Christian ritual, sometimes called the Eucharist, or Mass, or Lord's Supper.
A group of believers or a group of denominations. The Anglican Communion, for example, is a group of national churches that share many beliefs and practices in common.

Communion: The sharing of bread and wine (or a wine substitute) during a Christian service. At the time of the early church, only baptized Christians were allowed to be present during communion. When Pagans started to spread the rumor that cannibalism was involved, this part of the service was opened to the public. Alternate names for communion are: Eucharist, Divine Liturgy, and Last Supper.

Comparative religion: The study of world religions to determine their points of similarity and differences. In practice, this is difficult to do on an impartial basis. Students often consider their own branch of their own religion to be "true," and all other branches of their religion, and all other religions to be "false."

Completed Jews: A term used by conservative Christians to refer to Jews who have embraced Messianic Judaism -- a blend of Jewish tradition and ceremonies with Fundamentalist theological beliefs about Jesus Christ.

Concreated holiness: This is the belief that when God created Adam, that Adam's will was created holy. His natural inclination was thus to behave in a holy manner.

Conditionalism, Conditional immortality: Synonyms for annihilationism.

Confucianism: An indigenous system of thought, which originated in China about 500 BCE. It is considered by some to be a religion, by others a humanistic philosophy. Founded by Confusious (551-479 BCE)

Conservative: Within Christianity, this is one wing of the religion, composed of Fundamentalists, other Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Charismatics, and members of most independent churches. The term contrasts with mainline and liberal Christians.

Consubstantiality: The belief that Jesus is of the same substance (homoousion in Greek) as God the Father. Those who taught that God, Son and Holy Spirit formed a Trinity promoted this belief. Opposing them was Arius who regarded this as a Pagan polytheistic concept. He taught that Jesus was of similar substance (homoiousion in Greek) to God the Father. The difference of one letter (o,i) caused a great deal of angry debate in the church; the two sides were evenly matched. Constantine applied political pressure to have homoousion accepted at the Council of Nicea. This has been the teachings of almost all Christian faith groups ever since.

Consubstantiation: The belief, as taught by the Lutheran Church and some other denominations, that the elements during communion are actually bread and wine when ingested by the communicant, but that they become the actual body and blood of Jesus after they are consumed.

Contextualization: A method of analyzing the Bible, which attempts to differentiate between the meaning of the text and "the cultural and historical context in which it is given." 1 The result is that when one tries to interpret the meaning of a biblical passage in terms of today's culture, the meaning of the text may have to change. For example, in Genesis 9:1. humans are urged to be fruitful and multiply. That made sense in days when there were so many childhood diseases, and warfare. The opposite command -- to limit one's fertility -- might make more sense today.

Conversion: the act of changing one's beliefs from one religion to another.

Corpus Christi: A Roman Catholic holy day, which commemorates the Eucharist - a ritual in which they believe that a wafer and wine become the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Cosmogeny: beliefs about the origin of the universe. While 95% of scientists and most North American adults believe that the world and the rest of the universe is billions of years old, many conservative Christians believe in a universe less than 10,000 years of age.

Cosmology: beliefs about the structure of the universe. Many religious texts have a pre-scientific view of the makeup of the earth, the solar system and the rest of the universe.

Council, ecumenical: A series of meetings of the bishops of the Christian Church to settle doctrinal and organizational matters, in which the entire Church accepted the decisions.

Counter reformation: A reform movement within the Roman Catholic Church taken shortly after -- an in response to -- the Protestant Reformation.

Coven: a local group of Wiccans or other Neo-pagans. During the "burning times" when Christian groups were tracking down and exterminating Witches, it was believed that each coven held 13 members. This was and is not true; covens can be of any size, but are most often perhaps about a half-dozen.

Covenant: "Berith" in Hebrew and "diatheke" in Greek: An agreement between two persons, which are obligatory on both parties.

Creed: Fropm the Latin word "credere" -- to believe. A short statement of religious belief, usually motivated by a desire to emphasize church teaching as opposed to a heresy. There are a number of creeds within the Christian religion: the Apostles creed, Nicene Creed are the most popular. However, the former is little used in Eastern Orthodox churches.

Criticism: When referring to the Bible, this refers to a method of analyzing its text: Lower criticism is the analysis of the text in order to understand its meaning and detect any forgeries, mistranslations, etc.
Higher criticism is an attempt to determine when the passage was written, who wrote it, where it was written, what their purpose was, whether it was imported into the Bible from another source, etc. One example of the results of higher criticism is the documentary hypothesis concerning the authorship of the first five books in the Hebrew Scripture, which most mainline and liberal theologians accept.

Cross, sign of: A movement, commonly used among Roman Catholics, in which the right hand touches the forehead, chest, left shoulder, and right shoulder in sequence. Orthodox believers cross themselves from right to left.

Crucifix: A religious symbol representing Jesus nailed to the cross. Most crucifixes lack accuracy because they portray a partly clothed man nailed through the palms. The Romans crucified people naked, with their wrists nailed (or their arms tied) to the crossbar.

Crucifixion: A method of carrying out the death penalty which involved physical abuse of the victim, stripping him of all clothing, tying or nailing his arms and legs to a cross or stake, and abandoning him to die. The corpse was often partly eaten by scavengers. The body was generally denied a proper burial; it was tossed on a garbage heap. Crucifixion was widely used by Romans to execute slaves or rebels.

Cult: From the Latin word "cultus" -- meaning worship. Cult is a word with many religious meanings (and some secular as well), which should be used with great care to avoid misunderstanding. We recommend the neutral term "new religious movement" be used in its place. Even better is to refer to a religious group by its name:
Traditional theological usage: a style of worship and its associated rituals. It can be applied to any faith group.
Sociological usage: a small religious group that exists in a state of tension with the predominant religion; e.g. Christianity in Pakistan.
General religious usage: a small, recently created religious group; not a variant of an established religion. Often headed by a single charismatic leader.
Evangelical usage: a religious group that considers themselves to be Christian but which denies one or more historical beliefs of Protestant Christianity.

Counter-cult movement usage: Same as Evangelical usage.
Anti-cult movement usage: a small, evil religious group, often with a single charismatic leader, who engage in deceptive recruiting, brainwashing and other mind control techniques
Popular belief: A doomsday, dangerous, destructive religious movement whose members risk their life to belong.

Cult Awareness Network: Originally, an anti-cult group which targeted new religious movements. They were forced into bankruptcy because of their criminal activities linking the parents of members of new religious movements with kidnappers and re-programmers. Their assets were purchased by the Foundation for Religious Freedom, which teaches tolerance of other faith groups.

Curate: In the Anglican communion, an assistant pastor.

Dalai Lama: The spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism.

Daoism: see Taoism

Dar-e-Mehr: A North American term used by the Zoroastrian faith to refer to their house of worship. It literally means "a portal to all that is good: charity, devotion, kindness and love."

Dasa Laxana: A Jain holy day, which recalls the ten important goals for a follower of Jainism.

Day of reckoning: Judgment day as described in the Bible: a time when all will be judged and sent either to Hell or Heaven.

Day of the Covenant: Baha'is recall the covenant contained in the last will and testament of Baha'u'llah.

Day of the Lord: A time when Christians believe that God will destroy all evil and establish his kingdom on earth.

Deacon: From the Greek word diakanos (servant). Originally a church administrator. Currently, the term may refer to a low-ranking member of the clergy, a lay minister, or a lay administrator.

Dead, cult of the: Worship of the deceased. Unlike ancestor worship, cult of the dead involves the worship of the deceased by all, not just by the kin of the ancestors.

Dean: Most commonly used as an assistant to the bishop who runs the cathedral.

Death of God Theology: (a.k.a. Christian Atheism) This is a belief that became popular in the 1960s among some Christian theologians. Perhaps the most famous promoter of this concept was J.A.T. Robinson, a bishop of the Church of England. He wrote in his book Honest to God that the transcendent God described in the Bible is an outdated myth

Decalog: Synonym for the Ten Commandments.

Deist: a person who believes in the existence of a remote, unknowable deity, usually male, who created the universe, but has not been involved with it since. Most of the politicians who founded America were Deists.

Demiurge: "public craftsman" in Greek the name of the creator according to the philosophy of Plato.
A creator-god viewed by Gnostics as defective and inferior to the supreme deity. This is the God of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), a deity who they view / viewed as fundamentally evil, jealous, rigid, lacking in compassion and prone to genocide.

Demon: Originally an angel, it joined with Satan to oppose God. Many conservative Christians believe that a person can be possessed by a demon; some think that only non-Christians can be possessed. Mental health professionals abandoned the concept of demonic possession centuries ago.

Demoniac: An individual who is possessed by a demon.

Denomination: an established religious group, which has usually been in existence for many years and has geographically widespread membership. It typically unites a group of individual, local congregations into a single administrative body.

Deosil: The clockwise direction. The term is often used in describing Neopagan rituals.

Depravity, total: (aka Total inability) the doctrine, primarily held by conservative Christians, that every part of a person has been hopelessly damaged by sin. None would seek out God unless God first intervenes in their life. "Man is spiritually dead and unable to save himself or even believe without God's help." 1 This is one of the five points of Calvinism. See Romans 3:9.

Deprogramming: A criminal method of forcing a person to abandon their religious or other beliefs, usually through kidnapping, forcible confinement, and psychological pressure.

Devil: Christian synonym for Satan: an all-evil former angel.

Dharma: This term has multiple meanings: The teachings of the Buddha, truth; that which is established, customary, or proper; natural law -- the way the universe works; one's duty and responsibility, etc.

Dharma Day: This celebrates the first teaching of the Buddha after his enlightenment. (Not to be mistaken for Tuesday, when Dharma and Greg situational comedy is broadcast. Sorry for the humor. ;-)

Dialog: In a religious sense, dialog refers to people from two or more religious traditions meeting as equals to explain and explore their religious beliefs and practices together. The aim is not conversion; it is understanding, mutual respect, and personal growth.

Diaspora: The forced exiles of the Jewish people from Palestine by the Babylonians in the sixth century BCE and by the Roman Empire in the middle of the 2nd century CE.

Diatessaron: The belief that the four Christian Gospels are in harmony with each other. The term is often used to refer to the writing of a very popular gospel by Tatian (120 - 173 CE) based on Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Dichotomy: The concept that a person is made up of a body and a soul, or a body and a spirit.

Didache: a very early, short book describing Christian rituals and beliefs.

Diocese: a geographical area under the jurisdiction of a bishop.

Diophysite: A person or group, which believes in Diophysitism.

Diophysitism: This is the belief that Christ had two natures: both divine and human. This concept won out after extensive debate at the church council at Chalcedon in 451 CE. It is imbedded in the Chalcedonian Creed. An opposing belief is Monophysitism.

Diocese: A geographical area in which a group of priests are under the direction of a single bishop. The Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion use the term.

Disciples: In Christian usage, followers of Jesus. At one time, Jesus had 12 disciples; at another time, 70 are mentioned. Although those followers who were mentioned by name often in the gospels were evenly split between women and men, only conflicting lists of male disciples survive.

Disfellowshipping: A practice of some Christian faith groups in which a member has certain privileges removed in order to force them to give up certain behaviors and beliefs. Within the Mormon Church, a disfellowshipped member has certain privileges removed, but still remains a member. Among the Jehovah's Witnesses, a person is shunned. This can have devastating consequences to persons in a high-intensity religious group whose entire support system involves fellow members.

Dispensation, Dispensationalism: The is the concept that all of human history has been divided into seven distinct periods of time or dispensations. They are often called: innocence, conscience, human government, promise, law, grace and the Kingdom.

Dispensationalist premillennialism: See premillenialism

Displacement, theology of: Alternate term for supercession.

Disappointment, great: The term is used to refer to the failed prophecy of William Miller who predicted that Christ would return to earth in 1844.

Disassociate: a term used within the Jehovah's Witnesses to refer to an apostate who has been severed from the organization..

Disestablishment: Cancellation of the official status of a faith group as a country's official church. There is a growing support that the state church in Britain, the Church of England, be disestablished.

Disestablishmentarianism: The belief that there should no longer be an official church in the country. The word antidisestablishmentarianism is sometimes quoted as the longest word in the English language. There is a town in Wales with a larger number of letters, but it is a name, not a word.

Dissociate: a mental condition in which the mind detaches itself from external activity. A psychological term widely used in the treatment of persons who allegedly suffer from Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) a.k.a. Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). This is a controversial topic. Most mental health professionals believe that MPD/DID is either extremely rare or nonexistent. Belief in MPD/DID is rapidly declining.

Divination: Any method of predicting future events. Astrology, bird entrails, tarot cards, runes, even the shadow of a groundhog near the end of winter has been used as tools of divination. Divination was practiced by many persons mentioned in the Bible (Joseph, high priests, Daniel). The Bible condemns some types of divination.

Diwali: A Hindu Festival of Lights. Gifts are exchanged; fireworks are enjoyed

Docetism: An early belief about Christ in which Jesus was believed to be a spirit who merely appeared to be a human.

Doctrine: From the Latin word "doctrina" (doctor). A body of beliefs that is taught. Within the field of religion, there is often the assumption that a member must agree with all aspects of the group's doctrine.

Documentary Hypothesis: The belief that the Pentateuch (the first five books in the Bible) were not written by Moses, but by four anonymous authors -- traditionally called J, E, P and D. Also involved were one or more redactors who edited the writings into their present form. Conservative Christians generally deny the hypothesis, and believe that Moses wrote all five books.

Dogma: From the Greek word "dogma" (a decree). A revealed truth defined by a faith group. It is important to realize that one group's dogma is often another group's heresy.

Donatism: An early Christian leader from North Africa, Donatus, promoted the belief that the validity of a sacrament was dependent on the moral character of the priest who performed it. Two church synods later declared this to be a heresy.

Doomsday cult: a religious group, which is focused on the anticipated end of the world in the near future. Often referred to as a destructive cult.

Dormition of the Theotokos: On this day, the Greek Orthodox Church commemorates the death, burial, resurrection and ascension into heaven of the Virgin Mary.

Dowsing: A type of divination, typically using a forked branch or two sticks. They are used most often to locate underground sources of water. Although belief in the effectiveness of dowsing is widespread, carefully controlled studies have shown it to be useless.

Druids: A professional class of individuals in ancient Celtic society who had various teaching, priestly, legal, and ambassadorial functions. They are often portrayed as engaging in human sacrifice. However, the only source for this belief is a single reference in the wartime writings of Julius Caesar, who relied on hearsay.

Dualism: The belief that entities and concepts often appear in pairs -- typically one good and the other bad. The religion of Zoroastrianism recognizes one all-good deity and one who is all-evil. Most conservative Christians believe that two, very powerful, supernatural powers influence the world: God and Satan.

Dual Covenant: This is the theological concept that God has continued his covenants with the Jewish people, and has established a new, parallel covenant with the followers of Christianity. Opposing this belief is the concept of Supercessionism: that God has unilaterally terminated his covenants with the Jews, and transferred them to Christians. The latter belief led to a great deal of persecution of Jews by Christians; it is now rejected except for some conservative Protestant denominations.

Duotheist: Synonym for bitheist; a person who believes that there are two deities -- typically one female and the other male, as in Wicca, or one all good and the other all bad, as in Zoroastrianism.

Dussehra: Hindus celebrate the victory of Lord Rama over the Demons.

Easter: This is the most important holy day of the Christian calendar. Easter Sunday commemorates the day in the springtime when the resurrection of Jesus is believed to have occurred. The date is calculated by one formula by most Eastern Orthodox churches, and by another formula elsewhere in Christianity. Easter Sunday falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after MAR-20, the nominal date of the Spring Equinox. It can be on any Sunday from March 22 to April 25th. Eastern Orthodox churches sometimes celebrate Easter on the same day as the rest of Christianity. However if that date does not follow Passover, then the Orthodox churches delay their Easter - sometimes by over a month.

Ebionites: (From the Hebrew root "Ebion" which means poor, oppressed or humble.) A group of Jewish Christians. Some theologians believe that before Paul came on the scene, the Ebionites formed the original Christian movement, including the people who knew Jesus best: his disciples and family. Peter and James led them. They rejected Paul's writings, believing him to be an apostate from the Mosaic Law. They denied the deity of Jesus, viewing him as a the final and greatest prophet. Most rejected the virgin birth, and believed that Joseph and Mary were Jesus' parents. The members were scattered during uprisings circa 70 and 134 CE, and died out by the 5th century.

Ecclesiology: A field of study related to the doctrines of a faith group or groups.

Ecumenical: From a Greek word meaning worldwide. Any movement, which attempts to bring together various denominations or traditions within a single religion. The term is used most commonly to refer to Christian intra-denominational efforts.

Eid ul-Adha: Muslims celebrate this Feast of Sacrifice at the conclusion of the Hajj. It recalls Abraham's willingness to ritually murder his son in response to a command of God.

Eight adversities: A term used in Buddhism to refer to rebirth: in Hell, as a hungry ghost, as an animal, in Uttarakuru (a very pleasant place where there is little motivation to practice the Dharma), in a long-life heaven, also where one is not motivated), with a disability, as an intelligent but skeptical person, or in the period -- like today -- between a Buddha and his successor.

Eightfold Path: A Buddhist list of the path which one must follow to escape suffering. They include: Panna (Wisdom): Right view and right thought.
Sila (Morality): Right speech, action and livelihood.
Samadhi (Meditation): Right effort, mindfulness and contemplation.

Eisegesis: The process of taking a preconceived belief and interpreting a biblical passage in a way that supports that belief. This is a very common phenomenon, although the interpreter is not generally conscious of the process.

Election, unconditional: The second of Calvin's five points of theology. The doctrine states that God has decided, totally on the basis of his own, unknown criteria, to select a small minority of humans and lead them to a saving knowledge of the gospel. The majority of humans are not elected. Without God's help, the gospel is incomprehensible to them; they will never be saved; they will spend eternity in Hell without hope of mercy or an end to their torture. Some Christians believe that God elects that minority of humans for salvation that he knew would eventually choose Him.

Endless punishment: The belief that the unsaved will be punished by severe tortures (worms, unbearable heat, horrendous thirst, whips, etc) for all eternity without any hope of mercy of cessation. The book of Revelation describes Jesus as being present in Hell; whether he is there to supervise or merely observe the torture is unclear.

Enlightenment: A Buddhist term which means to have grasped the ultimate reality and escaped the endless repetition of birth, life, death and rebirth.
A name given to the Age of Reason in the Americas and Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries. Great advances in science, democracy, industry, human rights and religious tolerance marked it.

Eparchy: a geographical area under the jurisdiction of a bishop in an Orthodox church.

Epiclesis (aka Epiklesis): A Greek word for invocation, in the sense of calling upon, or making an appeal to, or addressing someone. In Christian worship, epiclesis refers to the invocation of the Holy Spirit.

Epiphany: Christians recall the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus on JAN-6. (aka: 12th day of Christmas, Twelfth Night & Three Kings’ Day). Eastern orthodox churches celebrate Theophany on this day in commemoration of Jesus' baptism. "Epiphany" means "to make known" or "to reveal." Christians believe that the Magi made the divinity of Jesus known to the world.

Episcopal: Part of the name of the Espicopal Church, USA -- the national church in the U.S., which is affiliated with the Anglican Communion.

Any religious denomination governed by bishops.

Epistemology: The study of the nature of knowledge.

Equinox: The date and time when the sun crosses the equator. On that day, the daytime and nighttime are both very close to 12 hours. This happens about March 21 and September 21. Many religious holy days are synchronized to the equinoxes, including the Jewish Passover, and Christian Easter. Wiccans, other Neopagans, Native Americans and followers of many aboriginal religions worldwide celebrate the equinoxes.

Eschatology: The study of the eventual outcome of the world, from a religious perspective. In the case of conservative Christians, this typically involves discussion of the rapture, the Anti-Christ, Jesus' second coming, etc.

Esoteric: A type of hidden knowledge that is generally known only by a few individuals and not by the general public.

ESP: An acronym for Extrasensory Perception.

Eternal generation, Eternal Sonship: A belief that Jesus Christ has been the Son of God continuously, from before the creation of the world to the present time. Some Christians have alternate beliefs, stating that Jesus became the Son of God at the time of his ascension, or resurrection, or baptism, or birth.

Ethical Culture: A movement founded in the U.S. by Felix Adler (1851 - 1933). He advocated replacing religious beliefs and codes with a secular ethic.

Ethics: The study of human values and moral conduct. See also Normative Ethics and Metaethics.

Eucharist: See Communion

Eugenics: Programs by which humans are carefully selected for breeding in order to maximize certain qualities. The German Nazi government instituted a Mutterkreuz (mother's cross) program, which encouraged women to have many "Aryan" children, for which they could receive crosses.

Euthanasia: (Greek for "good death.") An ambiguous term with meanings ranging from "physician assisted suicide" for terminally elderly persons in intractable pain, to the German Nazi programs of murdering old and handicapped persons. We recommend that the term never be used, and that a specific term be used in its place.

Evangelical: "Evangelical" is not a well-defined term with a universally accepted meaning. It normally refers to a major portion of the conservative "wing" of Protestant Christianity. In a study comparing Evangelical and mainline denominations, a Princeton University study included the following as Evangelical denominations : Assemblies of God, Southern Baptists, Independent Baptists, black Protestants, African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion; Church of Christ, Churches of God in Christ, Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, National Baptist Church, National Progressive Baptist Church, Nondenominational, Pentecostal denominations, and the Presbyterian Church in America. 1Evangelicals tend to take very conservative views on social matters, like access to abortion, equal rights for gays and lesbians, etc. Many Evangelical congregations serve parishioners who are mainly of a single race. Evangelicals generally believe in the main historical doctrines of the Christian church:
The original writings of the Bible, were inerrant (without error).
That Jesus Christ was born of a virgin.

Atonement: that through Jesus' death, the relationship between God and Man (which had been damaged by Adam and Eve's sin) can been restored.
Resurrection: that after Jesus' death and burial, he arose again.
Second coming: that Jesus returns to earth is imminent.
Incarnation: that God appeared on earth in human form, as Jesus.
Justification: an act of God in which any person that accepts that they have sinned and who believes in the atonement of Christ is forgiven of their sins and brought into a close relationship with God.
Regeneration of the spirit: that a new believer undergoes a spiritual rebirth.

Inspiration: that the authors of the Bible were inspired by the Holy Spirit as they wrote.
That God exists as a Trinity, consisting of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
That Satan is a created being, was once an angel but is now an all-evil tormentor of humanity.
That salvation is attained by repentance and trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior. (Some do not include the need for repentance as a first step).
That Heaven and Hell exist as places of eternal reward and never-ending torture without mercy or any hope of cessation.
Fundamentalists comprise the most conservative wing of Evangelicalism. Most Evangelicals tend to be less anti-scientific and less literal in their interpretation of Biblical passages than are Fundamentalists. There are many additional beliefs regarded as important by various Evangelical organizations. For example, the Southern Baptist Convention requires its employees to sign a loyalty oath, which includes the belief that the authors of the Gospels were in fact named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Some Evangelical institutions refuse to hire faculty who believe that women should be eligible for ordination.
The name "evangelical" was originally used to refer to those faith groups which followed traditional Christian beliefs, in contrast with two other movements: philosophical rationalism and legalistic Christianity. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod total about 6 million members and are not part of the present-day Evangelical movement.

Evil one: A Christian synonym for Satan: a fallen angel.

Evolutionist: A term used by Evangelical Christians to refer to over 99% of earth and biological scientists who use and support the theory of evolution in their professional work. Scientists themselves do not use the term.

Exclusivism: The belief that one's truth (or faith group or religion) is the only truly valid truth (or faith group or religion). This is a very common belief among the approximately 35,000 Christian faith groups in the world, and among followers of other religions as well.

Excommunication: The enforced separation of a Christian from her or his denomination, done for the good of the individual and the faith group, with the intent of changing the individual's behavior so that they can be welcomed back. Unfortunately, in many high-intensity/high commitment religious groups, where a member's entire support network consists of fellow members, excommunication can lead to depression and occasional suicide.

Exegesis: Analyzing passages from the Bible to understand its meaning.

Exaltation of Christ: This consists of Christ's resurrection, ascension to heaven, sitting at the right hand of God, and second coming.

Existentialism: This is both a philosophical and literary movement, which teaches that: Individual existence takes precedence over abstract concepts;
humans are totally free and responsible for their own actions;
no absolute values exist that are not grounded in human experience.

Exorcism: The act of driving one or more evil spirits from the body of a person.

Externalist: A Buddhist term for an individual who follows a non-Buddhist religion.

Extrasensory Perception: (acronym ESP) The ability of a person to sense the world using powers beyond the five senses. This often takes the form of reading cards being dealt in another room, viewing events in a remote location, sensing auras, predicting the future, etc. A prize of over one million dollars awaits anyone who can prove that they have some form of ESP.

Extreme Unction: A sacrament of the Roman Catholic church in which a dying person is anointed with oil that has been consecrated by a bishop. It's purpose is to obtain the remission of sins and to restore the person to health. To our knowledge, the efficacy of extreme unction to make a person healthy has never been scientifically evaluated.

Faith group: a general, inclusive term that might be used to refer to a religion, denomination, sect, or cult.

Faith tradition: A synonym for "faith group."

Fall of mankind: The belief, based on a literal translation of Genesis, that when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden they lost communion with God and brought themselves and all their descendents (including the present and future generations) into a condition of sin and misery. Many religious liberals reject this belief, and interpret Genesis symbolically to indicate the rise of Adam and Eve from a pre-human state to full humanity, becoming aware of the differences between good and evil -- that is, developing a moral sense.

Familiar spirit: An evil spirit who can allegedly possess the body of a human, and communicate with them. Belief in evil spirits is widespread among many religious conservatives, but has been abandoned by mental health experts for over a century.

Fantasy Role Playing Games: (acronym RPG) A game like Dungeons and Dragons™ in which individuals play the roles of characters that they have chosen. Typically, these characters live in a pre-scientific, often medieval society, and are subjected to many challenges. Some conservative Christians have expressed concern that some characters are non-Christian; some parents are concerned about stories of suicides among RPG players. Studies have indicated that players tend to be more stable and less likely to commit suicide.

Fast; Fasting: The act of doing without food and/or water for an interval of time -- generally to attain a spiritual goal. Muslims are expected to fast completely between sunrise and sunset during the lunar month of Ramadan. The practice is widespread among followers of many religions, including Native American Spirituality, Islam, Christianity, etc.

Fatalism: The belief that any effort to improve oneself or the world is useless because blind, irrational forces predetermine everything.

Feminist Theology: A rejection of the patriarchal, sexist, homophobic, and other teachings in the Bible which are considered immoral by today's religious and secular ethical standards. It promotes a theology, which stresses human rights, sexual enjoyment, feminine ordination, and equality. It often involves re-writing the Bible in gender-neutral terms.

Feng Shui: A belief, originating in Taoism, that structures and objects need to be properly aligned in order to promote health and functioning.

Filioque: The Niceno-Constantinopolitan or Constantinopolitan Creed, which was written and adopted at the Council of Nicea in 325 CE, and then modified by the Council at Chalcedon in 451 CE was later modified during the sixth century CE with the addition of the filioque. This phrase states that they Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son. The Eastern Orthodox churches have historically rejected the filioque, citing John 15:26 as proof that the Holy Spirit proceeded only from the Father. Friction over the filioque was a major cause of the split between the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy in 1054 CE.

Five hindrances: A Buddhist list of feelings that prevent one's spiritual progress: Lust, aversion, sloth, restlessness, and skepticism.

Five poisons: A Buddhist list of five harmful influences commonly found in life: ignorance, hate, pride, craving and envy.

Five precepts: A Buddhist list of activities to avoid: Killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and the taking of intoxicants.

Five ways: These are the five proofs of the existence of God as derived by Thomas Aquinas from Greek Pagan metaphysical thought.

Foreknowledge: An attribute of God that he is able to know all things: past, present and future.

Form criticism: A method of analyzing biblical verses, which involves studying the literary forms, used in the passage. It often seeks to uncover the oral traditions behind Bible passages.

Fortune telling: A method of divination: predicting the future. Often performed using cards, tarot cards, runes, palm reading, tea leaf reading, etc.

Four constituents: In Buddhism, the fundamental components which make up the universe: earth, water, wind and fire.

Four noble truths: A Buddhist list of basic truths about suffering -- that: Suffering exists.
It comes from one's attachment to desires.
It can be overcome by ceasing one's attachment to desire.
The Eightfold Path is the way to achieve freedom from suffering.

Free will: When used by Christian theologians, means the ability of an individual to freely choose to repent of their sins and accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Calvinists, who say that God cannot be truly sovereign if humans have free will, deny this.

Friday, good: The Friday before Easter Sunday. This commemorates the execution of Jesus by the Roman Army.

Freemasonry: A spiritual, fraternal order for men, which originated in guilds of stone cutters. Freemasons see Freemasonry as supplementing and not in conflict with their religious belief. They are heavily involved in charitable works, like the Shriner's hospitals. Many conservative Christians view Freemasonry as anti-Christian and condemn membership in the Masonic Order. Fremasons, like dozens of other groups ranging from the Roman Catholic Church to Quakers have been accused of ritual abuse. However, no hard evidence has been found to confirm this.

Freethinker: This originally referred to persons who doubted the Trinity -- the concept that a Godhead existed composed of a Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They supported the concept of a single indivisible deity. The meaning of the term has since changed its meaning to include persons who reject religious beliefs in general, and who follows her/his own spiritual and ethical path.

Free will: The ability of humans to choose their own courses of action.

Fundamentalist: Within Christianity, this is a term used since the 1920's to refer to the most religiously conservative group within Christianity. Within Judaism, Islam and other religions, the term is used to refer to the extreme conservative wing who Karen Armstrong defines as "embattled forms of spirituality, which have emerged as a response to a perceived crisis" 1 - namely the fear that modernity will erode or even eradicate their faith and morality. Its roots within Christianity can be traced to the late 19th Century as a reaction against liberal movements of Biblical criticism and analysis. A 1909 publication "The Fundamentals: A testimony to the truth" proposed five required beliefs for conservative Christians; they are listed above under "Evangelicals", items 1 to 5. Fundamentalists generally believe that other wings of Christianity, and other religions, are false. The largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., the Southern Baptist Convention, has recently transitioned to Fundamentalism. Bob Jones University, the General Association of Regular Baptists, the Moody Bible Institute and other organizations are also Fundamentalist. Among the most generally known leaders are Jerry Falwell, Bob Jones and Hal Lindsey. See the term "Modernism."

The term has three additional meanings in general usage that cause great confusion: A "snarl" word, used by some non-Fundamentalists to imply intolerance, bigotry, lack of flexibility and an anti-intellectual bias.
When applied by the Western media to Muslims, it often means "anti-American". Sometimes it means "radical Fundamentalist Muslim terrorist." who form a very small percentage of Muslims. When used by conservative Muslims themselves, it refers to a person who strictly follows the teachings of Mohammed, and who promotes the concept of theocratic government.

Futurism, Futurist: Attempts to predict the future. In Christianity, the term applies particularly to the interpretation of Revelation in order to foretell events in our future.

Gaia: Greek goddess of the Earth.
A belief that the earth is a living entity that adapts the environment to promote life.

Gap theory: The belief that there is a large interval of time between the first and second verses in the book of Genesis. By insertion of a gap at this point, Genesis is brought more closely into harmony with the conclusions of the vast majority of biological and earth scientists who believe that Evolution is a fact and that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old.

Gehena: A Greek word, which refers to the Hebrew word gehinnom, the valley of Hinnon. This was the garbage dump for Jerusalem, a place of continuous fire, where the bodies of crucified criminals were tossed. According to Luke 12:4 and other passages, this is Hell. God casts the body and souls of the unsaved here after their death, to be tortured forever without any hope of mercy.

General Revelation: According to Romans 1:19-20, the existence of the world is proof of the existence of God that is obvious to all who lived in a pre-scientific era. With advances in science, the existence of the world and its life forms can be explained in naturalistic terms. Thus, the Romans passage does not necessarily apply to contemporary individuals who have become convinced of the reality of evolution.

Gentile: In Judaism: a non-Jew.
In Mormonism: Jews and other non-Mormons.

Genocide: (Derived from genos (race) and cide (to kill). A term created by Raphael Lemkin in the mid-1940s. It refers to the planned, systematic extermination of an entire ethnic, national, racial, or religious group. Most genocides in the 20th and 21st century have had a strong religious component. Rwanda is an exception.

Geomancy: The procedure of selecting a site for a building, grave, etc. based upon unseen forces in nature. The goal is to achieve harmony with the natural surroundings.

Ghetto: The term originally referred to a type of inner-city concentration camp for Jews. First developed by the Roman Catholic Church, the concept was later adopted by Hitler during the German Nazi regime. The term now refers to any concentration of a specific group in a city, as in "student ghetto."

Ghost: A form of spirit being. Many faiths, from Aboriginal religion to some groups within Christianity believe that they are the spirits of dead people. Hard evidence of their existence is scant or non-existent.

Gilgamesh epic: A flood story from ancient Pagan Babylon with many points of similarity to the Genesis flood. Religious liberals conclude that the Genesis account of the flood of Noah was derived from this Pagan source. Religious conservatives conclude that the Genesis flood story is precisely true, and that the Gilgamesh epic is a distorted record of the actual flood.

Glossolilia or "speaking in tongues". In the first Centuries CE, it meant the ability of a person to communicate in a foreign language that they had never learned. e.g. a person raised speaking Greek and unable to speak any other language would suddenly be conversing in Aramaic. At the present time, it refers to a person who suddenly, in a state of religious ecstasy, starts speaking sounds that sound like language but do not represent any known tongue. The manifestation of glossolilia is an expected development in all Pentecostal believers and is a sign of the grace of God. It is also a common practice among charismatic Christians. More details are available.

Gnosticism: This is pronounced with a silent "g"; it is derived from the Greek word gnosis (knowledge). It originated in the Middle East and Greece during pre-Christian times. The movement has been composed of many groups with differing beliefs. One common concept is that there are two Gods: one Supreme Father who is from the "good" spirit world, and one Demiurge (the Jehovah in the Bible) who created the evil material world. Salvation comes through knowledge and liberation from the material, earthly world to attain a higher level of spirituality. Christian Gnosticism was one of the three main movements in early Christianity; the other two were Jewish and Pauline Christianity. Many Gnostic sects were the victims of genocide by the Christian Church. The movement survived. It lives on today and is rapidly growing in numbers.

God: A supernatural being, generally male. Various religions assign different attributes and qualities to God, such as a body, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, love, hate, tolerance, intolerance, etc.

God, false: The deity worshiped by another religion. One faith groups' God is another faith group's false God.

Goddess: a female supernatural being.

Good works: Activities that are legal, pure of motive, and helpful to other persons. Romans 3:12 and other passages state that no unsaved person can perform good works. Many passages in Paul's epistles imply that good works cannot obtain salvation. Many passages in the synoptic gospels appear to teach the opposite.

Gospel: This has three main meanings: One of the four books at the start of the Christian Scriptures, which give an account of Jesus' life; e.g. the Gospel of Mark.
One of the many dozens of books about the life of Jesus, of which only four made it into the official canon; e.g. the Gospel of Thomas.
The message, found mainly in the writings of Paul, that the a person's belief that Jesus was resurrected will cause God to forgive their sins.

Grace: an Christian expression meaning "the free and unmerited assistance or favor or energy or saving presence of God in his dealings with humanity..."). 4 Grace is a gift of God and is not considered to be deserved by the individual. According to the Bible, those to whom God does not give grace cannot understand the gospel message.

Grace, Irresistible: One of the five points of Calvinism: the doctrine that every individual who God has elected (chosen) will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. None can resist.

Great rite: An act of ritual sex performed by many Neopagan traditions. It may involve actual sexual intercourse by a committed couple in private; alternately, it may be symbolic in nature.

Guided imagery: A therapeutic technique in which a facilitator tells a story, which describes a scene or a passage through a group of scenes. It has been used by athletes in training, by physicians to help their patient's body cure itself, or simply to produce relaxation. It is a suggestive, quasi-hypnotic process that can, under certain circumstances, generate false memories without either the facilitator or client being aware of the process.

Gurdwara: Literally "the gateway of the Guru." This is a Sikh religious meeting place.

Guru: A revered spiritual teacher who guides students towards enlightenment. It is a term commonly used in Eastern religions.

Hades: A Greek term generally translated "Hell" in the King James Version of the Bible. Beliefs about Hades are divided: Some Christians believe that Hades is a place where the spirits of unsaved persons and of believers who died before the ascension of Christ temporarily reside until the Day of Judgment. Then, the unsaved will be thrown into the lake of fire; the believers will attain heaven.
Others believe that Hades and Sheol are Hell where the unsaved are tortured for all eternity.

Hadith: Sayings and practices of Mohammed. They were collected after his death.

Hajj: A pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which every Muslim is expected to perform at least once during their lifetime, if they are physically and financially able.

Halal: A set of Islamic dietary laws, which regulate the preparation of food.

Halloween: Secular meaning: an annual children's celebration on the evening of each OCT-31. Children dress up in costumes and go to homes in their neighborhood to collect candy.
Pagan meaning: Wiccans and other Neopagans celebrate the major Sabbat of Samhain on this day. It is the end of the Wiccan year, marking the transition between the warm and the cold season.
Christian meaning: All Hallow's Eve, a Roman Catholic observance of the night before All Saints' Day.
Satanic meaning: One of three major seasonal days of celebration -- the other two being Walpurgisnacht (APR-30) and the member's birthday.

Handfasting: A Neopagan wedding. Some religious traditions assign it a length of a year and a day. It can be registered with the government as a marriage if the priest/priestess performing the handfasting is registered to perform weddings.

Heaven: A word that is sometimes used to refer to the earth's atmosphere, the above of God, and the Father's House, where saved individuals go after death to be with God.

Hell: one of two destinations for an individual after death in the Christian, Muslim and a few other religions. Various groups within Christianity believe that a person goes there because of their beliefs or their actions, or some combination of beliefs and actions. Up to the early part of the 20th century, Hell was generally believed to be a place of eternal punishment and torment. Lately, more groups describe it as a simple isolation from God. Liberal religious groups generally treat biblical passages on Hell as symbolic. See also Universalism. In the King James Version of the Bible, the Hebrew word Sheol and Greek word hades (two very different concepts) are both generally translated as Hell.

Hellenism: A general term referring to the influence that Greek Pagan culture had on other societies in ancient times. Hellenism profoundly influenced Judaism after the conquest of Palestine by the Greeks in the second century BCE.

Henotheism. belief in many deities of which only one is the supreme deity. This may involve: One chief God and multiple gods and goddesses of lesser power and importance. Ancient Greek and Roman religions were of this type.
One supreme God, and multiple gods and goddesses who are all simply manifestations or aspects of the supreme God. Hinduism is one example; they recognize Brahman as the single deity. Some Wiccans believe in a single deity about which they know little. They call the deity "The One" or "The All." They recognize the God and Goddess as the male and female aspects of that supreme deity.
One supreme God who rules over a country, and many other gods and goddesses who have similar jurisdiction over other territories. Liberal theologians believe that the ancient Israelites were henotheists; they worshipped Jehovah as the supreme God over Israel, but recognized the existence of Baal and other deities who ruled over other tribes.

Heresy: beliefs that are forbidden by the policy-deciding body of a faith group. One group's heresy is frequently another group's required belief or dogma. One group's required belief may well be the same group's past heresy (and vice versa).

Heretic: a person who believes in one or more heresies.

Hermeneutics: The word was derived from the Pagan Greek myth of Hermes. A study of methods used to interpreting the Bible.

Hexateuch: A theological term for the first six books of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament): The Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) and the book of Joshua.

Higher criticism: The study of a section of the Bible to determine who wrote it, when it was written, its literary structure and its meaning.

Hijab: A scarf that many Muslim women use to cover their hair.

Hinduism: The third largest religion in the world, after Christianity and Islam. It is a henotheistic faith, which exists in many hundreds of variations. It has about 750 million followers and is largely concentrated in India and Sri Lanka. Hinduism does not have a single founder, a specific theological system, a single system of morality, or a central religious organization. It consists of "thousands of different religious groups that have evolved in India since 1500 BCE." 2

Holistic health, holistic medicine: Medical care involving the treatment of the whole person -- body, spirit and mind. Many holistic techniques have never had their efficacy or safety evaluated.

Holocaust: Massive destruction. When capitalized, the term usually refers to the Shoah, the killing of millions of Jews, Roma (aka Gypsies), Poles, homosexuals, Jehovah's witnesses etc. by the German Nazi regime during World War II.

Holy Spirit (a.k.a. Holy Ghost): The third component in the Christian Trinity. Some faith groups consider him to be an active force; orthodox denominations consider him to be a personality.

Homeopathy: An alternative treatment of disease involving the consumption of natural materials that simulate the symptoms of the disease. These materials are diluted in pure water to such an extent that there are no molecules of the original material left. The efficacy of this treatment has not been studied in depth. Most medical experts reject it.

Homosexual: This term has two conflicting meanings: It is sometimes used to refer to sexual feelings - what a person is: Gays, lesbians, sociologists, psychologists, researchers into human sexuality, members of liberal and some mainline faith groups normally define this as: One of three normal and natural sexual orientations experienced by adults, involving an exclusive, permanent, and unchosen attraction to members of the same gender. It is probably set up by a person's genetic coding, and enabled by some unknown event in the environment in early childhood.
Usage by Evangelical/Fundamentalist and some mainline faith groups: A form of sexual behavior - what a person does: A perverted, abnormal and unnatural attraction to members of the same gender that can be changed through prayer and counseling. It is caused by bad parenting and is chosen during teenage years. Homosexuals can be attracted to members of the same gender only, or to persons of both genders.

Humanism: A term with a variety of meanings, ranging from a study of the humanities (languages, literature, philosophy, history, etc.) to secular humanism (see below).

Humanism, Secular: a non-theistic philosophy, which promotes man as the measure of all things. It had its roots in the rationalism of the 18th Century and the free thought movement of the 19th Century.

Hypnotism, hypnosis: A therapeutic technique in which the patient is placed in a trance. This places the patient in an extremely suggestive state in which false memories can be created.

Hyper-Calvinism: The belief by some followers of Calvinism that a person has no responsibility for their own salvation; it is all up to God.

I Ching: A Chinese technique of predicting the future, based on a book by the same name -- one of the five foundational books of Confucianism. Yellow stocks or rods are cast in order to select one of 64 hexagrams (patterns of six lines which may be broken or continuous).

Idol: This has two main meanings: A drawing, statue, or other representation of an item in heaven or earth, which is used for worship.
Anything in life that takes a position of priority over one's relationship with God.

I.H.S.: An acronym for Isis, Horus, and Seb -- the Egyptian trinity consisting of the Mother, the Child and the Father.
The first three letters of the name Jesus, the Greek version of Yeshua.

Illuminati: (a.k.a. the enlightened ones) A group or individual who claim to be unusually enlightened.
A secret philosophical and political society established by Adam Weishaupt in Germany in 1776. They promoted free thought and democracy.
A game involving trading cards.
A sinister organization believed to consist of evil men who control world finances, and whose goal is world domination through world government. Many consider this group to be non-existent.

Immaculate Conception: The belief that before the birth of Mary (the mother of Jesus) was born, she was preserved from original sin at the time of her conception, circa 20 BCE. It is widely but incorrectly believed to refer to Jesus' conception, circa 5 to 8 BCE.

Immanence: the concept that deity is very much associated with creation, is all present in the world, and is close to believers.

Immerse, immersion: Baptists and some other Christian groups generally translate the Greek words baptizo and baptisma as implying the total immersion of a convert during baptism.
Many other Christian denominations believe that the words can also imply washing, without any specific description of the method. Thus, a baptism by sprinkling is biblically valid.

Imminence: the belief that an event is about to occur in the near future. e.g. the Second Coming.

Immorality: Behavior, which transgresses a given system of morals; incorrect behavior. Liberal and conservative Christians differ in many matters over what is moral, even though both sincerely believe that their positions are biblically based. Moral standards change over time, even within a given religious group. Church schisms were common in the mid 19th century over slavery because parts of a denomination considered slavery to be profoundly immoral, while other believers believed that it was condoned, regulated and accepted by the Bible. Major moral shifts over the past 150 years have involved slavery, inoculation of children, birth control, abortion, sexism, racial segregation, discipline of children through the use of pain, and homophobia.

Immortality: God has traditionally been considered to be immortal, there having been no point at which he has not existed.
Humans who have been saved have traditionally been considered to be immortal in that they will continue to exist in Heaven after death.
Most Christian groups teach that the unsaved are also immortal in that they will continue to exist in Hell for all eternity after death. Other faith groups teach annihilationism.

Impeccability: The concept that Jesus Christ could not have sinned, even if he had wanted to.

Inability, total: Alternative term for Total Depravity.

Incarnation: The concept that God became a man and dwelt among other humans. This was rejected by the Gnostic Christians, the Ebionites and other Jewish Christians, but accepted by Pauline Christians.

Inclusion: In general usage, inclusion means to allow people into a group; i.e. excluding nobody. In relation to salvation, the "Gospel of Inclusion" means a belief that everyone -- or almost everyone -- will be saved, will attain Heaven and avoid Hell. This is a heresy according to conservative Christians, and an accurate interpretation of the Bible according to liberal Christians. 1

Inclusivism: The recognition that another person's belief system is valid for the other individual and deserving of respect, even though it might conflict with one's own view of the truth.

Incubus: A male demon that would visit women at night and engage in sexual activity. This belief was commonly held during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. There were also female demons, called succubi who were believed to visit men.

Indulgence: The practice by which a person could pay money to the church or do a good deed and obtain remission of the temporal punishment due to sin. After the Protestant Reformation, cash no longer became an acceptable way to obtain an indulgence.

Inerrant: When applied to a sacred text like the Bible, inerrancy is the belief that, as originally written, its contents are infallible, totally free of error and totally authoritative. Many religions, particularly their conservative wings, believe in the inerrancy of their sacred texts.

Infallible: When applied to a sacred text like the Bible, infallible means that the text is fully trustworthy. i.e. it does not deceive the reader into falsehood. There are problems with this concept, because even within the conservative wing of Christianity, Bible experts reach many different conclusions about divorce, hell, the millennium, the Book of Revelation, and creation/evolution, etc. Since these theologians' beliefs are mutually exclusive, most must be wrong. Since they were all derived from the Bible, the concept of biblical infallibility is suspect.
Within the Roman Catholic Church, the belief that the pope can speak on matters of faith and morals without error. This belief was promulgated in 1870. The pope stripped Hans Küng of his credentials as a teacher of Catholic theology, largely because of his questioning of the doctrine of Papal infallibility.

Infidel: a person who does not believe in your particular religion, denomination or religious tradition. Similar to "Unbeliever" but more of a "snarl" word.

Initial evidence: A doctrine formed from the Book of Acts. It holds that speaking in tongues are the initial evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Both the United Pentecostal Church and the Assemblies of God believe this doctrine. The, UPC further believes that this experience is essential to salvation. i.e. if you haven't spoken in tongues, you haven't been saved. 2

Inquisition: An organization within the Roman Catholic Church, which was responsible for the elimination of heretics.

Inspiration: When applied to a sacred text like the Bible, inspiration means that the God affected the thought processes of the writers and prevented them from writing any material that was in error. A logical result of inspiration is that the original text of the Bible was inerrant.

Intention: The belief in the Roman Catholic church that the efficacy of the administration of a sacrament is dependant on the priest having the proper intent.

Intercession: An activity of Christ in which he advocates to God the Father the in favor of saved individuals

Interdict, Interdiction: A prohibition by the pope that can deprive individual persons, groups, communities and even nations of all priestly ministry. Thus, they no longer had access to the sacraments of the church.

Interfaith: An attempt to initiate dialog, cooperation, and understanding among individuals of different religions.

Interreligious: A synonym for "interfaith."

Intincture: To some Christians, this is the communion practice in which the believer takes the bread or host, carries it to the wine, dips it, and then consumes it. In the Roman Catholic Church, intincture involves the priest dipping the host in the wine and placing it on the tongue of the communicant.

Irresistible Grace: This is the fourth of The Five Points of Calvinism: the belief that it is impossible for a person whom God has elected to avoid coming to a knowledge of God.

Islam: The second largest religion in the world. It has over 1,164 million followers, about 20% of the world's population, and is rapidly growing. It is based on the Qur'an, which is said to have been dictated to the Prophet Mohammed by the angel Jibreel in 622 CE. This is the largest of the purely monotheistic faiths. Members are found in large numbers throughout Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Islamic: Synonym for "Muslim," a follower of Islam.

Islamists: These are Fundamentalist Muslims who are attempting to replace secular governments with Islamic theocracies. Mainstream Islamists do this by peaceful means of persuasion. Violent, extremist, radical, militant Islamists use violence and terrorism as their main means of effecting change.

Jasjid: This is a Muslim term for a mosque -- Islamic houses of worship. There are about 1,209 jasjids in the U.S. and on the order of 100 in Canada.

Jainism: This is the oldest ascetic religious tradition. It was founded in the sixth century BCE by Mahavira (599-527 BCE). Its 4 million followers are located mainly in India. They believe in karma, in reincarnation, and in avoiding violence. Janists limit earthly attachments.

JEDP: See documentary hypothesis.

Jehovah's Witnesses: Originally a American Fundamentalist Christian denomination organized by Charles Taze Russell during the 1870s, it has since spread worldwide. Members are expected to volunteer significant amounts of time to proselytize in their communities by going door-to-door. Their practice of pacifism resulted in clashes with the American and Canadian government during World War II. This resulted in many court decisions that made major contributions to the definition of religious freedom in the two countries. Their German members were heavily persecuted during the Nazi Holocaust; thousands were exterminated.

Jesus: The name, in English, of the founder of Christianity. As a newborn, Jesus was given the name Yehoshua, which means "God Salvation." In 1st century Palestine, he was probably known as Yeshua of Nazareth. Yeshua is translated as Iesous in Greek, Iesus in Latin, and Jesus in English. Most Christians consider Jesus to be the second person of the Trinity, along with God the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Only Movement: The belief that Jesus sequentially took three forms. First, he was God; then he was the Son; finally, he became the Holy Spirit.

Jihad: A striving for perfection, frequently used within Islam. Usually, the term refers to an internal struggle that a person has with their imperfections. The term is also used to refer to a defensive war. Some radical Fundamentalist Muslims and the Western media often interpret the term as a synonym for an aggressive "holy war."

Jinn (plural Jinni): A Muslim term, which, according to the Qur'an, refers to a species of invisible, intelligent beings who are different from humans. They will be judged in the future and attain either heaven or hell, depending upon their good and bad deeds on earth. Among some Muslims, they are viewed as evil supernatural being that can take either human or animal form, and can possess humans.

Judaism: This is often regarded as the earliest monotheistic religion. The Christian religion was founded by Jews -- mainly by Yeshua of Nazareth (aka Jesus Christ) and Paul of Tarsus. It currently has 20 million followers, and is the original Abramic religions. The Roman army drove Jews out of Palestine and scattered them throughout the known world. Only in 1948 CE was a Jewish state recreated in Israel.

Judaism, Messianic: A conservative Christian religion, which blends Jewish tradition and ceremonies with Fundamentalist theological beliefs about Jesus Christ.

Jews, Completed: A term used by conservative Christians to refer to Jews who have embraced Messianic Judaism -- a blend of Jewish tradition and ceremonies with Fundamentalist theological beliefs about Jesus Christ.

Justification: A Christian term that refers to the forgiveness and total elimination of a believer's sin on the grounds of Jesus' righteousness and shed blood at his crucifixion. An individual is "justified" when "they are brought into right standing and into a right relationship with" God. To most Protestants, this is a direct action initiated by God on the individual; once justified, one is saved forever. To Roman Catholics, it is a byproduct of the sacraments; one loses justification by committing a mortal sin; one regains it through the sacraments.

Kabala, Kabbala: See Cabbalah.

Karma: the integrated collection of good and evil that a person accumulates during one's present and former lives. It is believed by Hindus, Buddhists and some others that the amount and type of karma will determine a person's state when they are reincarnated in their next life. Similarly, the sum total of one's acts in previous lives determines one's current life. During their lives, most people have performed good and bad deeds and thus have generated good and bad karma. Thus their next life will be a mixture of misery and unhappiness. Although the term normally applies to individuals, there exists group karma, family karma and even national karma. Some New Agers and Neopagans believe in Karma, but tend to restrict its effect to a person's present lifetime.

Ketubah: A Jewish marriage contract, which specifies the groom's obligations to the bride.

Koine: "The common Greek language as distinct from Classical Greek." 1 The Septuagint and the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) were written in Koine Greek.

Koinonia: A Greek word (pronounced Koy-no-NEE-ah). It was used in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) to describe the early Pauline Christian church. It means "communication," "fellowship", or "communion."

Koran: The name of the God-inspired text of Islam. Most Muslims prefer an alternate spelling: Qur'an.

Kosher: A set of Jewish dietary rules specified in the Hebrew Scriptures and practiced by many Jews.

Krishna: The eighth or ninth incarnation of a Hindu god Vishnu.

Ksana: A Buddhist term for a short interval of time; about 13.3 millisecond. It takes 4,500 Kansas to equal one minute.

Last supper: The meal that Jesus and his disciples took just before Jesus' arrest. The term is also used to refer to communion.

LDS: Acronym for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Lectionary: A series of Bible passages that are read throughout the year in a church service. Often, the sermon is based on the passage just read.

Legalism: The belief that one's salvation depends upon strictly following religious laws and rituals.
The belief that salvation is at least partly dependent on one's good works.

Lent: A period of spiritual preparation for Easter. It starts 40 days before Easter Sunday in the Roman Catholic Church. It starts eight weeks before Easter in the Eastern Orthodox churches. In the early Church, recent converts were taught in preparation for their baptism.

Levirite marriage: From the Latin word "levir" -- husband's brother. The practice, required by Mosaic Law, by which a widow and her former-husbands brother were required to marry. This inevitably involved serial rape in many cases. A child born to the couple would be credited to the former husband.

Liberal Christianity: A religious movement that holds beliefs, which are opposite to those of conservative Christians: Emphasizes human rights, the findings of science, and the higher criticism (analysis) of the Bible;

Largely disregards biblical miracles, the infallibility, inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, the Virgin birth;
Ignores passages in the Bible which are immoral by today's standards -- e.g. those dealing with human slavery, oppression of women, religious intolerance, torture of prisoners, genocide, burning some hookers alive, etc.

Liberation theology: The interpretation of religious faith from the perspective of the poor, oppressed and victimized. It seeks God in a world of injustice. Found most often within Christianity.

Limited atonement: This is the third of The Five Points of Calvinism: the belief that Jesus did not die to save all humans. He died only for the sake of specific sins of those who are saved. Sometimes called "Particular Redemption."

Literary criticism: With reference to the Bible, a method of analyzing passages "that seeks to discover the underlying literary sources, stylistic features, type or genre of literature, authorship, unity, and date of a text, for their value in interpreting the text’s meaning in its original historical context."

Liturgy: From the Greek word "leitourgia" meaning service. Forms of service for church worship as defined by various faith groups.

Logos: An ancient Pagan Greek term meaning "word" or "reason", and used to indicate the concept that the universe was governed by a higher form of intelligence. St. Paul and other Christians have used it to describe Jesus as the "Logos of God" - the concept that the eternal thoughts of God were made incarnate (endowed with a body) in Jesus.

Lord's Supper: See Communion.

Lower criticism: The analysis of available evidence to determine the original text of the Bible.

Lucifer: Angel of light. Sometimes considered a synonym for Satan.

Lutheranism: The group of denominations that trace their roots to Martin Luther and the German Reformation in the early 16th century. In the U.S. the largest Lutheran denomination is the liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Second largest is the conservative Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.

LXX: Roman symbol for the number 70. An abbreviation used to refer to the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) into Koine Greek. The translation was allegedly made by 70 or 72 individuals. This was the version of the Hebrew Scriptures used by the Christians in the primitive Christian church.

Magic, Magick: The use of blessings, spells, incantations etc. to change outcomes of events. Wiccans and other Neo-pagans are limited to what is popularly called "White Magic" which is devoid of control, domination, harm or manipulation. Satanists are free to return harmful magic as vengeance for any harm done to them by others.

Mainline or Mainstream: This is a term that is often used to refer to Christian denominations, which are more liberal than Evangelicals. It is not a well-defined word with a universally accepted meaning. In a study comparing Evangelical and mainline denominations, a Princeton University study included the following as large mainline groups: American Baptist Churches in the USA, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church. 1 Some theologians and commentators divide Christianity into three groups: Evangelical, mainline and liberal.

Mala beads: This is a string of beads -- 108 is a common number -- of uniform size. There is one larger bead, called the guru mother or focal bead. They are sometimes called "prayer beads," "worry beads" or "Buddhist rosaries". The beads can be made from a variety of materials, such as sandalwood, teak, glass, bone, gemstones, and coconut. The beads are used as counters to help Buddhists, Hindus, and yoga practitioners repeat their mantra a certain number of times. They can also help a person stay focused during meditation. 4

Mandala: An object that one can focus on during meditation. It is usually a painted diagram that shows the unfolding of the cosmos.

Mandap: A sacred wedding tent used by Hindus.

Manicheanism: A religion, which synthesized elements of Buddhism, Christianity, Gnosticism, and Zoroastrianism. It was founded by Mani (a.k.a. Manicheus) in Mesopotamia during the third century CE. He believed in two equal deities. One is the Judeo-Christian God who is good, and is responsible for human souls and minds. The other is Satan who is evil and is responsible for human bodies, passions and emotions. It considered sexuality to be evil. Its followers practiced asceticism. 6

Mantra: A word or phrase, which is repeated continually in order to achieve relaxation or meditation.

Marianist: A group of Christians in the 5th century CE who believed that the Virgin Mary is the "queen of heaven." They believed in a Trinity composed of God, Mary and Jesus Christ.

Masjid: See mosque.

Masonic order: See Freemasonry

Materialism: The belief that only material, physical objects exist. Such items as thoughts, soul, and spirit are properties of the human mind.

Meditation: "Meditation can be considered a technique, or practice. It usually involves concentrating on an object, such as a flower, a candle, a sound or word, or the breath. Over time, the number of random thoughts diminishes. More importantly, your attachment to these thoughts, and your identification with them, progressively become less. 5

Medium: An individual who claims to be able to make contact with the spirits of dead people.

Mennonites: A faith group, which originated within the Anabaptist movement. They hold a variety of theological beliefs, but are all opposed to infant baptism and warfare.

Messiah: Derived from the Hebrew "meshiach" which means "consecrated person" or "anointed one." It is translated as the Greek word "Christos," and the English "Christ." In the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), the Messiah was an anticipated "anointed one": a king of Israel and military leader who would lead the Jewish people to independence from foreign oppression and occupation. The concept of a Messiah who was executed and later resurrected does not appear in the Hebrew Scriptures. According to the Talmud: "The only difference between the world today and the world after the messiah comes is that when the messiah comes we will be free of foreign subjugation." 1
In Christianity, a title used to refer to Yeshua of Nazareth: Jesus Christ -- considered the Son of God and second personality of the Trinity.

Messianic Judaism,: A conservative Christian religion, which blends Jewish tradition and ceremonies with Fundamentalist theological beliefs about Jesus Christ.

Metaehics: A study of ethical systems to determine whether they are based on objective foundations.

Midrash: From a Hebrew word "darash," meaning "to seek out." According to Rabbi Donna Berman, "Midrash uses allegory and additional narrative to fill in the gaps left by an often terse biblical text. Midrash is creative and imaginative. It can take the form of artwork, dance, music, as well as poetry and prose." 8 Midrash can also refer to a book, which contains a compilation of Midrashic teachings.

Mihrab: This is a niche in the wall of a mosque. It points in the direction of Qibla -- the direction of the shorter great circle route to the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Minaret: A tower located beside a mosque. It is often used when Muslims are called to prayer.

Mind control cult: a religious group, which uses severe domination and manipulation to rigidly control its followers. Some in the anti-cult movement believe that members of these groups lose their will to think clearly and almost become zombies. There is little or no evidence of that actually happening.

Millennium: Religious meaning: an interval of 1000 years after Armageddon when, according to Revelation, Jesus Christ will rule on earth.
Secular meanings: the beginning of a year ending in "000" or "001" as in "2000" or "2001."

Millennialism: The belief that current society will disintegrate and be replaced with a perfect new world. Some 24% of American adults believe that Jesus Christ will return to earth during their lifetime; most believe that this event will usher in a new world order.

Mind control: A spiritually abusive environment in which followers of a faith group are manipulated in order to reduce their ability to think critically. The goal is to turn the membership into near robots who are incapable of independent reasoning and judgment. There is no consensus on whether new religious movements utilize mind control techniques. The existence of mind control is a major part of the belief system of the anti-cult movement (ACM). Those in the ACM teach that new religious movements (which they call "cults") widely practice mind control and other psychologically abusive methods. Sociologists and psychologists who have studied new religious movements generally deny that it exists.

Mind sciences: A religious movement which beliefs that humans are divine beings who can change reality through their mind and thoughts.

Minimalism, minimalists: A group of historians, archeologists and theologians who view the biblical account of creation, the flood, the tower of Babel, the patriarchs, the exodus as religious myth without any historical reality. They believe that the histories in the Hebrew Scriptures were of recent creation.

Miracle: An event in which God suspends one or more natural laws and makes an impossible outcome happen. The stopping of the apparent movement of the sun across the sky, as mentioned in the Bible, is regarded by some as a miracle.

Missal: A Roman Catholic book, which contains all of the mass prayers and readings for three years of Sundays and two years of weekdays.

Modalism: The belief that God is a single entity who has appeared in different modes at different times. He appeared as the Father in the Old Testament, as Jesus during the first century CE, and has since taken the form of the Holy Spirit.

Modernism: In a religious sense, the term refers to a movement, which started in the 19th century, which was skeptical of traditional Christian dogma, such as the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. Modernists applied rationalistic thinking to studies of the Bible and of religious belief. The Bible was studied as a historical document rather than as the Word of God. The Fundamentalist movement within Christianity was created largely as a response to modernism.

Mohammed: See: Muhammad, the preferred spelling.

Moksha: A Hindu term that means liberation and release from samsara -- the changing world and the cycle of birth and rebirth. "...this liberation seemed to involve some sort of absorption into the Universal Spirit or the Absolute and the loss of one's individual identity." 2

Monarchianism: A Christian heresy, which taught that God is a single entity and that, Jesus was a pure man, born of a virgin, who was adopted by God.

Monism: The belief that what people perceive as deity, humanity and the rest of the universe is in fact all of one substance - that divisions among the body, mind, flesh, spirit, material, physical are not real. All are simply aspects of one being.

Monolatry: Belief that multiple deities exist, although only one is to be worshiped.

Monophysite: A person or religious group, which believes in Monophysitism. The Ethiopian Church holds to this belief and is thus regarded by many Christian denominations as heretics or schismatics. They prefer the term "non-Chalcedonian" rather than "monophysite."

Monophysitism: A belief that Jesus Christ only had a single nature, and that it was divine. This contrasts with Diophysitism.

Monotheist: One who believes in the existence of only one deity, usually male. See also henotheism.

Morality: A system, which differentiates between right and wrong conduct. In practice, it often refers to sexual conduct.

Moral Rearmament: An inter-religious group organized by Frank Buchman to reform the world, one person at a time. It was founded in 1929 as the Oxford Group and renamed Moral Rearmament in 1938. It promoted absolute prity, unselfishness, honesty and love.

Mormonism: A group of denominations including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Founded by Joseph Smith in New York State in 1830, they teach that Jesus spent time in Central and South America after his crucifixion, spreading the gospel to Aboriginal peoples throughout the Americas. Smith stated that as a result of an angelic visitation, HW was shown the location of golden plates containing the Book of Mormon, one of the denominations' sacred texts. He also found the Urim and Thummin, which enabled him to translate the plates into English. Both latter disappeared. They abandoned the practice of polygamy during the 19th century and racial discrimination within the priesthood in 1978. They have about 11 million members worldwide and are growing rapidly.

Mortal sin: A Roman Catholic classification of serious offenses against God or the church. Unless cleared by through confession and absolution, it would cause an individual to end up in Hell after death. Lighter offenses are called venial sins, and can be expiated by various good works and activities.

Mosque: "Masjid" is the name used by Muslims to refer to their house of worship. Mosque is the English version of that term. It literally means "place of prostration."

Muhammad: Within Islam, he is considered the final and greatest prophet. He is the founder of Islam.

Muslim: a follower of Islam. It is sometimes misspelled "Moslem" which is offensive to some Muslims.

Mysticism: The belief and practice of a third form of knowledge -- one that is beyond sense knowledge and knowledge by inference. "The immediate feeling of unity of the self with God; it is nothing, therefore, but the fundamental feeling of religion, the religious life at its very heart and centre." Otto Pfleiderer, 19th-century scholar.

Mysticism: The third major way of knowing reality -- the other two being faith and science. Mysticism involves "...inward perception of the mind, internal illumination, or special revelation..." 7

Myth: A traditional story that is not literally true, but which generally portrays fundamental spiritual and religious truths. Most cultures and religions of the world have a creation myth, for example. Most, or all, do not represent reality. But many contain much wisdom.

Naturalism: The belief that phenomena in the universe are explained by natural laws, and that there are no supernatural forces at work.

Naturalistic Evolution: The belief that new species of animals develop from existing species over a very long interval of time, in response to purely natural forces and processes -- i.e. without the intervention of a deity.

Near-death Experience: (acronym NDE): An often profoundly moving experience that is sometimes felt by persons who have clinically died and been brought back to life. It often involves the perception of traveling through a tube towards a light. It is often associated with warm feelings of acceptance and love. Some neurologists believe that the NDE does not reflect reality, but is a normal hallucinogenic experience generated by a brain that is being starved of oxygen.

Necromancy: Am attempt to communicate with the spirits of the dead. This is forbidden in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament).

Nenju: Buddhist meditation beads.

Neo-orthodoxy: (a.k.a. Barthianism) A movement within Christianity, which was a reaction against liberalism, and based on the leadership of Karl Barth (1886-1968). He taught that humans were "so far transcendent above man that there could be no communication between man and God." God cannot be described in human language. Humans can only communicate with God through the Bible, in spite of its human origins. Barth accepted the theory of evolution and higher criticism.

Neopagan: (a.k.a. Neo-pagan, Pagan): A person who follows a religion, which is reconstructed from, or based upon, a ancient Pagan religion. e.g. the Druidic religion is based on the faith and practices of the ancient Celtic professional class; followers of Asatru adhere to the ancient, pre-Christian Norse religion; Wiccans trace their roots back to the pre-Christian era in Europe. Other Neo-pagans follow Roman, Greek, Egyptian and other traditions. No Neopagan tradition recognizes an all-evil deity similar to the Christian and Islamic Satan. Neopagans respect other religions and the right of people to follow the faith of their choice. Conservative usage: a form of Satanism. Neopagans hate Christianity.

Neo-Pentecostalism: A synonym for the Charismatic movement.

New Age: Although it is often referred to as a religion, the New Age is in reality an almost completely decentralized and unorganized spiritual movement. It is composed of metaphysical bookstores, seminar leaders, authors, teachers and user/believers of a variety of techniques, such as channeling, past life regressions, pyramid science, crystal power, etc. It is a free-flowing spiritual movement -- a network of believers and practitioners -- where book publishers take the place of a central organization; seminars, conventions, books and informal groups replace of sermons and religious services. Conservative usage: closely coordinated groups including occultists, Wiccans, Satanists, astrologers, channelers, spiritists, etc.

New Jerusalem: A holy city, described in Revelation 21:1-2, descending to earth 1000 years after the battle of Armageddon.

Nilhilist: One who rejects almost every type of assertion about the nature of the universe. Usually attributes no significance to humankind or to any meaning for existence.

Nirvana: This is a Buddhist term which means a state of mind where all suffering and dissonant emotions which give rise to suffering have ceased and one is released from samsara -- the endless cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth.

Normative Ethics: a study into ultimate values and how people should live their lives.

Normative principle: The belief, held by Lutherans and Anglicans that whatever is not specifically forbidden in the Bible is allowed in the church's practice, worship and organization.

Numerology: The use of numerical analysis to uncover hidden knowledge. One of the most famous examples of numerology involves the reference to the number of the beast -- 666 -- in Revelation 13:18.

Occult: There is no generally accepted meaning for this term. The term has been used to refer to such unrelated topics as astrology, palm reading, the Masonic Order, Satanism, tarot card reading, New Age Spirituality and Wicca. Some definitions include: A group of mostly unrelated spiritual and/or magical activities, the detailed knowledge of which is kept secret from the general public.
A set of mostly unrelated divination and/or spiritual practices or activities which are not part of a person's faith or of any large world religion.
An activity, which involves elements of divination, evil sorcery, magic and/or supernaturally gained concrete experiences or truths.

Conservative usage: Satanism the core element of the occult; most of the remaining occult groups are either forms of Satanism or are recruiting groups for Satanism. All Occultic groups are anti-Christian. Rituals are based on demonic powers and fakery. Heavy metal rock music, fantasy role games etc. are often considered occult pastimes .

Old Catholic Church: This is a Christian denomination, which split from the Roman Catholic Church in 1723 because of the Vatican's condemnation of Jansenism and its refusal to allow the democratic selection of an archbishop. Other Roman Catholics joined in 1870 in protest to the decree of papal infallibility. They allow their priests to marry.

Oleh: A Jewish term referring to a Jew who is immigrating into Israel.

Olim: Plural form of "Oleh."

Omnipotence: The concept that God has infinite power; he is able to do anything that he wishes.

Omnipresence: The concept that God is in all places at all times.

Omniscience: The concept that god is in possession of all knowledge.

Oneness Pentecostalism (a.k.a. Jesus Only): A movement within Pentecostalism, which rejects the Trinity and adopts a belief system similar to Monarchianism. They believe that one must be baptized in the name of Jesus only in order to be saved. If one does not speak in tongues, then they have not been saved.

Opus Dei: From a Latin phrase meaning "the work of God." The informal name of The Personal Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei. It is a very conservative Roman Catholic lay organization organized in 1928, whose members have a strong dedication to the Vatican.

Original Sin: "Fallen man's natural sinfulness, the hereditary depravity and corruption of human nature because of Adam's fall." 1 That is, Adam and Eve's transgression when they ate of the forbidden fruit opened a gulf between God and humanity. Pollution from that sin has been inherited by all of Adam and Eve's descendents to the present day.

Orthodox: In a religious sense: When written in lower case, it generally means a traditional or historical belief.
When written in upper case, it generally refers to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Orthodox, Eastern: One of the major divisions within Christianity (the others being Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism and Protestantism). It consists of 15 autocephalous churches. Each is headed by a bishop; most are related to a specific country, as in Serbian, Russian and Greek Orthodox. The Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches had been drifting apart in belief, practice and ritual for centuries before they formally split in 1054 CE. Each now regards themselves to be the only true Christian church.

Ouija Board: A game using a board which is marked with letters, numbers and the words "yes" and "no." A pointer on a raised platform selects a character or word. One or two players place their fingers on the platform, which moves -- apparently by magic. Many conservative Christians believe that this game is profoundly evil and dangerous and that the pointer is moved by demonic forces. Scientists who have studied the physics of the board have generally concluded that the pointer is unconsciously moved by the players.

Out-of-body Experience: (acronym OBE): See Near-death experience

Paedobaptism: Baptism of infants.

Pagan: This word has many unrelated meanings. Some definitions are: Wiccans and other Neopagans sometimes use Pagan as a synonym for Neopagan.
Religious and social conservatives often use the term as a general-purpose "snarl" word to refer to cultures and religions very different from the speaker's.
a person who is neither Christian, a Muslim nor a Jew.
an animistic, spirits-and-essences filled belief system, usually polytheistic. It is based upon direct perception of the forces of nature and usually involves the use of idols, talismans and taboos in order to convey respect for these forces and beings.
The ancient religions of Egypt, Greece, Rome, and other civilizations are often referred to as Pagan religions. Societies surrounding the ancient Israelites are often referred to as Pagan. 1

Pagoda: A religious building, especially a multistory Buddhist tower in the far east, erected as a memorial or shrine.

Palm reading: Attempting to foretell a person's future and reveal their past through an analysis of the lines on a person's hand. Fortune tellers generally have great confidence in this technique. Many conservative Christians consider it a dangerous form of divination forbidden in the Bible.

Panentheism, Panentheist: Like Pantheism, Panentheism includes the belief that God is in all. The belief that the entire universe - substances, forces and laws -- is God - the universe is God's body. In addition, God is seen as transcending the universe. This belief is seen in Process Theology and in some components of New Age belief).

Pantheism, Pantheist: From the Greek words "pan" (all) and "theos" (God). God is all. The belief that every existing entity (humans, animals, etc.) together, is a part of God. They do not view God as having a personality, the ability to make decisions, to interact with humans, etc.

Parousa: The second coming when many Christians expect Jesus Christ to return to earth. This is a major focus of most conservative Christians.

Parthenogenesis: Virgin birth.

Partial life: This is a Jewish term to refer to the status of a fetus. In Jewish law, a fetus normally becomes a full human person when its head emerges from the birth canal. Before that event, the fetus is considered of lesser importance than a full human being. The same term has many other meanings in biology and manufacturing.

Particular Redemption: This is the third of The Five Points of Calvinism: the belief that Jesus did not die to save all humans. He died only for the sake of specific sins of those who are saved. Sometimes called "Limited atonement."

Passover: This is the most important feast of the Jewish calendar, celebrated at the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. The name "Passover" was derived from the actions of the angel of death as described in the book of Exodus. The angel "passed over" the homes of the Jews, which were marked with the blood obtained from a ritual animal sacrifice. The same angel murdered the first-born son and first-born animals of every Egyptian family whose doorway was not so marked.

Past life regression: A therapeutic technique in which the patient is urged to imagine going back in time, past their birth, into a former lifetime. It is a suggestive treatment method that can easily generate memories of events that never happened without either the patient or therapist being aware of the process.

Peccability: The concept that Jesus Christ could have sinned if he had wanted to.

Pedobaptism: The practice of baptising an infant. Most conservative Protestant denominations defer baptism until later in life when a person becomes born again.

Pelagianism: A concept proposed by Pelagious (circa 356 to circa 418) who denied the existence of original sin. He taught that people are morally neutral; they can fall into habits of sin and can overcome sin through mental effort. His beliefs were declared heretical by the Christian movement.

Penance: A Roman Catholic sacrament in which sins are forgiven by a priest.

Pentacle: a five pointed star inside a circle -- most commonly used by Wiccans and other Neopagans. Some Satanists invert the pentacle so that one point is downwards and two upwards; they often add a goat's head to the inverted pentacle.

Pentagram: a five pointed star. Wiccans and other Neopagans are the main North American groups who use a pentagram as a religious symbol. They orient the star with one point upwards, two downwards. The points of the star are often interpreted to refer to earth, air, water, fire and spirit. Satanists, who are numerically much smaller group than Wiccans, sometimes use an inverted pentagram.

Pentateuch: See Torah

Pentecost: In Christianity, a holy day celebrated 49 days after Easter Sunday. It recalls the visitation of the Holy Spirit to 120 Christians 50 days after Jesus' resurrection. They spoke in tongues this is usually regarded as the date of the birth of the Christian church.
In Judaism, a festival which was called "Pentecost," because it was observed 50 days after Passover. (The Greek word for 50th day is "pentecoste.")

Pentecostals: those Christian individuals, churches and denominations who believe in the Holy Spirit Baptism, a second manifestation of the power God of which follows an individual's conversion to Christianity. It is evidenced by glossolilia, or "speaking in tongues". Services are highly emotional. There are about 50 Pentecostal denominations in North America, including the Assemblies of God, Church of God in Christ, Association of Vineyard Churches, the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship, United Pentecostal Church International, Church of God in Christ and the Pentecostal World Conference. This is the fastest growing family of denominations in Christianity. Its roots can be traced to the National Holiness Movement, which came into being after the Civil War, and to the Baptist, Methodist denominations. Most denominations allow women to become at least junior pastors. Jim Bakker, Benny Hinn, Jimmy Swaggart and Pat Robinson are among the most famous Pentecostal leaders. BeliefNet estimated that there are about 24 million Pentecostal followers in the U.S. in early 2001.

Perfectionism: The belief that a person can attain a state of sinlesslessness.

Perseverance of the Saints: This is the fifth of the five points of Calvinism: It is the belief that whoever is saved and will remain saved forever. "Once saved, always saved."

Pluralism: In a religious sense, the term has two different meanings: The belief that multiple religions or secular world views are legitimate and valid. Each is true when viewed from within its own culture.
A recognition that religious diversity exists in a country.

Plurality: In a religious sense: A situation in which many different religions or world views exist in a country.

Pneumatology: The theological study of the Holy Spirit -- one personality within the Christian Trinity.

Progrom: Christian attacks on Jews, generally in Europe and Russia. Unlike the Holocaust, they were not systematic. They lasted for centuries.

Polemics: A systematic defense of a religious belief system from attacks from within the same religion. See Apologetics.

Polytheist: one who believes in the existence of more than one deity. A polytheist often believes in both Gods and Goddesses. Often confused with "henotheist."

Postmillennialism: (aka Post-millennialism): The belief that we are now living in the Millennium period. After this is over, Jesus will return to earth and conduct the final judgment. This was the near universal belief system of Protestants during the 17th and 18th century. It has since been replaced by Pre-millennialism among conservative Christians.

Post Modernism: (aka Postmodernism): A belief that there are no absolute social/religious/cultural truths. Relative truths exist, but they are only valid for a given group at a given time. Other traditions, religions, eras, races, genders, cultures, and groups believe/believed in other, probably conflicting, truths All of these alternate "truths" are valid, at least to the group that follows them. Postmodernism has been adopted by some liberal Christians, but is regarded as a serious error by conservative Christians.

Prayer: The act of attempting to verbally communicate with the supernatural. It is found in almost all the religions of the world. It is sometimes communal, as during a church service; it is sometimes done in private. Its purpose within Christianity is to assess the will of God for one's life, to praise God, to give thanks to God, to repent of sinful behavior, to ask forgiveness, to seek a favor from God, and (occasionally) to ask God to curse an opponent. Prayer is found in almost all religions.

Predestination: This is a controversial doctrine promoted by John Calvin and other theologians. God has divided humanity into two groups: a small percentage of people whom God will save and who will attain heaven. God has decided to not save a much larger group; they will spend eternity being tortured without mercy in Hell. Only after God chooses an individual can they understand and accept salvation.

Premillennialism: a belief that the moral condition of the world is degenerating, that a period of great suffering will occur in the near future, that "born again" believers will rise from the earth to be with Jesus, and that Jesus Christ will establish himself as king and start a 1,000 year period of peace. Originally a Christian heresy in the early church, this belief is now promoted by most Evangelical Christians.

Presuppositionalism: a conservative Christian belief that accepts on faith that God exists and that the Bible is true. No attempt is made to prove these beliefs logically or from evidence. Leading proponents of presuppositional apologetics include Greg Bahsen, John Frame, Abraham Kuyper, and Cornelius Van Til.

Preterism: A Christian belief system in which some or all of the end-time events specified in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) are believed to have already been fulfilled. They were accomplished in the past, particularly during the Roman-Jewish war of 66 to 73 CE.

Preterist: A Christian who believes in Preterism.

Priesthood of all believers: The belief that saved individuals can have access to God directly, without the need for a professional priesthood to act as intermediaries.

Process Theology: A view of God, which is based on the writings of Alfred North Whitehead. The traditional view of a immutable, omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent deity is replaced by a God is who is in process. He is constantly changing, learning, and evolving along with humanity. God affects history indirectly through gentle persuasion and not directly by coercion. He does not intrude directly in human activities; he does not violate the laws of nature by creating a miracle. Rather, "God gently persuades all entities towards this perfection by providing each of them with a glimpse of the divine vision of a better future. And yet all entities retain the freedom to depart from that vision." 2

Proof-text: A Bible verse or passage in the Bible, which clearly and directly answers a specific question.

Promise Keepers: A conservative Christian men's movement founded in 1990 by Bill McCartney. It encourages men to accept more responsibilities for their personal behavior and for their family roles. It is strongly opposed to racism. They promote a family structure in which men take a leadership role in families. They oppose equal rights for gays and lesbians.

Prophecy: The foretelling of the future through a direct revelation from God.

Protestantism: This word has many overlapping definitions: A grouping of thousands of Christian denominations that trace their history back to the Protestant Reformation, and the split with the Roman Catholic church over the authority of the pope, the grounds for salvation, the status of the Bible, and the priesthood of all believers.
A Christian denomination that is not Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or the Anglican Communion. This is the definition that we generally use on our web site.
A Christian denomination that is neither Roman Catholic nor Eastern Orthodox.

Protocols of the Elders of Zion: A document forged by the Russian Secret Police in the early 20th century. It was based on an earlier French novel, and was promoted as evidence of an international Jewish conspiracy to rule the world. It is still circulated by some rabidly antisemitic groups.

Pure: A term used by conservative Christians to refer to a teen or young adult who has not become sexually active before marriage. Much of the public who are not conservative Christians regard sexual activity within a committed relationship prior to marriage to be a moral decision, which makes neither partner less pure; they consider the term to be offensive.

Pure Land: A Buddhist term for a Land of Ultimate Bliss into which a person can be reborn after death and in which they can seek enlightenment without being subject to retrogression (rebirth on earth or in a lower realm).

Purgatory: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that almost everyone who is not sent to hell at death will go to this place and/or state. They will be purified through punishment for an interval of time before going to heaven. Belief in Purgatory was never accepted by the Orthodox Churches; it has been rejected by the Protestant Churches.

Pyramid power: The concept that objects in the shape of the Egyptian pyramids can concentrate power, preserve materials or heal. We have never seen any scientific studies, which have supported this belief.

Qabalah, Qabbalah: Alternate spellings for Cabbalah.

Qibla: This is an Islamic term for the direction from the Muslim's current position on earth to the Kabbah in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. This is computed along the shorter of the two great circle routes between the Muslim's current position and the Kabbah. Muslims are expected to pray five times a day with facing Qibla. A Windows program for calculating Qibla 1 and a mathematical formula 2 is available.

Quaker: The informal name for the Society of Friends faith group.

Quartodecimanism: The celebration of Easter on the fourteenth of Nisan according to the Jewish lunar calendar -- regardless of what day of the week on which it occurred. The Council of Nicea in 325 CE decided to observe the crucifixion on a Friday and the resurrection on the following Sunday.

Quest for the Historical Jesus: This is a series of attempts over the last few centuries to analyze the books in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) and other historical writings of the early Christian movement in order to get a greater understanding of the birth, life, personality, religion and teachings of Yeshua ben Nazareth. Inherent in this search is a rejection of the beliefs that God inspired the authors of the Christian Scriptures and that their writings are inerrant. The quest is mainly an activity of religious liberals and non-theists.

Qur'an: The name of the holy book, inspired by God, that Muslims, (followers of Islam) believe to be inerrant. An alternate, but less desirable spelling is "Koran."

Rapture: (a.k.a. the secret rapture) From the Latin "rapio" which means to snatch. The belief held by many conservative Christians that Christ will soon appear in the sky and that all of saved individuals, both living and dead, will rise to meet him.

Rastafarianism: A new religious movement centered among persons of African origin in Jamaica and the U.S. They revere the late Emperor Selassie of Ethiopia (1892-1975), as the Elect of God and savior of the black race. They regard black people to be the reincarnation of Israel in the Bible.

Rationalism: A movement in the 18th century Protestantism that abandoned the idea of Biblical inerrancy and adopted the belief that the Bible can be analyzed as a historical document. Some Rationalists assert that the existence of some form of deity can be proven by reason. Others see Rationalism and Atheism as synonyms.

Real Presence: The belief that Jesus' body and blood are actually present in or with the bread and wine at the Eucharist. Roman Catholicism teaches the presence by through its belief in transubstantiation. Martin Luther taught it through his belief in consubstantiation.

Rebirthing: A therapy in which the patient imagines being age-regressed back until they are a fetus. They then reenact the process of childbirth. It is supposed to cure emotional problems in adulthood.

Redaction criticism: A method of analyzing those portions of the Bible which appear to have been created by an editing process in which redactors (editors, compilers) have combined various source document into the form that we see in the Bible. The Gospel of Luke, for example, is regarded by most liberal theologians as being compiled from the Gospel of Q, the Gospel of Mark, and some independent oral or written material. Through redaction criticism, the theological goals and purposes of the redactors can be inferred. Conservative Christians generally have a dim view of this technique because it impacts on their belief of the inerrancy of the Bible.

Rede: Old English word for a law or rule. The Wiccan Rede is the main behavioral rule for Wiccans. In modern English it can be translated as "As long as it harm non, do what you wish."

Redemption: A general term meaning to set loose or release a person from bondage. In Christianity, it generally refers to the deliverance of believers from a state of sin, which is possible because of the death of Jesus on the cross.

Reflexology: A holistic, alternative, health treatment, which associates each organ in the body with a spot on the individual's foot or hand. Massage of the foot or hand is then believed to unblock the body's energy and heal the organ. Medical researchers generally discount any mechanism linking points on the feet and hand to internal organs.

Reformation: A Christian movement, which was started by Martin Luther in the early 16th century as an attempt to reform Roman Catholicism. It was joined by Zwingli, Bucer, Calvin and others, and resulted in a complete break with Catholicism. Millions of people died during the resulting religious wars. The reformation led to the fracturing of Christianity into approximately 35,000 faith groups.

Reformed theology: A system of religious belief based on the writings and beliefs of Calvin.

Regeneration: The process by which God is believed to work on a born-again person, whereby her/his soul is renewed and becomes a new creation.

Reincarnation: the belief that when a person dies, their soul is reborn into another living human. In North America, belief in reincarnation is found among Buddhists, Hindus, followers of the New Age, and most Neopagans. It was a common belief in early Christianity. Often confused with the Hindu concept of the Transmigration of the Soul.

Relativist: one who is convinced that religious disagreements are neither productive nor important. Relativists tend to emphasize areas of harmony among religions, minimizing or ignoring their differences.

Religion: "Any specific system of belief about deity, often involving rituals, a code of ethics, and a philosophy of life." Thus we would include Agnosticism, Atheism, conservative Christianity, Islam, Judaism, liberal Christianity, Native American Spirituality, Wicca and other Neopagan traditions as religions.

Religious Right: A group of very conservative, politically active organizations within Fundamentalist Christianity, which is attempting to implement conservative changes to society and its laws. The American Family Association, Christian Coalition, Concerned Women for America, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family form part of the religious right. Their main areas of activity are in the fields of abortion, homosexual rights, same-sex marriage, physician assisted suicide, and prayer in the public school.

Restorationism: The belief that the true Christian church died out in the early 2nd Century CE, and was restored by Joseph Smith when he established the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, Mormon). This movement currently consists of almost 100 denominations, many centered in Utah and Missouri.

Resurrection: The belief that Jesus died, and later returned to life after three days. This is not to be confused with the resuscitation of Jesus, as taught in Islam. Muslims believe that Jesus did not actually die, but perhaps entered into a coma and later returned to consciousness.

Retrogression: A Buddhist term that refers to one's rebirth after death on earth or one of the lower realms.

Revelation: The last book in the Bible, which has been interpreted in different ways.
The gift of knowledge that God gives to humanity through the Bible and by other means.

Rhema: A Greek word that means any spoken word having a definite meaning. Romans 10:8 uses "rhema" in place of the more common word "logos."

Righteous among nations: A term used to refer to non-Jews who helped save Jews from the Nazi Holocaust.

Ritual: Speech, action, singing, and other activities which often contain a symbolic meaning, performed in a specific order - typically during a religious service. Rite is often considered a synonym to ritual.

Ritual Abuse: Involuntary psychological, physical, sexual or spiritual maltreatment, associated with a (normally religious) ritual. There is typically one accidental death per year in North America as a result of ritual abuse in the form of a conservative Christian exorcisms. Satanists were widely perceived during the 1980's and early 1990's as perpetrating widespread Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) involving the torture, murder and even eating of human sacrifices. After two decades without any evidence of its existence, most investigators regard SRA as non-existent.

Role Playing Games: See Fantasy Role Playing Games

Roman Catholicism: This is the largest of the four branches of Christianity; the others being the Anglican Communion, Protestant denominations and Eastern Orthodox churches. During the fourth century CE, the branch of the early Christianity, which was founded by Paul, became the official religion of the Roman Empire. The authority of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, gradually increased, as Christian missionaries spread out through western and northern Europe. Starting in the 15th century, Roman Catholicism spread to the Americas. The church lost its religious monopoly in Western Europe at the time of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, but remains today the largest single Christian faith group, by far.

Rosary: Prayer beads strung on a thread, used primarily by Roman Catholics.

Rosetta stone: A black basalt stone monument found in Egypt in 1799, which contained the same messages in three different languages: one was ancient Greek, which was known by linguists. The other two were Demontic script and Egyptian hieroglyphics. Over time, the stone enabled linguists to understand both of the latter languages. 1

RPG: See Fantasy Role Playing Games

Rupa: A Hindu and Buddhist term, which generally refers to religious statutes.

Rune: (Derived from an early Anglo-Saxon word "runa" meaning "secret" or "mystery.") It was originally a pictorial alphabet in Northern Italy, circa 500 BCE. Its use later spread across Europe. There are a number of different sets of runes, each derived from a specific alphabet, such as the Elder Futhrk, Saxon Futhork and Norse Younger Futhark. The word "rune" also refers to a small piece of material marked with a rune symbol. The latter are used in divination by many Wiccans, other Neopagans and New Agers. Their use is generally condemned by conservative Christians as a practice forbidden by the Bible.

Russelites: An early name for the bible students who later became the Jehovah's Witnesses in 1931. The name is derived from their founder, Charles Taze Russell..

Sabbat: A seasonal day of celebration observed by Wiccans and other Neopagans. There are eight each year. The two solstices and two equinoxes are minor Sabbats. Between each solstice and equinox is a major Sabbat. Samhain (Oct. 31), Imbolc (Feb. 2), Beltane (May 1), and Lammas (Aug. 1) are among the most common names used.

Sabbatarianism: The belief that the Sabbath must be observed from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. Often, Jewish dietary laws and seasonal days of service are also observed.

Sabbath: Originally Saturday: a day of rest and holiness; observed by Jews and a minority of Christian denominations. Most Christian groups observe Sunday as the Sabbath.

Sabellianism: Synonym for Modalism

Sacraments: A formal church ritual frequently described as an outward and visible sign of an internal and spiritual grace. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches recognize seven sacraments, popularly known as: Baptism, Confirmation, Mass, Penance, Anointing the dying, Ordination and Marriage. Most Protestant denominations only recognize two: Baptism and Communion. The Society of Friends (Quakers) and the Salvation Army do not use sacraments.

Sadducees: A small group of priests who controlled the temple at Jerusalem. One of about two dozen Jewish religious groups during the 1st century CE. They rejected belief in immortality.

Saint: In Roman Catholicism, a person of great spirituality who has died, is responsible for at least three miracles, and who has been elevated to the sainthood by the church.
In Protestantism, a saint is one of the ancient leaders of the church, like St. Peter and St. Paul.
In Evangelical Christianity, all saved Christians are saints.

Sajdah: (Full name: As-sajdah) This is the act of prostration by a Muslim during which seven parts of the body are to touch the ground: the forehead, palms, knees and big toes.

Salat: A Muslim prayer. Islam expects each Muslim, where possible, to perform the salat prayer five times a day. It is the second of the Five Pillars of Islam. This is recited while orienting one's body towards Mecca. 4 It is done at specified times in the morning, at noon, mid-afternoon, after sunset and just before sleeping. 5

Salvation: The remission of sins and healing of the gulf between an individual and God. Various passages in the Christian Scriptures imply that salvation is achieved either by good deeds or by belief in Jesus' resurrection or belief that Jesus is the Son of God, or baptism, or by avoiding certain behaviors, or some combination of the preceding. Christian faith groups have defined the criteria for salvation in very different ways. For example: According to common Evangelical Christian belief, when Adam disobeyed God's commandment in the Garden of Eden, he let sin into the world. Every human since Adam's time is born separated from God because of Adam's sin. Everyone is headed towards Hell after death. But a person can be reconciled to God (aka be saved or attain salvation) by repenting of their sins and trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior. Their destination after death is then Heaven.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that children and adults incapable of reason are saved by the Sacrament of Baptism. Salvation among mentally competent adults begins with God's grace which "touches a sinner's heart and calls him to repentance." The individual is then disposed for salvation from sin. The next step is justification which includes remission of sins and a "renewal of the inner man....This change happens either by reason of a perfect act of charity elicited by a well disposed sinner or by virtue of the Sacrament either of Baptism or of Penance."

Samahdi: In Buddhism, a type of insight achieved through meditation or wisdom.

Samhain: A major sabbat -- a seasonal day of celebration -- observed by Wiccans and other Neopagans on OCT-31.

Samsara: A Buddhist term referring to the endless cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth. The goal of a Buddhist is to achieve enlightenment and the escape from samsara.

Sanctification: A process by which a Christian grows spiritually after having been justified.

Snahedrin: A council of Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. They formed an advisory board to the Roman governor.

Santeria: A syncretistic religion, which combined Roman Catholicism with Pagan religions from Western Africa.

Satan: (a.k.a. the Devil, Lucifer): In the older parts of the Hebrew Scriptures, he is described as a type of District Attorney in God's court. In the New Testament, he is described as a supernatural being who is profoundly evil and who seeks to destroy people's lives. The religion of Islam also recognizes the existence of Satan. Many Christians believe that followers of Wicca and other Neopagan religions worship Satan. However, the latter not recognize any all-evil deity called by the name of Satan or by any other name.

Satanism: A religion based upon Satan, either as a form of deity or as a principle. Adherents follow simple rules of behavior: give kindness to those who deserve it; indulge in your lusts and wants; return vengeance rather than turning the other cheek. With some justification, Satanism has been called the religion of the U.S. corporate boardroom. Although their beliefs are different from Christianity, Satanists are not particularly anti-Christian any more than they are anti-Hindu or anti-Buddhist. However, some have included references opposing Wicca in their rituals. Most Satanists are either teenage dabblers, or members of the Church of Satan, Temple of Set or Church of Satanic Liberation. Their total membership in North America is unknown, but probably numbers about 10,000. Membership is believed to be decreasing.

Evangelical usage: a violently anti-Christian religion worshipping Satan. Some are teenage dabblers; others are religious Satanists belonging to an established church or temple; others are mass murderers; still others form a secret, underground international, multi-generational conspiracy which engages in Satanic Ritual Abuse and human sacrifices - usually of infants or children. Membership rapidly rising.

Fundamentalist usage: Any non-Christian faith group, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism is Satanic. By this definition, two out of three people in the world are Satanists..

Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA): psychological, sexual, and/or physical assault committed by two or more people whose primary motive is to fulfill a prescribed religious ritual involving the worship of the Christian devil. A large percentage of the population (90% in Utah) believe that SRA is widespread. Numerous government studies into SRA have revealed it to be essentially non-existent.

Scapegoat: Originally a religious term. Ancient Israelite priests would transfer the sins of the community to a goat that would then be driven into the desert. The term is currently used to refer to a person or group who is unjustly accused of a crime or improper behavior.

Schism: From the Greek word "schisma" - a rent or tear. A division of a faith group into two or more smaller groups. One result of the Protestant Reformation was a series of schisms leading to the approximately 35,000 present-day Protestant faith groups.

Schism, great: The formal split between the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic churches in 1054 CE. Also used to refer to the interval from 1378 to 1417 CE when as many as three individuals simultaneously claimed to be pope.

Scripture: In Christianity, this is the Bible. It is composed of the 39 books of the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament) and the 27 books of the Christian Scriptures (a.k.a. New Testament). Some denominations add the books of the Apocrypha.

Seance: A gathering of individuals who attempt to communicate with the spirits of the dead, generally with the help of a medium.

Second coming: The return of Jesus Christ to earth.

Second probation: The belief that after death, non-believers will be given a second chance to be saved by accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Sect: a small religious group that has recently split away from an established religion. The early Jewish Christian group in Jerusalem circa 30 CE would have been considered sects within Judaism at the time.

Secular: an item that is free of religion.

Secularization: A process in which religious consciousness, activities, and institutions lose social significance

Security, eternal: The concept that once a person is saved, that they cannot lose their salvation. Various Christian faith groups have different beliefs on this topic.

Selah: A biblical term used 71 times by itself in the Psalms. It invites the reader to pause and to meditate or reflect on the message. One example is Psalms 3:2: "Many there be which say of my soul, there is no help for him in God. Selah."

Septuagint: A Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, made in Egypt, perhaps in the third century BCE. This was the version known to, and used, by the early Christians.

Serpent Seed doctrine: The belief that Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden was to engage in sexual intercourse with the serpent. Together, they produced Cain. Various faith groups identify the descendents of Cain in various ways: They are: "Jews according to the Christian Identity Movement, Communists/Atheists according to the Unification Church, Whites according to the Nation of Yahweh, and the lost according to William Branham." 8

Sexual Orientation: There are two quite different meanings to this term: Gays, lesbians, sociologists, psychologists, researchers into human sexuality, members of liberal and some mainline faith groups normally define this as: A measure of a person's feelings of sexual attraction to males and females. There are three sexual orientations, all of which are normal, natural, and fixed in adults: heterosexuals are attracted to the opposite gender only
homosexuals are attracted to the same gender only
bisexuals are attracted to both men and women; not necessarily to the same degree
Evangelical Christians and some mainline faith groups sometimes define the term more broadly: A measure of a person's feelings of sexual attraction to men and women, animals, and children. Some sexual orientations are heterosexuality, homosexuality, bestiality, and pedophilia. Only the first is normal and natural. Many conservative Christians do not acknowledge the existence of bisexuals, believing people to be either heterosexual or homosexual. They often use the term "sexual preference" in place of "sexual orientation," thus implying that orientation is a choice.

Shamanism: This is a "system of religious and medical beliefs and practices that centers on the shaman, a specific type of magico-religious practitioner...who specializes in contacting and controlling the supernatural." 1 Usually male, his main task was healing of diseases. Shamanism was originally centered in central Asia and Siberia.

Sharia: A code of Islamic law. In some cases, Sharia provides for very severe punishment -- even execution -- for transgressions that are seen as minor in the West.

Sheep stealing: The practice of some Christian faith groups who attempt to convert other Christians to membership in their denomination.

Shema: A Jewish prayer, customarily repeated morning, evening and just before going to sleep. It begins: "Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One." See Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Shepherding: An experienced Christian, a shepherd, is selected to supervise a new convert. In some denominations, the senior person closely controls almost every aspect of the convert's life. This has the potential to result in spiritual abuse.

Shinto: This is the indigenous religion of Japan. Starting about 500 BCE (or earlier) it was originally "an amorphous mix of nature worship, fertility cults, divination techniques, hero worship, and shamanism." 2 It became the state religion of the country. Church and state were separated just after World War II.

Shunning: (a.k.a. Disfellowshipping): This is a method of disciplining or punishing a member who strays from the group's expected behavior or belief. Other members --often including friends and family -- are expected to have no contact with the shunned individual. In a high intensity faith group where a believer's entire support network is composed of fellow members, this can have disastrous consequences; some have been moved to commit suicide.

Sikhism: Although religious scholars generally view Sikhism as a blend of Hinduism and Islam, most Sikhs believe that their religion is unique, originating from a series of ten gurus, starting with Guru Nanak. Sikhs believe in a single deity, and reject class differences. There are about 18 million Sikhs in the world; most are concentrated in the Punjab region in northwest India.

Sin: In the Bible, the Hebrew and Greek words, which are translated as, sin mean failing to hit the target or missing the mark. Most conservative Christians believe that, since God is pure and just, that a person who sins just once cannot come into God's presence. Thus the need for salvation.

Six directions: A Buddhist collection of paths: north, south, east, west, up and down. Wiccan, other Neopagan traditions, Native American spirituality and other Aboriginal religions recognize variations of this -- sometimes including center, and the four points on the compass that lie between the cardinal directions.

Skandas: In Buddhism, the five principal components of the personality: form, sensation, perception, impulse, and consciousness.

Social Darwinism: An attempt to adapt Charles Darwin natural selection principles to human society, thus producing a culture that embraces the "survival of the fittest." This is based on a misunderstanding of Darwin's theories. Natural selection, when applied to a society, also includes such factors as organizational ability, talent to inspire others, creativity, perseverance, mental flexibility, etc., in addition to physical fitness.

Solstice: The date and time when the sun reaches its northernmost or southernmost extreme. On the summer solstice, the interval of daylight is at its maximum and the nighttime interval minimum for the year. The reverse occurs at the winter solstice. The solstices happen about June 21 and December 21. Many religious holy days are synchronized to the equinoxes. Wiccans, other Neopagans, Native Americans and followers of many aboriginal religions worldwide celebrate the solstices.

Sorcery: There are two quite different meanings to this term: the use of black magic to kill, injure, harm, dominate, manipulate or control other people. This is the primary meaning.

the (usually) benign use of magical powers to influence events or people.

Soteriology: The study of salvation.

Soul: From the Greek word "psuche" -- breath. This word has a variety of meanings, including: the seat of personality, the individual or person themselves, the immaterial component of a human, etc. Dichotomists believe that a person is composed of a body and soul; Trichotomists believe that a person consists of a body, soul, and spirit. Both argue their cases from biblical passages.

Soul Freedom: the concept that an individual has the right and privilege to interpret Scripture for themselves in the context of their religious community, using the best available scholarship. Robert Bellah wrote, in 1997: "What was so important about the Baptists was the absolute centrality of religious freedom of the sacredness of individual conscience in matters of religious beliefs."

Soul sleep: The belief that, after death, one's soul sleeps until the day of resurrection.

Spell: a prayer, or verbal direction of magickal energies toward the accomplishment of some goal. 7 Wiccans and other Pagans often use spells, but are not permitted to use them to dominate, manipulate, control or harm another person. For example, a Wiccan is not permitted to cast a love spell to motivate another person to feel attraction towards them.

Spiritism: See necromancy.

Spiritualism: See necromancy.

Spirituality: This term is defined quite differently by monotheists, polytheists, humanists, followers of new age, Native Americans, etc. A common meaning is "devotion to metaphysical matters, as opposed to worldly things." Another is "Activities which renew, lift up, comfort, heal and inspire both ourselves and those with whom we interact."

Stereotype: A process of generalization by which an entire group is found to be at fault because of the actions of a few of their members. One example is to blame all homosexuals for child molestation because of the actions of NAMBLA, a homosexual pedophile group that has very few members. The term is sometimes used to refer to the condemnation of an entire group because of events that never happened. One example was the German Nazi government who blamed the loss of World War I on the German Jews -- a very small minority numbering less than 1% of its citizens.

Stigmata: the presence of wounds on a person's body (usually a woman) in the places where Jesus is believed to have been injured at his crucifixion. Wounds usually appear on the palms of the person even though during his crucifixion, Jesus was either pierced through his wrists or his arms were tied to the crossbar.

Subliminal Messages: Visual or audible messages shown in a way that prevents the conscious mind from recognizing them. Visual messages may be flashed on a screen too fast for the person to sense; audible messages may be played at too low a volume to be detected. Controlled tests have shown that they are completely ineffective. Some people still believe that such messages can enter the individual's subconscious mind and motivate them to take certain actions. See also backmasking.

Succubus: A female demon that would visit men at night and engage in sexual activity. This belief was commonly held during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. There were also male demons, called incubi who were believed to visit women.

Sufiism: "Sufism or tasawwuf, as it is called in Arabic, is generally understood by scholars and Sufis to be the inner, mystical, or psycho-spiritual dimension of Islam." Many Muslims reject the concept that Sufism is part of Islam. 6

Supercession: This is the theological concept that, because Judaism did not accept Jesus as their Messiah, God unilaterally terminated his covenants with the Jewish people and transferred them to the followers of Christianity. It relegates Judaism to an inferior position and recognizes Christianity as the 'true' or 'spiritual' Israel. This concept was first developed by Justin Martyr (circa 100 to 165 CE) and Irenaeus of Lyon (circa 130 to 200 CE). It was largely accepted within the church by the 4th century. It has led to a great deal of persecution of Jews by Christians. Conservative Christians still believe in this principle.

Surah: A passage from the Qur'an, the Islamic holy book.

Sutra: A Buddhist scripture.

Swastika: A cross symbol with equal arms bent at a right angle. This is an ancient symbol used by many religions around the world -- e.g. the Hindu religion and Native America Spirituality. It was adopted by the Nazi regime in Germany.

Sweat lodge: A Native American ritual for purification.

Syncretistic Religion: A faith that is created from the merger of concepts from two or more religions. Santeria and Vodun are two examples.

Synod: In Roman Catholicism: any official church meeting.

Among Presbyterian denominations, a religious court between the presbytery and the general assembly.

Systematic theology: The study of God and his relationship with humanity.

Talmud: A body of Jewish literature composed of two parts: The Mishna, which is a rabbinic commentary on the Torah, and the Gemara, a more lengthy commentary.

Tanakh: The Jewish Bible, a.k.a. the Jewish Scriptures. The word Tanakh is derived from the letters of the names of its three components: Torah (a.k.a. Pentateuch), the Books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronony; the Nevi'im (a.k.a. Prophets); and the Ketuvim (Writings).

Taoism: This religion of about 20 million followers was founded by Lao-Tse (604-531 BCE), a contemporary of Confucius, and author of Tao-te-Ching. Taoism started as a combination of psychology and philosophy but evolved into a state religion in 440 CE at that time Lao-Tse became popularly venerated as a deity. Taoism, along with Buddhism and Confucianism, became the three great religions of China. Much of Taoism was destroyed since the Communist victory in 1949; it survives mainly in Taiwan.

Temple: The term used by Buddhists, Hindus and others to refer to their house of worship.

Ten Commandments: A set of 19 different commands and prohibitions, which are intended to govern basic human behavior. Three versions appear in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testaments) at: Exodus 20:2-17, Exodus 34:12-26, and Deuteronomy 5:6-21.

Tetragram , Tetragrammaton: "JHWH," the name of God in the Hebrew language. Often translated as Lord of Jehovah in the Bible. Yahweh is probably a more accurate vocalization. Historically, within Judaism, the name of God was neither spoken nor written.

Textual criticism: A study of biblical text, attempting to identify the words of the original autograph copy and eliminate later forgeries, spelling errors, etc.

Theist: A person who believes in the existence of a personal God who is active in the universe. Sometimes used to include persons who believe in the existence of multiple deities, but who worship only one.

Theistic Evolution: The belief that new species of animals develop from existing species over a very long interval of time, in response to the guidance, supervision, and intervention of a deity.

Theocracy: A government in which the church and state are unified. Such a union is generally has disastrous effects on human rights. This form of government is common among Muslim countries.

Theodicy: From the Greek words "theos" (God) and "dike" (justice). Attempts to harmonize the goodness of God with the existence of evil in the world.

Theology: The study of religion.

Theophany: Eastern Orthodox Christians recall the baptism of Yeshua of Nazareth on this day, JAN-6 according to the Julian calendar. "Theophany" means "to make known" or "to reveal." Eastern Christians believe that Jesus' divinity was reveled at his baptism. The Western church celebrates the Epiphany on JAN-6.

Theosis: (a.k.a. deification, divinization, participation in God) The concept that Christians can become participants in the life of God, while not sharing in God's essence. The precise definition varies among Christian denominations and theologians. This is based, in part, on 2 Peter 1:4: "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature..." 2

Therapeutic Touch: A holistic health practice in which the practitioner moves their hands above the patients body, and balance or release the natural energy of the latter's body. This is said to facilitating healing. A high school student conducted a series of experiments for a science project that proved that therapists cannot measure body energy fields. This appears to destroy the credibility of this therapeutic technique.

Tithe: The practice of donating 10% of one's income to the church. "Triple Tithing" is also used; it consists of 13% of one's income, donated according to a specified schedule.

Tolerance, General: The willingness to grant to other people equal rights and freedom from persecution and oppression, irrespective of their gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, language, nationality, language, ability status, marital status, etc.

Tolerance, Religious: This very important term unfortunately has multiple, very different, meanings. Conservative Christians often believe that it involves the belief: That all religions are the same, and/or
That all religions are equally true, and/or
That all religions are simply different paths to God.
Others define religioustolerance as: Valuing the human right of other people to freely hold religious beliefs, which are different from your own, without oppression or persecution. This is the meaning that we use in this web site.
With such different definitions for the same term, dialog between conservative Christians and others on this topic is almost impossible.
Tongues, speaking in: See glossolilia.

Torah: From the Hebrew word for "teaching" or "law." The Torah, (a.k.a. Pentateuch, or the Law) are the first 5 books of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Most conservative Christians and Jews believe that they were written mainly or entirely by Moses. There is a near consensus among other theologians that they were written and edited by many persons over a period of many centuries.

Total inability: Alternate description of the first of the Five Points of Calvinism: the belief that it is impossible for the ordinary "natural" human to understand the Gospel's message. They are spiritually helpless. First, God must first decide to intervene in the form of the third personality within the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, the person is lost.

Total depravity: This is the first of the Five Points of Calvinism: the belief that as a result of Adam and Eve's disobedience to God -- the Fall of Man -- sin has extended to all parts of every person's being: "his thinking, his emotions and his will."

Touch for health: See Therapeutic Touch.

Touch therapy: See Therapeutic Touch.

Tractarianism: Synonym for Anglo Catholicism.

Tradition: a term used by Neopagans to indicate the group that is being referred to. It is analogous to "denomination" in Christianity.

Traditionalism: The belief that, after death, unsaved people will be tormented for all eternity of time in Hell without hope of mercy or relief. This contrasts with Conditionalism and Annihilationism, which teach that these individuals spend only an interval of time being tortured in Hell; they are then exterminated and cease to exist.

Tradionalism: the concept that deity is remote from the world and the rest of the universe.

Transcendence: Being beyond the limits of all human experience and knowledge.

Transfiguration: In Christianity, this refers to the transfiguration of Jesus as described in three of the gospels: Mark 9:2-13, Matthew 17:1-13, and Luke 9:28-36. Jesus climbed Mount Tabor with three of his disciples, and was joined by Moses and Elija. All three appeared clothed in dazzling white. Luke records how God's voice came from the cloud, saying "This is my chosen Son; listen to him." 1
In the Harry Potter series of books for children, transfiguration refers to the use of magic to change the appearance of an object - e.g. from a toothpick to a needle.
Transmigration of the Soul: The Hindu belief that at death, a person's soul is reborn into another living entity. Often, this is a new human. But if the individual has accumulated a bad balance of Karma, they may return as an animal. This term is often confused with Reincarnation.

Transubstantiation: The belief, held by Catholics, that during the Lord's Supper, the wafer and wine become the actual body and blood of Jesus.

Tribulation: A period of seven years of great misery and death, which is described in Revelation 14:9-16.

Trichotomy: The belief that a person is composed of three parts: body, soul and spirit.

Trickster: Within Native American spirituality, a trickster is a mythical hero who teaches culture, proper behavior and provides sustenance to the tribe.

Trinity: The Christian belief that deity is simultaneously a unity and is composed of three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Extensive debate about the nature of God and of Jesus occurred during the early centuries of the Church until this concept was forced on the church by Constantine.
The Hindu belief that Brahman is simultaneously visualized as a unity, and as a trinity composed of: Brahma the Creator, Vishnu, (Krishna) the Preserver, and Shiva.
The belief among many Neopagans that the Goddess exists as a trinity, composed of Maiden, Mother and Crone, representing energy and sexuality, fertility and wisdom.

Tritheism: The belief in the existence of three deities. This is one form of polytheism. A small minority of Christians believe that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are three different entities.

UFO: See Unidentified Flying Objects.

Unbeliever: a person who does not believe in your particular religion, denomination or religious tradition. Similar to infidel, but less judgmental. Of course if a person of faith group "A" regards a person of faith group "B" as an unbeliever, then "B" would probably also regard "A" as an unbeliever.

Unconditional election: This is the second of the Five Points of Calvinism: the belief that God decided before he created the universe that certain people would be chosen to make knowledgeable about himself. The rest would remain ignorant, be damned, and spend eternity in Hell.

Unidentified Flying Objects: (acronym: UFOs). Objects seen flying in the sky whose source and nature cannot be determined. Much of the public believes that these are advanced space ships, perhaps extraterrestrial. Some conservative Christians have speculated that these ships are piloted by demons. A number of religions have been founded that are based on beliefs that UFOs are piloted by an advanced civilization of creatures who are trying to communicate with humans.

Unipersonality: The belief that Jesus had both a divine and a human nature within his personality.

Unitarian: There are two distinct and unrelated meanings for this term, which are often confused by non-Unitarians: A monotheistic belief, which was widespread in the early Christian movement, that God is a unity, not a trinity. A series of church councils decided that God is a Trinity, composed of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Unitarianism then became a heresy and was suppressed.
A religious movement, the American Unitarian Association (AUA), which featured a lack of dogma, a belief in the inherent goodness of people, and the obligation for each member to seek out and develop his or her own system of beliefs and ethics. In North America, the AUA merged with the Universalist Church to form the Unitarian Universalist Association. They strongly support human rights, personal freedoms and choices.
UUA members have been accused of being anti-Christian. In fact, about 10% of the membership considers themselves to be Christian; the rest are un-Christian but not anti-Christian. All promote the freedom of everyone to follow their own religious beliefs.

Universal atonement: The belief that Jesus died for all humans, and not just for those who are saved.

Universalism: A Christian heresy derived from the Greek word apocatastasis, which means "complete salvation". It is the belief that everyone would eventually reach heaven after death. It was promoted in the 2nd and early 3rd centuries of the Christian church by Clement and Origen. Traditional Christianity has taught that heaven is reserved for a small minority of people, and that the vast majority will go to Hell to be tortured for all eternity without mercy. Many denominations are drifting towards Universalism because an eternity in Hell seem to many people to be incompatible with a loving deity.
A liberal religious group, which merged with the American Unitarian Association to form the Unitarian Universalist Association.
A concept in Judaism that "God created the entire universe as a single entity, that all people were created for a common moral purpose, and that God chose the Jews to convey a moral message to all humanity so that the redemption available to all people through God might occur." 1

Unpardonable sin: Matthew 12:31-32 discusses a sin so serious that a person committing it cannot be pardoned. Unfortunately, the passage is ambiguous, and there have been many conflicting interpretations about what exactly this sin is.

Upanishads: One of the holy texts of the Hindu religion.

Vedas: A group of writings, which form the oldest of Hinduism's sacred scriptures.

Vatican Council: The first Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church was held on 1869 and 1879. its most famous achievement was to declare that some proclamations by the pope on faith and morals are infallible. The second Vatican Council was held on 1962 to 1965, and introduced many liberalizing reforms, although it did not change any fundamental beliefs.

Venial sin: Within the Roman Catholic Church, a minor transgression against God, the church or another human. The consequences of a venial sin can be compensated for through good works.

Virgin birth: The belief, as stated in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, that Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus as a result of the intervention of the Holy Spirit. A common belief among Mormons was that God the Father came to earth and engaged in sexual intercourse with Mary. However, this teaching was never declared part of Mormon doctrine by the church. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Mary remained a virgin for the rest of her life, and had no more children.

Vishnu: One of the Gods in the Hindu trinity; the others are Brahma and Shiva. Krishna is one of eight or nine earthly incarnations of Vishnu. There are many points of similarity between the life of Krishna and Jesus. Some have speculated that many events in Jesus' life are mythical in nature, and were copied from Hinduism.

Vision quest: This is an attempt to make contact with a spirit in order to acquire supernatural powers or protection. It is usually restricted to male youth. They undergo rigorous physical challenges such as exposure to the elements and fasting in order to attain their vision. Quests are common throughout many Aboriginal cultures.

Vodun: A benign religion, which combines elements of African Native spirituality and Roman Catholicism. This religion is probably the most highly misrepresented religion in the world.

Voluntarism: The concept that belief is a matter of the will.

Voodoo: A popular name for a Hollywood-created, imaginary religion patterned partly on the religion of Vodun.

Vulgate: Jerome's (circa 342-420 CE) translation of the Bible from the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into Latin.

Walpurgasnacht: A synonym for Beltane, a Celtic holy day celebrated on APR-30.

Waldenses: An early schismatic group that broke away from the Roman Catholic church. Their history is in doubt; they may have existed as early as the eight century CE. They were viciously persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church from 1209 until 1690. They held many of the beliefs later promoted by Martin Luther and other Protestant reformers.

Warlock: An old-English term for oath breaker. Conservative Christians and the media often refer to male Witches/Wiccans as Warlocks. The term is not used by Witches, Wiccans or other Neopagans.

Watchtower Bible and Tract Society: The organization founded by Charles Taze Russell, which publishes the Watchtower and Awake! magazines, and whose followers are called Jehovah's Witnesses.

Westminster Standards: The Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger Catechism, and the Shorter Catechisms were written by the Westminster Assembly of Divines from 1643 to 1648. They form the theological basis for the Presbyterian and, with some changes, the Congregational denominations. The Baptist Confession of 1689 was largely based on the Westminster standards.

Wicca: a Neo-pagan polytheistic religion with roots in pre-Christian, pre-Celtic Europe. Wiccans follow the Wiccan Rede: "do whatever you wish, as long as you harm nobody, including yourself". Power, manipulation and control of others strictly prohibited; drug usage usually confined to wine. Rare ritual sexual activity is practiced, but only in private between committed adult couples. Wiccans do not proselytize. Most Wiccans are solitary practitioners; some form democratically organized covens, typically of 5 or more people. The minimum age for training or initiation is usually 18. Conservative usage: evil occultic practice based on a lust for power, manipulation and control. Rigid ritual practice; heavy illegal drug usage and sexual activity; organize into covens of 13 members each; practice shape shifting (human to animal). Active recruiters, particularly of young people.

Wiccan: a follower of Wicca

Widdershins: The counter-clockwise direction. The term is often used in describing Neopagan rituals.

Will: One of the basic functions of the human soul; the other is understanding.

Witch: a follower of Witchcraft. It has so many conflicting meanings that it should be used with great care (or preferably never at all) in order to avoid confusion. 17 common meanings are: A Gothic Satanist; a worshiper of Satan who, during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, was believed to use black magic to harm others, by involving the aid of Satan and his demons. They didn't exist

A Wiccan; a follower of Wicca, a benign reconstruction of an ancient European Celtic religion. Wiccans are prohibited from using magic to harm others; they do not believe in the existence of Satan or demons.
A woman of such incredible beauty that she bewitches others.
A woman of incredible ugliness; a hag.
In ancient Native American usage and the Hebrew Scriptures: an evil person who secretly uses evil sorcery (black magic) to intentionally harm others.
In the Christian Scriptures: a criminal who murders people by administering poisons.
A follower of modern-day Religious Satanism, recognizing Satan as a virile pre-Christian, pagan entity.
A wizard who inhabits an alternate world of fantasy and magic, filled with good and evil people with magical powers, flying broomsticks, dragons, talking animals, magical quills, etc. e.g. Harry Potter books.
A person, usually a woman, who was born with supernatural abilities and is capable of performing miracles by waving a wand, wiggling a nose, etc. This is often seen in TV programs, like Bewitched or Charmed.
Followers of a group of Caribbean religions, which combine elements of tribal African religions with Christianity; e.g. Santeria and Vodun.
In some African Aboriginal religions, a person who unknowingly has supernatural powers capable of hurting others. Witch doctors attempt to counteract these evil energies.
An expert; e.g. "She is a witch of a writer."
A person who uses a forked stick or other instrument to locate sources of underground material -- typically water.
A woman who is not submissive to her husband.
A general "snarl" word for a nasty, vicious person, typically female.
A follower of any religion other than Christianity (e.g. of Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Native American Spirituality, etc.).
A magician with unusual knowledge who can apparently perform miracles during ceremonial magic rituals.
Note: The first and second definitions are mutually exclusive; the third and fourth definitions are also mutually exclusive.

Witchcraft: a religion or practice followed by a Witch. It has so many meanings that it should be used with great care (or preferably never at all) in order to avoid confusion.

World Council of Churches: An umbrella group formed in 1948. They promote inter-faith dialog and ecumenical cooperation among mainline and liberal Christian denominations.

Wrath, God's: God's judgment on sinners, fueled by his anger, hatred, revulsion and indignation of sin. In the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) there are many descriptions of mass murders and genocides either created or ordered by God. Author Martyn Lloyd-Jones found that the Hebrew Scriptures contains 20 words which describe God's wrath, and that they are used 580 times. In the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) the topic is discussed in detail in Romans 1:18 and in the Book of Revelation. Author Cairns comments: "...the full power of the wrath of God has never yet been manifested on earth - not in the deluge, or in the destruction of Sodom, or in any other judgment. The full fury of God's anger will be seen when 'the great day of his wrath is come' and the ungodly feel the indescribable torment of 'the wrath of the Lamb' Revelation 6:16-17." 1

Martin Luther felt that the wrath of God was incompatible with the loving God that Jesus referred to as "Abba" during his prayers. When Luther translated the Bible into German, he downgraded Revelation, and placed it in an appendix.

Xylolaters: Literally "wood worshipers." A disrespectful term used to refer to Eastern Orthodox believers who revered images and icons.

Yahweh: A vocalization. favored by most theologians, of the tetragammaton -- the name of God ("JHWH") found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). An alternate pronunciation is Jehovah.

Year-day theory: A theory in which a day in some passages of biblical prophecy is held to be equal to a calendar year. This relationship is stated in Numbers 14:34. The theory has found extensive application in interpreting prophecies in Daniel and Revelation. It has been used repeatedly to estimate the second coming of Christ; the answers have always been wrong.

Ying and yang: A Taoist belief that the universe is make up of pairs of opposing forces, like male and female, positive and negative. One's task is to harmonize these forces, both within one's body and in the rest of the universe. A mythical "Yellow Emperor" wrote: ''The principle of Yin and Yang is the foundation of the entire universe. It underlies everything in creation. It brings about the development of parenthood; it is the root and source of life and death it is found with the temples of the gods...Heaven was created by the concentration of Yang, the force of light, earth was created by the concentration of Yin, the forces of darkness. Yang stands for peace and serenity; Yin stands for confusion and turmoil. Yang stands for destruction; Yin stands for conservation. Yang brings about disintegration; Yin gives shape to things..."

Yoga: A Hindu series of mental, spiritual and physical exercises designed to aid in enlightenment. The exercise component of Yoga is often practiced in the West as an aid to healthy living.

Yule: An ancient Celtic seasonal day of celebration at the time of the winter solstice. Depending upon the year, the solstice may fall on DEC-20 to 23. A popular minor Sabbat (holy day) observed by Wiccans and other Neopagans.

Zen: A Japanese school of Buddhism, which has become popular in North America. It is similar to the Chinese school of Buddhism known as Chan.

Zoroastrianism: This religion was founded in ancient Persia, perhaps during the sixth and seventh century BCE. Many scholars believe that numerous religious concepts first appeared in Zoroastrianism, and were later adopted by Judaism, and Christianity. These include: heaven, hell, and resurrection of the body, the Messiah, final judgment, and the battle of Armageddon. Once a religion with many followers, it currently only has about 200,000 members; most live in Iran and India.