Old 11-11-2007, 02:27 AM   #1
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Default Critical Thinking Glossary of Religious Terms

A great deal of words in religious discussion get thrown around here in Critical Thinking, and it occured to me as I made my tenth post explaining the difference between weak and strong agnostics, as opposed to atheists, that the forum could use a helpful glossary of terms.

Here follows a list of terms in the field of religion, with each one including a link to the wikipedia.org pages for those terms, as well as a short written definition to help clear up any confusion CT users might have about those terms.

If you take issue with some of the definitions, or feel more should be added, please contact me via private message rather than making a thread about it, and we'll see what we can do.

I'm making the list currently off the top of my head, so I'm fully expecting to leave out a number of terms that should be here. Hopefully this resource can help clear up a number of common misconceptions.

Religious Terms

Agnosticism - From the Greek "a-" meaning "not" and "gnosis" meaning "knowledge" Agnosticism is a belief system that generally rejects the idea that humans can have any understanding of the spiritual world. Agnosticism is divided into two main sub-types. A weak agnostic says that they have insufficient evidence to support a belief or lack of belief in the divine, but are open to the idea that such evidence could become available. (I don't know, maybe you do?) A Strong agnostic claims that it is impossible for the human mind to confirm or deny such a thing, because it is not capable of comprehension about such things. (I can't know, and nobody can)

Atheism - From the Greek "A-" meaning "not" and "theos" meaning "god" Atheism is a belief system that generally rejects the existence of a divine power. Atheism has a number of subcategories to further clarify the term. An implicit atheist has not thought about belief in gods; such an individual would be described as implicitly without a belief in gods. An explicit atheist has made an assertion regarding belief in gods; such an individual may eschew belief in gods (weak atheism), or affirm that gods do not exist (strong atheism).

Deism - From the Latin "Deus" meaning "God" Deism is the sister concept to Theism. Deism is defined as any faith system which includes a deity or deities, but claims that such beings do not in any way interfere directly in the functioning of the universe. This is the defining difference between Theists and Deists. Deism also has a very strong emphasis on individuality of spirituality. One's understanding of the Deity, and one's understanding of the purpose of that deity in creating the universe comes from oneself, and not from revealed scripture or text.

Theism - From the Greek "theos" meaning "God" Theism is an overarching term for any and all belief systems that include a deity or deities that exist and directly effect the universe. Examples of this include all faiths who believe in prayers of intercession, or that miracles and the like can occur. If your faith includes a deity that in any way effects the world, it is a Theistic faith. There are subgroups of theism whose terms are defined by the number of such beings said to exist: Monotheism (one), Polytheism (more than one), Pantheism (The belief that all things together make up God)

Religions (Western)

Christianity - There are two fundamental ways to define the term Christianity. The first is generally all faith systems that are centered in some prime way around the life and teachings of the prophet Jesus Christ of Nazareth, and includes all of the sects and groupings that developed from it. The second is specifically the concept of 'non-denominational Christianity' which is one specific sub-group that generally claims to have remained true to the original stances of the Christian faith, and does not hold with most of the practices later developed by schismatic groups. Members of this faith are called Christians, though each of its subgroups has its own term for followers. Christianity is monotheistic.

Islam - Islam is a monotheistic faith, and developed from Christianity and Judaism. The basis of the Islamic faith is that God revealed the the Qur'an to Muhammad, God's final prophet, and regard the Qur'an and the Sunnah (words and deeds of Muhammad) as the fundamental sources of Islam. They view themselves as a restoration of the true faith that was distorted by Jews and Christians. A follower of Islam is called a Muslim which means "One who submits to God"

Judaism - Judaism is a Monotheistic religion based around the sacred texts of the Tanakh (called the Hebrew Bible) and the Talmud and is a precursor faith to Christianity and Islam. The faith is based on the understanding, interpretation and study of these sacred texts, rather than predicated upon a ruling body. (such as the Pope in Roman Catholicism)

Religions (Eastern) Pending.

Last edited by devonin; 11-11-2007 at 04:12 PM..
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