ARDA Dictionary
  • Scriptures:A term often used to denote sacred writings of different religions. Commonly, the authority of the scriptures is believed to come from God (e.g., Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), and sometimes it is believed to come from a legendary person (e.g., Confucianism and Buddhism). Popular scriptures include the Christian Bible, the Torah, the Koran, and the Vedas (Hinnells 1984: 289).
  • Sola Scriptura:A Latin phrase translated as "by Scripture alone," used in the Protestant tradition to signify that biblical scriptures are the ultimate authority of faith and practice. This was a response to the Catholic emphasis on church traditions as an authority (Reid et al. 1990: 1111).
  • Feminist Theology:A system of religious thought that interprets practices and scriptures through a feminist perspective. It tends to challenge male-dominance in religious language, authority, and scripture. This perspective spans across Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other religions (Lippy and Williams 2000).
  • Christian Science Family:Churches following the teachings of founder Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) , who believed that personal healing was the central message of Christianity. She believed that the correct interpretation of Scripture would alleviate disease, suffering, and even death according to her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (1875). The movement became more of an institution in 1879. Worship services include readings from the Bible as well as Eddy's "Science and Health." The largest group in the Christian Science family is the Church of Christ, Scientist (Smith and Green 1995: 264).
  • Bhagavad Gita:The most popular scripture in contemporary Hinduism. It is part of a Hindu epic called the Mahabharata, written in Sanskrit between 200 BCE and 200 CE, and discusses Hindu ethics (Prothero 2008: 201).
  • Kama Sutra:A popular Hindu scripture, originally intended as a sex manual for courtesans. It was written around 400 CE by Hindu thinker Vatsyayana. It provides different types of kisses and different sexual positions for intercourse (Prothero 2008: 244).
  • Qiyas:A legal term in Islam that refers to analogical reasoning. This form of deduction often is used in order to understand whether something is forbidden, even if not explicitly stated in any Islamic scriptures (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-9).
  • Biblical Literalism:The extent to which individuals believe that the Bible (or other sacred scriptures) should be interpreted literally. Social surveys that are interested in religion often ask a question pertaining to biblical literalism, though the question wording and response options can vary.
  • People of the Book (Ahl al-Kitab):In Islam, this refers to non-Muslims who possess some revelation or scripture from God. Jews and Christians make up this group, and sometimes Zoroastrians are included (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-9).
  • Jainism:An ancient Indian religion that teaches no supreme deity, although some Hindu gods are recognized. The religion stresses non-violence and takes its authority from spiritual teachers known as Jinas. There are two major sects, the Digambaras and Shvetambara, and both have different canons of scripture (Parrinder 1973: 141).
  • Religious Capital:The degree of mastery and attachment to a particular religious culture. For example, one might learn when or when not to say "Amen" during a sermon, or learn certain passages of scripture in order to accumulate religious capital. The greater their religious capital, the less likely people are to either reaffiliate or to convert (see Stark and Finke 2000: 120).
  • Angel:A superhuman intermediary between the divine and human realm. Angels exist in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Perhaps the most famous angel is Gabriel, who reveals himself as God's messenger in the Hebrew scriptures, Christianity's New Testament and Islam's Koran. Theological discussions of the nature of angels vary by tradition (Smith and Green 1995: 49-50).
  • Lutheran Family:Christian churches following the teachings of sixteenth century reformer Martin Luther, particularly his teaching on justification by faith and scripture alone (sola scriptura). It is one of the most liturgical Protestant movements, along with Episcopalianism. Lutheranism is more prominent in the Midwestern United States, particularly among those with German ancestry. There has never been a Lutheran president of the United States (Prothero 2008: 247-248).
  • Hinduism:The name given for the majority religion of India. There is no central authority in Hinduism, although most Hindu groups and traditions believe in reincarnation and venerate gods and goddesses who are viewed as manifestations of God. Sanskrit texts known as Vedas are sacred scriptures in Hinduism, and they were composed between 1200 and 900 BCE. Around 660 million people identify as Hindu in the world, and 97 percent of Hindus live in India (Smith and Green 1995: 424).
  • Luther, Martin (1483-1546):A German monk and theologian who became a leader in the sixteenth century during the Protestant Reformation. He was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church after publishing his 95 Theses, which challenged the Church's doctrines and practices. Luther placed importance on justification by grace through faith, and the Bible as the sole authority for Christians, not scripture and tradition as Catholics assert. His ideas helped pioneer Protestant thought. He is the founder of Lutheranism (Prothero 2008: 247).
  • Counseling, Religious:A type of counseling that incorporates religious teachings to serve mental health needs. Many clients are already religious, although counselors may reach out to those nominally religious, homeless or poor. Depending on the particular faith group, counseling may incorporate prayer, meditation or scripture reading. Some forms of religious counseling may be completely faith-based, while others may incorporate secular therapeutic practices (Koenig, King and Carson 2012: 56-57).
  • Russell, Charles Taze (1852-1916):Charles Taze Russell sparked the religious group later known as the Jehovah's Witnesses . He wrote a series of Bible study books called Studies in Scripture , which, although popular, attracted criticism from evangelical Christians for his denial of hell, the immortal soul, the deity of Jesus, and his insistence that God was One, not a Trinity. His ideas and early religious movement would later influence the development of Jehovah's Witnesses. For more information on Charles Taze Russell, click here .
  • Satan:A malevolent figure in the Abrahamic religions, which include Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Satan often is interpreted as an angelic being in the Hebrew scriptures. In the New Testament, Satan is the enemy of God who challenges Jesus in the desert. In Islam, Satan is identified with Iblis, chief of the legion of devils who leads humanity astray. It is important to note that the portrayal of Satan as a horned being with cloven hoofs and a tail appears in the Middle Ages, ascribed by the European populace to ancient fertility spirits, such as the Greek god Pan (Smith and Green 1995: 962).
  • Surah:The chapters in the Koran, arranged from the largest in content to the smallest. The 286 Surahs detail the revelations communicated through the Prophet Muhammad. Since they are ordered by size, and not chronologically or thematically, it can be difficult to follow without any additional commentaries. For this reason, the hadith accounts can be very useful in understanding the context of certain passages. Muslims believe that the Koran was initially preserved in oral and written form during the lifetime of the Prophet. Muslims also do not believe that Muhammad was the author, nor editor, of the Surahs because they consider the scriptures to be the eternal word of God (Esposito 2011: 9).
  • Antinomianism:1) The belief that certain religious allegiances exempt one from following secular law. 2) The belief that secular laws ought to be disobeyed because they are evil (Smith 1995: 53). 3) A theological position in which subjective elements of Christianity are emphasized over objective elements of Christianity, like moral law. The famous "Antinomian Controversy" took place in the 1630s, where Anne Hutchinson was brought to trial in Massachusetts for claiming to follow her direct revelation of the Holy Spirit instead of Scripture alone. She was banished from the colony in 1638 (Reid et al. 1990: 69).
  • Suicide, Religion and:All three large monotheistic world religions (i.e., Christianity, Islam and Judaism) prohibit suicide for emotional or personal reasons. Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Hinduism generally are opposed to suicide, although there are exceptions. For example, Hindu scripture condemns suicide for personal reasons, but in the case of terminal disease or severe disability, death through fasting may be allowed, although it needs to be conducted under community regulation (Subramuniyaswami 1992). In general, religiousness tends to be associated with lower suicide risk (Kroenig et al. 2012), although this is not uniformly true (e.g., suicide bombing).
  • Self-Injury, Religious:Injury to oneself on religious grounds, often through a literal interpretation of religious scripture. For example, a number of published case reports document self-injury based on the literal interpretation of Matthew 5:29-30, which says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.” Self-flagellation is common among ascetic practices, as Shi'a Muslims annually engage in self-injury at the Mourning of Muharram. However, other forms of serious religious self-injury are the result of mental illness (Koenig et al. 2012: 67).
  • Health Behaviors, Religion and:Health behaviors include physical activity, diet and nutrition, weight, cigarette smoking, risky sexual activity and sleep (Koenig et al. 2012). Studies have found that religion/religiosity is generally associated with promoting positive health behaviors and reducing negative ones. For example, religious identification/religiousness is associated with more exercise (Baetz and Bowen 2008; Hill et al. 2006), eating healthy foods (Lytle et al. 2003; Obisesan et al. 2006), less cigarette smoking (Beyers et al. 2004) and less sexually transmitted diseases (Gray 2004). Treating your body as a “temple” according to religious scripture (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and strict regulation of sexual behaviors may explain some of these results.
  • New Testament:Canonized scripture in addition to the Old Testament that constitutes the Christian Bible. The New Testament is made up of 27 books, written roughly between 50 and 150 CE. The first four books are the gospels, which record the life of Jesus Christ. Among the gospels, the first three (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are considered the synoptic gospels for their similarity in content, whereas the book of John is considered fairly distinct. The gospels are followed by the Acts of the Apostles, which records the development of the early Christian movement. Most of the New Testament contains letters, many of whom are attributed to the apostle Paul, while others are either anonymous or associated with other early church leaders. The New Testament ends with the book of Revelation, an apocalypse that deals with the end-times as well as with current persecution at the hands of the Romans. The New Testament was officially canonized in 367 by Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria (Smith and Green 1995: 769-770).
  • Death, Religion and:Religion, death and the afterlife are strongly tied to each other for many individuals. The religious scriptures of the main world religions support the belief in life after death and eternal rewards for adherents. Religion also tends to be used to cope with difficult life situations (see Coping Theory), so it's understandable that individuals use religion to cope with the uncertainty and pain associated with death. It perhaps is little surprise that religiosity often is associated with less fear of personal death and less grief after the death of a loved one (Koenig et al. 2012). A study of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) members found that church attendance and belief in life after death reduced fear of the unknown beyond this life (Silton et al. 2011). In a study by Brown and colleagues (2004) looking at widowed persons over the age of 65, they found that respondents who increased in religious importance tended to have lower grief scores over time.
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