URI Kids: Glossary

Here are some terms commonly associated with the study of religious and spiritual traditions. 

Altar: A designated location in a place of worship or home for sacred things (offerings to God) to be kept on display. 

Atonement: reconciliation with God. The word is usually used in the context of Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. In this situation, atonement means "forgiveness", and the reconciliation with God is a result of being forgiven and forgiving others.

Atman: in Hinduism, the soul.

Baptism: a ceremony in which a person is put into water to symbolize being pure. In Christianity, this is a major step in being accepted into the religion.

Bar or Bat Mitzvah: In Judaism, the rite of passage into adulthood. Translated, it means "Son or Daughter of the Covenant". There is a ceremony when the boy or girl reads from the Torah for the first time.

Bible: the sacred book of Christianity.

Brahma: a Hindu God, considered the protector of the world (can also be called Brahman)

Church: a building for worship, especially in Christianity.

Crucifixion: the method by which Jesus was killed. He was nailed to a cross until death.

Covenant: a solemn agreement. Jews believe that God and Abraham had a covenant that if Abraham believed in God, God would give Abraham a holy land.

Deity: another name for God or other sacred beings.

Diaspora: the spreading out of Jews all over the world following capture.

Disciple: a follower of a particular religion or leader.

Doctrine: teachings about beliefs.

Enlightenment: generally, to clarify information. In some Asian religions, enlightenment is the highest level of understanding and clarification.

Eucharist: in Christian services, the Eucharist is when people receive wine and bread to symbolize Jesus' body and blood.

Exile: unwilling absence from your home, whether for religious or political reasons.

Gurdwara: a Sikh temple. Translated, it means, "door to the Guru". The gurdwara also contains classrooms and meeting spaces.

Guru: In Hinduism or Sikhism, a religious leader or guide.

Khalsa: a Sikh sect that is very devoted to the religion. Also called a brotherhood.

Idol: a symbol or picture that is believed to have sacred powers. In some religions, idols are prohibited. In others, they are integral to the religion.

Jihad: In Islam, the struggle to live a good life.

Koran: the holy book of Islam. Also spelled Qur'an. It is important in Islam to memorize as much as possible of the Koran.

Meditation: emptying the mind of thoughts, or concentration on just one thing.

Messiah: someone treated as a savior of a country, a religion, or a group of people.

Monastery: a building or area in which a group of people observing a religion lives together.

Monotheism: the belief that there is one God.

Mosque: a building in which Muslims worship.

Nirvana: In Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, the attainment of enlightenment and, therefore, release from the cycle of birth and rebirth.

Parable: a simple story told to teach a moral or religious lesson.

Parsis: followers of Zoroastrianism are called Parsis.

Persecution: the subjecting of a group of people to cruel or unfair treatment because of their beliefs.

Pilgrimage: a literal or symbolic journey to a holy place.

Prejudice: a negative opinion based on inaccurate or insufficient information.

Polytheism: the belief in more than one God.

Prophet: a person who speaks for God on earth.

Resurrection: term used for when Jesus rose from the dead after being crucified.

Ritual: an established pattern of observance of something sacred.

Sabbath: a day of rest. In some religions, it is Sunday, others are Saturday, and still others are Friday. Historically, Wednesday was also used.

Samsara: in Hinduism, the belief that living things are in an endless cycle of life, death, and rebirth. In Buddhism, the term is used for somebody's rebirth.

Sect: a part of a religious group with beliefs and practices of its own. 

Sermon: a message from a Holy leader given as a speech during a Holy service.

Synagogue: a building for worship for the Jewish religion. The synagogue is also a major community-gathering place.

Tao: translated, it means "the way." 

Tenet: a set of fundamental beliefs.

Torah: the Jewish holy book. The Torah is written by hand on scrolled paper and kept in the Ark in a synagogue. They are also in book form.

Worship: to treat someone or something as divine or to show respect by praying and devotion.

Yoga: in Hinduism, yoga can be one of many disciplines to increase unity between the self and God. One example is the yoga exercises many of us are familiar with.