Twitter icon

Facebook icon

About this site
About us
Our beliefs
Is this your first visit?
Contact us
External links

Recommended books

Visitors' essays
Our forum
New essays
Other features
Buy a CD of this site
Vital notes

World religions
Christian def'n
 Shared beliefs
 Handling change
 Bible topics
 Bible inerrancy
 Bible harmony
 Interpret the Bible
 Beliefs & creeds
 Da Vinci code
 Revelation 666
Other religions
Cults and NRMs
Comparing Religions

Non-theistic beliefs

About all religions
Main topics
Basic information
Gods & Goddesses
Handling change
Doubt & security
Confusing terms
End of the World?
True religion?
Seasonal events
Science vs. Religion
More information

Morality & ethics
Absolute truth

Attaining peace
Religious tolerance
Religious freedom
Religious hatred
Religious conflict
Religious violence

"Hot" topics
Very hot topics
Ten Commandments
Abortion access
Assisted suicide
Death penalty

Same-sex marriage

Human rights
Gays in the military
Sex & gender
Stem cells
Other topics

Laws and news
Religious laws
Religious news




Religious Tolerance logo

Religious information / Comparison of religions

Disagreements over religious terms:
An introduction.

horizontal rule

Introduction to disagreements about religious terms:

Consider some terms picked at random and used widely in this web site. They are listed in alphabetic order:

  • Agnostic:
    • Is it a person who currently neither accepts nor rejects the existence of a God, or
    • A person who believes that the existence or nonexistence of a God can never be known with certainty?

  • Atheist:
    • Is it a person who firmly asserts that no God exists, or
    • A person with no belief in God. perhaps a person to whom the concept of God has no meaning, or
    • Both?
    • Since probably in excess of 99% of adults in North America don't believe in the existence of Baal, Thor, Zeus, or most of the other Gods who have been believed in, should the vast majority of Americans be considered Atheists?

  • Christian:
    • Is it a person who genuinely attempts to follow the teaching of Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ) as they understand those teachings to be, or
    • A person who has trusted Jesus as Lord and personal Savior, and thus -- according to the Bible -- has attained salvation, or
    • A member or adherent of a Christian denomination, or
    • A person who was raised in a Christian denomination but hasn't darkened the door of a church in decades?

  • Gender:
    • Is it assigned for life by a physician at birth after a physical inspection of the newborn, or
    • Is it defined by the presence or absence of X and/or Y chromosomes in each cell of the person's body, or
    • Is it defined by the individual later in life according to their gender identity: their firmly held, sincere belief of their own gender? (Transgender person identify with a gender different from their birth identified gender, or with no gender, or alternating genders.

  • Homosexual:
    • Is it a person who is sexually attracted to members of the same sex who may or may not also be attracted to the opposite sex, or
    • Is it any person who is sexually attracted only to a member of the same sex
    • Is it restricted to a person who engages in same-gender sexual activity, or
    • Does it only refer to a person who meets one of these definitions who is also politically active, and committed to advancing equality?

  • Marriage:
    • Is it restricted to the voluntary union of one woman and one man, or
    • Is it the voluntary union of two persons either of the same gender or opposite gender, or
    • Is it the voluntary union of more than two persons?
    • is it a union to be entered into and abandoned if the going gets tough?

  • Mormon:
    • It is only a person who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (the LDS church) or
    • Is it a member of any of the faith groups who consider Joseph Smith to be their founder, like the Community of Christ.

  • Unitarian:
    • Is it a Christian who rejects the existence of the Trinity, and believes in a single, indivisible deity, or
    • Is it any person who believes in a single, indivisible deity, or
    • Is it a member of the Unitarian Church (Unitarian Universalist Association in the U.S.) who may be a theist, atheist, or agnostic.

  • Witch:
    • Is it restricted to followers of the Wiccan faith, and is prohibited from harming others by the Wiccan Rede, or
    • Is it any person who practices ancient Pagan rituals, or
    • Is it a person who worships Satan, is believed to fly on a broomstick, and who uses black magick, or
    • Is it a woman mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament) who issues spoken curses to harm or kill people, or
    • Is it a person mentioned in the Christian Scriptures (a.k.a. New Testament) who uses poison to kill people, or
    • Is it any person who practices Witchcraft -- which itself has at least 17 different and often mutually exclusive definitions?

horizontal rule

Perhaps the greatest disagreement about the meanings of religious words involves the word "Religion:"

Many people have their personal favorite definition of "religion." Unfortunately, there no thing approaching a consensus exists. Many people firmly hold their own definition to be absolutely correct, and believe that those held by everyone else are false.

Many definitions of religion contain a requirement for belief in one or more deities. If belief in at least one God or Goddess is to be a requirement for a religion, then Buddhism would not be considered a religion. Yet it is always included as a major religion in books and articles about the religions of the world. It is considered the fourth most popular organized religion on Earth, after Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. In addition, requiring a belief in deity/deities would eliminate Unitarian Universalism (a.k.a. Unitarianism) as a religion, because they do not require such a belief among their members.

horizontal rule

Our web site's difficulty with governments over the definition of religion:

Back in the 1990's, during the infancy of the Internet, this web site was evolving from a personal hobby to a registered Canadian organization. We attempted to have the group recognized as a non-profit charity. That would allow us to issue tax exemption certificates to our Canadian donors. We were refused because the Government of Canada's definition of "religion" required religious non-profits to teach the belief in the existence of a God.

Any God would do: Yahweh, Allah, Jesus Christ, Aphrodite, Artemis, Astarta, Athena, Baal, Bast, Diana, Venus, Zeus, etc. In spite of this restriction, the federal government registered -- and still registers -- Buddhist and Unitarian groups as non-profits. But it would not recognize our web site as religious. Go figure!

So, we registered our group as a "for profit" entity. Even then, we ran into problem with definitions. We initially registered as Ontario Center for Religious Tolerance. This was rejected by the Ontario Government because the word "Center" in a company name can only be used in that province if the organization is a registered charity. So we changed our group's name to "Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance." This kept the initials of the group -- OCRT -- unchanged, which was good because we had already used "OCRT" widely in our website. This was not a great name, because we don't do much consulting work. But we were finally able to register, and thus obtain a business bank account.

horizontal rule

Sponsored link

horizontal rule

A recommendation from the Webmaster:

Please give other people some slack. When you disagree over the meaning of a religious word, please consider that there may not be a universally held meaning. Perhaps it is OK for people to hold diverse understandings of the meanings of religious terms.

Please try to put things in perspective. You and they probably hold many beliefs in common. Try to get along.

If you are ever in the Netherlands, please considering visiting with the Pastafarians at the newly recognized Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. News came of this Church's government registration as I was updating this essay.

Site navigation: Home page > Religious Information > Definition: "religion" > here

or: Home page > Comparison of religions > Definition: "religion" > here

Copyright © 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2016-FEB-13
Latest update: 2021-JAN-05
Compiler: B.A. Robinson

line.gif (538 bytes)
Sponsored link

Go to the previous page, or to the "definition of 'religion' " menu, or choose:

Custom Search

Go to home page  We would really appreciate your help

E-mail us about errors, etc.  Purchase a CD of this web site

FreeFind search, lists of new essays...  Having problems printing our essays?

Twitter link

Facebook icon

Google Page Translator:

This page translator works on Firefox,
Opera, Chrome, and Safari browsers only

After translating, click on the "show
original" button at the top of this
page to restore page to English.

Sponsored links: