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Glossary of religious and spiritual terms

Starting with the letters "An"

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See preceeding list for words beginning with Aa to Am;
See following list for words beginning with Ao to Az

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bulletAnabaptists: A European Christian movement at the time of the Protestant 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 Protestant churches. The Amish and Mennonites trace their origins to the Anabaptists. Some theologians and historians include the Society of Friends (Quakers) and Moravians as Anabaptist denominations.
bulletAnagogy: From the Greek word "anago" - to lead. Interpreting the scriptures, or other writings, mystically, in order to uncover a hidden meanings.
bulletAncestor worship: The veneration or worship of deceased people by their living kin. It exists, sometimes integrated as part of a world religion, in about 60% of the world's cultures.
bulletAngel: 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. with a human body and 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 like birds from Heaven to earth and back. Angels play a major role in Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the New Age.
bulletAngelology: The theological study of angels. This is primarily found in Christianity.

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bullet 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 and from homophobia to support for equal rights for persons of all sexual orientations. The Communion is coordinated by the Lambeth Conference which meets once every decade.
bullet Anglo-Catholicism: A movement within the Anglican Communion which promotes a return to pre-Reformation beliefs and rituals, including the mass, confession and monasticism.

bullet Aniconism: The prohibition of the use of icons, photographs, drawings, idols, etc. that represent animals, people, etc. on earth, or beings in the supernatural world --particularly of God. This is a very important integral part of Muslim practice, and was common in Buddhism during and before the 1st century CE.
bullet Animism: a type of religious belief that all components of the universe, including humans, animals, plant life, rocks, etc. contain some form of life force, soul or spirit. Some are seen as friendly spirits; others as tricksters. "While animists can be found in almost all Asian countries, they are more than 5% of the population only in Laos. Animists are between 1% and 5% of the population in Burma, India, Indonesia, Kampuchea, Malaysia, and Vietnam." 3
bullet Aninut: A Jewish term covering the interval between a person's death and burial.
bullet Annihilationism: (a.k.a. conditionalism and conditional immortality). From the Latin word "nihil" -- which means nothing. This an umbrella term used to refer to a group of beliefs about life after death. They are:
bullet After death, unsaved people will immediately cease to exist in any form. This is taught by most Adventist groups, by the Jehovah's Witnesses and other Christian groups. This contrasts with the historical Christian belief that the unsaved will be tortured for all eternity in Hell without hope of mercy or cessation. Both views can be supported by selected biblical passages.
bullet The belief that unsaved people spend an interval of time in Hell. Their length of stay is matched to the frequency and seriousness of their evil deeds. They are then exterminated and cease to exist. This view is also supported by some biblical passages.
bullet The belief -- common among Agnostics, Atheists, Humanists, secularists and others -- that after death everyone will automatically 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 while we were alive.
bullet Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary: This is a Christian holy day which recalls the Archangel's announcement to Mary of her pregnancy.
bullet Annunciation: This refers to the announcement to Joseph (in Matthew 1:20) and to Mary (Luke 1:26-35) of Jesus' future birth.
bullet 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. All or essentially all geologists reject these beliefs.
bullet Anthem: A Christian term for a hymn whose words come from the Bible.
bullet Anthropology: The study of humanity and human cultures.
bullet 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 who are assumed to have human feelings.

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bulletAntibaptists: (not to be confused with Anabaptists):
bulletChristians who deny the validity of baptism. Most believe that water baptism has been replaced by spirit baptism.
bulletChristians who do not recognize earlier baptism that convert's from other denominations had received.
bulletAntichrist: 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. The pope, Ronald Reagan, Bill Gates, Hitler, Stalin, and many other people have been called the Antichrist. So has at least one computer system.

Anti Cult Movement (ACM): A mainly secular movement which opposes new religious movements (NRMs) because of their perceived deceptive recruiting practices and mind-control techniques. Many small ACM groups coalesced into several large ACM organizations starting in the early 1970's. Their beliefs that many NRMs drive their members to suicide and reduce their followers to near-zombie status was widely accepted among the public. However, most sociologists and other academics reject these teachings and such beliefs are now rare. Other groups, called Counter-cult organizations -- oppose NRMs on theological grounds as having heretical religious views. They are considered by some to be part of the ACM. More details.

bullet Antidisestablishmentarianism: Being opposed to the belief that there should no longer be an official church a the country. The word is sometimes quoted as the longest word in the English language. However,the longest word in any language may well be the Welsh name of a town in Wales:  Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.
bulletThe belief that once a believer is saved, they are not bound to follow moral laws.
bulletThe belief that a saved believer can freely sin because he is forgiven of past and future transgressions.
bullet 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 their version of Christianity.
bullet Anti-semitism: (a.k.a. Anti-Semitism, antisemitism) Hatred, prejudice, oppression, or discrimination against Jews or Judaism. The term is usually spelled with a capital "S" in "Semitic." We typically spell it with a small "s" because it Semite refers to a language group, not a religion. Semites  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. Alan Dershowitz, in his book "The Case for Israel" defines anti-semitism as "taking a trait or an action that is widespread if not universal, and blaming only the Jews for it." In recent years, the term has been used to refer to any action or person that is critical of Jews, Judaism or the state of Israel.

bullet Antitheism: Belief that no God exists, or the belief that a particular God or group of deities does not exist. The word is often used to imply an active opposition to belief in any God.
bullet Antitrinitarians: Christians who deny the Trinity -- that concept that God the father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are three persons in a single Godhead.
bulletAnti-zionism: A belief system opposed to the creation and continuation of Israel as a Jewish state.

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See preceeding list for words beginning with Aa to Am;
See following list for words beginning with Ao to Az

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  1. "Bible Love" at:
  2. "Amen - Meaning & Implication," at:
  3. Joseph Tamney, "Animism," at:

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Copyright 1996 to 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written on: 1996-MAR-11

Last update: 2019-JUL-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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