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Religious Tolerance logo

Glossary of religious and spiritual terms

Religious and spiritual words and
phrases starting with the letters "Ba"
to "Bi"

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bulletBabel, tower of: A tower mentioned in Genesis 11. The Bible describes how there was only one language used prior to construction of the tower. God was offended by the construction, and caused its builders to speak in different languages. Almost all linguistic experts, except those who are conservative Christians, consider the story to be a myth.

bulletBabylonian Talmud: The most authoritative compilation of rabbinic discussions on Jewish law, ethics, customs, legends and stories. Abbreviated term: Bavli

bulletBackmasking: A type of subliminal message in which a second audio track is recorded backwards on top of a record's music. It is a common belief among the public that such messages bypass the conscious brain, enter the subconscious and motivate the individual to take certain actions. One rock group actually inserted a backmasking section on one of their records as a joke. There is no evidence that backmasking works or has ever been used with evil intent.

bulletBadge: A cloth identifier that the Catholic Church required Jews to wear. This was later adopted by the Nazi Government in Germany who required certain groups to wear a badge so that they could easily be singled out. For Jews, this was a yellow Star of David. For other groups it was usually a triangle: brown for Roma (a.k.a. Gypsies), purple for Jehovah's Witnesses, pink for homosexuals, green for criminals, red for political prisoners, blue for emigrants, and black for "asocials." In recent years, gays and lesbians have embraced the pink triangle as a symbol of their drive for equal treatment.

bulletBahá'í Faith: A world religion, founded in 1844 CE by Baha'u'llah (Glory of God) in Iran. Its roots are based in Islam. With the exception of its beliefs about homosexuality, and the makeup of its Universal House of Justice, it promotes democracy with equal rights to all, regardless of gender, race, nationality, etc. It has spread across the world. Its followers experience heavy oppression in Iran.

bullet Baphomet (a.k.a. Sigil [or Sigl] of Baphomet): A pentagram (a five pointed star) with one point downwards and two upwards, within a circle. A goat's head is drawn within the star. This is used by many Satanists as a religious symbol.

bulletBaisakhi: The Sikhs' New Year's celebration.

bulletBaptism: The English words "baptize" and "baptism" are derived from a Greek root: "baptizr," which means "to immerse," "to dip under," or "to wash." Within Christianity, it is usually performed by a member of the clergy in a church setting, thus welcoming an individual into the church.  Denominations disagree about the method (immersion or sprinkling), the age at which the ritual is done, and additional consequences of baptism. Some Christian groups maintain that baptism is required before a person can be saved; some say that only those baptized in their denomination or in a certain way can be saved. Still others consider baptism to be merely an indication that a person had been saved in the recent past.

bulletBaptism for the dead: This is a procedure that was employed among some Christian groups during the second century CE. Today, it is followed by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints -- the Mormons. Ancestors who died outside the church can be baptized by their descendents who are alive today.

bulletBaptists: A group of Protestant Christian who, according to religious historians, originated in the English Separatist movement of the 1600s. However, some Baptists believe that they can trace their history directly back to the New Testament period. In the U.S., they consist of dozens of denominations  that do not baptize infants, but who baptize individuals by immersion after they have personally professed their faith.  Baptist congregations are independent; full authority resides in the membership of each church. The largest American Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, deviated from centuries of tradition by expelling congregations who had decided to welcome sexually active gays and lesbians as members.

bullet Bardo: This is a term found in some forms of Buddhism, but rejected by others. It refers to a state between a person's death and their rebirth on Earth.

bulletBar Mitzvah: From the Hebrew phrase "son of the commandments."  A ritual performed on Jewish boys at the age of 13 when they attain religious responsibility.

bulletBasmala: An Arabic word

bullet Muslims use it to refer to the phrase "In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful." The Basmala is at the beginning of each of the suras (chapters) of the Qur'an except for the ninth sura.

bulletChristians who speak Arabic sometimes use the word Basmala to refer to the phrase "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."

bulletBat Mitzvah: From the Hebrew phrase "daughter of the commandments."  A ritual performed on Jewish girls at the age of 12 years and a day when they attain religious responsibility.

bulletBCE (a.k.a. B.C.E.): An anacronym for "Before the Common Era." A religiously-neutral calendar notation that is numerically equivalent to the "BC" notation without the connotation that the user recognizes Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) to be the Messiah or Christ. Some non-Christians find the use of "BC" to be offensive.

bulletBeget: To father, or sire.  Etymology is: Indo-European "ghend" > Old English "begetan" > Middle English "biyeten" > Modern English "Beget."

bulletBegotten: A past participle of beget.

bullet Belief: The acceptance that a statement is true, or that something exists, without specific hard evidence.

bullet Believer: An individual who believes that a specific thing exists or is effective, proper or desirable. Example: a believer in ghosts. In a religious sense: an adherent of a particular religion or faith group.

bulletBelievers in exile: This is a term created by John Shelby Spong, a retired bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA. It refers to Christians "... for whom the God experience is still real, but most of the religious forms used to interpret that reality have lost all meaning." They have outgrown the faith of their childhood and are searching for a new path.

bulletBeltane: One of the four major Sabbats celebrated annually by Wiccans and other Neopagans on the evening of APR-30. It is based on an ancient Celtic seasonal day of celebration.

bulletBesom: A broom often used by Wiccans or other Neopagans to purify a circle or other sacred area before a ritual is conducted.

bulletBhagavad-Gita: The "Song of the Lord" -- a holy text revered by followers of Hinduism and Iskcon.

bulletBhaki: A Hindu expression of devotion to and adoration of a God.

bulletBhajan: A Hindu devotional song/prayer.

bulletBible: This word has many meanings:

bulletThe holy text used by Christians. It is includes Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament), Christian Scripture (New Testament). Some faith groups also include a group of writings called the Apocrypha. The word originated in the Greek word "biblos," which means "book." The Greek word came from the ancient Phoenician port city of Byblos (now Jubayl in Lebanon).

bulletIt is sometimes used to refer to the holy texts of other religions.

bulletIt is sometimes used to refer to an all-embracing book on a specific topic, from computers to fly fishing to astronomy.
bulletBible Code: A book by Michael Drosnin which promoted the concept that the Bible contains prophecies which are hidden by a special code. This belief became popular during the 1990s, but collapsed when it was found that similar codes could be extracted from any book of similar length.

bulletBiblical authority: This is the belief -- near universally held among conservative Christians -- that: "the Bible, as the expression of God's will to us, possesses the right supremely to define what we are to believe and how we are to conduct ourselves." 1 Steven Ibbotson states: "The Bible is authoritative because it is God's inspired word to humanity." 2 Religious liberals commonly discount some sections of the Bible as authoritative because they are judged to be profoundly immoral when compared to today's religious and secular moral standards.

bulletBiblical wordview: A personal perspective on humanity, deity and the rest of the universe based on the Bible. There are many such worldviews, reflecting various conservative, mainline, liberal, Gnostic, post-Christian and other belief systems. The Barna Group defines a conservative Protestant biblical worldview as including eight beliefs:

bulletAbsolute truth exists.

bulletThe source of moral truth is the Bible.

bulletThe Bible is without error in all of its teachings.

bullet That eternal spiritual salvation cannot be earned through works while on earth.

bulletJesus led a sinless life while on earth.

bulletEveryone has a responsibility to share their religious beliefs with others.

bullet Satan is a living entity, not just a symbol of evil.

bulletGod is the creator of the universe, omnipotent, omniscient who still rules the universe today.

Barna found that fewer than 8% of adult American Protestants, 5% of adults generally and 0.5% of Roman Catholics "have a biblical world view" under this definition. 3

bullet Biblicism: A belief that the Bible exhibits exclusive authority, infallibility, clarity, self-sufficiency, internal consistency, self-evident meaning, and universal applicability. It is a common belief among Christian fundamentalists and other evangelicals. Considers the text of the Bible as the Word of God and the ultimate authority for religious belief and morality.

bulletBibliolatry: Worship of a book, particularly the Bible. A term of criticism levied against individuals who are judged to give an excessive regard to the text of the Bible.

bulletBibliology: This word has a secular and a Christian meaning:

bulletSecular: A discussion of books.

bulletChristian: The study of the Bible and the doctrines derived from it.

bulletBid'a: A Muslim term referring to a false belief or practice. A heresy.

bulletBiocentrism: Rejecting humanity as having supreme importance on Earth, and considering all living species as equally important.

bulletBiofield: A subtle energy field that allegedly permeates a person's body and extends beyond it. It may be similar to Qi, an energy field believed to exist in traditional Chinese medicine. It has never been detected and measured by conventional scientific instruments. However, some alternative medicine practitioners believe that they can detect and even see it.

bulletBind: A ritual found in conservative Christianity, Wicca and other Neopagan traditions to prevent a person or spirit from harming individuals.

bulletBirth of the Bab: A Baha'i holy day honoring of the founder, Mirza 'Ali-Muhammed, (1819-1850 CE). He assumed the title Bab ("the Gate.") 

bulletBirth of Baha'u'llah: A Baha'i annual celebration of the birth of their teacher and Messiah, Mirza Husayn-'Ali-i-Nuri (1817-1892). He was the Manifestation predicted by the Bab.

bulletBirth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji: A day when Sikhs commemorate the birthday of their founder.

bulletBisexual: An individual who is physically and emotionally attracted to both males and females.

bullet Bishop: (From the Greek word episkopos: supervisor). In the very early Christian movement, he was the main leader at a church. Later, the bishop's role became that of a priest with administrative duties over a group of churches within a geographical area called a diocese.

bulletBitheist: Synonym for duotheist; a person who believes that there are two deities -- typically one female and the other male, as in Wicca, or one all good and the other all bad, as in Zoroastrianism.

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Continue to a list of words beginning with the letters "BL" to "BU"

References used:

  1. Millard J. Erickson, "Christian Theology," Baker, (1985), Page 241.
  2. Steven Ibbotson, "Biblical Authority," Prairie bible Institute, (2000), at:
  3. "Most adults feel accepted by God, but lack a biblical worldview," The Barna Group, 2005-AUG-09. at:

Copyright © 1996 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written on: 1996-MAR-11
Last update and review: 2017-SEP-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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