Religious & spiritual terms
with the letter "C"
Cabala (also spelled Cabalah, Caballa, Caballah, Cabbala, Cabbalah, Cabballa,
Cabballah, and various spellings starting with the letters K or Q): A Jewish
mystical tradition with roots in Palestine during the 1st century CE and which developed during the 12th century.
It uses occultic (hidden) knowledge to interpret the Torah. It is currently enjoying a surge in popularity.
Caliph: Muslim term for community leader.
Calvinism: A system of Christian belief laid down by John
Calvin. It emphasizes predestination -- that certain people are fated
to be saved and others are selected by God to be not saved and spend eternity in
Hell. The selection is not done on the basis of any action that
they have performed during their life on earth.
Canon: The Canon of Scripture in Christianity refers
to the set of books selected from among the books of the Hebrew
Scriptures, the dozens of gospels, and many dozens of epistles, to
form the Bible. Some canons contain just the 39 books of the Hebrew
Scriptures (Old Testament) and 27 books in the Christian Scriptures
(New Testament). Other canons include the Apocrypha. Some liberal
theologians have recommended that the canon be opened for additional
writings, like the Gospel of Thomas -- often regarded as the fifth gospel.
Canon law: A term used primarily within the Roman Catholic
church to refer to a collection of church laws.
The process by which a Christian becomes a saint.
The process by which writings are accepted into a holy book, like
the Christian Scriptures (New Testament)
Cantor (Latin term for a singer): A person who recites and sings
liturgical materials in Jewish religious services.
Cantheism (a.k.a. Kantheism) refers to religions based, at least in
part, on the use of the cannabis plant from which marijuana is derived. Some
Animist and Shamanist faiths use cannabis, as do some traditions within
Hinduism, Rastafarianism, Satanism, and Zoroastrianism.
Cardinal: Bishops in the Roman Catholic church who advise the
pope. They meet as a group to elect a new pope as needed.
Castrato: (Plural castrati): An
adult male singer with a soprano, mezzo-soprano or alto voice. They retained
their prepubescent vocal range because they were castrated before puberty.
This was a practice within the Roman Catholic Church from about
1500 CE. Castrati were banned by the pope in 1902.
Catechism: From the Greek "katecheo" -- to sound aloud. A
training program to educate a person in the fundamentals of Christianity.
It is often organized in a question and answer format.
Catholic: This came from the Greek word Katholikos which means
"throughout the whole" or "universal." This implies a
world-wide faith, rather than a local one. The Nicene Creed,
recited in the churches of many Christian denominations, speaks of
"one holy catholic and apostolic church." Many faith
groups refer to themselves as Catholic: the Roman Catholic Church,
centered in the Vatican; Anglo-Catholics (within the Anglican Communion);
and Evangelical Catholics (among Lutherans).
Catholic Charismatic Renewal: The acceptance of certain
Pentecostal beliefs and practices within the Roman Catholic church. This
has also happened within Protestant denominations, where it is generally
referred to as Charismatic Movement.
CE (a.k.a. C.E.): An acronym for "common era."
A religiously-neutral calendar notation that is numerically equivalent to the
"AD" notation without the connotation that the user recognizes Yeshua of
Nazareth (Jesus Christ) to be God. Some non-Christians find the use of "AD" to
Celibate, Celibacy: This is a word in transition. In the past,
it has simply meant to be unmarried. More recently, it has evolved to mean
the act of sexual abstinence. We recommend that the word never be used,
unless it is carefully pre-defined. We recommend "unmarried" and "sexually
inactive" or "a virgin" as preferred, unambiguous terms.
Celebrant: A minister or priest -- or in some denominations, a
member of the laity -- who leads a worship service which includes
Ceremony: A ritual observance and procedure performed at grand and formal occasions. A marriage is one example of a ceremony.
Cessationism: The belief that tongues,
and other special gifts enjoyed by believers in the early Christian
movement faded early in the history of the church, and are thus not present
today. The time of cessation is variously defined as the date of the completion
of the last book of the Christian Scriptures or the death of the last
Apostle. Antonym: Continuationism.
Chakra: This is a term used in some traditions in Buddhism
and the New Age to refer to seven points of energy concentration
throughout a person's central nervous system -- in their brain and
along their spine.
A special drinking cup used in some Christian
communion services to hold wine.
Among Wiccans and other
Neopagans, it is
a goblet used to hold either a beverage or water for ritual use.
Channeling: A practice common among New Agers in which the spirit of a
teacher is contacted in order to receive guidance and knowledge.
Chanukah: (a.k.a. Hanukka): The Jewish festival of lights which
recalls a miracle at the time of the rededication of the Jewish Temple in
Jerusalem circa 164 BCE. A small quantity of oil burned for many days. With the
heavy commercialization of Christmas, this minor Jewish holiday has taken on
Charismatic movement: The adoption of certain Pentecostal
beliefs and practices within Protestant denominations. The same phenomenon
has occurred within the Roman Catholic Church where it is called the
Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
Chiliasm: From the Greek term for 1000: The belief that Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) will
reign on Earth for 1,000 years. Synonym for millennium.
Chiromancy: The prediction of a person's past and future
through palm reading.
Chosen people: A belief from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament)
that the Jewish people were chosen by God to receive the Torah and spread the
word of God throughout the Earth. Many conservative Protestants teach the
principle of Supercessionism (a.k.a. Replacement
Theology): that God unilaterally terminated his covenants with the Jewish people
and transferred them to the followers of Christianity.
Christ: From a Greek word meaning to
rub down an athlete with lineament. It refers to a Hebrew word (Messiah in
English) that means "an anointed one," e.g.
a king of Israel or a prophet. Jesus' real name was Yeshua of Nazareth.
Christadelphianism: A small Christian religious group with
non-traditional beliefs. They teach that Jesus was a created being, that the
Holy Spirit is a power or energy rather than the third personality in the
Trinity. They deny the traditional concepts of
heaven and hell
Census offices consider any person or group to be Christian if they devoutly, seriously
regards themselves to be Christian. Thus, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Roman Catholic,
and members of the Unification Church are Christians. Many groups, particularly conservative Christians,
regard many of these denominations as heretical "cults" and not part of Christianity.
Webster's New World Dictionary: "A person believing in Jesus as the Christ, or
in the religion based upon the teachings of Jesus."
Concise Oxford Dictionary: "Person believing in, professing or belonging to the
religion of Christ." (They don't define exactly what the religion of Christ is,
or which of the thousands of denominations and sects represent this
Evangelical/Fundamentalist usage: often used to refer only to
fellow conservative Christian
faith groups or to "saved" individuals.
Christian Atheism: A person who has no belief in a deity, who believes that Jesus was a prophet, and follows his behavioral teachings. See: Death of God
Christian evidences: A branch of Apologetics
that deals with attempts to prove that Christianity and/or the Bible is
true. Much effort is expended by conservative Christians to prove that
creation, the great flood, the tower of Babel, virgin birth, resurrection,
Exodus, attack on Canaan etc. happened exactly as explained in the Bible.
Their expectation is that no evidence from archaeology, geology, cosmology,
astronomy or any other science will disprove the
inerrancy of the Bible.
Christian Identity: A small, racist, radical group within
Christianity which has adopted a belief similar to that of British
Israelism. They teach that the ten lost tribes of Israel became the
Anglo-Saxon race. Many Identity groups teach that Eve engaged in sexual
relations with the serpent in the Garden of Eden, and that the Jews were
the product of that union.
Christianist: This is a term whose meaning has changed over the past four centuries. Recently it has been used to refer to fundamentalist Christians, mostly in the United States, for the ideology of the Christian right. This latest meaning of the term is credited to conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan who wrote critically in the New York Times during the mid-2003: "Christianists ... are as anathema to true Christians as the Islamists are to true Islam." 4
Christian Science: A Christian
denomination founded in 1879 in Boston, MA, by Mary Baker Eddy. It
promotes spiritual healing, that sickness and matter is not real, and
that one should avoid medical help. The life expectancy of Christian
Scientists appears to be significantly shorter than for the general
Christological Monotheism: A belief system that attempts to
preserve the Jewish concept of Yahweh as the only existing deity while including Jesus within the identity of Yahweh
without making Jesus a separate demi-god.
Christology: The study of the personality, attributes and/or
life of Yeshua of Nazareth, a.k.a. Jesus Christ. The term is derived from two Greek words, for "messiah"
and "formal study."
Christmas: This is held on DEC-25, the nominal date of the
birth of Yeshua of Nazareth, after whose life the Christian religion is
patterned. The western church uses the Gregorian calendar and the
eastern church uses the Julian calendar. So Christmas is celebrated on
two different days.
Chupah: A Jewish wedding canopy which represents the home that
the groom is expected to maintain.
Church: The Greek word ekklesia (to call out) in the Bible is
generally translated as "church." In modern usage, it may refer to:
All people, living or
dead, who are Christians.
A specific wing of Christianity, as in the Roman Catholic Church
A specific Christian denomination or sect, like the Presbyterian Church
A specific congregation, like the First Baptist Church.
A non-Christian religion, like the Wiccan Church of Canada
Circumcision: From a Latin word to "cut around:" The removal of the
skin that covers the tip of a penis. In Judaism, it is performed during the brit
milah ceremony, usually at the age of eight days. In some African countries it is conducted at various
times between birth and puberty, depending on local culture. In North America it
is often done for appearance purposes. The term is sometimes use to refer to
female genital mutilation.
Circumcision of Jesus: A Christian holy day held in
remembrance of Jesus' circumcision. Since the month and date of Jesus' birth is
unknown, this holy day was arbitrarily selected.
Civil religion: Rowland Sherrill describes it as: "... a form of devotion, outlook and commitment that deeply and widely binds the citizens of the nation together with ideas they possess and express about the sacred nature, the sacred ideals, the sacred character, and sacred meanings of their country. Civil religion is the mysterious way that religion, politics, ideas of nationhood, patriotism, etc. – energized by faith outlooks – represent a national force.” 1 The term was created by Rousseau in his writing "On
the Social Contract" 1762.
Civil union: A voluntary union of two adult
persons of the same sex. The couple typically receives all of the state
benefits, obligations, and protections as married opposite-sex couples are
given, but none of the 1,050 or so federal benefits. In the U.S., they
were first made available in Vermont. See also domestic
Clergy: An ordained Christian priest, pastor or minister. In Judaism,
a rabbi. Some conservative faith groups restrict the clergy to males. It is
sometimes use generically to refer to any religious leader.
Collective Responsibility: The concept that an
entire group of people (e.g. all of a certain sex, religion, skin color,
nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc) are all equally responsible for the act of
one person in the group. This is a logical outgrowth of the biblical principle
of transferability of sin. Until recent decades most
Christian faith groups extended the concept of collective responsibility to
extend over millennia by holding all modern-day Jews responsible for the execution
of Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ) by the Roman occupying army in Judea almost 2,000 years
Coming, second: (a.k.a. Parousia): The belief that Jesus will descend to earth as
described in the biblical book Revelation, leading a massive army.
As the 21st century approached, approximately one in four American adults believed that this would happen
during their lifetime.
Commandments: In Jewish tradition, there
are 613 commandments in the Torah: 248 positive and 365 negative. Of these, about two dozen are described in Exodus
20:2-17 which are grouped together to total ten commandments. These are held in high
regard by both Jews and Christians, although few can list their topics.
A Christian ritual, sometimes called the Eucharist, or Mass, or Lord's
supper involving the sharing of bread and wine (or
a wine substitute) during a service. At the time of the early
church, only baptized Christians were allowed to be present during
communion. When Pagans started to spread the rumor that cannibalism was
involved, this part of the service was opened to the public. Alternative
names for communion are: Eucharist, Divine Liturgy, Last Supper, etc.
A group of believers or a group of denominations. The Anglican
Communion, for example, is a group of national churches who share many
beliefs and practices in common.
Comparative religion: The study of world religions to determine
their points of similarity and difference. In practice, this is difficult
to do on an impartial basis. Authors often consider their own branch of
their own religion to be "true," and all other branches of their religion,
and all other religions to be "false." Many fundamentalist Christians
regard non-Christian religions as forms of Satanism.
Complementarianism: A belief by mostly conservative Jews, Christians and Muslims that God intends women to hold very different but complementiary roles from men within marriage, employment, and faith groups. In practice, the principle often relegates women to positions of little power.
Completed Jews: A term used by conservative Christians to
refer to Jews who have embraced Messianic Judaism -- a blend of Jewish
tradition and ceremonies with Fundamentalist theological beliefs about
Jesus Christ and the Trinity. It is considered a highly derogatory term by most
Concestor: An animal species, typically long extinct, which is
the ancestor to two later-evolved species. For example, according to the
theory of evolution, the concestor shared by humans and chimpanzees lived
about six million years ago. There are 40 concestors between humans and the
first life forms which lived about 3.8 billion years ago.
Concreated holiness: This is the belief that when God created
Adam, that Adam's will was created holy. His natural inclination was thus
to behave in a holy manner.
Concupiscence: From the Latin word "concupiscentia:" the natural
inclination or innate tendency of humans to perform evil deeds.
Conditionalism (a.k.a.Conditional immortality): Synonyms for
annihilationism -- the concept that the inhabitants
of Hell will not be tortured forever, but will be exterminated.
Confessing Church: The Roman Catholic Church and most Evangelical
(i.e. Protestant) denominations cooperated extensively with Hitler and the German
Nazis during the 1930s and early 1940s. However the"Pastors'
Emergency League" founded by Detrich Bonhoeffer, Pastor Niemoller, and other
ministers opposed the Nazi's aryanization of German Christianity. The League
grew into the Confessing Church. Many of its leaders were executed by the Nazis.
Confessionalism: As a religious term, it means that each member
of a faith group is expected to adhere fully to the group's entire belief
system. No dissent is allowed. The Amish might be
regarded as a good example of confessionalism. Those congregations
affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association
might be regarded as an opposite extreme; they respect, encourage, and expect
diversity of belief.
Confucianism: An indigenous system
of thought which originated in China about 500 BCE.
It is considered by some to be a religion, by others a humanistic
philosophy. Founded by Confucius (551-479 BCE)
Congregation: This word is another of those religious terms with
multiple meanings. It can refer to:
The members belonging to a specific place of worship.
A religious organization, as in the First Unitarian Congregation of
An administrative body within the Curia of the Roman Catholic Church, as
in the Congregation of for the Doctrine of the Faith -- formerly
called the Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition.
A group of professed members of a Roman Catholic religious congregation.
Congregations are similar to religious orders, except that the members only
take simple vows.
The term can also refer to an assembly of senior members at a university.
Conservative: Within Christianity, this is one wing of the
religion, composed of Fundamentalists, other Evangelicals, Pentecostals,
Charismatics, and members of most independent churches. Other wings of
Christianity include mainline Christianity, liberal Christianity, Roman
Catholicism, Anglican Communion(s), and Eastern Orthodoxy. Conservative Judaism
was organized as a reaction to Reform Judaism, the largest of the three main
wings of the religion.
Consubstantiality: The belief that Jesus is of the same
substance (homoousion in Greek) as God the Father. This belief was
promoted by those who taught that God, Son and Holy Spirit formed a
Trinity. Opposing them was Arius who regarded this as a Pagan polytheistic
concept. He taught that Jesus was of similar substance (homoiousion in
Greek) to God the Father. The difference of one letter (o,i) caused a
great deal of angry debate in the church; the two sides were evenly
matched. Constantine applied political pressure to have homoousion
accepted at the Council of Nicea. This has been the teachings of almost
all Christian faith groups ever since.
Consubstantiation: The belief that the bread and
body of Jesus during communion form one substance, and that the wine and blood
of Jesus similarly form one substance. This is often falsely attributed to
Contemplation: In a religious sense, the practice of
meditation on spiritual matters.
Contemplative prayer: This is an ancient Christian practice that
was suppressed by the Roman Catholic Church during the Middle Ages and is
rejected by many conservative Protestants today. It consists of wordless
form of prayer in which one simply exists in the presence of the Holy
Spirit. Some Christians believe that the Holy Spirit lives in each baptized
Christian; others believe that he exists indwells every saved person.
Contextualization: A method of analyzing the Bible which
attempts to differentiate between the meaning of the text and "the
cultural and historical context in which it is given." 2
The result is that when one tries to interpret the meaning of a biblical
passage in terms of today's culture, the meaning of the text may have to
change. For example, in Genesis 9:1. humans are urged to be fruitful and
multiply. That made sense in days when there were so many childhood
diseases, and warfare. The opposite command -- to limit one's fertility --
might make more sense today.
Continuationism: The belief that tongues,
prophecy, healing, and other special gifts enjoyed by believers in the early Christian
movement have continued to the present time. Antonym: cessationism.
Conversion: the act of changing one's beliefs from one religion to
another or from one faith group to another within the same religion. It is be a
capital offense in some predominately Muslim lands to convert from Islam to another
Conversionism: the belief
that lives of all humans need to be changed by way of a
"born again" decision
in which they repent of their sins and accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Conversos (a.k.a. New Christians): A group of Jews in Spain who
converted to Roman Catholicism in order to escape brutal violence and
oppression during the 14th and 15th century.
ARoman Catholic holy day which
commemorates the Eucharist - a ritual in which they believe that a
wafer and wine become the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ.
A city in Texas
A nuclear attack submarine whose full name is "USS City of Corpus Christi"
It has four 21" torpedo tubes and can launch Harpoon and Tomahawk missiles and
Cosmogeny: beliefs about the origin of the universe. While
over 95% of scientists and many other North American adults believe that the
world and the rest of the universe is billions of years old, many
conservative Christians believe in a universe less than 10,000 years
Cosmogony: (From the Greek: "cosmo" meaning universe; "gony"
meaning origin): A religious or scientific model of the origin of the
universe. The most common models in North America involve the "big bang" and creation
of the universe by God.
Cosmology: (From the Greek: "cosmo" meaning universe; "logos"
meaning study). Beliefs about the structure of the universe. Many
religious texts have a pre-scientific view of the makeup of the earth,
the solar system and the rest of the universe.
Cosmophobia: (From the Greek: "cosmo" meaning universe; "phobia"
meaning fear). David Morrison at the NASA Lunar Science Institute coined the term in 2009. He defined it as: "an unreasoning fear of the cosmos."
Council, ecumenical: A series of meetings of the bishops of the
Christian Church to settle doctrinal and organizational matters, in which
the decisions were accepted by the entire Church. During the first centuries of
the Christian movement, there was no single leader in charge, so disputes
had to be settled by councils.
Counter cult movement (CCM): A group made up
Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Protestant organizations which
opposes and criticizes new religious movements (NRMs) because of the
latter's unorthodox and/or novel theological beliefs.
Counter reformation: A reform movement within the Roman
Catholic church taken shortly after -- an in response to -- the Protestant Reformation.
Coven: a local group of Wiccans or other Neo-pagans.
During the "burning times" when Christian groups were tracking down and
exterminating heretics, it was believed that each coven held 13 members. This was and is
not true; covens can be of any size, but are most often perhaps about a half-dozen.
Covenant: "Berith" in Hebrew and "diatheke" in Greek: An
agreement between two persons which are obligatory on both parties. Most
commonly used to refer to various covenants between God and the Hebrews.
Jews believe that these covenants are permanent; some Christians believe
that God unilaterally abrogated them and selected Christians to be the new
Covenant Theology: A Christian concept which
teaches the unity of the Hebrew Scriptures and Christian Scriptures (Old and
New Testament). The covenants of the Hebrew Scriptures are not done away
with the arrival of Christ on Earth; they are still binding on humans today.
Ancient Jews were not saved by animal sacrifice. Such rituals were only
symbolic of Jesus' self-sacrifice. See also New
Creed: Fropm the Latin word "credere" -- to believe. A short statement of religious belief,
usually motivated by a desire to emphasize church teaching as opposed to a
heresy. There are a
number of creeds within the Christian religion:
the Apostles creed, Nicene creed are the most popular. However, the
former is little used in Eastern Orthodox churches.
Criticism: When referring to the Bible, this refers to a method
of analyzing its text:
Lower criticism is the analysis of the text in order to understand its
meaning and detect any forgeries, mistranslations, etc.
Higher criticism is an attempt to determine when the passage was
written, who wrote it, where it was written, what their purpose was,
whether it was imported into the Bible from another source, etc. One
example of the results of higher criticism is the
documentary hypothesis concerning the authorship of the first five
books in the Hebrew Scripture, which most mainline and liberal theologians
Cross, sign of: A movement, commonly used among Roman
Catholics, in which the right hand touches the forehead, chest, left
shoulder, and right shoulder in sequence. Orthodox believers cross
themselves from right to left.
Crucifix: A religious symbol representing Jesus nailed to the
cross. Most crucifixes lack accuracy because they portray a partly
clothed man nailed through his palms. The Romans crucified people
naked, with their wrists nailed (or their arms tied) to the crossbar. Another
possible inaccuracy relates to the shape of the cross. It is not clear
whether Jesus was executed on a Roman cross -- as essentially all crucifixes
show -- or on a cross in the form of a capital "T," or on a vertical stake.
Also, for reasons of efficiency, the distance from the victim's feet to
ground level was small.
Cruciform: an object in the form of a cross. The term is often
used to describe buildings and jewelry.
Crucifixion: A method of carrying out the death penalty which
involved physical abuse of the victim, stripping him/her of all clothing,
tying or nailing the arms and legs to a cross or stake, and abandoning
the victim to die. The corpse was often partly eaten by scavengers. The body
was generally denied a proper burial; it was tossed on a garbage heap.
Crucifixion was widely used within the Roman Empire to execute either slaves or rebels.
Crypto-jew: A person who adheres to Judaism while publicly
professing to be of another faith. This was most often seen in countries
where Judaism was under oppression, like Nazi Germany during the mid 20th
century, or in Spain during the 14th & 15th century.
are materials which have their molecules arranged in a specific, highly
ordered internal pattern. This pattern is reflected in the crystal's
external structure which typically has symmetrical surfaces. Many common
substances, from salt to sugar, and from diamonds to quartz, form crystals.
They can be shaped so that they will vibrate at a specific frequency and are
widely used in radio communications and computing devices. Many
New Agers, Wiccans, and
other Neopagans and others believe that crystals
possess healing energy.
Cult: From the Latin word "cultus" -- meaning worship. Cult is a word with
many religious meanings (and some
secular as well) which should be used with great care to avoid misunderstanding.
We recommend the neutral term "new religious movement" be used
in its place. An even better
practice is to refer to a religious group by its name:
Traditional theological usage: a style of worship and its associated rituals.
It can be applied to any faith group.
Sociological usage: a small religious group that exists in a state of tension with the
predominant religion; e.g. Christianity in Pakistan.
General religious usage: a small, recently created religious group; not a variant of an
established religion. Often headed by a single charismatic leader.
Evangelical usage: a religious group that considers
themselves to be Christian but which denies one or more historical beliefs
of Protestant Christianity.
Anti-cult movement usage: a small, evil religious group, often with a single charismatic
leader, who engage in deceptive recruiting, brainwashing and other mind control techniques
to reduce the membership to near-zombie state.
Popular belief: A doomsday, dangerous, destructive religious
movement whose members risk their life to belong.
Cult apologist: Derogatory term used to refer to:
Academics who investigate new religious movements and often report
that they are harmless.
Cult Awareness Network (CAN): Originally, an anti-cult group which targeted new religious movements. CAN was forced into bankruptcy because of their criminal activities linking the parents of members of new religious movements with kidnappers and re-programmers. In an ironic twist, their name and other assets were purchased by the Foundation for Religious Freedom, which teaches tolerance of other faith groups.
Curate: In the Anglican communion, an assistant pastor.