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Religious terms starting with the letter "D"

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bulletDalai Lama: The spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism.

bulletDaoism: see Taoism

bulletDar-e-Mehr: A North American term used by the Zoroastrian faith to refer to their house of worship. It literally means "a portal to all that is good: charity, devotion, kindness and love."

bulletDasa Laxana: A Jain holy day which recalls the ten important goals for a follower of Jainism.

bulletDay of reckoning: Judgment day as described in the Bible: a time when all will be judged and sent either to Hell or Heaven.

bulletDay of the Covenant: Baha'is recall the the covenant contained in the last will and testament of Baha'u'llah.

bulletDay of the Lord: A time when Christians believe that God will destroy all evil and establish his kingdom on earth.

bulletDays of awe: A Jewish term referring to the ten days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur. It is a time of introspection.

bulletDeacon: From the Greek word diakanos (servant). Originally a church administrator. Currently, the term may refer to a low-ranking member of the clergy, a lay minister, or a lay administrator.

bulletDead, cult of the: Worship of the deceased. Unlike ancestor worship, cult of the dead involves the worship of the deceased by all, not just by the kin of the ancestors.

bulletDead Sea Scrolls:
bulletAccording to "The Da Vinci Code" the scrolls consists of "some of the gospels that Constantine attempted to eradicate. ... The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950s hidden in a cave near Qumran in the Judean desert...these documents speak of Christ's ministry in very human terms."
bulletAccording to reality, the Dead Sea Scrolls were actually found in the 1940s. They contained no gospels and no mention of Jesus' ministry. In fact, the scrolls contained no Christian writings at all; they were entirely made up of Jewish documents. Except for the book of Esther, all books from the Hebrew Scriptures are present, along with many documents from the Essene tradition.

bullet Dean: As a religious term, it is most commonly used as an assistant to the bishop who runs the cathedral.

bullet Death of God Theology: (a.k.a. Christian Atheism) This is a belief that became popular in the 1960s among some Christian theologians. Perhaps the most famous promoter of this concept was J.A.T. Robinson, a bishop of the Church of England. He wrote in his book Honest to God that the transcendent God described in the Bible is an outdated myth, but that the moral and ethical teachings of Jesus are valid.
bulletDebate, religious: A formal discussion of the truth or advantages of one or more faith groups or theological positions. See dialogue

bulletDecalog: Synonym for the Ten Commandments.

bulletDeconversion: A term used most often by Atheists and Agnostics to describe an individual's loss of faith in a religion with which they had identified.

bulletDeicide: The act of killing God. Until the mid 20th century, most Christians held modern-day Jews responsible for killing God in the form of Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ). The Catholic Church has partly repudiated this belief. Most Protestant denominations have gone further. But one still hears the occasional accusation of "Christ Killer" directed at Jews.

bulletDeist: a person who believes in the existence of a remote, unknowable deity, usually male, who created the universe, but has not been involved with it since. Most of the politicians who founded America were Deists.

bulletDeity: a generic term used to refer to one or more supernatural beings. It can refer to a single God, as is Judaism and Islam; a pair of gods, as in Zoroastrianism; a Trinity as in Christianity and Hinduism; a God and a Goddess as in Wicca and other Neopagan religions, etc. Plural form is "deities."

bulletDemiurge: "public craftsman" in Greek
bulletThe name of the creator according to the philosophy of Plato.
bulletA creator-god viewed by Gnostics as defective and inferior to the supreme deity. This is the God of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), a deity who they view / viewed as fundamentally evil, jealous, rigid, lacking in compassion, and prone to genocide.

bulletDemon: Originally an angel, it joined with Satan to oppose God. Many conservative Christians believe that a person can be possessed by a demon; some think that only non-Christians can be possessed. Mental health professionals abandoned the concept of demonic possession centuries ago.

bulletDemoniac: An individual who is possessed by a demon.

bullet Denomination: an established religious faith group within a religion, which has usually been in existence for many years and has geographically widespread membership. It typically unites a group of individual, local congregations into a single administrative body.

bulletDeontological: a system of ethics based on fixed rules which need to be followed in order for a person to be ethically and morally justified in their decisions. The Ten Commandments or the 613 Mosaic Laws in the Torah are two examples. One's duty is to follow these defined rules of conduct, regardless of the practical consequences. Antonym: teleological.

bullet Deosil: The clockwise direction. The term is often used in describing Wiccan and other Neopagan rituals.

bulletDepravity, total: (a.k.a. Total inability) The doctrine, primarily held by conservative Christians, that every part of a person has been hopelessly damaged by sin. None would seek out God unless God first intervenes in their life. "Man is spiritually dead and unable to save himself or even believe without God's help." 1 This is one of the five points of Calvinism. See Romans 3:9.

bulletDeprogramming: A criminal method of forcing a person to abandon their religious or other beliefs, usually through kidnapping, forcible confinement, and psychological pressure.

bulletDeuterocanon: A series of books found in Bible translations used by Catholics and some Anglicans. They consist of 1 & 2 Maccabees, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Baruch, and parts of Daniel and Esther. They are called the Apocrypha by Protestants, and were removed by them at the time of the reformation in the 16th century.

bulletDeutero Isaiah: A theological term referring to chapters 49 to 65 in the book of Isaiah. Religious liberals and most Bible historians believe that this was written by a different author.

bulletDevi: (Sanskrit for Goddess) Wikipedia describes her as a Hindu goddess. "...synonymous with Shakti, the female aspect of the divine, as conceptualized by the Shakta tradition of Hinduism.

bulletDevil: Christian synonym for Satan: an all-evil former angel. He is regarded by most progressive Christians as a mythical being who symbolizes evil. He is regarded by most conservative Christians as an extremely powerful personality -- a quasi-deity who is tempting every human to do evil.

bulletDharma: This term has multiple meanings: The teachings of the Buddha, truth; that which is established, customary, or proper; natural law -- the way the universe works; one's duty and responsibility, etc.

bulletDharma Day: This celebrates the first teaching of the Buddha after his enlightenment. (Not to be mistaken for Tuesday, when Dharma and Greg situational comedy is broadcast. Sorry for the humor. ;-)

bulletDialog: In a religious sense, dialog refers to people from two or more religious traditions meeting as equals to explain and explore their religious beliefs and practices together. The aim is not conversion, debate, or proselytizing; it is to improve understanding, mutual respect, and personal growth. Dialog tends to be rare when compared to instances of debate.

bulletDiaspora: The forced exiles of the Jewish people from Palestine by the Babylonians in the sixth century BCE and by the Roman Empire in the middle of the 2nd century CE.

bulletDiatessaron: The belief that the four Christian Gospels are in harmony with each other. The term is often used to refer to the writing of a very popular gospel by Tatian (120 - 173 CE) based on Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

bulletDichotomy: In the field of religion, the concept that a person is made up of a body and a soul, or a body and a spirit. An opposing belief, also justified by reference to biblical passages is trichotomy: the belief that a person is composed of body, soul, and spirit.

bulletDidache: a very early, short book describing Christian rituals and beliefs.

bulletDiocese: a geographical area under the jurisdiction of a bishop.

bulletDiophysite: A person or group which believes in Diophysitism.

bulletDiophysitism: This is the belief that Christ had two natures: both divine and human. This concept won out after extensive debate at the church council at Chalcedon in 451 CE. It is imbedded in the Chalcedonian Creed. An opposing belief is Monophysitism.

bulletDiocese: A geographical area in which a group of priests are under the direction of a single bishop. The term is used by the Roman Catholic church, the Greek Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion.

bulletDisciples: In Christian usage, followers of Jesus. At one time, Jesus had 12 disciples; at another time, 70 are mentioned. Although those followers who were mentioned by name often in the gospels were evenly split between women and men, only conflicting lists of male disciples survive.

bulletDisfellowshipping: A practice of some Christian faith groups in which a member has certain privileges removed in order to force them to give up certain behaviors and beliefs. Within the LFD church -- commonly called the Mormons -- a disfellowshipped member has certain privileges removed, but still remains a member. Among the Jehovah's Witnesses, a person is shunned. This can have devastating consequences to persons in a high-intensity religious group whose entire support system involves fellow members.

bulletDispensation, Dispensationalism: The is the concept that all of human history has been divided into seven distinct periods of time or dispensations. They are often called: innocence, conscience, human government, promise, law, grace and the Kingdom. God focused on the Hebrews during some dispensations and on the church during others. Dispensationalists see a major role for the state of Israel in the future, and anticipate the second coming of Jesus in the immediate future. 

bulletDispensationalist premillennialism: See premillenialism

bulletDisplacement, theology of: Alternative term for supercession.

bulletDisappointment, great: The term is used to refer to the failed prophecy of William Miller who predicted that Christ would return to earth in 1844.

bulletDisassociate: a term used within the Jehovah's Witnesses to refer to an apostate who has been severed from the organization..

bulletDisestablishment: Cancellation of the official status of a faith group as a country's official church. There is a growing support that the state church in Britain, the Church of England, be disestablished.

bulletDisestablishmentarianism: The belief that there should no longer be an official church in the country. The word antidisestablishmentarianism is sometimes quoted as the longest word in the English language. The longest word in any language may well be the Welsh name of a town in Wales:  Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

bulletDissociate: a mental condition in which the mind detaches itself from external activity. A psychological term widely used in the treatment of persons who allegedly suffer from Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) a.k.a. Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). This is a controversial topic. Most mental health professionals believe that MPD/DID is either extremely rare or nonexistent. Belief in MPD/DID is rapidly declining among the public.

bulletDivination: Any method of predicting future events. Astrology, bird entrails, tarot cards, runes, even the shadow of a groundhog near the end of winter have been used as tools of divination. Divination was practiced by many persons mentioned in the Bible (Joseph, high priests, Daniel). Some types of divination are condemned by the Bible.

bulletDiwali: A Hindu Festival of Lights. Gifts are exchanged; fireworks are enjoyed

bulletDocetism: From the Greek word for "image." An early belief about Christ in which Jesus was believed to be a spirit who merely appeared to be a human.

bulletDoctrine: From the Latin word "doctrina" (doctor) and the Greek "didaskolos" (teaching). A body of beliefs that is taught. Within the field of religion, there is often the assumption that a member must agree with all aspects of the group's doctrine. The 1,000 or so Christian faith groups in North America teach many different sets of conflicting doctrine. Many consider their own doctrines to be absolutely true, and other groups' doctrines to be in error.

bulletDocumentary Hypothesis: The belief that the Pentateuch (the first five books in the Bible) were not written by Moses, but by four anonymous authors -- traditionally called J, E, P and D. Also involved were one or more redactors who edited the writings into their present form. Conservative Christians generally deny the hypothesis, and believe that Moses wrote all five books -- except perhaps for the chapters that describe his death and burial.

bulletDogma: From the Greek word "dogma" (a decree). A revealed truth defined by a faith group. It is important to realize that one group's dogma is often another group's heresy.

bulletDomestic partnership: A voluntary union of two adult persons of the same sex. The couple typically receives some but not all of the same benefits, obligations, and protections as married opposite-sex couples are given. In the U.S., they are available in California. See also civil unions.

bulletDonatism: An early Christian leader from North Africa, Donatus, promoted the belief that the validity of a sacrament was dependent on the moral character of the priest who performed it. Two church synods later declared this to be a heresy. 

bulletDoomsday cult: a religious group which is focused on the anticipated end of the world in the near future. Often referred to as a destructive cult.

bulletDormition of the Theotokos: On this day, the Greek Orthodox Church commemorates the death, burial, resurrection and ascension into heaven of the Virgin Mary.

bulletDoubt, religious: "... a feeling of uncertainty toward, and a questioning of, religious teachings and beliefs." 1

bulletDowngraders: A term used to refer to Christian theologians and clergy during the 1880s who were reacting to the widespread public skepticism against miracles at the time. They instead taught the moral leadership of Jesus, and were called "downgraders" as a result.

bulletDowsing: A type of divination, typically using a forked branch or two sticks. They are used most often to locate underground sources of water. Although belief in the effectiveness of dowsing is widespread, carefully controlled studies have shown it to be useless.

bulletDruids: A professional class of individuals in ancient Celtic society who had various teaching, priestly, legal, and ambassadorial functions. They are often portrayed as engaging in human sacrifice. However, the only source for this belief are a single reference in  the wartime writings of Julius Caesar, who relied on hearsay.

bulletDruse: (a.k.a. Muwahhid, Mowahhidoon, Mo'wa'he'doon, Taw'heed Faith): The Druze are a fiercely independent religious group with perhaps as many as a million members. They are mainly concentrated in Lebanon around the base of Mount Hermon, and in the mountains behind Beirut and Sidon. They broke away from Islam during the 10th century CE.

bulletDualism: In general, the belief that entities and concepts often appear in pairs. They are generally opposites. Often one is considered good and the other bad. The religion of Zoroastrianism recognizes one all-good deity and one who is all-evil. Most conservative Christians believe that two, very powerful, supernatural powers influence the world: God and Satan. Dualism" is often used to refer to persons as being composed of body and soul, or to refer to the universe as being made up of mind and matter.

bulletDual Covenant: This is the theological concept that God has continued his covenants with the Jewish people, and has established a new, parallel covenant with the followers of Christianity.  Opposing this belief is the concept of Supercessionism: that God has unilaterally terminated his covenants with the Jews, and transferred them to Christians. The latter belief led to a great deal of persecution of Jews by Christians; it is now rejected within Christianity except for some conservative Protestant denominations.

bulletDuotheist: Synonym for bitheist; 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.

bullet Dussehra: An annual observance when Hindus celebrate the victory of Lord Rama over the Demons.
bullet Dystheism: A belief that God exists, but is not good, although is not necessarily evil.

Reference used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. B. Hunsberger, et al., "Religious doubt: A social psychological analysis," in M. L. Lynn and D. O. Moberg, eds., "Research in the social scientific study of religion," JAI Press, (1993). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store

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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