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Glossary of religious & spiritual terms

Terms starting with the letter "G"

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bulletGreek goddess of the Earth.
bulletA belief that the earth is a living entity who adapts the environment to promote life.

bulletGap theory: The belief that there is a large interval of time between the first and second verses in the book of Genesis. By insertion of a gap at this point, Genesis is brought more closely into harmony with the conclusions of the vast majority of biological and earth scientists who believe that Evolution is a fact and that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old.

bullet Gay: An individual who is emotionally and physically attracted to members of the same sex. The term sometimes refers to males only; other times it refers to males and females.

bulletGehena: A Greek word which refers to the Hebrew word gehinnom, the valley of Hinnon. This was the garbage dump for Jerusalem, a place of continuous fire, where the bodies of crucified criminals were tossed. According to Luke 12:4 and other passages, this is Hell. God casts the body and souls of the unsaved here after their death, to be tortured forever without any hope of mercy.

bulletGender expression: How a person dresses, speaks and acts to show their gender identity.

bullet Gender identity: An individual's feeling of gender. In the vast majority of people, this is the same as their gender as assigned at birth. However, among transgender persons, their perceived gender is opposite from their birth-assigned gender, or they feel that they have no gender.

bulletGeneral Revelation: A Christian term partly derived from Romans 1:19-20. Paul taught that the existence of the world is proof of the existence of God and of some of his attributes. Further, it teaches that these beliefs are obvious to everyone -- whether they be Christian or not. With advances in science, the existence of the world and its life forms can be explained in naturalistic terms. Thus, the Romans passage does not necessarily apply to contemporary individuals who have become convinced of the reality of evolution.

bulletGenetic fallacy The assumption that because something started with a certain belief or quality that it must continue to have those qualities. An example is: "You're not going to wear a wedding ring, are you? Don't you know that the wedding ring originally symbolized ankle chains worn by women to prevent them from running away from their husbands? I would not have thought you would be a party to such a sexist practice." 4

bulletGenizah: A place in a synagogue set aside to store both worn-out and heretical or disgraced Hebrew books or papers.

bullet Genocide: Systematic murder of an entire group of people on the basis of their religion, race or nationality. Derived from genos (race) and cide (to kill). A term created by Raphael Lemkin in the mid-1940s. It refers to the planned, systematic extermination of an entire ethnic, national, racial, or religious group. Most genocides in the 20th and 21st century have had a strong religious component. The murder of about 200,000 Muslims by Serbian Orthodox Christians during the 1990s is the most serious religiously-motivated genocide in recent years.

bulletGenocide, cultural: Attempts to eliminate an entire culture. The Canadian government's program of destroying Native Canadian culture between 1879 and 1986 through the use of boarding schools is one example.

bulletGentile: This term originated in the Latin word "gent" which meant "of the same clan."  It became "gentil" in Middle English. Today, it has a variety of definitions:
bulletIn Judaism: a non-Jew.

bulletIn the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) the Greek word "Hellenes" -- which means "Greek" -- has been translated as "Gentile." It refers to any non-Jewish nation or group. See: Acts 16:1, 3; 18:17; Romans 1:14).

bulletIn Mormonism: a person who is not a Mormon.

bulletIn Hinduism: a person who is not a Hindu.

bulletIn some other applications, it refers to a person who does not acknowledge the existence of one's God. 1,2

bulletThe belief that the sun revolves around the earth. This was all the rage in Galileo's day. Religious News Service reported in 2006-MAR that the belief is having a comeback among conservative Christians because of its support in the Bible. Commentators are having difficulty deciding whether this news report is a satire, or is serious.
bulletWithin the environmental movement, a concern over the state and future of the Earth.

bulletGeomancy: The procedure of selecting a site for a building, grave, etc. based upon unseen forces in nature. The goal is to achieve harmony with the natural surroundings.

bullet Get: A Jewish divorce.

bulletGhetto: The term originally referred to a type of inner-city concentration camp for Jews. First developed by the Roman Catholic Church, the concept was later adopted by Hitler during the German Nazi regime. The term now refers to any concentration of a specific group in a city, as in "student ghetto."

bulletGhost: A form of spirit being. Many faiths, from Aboriginal religion to some groups within Christianity believe that they are the spirits of dead people. Hard evidence of their existence is scant or non-existent.

bulletGilgamesh epic: A flood story from ancient Pagan Babylon with many points of similarity to the Genesis flood. Religious liberals conclude that the Genesis account of the flood of Noah was derived from this Pagan source. Religious conservatives conclude that the Genesis flood story is precisely true, and that the Gilgamesh epic is a distorted record of the actual flood.


Glory: There are at least four religious meanings:

  • An aura: an indication of radiant light drawn around the head of a saint.

  • "Gloria Patri" is a doxology -- a short hymn of praise to God.

  • God's glory relates to how God's presence is experienced; it is often associated with thunderbolts, fire, bright lights, and other illuminations.

  • Glory is sometimes used to described Heaven, as in "Bound for Glory"
bullet Glossolalia or "speaking in tongues". In the first Centuries CE, it meant the ability of a person to communicate in a foreign language that they had never learned. e.g. a person raised speaking Greek and unable to speak any other language would suddenly be conversing in Aramaic. At the present time, it refers to a person who suddenly, in a state of religious ecstasy, starts speaking sounds that sound like language but do not represent any known tongue. The manifestation of glossolilia is an expected development in all Pentecostal believers and is a sign of the grace of God. It is also a common practice among charismatic Christians. More details are available.

bulletGnosis: A Greek word which literally means "knowledge." Insight or enlightenment capture the meaning of Gnosis better.

bulletGnosticism: This is pronounced with a silent "g"; it is derived from the Greek word gnosis (knowledge). It originated in the Middle East and Greece during pre-Christian times. The movement has been composed of many groups with differing beliefs. One common concept is that there are two Gods: one Supreme Father who is from the "good" spirit world, and one Demiurge (the Yahweh/Jehovah in the Bible) who created the evil material world. Salvation comes through knowledge and liberation from the material, earthly world to attain a higher level of spirituality. Christian Gnosticism was one of the three main movements in early Christianity; the other two being Jewish and Pauline Christianity. Many Gnostic sects were the victims of genocide by the early Christian Church. The movement has survived to the present day and is rapidly growing in numbers.

bulletGod: A supernatural being, generally male. Various religions assign different attributes and qualities to God, such as a body, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, love, hate, tolerance, intolerance, etc.

bulletGod, false: The deity worshiped by another religion. One faith groups' God is another faith group's false God.

bulletGoddess: a female supernatural being.

bulletGodwink: An event that a person regards as an answered prayer. A skeptic would regard it as a coincidence.

bulletGood works: Activities that are legal, pure of motive, and helpful to other persons. Romans 3:12 and other passages state that no unsaved person can perform good works. Many passages in Paul's epistles imply that salvation cannot be obtained by good works. Many passages in the synoptic gospels appear to teach the opposite.

bulletGospel: This has three main meanings:
bulletOne of the four books at the start of the Christian Scriptures which give an account of Jesus' life and which were accepted into the official canon of the Christian Scriptures (New Testament); e.g. the Gospel of Mark.

bulletOne of the many dozens of books about the life of Jesus, of which only four made it into the official canon; e.g. the Gospel of Thomas.

bulletThe message, found mainly in the writings of Paul, that the a person's belief that Jesus was resurrected will cause God to forgive their sins.

bulletGoy: Hebrew for nation or people. A Yiddish word for non-Jew.

bulletGrace: an Christian expression meaning "the free and unmerited assistance or favor or energy or saving presence of God in his dealings with humanity..."). 4 Grace is a gift of God and is not considered to be deserved by the individual. According to the Bible, those to whom God does not give grace are incapable of understanding the gospel message.

bulletGrace, Irresistible: One of the five points of Calvinism: the doctrine that every individual who God has elected (chosen) will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. None can resist.

bulletGreat rite: An act of ritual sex performed by many Neopagan traditions. It may involve actual sexual intercourse by a committed couple in private; alternatively, it may be symbolic in nature.

bulletGreat tribulation: See tribulation.

bulletGuided imagery: A therapeutic technique in which a facilitator tells a story which describes a scene or a passage through a group of scenes. It has been used by athletes in training, by physicians to help their patient's body cure itself, or simply to produce relaxation. It is a suggestive, quasi-hypnotic process that can, under certain circumstances, generate false memories without either the facilitator or client being aware of the process.

bulletGurdwara: Literally "the gateway of the Guru." This is a Sikh religious meeting place.

bulletGuru: Literally "one who dispels darkness" or one who is "heavy" with the weight of vast knowledge. A revered spiritual teacher who guides students towards enlightenment. It is a term commonly used in Eastern religions. It is also used in a secular sense to refer to an expert in some field, like an "economic guru."

bullet Gypsies: A synonym for Roma, sometimes derogatory. The Roma originated in northwest India who migrate across Europe by the 16th century. About a half million were murdered during the Nazi Holocaust, referred to by the Roma as "the devouring." They remain the most discriminated against group in Europe.


  1. "Gentile," HyperDictionary, at: http://www.hyperdictionary.com/
  2. "Gentile," TheFreeDictionary, at: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/
  3. "Gentile," Yahoo Education, at: http://education.yahoo.com/
  4. Quotation from T. Edward Damer, "Attacking Faulty Reasoning," Third Edition, Page 36.

Copyright © 1996 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written on: 1996-MAR-11

Last update: 2014-JAN-23
Author: B.A. Robinson
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