Glossary of religious and spiritual terms
Starting with the letter "Ma" to "Mi"
||Machpela: The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Palestine
where some believe that the leaders of ancient Israel were buried.
||Madrassa: The word for "school" in Arabic. Generally, the media incorrectly interprets the term to mean "Islamic school."
Magic, Magick: The use of blessings, spells, incantations etc. to change
outcomes of events. Wiccans and other Neo-pagans are limited to what is
popularly called "White Magic" which is devoid of control, domination, harm or
manipulation. In contrast, Satanists are free to return harmful magic as
vengeance for any harm done to them by others.
||Mainline or Mainstream: This is a term that is often used to
refer to Christian denominations which are more liberal than Evangelicals. It is not a well-defined word
with a universally accepted meaning. In a study comparing Evangelical and
mainline denominations, a Princeton University study included the
following as large mainline groups: American Baptist Churches in the USA,
Episcopal Church USA, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian
Church (USA), United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church. 1 Some theologians and commentators divide Christianity into three groups:
Evangelical, mainline and liberal.
||Mahayana: A Sanskrit term group of Buddhist traditions called the
Great Way, Great Road, Greater Path, or Greater Vehicle. It stresses the
importance of helping others to achieve enlightenment. It is found in
Bhutan, China, Japan, Nepal, Tibet, and East Asia.
||Mala beads: This is a string of beads -- 108 is a common
number -- of uniform size. There is one larger bead, called the guru
mother or focal bead. They are sometimes called "prayer beads," "worry
beads" or "Buddhist rosaries". The beads can be made from a
variety of materials, such as sandalwood, teak, glass, bone, gemstones,
and coconut. The beads are used as counters to help Buddhists, Hindus, and
yoga practitioners repeat their mantra a certain number of times. They can
also help a person stay focused during meditation. 2
Maltheism: Derived from "mal" meaning bad or illness, and "theism" meaning belief in God. This is the concept that God exists, but as an cruel, arrogant, abusive and untruthful being. The term is believed to have been created on Usenet in 1985.
||Mamzer: A Jewish term for an illegitimate person born from an
incestuous or adulterous union.
||Mandala: An object that one can focus on during meditation. It
is usually a painted diagram that shows the unfolding of the cosmos. It is
widely used by Buddhists and Hindus.
||Mandap: A sacred wedding tent used by Hindus.
||Manicheanism: A religion which synthesized elements of
Buddhism, Christianity, Gnosticism, and Zoroastrianism. It was founded by
Mani (a.k.a. Manicheus) in Mesopotamia during the third century CE. He believed in two two equal deities. One is the
Judeo-Christian God who is good, and is responsible for human souls and
minds. The other is Satan who is evil and is responsible for human bodies,
passions and emotions. It considered sexuality to be evil. Its followers
practiced asceticism. 3
||Manifestation. The founder of the Christadelphians,
John Thomas, taught his belief about deity. Rejecting the Trinity, he wrote that "...the Father is God and Jesus is God; and we may add, so are all the brethren of Jesus gods; and a multitude
which no man can number'."
||Mantra: A word or phrase which is repeated continually in order
to achieve relaxation or a state of meditation.
||M'ra: The Buddhist devil.
||Marianist: A group of Christians in the 5th century CE who
believed that the Virgin Mary is the "queen of heaven." They
believed in a Trinity composed of God, Mary and Jesus Christ.
||Marriage, protection of and Marriage, defense of: The terms "protection of marriage" or
"protection of traditional marriage," or simply "defense of marriage" are often used by religious and social
conservatives to refer to any attempt to give opposite-sex couples
special privileges. In the U.S., conservatives' main goal was to prevent loving committed
same-sex couples from marrying and thereby denying such couples and their
children access to approximately 1,380 state and federal government benefits,
protections, rights and obligations. They failed in mid-2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court gave same-sex couples the right to marry everywhere in the country, except for American Samoa.
||Marriage, terms: Several terms have appeared to differentiate between opposite-sex marriage and same-sex marriage. The former is often called "natural marriage" by religious and social conservatives; their implication is that same-sex marriage is thus "unnatural marriage." It makes sense to many heterosexuals to call opposite-sex marriage "natural" and same-sex marriage "unnatural." However, the reverse is true for gays and lesbians for whom same-sex marriage generally feels natural and opposite-sex marriage unnatural. Conservatives often enclose marriage in quotation marks ("marriage") when referring to gay marriages. This indicates that they do not recognize such marriages as valid. An earlier term "gay marriage" is being phased out and replaced by same-sex marriage. This is largely because not all spouses in these marriages are gay; some are bisexual.
||Martyr: Greek for "witness." A person who dies for their faith or
||Masjid: This is a Muslim term for a mosque -- a house of worship.
|Masonic order: See Freemasonry
|Materialism: The belief that only material, physical objects
exist. Such items as thoughts, soul, and spirit are properties of the
|Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter Sunday.
It commemorates the Last Supper,
Jesus agony in the garden and his arrest. "Maundy" is derived from
the Latin "mandatum" (commandment of God in John 13:34-35 For
centuries, people in authority have washed the feet of their followers on
||Meditation: "Meditation can be considered a technique, or
practice. It usually involves concentrating on an object, such as a
flower, a candle, a sound or word, or one's breath. Over time, the number of
random thoughts diminishes. More importantly, your attachment to
these thoughts, and your identification with them, become
progressively lessened. 4
|Medium: An individual who claims to be able to make contact
with the spirits of dead people.
|Mennonites: A faith group which originated within the
Anabaptist movement. They hold a variety of theological beliefs, but are
all opposed to infant baptism and warfare.
|Menorah: A Jewish candle holder. A nine-candle menorah is used at
Hanukkah; a seven-candle menorah was used in the Jerusalem Temple.
|Messiah: Derived from the Hebrew "meshiach"
which means "consecrated person" or "anointed
one." It is translated as the Greek word "Christos,"
and the English "Christ."|
|In the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), the Messiah was an
anticipated "anointed one": a king of Israel and
military leader who would lead the Jewish people to independence
from foreign oppression and occupation. The concept of a Messiah
who was executed and later resurrected does not appear in the
Hebrew Scriptures. According to the Talmud: "The only
difference between the world today and the world after the messiah
comes is that when the messiah comes we will be free of foreign
|In Christianity, a title used to refer to Yeshua of Nazareth:
Jesus Christ -- considered the Son of God and second personality
of the Trinity.
Messianic Judaism,: A conservative Christian religion which blends
Jewish tradition and ceremonies with fundamentalist theological
beliefs about Jesus Christ.
||Metaethics: A study of ethical systems to determine whether they are based on
||Methodist: An individual, congregation, or denomination whose
spiritual heritage can be traced to the teachings of John Wesley. He was
an 18th century English preacher, who was influenced by the
Pietist movement which started in the 17th century. "Methodist"
was first used as a derisive title to refer to the very strict daily
schedules observed by members of the Holy Club -- a religious
society which Wesley organized in Oxford University in England.
|Mezuzah means a doorpost in Hebrew. It refers to a scroll with
specific verses from the Torah placed inside a container and attached to a
doorpost outside of the home of a devout Jew. The most common verses are
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21. A devout Jew touches or kisses their mezuzah
when entering or leaving their house.
|Midrash: From a Hebrew word "darash," meaning "to
seek out." According to Rabbi Donna Berman, "Midrash uses
allegory and additional narrative to fill in the gaps left by an often
terse biblical text. Midrash is creative and imaginative. It can take the
form of artwork, dance, music, as well as poetry and prose." 5
Midrash can also refer to a book which contains a compilation of Midrashic
||Mihrab: This is a niche in the wall of a mosque. It points in
the direction of Qibla. This is the direction of the shorter great circle route
to the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
|Mikvah (a.k.a. Mikveh, Mikva): A Jewish plurification bath.
|Minaret: A tower located beside a mosque. It is often used
Muslims are called to prayer.
|Mind control cult: a religious group which uses severe
domination and manipulation to rigidly control its followers. Some in the anti-cult
movement believe that members of these groups lose their will to
think clearly and almost become zombies. There is little or no
evidence of that actually happening.
|Religious meaning: an interval of 1000 years
after Armageddon when, according to Revelation, Jesus Christ will rule on earth.|
meanings: the beginning of a year ending in "000" or
"001" as in "2000" or "2001."
|Millennialism: The belief that current society will disintegrate
and be replaced with a perfect new world. Some 24% of American adults
believe that Jesus Christ will return to earth during their lifetime; most
believe that this event will usher in a new world order.
|Min: A Jewish term for heretic or schismatic.
|Mind control: A spiritually abusive
environment in which followers of a faith group are manipulated in order
to reduce their ability to think critically. The goal is to turn the
membership into near robots who are incapable of independent reasoning and
judgment. There is no consensus on whether new religious movements utilize
mind control techniques. The existence of mind control is a major part of
the belief system of the anti-cult movement (ACM).
Those in the ACM teach that new religious movements (which they call
"cults") widely practice mind control and other psychologically abusive
methods. Sociologists and psychologists who have studied new religious
movements generally deny that it exists.
|Mind sciences: A religious movement which beliefs that humans
are divine beings who can change reality through their mind and thoughts.
|Minimalism, minimalists: A group of historians, archaeologists
and theologians who view the biblical account of creation, the flood, the
tower of Babel, the patriarchs, the exodus as religious myth without any
historical reality. They believe that the histories in the Hebrew
Scriptures were of recent creation.
||Minyan: A quorum of ten or more male Jewish adults -- the
minimum number required to conduct a communal worship service.
|Miqdash: The name of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, located on
the Temple Mount.
|Miracle: An event in which God suspends one or more natural
laws and makes an impossible outcome happen. The stopping of the
apparent movement of the sun across the sky, as mentioned in the Bible, is
regarded by some as a miracle.
|Miriam: Hebrew version of the name Mary; the actual name of the
mother of Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ).
||Misanthropy: A hatred or distrust of humans or of human nature. Humourusly defined in the Urban Dictionary as: "The natural allergic reaction had by an intelligent, thinking person when confronted by a world of tribalized, reactionary proto-humans."|
|Mishnah: From a Hebrew word "gamar" which means
"to complete." A collection of early oral interpretations of the
Hebrew Scriptures. They were completed about 200 CE.
||Misotheism, misotheist: From two Greek words for hatred and God(s). It is used to describe individuals who believe that their religion teaches a God who is evil, or who blames God for the world's suffering, or who finds God's teachings to be immoral. Believed to have been created by Thomas de Quincey (1785-1859) in his essay "On Christianity As An Organ of Political Movement."|
|Missal: A Roman Catholic book which contains all of the mass
prayers and readings for three years of Sundays and two years of weekdays.
||Mitzvah (a.k.a. Mitsvot, Mitsvah): Hebrew for precept or commandment." "A combination of a
religious law, personal obligation, and a privilege." Plural is
Mitzvot. Often used to refer to a meritorious or charitable act. Hebrew miṣwāh. First known Use: 1650 CE|
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Rabbi Tilsen, "Material and Spiritual Emancipation,"
- "Mala frequently asked questions and instructions," at: http://www.magpage.com/
- "Western North African Christianity: fourth Century Mahicheanism..."
- Dinu Roman: "Mystery Meditation"
- "Midrash" at: http://www.acs.appstate.edu/
Copyright © 1996 to 2016 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written on: 1996-MAR-11
Last update: 2016-MAY-29
Author: B.A. Robinson