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Glossary of religious and spiritual terms

Starting with the letter "N"

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bullet Nabi (a.k.a. Navi): Jewish and Muslim term for prophet.

bullet Name it and Claim it: (a.k.a. Word of Faith movement, Health & Wealth Gospel, Positive Confession, and Faith-formula). A group of conservative Protestant para-church ministries which focus on "anointed" ministers and the health, wealth, and success of their viewers and donors. MinistryWatch estimates that their total income is in excess of a half billion dollars annually. 2

bullet Naturalism: The belief that phenomena in the universe are explained by natural laws, and that there are no supernatural forces at work.

bullet Natural marriage: The union of one man and one women to the exclusion of all others, freely entered into, and hopefully for life. Most of the eight family and marriage types mentioned in the Bible do not represent natural marriage. The term is typically used by individuals and groups opposed to same-sex marriage who wish to keep marriage as a special privilege offered only to opposite-sex couples. One implication of this term is that marriage by a same-sex couple would then be, by definition, unnatural.

bullet Naturalistic Evolution: The belief that new species of animals develop from existing species over a very long interval of time, in response to purely natural forces and processes -- i.e. without the intervention of a deity.

bullet Near-death Experience: (acronym NDE): An often profoundly moving experience that is sometimes felt by persons who have clinically died and been brought back to life. It often involves the perception of traveling through a tube towards a light. It is often associated with warm feelings of acceptance and love. Some neurologists believe that the NDE does not reflect reality, but is a normal hallucinogenic experience generated by a brain that is being starved of oxygen.

bullet Necromancy: Am attempt to communicate with the spirits of the dead. This is  forbidden in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament).

bullet Neit Hillel: From the Hebrew "House of Hillel). A liberal religious school of belief derived from Hillel -- a notable liberal Jewish philosopher and rabbi who lived during the 1st century BCE. Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ) largely followed Hillel's teachings, except over criteria for marital divorce.

bullet Nenju: Buddhist meditation beads.

bullet Neo-orthodoxy: (a.k.a. Barthianism) A movement within Christianity which was a reaction against liberalism, and based on the leadership of Karl Barth (1886-1968). He taught that God is "so far transcendent above man that there could be no communication between man and God." God cannot be described in human language. Humans can only communicate with God through the Bible, in spite of its human origins. Barth accepted the theory of evolution and higher criticism.

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bullet Neopagan: (a.k.a. Neo-pagan, Pagan): A person who follows a religion which is reconstructed from, or based upon, a ancient Pagan religion. e.g. the Druidic religion is based on the faith and practices of the ancient Celtic professional class; followers of Asatru adhere to the ancient, pre-Christian Norse religion; Wiccans trace their roots back to the pre-Christian era in Europe. Other Neo-pagans follow Roman, Greek, Egyptian and other traditions. No Neopagan tradition recognizes an all-evil deity similar to the Christian and Islamic Satan. Neopagans respect other religions and the right of people to follow the faith of their choice. Conservative usage: a form of Satanism.

bullet Neo-Pentecostalism: A synonym for the Charismatic movement.

bullet NeoPlatonism: An Alexandrian system of philosophy from the third century CE. It mixed Jewish and Christian concepts with ideas from Plato and other Greek philosophers and with Oriental mysticism.

bullet Neotheism (a.k.a. Open Theism or Open view of God): A belief that God is not omniscient. In particular, God does not know what will happen in the future with precision, because the future has not yet happened. Supporters of this belief back up their position with biblical quotations.

bullet Neshoma: Jewish term for soul. 

bullet New Age: Although it is often referred to as a religion, the New Age is in reality an almost completely decentralized and unorganized spiritual movement. It is composed of metaphysical bookstores, seminar leaders, authors, teachers and user/believers of a variety of techniques, such as channeling, past life regressions, pyramid science, crystal power, etc. It is a free-flowing spiritual movement -- a network of believers and practitioners -- where book publishers take the place of a central organization; seminars, conventions, books and informal groups replace of sermons and religious services. Conservative usage: closely coordinated groups including occultists, Wiccans, Satanists, astrologers, channelers, spiritists, etc.

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bullet Nikah: Muslim term for marriage.

bullet Nilhilist: One who rejects almost every type of assertion about the nature of the universe. Usually attributes no significance to humankind or to any meaning for existence.

bullet Nirvana: This is a Buddhist term which means a state of mind where all suffering and dissonant emotions which give rise to suffering have ceased and one is released from samsara -- the endless cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth.

bullet Nissiun: A Jewish wedding ceremony.

bullet Noachide Covenant: A covenant that God made with Noah and his sons after the great flood. In Acts 15, non-Jewish Christians were released from the full requirements of the Hebrew Scriptures, but were expected to follow this covenant.

bullet The "Christmas" interval from DEC-24 to JAN-6.

bullet A French name given to boys; derived from noŽl (Christmas). The female equivalent is Noelle. It is derived from the Latin "natalis," referring to the birth of Jesus,

bullet An acronym for "No Observable Effect Level:" the greatest concentration or amount of a chemical in a plant or animal that causes no detectable adverse effect. Sometimes called NEL

bullet Non-denominational: The term generally refers to evangelical Protestant congregations that are not affiliated with a specific Christian denomination. The vast majority are fundamentalist in their theological beliefs. Most "... are loosely Baptist in doctrine" 3 and are often influenced by charismatic, Pentecostal, and Calvinist beliefs and practices. They total about 6 million members in the U.S. Many congregations' senior pastors lack a seminary degree. They have the highest proportion of adults among all Christian groups with what Barna Research calls a "biblical worldview." 3,4 The term "non-denominational" should not be confused with terms like "inter-faith" or "multi-faith" or "all faiths" or "all faith and ethical traditions" etc. These are terms that indicate acceptance of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and many other belief systems.

bullet NONES: Individuals who are not affiliated with a religion. This would include Agnostics, Apatheists, Atheists, Humanists, Deists, freethinkers, secularists, etc. The term was adopted in early 2013 by many religious information sources. There is one serious objection to the term: It is pronounced "nuns." On radio and TV, having the two words pronounced the same leads to confusion. See NOTA below.

bullet Normative Ethics: a study into ultimate values and how people should live their lives.

bullet Normative principle: The belief, held by Lutherans and Anglicans that whatever is not specifically forbidden in the Bible is allowed in the church's practice, worship and organization.


NOTA: An acronym for "Not Affiliated" or "None Of The Above." It includes everyone not affiliated with a religious faith, including most Agnostics, Atheists, Humanists, Deists, freethinkers, secularists, etc. The media tends to use the term "Nones" instead. This is an awkward term to use because it is a homophone (sounds like the word) "nuns"

Webmaster's note:

This is one of the two English words that we created many years ago in the hope that they would enter wide usage in the language. The other one was "Relism" which we changed to "Religism" on the advise of a visitor to our web site. It means bigotry and bias used to oppress or discriminate against others on the basis of their religion. It is similar to racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, etc. We have had no luck getting NOTA accepted, but a little better luck with Religism.

bullet Numerology: The use of numerical analysis to uncover hidden knowledge. One of the most famous examples of numerology involves the reference to the number of the beast -- 666 -- in Revelation 13:18. This has led to numerous interpretations.

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  1. "Neo-Orthodoxy," at:
  2. "A critical look at the 'Word of Faith' ministries," Ministry Watch Reflections, 2003-OCT, at: This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 
  3. "A Biblical Worldview Has a Radical Effect on a Person's Life," Barna Research, 2003-DEC-01, at:
  4. "Non-denominational Churches in america [sic],", at:

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Copyright © 1996 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published on: 1996-MAR-11
Last update: 2015-DEC-18
Author: B.A. Robinson
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