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Glossary of religious and spiritual terms

Starting with the letter "O"

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bulletOccult: There is no generally accepted meaning for this term. The term has been used to refer to such unrelated topics as astrology, palm reading, the Masonic Order, Satanism, tarot card reading, New Age Spirituality and Wicca. Some definitions include:
bulletA group of mostly unrelated spiritual and/or magical activities, the detailed knowledge of which is kept secret from the general public.
bulletA set of mostly unrelated divination and/or spiritual practices or activities which are not part of a person's faith or of any large world religion.
bulletAn activity which involves elements of divination, evil sorcery, magic and/or supernaturally gained concrete experiences or truths.
bulletConservative usage: Satanism the core element of the occult; most of the remaining occult groups are either forms of Satanism or are recruiting groups for Satanism. All Occultic groups are anti-Christian. Rituals are based on demonic powers and fakery. Heavy metal rock music, fantasy role games etc. are often considered occult pastimes .
bulletOlber's Paradox: This is a puzzle proposed by Heinrich Olbers, a German astronomer in 1823. He suggested that if the universe is static, infinite in size and uniform, then every line of sight from the earth in any direction must end of the surface of a star. Thus, the night sky should be bright. But it is dark. There are two solutions to the paradox: the age of the universe is finite, and/or the universe is expanding.
bulletOld Catholic Church: This is a Christian denomination which split from the Roman Catholic Church in 1723 because of the Vatican's condemnation of Jansenism and its refusal to allow the democratic selection of an archbishop. Other Roman Catholics joined in 1870 in protest to the decree of papal infallibility. They allow their priests to marry.
bulletOld Testament: The name given by Christians to the Hebrew Scriptures. To Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox and some Anglicans, this is the Jewish Bible and the Apocrypha. To most Protestants, it is only the Jewish Bible.
bulletOleh: A Jewish term referring to a Jew who is immigrating into Israel.
bulletOlim: Plural form of "Oleh."
bulletOmnibeneficient: The concept that God is all-good.
bulletOmnipotence: The concept that God has infinite power; he is able to do anything that he wishes that is consistent with his own personality.
bulletOmnipresence: The concept that God is in all places at all times.
bulletOmniscience: The concept that god is in possession of all knowledge. The theodicy paradox addresses the apparent conflict involved in God having the above four attributes simultaneously.
bulletOneness Pentecostalism (a.k.a. Jesus Only): A movement within Pentecostalism which rejects the historical definition of the Trinity and adopts a belief system similar to Monarchianism. They belief that Jesus sequentially took three forms. First, he was God; then he was the Son; finally, he became the Holy Spirit. They reject the concept of the Trinity as believed by almost all other Christians. Synonym for "Oneness theology." They believe that one must be baptized in the name of Jesus only in order to be saved. If one does not speak in tongues, then they have not been saved.
bulletOpen Theism (a.k.a. Neotheism 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. Supporters of this belief back up their position with biblical quotations.
bulletOpus Dei: From a Latin phrase meaning "the work of God." The informal name of The Personal Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei. It is a very conservative Roman Catholic lay organization organized in 1928, whose members have a strong dedication to the Vatican.
bulletOrdinary Time: This is a Christian term used mainly by Roman Catholics. It refers to two intervals within each year. One starts on the day following the Baptism of the Lord and ends at Ash Wednesday. The other runs from the day after Pentecost until the day before the first Sunday of Advent.
bulletOriginal Sin: "Fallen man's natural sinfulness, the hereditary depravity and corruption of human nature because of Adam's fall." 1 That is, Adam and Eve's transgression when they ate of the forbidden fruit opened a gulf between God and humanity. Pollution from that sin has been inherited by all of Adam and Eve's descendents to the present day.
bulletOrthodox: Greek term for "correct opinion or belief." In a religious sense:
bulletWhen written in lower case, it generally means a traditional or historical belief within a religion. It is important to understand that orthodox belief as taught by one denomination is often heresy when viewed by another denomination of the same religion.
bulletWhen capitalized, it generally refers to Eastern Orthodoxy, a group of independent churches including the Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox and other churches. Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism officially split from each other in 1054.
bulletOrthodox, Eastern: One of the major divisions within Christianity (the others being Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism and Protestantism). It consists of 15 autocephalous churches. Each is headed by a bishop; most are related to a specific country, as in Serbian, Russian and Greek Orthodox. The Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches had been drifting apart in belief, practice and ritual for centuries before they formally split in 1054 CE. Each now regards themselves to be the only true Christian church.
bulletOrthopraxy: Greek term for "correct action." It means to make the religiously appropriate activities.
bulletOSAS: This is an acronym for "Once Saved, Always Saved." It is the belief, common among many conservative Protestants, that once a person repents of their sin and trusts Jesus as Lord and Savior, then they are forever saved and will attain heaven after death. They cannot lose their salvation by changing their belief or by engaging in an evil activity.
bulletOuija Board: A game using a board which is marked with letters, numbers and the words "yes" and "no." A pointer on a raised platform selects a character or word. One or two players place their fingers on the platform, which moves -- apparently by magic. Many conservative Christians believe that this game is profoundly evil and dangerous and that the pointer is moved by demonic forces. Scientists who have studied the physics of the board have generally concluded that the pointer is unconsciously moved by the players.
bulletOut-of-body Experience: (acronym OBE): See Near-death experience.


  1. Alan Cairns, "Dictionary of Theological Terms," Ambassador-Emerald Int., (1998), Page 255-256.

Copyright © 1996 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published on: 1996-MAR-11

Last update: 2008-SEP-15
Author: B.A. Robinson

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