Glossary of religious and spiritual terms

Starting with the letter: "R"

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bullet Rabbi: From Hebrew phrase meaning "my master." A leader of a Jewish synagogue.
bulletRacism: Any attitude, action or institutional structure which systematically treats an individual or group of individuals differently because of their race. The most common form of racism in North America is in the form discrimination against African-Americans. However, it occasionally is manifested as preferential treatment for blacks. A secondary meaning is the belief that one race -- normally caucasian -- is inherently superior to other races. See also colorism, homophobia, religism, sexism, shadeism, and transphobia

"Racism" is occasionally used to refer to discrimination against an ethnic group or even a religious groups. We do not recommend this use because it generates considerable confusion.

bullet Radical theologies: Nonsupernaturalist concepts of deity that reject belief in a personal God -- one who has a personal consciousness, created the world, and interacts with humans.
bullet Ramadan: A Muslim period of daytime fasting, sexual abstinence, and contemplation which lasts for a lunar month of about 28 days. It commemorates the transmission of the Qur'an by the archangel Gabriel to Muhammad.
bullet Rapture: From the Latin "rapio" which means to snatch. The belief held by many conservative Protestants that Christ will soon appear in the sky and that all of saved individuals, both living and dead, will rise to meet him. Although this belief is supported by some passages from the Christian scriptures (New Testament), it is not shared by many mainline and liberal Christians. (See also the secret rapture)
bullet Rastafarianism: A new religious movement centered among persons of African origin in Jamaica and the U.S. They revere the late Emperor Selassie of Ethiopia (1892-1975), as the Elect of God and savior of the black race. They regard black people to be the reincarnation of Israel in the Bible.
bullet Rationalism: A movement in the 18th century Protestantism which abandoned the idea of Biblical inerrancy and adopted the belief that the Bible can be analyzed as a historical document. Some Rationalists assert that the existence of some form of deity can be proven by reason. Others see Rationalism and Atheism as synonyms.
bullet Real Presence:
bullet Among Roman Catholics: The belief that the bread and wine at the Eucharist are transubstantiated (transformed) by the Holy Spirit into Jesus' actual body and blood through its belief in transubstantiation. The priest actually performs a dual miracle: first by changing the bread and wine into a recreation of Jesus' actual flesh and blood; the second by having the flesh and blood appear to any observer or any conceivable scientific test to be ordinary bread and wine.

bullet Among Lutherans: They also use the term "Real Presence" which they also call "Sacramental Union." They believe that the body and blood of Christ are "truly and substantially present in, with and under" the bread and wine. This is based on Martin Luther's belief in consubstantiation -- that Jesus body and blood coexist with bread and wine.
bullet Rebirthing: A form of therapy in which the patient engages in continuous deep breathing. It is supposed to cure emotional problems in adulthood.
bullet Redactor: A document editor. The term is often used to refer to individuals who revised books in the Hebrew Scriptures.
bullet Redaction criticism: A method of analyzing those portions of the Bible which appear to have been created by an editing process in which redactors (editors, compilers) have combined various source document into the form that we see in the Bible. The Gospel of Luke, for example, is regarded by most liberal theologians as being compiled from the Gospel of Q, the Gospel of Mark, and some independent oral or written material. Through redaction criticism, the theological goals and purposes of the redactors can be inferred. Conservative Christians generally have a dim view of this technique because it impacts on their belief of the inerrancy of the Bible.
bulletRede: Old English word for a law or rule. The Wiccan Rede is the main behavioral rule for Wiccans. It is commonly stated as: "A'in it harm none, do what you wilt. In modern English it can be translated as "As long as it harms none, do what you wish."
bullet Redemption: A general term meaning to set loose or release a person from bondage. In Christianity, it generally refers to the deliverance of believers from a state of sin which is possible because of the death of Jesus on the cross.
bulletRed letter Christian: A Christian who follows a conservative typically Evangelical theology, but who rejects most of the concerns of the religious right. They stresses issues related to human suffering, justice, poverty, and human rights, including the environment, climate change, the AIDS crisis, war, violence, education, gun control, etc. The term originated in the red letter Bible; this is an ordinary Bible in which the words of Jesus are printed in the red.
bullet Reflexology: A holistic, alternative, health treatment which associates each organ in the body with a spot on the individual's foot or hand. Massage of the foot or hand is then believed to unblock the body's energy and heal the organ. Medical researchers generally discount any mechanism linking points on the feet and hand to internal organs.
bulletReformation: A Christian movement which was started by Martin Luther in the early 16th century as an attempt to reform Roman Catholicism. It was joined by Zwingli, Bucer, Calvin and others, and resulted in a complete break with Catholicism. Millions of people died during the resulting religious wars. The massive slaughter was a main influence on the writers of the U.S. Constitution to establish a wall of separation between religion and government, commonly referred to as church and state. The reformation led to the fracturing of Christianity into approximately 35,000 faith groups.
bullet Reformed theology: A system of religious belief based on the writings and beliefs of Calvin.
bullet Regeneration: The process by which God is believed to work on a born-again person,  whereby her/his soul is renewed and becomes a new creation.
bullet Reincarnation: the belief that when a person dies, their soul is reborn into another living human. In North America, belief in reincarnation is found among Buddhists, Hindus, some followers of the New Age, and most Neopagans. It was a common belief in early Christianity. Often confused with the Hindu concept of the Transmigration of the Soul.
bullet Relativism: A philosophical belief that many forms of "truth" -- particularly in the area of morals and ethics are relative and not absolute. That is, it varies from time to time and culture to culture. Antonym: absolutism.
bullet Relativist: one who is convinced that religious disagreements are neither productive nor important. Relativists tend to emphasize areas of harmony among religions, minimizing or ignoring their differences.
bullet Religion:
bullet We define the term very inclusively to include "Any specific system of belief about deity, often involving rituals, a code of ethics, and a philosophy of life." Thus we would include Agnosticism, Atheism, conservative Christianity, Humanism, Islam, Judaism, liberal Christianity, Native American Spirituality, Wicca and other Neopagan traditions as religions. We deviate from the normal rules of writing by capitalizing all of these religion in our essays.
bullet Other sources restrict the definition to include only those systems of belief involving a supreme being.
bullet Religionism:
bullet Excessive religious ardor or zeal
bullet Extreme piety
bullet Discrimination, hatred, or prejudice against others on the basis of one's religious beliefs. 3

bullet Religious:
bullet Within Roman Catholicism, the Anglican Communion, the Orthodox churches, this term is often used as a noun to refer to an order of nuns. It is also used to refer to individuals such as monks, friars, and other s who have taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
bullet Within the field of religion, the term is used as a noun to refer to texts, beliefs, practices, education, etc.
bullet A person is often described as religions if they are pious, prayerful, and/or are very committed to a faith group.
bullet  In a secular sense, it is used to refer to a person who is very scrupulous and conscientious in behaving according to rules.
bullet Religious liberty:
bullet Within a religion, this is a measure by which individuals can hold beliefs that deviate from those taught by their faith group, without incurring oppression, expulsion, or trial for heresy.
bullet Within a nation, this is a measure of an individual's right to hold beliefs that differ from the dominant religion; to worship freely according to these beliefs; to attempt to peacefully convince others to convert to their faith; and the right to change their religion or set of beliefs. Historically, countries with a strict separation between governments and religion have tended to exhibit the greatest religious liberty for its citizens.
bullet Religious market, Religious marketplace: We have seen the following two uses of these terms:
bullet The social arena in which congregations, denominations, and para-church organizations compete for members and resources.
bullet The economic expenditure by religious individuals on religious retreats, meetings, conventions, missions, etc.
bulletReligious Right: A group of very conservative, politically active organizations within Fundamentalist Christianity which is attempting to implement conservative changes to society and its laws. The American Family Association, Christian Coalition, Concerned Women for America, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family form part of the religious right. Their main areas of activity are in reducing choice in abortion access, homosexual rights, same-sex marriage, rights of transgender individuals and transsexuals, physician assisted suicide, and prayer in the public school.
bullet Religious tolerance:
bullet Among religious conservative, this means that one must accept all religious faiths as equally true. It is normally looked upon negstively.

bullet Among others, it means to grant full religious freedom to persons of all religions, including those different from your own faith.

The second definition is used in this web site.

bulletReligious Trauma Syndrome: painful experiences associated either with chronic abuses from one's faith group or with separating from one's faith and faith community.
bullet Religism: "the expression of fear towards, hatred towards, or discrimination against, persons of a specific religion affiliation, usually a minority faith." Frequently associated with Religism is the belief that persons who follow one religion are inherently superior to those of other religions.

This is a word that is not found in printed dictionaries, but is largely being circulated via the Internet and online dictionaries.  Religism is one of a class of words in the English language that refer to bigotry. Others are homophobia, racism, sexism, shadeism, transphobia, and xenophobia, etc. But we have no word that refers to bigotry based on religion. Yet religious bigotry and hatred may be the most serious threat to the survival of humanity in the 21st century. Religism seems to be catching on: On 2006-MAY-07, Google found 54 hits for the word. By 2009-JUL-12, there were 469. On 2003-MAY-20, there were 4,350. On 2014-MAR-09 there were 6,990. We seem to be gaining.

The most common form of religism in North America is in the form of discrimination against non-Christians, up to and including the promotion of genocide against them. According to FBI statistics, anti-semitic attacks against Jews is the most common form of religism. On a per-capita basis the major victims are probably conservative Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Wiccans and other neo-Pagans. More information.

Unfortunately other people have latched onto the word and given it different meanings. For example, defines it as: any religion that is without merit; i.e. phony religion.

bullet Repentance: Being sorry for past sins against God or transgressions against other humans. It implies a sincere desire to change one's behavior in the future. Conservative Protestants generally consider it the first step towards salvation. The second step is to trust Jesus as Lord and Savior. However, some religious conservatives reject repentance as needed for salvation, because it is a form of good works.

bullet Replacement Theology: (a.k.a. Supercessionism). This is the theological concept that, because the vast majority of Jews in the first century CE did not accept Jesus as their Messiah, God unilaterally terminated his covenants with the Jewish people and transferred them to the followers of Christianity.  It relegates Judaism to an inferior position and recognizes Christianity as the 'true' or 'spiritual' Israel. This concept was first developed by Justin Martyr (circa 100 to 165 CE) and Irenaeus of Lyon (circa 130 to 200 CE). It was largely accepted within the church by the 4th century. It has led to a great deal of persecution of Jews by Christians. Although the Catholic Church reversed its stance on replacement theology in the 20th century, many conservative Protestant groups still believe in this principle. In opposition to replacement theology is the dual covenant theory that God's covenants in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) are still in place.

bullet Responsible parenting, responsible parenthood: Procreation by a married woman and man. This is a term often used by religious conservatives to condemn other methods of adding children to a family, such as adoption by infertile couples including same-sex couples, artificial insemination, and other medical assisted procreation methods. 

bullet Restorationism: The belief that the true Christian church died out in the early 2nd Century CE, and was restored by Joseph Smith when he established the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, Mormon).  This movement currently consists of almost 100 denominations, many centered in Utah and Missouri. 

bullet Resurrection: An even in which a dead person returns to life. It is often used to refer to the belief that Jesus died, and later returned to life after about a day and a half in the grave. This is not to be confused with the resuscitation of Jesus, as taught in Islam. Some Muslims believe that Jesus did not actually die, but  perhaps entered into a coma and later returned to consciousness. Others believe that Jesus was not crucified; another person may have been substituted in his place.

bullet Retrogression: A Buddhist term that refers to one's rebirth after death on earth or one of the lower realms.

bullet Revelation:
bullet The last book in the Bible, which has been interpreted in many different ways.
bullet The gift of knowledge that God gives to humanity through the Bible or other holy text, and by other means. Most members of the almost 300 major religions of the world regard their faith group as having received revelation from God, often in the form of a holy book like the Torah, Hebrew and Christian Scriptures (a.k.a. Old and New Testament), Qur'an, etc. Many regard the holy texts of other faith groups as purely human creations.
bullet Rhema: A Greek word that means any spoken word having a definite meaning. Romans 10:8 uses "rhema" in place of the more common word "logos."
bullet Righteous: This very important term is often mentioned in the Bible. In 2 Corinthians 6:14, for example, Paul states that all non-Christians are "unrighteousness." Unfortunately, the word has three somewhat different meanings. A person:
bullet Acting according to divine law, or
bullet Who is free from sin, or
bullet Consistently exhibits moral behavior.

Of course, an individual may be acting according to divine law, be free from sin, and be moral, within the standards of one religion, but not by another.

bullet Righteous among nations: A term used to refer to non-Jews who helped save Jews from the Nazi Holocaust.

bullet Rite, Ritual: Speech, action, singing, and other activities which often contain a symbolic meaning, performed in a specific order - typically during a religious service.

bulletRitual Abuse: Involuntary psychological, physical, sexual or spiritual maltreatment, associated with a (normally religious) ritual. There is typically one accidental death per year in North America as a result of ritual abuse in the form of a conservative Christian exorcisms. Satanists were widely perceived during the 1980's and early 1990's as perpetrating widespread Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) involving the torture, murder and even eating of tens of thousands of human sacrifices per year. After 15 years without any evidence of its existence, most investigators regard SRA as non-existent.

bullet Role Playing Games: See Fantasy Role Playing Games

bullet Roman Catholicism: This is the largest of the four branches of Christianity; the others being the Anglican Communion, Protestant denominations and Eastern Orthodox churches. During the fourth century CE, the branch of the early Christianity which was founded by Paul became the official religion of the Roman Empire. The authority of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, gradually increased, as Christian missionaries spread out through western and northern Europe. Starting in the 15th century, Roman Catholicism spread to the Americas. The church lost its religious monopoly in Western Europe at the time of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, but remains today the largest single Christian faith group, by far, with about a billion members.

bullet Rosary: Prayer beads strung on a thread, used primarily by Roman Catholics.

bullet Rosetta stone: A black basalt stone monument found in Egypt in 1799, which contained the same messages in three different languages: one was ancient Greek, which was known by linguists. The other two were Demontic script and Egyptian hieroglyphics. Over time, the stone enabled linguists to understand both of the latter languages. 1

bullet Rosh Hashanah: The New Year celebration in the fall, according to the Jewish calendar.

bullet Routinization of character: To change your character to have distinct traits that conform to your religious beliefs.

bullet RPG: See Fantasy Role Playing Games

bullet Ruach: Hebrew word for spirit or wind.

bullet Rupa: A Hindu and Buddhist term which generally refers to religious statutes.

bullet Rune: (Derived from an early Anglo-Saxon word "runa" meaning "secret" or "mystery.") It was originally a pictorial alphabet used Northern Italy, circa 500 BCE. Its use later spread across Europe. There are a number of different sets of runes, each derived from a specific alphabet, such as the Elder Futhrk, Saxon Futhork and Norse Younger Futhark. The word "rune" also refers to a small piece of material marked with a rune symbol. The latter are used in divination by many Wiccans, other Neopagans and New Agers. Their use is generally condemned by conservative Christians as a practice forbidden by the Bible.

bullet Russelites: An early name for the Bible students who later became the Jehovah's Witnesses in 1931. The name is derived from their founder, Charles Taze Russell..

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  1. Richard Strachan & Kathleen Roetzel, "The Story of the Rosetta Stone, 'Finding a Lost Language'," at:
  2. "Real Presence" Wikipedia, as of 2005-NOV-07, at:
  3. Adapted from Wiktionary at:

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Copyright 1996 to 2018by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published on: 1998-APR-22

Last update: 2016-JAN-08
Author: B.A. Robinson

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