Religious Tolerance logo

Glossary of religious and spiritual terms

Starting with the letters "Sa"

Sponsored link.

Words beginning Sb... to Se... are described elsewhere

Words beginning Sh... to So... are described elsewhere

Words beginning Sp... to Sz... are described elsewhere

  • Sabbat: A seasonal day of celebration observed by Wiccans and other Neopagans. There are eight each year. The two solstices and two equinoxes are minor Sabbats. Between each solstice and equinox is a major Sabbat. Samhain (Oct. 31), Imbolc (Feb. 2), Beltane (May 1), and Lammas (Aug. 1) are among the most common names used. 1

  • Sabbatarianism: The belief that the weekly Sabbath must be observed from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. Often, Jewish dietary laws and seasonal days of service are also observed by Sabbatarians.

  • Sabbath, weekly: Originally Saturday: a day of rest and holiness; observed by Jews and a minority of Christian denominations. Most Christian groups observe Sunday as the Sabbath.

  • Sabellianism: Synonym for Modalism

  • Sacerdotalism: The Christian belief that a special group of humans, generally called priests, are needed to act as mediators between individuals and God. This requirement is denied by the conservative Protestant belief of the "priesthood of all believers" in which all "saved" individuals can access God directly without the need of an intermediary. This in turn is denied by the belief of many liberal/progressive Christians that all have direct access to God.

  • Sacramental Union: A Lutheran term meaning "real presence." Lutherans believe that the bread used in the Eucharist becomes united with the body of Jesus Christ and that the wine becomes united with the body of Jesus. A person eating and drinking these two elements thus consumes the body and blood of Jesus, along with the original bread and wine.

  • Sacraments: A formal church ritual frequently described as an outward and visible sign of an internal and spiritual grace. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches recognize seven sacraments, popularly known as: Baptism, Confirmation, Mass, Penance, Anointing the dying, Ordination and Marriage. Most Protestant denominations only recognize two: Baptism and Communion. A few denominations, such as the Amish, add foot washing. Sacraments are believed by most Christian denominations to have been instituted by Jesus. The Society of Friends (Quakers) and the Salvation Army do not recognize or use any sacraments.

  • Sacred: Some object or belief that deserves respect and veneration because it is dedicated to a religious purpose.

  • Sacred texts: Any writing that contains the beliefs and doctrines of a religious group.

  • Sacrilege:
    • The violation or misuse of a sacred object.

    • Occasionally used to describe any irreverence to sacred persons, places and things.

  • Sacristy: The room in a church were communion vessels, liturgical books, and clergy vestments are kept.

  • Sadaqa: Islamic term for the giving of a charitable donation. This is an obligation for Muslims.

  • Sadducees: A small group of priests who controlled the temple at Jerusalem. One of about two dozen Jewish religious groups active during the 1st century CE. They rejected belief in immortality. They were religious conservatives who felt threatened by Pagan influences due to Roman and Greek occupation of Israel.

  • Sahaba: This is the Arabic word for "companions." In Islam, it generally refers to the people who lived and witnessed with the Prophet Muhammad.

  • Saint: 
    • In Roman Catholicism, a person of great spirituality who has died, is responsible for at least three miracles, and who has been elevated to the sainthood by the church.
    • In Protestantism, a saint is one of the ancient leaders of the church, like St. Peter and St. Paul. 

    • In Evangelical Christianity, all saved Christians are saints.

  • Sajdah: (Full name: As-sajdah) This is the the act of prostration by a Muslim during which seven parts of the body are to touch the ground: the forehead, palms, knees and big toes.

  • Salat: A Muslim prayer. Islam expects each Muslim, where possible, to perform  the salat prayer five times a day. It is the second of the Five Pillars of Islam. This is recited while orienting one's body towards Mecca. 2 It is done at specified times in the morning, at noon, mid-afternoon, after sunset and just before sleeping. 3

  • Salvation:The remission of sins and healing of the gulf between an individual and God. Various passages in the Christian Scriptures imply that salvation is achieved either by good deeds; or by belief in Jesus' resurrection; or belief that Jesus is the Son of God; or by church rituals such as baptism or penance; or by avoiding certain behaviors; or some combination of the preceding. Various traditions within Christianity have resolved the Bible's ambiguity by stressing some passages and largely ignoring others.

  • Salvific pluralism: The belief that individuals can achieve salvation by following any one of many different world religions. 4 If salvific pluralism is true, then the belief that all those who have not repented of their sins and trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior will go to Hell at death is false. More details.

  • Samahdi: In Buddhism, a type of insight achieved through meditation or wisdom.

  • Samhain: A major sabbat -- a seasonal day of celebration -- observed by Wiccans and other Neopagans on OCT-31. Samhain is often incorrectly defined as a Wiccan God of the dead within many conservative Christian and secular sources.

  • Samsara: A Buddhist term referring to the endless cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth. The goal of a Buddhist is to achieve enlightenment and to escape from samsara. However, some enlightened Buddhists voluntarily choose to remain in the cycle in order to help others attain enlightenment.

  • Sanctification: A Christian term which refers to the process by which the Holy Spirit helps a born-again Christian to grow spiritually, become more Christ-like, and abandon sinful behaviors.

  • Sangha: A Buddhist term for a community of believers.

  • Sanhedrin: A council of Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. They formed a court which was the highest religious body in Palestine. They acted as an advisory board to the Roman governor.

  • Santeria: A syncretistic religion which combined Roman Catholicism with Pagan religions from Western Africa. It is found throughout the Caribbean and in North America.

  • Satan: (a.k.a. the Devil, Lucifer): In the older parts of the Hebrew Scriptures, he is described as a type of District Attorney in God's court. In the New Testament, he is described as a supernatural being who is profoundly evil and who seeks to destroy people's lives. The religion of Islam also recognizes the existence of Satan. Many conservative Christians believe that followers of Wicca and other Neopagan religions worship Satan. However, the latter do not recognize any all-evil deity called by the name of Satan or by any other name.

  • Satanism:
    • A religion based upon Satan, either as a form of deity or as a principle. Adherents follow simple rules of behavior: give kindness to those who deserve it; indulge in their lusts and wants; return vengeance rather than turning the other cheek. With some justification, Satanism has been called the religion of the U.S. corporate boardroom. Although their beliefs are different from Christianity, Satanists are not particularly anti-Christian any more than they are anti-Hindu or anti-Buddhist. Most Satanists are either teenage dabblers, or members of the Church of Satan, Temple of Set or Church of Satanic Liberation. Their total membership in North America is unknown, but probably numbers about 10,000. Total membership is believed to be decreasing.

    • Common Evangelical usage: a violently anti-Christian religion worshipping Satan. Some are teenage dabblers; others are religious Satanists belonging to an established church or temple; others are mass murderers; still others form a secret, underground international, multi-generational conspiracy which engages in Satanic Ritual Abuse and human sacrifices - usually of infants or children. Membership rapidly rising.

    • Common Fundamentalist usage: Any non-Christian faith group, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism is Satanic. By this definition, two out of three people in the world are Satanists.

  • Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA): psychological, sexual, and/or physical assault committed by two or more people whose primary motive is to fulfill a prescribed religious ritual involving the worship of the Christian devil, Satan. During the 1980s and early 1990s, a large percentage of the North American population (90% in Utah) believed that SRA was widespread. Numerous government studies into SRA have revealed it to be non-existent, or essentially so.

  • Satanic salute: A gesture by the left hand in which the little and index fingers are extended vertically with the palm facing away from the body. The remaining fingers are held bent by the thumb. The result resembles a goat head with extended horns. It is very similar to the phrase "I love you" in sign language; however, when signing this phrase, the thumb is extended away from the palm.

  • Satyagraha: A Sanskrit term that describes a type of nonviolent resistance developed by Mohandas Gandhi to win Indian independence. Later it was used by Martin Luther King, Jr. in the fight against racial discrimination. It is now being used by Soulforce to promote "...freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance." 5

Sponsored link

References used:

  1. Rowan Moonstone & Durwydd MacTara, "Glossary of Terms Used Frequently in Wicca," at:
  2. Dr. Monzur Ahmed publishes QiblaCalc, a Windows program that calculates the Qibla direction -- the direction of the Kabbah -- from any location on earth, as determined by a compass. See:
  3. Al-Islam web site has a prayer time calculator at:
  4. Kenneth Himma, "Finding a high road: The moral case for Salvific Pluralism," International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, (2002) 52: 1-33.
  5. "Mission statement," Soulforce, at:

Copyright 1996 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published on: 1996-MAR-11
Last update: 2014-JUN-08
Author: B.A. Robinson
line.gif (538 bytes)
Sponsored link

Go to the previous page, or go to the Glossary of religious terms, or choose:

Go to home page  We would really appreciate your help

E-mail us about errors, etc.  Purchase a CD of this web site

FreeFind search, lists of new essays...  Having problems printing our essays?

GooglePage Translator:

This page translator works on Firefox,
Opera, Chrome, and Safari browsers only

After translating, click on the "show
original" button at the top of this
page to restore page to English.