Glossary of religious and spiritual terms
Starting with the letters "Sa"
- 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.
- The violation or misuse of a sacred object.
- Occasionally used to describe any irreverence to sacred persons, places
- 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
- 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
- In Evangelical Christianity, all saved Christians are
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- Rowan Moonstone & Durwydd MacTara, "Glossary of Terms Used Frequently in
- 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:
- Al-Islam web site has a prayer time calculator at:
- Kenneth Himma, "Finding a high road: The moral case for Salvific
Pluralism," International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, (2002)
- "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