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Glossary of religious and spiritual terms

Starting with the letter "Ma" to "Mi"

A list of words beginning with the letters "Mo" to "My" is elsewhere

bullet Machpela: The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Palestine where some believe that the leaders of ancient Israel were buried.

bullet Madrassa: The word for "school" in Arabic. Generally, the media incorrectly interprets the term to mean "Islamic school."

Magic, Magick: The use of blessings, spells, incantations etc. to change outcomes of events. Wiccans and other Neo-pagans are limited to what is popularly called "White Magic" which is devoid of control, domination, harm or manipulation. In contrast, Satanists are free to return harmful magic as vengeance for any harm done to them by others.

bullet Mainline or Mainstream: This is a term that is often used to refer to Christian denominations which are more liberal than Evangelicals. It is not a well-defined word with a universally accepted meaning. In a study comparing Evangelical and mainline denominations, a Princeton University study included the following as large mainline groups: American Baptist Churches in the USA, Episcopal Church USA, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church. 1 Some theologians and commentators divide Christianity into three groups: Evangelical, mainline and liberal.

bullet Mahayana: A Sanskrit term group of Buddhist traditions called the Great Way, Great Road, Greater Path, or Greater Vehicle. It stresses the importance of helping others to achieve enlightenment. It is found in Bhutan, China, Japan, Nepal, Tibet, and East Asia.

bullet Mala beads: This is a string of beads  -- 108 is a common number -- of uniform size. There is one larger bead, called the guru mother or focal bead. They are sometimes called "prayer beads," "worry beads" or "Buddhist rosaries". The beads can be made from a variety of materials, such as sandalwood, teak, glass, bone, gemstones, and coconut. The beads are used as counters to help Buddhists, Hindus, and yoga practitioners repeat their mantra a certain number of times. They can also help a person stay focused during meditation. 2


Maltheism: Derived from "mal" meaning bad or illness, and "theism" meaning belief in God. This is the concept that God exists, but as an cruel, arrogant, abusive and untruthful being. The term is believed to have been created on Usenet in 1985.

bullet Mamzer: A Jewish term for an illegitimate person born from an incestuous or adulterous union.

bullet Mandala: An object that one can focus on during meditation. It is usually a painted diagram that shows the unfolding of the cosmos. It is widely used by Buddhists and Hindus.

bullet Mandap: A sacred wedding tent used by Hindus.

bullet Manicheanism: A religion which synthesized elements of Buddhism, Christianity, Gnosticism, and Zoroastrianism. It was founded by Mani (a.k.a. Manicheus) in Mesopotamia during the third century CE. He believed in two two equal deities. One is the Judeo-Christian God who is good, and is responsible for human souls and minds. The other is Satan who is evil and is responsible for human bodies, passions and emotions. It considered sexuality to be evil. Its followers practiced asceticism. 3

bullet Manifestation. The founder of the Christadelphians, John Thomas, taught his belief about deity. Rejecting the Trinity, he wrote that "...the Father is God and Jesus is God; and we may add, so are all the brethren of Jesus gods; and a multitude which no man can number'."

bullet Mantra: A word or phrase which is repeated continually in order to achieve relaxation or a state of meditation.

bullet M'ra: The Buddhist devil.

bullet Marianist: A group of Christians in the 5th century CE who believed that the Virgin Mary is the "queen of heaven." They believed in a Trinity composed of God, Mary and Jesus Christ.

bullet Marriage, protection of and Marriage, defense of: The terms "protection of marriage" or "protection of traditional marriage," or simply "defense of marriage" are often used by religious and social conservatives to refer to any attempt to give opposite-sex couples special privileges. In the U.S., conservatives' main goal was to prevent loving committed same-sex couples from marrying and thereby denying such couples and their children access to approximately 1,380 state and federal government benefits, protections, rights and obligations. They failed in mid-2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court gave same-sex couples the right to marry everywhere in the country, except for American Samoa.

bullet Marriage, terms: Several terms have appeared to differentiate between opposite-sex marriage and same-sex marriage. The former is often called "natural marriage" by religious and social conservatives; their implication is that same-sex marriage is thus "unnatural marriage." It makes sense to many heterosexuals to call opposite-sex marriage "natural" and same-sex marriage "unnatural." However, the reverse is true for gays and lesbians for whom same-sex marriage generally feels natural and opposite-sex marriage unnatural. Conservatives often enclose marriage in quotation marks ("marriage") when referring to gay marriages. This indicates that they do not recognize such marriages as valid. An earlier term "gay marriage" is being phased out and replaced by same-sex marriage. This is largely because not all spouses in these marriages are gay; some are bisexual.

bullet Martyr: Greek for "witness." A person who dies for their faith or cause.

bullet Masjid: This is a Muslim term for a mosque -- a house of worship.

bulletMasonic order: See Freemasonry

bulletMaterialism: The belief that only material, physical objects exist. Such items as thoughts, soul, and spirit are properties of the human mind.

bulletMaundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter Sunday. It commemorates the Last Supper, Jesus agony in the garden and his arrest. "Maundy" is derived from the Latin "mandatum" (commandment of God in John 13:34-35 For centuries, people in authority have washed the feet of their followers on this day.

bullet Meditation: "Meditation can be considered a technique, or practice. It usually involves concentrating on an object, such as a flower, a candle, a sound or word, or one's breath. Over time, the number of random thoughts diminishes. More importantly, your attachment to these thoughts, and your identification with them, become progressively lessened. 4

bulletMedium: An individual who claims to be able to make contact with the spirits of dead people.

bulletMennonites: A faith group which originated within the Anabaptist movement. They hold a variety of theological beliefs, but are all opposed to infant baptism and warfare.

bulletMenorah: A Jewish candle holder. A nine-candle menorah is used at Hanukkah; a seven-candle menorah was used in the Jerusalem Temple.

bulletMessiah: Derived from the Hebrew "meshiach" which means "consecrated person" or "anointed one." It is translated as the Greek word "Christos," and the English "Christ."

bulletIn the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), the Messiah was an anticipated "anointed one": a king of Israel and military leader who would lead the Jewish people to independence from foreign oppression and occupation. The concept of a Messiah who was executed and later resurrected does not appear in the Hebrew Scriptures. According to the Talmud: "The only difference between the world today and the world after the messiah comes is that when the messiah comes we will be free of foreign subjugation." 1

bulletIn Christianity, a title used to refer to Yeshua of Nazareth: Jesus Christ -- considered the Son of God and second personality of the Trinity.

bullet Messianic Judaism,: A conservative Christian religion which blends Jewish tradition and ceremonies with fundamentalist theological beliefs about Jesus Christ.

bullet Metaethics: A study of ethical systems to determine whether they are based on objective foundations.

bullet Methodist: An individual, congregation, or denomination whose spiritual heritage can be traced to the teachings of John Wesley. He was an 18th century English preacher, who was influenced by the Pietist movement which started in the 17th century. "Methodist" was first used as a derisive title to refer to the very strict daily schedules observed by members of the Holy Club -- a religious society which Wesley organized in Oxford University in England.

bulletMezuzah means a doorpost in Hebrew. It refers to a scroll with specific verses from the Torah placed inside a container and attached to a doorpost outside of the home of a devout Jew. The most common verses are Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21. A devout Jew touches or kisses their mezuzah when entering or leaving their house.

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bulletMidrash: From a Hebrew word "darash," meaning "to seek out." According to Rabbi Donna Berman, "Midrash uses allegory and additional narrative to fill in the gaps left by an often terse biblical text. Midrash is creative and imaginative. It can take the form of artwork, dance, music, as well as poetry and prose." 5 Midrash can also refer to a book which contains a compilation of Midrashic teachings.

bullet Mihrab: This is a niche in the wall of a mosque. It points in the direction of Qibla. This is the direction of the shorter great circle route to the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

bulletMikvah (a.k.a. Mikveh, Mikva): A Jewish plurification bath.

bulletMinaret: A tower located beside a mosque. It is often used when Muslims are called to prayer.

bulletMind control cult: a religious group which uses severe domination and manipulation to rigidly control its followers. Some in the anti-cult movement believe that members of these groups lose their will to think clearly and almost become zombies. There is little or no evidence of that actually happening. 

bulletReligious meaning: an interval of 1000 years after Armageddon when, according to Revelation, Jesus Christ will rule on earth.
bulletSecular meanings: the beginning of a year ending in "000" or "001" as in "2000" or "2001."

bulletMillennialism: The belief that current society will disintegrate and be replaced with a perfect new world. Some 24% of American adults believe that Jesus Christ will return to earth during their lifetime; most believe that this event will usher in a new world order.

bulletMin: A Jewish term for heretic or schismatic.

bulletMind control: A spiritually abusive environment in which followers of a faith group are manipulated in order to reduce their ability to think critically. The goal is to turn the membership into near robots who are incapable of independent reasoning and judgment. There is no consensus on whether new religious movements utilize mind control techniques. The existence of mind control is a major part of the belief system of the anti-cult movement (ACM). Those in the ACM teach that new religious movements (which they call "cults") widely practice mind control and other psychologically abusive methods. Sociologists and psychologists who have studied new religious movements generally deny that it exists.

bulletMind sciences: A religious movement which beliefs that humans are divine beings who can change reality through their mind and thoughts.

bulletMinimalism, minimalists: A group of historians, archaeologists and theologians who view the biblical account of creation, the flood, the tower of Babel, the patriarchs, the exodus as religious myth without any historical reality. They believe that the histories in the Hebrew Scriptures were of recent creation.

bullet Minyan: A quorum of ten or more male Jewish adults -- the minimum number required to conduct a communal worship service.

bulletMiqdash: The name of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, located on the Temple Mount.

bulletMiracle: An event in which God suspends one or more natural laws and makes an impossible outcome happen. The stopping of the apparent movement of the sun across the sky, as mentioned in the Bible, is regarded by some as a miracle.

bulletMiriam: Hebrew version of the name Mary; the actual name of the mother of Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ).

bullet Misanthropy: A hatred or distrust of humans or of human nature. Humourusly defined in the Urban Dictionary as: "The natural allergic reaction had by an intelligent, thinking person when confronted by a world of tribalized, reactionary proto-humans."

bulletMishnah: From a Hebrew word "gamar" which means "to complete." A collection of early oral interpretations of the Hebrew Scriptures. They were completed about 200 CE.

bullet Misotheism, misotheist: From two Greek words for hatred and God(s). It is used to describe individuals who believe that their religion teaches a God who is evil, or who blames God for the world's suffering, or who finds God's teachings to be immoral. Believed to have been created by Thomas de Quincey (1785-1859) in his essay "On Christianity As An Organ of Political Movement."

bulletMissal: A Roman Catholic book which contains all of the mass prayers and readings for three years of Sundays and two years of weekdays.

bullet Mitzvah (a.k.a. Mitsvot, Mitsvah): Hebrew for precept or commandment." "A combination of a religious law, personal obligation, and a privilege." Plural is Mitzvot. Often used to refer to a meritorious or charitable act. Hebrew miṣwāh. First known Use: 1650 CE

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Continue to a list of words beginning with the letters "Mo" to "My"

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Rabbi Tilsen, "Material and Spiritual Emancipation," at:
  2. "Mala frequently asked questions and instructions," at:
  3. "Western North African Christianity: fourth Century Mahicheanism..." at:
  4. Dinu Roman: "Mystery Meditation"
  5. "Midrash" at:

Copyright © 1996 to 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written on: 1996-MAR-11

Last update: 2016-MAY-29
Author: B.A. Robinson
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