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Glossary of religious and spiritual terms

Starting with the letter "O"

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:

bullet A group of mostly unrelated spiritual and/or magical activities, the detailed knowledge of which is kept secret from the general public.

bullet A 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.

bullet An activity which involves elements of divination, evil sorcery, magic and/or supernaturally gained concrete experiences or truths.

bullet Conservative 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.

bullet Olber's Paradox: This is a puzzle proposed by Heinrich Olbers, a German astronomer in 1823. He suggested that if the universe is infinite in size and uniform, then there would be an infinite number of stars. Thus, every line of sight from the earth in any direction must end of the surface of a star. The night sky should be uniformly very bright. But the sky background in the evening is dark. There are two solutions to the paradox: the age of the universe is finite, and/or the universe is expanding.

bullet Old 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. This denomination allows their priests to marry.

bullet Old 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.

bullet Oleh: A Jewish term referring to a Jew who is immigrating into Israel.

bullet Olim: Plural form of "Oleh."

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bullet Omnibeneficient: The belief that God exists and is all-good, all loving, and all kind.

bullet Omniest: A person who finds an element of truth in all religions, but is not affiliated with a single faith group.

bullet Omnipotence: The concept that God has infinite power; he is able to do anything that he wishes that is consistent with his own personality and which is logically possible.

bullet Omnipresence: The concept that God is in all places at all times.

bullet Omniscience: 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.

bullet Omnism: This is a belief that recognizes the validity of, and promotes respect towards, all religions. Most Omnists believe that all religions contain elements of truth, but no single religion -- or denomination, sect, faith group within one religion -- is totally correct. In contrast, a surprisingly large percentage of believers regard the teachings of their particular faith group within their religion to have the fullness of truth, and all other faith groups in and outside of their religion to be -- at least in part -- seriously false.

bullet Oneness 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 believe that Jesus sequentially took three forms. First, he was God; then he was the Son; finally. Finally, he became the Holy Spirit which he remains today. 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 and presumably will spend eternity in the torture chambers of Hell.

bullet Open 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 any precision. Supporters of this belief back up their position with biblical quotations. For example, at the time of Noah's flood, God regretted that he created humans in the first place.

bullet Opus 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.

bullet Ordinary 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.

bullet Original 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 disobeyed God and 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 down through over 200 generations to the present day. Some Christians reject the concept of original sin because it punishes individuals for the deeds of their ancestors -- the vast majority of whom have died long ago. This is called scapegoating: punishing the innocent for the sins of the guilty. Some have renamed "original sin" to "original blessing" and consider the events in the Garden of Eden to represent the rise, not the fall, of humanity.


Originalism (a.k.a. Textualism): The belief that is held by some American judges and justices that the Constitution of the United States, and its amendments, are to be read, understood, interpreted, and applied according to the mind set of the documents' original authors and ratifiers. This contrasts with the view that the Constitution and amendments are to be considering a living document whose meaning changes over time as the culture evolves. The difference between these two concepts is particlarly critical in cases before the courts that involve human rights. For example, if the politicians involved in the writing and ratifying of the 14th Amendment probably never thought about same-sex marriage. At that time, same-gender sexual behavior was a crime everywhere in the U.S. They would have responded that the Amendment would not protect the right of same-sex couples to marry. But in the early 21st century, such behavior was decriminalized. By 2015, same-sex marriage was legalized across about 70% of the states. The culture was changed. The liberal Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court voted in favor of marriage equality. During 2015-JUN, the High Court legalized marriage across the one District, 50 states, and four out of the five territories. As of mid-2016, is is not available in American Samoa because most of the people in the Territory are American residents, not citizens. Thus, the rulings of the Court do not necessarily apply there.

The terms are also sometimes used to refer to a method of interpreting ancient religious texts, like the Bible.

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bulletOrthodox: Greek term for "correct opinion or belief."

In a religious sense:
bullet When 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 a person from another denomination of the same religion or from another religion.

bullet When 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 parted during 1054 CE.

bullet Orthodox, 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 -- the one division of Christianity that has the fullness of truth.

bullet Orthopathy: A term derived from the Greek word "pathos:" to feel sympathy or sorrow toward others. In a religious sense, Othropathy means to treat followers of other sects or different religions with empathy and consideration, while avoiding confrontation, hostility or alienation towards the other.

However, the word has an unrelated meaning in the Nature Cure movement: the concept that disease can be prevented, treated, or cured through proper fasting, diet, or other lifestyle measures.


Orthopraxy: Greek term for "correct action." It means to take religiously appropriate action.

bullet OSAS: 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. (Some denominations consider the act of repenting of past sin to be a "good work" and thus not needed to attain salvation.

bullet Ouija 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. They have concluded 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 themselves and not by any outside forces.

bullet Out-of-body Experience: (acronym OBE): See Near-death experience.


Reference used:

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

Copyright 1996 to 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published on: 1996-MAR-11

Last update: 2019-MAR-04
Author: B.A. Robinson
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