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Achievement Motivation: As used in the psychology of religion, it is the role of religion in shaping value orientations and motivation to succeed in work. The classic example is the "Protestant ethic," where hard work and economic success is viewed as a sign of salvation (Weber 1904). For Jews, the history of Talmudic learning reinforces both the value of learning and critical thinking, making Jews one of the highest educated and financially successful religious groups in the United States (Hood, Hill and Spika 2009).
Adherent: 1) A person who identifies with some religious tradition. It is a broader term than "member" because the latter refers to an official status that varies according to congregation or denomination. 2) Note that in ARDA's online Maps & Reports, "adherent" has a more specific meaning: "All members, including full members, their children and the estimated number of other participants who are not considered members; for example, the 'baptized,' 'those not confirmed,' 'those not eligible for communion,' 'those regularly attending services,' and the like," according to the Religious Congregations and Membership Study, 2010 (Grammich et al. 2012: xvi).
Adventist Family: Churches originating from founder William Miller in the late 19th century. Miller taught that Christ would soon return to earth and that Saturday, rather than Sunday, should be observed as the Christian Sabbath. The Adventist family includes the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which was founded by Ellen White and James Springer White, as well as offshoots such as the Advent Christian Church (Melton 2009: 560-561).
Affiliation Change, Measure of: A survey measure of whether an individual has changed religious affiliation as an adult. Examples of this measure are found in the 2003 National Study of Youth and Religion, available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME): One of the largest black denominations in the United States. The denomination broke off from the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1787. In 1816, it was officially founded by Richard Allen in Philadelphia (Prothero 2008: 194).
Afterlife: The fate of humans after death (Smith and Green 1995: 31). Descriptions of the afterlife will differ by cultural, historical and geographical context (see Egyptian Book of the Dead and Tibetan Book of the Dead). In Eastern religions, such as Hinduism or Buddhism, reincarnation is an afterlife concept. In the monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam discussions of the afterlife also entail whether an individual goes to either heaven or hell based on God's judgment (Hinnells 1984: 25-26).
Agnosticism: A philosophical position neither affirming nor denying belief in a deity. Agnostics believe the question of whether God exists must be left open and unanswered. The concept comes from David Hume (1711-1776), who questioned the idea of causality, and by extension the historical accuracy of biblical miracles. The term "agnostic" was coined by Thomas Huxley (1825-1895), and was used as a method more than a belief system, claiming that one should seek truth until a certain point where the evidence becomes scarce or non-existent (Reid et al. 1990: 31).
Ahimsa: A term in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism that is often translated as "non-violence," referring to not harming or wishing to harm. In Jainism, nonviolence is considered the highest moral duty, as Jain ascetics even attempt to avoid the injury and death of insects. Ahimsa also influenced Gandi and his nonviolent campaign in India (Prothero 2008: 194-195).
Al-Qaeda: An international terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden in the 1980s. The organization seeks to establish a transnational Islamic empire that strictly adheres to Islamic law. The group is most famous for the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. The leader, Osama bin Laden, was killed on May 2, 2011 by U.S. Navy seals and CIA operatives (Prothero 2008: 196).
Alcohol/Drug Use, Religion and: The relationship between alcohol/drug use and religion is complex. In Jewish and Christian tradition, drinking wine was an ordinary occurrence, and some sacramental observances involved the use of wine. However, drunkenness tends to be denounced among the large world religions (Miller 1998). The use of drugs, like the hallucinogen Peyote, is common among Native American groups for religious purposes, but many religions tend to prohibit the use of mind-altering substances. In general, religiousness tends to be associated with less alcohol and drug use (see Koenig, King and Carson 2012).
Ali: One of the most important caliphs in Islam. He was cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam. Ali was brutally murdered in 661 CE by an assassin. Sunnis consider him the fourth caliph, while Shi'ite Muslims consider him the first. In addition, Shiite Muslims trace the lineage of the imams through him (Esposito 2011: 241).
Alienation: A feeling of estrangement from society as a whole, or from its dominant institutions, but not necessarily estrangement from all local religious groups (Dean 1961; Neal and Rettig 1967).
All Saints Day: A feast celebrated in the Western Church on the first of November to commemorate Christian martyrs and all those who have led conspicuously holy lives. In the Eastern Church it is observed on the first Sunday after Pentecost (Reid et al. 1990: 36).
Allen, Richard (1760-1831): Richard Allen was an influential black minister who established the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1816, the first black denomination in the United States. For more information on Richard Allen, click here.
Amillennialism: A Christian theological position that the thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ is symbolic, not literal, and is a period between the ministry of Christ and the Second Coming. It emphasizes the present reality of the Kingdom of God, and that the perfect age will not arrive until the establishment of the new heaven and the new earth. This is an alternative interpretation of Chapter 20 in the New Testament's Book of Revelation, and it differs from a premillennial interpretation (Reid et al. 1990: 57). See Premillennialism for more.
Amish: A group of the Mennonites who broke away in the late seventeenth century, led by the minister Jacob Amman. He supported a strict interpretation of discipline and the practice of avoidance, shunning excommunicated members. They arrived in America in the early 1700s, and have retained a fairly separatist environment from modern culture ever since, preferring to cultivate a community more representative of the late seventeenth century (Melton 2009: 439). Examples of Amish churches include the Beachy Amish Mennonite Churches and Old Order Amish Mennonite Church
Analogical Imagination: A religious perspective that emphasizes God's presence in the world, expressed through every aspect of creation. Moreover, it stresses the community. The analogical imagination contrasts with the dialectical imagination, which stresses the individual and the belief that God has withdrawn from the sinful world. This concept was developed by Andrew Greeley (1989), who believed that Catholics tend to have analogical imagination, while Protestants tend to have dialectical imagination.
Ananda: Cousin and disciple of the Buddha who lived in the sixth century BCE. He used his exceptional memory to recite the Buddha's sermons, and played a pivotal role in forming the Buddhist community after the Buddha's death. He also is known for his support of female disciples (Smith and Green 1995: 46).
Anathema: 1) A Greek term referring to a curse in the New Testament. 2) In Catholicism, it refers to an open condemnation against immorality, heresy, or blasphemy by church authorities (Smith and Green 1995: 46).
Anatman: A Buddhist doctrine denying the reality of a permanent, immortal soul as the spiritual center of a human. The term means "no self," and it is meant to teach that all things are connected and there is no separate existence (Esposito et al. 2012a: G-6).
Ancestor Worship: The worship, feeding and petitioning of the souls of dead ancestors at home altars, temples and graves. This practice is most common among East Asian religions (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-15).
Angel: A superhuman intermediary between the divine and human realm. Angels exist in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Perhaps the most famous angel is Gabriel, who reveals himself as God's messenger in the Hebrew scriptures, Christianity's New Testament and Islam's Koran. Theological discussions of the nature of angels vary by tradition (Smith and Green 1995: 49-50).
Anglican Family: Churches originating in England that broke with Roman Catholicism during the 16th century Reformation after King Henry VIII rejected papal supremacy. Some view the Anglican Church as a "middle way" between Catholicism and Protestantism, since both traditions have influenced Anglican theology and practice (Mead et al. 2005: 102). Churches in the Anglican family include the Church of England and the Episcopal Church in the United States. For more information on the Anglican family, click here.
Animism: The belief in an inner soul that represents the main identity for all humans, animals, plants and places. It places a large emphasis on ritualistic activities (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-2).
Anomie: Often defined simplistically as “normlessness,” it also is used as a synonym for “demoralized” or “alienated,” and anomic society may be considered “disorganized.” The term has been popular in social science at least since Emile Durkheim’s (1897) book on suicide. Anomie can be interpreted in terms of the values and norms of society, both of which may be established and supported by religion (Stark and Bainbridge 1996: 18-19).
Anti-Cult Movement: As new religious groups grew in popularity, in part due to the counterculture of the 1960s, conservative opposition emerged in the form of the anti-cult movement. Not only did anti-cult advocates fear unorthodox religious beliefs and practices, but parents of converts and ex-members would often accuse new religious groups of "brainwashing" converts. The anti-cult movement gained prominence in 1978, after 909 members of the People’s Temple died in Guyana after drinking cyanide-laced fruit juice. By the mid-1980s, however, the anti-cult movement began to dwindle, as American-based movements, like the Latter-day Saints, became more mainstream, and academics/health professionals largely debunked the “brainwashing” techniques suggested by the anti-cult movement.
Anti-literal Religion: A simple rejection of literalist religious statements (Hunt 1972).
Anti-Semitism: Unreasoning hostility toward and discrimination against the Jews. It can range from a formal doctrine and from mild antipathy to active efforts to kill the Jews. German writer Wilhelm Marr coined the term in 1880 to distinguish between secular hatred for the Jews as a people and hatred toward the Jewish religion, although the modern usage of the word denotes hatred for the Jews and Judaism in all forms (Smith and Green 1995: 53).
Antichrist: In Christian literature, the Antichrist is an evil figure that deceives people into thinking that he is holy. In the end-times, according to the Christian tradition, Jesus will come back and defeat the Antichrist (Smith and Green 1995: 53). In Islamic eschatology, there also is an Antichrist figure that is depicted in the Hadith as a one-eyed monster from the East who rules the earth for a period of time before Jesus comes to vanquish him (Hinnells 1984: 44).
Antinomianism: 1) The belief that certain religious allegiances exempt one from following secular law. 2) The belief that secular laws ought to be disobeyed because they are evil (Smith 1995: 53). 3) A theological position in which subjective elements of Christianity are emphasized over objective elements of Christianity, like moral law. The famous "Antinomian Controversy" took place in the 1630s, where Anne Hutchinson was brought to trial in Massachusetts for claiming to follow her direct revelation of the Holy Spirit instead of Scripture alone. She was banished from the colony in 1638 (Reid et al. 1990: 69).
Apocalypse: Catastrophic end-times battle between good and evil, in which good will triumph over evil. The Greek term refers to "hidden things." The most famous apocalyptic literature is the Book of Revelation at the end of the New Testament. In contemporary usage, the apocalypse has been popularized by Tim LaHaye's Left Behind series of Christian novels (Prothero 2008: 197).
Apocrypha: A collection of books or chapters of books not included in the Hebrew Bible, but present in various Christian versions of the Old Testament, mostly in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions. These traditions see the Apocrypha as authoritative, whereas Protestantism does not. Protestant Bibles either exclude the Apocrypha or create a separate section for it found in-between the Old and New Testament. Traditions that include this collection of terms prefer the term "deuterocanonical" books, not the Apocrypha. The majority of these books were composed between the third century BCE and the first century CE. This collection of books is not to be confused with the pseudepigrapha or the Christian Apocrypha, which are not regarded as authoritative by any major branch of Christianity (Smith and Green 1995: 55).
Apologetics: The argumentation or defense on behalf of a certain religious faith. It is usually directed toward those outside the faith community, but the audience is usually those within the faith community (Reid et al. 1990: 71). Famous apologists include Orestes Brownson and Francis Schaeffer.
Apostasy: Departing or falling away from a religious faith. In Christianity, it is the complete renunciation of the faith through either words or actions (Reid et al. 1990: 72).
Apostle: It refers to both the mission and representational authority of someone sent on a mission by a superior. In Christianity, "apostle" refers to the authoritative mission conferred to Christ on his disciples, with special emphasis on the Twelve Apostles and other specific people, to continue his mission on earth after his resurrection-ascension (Reid et al. 1990: 72).
Apostles' Creed: Short statement of Christian beliefs, attributed to Jesus' disciples, but officially written long after their deaths (Prothero 2008: 198).
Archbishop: The bishop of an Archdiocese. The archbishop's power extends over an ecclesiastical province, not just a diocese. Catholic Churches, Eastern Orthodox Churches, and Anglican Churches maintain these hierarchal positions, although the jurisdiction, positional rank and specific role of the archbishop differs by tradition (Reid et al. 1990: 73). Famous archbishops in American Catholic history include James Gibbons and John Hughes.
Archdiocese: A large diocese overseen by the Archbishop. Since the fourth century CE, neighboring dioceses have been grouped into provinces, and the most important province has been designated as the archdiocese, while the others are called "suffragan dioceses." Catholic Churches and Eastern Orthodox Churches recognize archdioceses, although Eastern Orthodox Churches prefer the terminology of "eparchey" and "archeparchy." Although Episcopalians organize dioceses into provinces, they do not officially recognize archdioceses (Reid et al. 1990: 74).
Arhat: One who has attained the final stage of enlightenment in Theravada Buddhism. Over time, a distinction arose between arhats and bodhisattvas, and some Mahayanists came to malign arhats as a selfish and inferior enterprise, lacking in the compassion of the bodhisattva. There has been some debate as to whether only monks and nuns or laypeople can be arhats, and whether arhats still exist today (Smith and Green 1995: 71).
Armageddon: A term referring to the battle between god and evil in the last days. The term itself only appears once in the Bible in Revelation 16:16. "Armageddon" is a transliteration for the Hebrew word for "Mount Megiddo" in northern Israel (Prothero 2008: 198).
Asbury, Francis (1745-1816): Francis Asbury was the preeminent leader of American Methodism after the Revolutionary War. When many Methodist missionaries fled back to England during the American Revolution, he stayed behind and continued spreading Methodism. For more information on Francis Asbury, click here.
Asceticism: The complete renunciation of physical pleasures and other bodily desires in order to foster spiritual development. This practice is common in many religious traditions, including Buddhism, Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and classical Hinduism (Smith and Green 1995: 77-78).
Ash Wednesday: The first day of the Lent in the Western calendar, where individuals spread ashes on their forehead as a sign of penitence or mortality (Smith and Green 1995: 84).
Ashkenazi: Jews originating from central and eastern Europe. This group adopted Yiddish, a language based on medieval German. The majority of American Jews are Ashkenazi (Smith and Green 1995: 83).
Assemblies of God: One of the largest Pentecostal denominations in the United States. As the Pentecostal movement began to flourish in the early 20th century, several diverse regional constituencies of the Reformed tradition desired to combine their efforts into one movement. Click here for more information on the founding of the Assemblies of God. Today they have a little under three million adherents (Smith and Green 1995: 84).
Astral Projection: The experience of one's soul traveling outside the physical body into unknown realms of the universe. The belief in astral projection is found in many occult systems (Smith and Green 1995: 84).
Astrology: Belief and practice of determining the influence of stars (Smith and Green 1995: 85).
Atheism: A belief that God does not exist (Prothero 2008: 198).
Atman: The Hindu concept that the soul resides in the heart, and is the source of life energy and spiritual awareness. In Hindu thought, the soul transmigrates after death (Esposito et al. 2012a: G-4).
Atonement: A term in both Judaism and Christianity referring to the forgiveness of sins. For Christians, atonement is found through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. For Jews, atonement is found on the holiday Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), where practitioners ask God to forgive them of the sin they committed in the past year (Prothero 2008: 199).
Attachment Theory: Attachment theory, under a religious framework, posits that religion can be explained by understanding the human need for attachment in general and one's relationship to her/his parents specifically.
Attendance at Religious Services, Measure of: This survey item measures how frequently respondents attend places of worship. It is debatable how much measurement error is present in self-reported attendance, as people tend to over-estimate their participation (see Smith 1998). Examples of this survey item are found in the 2008 General Social Survey, 2005 Baylor Religion Survey and the 2003 National Study of Youth and Religion, all of which are available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Attribution of Intentionality: Perhaps the most widely influential theory currently in the cognitive science approach to religion, it holds that faith in supernatural beings is a cognitive error that naturally springs from the way the human brain evolved.
Authoritarian Personality Scale: A battery of questions was developed to assess traits posited as aspects of an “authoritarian personality.” The battery examines a range of dimensions, but in general it attempts to determine levels of submission to authority and adherence to conventional or traditional values, accompanied by the belief that such values should be enforced on others. A separate personality dimension called “social dominance” also has been proposed in order to explain the sources of prejudice.
Authoritarian Religion: A type of individual religion where the main virtue is obedience and its cardinal sin is disobedience (Fromm 1950: 34).
Authoritarianism: The tendency to follow a strong leader or rigid social conventions. This is typically assessed through a high value on traditional conventions, a belief in an “objective” morality and the belief that this morality should be publicly enforced and/or imposed on others.
Avalokiteshvara: The most popular and celestial bodhisattva in Buddhism, especially Mahayana Buddhism. He is the bodhissattva of compassion. In China, Avalokiteshvara is known as Guanyin, and is female (Esposito et al. 2012b: 424).
Ayatollah: The highest rank of Shi'ite Muslim clerics. The term literally means "sign of God." An ayatollah is respected for his knowledge and his piety (Esposito 2011: 241).
Azusa Street Revival (1906-1915): The Azusa Street Revival, led by William Seymour, took place in Los Angeles, where Seymour's congregants began experiencing miraculous healings, glossalia (i.e., "speaking in tongues"), and spontaneous worship. It was a defining event for early Pentecostalism and functioned as the catalyst to the growth of American Pentecostalism. For more on William Seymour and the Azusa Street Revival, click here.
Azzi–Ehrenberg Model of Religious Activity: Based on the work of Azzi and Ehrenberg (1975), this economic model treats church attendance and religious contributions as a special form of household production, involving trade-offs between time and money inputs, secular versus religious outputs, and present versus afterlife utility (Iannaccone and Berman 2018). The Azzi–Ehrenberg model predicts that religious activity increases with age (in anticipation for the afterlife) and that households with high value of time (high wages) will substitute goods (religious contributions) for time in producing religious activity. Some question the assumptions behind the aging effect given how religious activity tends to increase with age even among those who do not believe in the afterlife (Ulbrich and Wallace 1983), but the assumptions underlying religious substitution (between time and money) are more widely accepted (see Religious Substitution Theory)
Baha'i: A religion started in 19th century Persia (now Iran) by Mirza Husain Ali. The Baha'i faith is now worldwide and teaches the unity of God, the truth of his prophets, and continuation of revelation in every age. It has no priesthood, believing in spiritual equality between men and women (Parrinder 1973: 39).
Baptism: The rite of applying water to a person, usually marking his or her entrance into the Christian church. It appears to have derived from John the Baptist in the first century CE, although some scholars believe that the act was inspired by the ritual ablution of the Jewish Essenes. Churches and denominations are divided on whether baptism literally or symbolically washes away sin (Smith and Green 1995: 102-103).
Baptist: Protestants that originated from 17th century English Puritanism. The term "Baptist" came from their insistence that baptism should be reserved for those old enough to comprehend and confess a personal faith in Jesus. Modern Baptist churches teach that only believers should be voluntarily baptized by immersion (Reid et al. 1990: 110). For more on the Baptist family, click here. To interactively explore the history of Baptists in America, click here.
Bar Mitzvah: This Jewish ceremony, usually performed when a boy is 13, marks his passage into adulthood. The ceremony includes a reading from the Torah or the Prophets, and is followed by an elaborate party for friends and family (Smith and Green 1995: 104).
Bat Mitzvah: A Jewish ceremony, usually performed when a girl is 12, which marks her transition into adulthood. The ceremony includes a reading from the Torah or the Prophets, and is followed by an elaborate party for friends and family. The Bat Mitzvah is a fairly new rite of passage in modern times, and functions as a way to give the girl more of a role in Jewish public life (Hinnells 1984: 37).
Belief in "End Times," Measures of: Survey items measuring views toward certain religious predictions about the end of the world, such as Armageddon and the Rapture. An example of this item is present in the 2005 Baylor Religion Survey, which is available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Belief in Angels/Demons, Measures of: These survey item measures whether a respondent believes in angels or demons. Examples of these items are found in the 2007 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey and the 2005 Baylor Religion Survey, both available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Belief in Creationism/Acceptance of Evolution, Measure of: These variables can be used to explore whether or not respondents believe in a literal creation story or if creation should be taught in schools and whether they accept versions of evolutionary theory presented by contemporary science. Examples of these measures are found in the 2008 General Social Survey, 2007 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey and the 2005 Religion and Public Life Survey, all of which are available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Belief in God, Measure of: This survey item assesses whether a respondent believes in God. Examples of this measure are found in the 2008 General Social Survey, 2005 Baylor Religion Survey and the 2005 Religion and Public Life Survey, all of which are available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Belief in Heaven, Measures of: One’s views on the certainty of a positive afterlife existing, or occasionally, questions about who will be allowed to go there. Examples of these measures are found in the 2008 General Social Survey, 2005 Baylor Religion Survey and the 2005 National Study of Youth and Religion, all of which are available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Belief in Hell, Measure of: This survey item assesses whether a respondent believes in hell or purgatory. Examples of this measure are found in the 2008 General Social Survey and the 2005 Baylor Religion Survey, both of which are available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Belief in Jesus, Measure of: This survey item assesses what respondents believe about the divinity (or lack thereof) regarding Jesus. Examples of this measure are present in the 2005 National Study of Youth and Religion and the 2005 Baylor Religion Survey, both of which are available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Belief in Satan, Measure of: This survey item measures whether a respondent believes in Satan/the devil. Examples of this measure are found in the 2005 Baylor Religion Survey and the 1991 General Social Survey, both of which are available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Belief, Religious: On its most basic level, religious belief refers to views toward the supernatural. One of the most common measures for religious belief is whether respondents believe in God. A new strain of research is focusing not just on if individuals believe in God, but specifically what they believe God to be like, often referred to as a person's image of God.
Bhagavad Gita: The most popular scripture in contemporary Hinduism. It is part of a Hindu epic called the Mahabharata, written in Sanskrit between 200 BCE and 200 CE, and discusses Hindu ethics (Prothero 2008: 201).
Bible, Christian: The sacred text for Christians, comprising the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament is comprised of thirty-nine books, further divisions of the twenty-four books in the Hebrew Bible. The New Testament contains twenty-seven books: the four Gospels of Jesus' life, the Acts of the Apostles, twenty-one letters, and the Book of Revelation. The canon of the New Testament became official in the Easter Letter of Athanasius in 367 CE. It is important to note that Bibles in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches contain more books, including the apocrypha (Smith and Green 1995: 113).
Bible, Hebrew (Tanakh): The sacred text of Judaism, also known as the Old Testament for Christians. The Hebrew Bible is comprised of twenty-four books that are further divided into the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (Smith and Green 1995: 113).
Biblical Inerrancy: The belief that the Bible is without error, in terms of theology, ethics, history, geography, and science. This is common in Christian fundamentalism, as opposed to evangelicals who typically have a less strict view that the Bible, and instead simply believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God (Prothero 2008: 235).
Biblical Literalism: The extent to which individuals believe that the Bible (or other sacred scriptures) should be interpreted literally. Social surveys that are interested in religion often ask a question pertaining to biblical literalism, though the question wording and response options can vary.
Black Protestantism: Also known as the Black Church, Black Protestantism is a unique religious tradition that has theological and structural similarities to white evangelical denominations, but also emphasizes social justice and community activism. Black Protestants tend to be liberal on economic issues, but conservative on social issues. Historically, seven major denominations compose this religious tradition, including the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Church of God in Christ, and the Progressive National Baptist Convention. For more information, click here.
Black Theology: A system of Christian thought that focuses on God as a liberator of the oppressed, specifically those in the black community. It derives from traditional African-American religion and liberation theology. Many attribute its development to the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the 1950s/1960s (Reid et al. 1990: 161-164).
Blasphemy: An act or verbal offense that mocks beliefs, sacred beings, or objects in a certain religion. In some religions, like Islam, blasphemy and heresy are sometimes used interchangeably (Smith and Green 1995: 118).
Blood Transfusions and Jehovah’s Witnesses: It is a common practice for Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW) to refuse blood transfusions, even in life or death situations, on religious grounds. JW believe that one should not sustain one’s life with the blood or another creature, whether through drinking blood or taking someone else’s blood directly into their blood vessels. In this way, JW believe that Jehovah (God) condemns blood transfusions and will condemn those who receive them. Because of this, JW tend to refuse blood transfusions for themselves and their children. Although refusal among adults is accepted as one’s right to personal freedom, the refusal of blood transfusions for JW children is more controversial (Swan 1997). JW have typically lost legal cases involving the health of children (Koenig, King and Carson 2012: 65).
Bodhisattva (Bodhissata): One destined for enlightenment in the Buddhist tradition. In Theravada Buddhism, it is one on the way to becoming a Buddha. In Mahayana Buddhism, there are many Bodhisattvas, and they function as embodiments of ideals like compassion. One of the greatest bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism is Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion (Parrinder 1973: 48).
Book of Mormon: The sacred text of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), along with the Bible. It is said that the angel Moroni led church founder Joseph Smith to golden plates in 1827. According to Smith, the angel gave him gold plates that were engraved in what Smith describes as a reformed Egyptian language. The angel also gave him two divining stones, the Urim and Thummim, which were used to translate the text. The Book of Mormon tells the story of two groups of people: the Jeradites and the Israelites. According to the story, both groups came to America, although at different times, and both groups were eventually destroyed, with Native Americans as the last remnants of the Israelites in America. In the book, Jesus visits the New World after his resurrection and before his ascension. These revelations were officially published in 1830. Smith also received other revelations, including the Book of Moses, the Book of Abraham, and an alternate translation of the Bible (Melton 2009: 635-636).
Book of Revelation: An important book in Christian apocalypticism and millenarianism. It is the last book in the New Testament canon, and it is written by John of Patmos. The book has traditionally been attributed to John the Apostle, but more recently scholars have questioned this assertion. The book deals with the end-times as well as persecution by the Roman government at the time. The writing heavily uses symbolic language and imagery (Smith and Green 1995: 927).
Born-Again: A term used by Jesus in the New Testament that is now employed to describe the conversion experience for many evangelical and fundamentalist Christians. The conversion experience includes the feeling of knowing Jesus, sensing the Holy Spirit, and putting off the old sinful self (Smith and Green 1995: 126).
Brahman: A Hindu concept referring to the world spirit that arises at creation. Hindus believe that it is either in an impersonal form (Nirguna Brahman) or human form (Saguna Brahman) (Esposito et al. 2012a: G-4).
Brain Drain (Religion): In the context of religion, it refers to the departure of highly productive/skilled members from religious groups. This may occur in communes because the demand for sharing resources equally may have an adverse effect on members who see themselves as more productive than others (Abramitzky 2011). The religious application of “brain drain” derives from secular theories of human capital flight, which focuses on the migration patterns of highly skilled or educated individuals across countries.
Brainwashing: This controversial term refers to the possibility that coercive or deceptive indoctrination techniques can take control over a person’s mind; for example, causing the individual to join a radical new religious movement (i.e. “cult”). The connection between brainwashing and recruitment to religious movements was powerfully made in the aftermath of the culturally turbulent 1960s, both in popular culture and for scholars. However, a considerable body of research indicates that popular versions of the brainwashing theory, such as coercion and not just strong social influence, generally are unsubstantiated (see Snow and Machalek 1984).
Branch Davidians: A breakaway Christian Adventist group that was infamously sieged by the U.S. government in 1993 at Mt. Carmel Center, the Davidians' compund outside Waco, Texas. The Branch Davidians began as an offshoot of the Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Association in 1930. After a divisive fight in the 1950s, Vernon Howell, who later assumed the messianic name of David Koresh, became the prominent leader of the group. Based on Koresh's interpretation of the Book of Revelation, the group stockpiled weapons in preparation for imminent final conflict. This attracted the attention of government officials, who in February 1993 launched a deadly gun battle, during which several federal agents and Branch Davidians died. That set off a siege of nearly two months. On April 19, federal authorities launched another attempt to raid Mt. Carmel. A fire erupted, the complex burned down and many members died, including David Koresh (Smith and Green 1995: 127-128).
Brief RCOPE: A 14-item scale that is widely used by psychologists to measure religious coping (Pargament et al. 1998). Seven items assess positive religious coping strategies (e.g., seeking spiritual support, seeking religious help to forgive others, collaborating with God, etc.), while the other seven items measure negative religious coping strategies (e.g., believing God is punishing them, not loving, or has deserted them). Although positive coping tends to be more prevalent than negative coping, both tend to present themselves to some degree given the situation (see Koenig, Pargament, and Nielsen 1998). Many studies find that negative religious coping is associated with poor mental health, although there have been some cases where positive religious coping also was associated with poor mental health (for a discussion, see Koenig et al. 2012: 94-120). There also is a long version of the Brief RCOPE, known simply as the RCOPE, which consists of 105 items.
Brownson, Orestes (1803-1876): Orestes Brownson (1803-1876) was a 19th century public intellectual in the United States. He defended Catholicism and its compatibility with American society, which was controversial at the time, for Catholics were a small minority that many Protestant Americans viewed with skepticism. For more on Orestes Brownson, click here.
Buddha: It literally means one who has "awakened," reaching enlightenment and escaping rebirth (see samsara). This also is the name given to Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of the Buddhist religion (Esposito et al. 2012a: G-6).
Buddha-nature: The inborn essence of all sentient beings that enable them with the potential for Buddhahood. This is a prominent belief in Chinese Buddhism (Smith and Green 1995: 129).
Buddhism: A world religion founded by Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha in the sixth or fifth century BCE in India. Teaching reincarnation and freedom from worldly attachments, Buddhism has three major branches: Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. According to Buddhism, the origin of suffering comes from ignorance, and that one must follow the Eightfold Path to reach nirvana. Buddhism first came to America through Chinese immigration (Prothero 2008: 205-206).
Bureaucracy: As discussed by Max Weber (1946), bureaucratic systems are noted by a system of rules that govern organizational behavior and procedures, as well as the presence of a well-defined hierarchy among positions within the bureaucratic order. Bureaucracy is a particularly useful lens for understanding organizational founding and emergent organizations, as it provides a framework for analyzing the formalization process within organizations. In the religious realm, as new churches are started, new denominations emerge and the parachurch sector continues to grow, bureaucracy is a way to study the trajectory of these organizations as they develop from an idea to a fully functioning organization (Weber 1946).
Burka (Burqa): The garment that covers a Muslim woman's entire body (Esposito 2011: 242).
Caliph: A title for the political leader of the Muslim community. Sunni Muslims believe that the most qualified person should be elected as a caliph, whereas Shi'ite Muslims believe that the caliph should come from the bloodline of Ali, Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law (Esposito 2011: 43).
Calvinism: Also known as Reformed theology, Calvinism is a Protestant theological tradition based on the works of John Calvin (1509-1564). Calvin believed in the absolute sovereignty of God and the total depravity of humans. Calvinism also includes the doctrine of double predestination: the belief that God fated every human being, before birth, to either heaven or hell (Prothero 2008: 207).
Cane Ridge Camp Meeting: Barton Stone organized the Cane Ridge camp meeting (1801), the largest and most famous religious revival of the Second Great Awakening. It took place in Bourbon County, Kentucky, and he invited Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist preachers. For more information on Cane Ridge Camp Meeting, click here.
Canon: A general term for an authoritative set of sacred texts (Smith and Green 1995: 179).
Canon Law: Church law or decrees given by an ecclesiastical authority for governing a given church. In Roman Catholicism, there is a history of systematic collections dating back to the 11th century, but the first code of canon law was promulgated in 1917, and was revised several times since its inception. It includes the obligations of the clergy and laity, missionary activities, Catholic education, worship and the sacraments (Reid et al. 1990: 219-220).
Cardinal: A papal-appointed position in the Roman Catholic Church responsible for electing new popes. The term originally applied to all clergy with permanent positions. Currently, there are more than 100 cardinals (Reid et al. 1990: 223).
Caste System: A complex network of interdependent, yet separated, hereditary, occupationally specialized, and hierarchal social groups in India. It is a distinctive social institution in India, guided by religious principles in Hinduism, and yet transcending Hinduism in the sense that non-Hindus also are subject to the caste system. The structure of the caste system can be traced back thousands of years. Some scholars have recently questioned the emphasis of the caste system as a definitive representation of Indian society and culture. Some scholars even suggest that the caste system is a recent invention due to the fall of Hindu kings in the medieval period, or due to British colonial rule (Smith and Green 1995: 182-185).
Catechism: A manual of instruction in the basics of the Christian faith. Various denominations have issued catechisms outlining basic teachings and practices of their faiths. Examples of catechisms include Luther's German catechism (1529) and the Roman Catechism (1566). Catechisms were an important tool in educating both Catholic and Protestant youths until recently, where many have viewed them as somewhat outdated (Smith and Green 1995: 186).
Catholic Church Abuse Scandal: The Catholic Church abuse scandal involves widespread allegations of child sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy and institutional cover-ups by Catholic officials. Although accusations of clerical sexual misconduct had arisen in decades prior to 2002, investigative reporters for the Boston Globe revealed not only how prevalent it was, but how these incidents were dealt with internally within the Catholic Church. For more information on the abuse scandal, click here.
Catholic Worker Movement: A Catholic movement created to serve the poor. It was founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin during the Great Depression, and it still exists today. For more information, click here.
Catholicism, Roman: The largest of Christianity's three main branches, which include the Eastern Orthodox Church and Protestantism. Catholicism maintains a hierarchy of bishops and priests, with the pope as the clerical leader. Notable differences from Protestantism also include the veneration of the Virgin Mary and other saints, the importance of church traditions, and the celibacy of the priesthood (Prothero 2008: 208). For more information on the Roman Catholic Church, including membership data, click here. To interactively explore the history of Catholics in America, click here.
Celibacy: The renunciation of marriage and sexual relations as part of a religious vocation. Roman Catholic priests are celibate while Orthodox priests are not required to be celibate (Smith and Green 1995: 190-191).
Charisma: Often distinguished by two very broad meanings: (1) possessing a divine gift, and (2) having the charm to inspire devotion in the minds of other people. The first definition immediately raises theological questions about what powers or special talents God gives to some people, and thus what particular provides the answers. The second definition raises a host of questions in social psychology about how one human being actually influences others, and has provoked longstanding debates about how the mass media confer celebrity status upon some public figures, including televangelists. Within the social science of religion, there even exists a third definition, which refers not to the charisma of an individual person, but to the distinction between charismatic movements that heavily emphasize personal relationships and more traditional or bureaucratic organizations that minimize this emotional factor (Weber 1922 ).
Charisma of Minister, Measure of: This survey item asks respondents if the reason they attended or joined a religious group was due to the charisma of a minister. An example of this measure is present in the 2000 General Social Survey, available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Charismatics: Christians who stress spiritual gifts described in the New Testament, such as speaking in tongues and healing. Prior to 1960, this phenomenon was closely associated with the Pentecostal tradition (see Azusa Street Revival), but since then it has become a more general term that emphasizes the presence of the Holy Spirit, without a specific denominational affiliation (Smith and Green 1995: 194).
Childhood Religiosity, Measures of: An approximation of how often respondents attended religious services and how religious they considered themselves at a given point in their childhood. This variable is used to approximate how respondents’ levels of religious involvement have changed over time and to estimate levels of religious socialization. Examples of this measure are found in the 2008 General Social Survey, 2005 Baylor Religion Survey and the 1998 General Social Survey, all available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Childhood Religious Identity, Measure of: A survey measure of an individual’s religious affiliation or salience as a child. Examples of this measure are present in the 2008 General Social Survey, 2008 American National Election Study and the 2003 National Study of Youth and Religion, all of which are available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Christian Apocrypha: Also known as the New Testament Apocrypha, it is a collection of non-canonical Christian writings purporting to contain information regarding Jesus and other first-century Christian leaders. Books in the Christian Apocrypha include the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Peter. The major branches of Christianity do not view these books as authoritative, as many of them were written much later than the New Testament canon. The Christian Apocrypha is different from the Old Testament Apocrypha, or deuterocanonical books (Smith and Green 1995: 55).
Christian Coalition: A conservative political pressure group composed of white evangelicals and Catholics that was established in 1989 by Pat Robertson after he failed to receive the Republican nomination in the presidential election. The Christian Coalition is the spiritual successor to Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority of the 1980s. Today, the group is known for promoting "family values" and a return to the nation's "Christian heritage" (Prothero 2008: 209).
Christian Science Family: Churches following the teachings of founder Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910), who believed that personal healing was the central message of Christianity. She believed that the correct interpretation of Scripture would alleviate disease, suffering, and even death according to her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (1875). The movement became more of an institution in 1879. Worship services include readings from the Bible as well as Eddy's "Science and Health." The largest group in the Christian Science family is the Church of Christ, Scientist (Smith and Green 1995: 264).
Christianity: The largest of the world religions, comprising a third of the world's population. It views sin as a core human problem that can only be absolved through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The three main branches of Christianity are Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism (Prothero 2008: 209-210). See the ARDA's American Denomination: Profiles web page for specific denominations of Christianity.
Church: 1) A building, program or service providing religious goods to a certain constituency and a specific geographical location. 2) Historically and theologically, it represents a Christian community founded on the teachings of Jesus Christ (Reid et al. 1990: 266).
Church/Sect Cycle: A cycle whereby new religious bodies begin as sects that have high tension with their surrounding environment and gradually transform into churches that have low tension with their surrounding environment. As members become less satisfied with their low-tension church, growing conflict within the group will erupt into a split, and the faction desiring a return to higher tension will found a new sect. This perpetuates an endless cycle of church-sect formation (Finke and Stark 1992:44-45).
Churches as Firms: Churches may operate as “firms,” seeking to market their product to potential clients and “franchise” into new territories. Several sociologists of religion began thinking of churches as firms. For example, Finke and Stark (1992) explain the explosive growth of Methodist and Baptist churches in 19th century America to superior marketing, organization and clergy incentives (Iannaccone and Berman 2018).
Circumcision: In Judaism, the cutting of the penis's foreskin as a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham's offspring. The practice is also common among Christians and Muslims, along with some indigenous groups (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-4).
Civic Engagement: This refers to individuals’ levels of participation in civic society (public sphere). Concerning religion, a central question concerns whether religious participation facilitates only participation within the context of the religious group or tradition or also leads to higher levels of extra-group engagement. The research literature in this area has found some difference depending on the type of religious engagement one participates in. The idea of “social capital” is closely related to the idea of civic engagement.
Civil Religion: A religio-political phenomenon describing the general faith of a nation or state, and its commonly held beliefs about the history and destiny of the nation. The term was coined by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his book, Social Contract (1762). The concept was further developed by the sociologist Robert Bellah in 1967, referring to the historical belief that America represents "God's New Israel" (Reid et al. 1990: 281).
Civilization Theory: Theories in this broad category assert that each major civilization, and perhaps smaller units as well in prehistoric times and remote regions, has a degree of cultural coherence, often marked by a distinctive religion. When two such civilizations come into contact, they compete, sometimes for several centuries, with resultant religious conflict. Also, it seems likely that every civilization eventually will exhaust its central cultural principles and collapse. Thus, these theories tend to concern the rise and fall of civilizations (see Gibbon 2001).
Clergy: Ordained leaders who carry out religious duties. Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican churches tend to emphasize the distinction between the clergy and the laity, although this distinction exists in various other Protestant denominations to a lesser degree (Reid et al. 1990: 293).
Club Models of Religion: Club models of religion emphasize how effective congregations function more like families or social clubs rather than firms. Religious commodities are often enjoyed in groups, and this is leveraged in order to receive not just religious customers, but highly committed members. As a club, churches may demand greater inputs from members and prohibit alternative actions (directly or indirectly through stigma) that either compete for members’ resources or counter the goals of the group (Iannaccone 1992). Club models have made major contributions to our understanding of high-demanding ‘cults’, ‘sects’ and religious extremism, as studies have found substantially higher levels of mutual aid and social cohesion in more sectarian religious communities (Iannacconne and Berman 2018).
Cognitive Consistency: As influentially stated by Leon Festinger (1957), humans are theorized to have a natural need to form coherent mental models of the world, and thus they will exert effort to resolve any contradiction between two beliefs, or between a belief and a behavior. Festinger explicitly connects these abstract ideas to religion through the example of the Great Disappointment of 1843-1844, when William Miller’s prediction of the Second Coming was apparently disconfirmed. The theory of cognitive consistency predicts that people will join together to defend their beliefs against disconfirmation, perhaps resulting in religious innovation, like a new religious group or a reconciliation between religious ideas and potentially contradictory secular ideas
Cognitive Efficiency: This kind of theory postulates that the human mind naturally seeks simple models of reality, and that humans will tend to avoid extreme cognitive effort. This perspective is similar to, but distinguishable from, cognitive consistency theories.
Cognitive Evolution: The biological evolution of the human brain, which offers hypotheses about the nature of
Cognitive Theories: Cognitive theories of religion seek to integrate the scientific study of the mind, intelligence and cognition into explanations of religious belief. Several cognitive theories of religious phenomena include attribution of intentionality, cognitive consistency, cognitive efficiency, modes of memory and pragmatic epistemology.
Communal Family: Churches where members often live together or share living activities, such as common meals, as an expression of their faith. The Hutterian Brethren is an example of a communal church (Smith and Green 1995: 275).
Communes, Religious: Communities that share beliefs and possessions while striving internally for equality. The Shakers were fairly successful in maintaining communes in the 18th and 19th century. Economist Ran Abramitzky has argued that communes come with risks, specifically, the possibility that more productive members may leave (brain drain), the tendency to shirk (moral hazard), and the potential for less productive members to join (adverse selection). In order to counteract these issues, communes must enforce social sanctions; enhance commitment, loyalty, and cooperation; and create lock-in devices (Abramitzky 2011).
Communion: 1) The Christian commemoration of Christ's last supper by partaking of the elements of bread and wine (or grape juice). The various churches and denominations are divided on whether these elements actually become Christ's body and blood or symbolize them (see Transubstantiation). Communion also is known as the Eucharist in some Christian traditions. 2) The fellowship of all Christians on earth and in heaven. 3) A specific Christian church or family of churches (Hinnells 1984: 94).
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Scale: Health care approaches developed outside of mainstream Western, or conventional, medicine (National Institutes of Health 2018). When used in conjunction with conventional medicine, it’s considered “complementary,” but when used as a replacement for conventional medicine, it’s considered “alternative.” CAM approaches include natural products, like herbs or probiotics, as well as mind and body practices, like yoga and meditation. Historically and in modern times, spiritual practices may function as CAM treatments, as prayer remains the most common practice used for healing (P.M. Barnes et al. 2004).
Confession: A sacrament in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches in which a penitent confesses his or her sins to a priest and is absolved of them. In Roman Catholicism, confession is only one part of the entire sacrament of penance (Smith and Green 1995: 280).
Confirmation: This ceremony marks the reception of young Christians (usually in their early teen years) into full participation in the life of the church. Confirmation is most often celebrated in the Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian denominations (Smith and Green 1995: 280).
Confucianism: A Chinese religion founded by Confucius (551-479 BCE), whose goal was to foster social harmony through a combination of self-cultivation and social rites. Chinese Immigrants brought Confucianism to the United States in the 19th century (Prothero 2008: 211-212).
Confucius (551-479 BCE): A Chinese philosopher who taught concepts of righteousness and of "being fully human." His disciples helped spread his philosophy, which later became known as Confucianism in the Han dynasty. His name actually was Master K'ung, but Catholic missionaries later referred to him as Confucius, a Latinized version of his name (Esposito et al. 2012: 491-492).
Congregation: Any local gathering of believers for worship. This can be thought of as a more inclusive term for church, since many religious traditions use different names for their place of worship. Usually this refers to a building or physical structure, but it also could refer to a more fluid group of people without a specific building (e.g. a 'congregation' that meets in member's homes).
Congregationalism: A system of church governance in which the members hold most of the power, such as electing the clergy and making other major decisions. 2) Congregationalism can also refer to the church tradition stemming from the English Puritans of the 17th century and now found in the United States in the United Church of Christ and smaller Congregationalist bodies (Smith and Green 1995: 285-286).
Conservative Judaism: An offshoot of Reform Judaism in America that officially began in the early 20th century, but traces its early thought pattern to European Jews in the mid-19th century. The founders desired to reaffirm the validity of the Jewish past while still emphasizing the need for Jews to modernize. The movement claims to be an authentic continuation of rabbinical Judaism while still maintaining a sense of relevance in modern times (Smith and Green 1995: 286-287).
Conservative Protestantism: A broad social category of Protestantism that advocates a conservative theological position (e.g., the inspiration of the Bible, the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, etc.). Conservative Protestants are often subdivided into Evangelical Protestants and Fundamentalists, who differ in terms of their engagement with the secular non-Christian world.
Control Theory: Control theory, as originally formulated by Travis Hirschi (1969), posited that group member behavior is regulated by four aspects of social bondedness: attachment, commitment, involvement and belief. In the sociology of religion, Rodney Stark (Hirschi and Stark 1969; Stark et al 1982) extended this theory in subsequent studies of the relationship between religion and delinquency. The "Stark Effect," that the power of religion to deter delinquency depends upon the proportion of the community that is religious, was an outcome of this extension.
Conversion: A turning away from one way of life to another. In Christianity, it is a turning away from sin and toward a new life of Christ. Most churches agree on the need for conversion, but its relationship with salvation is debated between religious groups (Reid et al. 1990: 316). Some sociologists of religion define conversion as the shift in religious allegiance from one religious tradition to another, from Judaism to Christianity, for example. These scholars would define the shift from the Baptist to the Catholic tradition as a process of reaffiliation, not conversion (Stark and Finke 2000: 114).
Conversion Experience, Measure of: This survey item asks whether a respondent identifies with undergoing a religious conversion experience of some kind. Examples of this measure are found in the 2005 Baylor Religion Survey and the 2001 U.S. Congregational Life Survey, both of which are available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Conversion Theory: Inspired by Lofland’s field research on recruitment to the Unification Church, Conversion Theory offers a series of steps a person must go through in order to become a member of a new religious group: 1) experience enduring, acutely felt tensions within a religious problem-solving perspective, which leads him to define himself as a religious seeker; 2) encountering the group at a turning point in his/her life, wherein an affective bond is formed (or pre-exists) with one or more converts; 3) where extra-cult attachments are absent or neutralized; 4) and where, if he is to become a deployable agent, he is exposed to intensive interaction (Lofland and Stark 1965).
Conversion Therapy: Conversion therapy is the controversial practice of converting homosexuals into heterosexuals (Hood, Hill and Spika 2009). Many conservative religionists believe that conversion therapy is effective (Haldeman 1994). However, research on its effectiveness has been scant apart from anecdotal statements. Shidlo and Schroeder (2002), using a rigorous selection process, interviewed 202 recipients of conversion methods by 308 therapists. Two-thirds of the clients were religious. Eighty-seven percent of respondents viewed the therapy as a failure. Half of the 13 percent “success” stories experienced relapses.
Coping Theory: The way in which individuals use religion to cope with difficult situations and make sense of events in their lives (Pargament 1997). Originating in psychological studies of religion, research and theory indicate that religious coping is more likely to occur in situations perceived as uncontrollable.
Cost-Benefit Analysis (Religion): The tendency of humans to weigh the benefits of certain actions against their costs in the contexts of religion. This is a key component of rational choice framework in the economics of religion. For example, individuals may ask themselves, “What are the benefits/costs to me to believe in salvation?” (McCleary 2011). Pascal’s Wager is a famous example of using a cost-benefit analysis to support the belief in God, as the costs of belief are low but the potential rewards (e.g., heaven) are high.
Coughlin, Charles (1891-1979): Charles Coughlin was a Catholic "radio priest," who was controversial for his anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi views leading up to World War II. Although he garnered millions of listeners, the U.S. government and church authorities were disturbed by Coughlin, and they eventually pushed him off the air in 1942. For more information on Charles Coughlin, click here.
Counseling, Religious: A type of counseling that incorporates religious teachings to serve mental health needs. Many clients are already religious, although counselors may reach out to those nominally religious, homeless or poor. Depending on the particular faith group, counseling may incorporate prayer, meditation or scripture reading. Some forms of religious counseling may be completely faith-based, while others may incorporate secular therapeutic practices (Koenig, King and Carson 2012: 56-57).
Creationism: The belief that the creation account of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, is historically and scientifically correct. This has led to some confrontation with proponents of Darwinian evolution, most notable in the infamous Scopes Trial of 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee. More recently, former creationists have advocated Intelligent Design instead of creationism to counter evolutionary claims (Prothero 2008: 213-214).
Creed: A confession or adherence to selected essentials of religious faith. Creeds are especially prominent in liturgical traditions. Some groups, like those in the Restoration Movement, state that there is "no creed, but Christ." Baptist groups also resist creedal statements. The most famous creeds are Christianity's Apostles' Creed and Nicene Creed (Reid et al. 1990: 327).
Crosby, Frances "Fanny" (1820-1915): Fanny Crosby was a blind Christian hymn writer who wrote thousands of famous hymns, including "Blessed Assurance," "Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross," and "To God Be the Glory." For more information on Fanny Crosby, click here.
Cross: 1) A sign widely used in the history of religion to express the structure of the cosmos. 2) An instrument of execution used by the Romans. 3) A Christian symbol of salvation and God's compassion on humanity by allowing his Son, Jesus Christ, to die for humanity's sins (Smith and Green 1995: 297).
Crucifix: A cross bearing the figure of Christ. It is often used to represent the suffering of Christ. It became an important image for devotional purposes in the Middle Ages, but was viewed as idolatry by many Protestant Reformers, which is why many Protestant churches prefer the symbol of a cross without Jesus on it (Reid et al. 1990: 330).
Cult: 1) A new and unconventional religious movement that is often founded on the teachings of a new prophet and/or new sacred text. 2) The ARDA and other scholars tend to use the term "new religious movements" rather than cults because the latter term carries negative political and social connotations and prejudices associated with those belonging to such groups. 3) In popular use, people often refer to sects as cults (Smith and Green 1995: 298).
Cultural Theories of Religion: Theories of religion that examine how religious institutions, communities and symbols are embodied and connected to other aspects of society. Generally speaking, studies using cultural theories focus on how cultural boundaries and meanings are constructed by interpretive communities, as well as how the institutions and symbols of religion are used in both mediated communication and social interactions (Hall, Neitz, and Battani 2003).
Cyclical Theory: Asian religions, and some classical western philosophers, believed that history consisted of an endless series of cycles: the Wheel of Life, eternal return, or eternal recurrence. More recently, sociologist Pitirim A. Sorokin proposed that each great civilization emerges out of a period of chaos with a set of empowering spiritual beliefs which eventually erode, leaving only materialist interests and leading again to chaos and conflict.
Daily Spirituality Experiences (DSE) Scale: A popular scale used to assess spirituality in health studies (Underwood and Teresi 2002). The scale is actually a subscale of the widely used Fetzer Institute’s Multidimensional Measure of Religiousness and Spirituality. It consists of either six or 16 items, depending on whether the researcher is using the long or short form. Some of the items include, “I feel deep inner peace of harmony," “I am spiritually touched by the beauty of creation” and “I feel thankful in my blessings.” However, Koenig and colleagues (2012) argue that the scale suffers from measurement contamination, as it is unclear whether some of the items are measures of spirituality or outcomes that are the result of spirituality. For example, is feeling peaceful the sign of spirituality or the result that comes from being spiritual? When used to predict other mental health outcomes, findings become difficult to interpret and tautological (i.e., the independent and dependent variables reflect the same phenomenon). Similar concerns have been voiced regarding the CAM, FACIT-SP and WHOQO-SRPB scales (see Koenig et al. 2012: 43-44).
Day, Dorothy (1897-1980): Dorothy Day was a Catholic activist known for co-founding the Catholic Worker movement, leading anti-war and anti-nuclear proliferation movements, and promoting assistance to the poor. For more information on Dorothy Day, click here.
Deacon: A minister ranking below a priest in the Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox churches. In most Protestant churches, deacons are not ordained and are seen as people who assist the clergy (Reid et al. 1990: 344).
Death, Religion and: Religion, death and the afterlife are strongly tied to each other for many individuals. The religious scriptures of the main world religions support the belief in life after death and eternal rewards for adherents. Religion also tends to be used to cope with difficult life situations (see Coping Theory), so it’s understandable that individuals use religion to cope with the uncertainty and pain associated with death. It perhaps is little surprise that religiosity often is associated with less fear of personal death and less grief after the death of a loved one (Koenig et al. 2012). A study of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) members found that church attendance and belief in life after death reduced fear of the unknown beyond this life (Silton et al. 2011). In a study by Brown and colleagues (2004) looking at widowed persons over the age of 65, they found that respondents who increased in religious importance tended to have lower grief scores over time.
Deconversion: The processes involved in leaving religious groups (Hood, Hill and Spilka 2009: 233). Most of the research on deconversion has focused on leaving strict new religious movements, but some have focused on mainstream religious groups (see Streib et al. 2009). In general, only a small percentage of denominational members completely reject their denominational identity and never return again, but this certainly varies by religious group.
Deism: A rationalistic religion based on religion and nature instead of revelation. Deists believe in one God and in an afterlife of rewards and punishments, but they reject both miracles and prayers. This position spread under the Enlightenment period and influenced the founding fathers of the United States (Prothero 2008: 216).
Delinquency/Crime, and Religion: Problem behavior, usually by the young, that is either against the basic principles of society or is harmful to society or is in violation of the law (Koenig et al. 2012: 243). Teenage drinking and drug abuse may be viewed as delinquency. Religion/spirituality often operates as a protective factor against delinquency, especially since many religious groups often prohibit delinquent behaviors (see Alcohol/Drug Use and Religion). Koenig and colleagues (2001) looked at 39 studies on religion/spirituality and delinquent behaviors and found that 79 percent of the studies found lower rates of antisocial, delinquency, or crime among those who were very religious. Among studies of the highest quality, 91 percent found an inverse relationship between religion and delinquency (Koenig et al. 2012).
Demand-Side Model of Religion: Demand-side models of religion emphasize that changes in religious demand impact religious participation or vitality in society (Olson 2011). For example, religion may be in demand during times of greater stress or national trauma and perhaps in less demand over time due to secularization (see Bruce 2002). This perspective is heavily challenged by supply-side theories of religion (see Supply and Demand, Religious).
Demographic Transition Theory: According to this theory, fertility and mortality rates change in a predictable manner, when a society evolves from a traditional to a modern form. Initially, death rates are high, because of the primitive technology and economic poverty of a traditional society, so birth rates were also high to sustain a stable population. At the beginning of modernization, technological and economic progress reduces the death rate, but the birth rate remains high through social inertia, so there is a population explosion. Eventually, the birth rate comes down as well, and the result is a stable population with low fertility and mortality rates. The immediate relevance to religion is two-fold, because low birth rates undercut some of the family related variables that encourage religious participation and because one of the few factors that could sustain fertility at the replacement level is religion. However, only fundamentalist religions may have sufficient fertility, and thus society ironically may become more religious, rather than less, through modernization. This perspective has been used to explain the relative success of more conservative religious movements (e.g., Evangelical Protestants), in spite of the high numbers of disaffiliates in post-industrial world.
Demon: A superhuman being between humans and gods, which can have benevolent or malevolent intentions based on the religious tradition. In Christianity, they are considered evil. In Hinduism, demons belong to many castes and are sometimes hard to distinguish from gods (Smith and Green 1995: 311).
Denomination: A larger religious organization or structure to which a congregation may be a member. Usually, congregations within a denomination are united by some historical and/or theological tradition. Congregations not belonging to a denomination are usually called "independent" or "non-denominational" (Melton 2009: 3).
Denomination, Measure of: This divides affiliation within Protestantism into differing religious organizations. This is a standard question available in a wide range of data sets, including the 2008 General Social Survey, 2005 Baylor Religion Survey and the 2007 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, all of which are available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Denominational Continuum: A spectrum of denominational characteristics that range from “extremist” religious groups with high demands of sacrifice on one side, and “lenient” groups that demand little of their members on the other side. The “extremist” groups tend to be exclusive, strict, small, and suspicious of others, while the “lenient” groups tend to be inclusive, less costly, larger, and more tolerant of secular values. It is suggested that a denominational continuum exists within each religious tradition (e.g., Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc.), and that groups on a certain side of the spectrum will share similar social characteristics even if their history and theology differ (Iannaccone and Berman 2006).
Denominationalism: Denominationalism refers to the subdivision of a particular religion. A common example is Protestant Christianity in the United States, which is subdivided into multiple denominations (e.g., Baptist, Methodist, etc.).
Deuterocanonical Books: See Apocrypha.
Devotionalism: The frequency at which an individual performs religious rituals and comparable behaviors, notably prayer and Bible reading, often measured independently of group activities such as church attendance (Roof 1976).
Dharma: The proper course of conduct, norms and ultimate realities in the Buddhist religion. Dharma is central to Buddhist practice. The term also exists in Hinduism and Brahmanic thought as a set of ritual actions sanctioned by the priestly class (Smith and Green 1995: 315).
Dialectical Imagination: A religious perspective emphasizing the individual and the withdrawal of God from the sinful world. The dialectical imagination contrasts with the analogical imagination, which stresses the community and the expression of God through every aspect of creation. The differing concepts were developed by Andrew Greeley (1989), who believed that Catholics tend to have analogical imagination while Protestants tend to have dialectical imagination.
Diaspora: The dispersion of a religious people outside their geographic homeland, where they must live as a minority among others (Esposito et al. 2012: G-4).
Differential Association: Edwin Sutherland (1947) postulated that criminal behavior was chiefly learned within intimate personal groups as mental associations between concepts and definitions of situations are learned in complex patterns of communication with others. Applied to the study of religious conversion, this theory suggests that the frequency, duration and intensity of definitions and information favorable to a given religion, if greater than unfavorable ones, may lead someone to convert.
Disciple: A pupil who is attached to a specific teacher or way of life (Smith and Green 1995: 317). In the Christian tradition, John the Baptist and Jesus had disciples. Peter is a famous disciple of Jesus. The term also has been used in the Buddhist tradition. For example, Ananda was a disciple and cousin of the Buddha.
Dispensational Premillennialism: The belief held by some Christians that the current dispensation, or historical period, is near the end, and will conclude with the rapture of the believers into heaven. Jesus will come down from heaven to fight the Antichrist and establish a thousand-year reign of peace. British theologian John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) developed this theology and it spread to the United States after the Civil War. This type of theology was made popular by the Scofield Reference Bible and the fictional Left Behind book series. It is one of the most popular forms of prophecy belief in the United States (Prothero 2008: 217).
Dispensationalism: A Christian theological view that divides history into several periods, or dispensations. God's plan for salvation differs according to the dispensation (Smith and Green 1995: 318).
Divination: The determination of the hidden significance of things through a variety of techniques. Divination often is performed by specialists and is historically common in Chinese and Japanese religions (Smith and Green 1995: 318-319).
Divinity: A term frequently used prior to the 20th century to refer to the study of theology or the "science of divine things." The term also could refer to the quality of being divine as well as to God himself (Reid et al. 1990: 359).
Doctrine: An official teaching of a religious group. Religious bodies and officials often establish doctrine through written statements or councils. In a Christian context, the Trinity serves as an important doctrine. In Buddhist, Hindu, and Jainist traditions, ahimsa is an important doctrine (McBrien 1995: 424).
Dogma: Dogma is understood as a principle component of a religious ideology that is non-disputable. The Greek word is "dokeo," which means "appears." Dogma is particularly found in Roman Catholicism, explicitly stated in ecumenical councils or by the pope. In a non-liturgical setting, it has a pejorative connotation. In the context of the Catholic Church, the Nicene Creed contains dogmata (Reid et al. 1990: 361; McBrien 1995: 424).
Dome of the Rock: A domed shrine in Jerusalem that houses the rock upon which the Prophet Muhammad ascended into the Seven Heavens during his night journey. It was constructed by the Caliph Abd al-Malik and was finished in 691 CE (Smith and Green 1995: 320).
Dominionism: The belief that Christians should hold positions of power in society and government based on biblical law. Dominionism has close ties to Christian nationalism, which suggests that it is important to reunite church and state in the United States because the Founding Fathers believed in a Christian nation.
Eastern Liturgical (Orthodox) Family: One of the three great divisions of Christianity; the others are the Protestant churches and the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic and Orthodox churches were originally united, but they parted in the eleventh century, when they differed over several points of doctrine, including the supreme authority of the pope, which Orthodox Christians reject (Melton 2009: 169-172). Since the 20th century, the Catholic and Orthodox churches have made greater efforts toward reconciliation.
Economic Theories of Religion: The understanding of religious phenomenon through economic theory and principles. Economic theories of religion trace back to Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations ( 1776), in which he argued that religious competition improves the quality of religious services, whereas government regulation reduces the quality of religion and promotes conflict. (Smith 1776: 788–814). Economic theories of religion are a subfield of economics and religion, which also looks at religion’s economic consequences (see Weber’s Protestant Ethic 1904) as well as religious assessments of economic policy (see Iannaccone and Berman 2018).
Eddy, Mary Baker (1821-1910): Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) founded the Christian Science movement, a religious body that believes illness is an illusion. She helped establish a church of 100,000 members and founded the Christian Science Monitor, which still exists today. For more on Mary Baker Eddy, click here.
Edwards, Jonathan (1703-1758): Jonathan Edwards is the most influential theologian in American religious history and helped start the First Great Awakening. He was a Congregational preacher with a calm preaching style, though he is ironically known for his passionate 1741 sermon entitled "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God". For more information on Jonathan Edwards, click here.
Egyptian Book of the Dead: A collection of more than 200 prayers, spells, and illustrations to ensure a peaceful afterlife for the dead. It dates back to the second millennium BCE in Egypt (Smith and Green 1995: 331).
Eightfold Path: As a culmination of the Four Noble Truths in Buddhism, it charts the course from suffering to nirvana. It is further divided into three parts: wisdom (right view and right intention), morality (right speech, right conduct, and right livelihood), and concentration (right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration). It also is known as the "middle way" (Prothero 2008: 189-190).
Emerson, Ralph Waldo (1803-1882): Ralph Waldo Emerson was an influential writer/minister who promoted Transcendentalist thought, which emphasized experiencing God through lived experience and intuition. For more information on Ralph Waldo Emerson, click here.
Encyclical: A statement or document on an important issue written by the pope or bishops to fellow Catholics. These statements often pertain to controversial social issues, like poverty (Rerum Novarum, 1891), human rights (Pacem in Terris, 1963), contraception (Humanae Vitae, 1968), as well as abortion, birth control, euthanasia, and capital punishment (Evangelium Vitae, 1995) (Prothero 2008: 219).
End-Times: The belief that the world is coming to an end and God's kingdom will be established. See Apocalypse.
Enlightenment: The experience of knowing the cause of suffering in the Buddhist tradition. Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, is said to have experienced enlightenment under the Bodhi tree (ca 530 BCE) (Smith and Green 1995: 338).
Eschatology: A broad theology concerning the End-Times, and processes of salvation. The term was first used in the nineteenth century with the advent of critical biblical studies. Topics in eschatology include Armageddon, millennialism, the Second Coming, and the Messiah (Smith and Green 1995: 342).
Eucharist: The Christian ritual that focuses on the life, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The term has existed since the second century CE and comes from a thanksgiving prayer that acts as an important element of the rite. It also is known as the Divine Liturgy, Holy Communion, Lord's Supper, or Mass (Smith and Green 1995: 345).
European Free Church Family: Churches that left established and state churches in Europe over the belief that congregational activity and membership should be voluntary and free of state control. Examples of these churches include the Society of Friends (Quakers) and the Evangelical Covenant Church, which is the result of a schism from the Church of Sweden in the 19th century (Melton 2009: 433).
Evangelical Protestantism: A movement in Protestantism emphasizing one's personal relationship with Christ, the inspiration of the Bible, and the importance of sharing one's faith with non-believers. Evangelical Protestantism is usually seen as more theologically and socially conservative than Mainline Protestantism, although there is obviously variation between denominations, congregations, and individuals within the "evangelical" category (Reid et al. 1990: 413).
Evangelism: The Christian practice of sharing the gospel of Christ with non-believers. This term comes from the New Testament Greek word "euangelizomai," which means "to proclaim the good news" (Reid et al. 1990: 416).
Evangelist: One who engages in evangelism. See evangelism.
Exorcism: The process of driving out demons/evil spirits from human beings. The practice dates back thousands of years prior to the Common Era and across various societies. Physical and mental illnesses were indistinguishable from one another, as diseases and mental instability represented the presence of unappeased spirits according to pre-modern civilizations. Priests served the role of “physicians” and attempted to drive out evil spirits causing the diseases through incantations and healing rituals (Koenig, King and Carson 2012). Exorcisms began to decrease with the advent of modern medicine and better understanding of the origins of diseases/illnesses.
Extrinsic Religion: Using religious participation and affiliation to achieve practical rewards, such as social status. This is in contrast to intrinsic religion, which pertains to internal motivations for religious activity. The concepts of extrinsic religion and intrinsic religion was developed by Gordon Allport (1960). Differences between intrinsic and extrinsic religion can be understood as differences in religious orientation (Allport 1960).
Family, Religious: See religious family.
Fanatic: A derogatory term for someone overly zealous in their religious faith (Smith and Green 1995: 356).
Fasting: The religious practice of abstaining from food for a certain period of time. There are various forms of fasting in the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Jewish passover includes a fast, Lent usually includes a chosen fast for Christians, and Ramadan in Islam includes a month-long daytime fast (Smith and Green 1995: 357).
Fatalism: The belief that all events are predetermined, and human effort is therefore irrelevant (Smith and Green 1995: 357).
Fatwa: The legal opinion of a private religious scholar concerning Islamic law. This opinion often guides certain legal rulings (Esposito 2011: 243).
Feminist Theology: A system of religious thought that interprets practices and scriptures through a feminist perspective. It tends to challenge male-dominance in religious language, authority, and scripture. This perspective spans across Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other religions (Lippy and Williams 2000).
Financial Contributions, Measures of: These survey items measure how much a respondent gives to his or her religious congregation or organization. Examples are found in the 2005 Baylor Religion Survey and the 2003 National Study of Youth and Religion, both of which are available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Finney, Charles (1792-1875): Charles Finney was a prominent evangelist and revivalist during the Second Great Awakening. Licensed by the Presbyterian Church, Finney began conducting revivals in small New York towns and then spread to large urban centers, including Philadelphia, Boston, and Rochester. Like many revivalists, he was criticized for using emotionalism and abandoning traditional religious teachings. For more information on Charles Finney, click here.
Fiqh: Human interpretation and application of divine law in Islam (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-8).
First Great Awakening (1730s-1770s): The First Great Awakening (1730s-1770s) was a series of religious revivals in the 18th century that propelled the expansion of evangelical denominations in the colonies. Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield played pivotal roles in the development of the First Great Awakening. For more information on the First Great Awakening, click here.
Five Pillars of Islam: The five essential practices of Islam. These include shahada (profession of faith), salat (worship), zakat (alms-giving), saum (fasting) and Hajj (pilgrimage). The observance of these pillars differs between Sunni and Shi'ite traditions (Hinnells 1984: 136).
Four Noble Truths: The Core Teachings of Buddha in his first sermon in what is now known as northern India. These four truths include: the Existence of Suffering (which characterizes human life), the Origin of Suffering (which is ignorance), the Cessation of Suffering (through nirvana), and the Path to the Cessation of Suffering (through the Eightfold Path) (Prothero 2008: 187-188).
Fowler’s Stages of Faith: Similar to Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, theologian James Fowler (1991) suggested that personal religious faith also develops in stages. Fowler’s seven stages are: 1) primal faith (infancy); 2) intuitive/projective faith (early childhood); 3) mythical/literal faith (elementary school); 4) synthetic/conventional faith (early adolescence); 5) individuative/reflective faith (late adolescence/early adulthood); 6) conjuctive faith (midlife or beyond); and 7) universalizing faith (unspecified age). The first stage of primal faith is a stage where individuals, often at infancy, learn emotional trust based on contact and care that sets up the foundation for faith. The final stage of universalizing faith allows the individual to feel one with God. The complexity of Fowler’s conceptualizations makes it difficult to empirically test his theory.
Free-Rider Problem: In general, a free-rider problem occurs when individuals take advantage of common resource or common goods without paying for or contributing to them. In a religious context, congregations face “free-riding” problems when members use collective religious resources without contributing to them. For example, attending holiday services, but not weekly services, may be seen as a form of “free-riding,” as one is relying on others to maintain the congregation for the remainder of the year. Free-riding is more common in low commitment religious organizations and may explain some of the decline that Mainline Protestant denominations have experienced (Stark and Finke 2000). In contrast, high commitment religious organizations demand such high costs that they may scare away potential “free riders” who would otherwise dilute their religious product (Iannaccone 1992). Because of this, religious identification tends to be stronger within high commitment groups compared to low commitment ones (Stark and Finke 2000).
Frequency of Prayer, Measure of: This survey item measures how often a respondent prays. Examples are found in the 2008 General Social Survey, 2007 Religion and Public Life Survey, 2007-2008 National Study of Youth and Religion and the 2005 Baylor Religion Survey, all of which are available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Frequency of Reading Sacred Texts: This survey item measures how often someone reads sacred texts such as the Bible, Koran, sutras etc. These items are present in the 2005 Baylor Religion Survey and the 1998 General Social Survey, both of which are available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Freud, Sigmund (1856-1939): Considered the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud is one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century. His ideas on the unconscious, dreams, child sexuality, and the libido are influential academic concepts, but Freud also had a unique conceptualization of religion. As evidenced by the title of his book Future of an Illusion (1989), Freud believed religion was a false belief system passed down by primitive ancestors. Similar to his notion of the Oedipus Complex, God represents a childlike longing for a father. Future of an Illusion has been accused of succumbing to the genetic fallacy, in which the truth or falsity of belief is tied to its origin (Whittaker 1978).
Friar: A member of the mendicant orders of Roman Catholicism (Reid et al. 1990: 454).
Friends at Church, Measures of: These survey questions ask respondents where they met their closest friends or if the majority of their close friends are found in their church. An example of this measure is found in the 2005 Baylor Religion Survey, available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Friends Who Are Religious, Measure of: An estimate of how many people in a respondent’s social network are religious. Examples of this measure are found in the 2007-2008 National Study of Youth and Religion and the 2001 U.S. Congregational Life Survey, both of which are available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Fuller, Charles (1887-1968): Charles Fuller was a prominent evangelist on the popular evangelical radio show "The Old Fashioned Revival Hour." By the mid-1940s, Fuller's sermons were being broadcast on 575 stations, making the "The Old Fashioned Revival Hour" one of the most widely heard shows. Fuller also founded Fuller Theological Seminary, which helped graduate influential religious figures, including Bill Bright, Rob Bell, John Piper, and Rick Warren. For more information on Charles Fuller, click here.
Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy -- Spiritual Well-Being (FACIT-SP) Scale: A popular scale composed of 12 statements to assess the relationship between spirituality and health outcomes (see Brady et al. 1999). It is one of the most common ways to measure spirituality in cancer research, as the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy (FACT), is a version of the FACIT used to measure quality of life among cancer patients. Some of the items include “I feel peaceful,” “I have a reason for living” and “I have a sense of purpose in my life.” Studies have found the scale to correlate with less of a desire for a hastened death, less hopelessness and less suicidal ideation (see McClain et al. 2003). Some argue that the FACIT-SP is a well-validated instrument for the assessment of a patient’s current spiritual state (Monod et al. 2011). However, other researchers argue that some of the items may not measure spirituality but measure the results of spirituality. With studies using dependent variables measuring meaning and hopefulness, this leads to unclear circular findings, as these studies correlate good mental health with itself (Koenig et al. 2012).
Functionalism: According to this perspective, religion exists because it serves an integrating function for society as a whole. Durkheim (1915) suggested this when he argued that God represents the society, and in worshiping God, society really reveres itself. The elements of the culture that are essential to the society’s survival are labeled sacred, in this theory. Unlike theories of the rise and fall of civilizations, functionalists do not consider the survival of a religious culture to be problematic. While flavors of this theory are common in older writings on religion, among the best texts to consult are Durkheim (1915) and Parsons (1964).
Fundamentalism: 1) A movement of Protestants embracing similar beliefs as evangelicals, although usually in a more conservative direction, stressing separation from the world and from more liberal Christian bodies. The term derives from a series of booklets entitled The Fundamentals, which were published in the early 20th century on what were viewed to be the basic doctrines of Christianity. 2) The term also is used to describe similarly conservative movements in other religions, particularly Islam (Smith and Green 1995: 369-370).
Gabriel: An archangel in Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions. In Christianity, he is known for announcing to Mary that she will bear the Jesus, the savior of humanity. In Islam, he is known as "Jibril," and is known for visiting the Prophet Muhammad in a human form. It was Jibril who revealed God's messages through Muhammad, and who also guided Muhammad during his night journey through the heavens (Smith and Green 1995: 373).
Gentile: Anyone not Jewish (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-4).
Ghost: The appearance of a dead person, usually thought of as a disembodied spirit. In Korea, ghosts operate as malevolent spirits who died prematurely and are therefore unfulfilled, like unmarried women, young children or drowning victims (Smith and Green 1995: 385).
Gibbons, James (1834-1921): James Gibbons was an important American cardinal archbishop who guided the Catholic Church through the influx of Irish immigrants in the 19th century. Moreover, he mediated relations between American Catholics and the Vatican. Pope Leo XIII was suspicious of American cultural influence on American clerics, but Gibbons defended his American officials. For more information on James Gibbons, click here.
Global Meaning: In the psychology of religion, global meaning refers to general life meaning that involves beliefs, goals and subjective feelings. Religion often is invoked with regard to this concept. It is related to the concept of “meaning making,” which is the process of working to restore global meaning when it has been disrupted or violated, often through some negative event/experience (Hood, Hill and Spilka 2009:15).
Glock’s Logical System of Religion: In describing the multifaceted systems of religion, Glock (1962) identified the following logical areas of religiousness: 1) experiential dimension; 2) ideological dimension; 3) ritualistic dimension; 4) intellectual dimension; and 5) consequential dimension. For the experiential dimension, religious people achieve direct knowledge of the ultimate reality and experience religious emotion. For the ideological dimension, religious people hold certain beliefs. For the ritualistic dimension, religious adherents are expected to engage in specific religious rituals. For the intellectual dimension, religious people are expected to be knowledgeable with regard to the basic tenets of their faith. And for the consequential dimension, religion should have a consequence on the actions and attitudes of adherents. Although Glock’s logical systems approach is helpful in categorizing the role of religion, it is difficult to empirically distinguish some of these dimensions. For example, the experiential and consequential dimensions are strongly correlated with one another, as are other categories (see Hood, Hill and Spilka 2009).
Gnosticism: A term used for a category of religions that emphasize knowledge as a means to salvation. Its origins and age are debated. Since there have been Gnostic interpretations of Christian, Jewish, Greek and Iranian philosophies, it is not necessarily a religion as much as it is an interpretative perspective of specific religious phenomena (Smith and Green 1995: 387).
God/Goddess: Common term for supreme deities. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam often mention God as the supreme and sole deity. Goddesses are more common in Eastern religions, especially Hinduism (Smith and Green 1995: 389).
Golden Rule: A popular moral maxim espoused by Jesus in the New Testament Gospel According to Matthew. It states, "Do to others what you would have them do to you" (Matthew 7:12, NIV). Variations of this precept are attributed to Confucius, Muhammad and the rabbi Hillel (Prothero 2008: 227-228).
Good Friday: The Friday before Easter and an important Holy Week observance for Christians. It functions as a somber time of reflection and meditation with regards to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ (Reid et al. 1990: 485).
Gospel of Wealth: A religious doctrine that maintains that wealth is the natural product of moral character, diligence and faith (Reid et al. 1990: 1238).
Gospels: The narratives of the life of Jesus found in the beginning of the New Testament of the Bible in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In Greek, "gospel" refers to "good news." The gospels contain some differences between them. Many believe that Mark is the first gospel, and that Matthew and Luke borrowed some of their material from Mark. For this reason, they are known as synoptic gospels, while the Book of John is believed to be written later, and contains information not found in the synoptic gospels (Prothero 2008: 187).
Government Favoritism: When a government provides subsidies, privileges, support, or favorable sanctions for a select religion or a small group of religions. For more information, see the National Profiles section on the ARDA website.
Government Regulation Index (GRI): This measure assesses the extent to which a government regulates the religious economy present in the country. This index is composed of multiple individual survey items, including government restrictions on public preaching and individual rights to worship. An example of this index is found in the International Religious Freedom Data, Aggregate File (2001-2005), available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Government Regulation of Religion: The restrictions placed on the practice, profession, or selection of religion by the official laws, policies, or administrative actions of the state. For more information, see the National Profiles section on the ARDA website.
Grace: The term refers to an expression of unmerited divine love and assistance given to humans from God (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-6). In Christianity, God's grace is expressed through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross for the redemption of human sin.
Graham, William "Billy" (1918-present): Billy Graham was the preeminent Christian evangelist of the second half of the 20th century, preaching to millions in the United States and abroad. His "crusades" throughout his career were attended by very large audiences. For example, the 1949 Los Angeles Crusade was attended by more than 350,000 people. He was friends with Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as many U.S. presidents. For more information on Billy Graham, click here.
Greek Septuagint: The name for the original Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. It was the first translation of the Hebrew Bible into another language and includes the books in the rabbinic Bible along with apocryphal/deuterocanonical books. Scholars trace some of the early translations to as far back as the third century B.C. The Greek Septuagint was later eclipsed by the Latin Vulgate (McBrien 1995: 1183-1184).
Guilt-oriented, Extrapunitive Religion: “Religious belief…centered on the wrath of God as it is related to other people…emphasizes punishment for wrong-doers” (McConahay and Hough 1973: 55). This is in contrast to guilt-oriented, intropunitive religion, which focuses on punishment toward oneself.
Guilt-oriented, Intropunitive Religion: “A sense of one’s own unworthiness and badness…a manifest need for punishment and a conviction that will inevitably come” (McConahay and Hough 1973: 56). This is in contrast to guilt-oriented, extrapunitive religion, which focuses on the punishment of others.
Guru: A spiritual and cultural leader. Sometimes disciples perceive their guru to be semi-divine (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-10).
Hajj (Pilgrimage): One of the Five Pillars of Islam is the Hajj (pilgrimage), where Muslims visit the sacred monuments in and near Mecca. It is required for Muslims to make the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime, if they are physically able and can afford it (Hinnells 1991: 145).
Hanukkah (Chanukah, Chanukkah, or Chanuka): An eight-day Jewish festival of lights commemorating the victory of the Hasmonean priests over the non-Jewish Seleucid rulers of Palestine in the second century BCE. On each night a candle is lit on a special Hanukkah menorah, and presents are exchanged (Hinnells 1991: 34).
Hasidism: A form of Judaism that is orthodox in that it emphasizes the fulfillment of all Jewish precepts and ritual, and yet it also incorporates mystical aspects. It originated in the Ukraine during the 18th century through the efforts of rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov. He taught that all men were equal under God, and that piety, devotion, purity and prayer were more important than study, learning or ascetic practices. A strong emphasis on tradition, social service, celebration, communal life and experimenting with radical ideas is characteristic of Hasidic practice. In the last generation, the Hasidim became the fastest growing segment of American Judaism, due to proselytization and high birth rates (Melton 2009: 898).
Health Behaviors, Religion and: Health behaviors include physical activity, diet and nutrition, weight, cigarette smoking, risky sexual activity and sleep (Koenig et al. 2012). Studies have found that religion/religiosity is generally associated with promoting positive health behaviors and reducing negative ones. For example, religious identification/religiousness is associated with more exercise (Baetz and Bowen 2008; Hill et al. 2006), eating healthy foods (Lytle et al. 2003; Obisesan et al. 2006), less cigarette smoking (Beyers et al. 2004) and less sexually transmitted diseases (Gray 2004). Treating your body as a “temple” according to religious scripture (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and strict regulation of sexual behaviors may explain some of these results.
Healthy-mindedness, Individual Religion of: An optimistic, happy, extroverted, social faith. The tendency to look on all things and see them as good (James 1988).
Heaven (Christianity): The dwelling place of God, angels and redeemed individuals in the afterlife. It functions as the ultimate reward for the redeemed, as opposed to hell, which is the punishment for the damned (Smith and Green 1995: 411). To find information on survey questions related to heaven, click here.
Hell (Christianity): A place for the damned in the afterlife after Judgment Day. Hell originally referred to the dark regions of the underworld, but now it refers to the eternal separation between individuals and God. Whether hell is everlasting or a temporary state of existence is often debated (Smith and Green 1995: 412).
Heresy: Either a rejection of doctrines taught by a communal authority or a choice to advocate an alternative doctrine/interpretation opposed to the authoritative conventional teaching. This concept is tied to the early Christian tradition, as the Church attempted to dispel certain Hellenistic philosophies. It also is evident in Judaism and Islam, although in these religions it is often more related to religious behavior, instead of religious beliefs (Smith and Green 1995: 414).
Herfindahl Index: The Herfindahl Index is most commonly used in economics to measures the market share of industries. Applied to religion, it assesses the “evenness” of religious groups pertaining to the overall market of adherents in a geo-political area. Its use to predict attendance or adherence rates has been controversial, since a “mathematical relationship between [the] variables” may cause potentially erroneous results (Voas et al. 2002: 212).
Heschel, Abraham (1907-1972): Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) was an important Jewish theologian and social activist in the 20th century. He boldly supported the civil rights movement and walked with Martin Luther King, Jr. at Selma, which led to jail time. He opposed the Vietnam War and helped improve Jewish-Catholic relations by providing advice during Vatican Council II. For more information on Abraham Heschel, click here.
Hijab: An Arabic term referring to any partition separating two things, but most commonly it refers to a veil or head covering worn by Muslim women (Prothero 2008: 232).
Hijra: Muhammad's flight from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE. He fled after his enemies made a failed assassination attempt on him. His flight to Medina led to the establishment of the first Muslim community. The year of the flight (622 CE) now serves as the first year in the Muslim lunar calendar (Prothero 2008: 257).
Hinduism: The name given for the majority religion of India. There is no central authority in Hinduism, although most Hindu groups and traditions believe in reincarnation and venerate gods and goddesses who are viewed as manifestations of God. Sanskrit texts known as Vedas are sacred scriptures in Hinduism, and they were composed between 1200 and 900 BCE. Around 660 million people identify as Hindu in the world, and 97 percent of Hindus live in India (Smith and Green 1995: 424).
Holiness Family: Churches that emerged out of the Methodist churches in the United States as they sought to restore John Wesley's teachings of personal holiness and total sanctification (perfection). The movement originated in the mid-nineteenth century. Holiness bodies include the Church of the Nazarene and the various Church of God denominations (Smith and Green 1995: 457-458).
Holy: See sacred.
Holy Spirit: A term widely employed in the New Testament, and used at points in the Old Testament, although in a different context. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit came upon prophets in order for them to transmit God's message to others. In Christianity, it describes the third person in the Trinity. The archaic term for the Holy Spirit is "holy ghost." Charismatics often refer to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including speaking in tongues and prophecy (Smith and Green 1995: 464).
Holy Thursday: A day in the Christian Holy Week commemorating the Eucharist at the Last Supper of Jesus. The rite of washing feet also is sometimes practiced, just as Jesus washed his disciples' feet at the Last Supper. Holy Thursday also is known as Maundy Thursday (Smith and Green 1995: 465).
Holy Week: A Christian celebration of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Palm Sunday begins the week, followed by Holy Thursday, Good Friday, an Easter Vigil on Saturday night and Easter Sunday. This practice probably began in fourth-century Jerusalem (Smith and Green 1995: 465).
Homily: Similar to a sermon, though usually briefer and most often given in Catholic churches. In the Catholic Church, it is often a short interpretation of a Gospel passage during the Eucharistic liturgy (Smith and Green 1995: 465).
Homo religiosus: A term referring to the universal practice of religion by all humans. From the earliest period of human history, religion has been the center of human culture and social life. The term was coined by the comparative religions scholar Mircea Eliade (Esposito et al. 2012b: 41).
House Churches: Gatherings of believers held in the home of a Christian individual or family. They existed from the time early Christianity began, and continue to exist with the advent of new independent Christian groups. Some view it as providing intimacy and community that is more difficult to find in larger churches (Reid et al. 1990: 557).
Hubbard, L. Ron (1911-1986): L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986) founded Scientology, a controversial new religious movement. Once a science fiction writer, he became interested in the human condition and detailed techniques to rid humans of destructive behaviors in his famous book entitled Dianetics (1950). In 1954, he opened the first Church of Scientology in Los Angeles. He was accused of being a cult leader and a fraud. For more information, click here.
Hughes, John (1797-1864): John Hughes was an important New York archbishop who oversaw growth in the American Catholic Church due to Irish immigration and advocated Catholic parochial education. For more information on John Hughes, click here.
Humanistic Religion: A type of individual religion centered around humans and their strengths. Self-realization, not obedience, is the main virtue of humanistic religion (Fromm 1950:37).
Hymnal: A collection of hymns, typically organized in a book for worship.
Ideology: A more-or-less coherent system of statements about the world that often achieve some degree of consensus in a formal religious organization or diffuse religious subculture. A broader term than religion, ideology refers to a belief system that is constructed and maintained to deal with moral issues in personal experience and social relations. All adequately functioning humans operate from some form of belief system, which establishes the mental schemas from which they derive patterns of action.
Idiothetic Approach to Religion: In the psychology of religion, the idiothetic approach to religion is steeped in clinical or pastoral methods, implemented by a pastoral counselor or therapist. The assessment is individual-based, intuitive and the information is not readily available for public analysis. Because of this, idiothetic approaches tend to use qualitative methods, like personal interviews. Idiothetic approaches vary from nomothetic approaches, which tend to more empirical, reproducible and reliable, often using quantitative or experimental methods (Hood, Hill and Spilka 2009: 26-27).
Idol: A pejorative term for any three-dimensional, or sculpted figure, or more broadly, a figure representing a god or goddess used for worship. Many world religions use such figures in their religious rituals, but Western religions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam, forbid the worship of idols (Smith and Green 1995: 479).
Idolatry: A pejorative term for the alleged worship of idols. In Judaism, Christianity and Islam, it often loosely refers to the worship of other beings or things besides God (Smith and Green 1995: 479).
Ijma: A term referring to the agreement of Muslim scholars on the interpretation of legal questions. Their consensus is seen as authoritative (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-8).
Images of God: Images of God are a collection of survey items that tap into personal theologies pertaining to God's nature. Typically, these measures ask respondents their beliefs pertaining to: God's level of engagement or distance from the world, wrath or anger, and love (see Froese and Bader 2010).
Imam: For Sunni Muslims, the imam is the prayer leader of a mosque. For Shi'ite Muslims, the imam is a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad that leads the congregation in all areas of belief in practice. Many Shi'ite Muslims believe that there will be a "hidden imam" that will come in the end-times to bring peace and justice to the world (Prothero 2008: 234-235).
Immaculate Conception: A teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that the Blessed Virgin Mary, by a singular grace and privilege of God, through the merits of her son Jesus Christ, was preserved from the stain or effects of original sin from the first moment of her conception by her parents. This teaching is not the same as the virgin birth of Jesus (Reid et al. 1990: 567).
Independent Fundamentalist Family: Churches that left mainline and evangelical denominations in 1930. Out of the initial 39 men who formed the movement, twelve were Congregationalists, three Presbyterians, nineteen Independents, one Baptist, and four with no denominational affiliation. The movement was a response to modernity, as they believed that other churches were too liberal in theology. The Independent Fundamental Churches in America is the largest of these separatist bodies (Reid et al. 1990: 573).
Institutional Theory, New and Old: Old institutional theory (Selznick 1948) and new institutional theory (Meyer and Rowan 1977) are both concerned with how organizations adapt to forces from their institutional environment and particularly how organizations do so in order to maintain legitimacy. Unlike new institutional theory, old institutional theory is mostly reactive in its adaptation and views organizations through the natural perspective, wherein people in the organization have different goals but see the usefulness in working together through the organization to obtain resources. In new institutional theory, organizations are rational, implying that they are formalized and goal-driven in pursuit of legitimized ideals, though adaptation for the purpose of legitimacy may have little to do with efficiency or best organizational practices, often leading to organizational similarity over time (DiMaggio and Powell 1983).
Intelligent Design: A theory that posits that both the universe and individual organisms are too complex to be a result of either chance or random selection, thus pointing to an "intelligent designer." Critics accuse Intelligent Design proponents of espousing "pseudoscience," and attempting to give creationist sentiments a more scientific facade (Prothero 2008: 214).
Interactive Ritual Chain Theory: Interactive Ritual Chain Theory (IRC) is a perspective focusing on the interactions and the emotional input and feedback of individuals within those interactions. Developed by Randall Collins (2004), IRC asserts that interactions produce or deplete the “emotional energy” of participants depending on key factors. These factors include the physical co-presence of interactants, exclusivity of the group, a mutual focus and mood and bodily synchronization. Importantly, IRC theory also situates religious actors in social space and outlines the linkages between ritual, affect and belief.
Interfaith (Dialogue): A movement attempting to foster closer relations between different religions (Smith and Green 1995: 317).
Interfaith Marriage: When spouses in a marriage identify with different religions (e.g., Christianity and Judaism). Typically, this excludes interdenominational marriages (e.g., Baptist & Methodist), but some researchers consider it interfaith marriage if the spouses come from different Christian traditions (e.g., Evangelical Protestant & Mainline Protestant; see Murphy 2015).
Intrinsic Religion: Religion that serves as its own goal, motivated by internal desires. The concepts of extrinsic religion and intrinsic religion was developed by Gordon Allport (1960). Differences between intrinsic and extrinsic religion can be understood as differences in religious orientation (Allport 1960).
Iron Law of Oligarchy: The concept of the “Iron Law of Oligarchy” was first introduced in Robert Michels' (1915) study of political parties and refers to the tendency over time of these organizations to be run by a small cadre of leaders, even if an organization intended to run as a democracy. Michels argues that democracy is nearly impossible to maintain within an organization, because as an organization grows larger, representative democracy becomes difficult as large groups eventually will be unable to fit into a single room and make decisions quickly. As a result, leaders will emerge to ease the decision-making process. The iron law of oligarchy is useful for understanding the emergence and persistence of leaders within religious structures and also may be useful for Michels’ suggestion that the best defense against oligarchization is to keep these tendencies from becoming too widespread. Social movements are one way to provide a check on these systems and, as religious organizations have been central to many social movements, this concept may help to explain the motivation for and consequences of some religious or religiously involved social movements.
Islam: The religion founded by the Prophet Muhammad (570-632), who is believed by followers to be the final prophet. The word "Islam" means "submission." Muslims follow the sacred text of the Koran and stress the oneness of God. Muslims practice the Five Pillars: praying, fasting during Ramadan, almsgiving, pilgrimage and a testimony of faith. There are two divisions of Islam: Sunni and Shi'ite. The Muslim community split due to different opinions on leadership succession (Prothero 2008: 236).
Islamic Center: A building that operates as a community center, similar to Christian or Jewish community centers. It usually has educational programs, sports activities, computer classes, religious classes and a prayer room. Islamic centers are either stand alone or incorporate a mosque (Esposito 2011: 40).
Islamism: Ultraconservative Islamic movements that use their religion to advance a political agenda. The term is pejorative, and often aimed at groups like al-Qaeda. It also is known as "political Islam" (Prothero 2008: 237).
Israel: 1) A term for the Jews as a religious people. 2) The land and state of Israel founded in 1948 and located in the Middle East (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-4).
Jahiliyya: In Islam, it means unbelief or ignorance. This term is used to describe the pre-Islamic era (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-8).
Jainism: An ancient Indian religion that teaches no supreme deity, although some Hindu gods are recognized. The religion stresses non-violence and takes its authority from spiritual teachers known as Jinas. There are two major sects, the Digambaras and Shvetambara, and both have different canons of scripture (Parrinder 1973: 141).
Jehovah's Witnesses: A worldwide Christian society noted for their use of "Jehovah" as the name of God and their assertive proselytizing efforts through door-knocking. Charles Taze Russell founded the movement in the 1880s with hopes of restoring the Church to the beliefs of first-century Christianity. Some of their prominent beliefs include: hell is not a place of eternal torment, the entire Bible is the inspired Word of God, a rejection of the Trinity, living in the "last days" of the world (millenarianism), and converting every person into a Witness (Melton 2009: 592).
Jerusalem: The capital city of Israel, and a holy site for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In the Jewish tradition, Jerusalem was a holy city where King Solomon built the first temple to God around 950 BCE. In Christianity, Jesus performed miracles there and spent his last weeks there. In Islam, Jerusalem was the site where Muhammad traveled on his Night Journey (Smith and Green 1995: 567-568).
Jesus Christ: The founder of the Christian religion. "Christ" is a Hebrew term for "messiah," meaning Christians believe that he is the savior of humanity. Jesus was born in Palestine under Roman occupation around 6 BCE. Many Christians believe that he is the Son of God, who died for human sin, and was raised in order for all humans to have salvation. He, along with God the Father and the Holy Spirit make up what is known as the Trinity. Muslims believe that Jesus was an important prophet, but he was not the Son of God, nor do they believe in the Trinity. The nature of Jesus' form, in terms of his physical form and divine form, has been debated over the centuries in what is known as Christology (Smith and Green 1995: 568-572).
Jews for Jesus: A term referring to a contemporary movement of young Jews to Christianity and a missionary agency. The movement began in the late 1960s during the "Jesus Movement." The movement and missionary group attempt to convert Jews by emphasizing that accepting Christianity did not entail an automatic rejection of Jewish heritage (Reid et al. 1990: 595).
Jihad: A term derived from Arabic that means "to struggle." For Muslims, there are two types of Jihads: the greater struggle is the internal spiritual battle between the believer and his/her nature, and the lesser struggle is the physical battle against the enemies of Islam. Muslim extremists and critics of Islam emphasize jihad as a "holy war," while most Muslims do not (Prothero 2008: 240).
Jimmy Carter's 1976 Election: In 1976, Jimmy Carter became the first self-proclaimed "born again" Christian elected to be president of the United States. For more information on this historical event, click here.
Jinn: An invisible order of beings who are either good or evil in Islam. They hold extraordinary powers and are held accountable for their actions before God (Smith and Green 1995: 573).
Joan of Arc: A 15th century French saint, martyr and national hero (Prothero 2008: 241).
John F. Kennedy's 1960 Election: John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic President of the United States when he defeated Richard Nixon in the 1960 election. Unlike Al Smith, an earlier Catholic candidate, Kennedy was able to overcome suspicions that his faith would impede his ability to successfully govern. He was assassinated during his first term, in 1963. For more on John F. Kennedy and his presidential election, click here.
John the Baptist: A first-century figure who appears in Josephus' Antiquities and in the New Testament gospels as a prophetic forerunner to Jesus Christ. Many believe that he was associated with the baptist movements in Judaism at the time and preached baptism for the purification of sins (Smith and Green 1995: 574).
Joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration of 1965: The Joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration of 1965 revoked the mutual excommunications of 1054 that led to the Great Schism, which separated Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. During the Second Vatican Council in 1964, Catholic leaders and Orthodox representatives began discussing greater efforts of ecumenism between Catholic and Orthodox churches, which came to fruition in 1965. This event reflected a growing desire for reconciliation between both churches and led to firmer ecumenical relations after centuries of mutual excommunication. For more information on this historical event, click here.
Jones, Jim: The founder of the controversial religious movement known as the People's Temple. See People's Temple for more information.
Jonestown: See People's Temple.
Judaism: A monotheistic religion based on the Torah, Talmud and other texts in the Hebrew Bible. There are several Jewish traditions, including Orthodox, Conservative, Reform Judaism, and Reconstructionist. Today, there are 15 million Jews worldwide, making it the third largest religion, and there are 5.2 million Jews in the United States (Prothero 2008: 241-242).
Judson, Adoniram (1788-1850): Adoniram Judson was one of the first American missionaries to travel to Burma, inspiring other Protestants to engage in overseas missionary work. For more information on Adoniram Judson, click here.
Jung, Carl (1875-1961): Carl Jung was a psychoanalyst who helped found analytical psychology. Unlike Sigmund Freud, who had a fairly negative view of religion, Jung viewed religion as a positive role in the personality, reflecting the unconscious need to look for God and thus representing a natural process in one’s psychological makeup (Jung 1955, 1938)
Kaaba: The most sacred space in the Muslim world. It literally means "cube" because it is a cube-shaped structure that contains a sacred black stone, which Muslims believe is a meteorite upon which Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, Ishmail, to display his submission to Allah (in Christianity, it was his son Isaac who Abraham nearly sacrificed; and this has become a key distinction between the two religions). It is located in the Grand Mosque at Mecca, and many Muslims visit it every year as part of their pilgrimage. Muslims pray in the direction of the Kaaba everyday (Esposito 2011: 23-24).
Kaballah: The Jewish mystical teachings which offer esoteric interpretations of Jewish law. It comes from the Zohar, a thirteenth century (CE) multivolume text, and covers topics ranging from angels to the afterlife (Prothero 2008: 244).
Kama Sutra: A popular Hindu scripture, originally intended as a sex manual for courtesans. It was written around 400 CE by Hindu thinker Vatsyayana. It provides different types of kisses and different sexual positions for intercourse (Prothero 2008: 244).
Karma: A term in Sanskrit referring both to an action and its consequences. It drives the never-ending cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth in the eastern religions of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism (Prothero 2008: 244).
King, Martin Luther (1929-1968): Martin Luther King, Jr. was an important African-American Baptist minister and civil rights leader who combined Gandhi's nonviolent philosophy and Christian love to fight racism. He is the most recognizable figures in in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. For more information on Martin Luther King, Jr., click here.
Kingdom Hall: A meeting place for Jehovah's Witnesses, which are usually built by Witnesses themselves (Melton 2009: 593).
Koran: The sacred text of Muslims, and the ultimate authority in Islam regarding law, religion, and ethics. It literally means "recitation." It is also spelled "Quran" or "Qur'an." The Koran is a compilation of the Prophet Muhammad's revelations from the angel Gabriel between 610 CE and 632 CE. Muhammad's recited these revelations, which his followers memorized and later complied into a canon. It consists of 114 surahs, or chapters, which are organized from largest to shortest. As a result, the Koran is not arranged chronologically, which can be confusing for those unfamiliar with the context of each surah (Prothero 2008: 269-270). The Koran is four-fifths the size of the New Testament
Koresh, David (1958-1993): Leader of the breakaway Christian Adventist group known as the Branch Davidians and self-proclaimed final prophet. His birthname is Vernon Howell, but he took on the messianic name David Koresh in 1990. He died in 1993 after government officials raided the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco, Texas (Smith and Green 1995: 127-128). See Branch Davidians for more details.
Kosher: Jewish dietary laws that include permissible and restricted foods from one's diet. These guidelines were set forth in the Torah, and later elaborated in postbiblical Jewish law. Animals with cloven hooves and who chew their cud are forbidden to eat, like pigs. Some explain that kosher laws exist for hygienic reasons, as well as symbolic reasons, like discouraging the assimilation of non-Jewish neighboring communities (Smith and Green 1995: 645-646).
Laity: Non-ordained members of Christian churches. The term's root meaning comes from the Greek "laos," which means "the people." The distinction between laity and clergy is often articulated in a Catholic context in order to clarify roles in church hierarchy. Some Protestant denominations claim that there should be no distinction between laity and clergy, at least in a theological sense (Reid et al. 1990: 627).
Last Supper: The New Testament narrative of Jesus' last meal with his disciples prior to his arrest, trial and crucifixion. This event is commemorated through the Christian rite of Communion, also known as the Eucharist (Smith and Green 1995: 652).
Latter-day Saints Family (Mormonism): A 19th century religious movement in America founded by Joseph Smith. The purpose of the movement is to restore New Testament Christianity. The Latter-day Saints' main authority is the Book of Mormon, along with a distinct translation of the Bible. Mormons moved westward from New York after religious persecution. Some of their distinct doctrinal views include: baptism for the dead, eternal marriage and the corporeality of God. They also refrain from tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), and the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Latter-day Saints) are the largest denominations in this family (Prothero 2008: 254-255).
Lent: A 40 day period of fasting that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter. The purpose of fasting is to encourage spiritual discipline and devotional reflection. These 40 days usually don't include Sundays. Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and some Protestant churches celebrate this practice. For Orthodox Christians, Lent begins on Clean Monday (Reid et al. 1990: 643).
Liberal Religious Family: Consists of churches and associations stressing the primacy of reason and experience over the authority of doctrine and sacred texts. It emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in hopes of making Christianity more relevant to modern times (Reid et al. 1990: 646). The Unitarian-Universalist Association and the American Ethical Union are two examples of such groups.
Liberation Theology: A system of Christian thought that reflects on structures of oppression and emphasizes divine judgment on the oppressors. It began in Latin America in the 1960s as a response to explain extreme poverty, and God's response to these conditions. In North America, it has been used to explain racial and gender inequalities. Some have criticized liberation theology for using Marxist concepts (Smith and Green 1995: 658).
Life Satisfaction: Life satisfaction is a cognitive assessment of an underlying state thought to be relatively consistent and influenced by social factors (Ellison et al. 1989).
Literal Religion: Taking “at face value any religious statement without in anyway questioning it” (Hunt 1972: 43).
Liturgy: A set order of public worship, often comprised of chants, prayers and readings. Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Anglican churches have more ornate liturgies than other churches that stress preaching and the singing of hymns (Reid et al. 1990: 662).
Lord's Prayer: The most popular prayer in Christianity, and widely recited by Christians today. It comes from a passage in the Gospel According to Matthew, where Jesus' disciples ask him how to pray. It begins (in the King James Bible): "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name..." (Prothero 2008: 246-247).
Love-oriented, Other-centered Religion: “Emphasizes the common humanity of all persons as creatures of God, and God’s love” (McConahay and Hough 1973: 56). This is related to the redemption of the whole world, not just one’s own sins (see Love-oriented, Self-centered Religion).
Love-oriented, Self-centered Religion: “Oriented toward the forgiveness of one’s own sins” (McConahay and Hough 1973: 56). This is in contrast to God’s love toward all of humanity (see Love-oriented, Other-centered Religion).
Luther, Martin (1483-1546): A German monk and theologian who became a leader in the sixteenth century during the Protestant Reformation. He was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church after publishing his 95 Theses, which challenged the Church's doctrines and practices. Luther placed importance on justification by grace through faith, and the Bible as the sole authority for Christians, not scripture and tradition as Catholics assert. His ideas helped pioneer Protestant thought. He is the founder of Lutheranism (Prothero 2008: 247).
Lutheran Family: Christian churches following the teachings of sixteenth century reformer Martin Luther, particularly his teaching on justification by faith and scripture alone (sola scriptura). It is one of the most liturgical Protestant movements, along with Episcopalianism. Lutheranism is more prominent in the Midwestern United States, particularly among those with German ancestry. There has never been a Lutheran president of the United States (Prothero 2008: 247-248).
Madrasa: The term is most often used to describe Islamic schools, including Islamic universities, seminaries, primary and secondary schools. The term literally means "a place where learning or studying occurs." While some madrasas teach a radical view of Islam, most historically do not. Critics of Barack Obama have equated madrasas with terrorist training schools in order to malign the president's early schooling (Esposito 2011: 40-41).
Magic: A term referring to all efforts to manipulate supernatural forces to gain rewards, or avoid costs, without a reference to a god or gods or to general explanations of existence (Stark and Finke 2000: 279).
Mahayana Buddhism: A school of Buddhism that is much more open to the role of nonmonks in the faith. The goal for this school of thought is the ultimate salvation of all living beings. This universalist tendency helped to carry the faith across Southeast Asia to Japan. The school dates itself to Ananda and other early disciples of Buddha (Melton 2009: 1043).
Mahoney’s Relational Spirituality Framework: Mahoney’s (2010) relational spirituality framework emphasizes that there are essentially three means through which religion influences family relationships. On the individual level, one’s personal relationship with God impacts the way an individual treats his or her family members. On the dyadic level, spouses uniquely incorporate religion into their behavior and beliefs (e.g., “relational” measures of religion, like sanctification). And on the community level, the religious community/congregation influences in how families view each other and behave toward one another. According to Mahoney, these three relational dimensions are interdependent and help explain why religion produces positive family outcomes.
Mainline Protestantism: A branch of Protestantism encompassing what are considered theologically liberal and moderate denominations, such as the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, The Reformed Church in America, the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This term emerged in the youth counterculture of the 1960s, and was used pervasively in the 1970s by journalists and scholars. While Mainline Protestantism is usually seen as more theologically and socially liberal than Evangelical Protestantism, there is obviously variation between denominations, congregations, and individuals within the "Mainline" category (Reid et al. 1990: 700).
Marital Instability, Religion and: Marital instability is ongoing conflict in marriage either because of communication problems, disagreements about parenting or gender roles, financial difficulties, lack of trust, or presence of alcohol or drug problems (Koenig et al. 2012: 256). Lack of marital happiness, infidelity, abuse and divorce represent aspects of marital instability. It can arise out of unrealistic cultural expectations for marriage (Cherlin 2009; Nock 1987), marital problems from parents (Amato and Patterson 2017; Whitton et al. 2008), economic instability (Nunley and Seals 2010) and other reasons. Koenig and colleagues (2012) examined 79 quantitative studies on religion and marital instability and found that 87 percent of the studies found a negative relationship between religion and marital instability (e.g., divorce, abuse, infidelity, etc.), meaning as religiousness increased, marital instability decreased. Given how religion is associated with positive coping, marital commitment and proscriptions against divorce, it operates as a protective factor against marital problems. The exception, however, is when spouses have different religious backgrounds, which tends to increase marital instability (Curtis and Ellison 2002; Vaaler, Ellison and Powers 2009).
Martyr: In Judaism, Christianity and Islam, a martyr is someone who dies, typically premature and violently, for a sacred cause. During the late 20th and early 21st centuries, martyrdom became a terrorist strategy for suicide bombers in Israel, Iraq, the United States, and other countries (Prothero 2008: 248).
Mary (Mother of Jesus): Also known as the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Catholic tradition, she was the mother of Jesus Christ. Her miraculous virgin birth is recorded in the gospels. She is frequently depicted in Eastern icons and Western art. In the Catholic tradition, she is seen as a powerful mediator between the individual and God. The Protestant Reformers criticized what they believed was an excessive veneration of Mary (Smith and Green 1995: 687).
Mary Magdalene: A prominent follower of Jesus Christ as recorded in the gospels. She is specifically mentioned as a witness to his death as well as one of the first witnesses of his resurrection. A gnostic gospel presents her as one of the most important disciples of Jesus. A later tradition depicted her as a prostitute, which is not evident in the gospels (Smith and Green 1995: 687).
Masjid: Another term for a mosque (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-8).
Massachusetts Bay Colony: In 1630, a group of Puritans, led by John Winthrop, established the Massachusetts Bay Colony after fleeing religious persecution in England. For more information on the Massachusetts Bay Colony, click here.
Meaning Making: See Global Meaning.
Mecca: The most holy city in Islam, located in modern-day Saudi Arabia. It was the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad and is the location for the sacred Kaaba. When Muslims go on their pilgrimage (hajj), they visit Mecca. Muslims pray toward this city as well (Esposito 2011: 245).
Medina: The second most holy city in Islam after Mecca. It is located in modern day Saudi Arabia. Muslims view the city as holy because Muhammad fled to Medina in 622 CE (see Hijra) and established the Muslim community there before returning to Mecca. In Medina, Muhammad established himself as a politician and military leader in addition to being a religious leader (Prothero 2008: 251).
Meditation: A process of serious contemplation that is common in Eastern religions. In Buddhism, it refers to a range of conscious-altering practices used to remove passion and ignorance, leading to nirvana. Meditation is also prominent in the practice of Taoism, although the connection to Taoist thought is unclear (Smith and Green 1995: 692-695).
Megachurch: A large congregation with 2,000 or more people attending services. It is typically Protestant, often evangelical. Two-thirds of megachurches are affiliated with a denomination. They tend to cluster in the suburbs located outside of growing cities. Currently, there are more than 1,200 megachurches in the United States. Famous megachurch pastors include Joel Osteen and Rick Warren (Prothero 2008: 251).
Member: 1) A member is a person belonging to a congregation and/or denomination. Rules concerning membership vary by religious tradition. For example, there may be confessions, behaviors, rituals or other requirements for becoming a full member. 2) Sometimes people use the word "member" to mean that they simply attend a congregation, whether they are full members of the congregation or denomination. In this sense, "member" is similar to adherent. 3) Note that on the ARDA's Maps & Reports, "members" are defined as "All individuals in a religious group with full membership status," based on the definition of a "member" from the Religious Congregations and Membership Study (Grammich et al. 2012: xvi).
Mental Health: Mental health broadly refers to a person's psychological and emotional condition.
Mental Health Measures: Questions covering issues pertaining to an individual’s mental health, views of mental health, attitudes toward those with mental health issues, medication, government intervention, etc. Definitions of good mental health vary, as do ways to measure mental health. Particular measures related to mental health, such as views of mental health, attitudes toward those with mental health issues, medication and mental health, government intervention, etc., can be found in the following ARDA datasets: HEALTH2 - 1997 Faith and Community Survey of Four Indianapolis Neighborhoods, MNTLHLTH - 2004 General Social Survey, EVMHP - 1996 General Social Survey, OUTSIDER - 2002 General Social Survey, PSYCMED4 - 2006 General Social Survey, SEENMNTL - 1998 General Social Survey SPMENTL - 1996 General Social Survey, KNWMHOSP - 1996 General Social Survey, MHTRTSLF - 2006 General Social Survey.
Mental Health, Religion and: Mental health consists of positive and negative dimensions. Positive mental health includes positive emotions (e.g., happiness, peace, etc.) as well as positive cognitive processes (e.g., optimistic thinking and adaptation), while negative mental health involves emotions, cognitions and behaviors that cause dysfunction in social relationships, occupation and recreation, and interfere with adaptation (e.g., anger, violence, addiction, etc.; see Koenig et al. 2012: 298). In the area of religion and health, an estimated 80 percent of studies focus specifically on mental health (Koenig 2012). In general, religiousness tends to improve positive mental health and reduce negative mental health outcomes. Examining hundreds of studies on mental health and religion, Koenig and colleagues (2012) found that religion/spirituality tends to improve mental well-being, increase hope/optimism, reduce loneliness/depression, increase social capital, reduce substance abuse and improve marital outcomes. There are, however, some studies that do not find religion to be a positive factor for mental health. For example, traditional religiousness is associated with the negative personality traits of authoritarianism (Shaffer and Hastings 2007; Watson et al. 2003) and neuroticism (Duriez and Soenens 2006; Jaarmsa et al. 2007). Nonetheless, the general conclusions from previous studies is that religion, as means to promote meaning, happiness and self-control, tends to be positively associated with beneficial mental health outcomes.
Merger: When two or more denominations, organizations or congregations join together to make one structure. For instance, the creation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1988 was the result of a merger of three smaller Lutheran denominations. Denominations with low tension will typically have declining membership, and are therefore more likely to form mergers (Stark and Finke 2000: 206). See the Denominations section to explore denominational histories, including mergers.
Merton, Thomas (1915-1968): Thomas Merton was a Catholic monk and prolific writer. He denounced social inequality and opened up interfaith dialogue through his hundreds of articles and numerous books. For more information on Thomas Merton, click here.
Messiah: The long-awaited king who will come in the last days. In the Jewish tradition, the messiah will restore the Jews to the promised land, rebuild the temple, and inaugurate a period of peace. This is particularly emphasized in Orthodox Judaism. In the Christian tradition, Jesus is the messiah, but most Jews do not hold this view, with the exception of Jews for Jesus and some messianic Jewish groups (Prothero 2008: 252).
Methodist-Pietist Family: The Methodist-Pietist family consists of churches that stress the importance of internal faith, spirituality and Christian living over adherence to formal creeds and doctrine. The largest among these churches is the United Methodist Church, which follows the teachings of John Wesley, who in the 18th century broke away from the Church of England because of his emphasis on personal holiness. Methodism came to the United States in the 1760s with Leesburg, Virginia being the site of the first Methodist society (Melton 2009: 273-274).
Migration and Religion: The study of religion and immigration generally has three classes of study: 1) the impact of religion on migration; 2) the impact of migration on religion; and 3) the effect of religion on the life chances and adaptation of migrants. In understanding the impact of religion on migration, the amount of religious capital an individual accrues may either prevent migration (if religious capital in the current country is high) or act as a push factor (if the destination provides opportunity for a stronger religious community). In understanding the impact of migration on religion, the migration of Catholic immigrants in the 19th and early 20th century allowed Catholicism to go from a small firm to one with a quarter of consumers (Finke and Stark 1992). Finally, religion may influence the life chances of immigrants, as religious organizations may help immigrants assimilate to the United States (Sherkat 2011).
Millenarianism: The belief that there will be an unprecedented period of peace and righteousness on the earth, usually associated with the return of Jesus Christ. Millennial groups are typically divided into premillennialist and postmillennialist perspectives based on beliefs regarding the return of Christ and the events preceding his return. Amillennialism is sometimes considered a third perspective, although it mostly deals with a symbolic interpretation of the "millenium" (Smith and Green 1995: 738).
Miller, William (1782-1849): William Miller was a Baptist lay preacher who predicted that the return of Christ would occur in 1843. This garnered both fervor from religious seekers and criticism from established churches. Despite his failed predictions, his teachings influenced both Ellen Gould White and her husband, James Springer White. They would later found the Seventh-day Adventist Church. For more information on William Miller, click here.
Million Man March: The Million Man March of 1995, organized by the Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan, was the largest gathering of African Americans in U.S. history. Taking place after the widely publicized beating of Rodney King, the subsequent riots in Los Angeles, and in the midst of conservative backlash toward civil rights efforts, the Million Man March desired to paint a more positive portrayal of black males in America. For more information on the Million Man March, click here.
Miracle: The dwelling place of God, angels and redeemed individuals in the afterlife. It functions as the ultimate reward for the redeemed, as opposed to hell, which is the punishment for the damned (Smith and Green 1995: 411). To find information on survey questions related to heaven, click here.
Mission/Missionary Movements: The organized effort to spread one's religion to others, often by traveling to other nations (Smith and Green 1995: 723).
Mitt Romney's 2012 Presidential Campaign: Mitt Romney became the first Mormon nominee for president when he ran as a Republican in 2012 against Barack Obama. His religious views became a focus in both his 2008 and 2012 presidential runs, though it is debatable whether it actually led to either failed campaigns. For more on Mitt Romney and his religious faith, click here.
Modernization Theory: This theory holds that religion is just as important a feature of modern society as it is of traditional society, but it takes different forms and possesses different characteristics.
Modes of Memory: Harvey Whitehouse (2004) has argued that different styles of religion are based in different parts of the brain, specifically in different memory structures.
Monasticism: A form of religious organization that emphasizes strict ascetic practices and individual salvation. The origins of monasticism are somewhat unknown, although many believe that started around the third to fourth century CE by Christians. Monasticism was fairly dominant in the medieval ages. It has waned since the Protestant Reformation, but still exists in
Monk: Male member of a monastic community (Smith and Green 1995: 728). See Monasticism.
Mono/Multi-Racial Group: This refers to the amount of racial and/or ethnic diversity within a religious group. Studies in this area typically assess the differences between racially or ethnically diverse religious groups as compared to those where the vast majority of adherents are similar to one another (homophiliy). There also has been a considerable amount of attention paid to the role of religion in racial division, as well as its potential role in increased tolerance and acceptance.
Monotheism: The belief that there is only one God, shared by Jews, Christians and Muslims. This is in contrast to polytheism, which posits multiple gods, and atheism, which posits that there is no God (Prothero 2008: 253).
Monstrance: A vessel, typically made of metal, used to display the Eucharistic bread in Catholic and Anglican churches. Typically, it is placed on the altar for adoration during religious rites. It is also known as an ostensorium (McBrien 1995:890).
Moody, Dwight (1837-1899): Dwight L. Moody was a 19th century Protestant revivalist whose popularity led to the Moody Bible Institute and the growth of Christian fundamentalism. For more information on Dwight Moody, click here.
Moral Majority: A conservative political group seeking to "return" Judeo-Christian morality to society. Founded in 1979 and led by Baptist pastor Jerry Falwell, the Moral Majority later dissolved in 1989. For more information, click here.
Moroni: The last of the Nephite prophets who resurrected in the form of an angel to reveal to Joseph Smith where he buried sacred golden plates 14 centuries earlier. This occurred on September 21, 1823 (Smith and Green 1995: 731).
Moses: A very important prophet in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He is remembered for leading the Jewish slaves out of Egypt and receiving the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai. The revelations on Mount Sinai became known as the Torah, or Law. In all three traditions, Moses is highly regarded, but receives special importance in the Jewish tradition (Prothero 2008: 256).
Mosque: The Islamic building for public worship. The term "mosque" comes from the Arabic word "masjid," meaning "place for ritual prostration." The first mosque was founded by the Prophet Muhammad in Medina as a place for worship and prayer. There are more than 2,100 mosques located in the United States (Esposito 2011: 38-39).
Muhammad (Mohammad): The founder and last prophet in Islam. He was born in Mecca (570 CE) and died in Medina (632 CE). He was born an orphan and became a trader. He received his first of many revelations at age 40 from the angel Gabriel in a cave. These revelations covered issues of God's nature, morality, other prophets (including Jesus) and more. His followers recorded his accounts, which later became the Koran. As he preached his revelations in Mecca, which differed from the polytheism at the time, he started to encounter hostility. After his enemies attempted to kill him, he fled to Medina in 622 C.E., where he established his Muslim community. He returned to Mecca with his army in 630 C.E., and demolished the idols around the Kaaba. In Islam, the phrase "peace be upon him" follows any utterance of his name (Prothero 2008: 257-258).
Mystical Experience: Some sense of contact, however fleeting, with a god or gods. Mystical experiences increase the confidence in religious explanations (Stark and Finke 2000: 280).
Mysticism: A form of spirituality stressing union with God and religious experience, rather than doctrine. Mystical traditions transcend religious traditions, evident in the three major world religions of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism (Smith and Green 1995: 747-748).
Mysticism Scale: Hood (1975) developed a series of questions based on Stace (1960) that were designed to tap into experiences perceived as transcending cultural and temporal conditions, indicating an individual’s level of mysticism. The original scale has been explored in a substantial amount of empirical research and remains in use currently.
Mythological Religion: A reinterpretation of religious statements to seek their deeper symbolic meanings (Hunt 1972).
Nation of Islam: An American movement founded in the early 20th century that emphasizes that Islam is the true religion of black people and that African-Americans should leave the distorted white religion of Christianity. The movement spread throughout the country under Elijah Muhammad and became increasingly militant after World War II (Mead et al. 2005: 379-380).
National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health): The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) is a nationally representative study that follows a sample of adolescents (Wave 1: 1994-1995) as they grow into adults. Add Health combines longitudinal survey data on respondents’ social, economic, psychological and physical well-being with contextual data on the family, neighborhood, community, school, friendships, peer groups and romantic relationships, providing unique opportunities to study how social environments and behaviors in adolescence are linked to health and achievement outcomes in young adulthood. As of 2018, four waves have already been collected and made publicly available, with the fifth wave finishing up data collection from 2016-2018. Because Add Health has a number of religion and health survey items, it has been a valuable data source in the study of health and religion (see Nooney 2005; Rostosky, Regnerus and Wright 2003). To download Add Health datasets from the ARDA’s Data Archive, click here.
Native American Church: A movement among Native Americans that has factions related to Christianity, but diverges from popular aspects of Christianity through the use of cactus peyote for ceremonial purposes. This movement has been criticized for diluting distinct tribal identities into one "pan-American" religious identity. Their use of peyote is legal in the United States since it is being used for "religious" purposes (Esposito et al. 2012b: 64).
Naturalistic Determinism: The notion that all things can be understood in terms of natural scientific principles and laws. Popular in the late 19th and early 20th century, this belief allowed scholars like J.H. Leuba, Emile Durkheim, E.D. Starbuck and William James to begin studying religion scientifically (Koenig et al. 2012: 31).
Near-Death Experience (NDE): The concept of near-death experiences (NDEs) became popular in the 1970s, as some have claimed to die, experience the afterlife and return to life telling others about their experience. NDEs have been used in religious circles as evidence for the afterlife. However, some have questioned the supernatural claims of near-death experiences, given their variation over time and by place/culture (Osis and Haraldson 1977). Moreover, there may be biological explanations for the near-death visions, including an altered function in the temporal lobe (Britton and Bootzin 2004). In any case, NDEs continue to be popular among the highly religious, as evidenced by New York Times best-selling 2010 book Heaven is for Real.
Neo-Confucianism: A tradition that attempts to harmonize the spiritual teachings of Confucius with the cosmology of Taoism and the teaching of karma in Buddhism. It also incorporates meditation techniques from both Taoism and Buddhism (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-16).
Neopaganism: A diverse, decentralized religious movement that emphasizes the importance of nature, polytheism, pantheism, personal responsibility and rituals. Neopagan religions include reconstructions of Egyptian, Celtic, Norse and Greek Paganism as well as Neopagan Witchcraft (Wicca). The movement has more than 100,000 adherents in the United States and Canada (Smith and Green 1995: 765).
New Age: A loosely based movement that emerged in the late 1960s stressing experiential spirituality, the interconnectedness of life and the immanence (or nearness) of the sacred to the world, drawing on a blend of occult, Eastern and human potential teachings. Evangelical churches in the United States and Europe have denounced New Age movements as detrimental to Christian values (Smith and Green 1995: 768-769).
New Age, Measures of: A series of survey questions with multiple sub-questions asking for respondents’ level of interaction with New Age materials and ideas. These vary, reflecting the diffuse content of the subculture. Bainbridge (2004) suggested that New Age, “paranormal” and UFO beliefs were all empirically distinguishable but related belief systems. In addition to beliefs, there are measures of media consumption and experiences with regard to the New Age. These measures are present in the 2005 Baylor Religion Survey, available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
New Religious Movements: Groups and movements that because of belief and practice exist outside of traditional Christianity, Judaism, and other major religious traditions. Examples of new religious movements would be the Unification Church and various neopagan groups, although even such an established religion as Christianity started out as a new religious movement within Judaism. Scholars prefer the term "New Religious Movement" over "cult" because the term "cult" is more of a political term used to denounce new religious groups. There is little evidence that new religious movements actually use "brainwashing" (Stark and Finke 2000: 136).
New Testament: Canonized scripture in addition to the Old Testament that constitutes the Christian Bible. The New Testament is made up of 27 books, written roughly between 50 and 150 CE. The first four books are the gospels, which record the life of Jesus Christ. Among the gospels, the first three (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are considered the synoptic gospels for their similarity in content, whereas the book of John is considered fairly distinct. The gospels are followed by the Acts of the Apostles, which records the development of the early Christian movement. Most of the New Testament contains letters, many of whom are attributed to the apostle Paul, while others are either anonymous or associated with other early church leaders. The New Testament ends with the book of Revelation, an apocalypse that deals with the end-times as well as with current persecution at the hands of the Romans. The New Testament was officially canonized in 367 by Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria (Smith and Green 1995: 769-770).
Nicene Creed: A formal creed stating that Jesus was "the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God." This creed originated in the fourth century CE as a response to controversies pertaining to Jesus' nature (see Christology). Most Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians affirm this creed (Prothero 2008: 239).
Niebuhr, Reinhold (1892-1971): Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) was an influential Christian theologian in the 20th century. He advocated social justice and, although he came from a theologically liberal background, he rejected liberal notions of the innate goodness of humans. He also is credited with the popular Serenity Prayer. For more information on Reinhold Niebuhr, click here.
Night Journey: The Prophet Muhammad's journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, and then from Jerusalem into heaven where he met Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets. This event is reported to have occurred in 621 CE. This event is briefly discussed in the Koran and further elaborated in the hadith. The Night Journey made Jerusalem the third-holiest city, behind Mecca and Medina, in Islam. It also affirmed the continuity of Islam with Judaism and Christianity (Esposito 2011: 188).
Nirvana: The main religious goal in major forms of Hinduism and Buddhism. The term comes from Sanskrit, meaning "blowing out." It is essentially the extinction of suffering and the liberation from samsara. It is important to note that Mahayana Buddhists do not see a clear distinction between nirvana and samsara, seeing the world of suffering as nirvana itself (Prothero 2008: 259).
Nominal Christian: A term for those who identify as Christian in name only, meaning that they aren't particularly religious. This identification is contrasted with practicing Christians, and is often used in a pejorative way (Reid et al. 1990: 827).
Nomothetic Approach to Religion: In the psychology of religion, the nomothetic approach to religion tends to understand religion in a scientific, empirical, reproducible, reliable, publicly available way, as opposed to more subjective approaches (see Idiothetic Approach to Religion). Nomothetic approaches tend to use quantitative and experimental methods as well as hypothesis testing. Because of this, nomothetic approaches tend to be the main traditional scientific avenue in the area of psychology of religion (Hood, Hill and Spilka 2009: 26-27).
Numinous: A primary sense of religious experience, an overwhelming feeling of the divine. The German theologian Rudolf Otto coined this term in his 1917 book The Idea of the Holy (Smith and Green 1995: 804).
Nun: A term referring to any Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican woman who is an avowed member of the religious community. Technically, it refers to women who take a solemn oath to renounce a life of pleasure and live a life of prayer and discipline in a monastery (Reid et al. 1990: 832).
Occultism: The practices and beliefs relating to "hidden" spiritual truths or esoteric insights. These hidden truths are seen as very powerful. This tradition was somewhat underground during the Middle Ages, but became more prominent in the Renaissance. The occult worldview was basic to pre-Copernican and pre-Newtonian science. Modern groups that incorporate elements of the occult include the Liberal Catholic Church and Wicca, as well as some Neopagan groups (Smith and Green 1995: 806).
Ockenga, Harold (1905-1985): Harold Ockenga was an influential evangelical leader in the mid-20th century. He led a "neo-evangelical" movement, which upheld conservative theological standards while still maintaining a sense of warmth and engagement with society. He helped co-found Fuller Seminary, the National Association of Evangelicals, and Christianity Today. For more information on Harold Ockenga, click here.
of Constantinople, Athenagoras I (1886-1972): Athenagoras was an important archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. He helped unite Orthodox communities that were divided by ethnicity at the time. In 1948, he was elected Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, a position he held until his death in 1972. For more information on Athenagoras, click here.
Old Testament (Hebrew Bible): The first portion of the Christian Bible. It also is known as the Hebrew Bible in Judaism. The Hebrew Bible contains twenty-four books, while Protestant Bibles further divide the 24 books into 39 books, and place them in a different order. Catholic Bibles are ordered the same as Protestant Bible, but include seven additional books known as the Deuterocanonical Books. Orthodox Bibles also contain additional books (Prothero 2008: 260).
Ordination: The setting apart of some members by a church for ministerial or priestly leadership. In Christianity, this usually is done by either the laying on of hands or invocation of the Holy Spirit. Ordination is considered a sacrament in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions. Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and evangelical churches ordain men only, while liberal, some Holiness, and some Pentecostal churches have ordained women (Reid et al. 1990: 846). Ordinations also exist in Buddhism and Judaism (Smith and Green 1995: 815-816).
Orthodox Judaism: A branch of Judaism that was developed by European Jews in the 19th century as a response to modernization and the rise of Reform Judaism. Orthodox Jews maintain a traditional form of worship and strict observance of dietary laws (Smith and Green 1995: 822).
Orthodoxy: This is usually assessed in reference to affirming a series of beliefs representing "traditional" religious views, such as stances on sacred texts or belief in miracles (Smith and Green 1995: 824).
Orthopraxy: The "right actions" or rituals in religious practice (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-1).
Oser’s Stages of Development of Religious Judgment: Fritz Oser and colleagues developed a theoretical framework for how individuals experience qualitative changes in their personal relationship with God. Individuals initially believe that God’s power guides human beings (Stage 1), and then they externalize God as a being who punishes and reward individuals based on their deeds (Stage 2). In Stage 3, individuals view God as detached from the word. Then, individuals learn their own limitations and perceive a divine plan that gives their life meaning (Stage 4). Finally, in Stage 5, God is realized through human actions of care and love (Oser and Gmunder 1991).
Ostensorium: See monstrance.
Ozorak’s Polarization Hypothesis: Using a social-cognitive model of religious socialization processes, Ozorak (1989) noted that more religious adolescents tended to increase in religiosity, whereas less religious adolescents tended to swift away from religion. In other words, the religious distance between more and less religious young adults tends to increase over time, leading to polarizing religious tendencies. This hypothesis has been reproduced in different countries (Tamminen 1991) and among college students (Madsen and Vernon 1983).
Pali Canon: The complete canon among the early collections of the Buddha's teachings. It is written in the Pali language derived from Sanskrit. The canon is split into three sections: Vinaya (monastic code), Sutras (sermons), and Abhidhamma (advanced teaching formula) (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-13).
Palm Sunday: The first day of Holy Week that commemorates Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem. It is called "Palm Sunday" because in the gospel of John, the crowds took palm branches and met Jesus as he arrived into the city. It is celebrated a week before Easter (Smith and Green 1995: 827).
Pantheism: The belief that all of reality is divine. It can be cosmic in the sense that God is equated with nature, or acosmic in the sense that experience is illusory and only the divine is real (Hinnells 1984: 245).
Papal Infallibility: A Roman Catholic term referring to the pope's share in the general grace that preserves the Church from error. This term was formally defined by the Roman Catholic Church in 1870 at the First Vatican Council (Reid et al. 1990: 862).
Paranormal: This concept refers to beliefs, views, or experiences that are typically perceived as supernatural in nature.
Paranormal, Measures of: Survey questions aimed at gauging an individual’s belief in and experience of the “paranormal.” Ghosts and unidentified monsters are potential topics that are covered. Paranormal belief and experience items are found in the 2005 Baylor Religion Survey, which is available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Parents' Religious Affiliation, Measure of: This survey item asks respondents what religious tradition their parents ascribe to and allows researchers to investigate why individuals maintain or change from the religious tradition they were exposed to when younger. Examples of this measure are found in the 2005 Baylor Religion Survey, 2003 National Study of Youth and Religion and 1998 General Social Survey, all of which are available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Passover: A seven-day Jewish holiday commemorating the story in Exodus where God saved the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. No leavened bread is eaten during this holiday, and matzah is considered the staple food (Hinnells 1991: 35).
Paths to Salvation, Measure of: This survey measure approximates the extent to which respondents’ religious beliefs about salvation are inclusive or exclusive of those unlike them. Examples of this survey item are found in the 2005 Baylor Religion Survey and the 2004 America’s Evangelicals Survey, both of which are available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Patriarch: 1) The head bishop of an Eastern Orthodox Church (see Athenagoras I of Constantinople, 1886-1972). 2) A historical title for the bishops in the ancient cities of Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, and Jerusalem. 3) A term for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Hebrew Bible (Smith and Green 1995: 833).
Paul: A first-century church leader in Christianity and the author of many New Testament epistles. He was born Jewish and was called Saul, a Pharisee and persecutor of Christians. According to the Book of Acts, he saw the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus and converted to Christianity. Afterward, he preached the gospel to Jews and Christians alike. While some debate whether all the letters attributed to him in the New Testament were written by him, the consensus is that his "authentic" letters were written around the 50s CE and became the theological architecture of ancient and modern Christian beliefs (Prothero 2008: 261-262).
Penn, William (1644-1718): William Penn was a Quaker activist, religious tolerance advocate, and founder of the Pennsylvania colony. He wrote many books on his religious faith and the ideal style of government, including No Cross, No Crown (1669) and Frame of Government (1682), the latter of which influenced the U.S. Constitution. For more information on William Penn, click here.
Pentecost: The annual Christian celebration commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus as recorded in the biblical book of Acts. The term derives from Greek, literally meaning "50 days," traditionally the time between the Passover feast and the wheat harvest. In the early church and in some churches today, Pentecost is celebrated fifty days following Easter. Later Judaism associated Pentecost with God giving Moses the Law on Mount Sinai. The Christian celebration is common in liturgical churches with the final lighting of the Paschal candle, readings from the lectionary, and prayer (Reid et al. 1990: 881).
Pentecostal Family: A movement of churches that emerged in early 20th century America, stressing enthusiastic worship and the restoration of such practices evident in New Testament Christianity, such as speaking in tongues and healing. It is sometimes divided into "classical Pentecostalism," indicating the movement's historical bodies, and "neo-Pentecostalism," the modern movement emphasizing charismatic renewal (Reid et al. 1990: 885-886).
People of the Book (Ahl al-Kitab): In Islam, this refers to non-Muslims who possess some revelation or scripture from God. Jews and Christians make up this group, and sometimes Zoroastrians are included (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-9).
People's Temple: A controversial new religious movement that was founded by Jim Jones in the 1960s. The congregation was known for its racial diversity, emphasizing anti-racial themes along with socialist ideals. Jones became increasingly paranoid about government authorities, moving followers from California to Guyana, where he established an isolated farming community dubbed Jonestown. The group would routinely practice mass suicide rituals. This, along with heterodox religious teachings, made the People's Temple a controversial group. As growing opposition mounted against Jones in the United States, Congressman Leo Ryan visited Jonestown in 1978 and was murdered along with several members of his group. Thereafter, Jones gave members poisoned fruit punch in a mass suicide, often argued as murder. Jones and more than 900 members died on November 18, 1978 (Smith and Green 1995: 836).
Per Capita: A rate that refers to the amount of something per individual unit. It is computed by taking the number of cases with a particular characteristic and dividing it by the total number of cases. For instance, if you take the total amount of money received by a congregation and divided by the number of members, you would have "giving per capita," or the average amount of money given per person.
Personality Disorders, Religion and: A personality disorder is an extreme expression of personality traits. Many personality disorders feature high neuroticism and low extraversion, leading to emotional distress and social withdrawal. Schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, narcissism, antisocial disorder and obsessive compulsiveness are all considered personality disorders. Although studies on religion and personality disorders are not abundant, research has found that religiousness is less common among paranoid schizophrenics (Joseph and Diduca 2001), those with borderline (Maltby et al. 2000), narcissistic (Sandage et al. 2000) and antisocial personality traits (Kerley, Matthews and Blanchard 2005). However, some of results will differ by age, gender and measure of religiousness. Moreover, religiousness is more common among those with obsessive-compulsive personality traits (see Flannelly et al. 2006).
Personality, Religion and: Personality is a person’s unique characteristic way of thinking, feeling and behaving; a set of psychological characteristics that are relatively stable across different environments and time periods (Koenig et al. 2012: 272). Reviewing studies on personality, Koenig and colleagues (2012) have found that religion tends to be negatively associated with psychoticism (risk taking/lack of responsibility), positively associated with conscientiousness and agreeableness, negatively associated with hostility, and positively associated with guilt-proneness as well as authoritarianism. Most of the outcomes are viewed as positive personality characteristics, but the links between guilt-proneness and authoritarianism suggest that the effect of religion on personality may have some negative outcomes. It’s also possible that personality affects religious orientation, not the other way around, but causality is difficult to infer due to the lack of longitudinal studies in this area of research.
Physical Health, Religion and: Physical health is broad category of health pertaining to the physical body. Research often focuses on heart disease, hypertension, cerebrovascular disease, dementia, immune functioning, endocrine functioning, cancer and mortality, among other things. In the area of religion/spirituality, studies have found that religiousness/spirituality is inversely related to cardiac problems (Chen and Contrada 2007; Contrada et al. 2004), high blood pressure/hypertension (Al-Kandari 2003; Gillum and Ingram 2006), cancer (Oman et al. 2002), while religiousness was positively related to immune functioning (Lutgendorf et al. 2004) and endocrine functioning (Ironson et al. 2002). Findings were more mixed in the areas of cerebrovascular disease and dementia (see Koenig et al. 2012). Positive coping, beneficial health practices and support from religious communities may all play a role in explaining the results (see Coping Theory; Health Behaviors, Religion and).
Pluralism: The existence or toleration of diverse religious groups in a society. For example, America is a religiously pluralistic country because it has many different denominations and religions. Some consider this to be a distinctly modern phenomenon. Social scientists have debated whether this is a problem or opportunity in modern religion (Smith and Green 1995: 848).
Plymouth Plantation: Plymouth Plantation was a North American colony settled in 1620 by English Separatists, later known as Pilgrims, who desired to practice their own religion freely. For more information on Plymouth Plantation, click here.
Political Islam: See Islamism.
Political Opportunity: Political opportunity theory suggests that changes in the political opportunity structure are a major factor in determining which social movements are viable and successful. These changes could include, for example, a transition in government leaders that makes a political structure more vulnerable to the effects of protest or the rise of a legislature that is sympathetic to a movement’s cause. In the study of religious organizations, political opportunity may be useful in understanding which religious groups and movements may emerge from a particular political environment and which environments are most conducive to these organizations’ success.
Polytheism: The belief in many gods (Prothero 2008: 264).
Pope: The appointed leader of the Roman Catholic Church (Smith and Green 1995: 849).
Pope John XXIII (1881-1963): Pope John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council, one of the most significant events in the modern Catholic Church. Though he died two years before its conclusion, the historic council would become his lasting legacy for its momentous moves toward openness and ecumenism in the Roman Catholic Church. Pope John XXIII was canonized a saint in 2014. For more information on Pope John XXIII, click here.
Pope Paul VI (1897-1978): Pope Paul VI oversaw the completion of the Second Vatican Council and authored Humanae Vitae, an important, albeit controversial, document in modern Catholicism that denounced contraception. For more on Pope Paul VI, click here.
Postmillennialism: The belief that the return of Christ will take place after the millennium, which may be a literal period of peace and prosperity or else a symbolic representation of the final triumph of the gospel. This new age will come through Christian teaching and preaching on earth. This view is often dismissed by critics as a Christian version of the secular idea of progress, but it was actually formulated by Puritan theologians (Reid et al. 1990: 919).
Pragmatic Epistemology: Whereas some theories consider religion to be the result of cognitive errors, this theory argues that religion serves the interests of the individual and thus is true for that very reason.
Prayer: Communication addressed to god or gods, and sometimes intermediaries. Prayers build confidence and affection between humans and a god or gods (Stark and Finke 2000: 280).
Prayer, Health Benefits of: Studies on the health benefits of prayer tend to be mixed, particularly in the context of intercessory prayer (praying on the behalf of others). Hodge (2007), in his meta-analysis of intercessory prayer studies, found that prayer produced with a small, but significant, association with health benefits among 7 of 17 studies, though the more rigorous studies tended to not produce significant results. In contrast, studies generally find that the person doing the praying, either for oneself or for others, tends to receive mental health benefits from it. A study by Boelens and colleagues (2009) found that prayer sessions with patients at a primary care office tended to lower their depression and anxiety while increasing optimism. However, sometimes prayer and religion is used as replacements for professional medical help, which can be dangerous for health outcomes (see Koenig et al. 2012). In sum, the person doing the praying, and how prayer is used in conjunction with medical services, matter when examining the health benefits of prayer.
Predestination: The belief that every human being, before birth, was predestined by God to either heaven or hell. This is found in Calvinist theology, also known as Reformed theology (Prothero 2008: 207).
Premillennialism (Chiliasm): The belief that at the end of the present age Christ will come back and reign on earth for one thousand years, based on passages in Isaiah 55-66 and Revelation 20:1-10. Before the advent of God's kingdom, premillennialists believe that there will be signs including preaching to all nations, earthquakes, famine, wars, a great apostasy, the Antichrist, and a period of great tribulation (Reid et al. 1990: 929).
Presbyterian-Reformed Family: The Protestant tradition based on the teachings of reformer John Calvin. The Reformed tradition consists both of Presbyterian churches as well as denominations that developed in continental Europe, such as the Dutch and the German Reformed. American Presbyterianism split over revivalism, slavery and fundamentalism, but is still one of the leading Protestant families in the United States (Prothero 2008: 265).
Presbytery: An administrative body in a Presbyterian church (Reid et al. 1990: 933).
Primary Religious Behavior: “An authentic inner experience of the divine combined with whatever efforts the individual may make to harmonize his/her life with the divine” (Clark 1958:23). This is in contrast to uninspired, or routine religious behavior (Secondary Religious Behavior), as well as religious routines accepted on the authority of someone else (Tertiary Religious Behavior).
Prophecy: A mode of communication between the divine and specific humans, known as prophets. Prophecy can be understood as a dialogue, not just a one-way message from God. In various religious traditions, prophecy often occurs at times of crises, like an imminent military threat or natural disaster (Smith and Green 1995: 861-862).
Prophet: The intermediary between the divine and the human audience, communicating with god/gods on behalf of other humans. Famous prophets in the Judeo-Christian-Islam traditions include Abraham, Moses and the Prophet Muhammad. Some other traditions, especially native religions, refer to this type of intermediary as a shaman, conjurer, spirit or medium (Smith and Green 1995: 861).
Proselytism: The practice of seeking to convert people from other religions or no religion to another faith (Melton 2009: 3).
Prosperity Gospel: See Gospel of Wealth.
Protestant Buddhism: A term coined by anthropologist Gananath Obeyesekere to describe the adoption of aspects of missionary Protestant Christianity into Buddhism to reinvigorate practices and doctrines. Henry Steele Olcott (1832-1907) was an American convert who went to colonial Sri Lanka, and encouraged Buddhist leaders to emphasize the importance of the laity and reestablish "true Buddhism" (Esposito et al. 2012: 450).
Protestant Ethic: Based on Max Weber's ([1904-05] 1996) classic argument about religion and capitalism, this concept brings together supposed characteristics of Protestantism, such as worldly asceticism, dedication to work, and the notion that economic success is evidence of grace.
Protestantism: A branch of Christianity dating back to the Reformation of the 15th century, when Reformers, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, first sought to reform the Catholic Church but increasingly left to start their own churches. Most Protestant churches share a belief in the priesthood of all believers, whereas Catholic Churches have a hierarchal model that clearly separates the priesthood (clergy) from the members (laity). Also, Protestants emphasize the sole authority of the Bible (sola scriptura), whereas Catholics see church tradition along with the Bible as authorities for faith and practice (Reid et al. 1990: 949).
Pseudepigrapha: A collection of Jewish and Christian books written from the third century BCE to the sixth century CE. These works include rewritten portions of the Hebrew Bible, resemble biblical texts, and books attributed to figures in the Hebrew Bible. The term "pseudepigrapha" literally means "writings with false attributions," for they are not regarded as authentic, and therefore not authoritative. However, some parts of the pseudepigrapha are included in the Ethiopian Christian Old Testament (Smith and Green 1995: 55).
Psychology of Religion: According to Hood and colleagues (2009), the psychology of religion seeks to comprehend the many ways in which a person’s faith operates in his or her particular world. It focuses primarily on the individual, as opposed to the sociology or anthropology of religion, which examine religion in society and culture. The earliest works in the psychology of religion include Edwin Starbuck’s (1899) Psychology of Religion and William James’s (1902) The Varieties of Religious Experience.
Purgatory: The place, state or condition of departed Christian souls in which they undergo purifying suffering before entering heaven. This belief is evident in Roman Catholicism (Reid et al. 1990: 964).
Purim: A Jewish holiday commemorating the events in the book of Esther, where Queen Esther saved the Jews of the Persian Empire from the designs of the villainous Haman. On this day, the scroll of Esther is read publicly in Jewish synagogues. Some Jews wear costumes on this day and send food to one another (Hinnells 1991: 35).
Qiyas: A legal term in Islam that refers to analogical reasoning. This form of deduction often is used in order to understand whether something is forbidden, even if not explicitly stated in any Islamic scriptures (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-9).
Quakers (Friends): A seventeenth century Christian movement that originally arose in England, led by George Fox. They emphasize the belief in the "inner light," where God's revelation is not limited to the Bible but continues in the daily contact between the believer and God. Because of this, they have no clergy, and their worship service consists of members waiting in silence until the Holy Spirit moves them. They also are known for their social-activism (Melton 2009: 440).
QuickLists: Using the best available data, the QuickLists Rankings section of the ARDA provides data on American religion in rank order. For example, if one wants a list of states with the most Evangelical Protestants, this list provides that information. For more information on QuickLists Rankings, click here!
QuickStats: The QuickStats section of the ARDA allows users to browse dozens of topics covered by major national surveys. Survey responses, pie charts, and time series charts present a variety of religious attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs among individuals as well as congregations. Click here to explore the ARDA's QuickStats!
Quran (Qur'an): See Koran
R/S: Shorthand for religion/spirituality. R/S is referenced often in the context of health studies and highlights how the terms religion and spirituality often are used interchangeably in this subfield (Koenig, King and Carson 2012), even though spirituality is considered a broad, less clear term relative to religion (for definitions, see Spirituality; Religion).
Racial/Ethnic Composition, Measures of: This refers to measures that assess the makeup of religious groups with reference to the race or ethnicity of members. Examples of these measures are found in the National Congregations Study, Cumulative Dataset (1998 and 2006-2007), available in the ARDA’s Data Archive. See Dougherty and Huyser (2008) for detail on the construction of an “entropy index” of racial composition.
Ramadan: The Islamic month of daytime fasting, and one of the
Rational Choice Theory: Rational choice theory, in the area of economics, emphasizes that human choices are based upon efforts to maximize rewards and limit costs. In the context of religion, rational choice theory suggests that humans engage in religious behaviors, like exchanges with god/gods through prayers, in order to maximize rewards (e.g., entry into heaven, meaning in life, etc.; see Stark and Finke 2000). Religious conversion may be understood as a rational choice if the individual has less social attachment to his or her current religious group and sees potential rewards in joining a new religious group. The actions of congregations and clergy may also be understood as rational responses to the opportunities and constraints they face in the broader religious market (Iannacconne 1995).
Rauschenbusch, Walter (1861-1918): Walter Rauschenbusch was the main founding theologian of the Social Gospel movement, a loose coalition of social reformers and theologians who believed that Christianity would eradicate all societal evils some day. His most famous works are Christianity and the Social Crisis (1907) and A Theology for the Social Gospel (1917). For more information on Walter Rauschenbusch, click here.
Reaffiliation: The process by which people shift from one religious group to another within their religious tradition. For example, one goes from a Baptist church to a Methodist Church. Reaffiliation is synonymous with religious switching. This is in contrast with conversion, which is understood as a shift across religious traditions, like converting to Christianity from Judaism (Stark and Finke 2000: 114).
Reconstructionism, Christian: A fundamentalist Christian movement that started in the 1960s with the intent of reconstructing society based upon Old Testament law. Reconstructionists argue that Old Testament law still applies today, and that Christians should oversee all aspects of society. Reconstructionists also are postmillennial in their eschatology, believing the world is now in the millennial age (Reid et al. 1990: 977).
Reconstructionism, Judaism: A modern movement of Judaism in North America, and to some extent, in Israel. American theologian and Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan (1881-1983) is considered the founder of the movement and provided the formal name "Reconstructionism" for the movement. Influenced by French sociologist Emile Durkheim and American psychologist John Dewey, Kaplan believed that Judaism was an ever-changing institution, and that its main function is to provide social solidarity and desire for moral perfection. Kaplan's rejection of Israel being "supernaturally" chosen made him a controversial figure in Judaism (Smith and Green 1995: 881).
Reductionism: An attempt at an explanation, often reducing complex phenomena to simpler, more fundamental phenomena (Hood, Hill, and Spilka 2009:23). Although somewhat helpful, reductionism may lead to narrow interpretations. For example, Sigmund Freud (1989) reduced religion to an infantile projection of one’s parental figure, a perhaps oversimplified explanation of religion.
Reform Judaism: A form of Judaism that arose in Europe and the United States in the 19th century as a Jewish response to modernity. It is considered a liberal movement within Judaism. It proposes that Jewish Law provides general guidelines for Jewish observance and does not require strict adherence like in Orthodox Judaism (Lindner 2010: 225).
Reincarnation: The belief that souls take up new bodies as part of an ongoing cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth (see samsara). This belief is common in Hinduism. In Buddhism, they affirm the belief in reincarnation, but contend that one's consciousness is reborn, not the soul, for they deny the existence of the eternal soul. Although this belief is common in Eastern religions, nearly one-fourth of American Christians believe in reincarnation (Prothero 2008: 272-273). To find information on survey questions related to reincarnation, click here.
Relative Deprivation: This refers to a situation in which one person lacks what referent others have, especially if this leads to frustration and a sense of injustice. This is a classic explanation for the sociodemographic composition of church-sect dimensions, suggesting that sects compensate people psychologically for relative deprivation. This compensation often comes in the form of ideological exclusivity, group strictness to maintain exclusivity and religious experiences (Bainbridge 1997).
Religion: Religion consists of very general explanations of existence, including the terms of exchange with a god or gods (Stark and Finke 2000: 91).
Religion, Economics of: An interdisciplinary field that examines the relationship between religion and economics. It traces back to Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, in which he argued that religious competition improves the quality of religious services, whereas government regulation reduces the quality of religion and promotes conflict. (Smith 1776: 788–814). Max Weber also had an influence in the field when he argued that Protestantism and its belief systems gave rise to capitalism in the United States (Weber [1904-05] 1996). As a modern field, rational choice and religious market theory tend to dominate the area of economics and religion (McCleary 2011). The economics of religion is divided into two main subfields (Iannaccone and Berman 2018): economic theories of religion (Smith 1776) and religion’s economic consequences (Kuran 2009; Weber [1904-05 1996). There’s a related area of interest known as “religious economics” that focuses on religious assessments of economic policy (see Iannaccone and Berman 2018), but some view it as too religion-specific and detached from mainstream economic research to be considered a part of the economics of religion field (see Iannaccone 1998; Kuran 1994).
Religiosity: The degree to which a person is religious or spiritual. Sociologists usually consider a number of factors, such as church attendance, belief in God, prayer frequency, and professed importance of religion to assess a person's level of religiosity (Johnstone 2006: 102-103).
Religious Affiliation: This refers to an individual's self-identified religious tradition (e.g., Evangelical Protestant, Mainline Protestant, etc.) or denomination (e.g., Baptist, Methodist, etc.).
Religious Behavior: The type and amount of religious actions an individual exhibits. Closely tied to the concept of religiosity, religious behavior focuses upon what individuals are doing in relation to religion specifically. The most commonly used measure of religious behavior in survey research is religious service attendance.
Religious Capital: The degree of mastery and attachment to a particular religious culture. For example, one might learn when or when not to say "Amen" during a sermon, or learn certain passages of scripture in order to accumulate religious capital. The greater their religious capital, the less likely people are to either reaffiliate or to convert (see Stark and Finke 2000: 120).
Religious Compensator: A religious compensator promotes the belief in a future reward and/or justice. According to Iannaccone and Bainbridge (2009:466), "A distinctive feature of religious organizations is that they promise attainment of rewards, such as eternal life in Heaven, that cannot be delivered in the here and now" (2009:466).
Religious Competition: From an economic perspective of religion, religious competition, as defined by multiple religious entities competing for religious adherents in society, produces higher quality religious products and vitality, whereas religious monopolies produce low quality religious products, as well as conflict. This concept derives from Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776), where Smith argued for the absence of state religion and the promotion of religious plurality (see McCleary 2011). Some have argued that religious vitality in the United States is a result of religious competition, whereas countries without religious diversity often lack religious vitality and adherence (see Fox and Tabory 2008; Stark and Finke 2000).
Religious Consumer: Using a religious economies perspective, a religious consumer is a religiously active individual seeking religious goods, often from religious organizations (Iannaccone and Bainbridge 2009). A religious consumer often weighs the benefits and costs of their religious investment.
Religious Coping: See Coping Theory.
Religious Doubts: Doubting or questioning one's religion can take many forms, and religious doubts have been linked to adverse effects on mental health and well-being (Galek et al. 2007), though when framed as a change process, religious doubts can lead to psychological growth (see religious quest).
Religious Dweller: According to sociologist of religion Robert Wuthnow (1998), a religious dweller is someone who finds comfort in a religion that is comprehensive and comprehensible. He or she likes to live by the “rules of house.” This is in contrast to “spiritual seekers,” who are comfortable wrestling with more complex meanings of spirituality.
Religious Economies: A sociological term used to denote a distinct subsystem encompassing the religious activity of a society. It focuses on a "market" of current and potential adherents, organizations seeking to attract and maintain adherents, and the religious culture offered by the organizations. Within all religious economies, there are relatively stable market niches that appeal to the religious preferences of potential adherents (Stark and Finke 2000: 193-195).
Religious Experience: An experience that is believed to have religious significance. The term usually refers to experiences of the divine through either God or sacred objects. Theologians often debate whether reports of religious experiences function as universal phenomena. A famous example of a religious experience is when the apostle Paul reported witnessing Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, even though Jesus was no longer on earth at the time (Smith and Green 1995: 918).
Religious Experience Episodes Measure (REEM): The Religious Experience Episodes Measure (REEM) was developed by Hood (1970) in order to operationalize the measurement of mystical experiences. Using 15 experiences from James’s (1988) The Varieties of Religious Experience, Hood had respondents rate on a five-point scale the degree to which the respondent experienced each listed event. One common criticism of the REEM is that it is not particularly theory-driven, but Hood’s (1975) later-developed mysticism scale helped remedy the theoretical limitations of the REEM (see Mysticism Scale).
Religious Experience, Measures of: These survey items reveal whether respondents have had certain religious experiences. These religious experiences may be a religious conversion or a religious vision/dream. Examples of these measures are found in the 2006 General Social Survey, 2006 Portraits of American Life Study and the 2005 Baylor Religion Survey, all of which are available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Religious Extremism: Religious groups that tend to be strict, demanding of their members, small, high-cost, suspicious of other groups, and critical of secular society. Extremist groups expect members to conform to the values and accepted behaviors of the group or risk penalties, including expulsion (Iannaccone and Berman 2006). Despite the high demands, extremist groups tend to have stronger social ties and group identification, as the high demands tend to scare away weaker members and reinforce unique social identities (Iannaccone 1992; Stark and Finke 2000). Religious extremist groups are sometimes referred to as “sects.”
Religious Family: A way to classify religious groups based on religious ancestry or heritage. It is a broader category than religious denomination, but more specific than a religious tradition. Some common religious families include: Adventist, Lutheran, Holiness, etc. The ARDA provides religious family trees to illustrate the history of schisms and mergers within each religious family.
Religious Favoritism: Subsidies, privileges, support or favorable sanctions provided by the state to a select religion or a small group of religions. Research shows that religious favoritism can be used to reduce religious freedoms and to control religious groups. Religious favoritism is also associated with higher rates of violent religious persecution (Grim and Finke 2011: 207).
Religious Finance: The ways in which religious organizations fund themselves. Although understudied in the economics of religion, Iannaccone and Bose (2011) have argued the following with regard to religions, the environment in which they operate, and the manner in which they finance themselves: 1) “Public” funding (from the state) will drive out other forms of funding when the organization maintains a close relationship with the state; 2) “Private” religions depend heavily on fees for service while “collective” religions emphasize contributions; 3) Proselytizing religions will subsidize their services, especially to newcomers; and 4) Increased religious competition will lower prices.
Religious Freedom: The absence of government discrimination, restrictions, regulations and societal pressures on religious individuals or groups. This allows for individuals to change religions, or propagate their message within society with the intent of winning new adherents. Research shows that religious freedoms produce less violent religious persecution, less conflicts, and better overall outcomes for society (Grim and Finke 2011: xiii).
Religious Group: 1) Typically a subgroup of a larger world religion that is defined by a common religious doctrine, identity and/or value-system. 2) When used by the ARDA, a religious group is an alternative way to describe a religious denomination without the connotations linked to Protestant Christianity or a centralized/established religious organization.
Religious Identity: This refers to how survey respondents place themselves within a certain religious category, like whether the respondent considers himself/herself an Evangelical Protestant. This is in contrast to survey researchers categorizing the respondent based on beliefs (theological conservative) or denomination.
Religious Intermarriage, Measure of: This survey item examines what religion, if any, their spouse ascribes to. This variable allows researchers to investigate how religious capital affects spouse choice, as well as how network religious preferences affect individuals. This variable also potentially allows researchers to approximate which religious traditions are more exclusive with regard to endogamy. Examples of this measure are found in the 2006 General Social Survey and the 2005 Baylor Religion Survey, both of which are available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Religious Investor: One who gives their church time and money in hopes of some reward (Iannaccone and Bainbridge 2009).
Religious Markets: Using a religious economies perspective, religious markets describe the three main economic roles that people play in religion: consumer, producer, and investor (Iannaccone and Bainbridge 2009). In religious markets, religious producers (i.e., religious organizations) compete over consumers (i.e., adherents).
Religious Memes: The term “meme” was coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (1976) to name the equivalent of a gene in the inheritance and evolution of culture, and “religious meme” refers to a cultural element that combines with others to determine the character of a particular religious phenomenon.
Religious Monopoly: The complete domination of one religion in society, often exhibited through “state religions.” According to Adam Smith (1776: 788–814), religious monopolies face a lack of competition that generates a low quality product, thus reducing religious vitality in society. Iannaccone (1991) tested Smith’s proposition with modern data and found that within predominantly Protestant countries, church attendance declines sharply as the religious market becomes more concentrated. The high level of religiosity in the United States relative to other developed countries has been attributed to a lack of a religious monopoly (see Stark and Finke 2000).
Religious Organizations: Social enterprises whose primary purpose is to create, maintain and supply religion to a set of individuals. They support and supervise exchanges with a god or gods. Religious organizations are able to demand extended and exclusive commitments to the extent that they offer otherworldly rewards (Stark and Finke 2000: 279).
Religious Orientation: The motivation for the expression of religiosity. A religious orientation perspective is sometimes used in the psychology of religion.
Religious Persecution, Violent: The physical abuse or displacement of people because of their particular religion (Grim and Finke 2011: xii).
Religious Preference: This refers to an "individual's evaluations of competing religious goods" (Sherkat 1997:69). Religious preference as a concept is used to explain why individuals participate in different religions or choose varying styles of religion.
Religious Problem-Solving: Religion conceptualized as a way of responding to life's problems, in contrast, for example, to political or psychotherapeutic responses.
Religious Quest: An orientation toward religion that emphasizes “questing.” Batson (1976) initially operationalized the concept as a nine-item measurement scale, which was later revised into a 12-item scale of Quest orientation that incorporates three aspects: 1) the ability to address existential questions without reducing their complexity; 2) perceiving religious doubt as positive; and 3) openness to changes in religious beliefs (Batson and Schoenrade 1991). People who are high in Quest orientation are aware of and at peace with the fact that they do not and probably never will know the truth about religious matters.
Religious Regulation: The legal and social restrictions that inhibit the practice, profession, or selection of religion. Societies with high religious regulation produce less religious pluralism (Stark and Finke 2000: 198).
Religious Salience, Measure of: This survey item measures how religious a respondent considers him/herself to be. Examples of this measure are found in the 2008 General Social Survey, which is available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Religious Seeker: The state of a person who is unsatisfied with her currently available religious affiliation and is carrying out exchanges in search of a more satisfying affiliation, belief system, or practice.
Religious Social Network: This refers to the religious affiliation and ideological composition of people within one's social network.
Religious Strictness, Measures of: These survey items measure how “strict” a religious group’s rules and expectations are for adherents. This can be measured by how many behavioral restrictions are placed on members. Relevant items are present in the National Congregations Study, Cumulative Dataset (1998 and 2006-2007), available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Religious Substitution: Religious substitution postulates that religious attendance and religious donations operate as substitutes for one another -- a trade off between time and money. This derives from the work of Azzi and Ehrenberg (1975) and has been supported by different research studies (see Iannaccone 1990). Substitution is present in different methods of religious organization and worship across different socio-economic strata. For example, high-income congregations tend to hold shorter services, make heavy use of professional staff and inhabit more elaborate facilities, whereas poor congregations tend to have longer services, volunteer workers, and rented meeting halls (Iannaccone and Berman 2018).
Religious Switching: This concept refers to shifts in religious affiliations within religious traditions (e.g., Baptist to Methodist). This term is synonymous with reaffiliation. The concept of religious switching is commonly conflated with the concept of religious conversion, which deals with shifts from one religious tradition to another (e.g., Christianity to Judaism).
Religious Tolerance, Measures of: Survey measures of a respondent’s level of acceptance or condemnation of contact with those from a different religious of ideological persuasion. These can be measured by asking about different contexts or scenarios. These survey items are present in the 2008 General Social Survey, 2005 World Values Survey and the 2005 Baylor Religion Survey, all of which are available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Religious Tradition (RELTRAD): A way to measure religious affiliation. Developed by Steensland and colleagues (2000), it divides religious traditions into Black Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, Jewish, Mainline Protestant, no religion, and "other" religion based on both doctrine and historical changes in religious groups. The ARDA uses this general scheme for our U.S. Congregational Membership Reports.
Religious/Spiritual Struggles: Used as an official clinical designation, issues are “religious” if they entail problems and conflicts with religious institutions, or “spiritual” if they entail individualized problems with religious belief, practice, or affect (Lukoff, Lu and Turner 1998).
Renewal Group: A group or movement within or on the periphery of a denomination attempting to reform or change its teachings and practices in a desired direction. Usually this means change back to "traditional" beliefs and/or practices (Reid et al. 1990: 1002-1003).
Rerum Novarum: Rerum Novarum, an 1891 encyclical by Pope Leo XIII on protecting the working class, is a foundational text in modern Catholic social thought. The encyclical decried the poverty condition of the working class as well as the dangers of runaway profiteering. For more information on Rerum Novarum, click here.
Resource Mobilization: According to resource mobilization theory, the acquisition of and access to resources is crucial for social movement organization vitality. These resources are most commonly financial but also can include less tangible resources, such as expertise, time and social networks. Given the often close (and, at times, indistinguishable) relationships between religious groups and social movement groups, this resource mobilization can be used to more broadly understand the successes and failures of religious social movements. Furthermore, this concept may be useful in understanding the professionalization trends within religious organizations, including congregations and parachurch organizations, which may transition from being grassroots to professional groups.
Restorationist Family: Churches that broke away from established American denominations during the 19th century to restore what they understood as true New Testament Christianity, stressing strict adherence to the Bible rather than to creeds. Restorationist churches include the Churches of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (Melton 2009: 478-479).
Resurrection: The belief that the dead will rise on some day in the future for final judgment. This is closely associated with the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic belief that a person is a combination of body and soul. Belief in a resurrection came late in the Jewish tradition, in 2 Maccabees, and was later adopted by Christians. Sometimes, when Christians refer to the "resurrection," they are referring to the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after his crucifixion (Prothero 2008: 274).
Revival, Religious: This refers to staged episodes of increased religious emotion and group celebration, often to reclaim "sliding" religious commitment or moral values. Revivals are typically organized by established religious groups, and employ a variety of methods designed to arouse religious fervor. For examples of revivals, see the First Great Awakening, the Second Great Awakening, Cane Ridge camp meeting, and Charles Finney's Rochester Revival.
Revivalist: An individual who is engaged in religious revivals. See religious revivals.
Rite: Any repetitive ceremonial activity with fixed rules. It also may be any particular ritual ceremony (e.g., Baptism) (McBrien 1995:1118).
Ritualism: Strict and frequent performance of the public rites of religious observance, even in the absence of fervent belief.
Rituals, Religious: Collective ceremonies having a common focus and mood in which the common focus is on a god or gods, while the common mood may vary (Stark and Finke 2000: 107).
Russell, Charles Taze (1852-1916): Charles Taze Russell sparked the religious group later known as the Jehovah's Witnesses. He wrote a series of Bible study books called Studies in Scripture, which, although popular, attracted criticism from evangelical Christians for his denial of hell, the immortal soul, the deity of Jesus, and his insistence that God was One, not a Trinity. His ideas and early religious movement would later influence the development of Jehovah's Witnesses. For more information on Charles Taze Russell, click here.
Ryan, John (1869-1945): John A. Ryan was a Catholic priest and moral theologian who fought for economic justice. He helped inspire and support Roosevelt's New Deal Programs. For more information on John Ryan, click here.
Sabbatarianism: The rigid and scrupulous observance of the Sabbath as a divinely ordained day of rest. This view contends that people should abstain from all activity on the Sabbath, except for what is necessary for the benefit of society and is based on a strict understanding of Old Testament law (Reid et al. 1990: 1036). Sabbatarianism also is often associated with Christian groups that believe the Sabbath should be observed on Saturday rather than Sunday, like the Seventh-day Adventist Church
Sabbath: The last day of the week, considered the day of rest by Jews according to the Book of Genesis. On this day, God rested after creating the universe, and therefore observers are forbidden from working. Over time, the Sabbath became known as a day of worship. Jews and Seventh-day Adventists observe the Sabbath on Saturday, while many Christians observe it on Sunday (Prothero 2008: 275).
Sacralization: The process through which there is little differentiation between religious and secular institutions, and the primary aspects of life, from family to politics, are suffused with religious symbols, rhetoric and rituals (Stark and Finke 2000: 199).
Sacrament: A term for a sacred rite or "holy act" of great significance. Catholics affirm seven sacraments: baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, Anointing of the Sick, ordination and matrimony. Eastern Orthodox Christians also have sacraments, but believe that there are other "holy acts" besides those practiced by Catholics. Protestants generally only recognize the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, with Baptists viewing these as ordinances, performed because Jesus ordained their use, rather than as a means of grace (Reid et al. 1990: 1037).
Sacred: Things set apart or forbidden, according to the sociologist Emile Durkheim. This is contrasted with the "profane," or mundane aspects of life. Critics claim that this definition is fairly vague, and not too useful in understanding religion (Stark and Finke 2000: 89).
Saint: A category of holy person. In Christianity, it can mean at least one of the following: a holy person who is venerated in life and after death, a term to designate a member of the Christian community, or a person who is publicly venerated in the liturgy as an intercessor in heaven. In Islam, it is used in the Koran to designate a "friend of God," and a person who mediates on behalf of adherents (Smith and Green 1995: 953).
Salem Witch Trials: During the Salem Witch Trials (1692-1693), citizens accused one another of witchcraft, leading to mass hysteria and the imprisonment/death of approximately 170 community members in Salem, Massachusetts. For more detailed information on the Salem Witch Trials, click here.
Salvation: The belief that humans require deliverance due to the problem of sin. For Christians, the death and resurrection of Jesus allows individuals to be forgiven of sin, and therefore saved. Salvation also is often associated with receiving admission into heaven (Smith and Green 1995: 954).
Samsara: The never-ending cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth due to karma, the ethical law of cause and effect. This doctrine is found in the eastern religions of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism (Prothero 2008: 244).
Sanctification: The process of making something holy; set apart. Studies in the area of family and religion have found that family members that view their family relationships as “sanctified” or sacred tend to have better family outcomes (see Mahoney et al 2003). For example, spouses who view their marriage as a sacred covenant tend to be happier and more devoted to their marriage (Mahoney 2010).
Satan: A malevolent figure in the Abrahamic religions, which include Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Satan often is interpreted as an angelic being in the Hebrew scriptures. In the New Testament, Satan is the enemy of God who challenges Jesus in the desert. In Islam, Satan is identified with Iblis, chief of the legion of devils who leads humanity astray. It is important to note that the portrayal of Satan as a horned being with cloven hoofs and a tail appears in the Middle Ages, ascribed by the European populace to ancient fertility spirits, such as the Greek god Pan (Smith and Green 1995: 962).
Satanism: The worship of Satan or the devil. Satanism should not be confused with Neopaganism or with occultism because Satanists in some sense honor the biblical interpretation of Satan, but choose to venerate him instead of vilify him. Modern Satanism emerged from the late medieval and early modern period due to rising spiritual tension and atmosphere of witch hysteria. Satanism garnered much attention in the mid-20th century with the much-publicized Church of Satan and the Manson family (Smith and Green 1995: 963).
Scapular: A garment typically worn by monks. The narrow cloak has an opening for the head that hangs in front and in back of the body (McBrien 1995:1165-1166).
Schaeffer, Francis (1912-1984): Francis Schaeffer was a famous evangelical apologist, famous for denouncing the spread of relativism in modern society in his book How Should We Then Live? (1976) . For more information on Francis Schaeffer, click here.
Schism: A division or split within a religious group. Although a congregation can undergo a schism, the term usually refers to a split within a denomination (Smith and Green 1995: 964). For example, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America split off from the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in 1874. See the "US Religious Groups" section to explore denominational histories, including schisms.
Scientology: A new religious movement, founded in 1953 by science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard. Scientologists believe that suffering is caused by ingrained records of past experiences ("engrams"). Scientologists aim to remove these "engrams" and become "Clears." Famous Scientologists include John Travolta and Tom Cruise (Prothero 2008: 276).
Scofield Reference Bible: The Scofield Reference Bible, developed by C.I. Scofield and published in 1909, popularized premillennial dispensationalism, a theological development suggesting that the world would inevitably spiral downward into sin and decay prior to the return of Christ. The book was a tremendous success, selling more than two million copies by the end of World War II. For more information on the Scofield Reference Bible, click here.
Scopes Trial: A 1925 court case in Dayton, Tennessee, in which science teacher John Scopes was accused of violating state law by teaching Darwinian evolution instead of a creationist account. The court found John Scopes guilty, but the ruling was overturned due to a small technicality (Prothero 2008: 214). For more information on the Scopes trial, click here.
Scriptures: A term often used to denote sacred writings of different religions. Commonly, the authority of the scriptures is believed to come from God (e.g., Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), and sometimes it is believed to come from a legendary person (e.g., Confucianism and Buddhism). Popular scriptures include the Christian Bible, the Torah, the Koran, and the Vedas (Hinnells 1984: 289).
Second Coming: The belief that Jesus will return to earth to judge the world at the end of time (Prothero 2008: 277).
Second Great Awakening (1790s-1840s): The Second Great Awakening(s) (1790s-1840s) fueled the rise of an evangelical Protestant majority in antebellum America, giving rise to new denominations and social reform organizations. The Cane Ridge camp meeting of 1801, led by Barton Stone, is considered the largest and most famous religious revival of the Second Great Awakening. For more information on the Second Great Awakening, click here.
Secondary Religious Behavior: Religious behavior that is routine, uninspired and carried out due to obligation (Clark 1958: 24). This is in contrast to sincere, truly inspired religious behavior (Primary Religious Behavior) or routine religious behavior on the authority of someone else (Tertiary Religious Behavior).
Sect: 1) A religious group that separates from a larger religious movement or tradition. 2) Sociologists also refer to sects as religious groups making high demands on their members and holding a high level of tension with the rest of society (Stark and Finke 2000: 144).
Sectarianism: Strong attachment to a specific sect or religious extremist group. Sects are groups that separate from larger religion traditions (see Sects), and they often are in a high state of tension with the surrounding society. They also often demand strong loyalty from members and enforce suspicion of outside groups. Although most sects are not violent, the strong commitment from members and tension with surrounding society give sects the capacity to mobilize action, even violent actions. Because of this, sectarianism has a negative connotation (see Collins Dictionary).
Secular: Someone or something not identified as religious or spiritual (Esposito et al. 2012b: 27).
Secular Humanism: The lack of connection, or desire to connect to the transcendent, the sacred, God or the supernatural (Koenig et al. 2012: 47). It is a philosophy that involves beliefs, behavior and relationships valued by their own intrinsic merit. In this way, humans are believed to be capable of good without the need to believe in God or the divine. Secular humanists often are categorized, along with atheists and agnostics, as “non-religious” given they do not see the need for religion in instilling morality in society.
Secularization: 1) The process of a group or individual discarding religious beliefs and practices. 2) Sociologists also refer to a society being secularized when religion loses its public presence. 3) A theory about the eventual decline of religion due to modernity (i.e. science, economic development, pluralism, etc.), which is debated among social scientists (Reid et al. 1990: 1069-1070).
Self-Injury, Religious: Injury to oneself on religious grounds, often through a literal interpretation of religious scripture. For example, a number of published case reports document self-injury based on the literal interpretation of Matthew 5:29-30, which says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.” Self-flagellation is common among ascetic practices, as Shi’a Muslims annually engage in self-injury at the Mourning of Muharram. However, other forms of serious religious self-injury are the result of mental illness (Koenig et al. 2012: 67).
Sense of Mastery: Closely related to the idea of “locus of control,” this concept assesses the degree to which individuals feel they have control over their own lives. Studies of religion often investigate this in relation to how much “control” individuals feel that the divine has over their lives.
Sephardic Jews: Jews whose traditions originated in Spain and Portugal (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-4).
September 11th (9/11): On September 11, 2001 ("9/11"), al-Qaeda terrorists crashed two planes into the Twin Towers and one into the Pentagon. More than 3,000 people died. The event was the catalyst for two wars, one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, and deepened anti-Muslim sentiments in America, even though al-Qaeda espoused a form of militant Islamism not approved by the majority of Muslims in the world. For more information on 9/11, click here.
Serra, Junipero (1713-1784): Junipero Serra (1713-1784) was a Spanish Franciscan priest who strengthened Spanish control of California and helped spread Catholicism to the New World. His relationship with the native population, however, was complex and remains widely debated. For more information on Junipero Serra, click here.
Seven Deadly Sins: In Roman Catholicism, it refers to the seven most serious human failings: pride, envy, greed, anger, sloth, lust and gluttony. Some date the list back to Pope Gregory the Great in the sixth century CE (Prothero 2008: 189).
Seventh-day Adventist Church: An evangelical sabbatarian church founded in the mid nineteenth century. It grew from the work of William Miller, who had predicted the Second Coming of Christ in 1844. The church continued to grow under Ellen White and James Springer White. Besides advocating a Saturday Sabbath, the church also teaches the infallibility of the Bible, the Trinity, creation out of nothing, baptism by immersion, and salvation by atonement in Jesus Christ (Melton 2009: 577).
Shahada (Profession of Faith): One of the Five Pillars Of Islam. The Shahada is a profession of faith. A Muslim recites the following Islamic creed: "There is no God but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God." This is recited by new converts and during each performance of Salat (Hinnells 1991: 136).
Shaman: Intermediaries who attempt to connect this realm to another realm of existence that affects humanity. They act as ritual specialists that help foster social solidarity within the community, and protect the group from harm. This role is more common in indigenous religions (Esposito 2012b: G-3).
Sharia: The canon law of Islam that seeks to guide human activity. It is established from the Koran and the hadith. Some nations incorporate Sharia law into their governance (Smith and Green 1995: 982).
Sheen, Fulton (1895-1979): Fulton Sheen was a popular Catholic leader, who appeared on popular radio programs ("Catholic Hour") and television programs (Emmy-winning "Life is Worth Living"). His themes of patriotism, Christian faith, and morality strongly resonated with both Catholic and non-Catholic Americans alike. For more information on Fulton Sheen, click here.
Shema: The declaration of monotheistic faith in Judaism. This central prayer, which begins, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One," often is recited in temple services (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-5).
Shi'ite Islam: A branch of Islam that split from Sunni Islam when the fourth caliph, Ali, was assassinated in 661 CE. The Shi'is viewed Ali as the First Caliph, rather than the Fourth, and traced the line of true Caliphs through Ali's family. Shi'ite Muslims make up 10 percent of the one billion Muslims in the world (Mead et al. 2005: 341).
Shinto: The indigenous religion of Japan, also known as the "way of the gods." Its polytheistic "kami" were, by and large, essentially the patronal deities of the uji, or clans, of ancient Japan. Since Shinto holds to a strong sense of purity, its shrines are often located outside human communities, away from possible pollutions. It was not considered a distinct religion until the advent of Buddhism in the sixth century CE. Most Japanese maintain a relationship to both Shinto and Buddhism (Melton 2009: 1052).
Shramana: Wandering ascetics that existed at the time of Buddha. It was his experience with seeing a shramana that led the Buddha to leave his palace and search for deeper meaning in life (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-14).
Shrine: A sacred place usually commemorating a holy person or a holy event. Shrines typically house relics and sometimes are constructed over tombs. The Kaaba in Mecca functions as a shrine for Muslims (Smith and Green 1995: 992).
Sick Souls, Individual Religion of: A religious faith of pessimism, sorrow and suffering. It takes “all this experience of evil and sees it as essential” (James 1988: 34).
Siddhartha Gautama: Also known as Gautama Buddha, he is the founder of Buddhism. He was born around 563 BCE to an aristocratic family in an area near the Himalayan foothills. He decided to leave his palace after seeing a sick man, an old man, a dead man, and a shramana. He experimented with asceticism before finding a "middle way" (see eightfold path) between excessive indulgence and asceticism (Buddhism also is known as the "Middle Way" for this reason). Finally, he reached enlightenment under the bodhi tree, extinguishing all desire and ignorance. He taught his disciples, called arhats, about suffering and how to reach enlightenment. He died around 483 BCE (Esposito et al. 2012b: 400-402). Siddhartha often is associated with the jolly corpulent being depicted in statues in Chinese restaurants. But, it is important to note that the being in the statue is not Siddhartha, but Maitreya, a Chinese bodhisattva who many believed would be the next Buddha (Esposito et al. 2012a: 208).
Sikh: An adherent of Sikhism
Sikhism: Emerged in central India and the Punjab region of India in the 16th century and was founded by Guru Nanak. The Sikhs stress the oneness of God and follow the teachings of 10 gurus, the fifth of whom, Arjan, compiled the religion's primary sacred text, the Guru Granth Sahib (Parrinder 1973: 260).
Sin: An act against religious law. In Judaism, it is a violation of the stipulations of the covenant with God. In Orthodox Judaism, it may not be a moral violation, but perhaps a violation of dietary law. In Christianity, sin has a variety of interpretations. It can mean "missing the mark" or wandering from God's path. It also can be interpreted as rebellion against God or a disease (Smith and Green 1995: 1002-1003).
Smith, Adam (1723-1790): Adam Smith was a Scottish philosopher and pioneer of political economics. He is well known for The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), often known just as Wealth of Nations. The latter not only is considered one of the first modern works of economics, but it also laid the foundation for economic theories of religion. In Wealth of Nations, he argues that clergy, much like secular producers, are motivated by self-interest. He also highlights the ways in which market forces constrain churches just as they do secular organizations. Finally, and perhaps most noteworthy, he argued that state regulation of religion and religious monopolies were harmful to religious vitality and produced more social conflict. These ideas underlie popular economics of religion theories, including rational choice theory and religious economies theory (see Finke and Stark 1992; Stark and Finke 2000).
Smith, Joseph (1805-1844): The founder and prophet of the Church of Latter-day Saints. He lived from 1805 to 1844, and wrote the Book of Mormon (1830). The Book of Mormon consists of revelations that he received from the angel Moroni. He also wrote Doctrine and Covenants (1835) and The Pearl of Great Price (1842) (Smith and Green 1995: 1006). He was killed by a mob on June 27, 1844. For more information on Joseph Smith, click here.
Social Capital: The aggregate of the actual or potential resources linked to the possession of a durable social network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition (Bourdieu 1986). Social capital highlights the resources that come from having a rich social network. In the context of religion, studies find that nearly half of all associational memberships, personal philanthropy and volunteering in the United States are church-related, making faith communities one of the most important repositories for social capital (Putnam 2000). Social capital may also impact religious choices, for less social attachments to a religious group increase the probability of a religious conversion (Stark and Finke 2000).
Social Disorganization: A breakdown of society marked by high rates of migration and by sparse or fragmented networks of social relations. Common indicators used for social disorganization include: population turnover, density and heterogeneity (racial and/or economic), as well as crime rates, unemployment and single-parent households.
Social Distance: Positive or negative feelings an individual holds about members of another group, such as members of a different religion, expressed in terms of the common distance metaphor of feeling close to someone. A battery of social distance items can be found in Glock and Stark (1966).
Social Encapsulation: The situation when a high fraction of friendships or other social relations of members of a religious organization are with fellow members rather than outsiders (Stark and Bainbridge 1980).
Social Gospel: A theological Protestant movement that aims to apply Jesus' teachings toward ameliorating socioeconomic problems. This movement was led by Baptist theologian Walter Rauschenbusch in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Its emphasis on rectifying the problems caused by capitalism and industrialism influenced aspects of the New Deal policies (Prothero 2008: 283).
Social Network Theory: Studies of conversion, religious schisms and secularization utilize social network theory to understand the influence of community and networks on the religious life of individuals, groups and societies. In his classic study of suicide, Emile Durkheim used religion as an indicator of how well or poorly a society was socially integrated (Durkheim 1897). Other research indicates that religion actively builds social networks (Bainbridge 2006).
Social Regulation of Religion: The restrictions placed on religion by other religious groups, associations, or the culture at large (Grim and Finke 2011: 216).
Social Support, Religion and: Social support is the assistance/help that people receive from others, including positive bonds, words of encouragement, acts of service and gifts (Seeman 2008). Religious involvement often produces relationships with others in the religious community (see Putnam and Campbell 2000), which in turn increases the opportunity for social support (Merino 2014). Because social support is positively associated with beneficial health behaviors and outcomes (see Seeman 2008), and religious communities may offer social support, this might partially explain the positive relationship between religion/spirituality and health (see Koenig et al. 2012).
Sociality: Behaviors that relate organisms to one another and keep individuals identified with a group. This includes, social support, adherence to social norms, attachment to others and altruism. Faith systems help accomplish these goals, connecting individuals to one another and forming a community (Hood, Hill and Spilka 2009:19).
Socioeconomic Composition, Measure of: This measure assesses the makeup of a religious group with reference to its social class, usually in the form of income or education levels. Given that the measure is aimed at understanding group-level attributes, it is found in data sets at the congregational level or in data sets that ask individuals to estimate certain things about their congregation. Examples of these measures are found in the National Congregations Study, Cumulative Dataset (1998 and 2006-2007), available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Sociology of Religion: The study of religion as an institution, a cluster of values, norms, statuses, roles and groups developed around a basic social need. Under this framework, sociologists study religious behavior as a social phenomenon (Smith and Green 1995: 905).
Sola Scriptura: A Latin phrase translated as "by Scripture alone," used in the Protestant tradition to signify that biblical scriptures are the ultimate authority of faith and practice. This was a response to the Catholic emphasis on church traditions as an authority (Reid et al. 1990: 1111).
Soteriology: The doctrines and beliefs regarding salvation (Smith and Green 1995: 1012).
Soul: The animating force conjoined with the body in a human being. Many believe that the soul is capable of separating from the body at death and under special conditions, like dreaming (see astral projection). In some dualistic traditions, the soul is understood as divine and in opposition to the body. The belief in the soul pervades various religious traditions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam (Smith and Green 1995: 1012-1013).
Southern Christian Leadership Conference: Founded in 1957, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was monumental in the Civil Rights Movement. The organization believed that racial equality was a Christian imperative and utilized non-violent protests to combat racism. Led by Martin Luther King, Jr., SCLC members organized protests in Albany (1962), Birmingham (1963), St. Augustine (1964), and Selma (1965). For more information on the SCLC, click here.
Speaking In Tongues: The practice of speaking in unknown or foreign languages by charismatic and Pentecostal Christians. It is usually seen as a gift of the Holy Spirit first described in the New Testament book of Acts. It is also known as "glossolalia" (Reid et al. 1990: 1179-1180).
Spiritual Seeker: According to sociologist of religion Robert Wuthnow (1998: 5), a spiritual seeker is someone willing to explore “new spiritual vistas” and is comfortable wrestling with complex and confusing aspects of spirituality. This is in contrast to his concept of “religious dweller,” which is someone who finds comfort in a religion that is comprehensive and comprehensible.
Spiritual Well-Being (SWB) Scale: A scale developed by Paloutzian and Ellison (1982) to measure the relationship between spirituality and health outcomes. The scale is composed of two subscales: religious well-being (RWB) and existential well-being (EWB). RWB is measured by items of religious or spiritual orientation as well as religious or spiritual practices. EWB deals with items related to psychological well-being (e.g., “I feel that life is a positive experience,” “I feel unsettled about my future,” etc.). Although the SWB scale is associated with lower anxiety (Kaczorowski 1989), better psychosocial adjustment (Landis 1996) and less depression (Fehring, Brennen and Keller 1987), some researchers have argued that the RWB and EWB are psychometrically different constructs (Tsuang et al. 2007). Because of this, Koenig and colleagues (2012: 43) suggest that researchers model the subscales of RWB and EWB separately in order to clarify their unique contribution to the dependent variable of interest.
Spiritual, Religious, and Personal Beliefs (SRPB) Scale: As a subscale of the World Health Organization’s Quality of Life (WHOQOL) scale, the Spiritual, Religious and Personal Beliefs (SRPB) scale assesses spirituality in health studies. Studies have found that SRPB was associated with better mental and physical health (see Saxena 2006). However, five of the eight dimensions of the subscale are so closely tied with mental health (e.g., hopefulness, meaning in life, peace, etc.) that the findings become somewhat circular and unclear, according to some researchers (see Koenig et al. 2012).
Spiritualist Family: Churches and other religious associations teaching that believers can communicate with spirits and the deceased through such practices as seances and other paranormal activities (Melton 2009: 747-750). Churches in the Spiritualist tradition include the Swedenborgian Church and the International General Assembly of Spiritualists.
Spirituality: An orientation toward transcendent or supernatural realities outside any strict doctrinal framework. This primarily includes beliefs and practices that are internal and privatized.
Spirituality, Strength of: This survey item measures whether a respondent considers himself/herself spiritual. Examples of this measure are found in the 2008 General Social Survey and the 2003 National Study of Youth and Religion, both of which are available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Stable Preference, Religious: Under a rational choice framework, it is the assumption that preferences in religion remain stable over time (Iannaccone 1995). Instead of focusing on the “demand-side” of religion, like changes in religious preferences, the rational choice theorist assumes that the “supply” of religion is altering religious activity in the marketplace (for example, see Finke and Stark 1992). Some studies disagree and challenge this assumption (see Loveland 2003).
Stake: A regional association of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) congregations or wards.
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady (1815-1902): Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) was an important women's rights leader in the 19th century, who, along with Susan B. Anthony, convened the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. However, it was her controversial biblical commentary, known as The Woman's Bible (1895), that led many in the movement to disaffiliate with her. Nonetheless, The Woman's Bible helped pioneer feminist theology. For more information on Elizabeth Cady Stanton, click here.
Star of David (Magen David): A six-pointed star that is an important symbol of Judaism, similar to the importance of the symbol of the cross in Christianity. In the Middle Ages, both Jews and Christians used the Magen David as a symbol to protect against the powers of demons. It was only after the emancipation of European Jewry in the 19th century that it became centrally associated with Judaism (Smith and Green 1995: 673).
Stark Effect: Based on the work of Stark and colleagues (1982), it states that the power of religion to deter delinquency is significant when a substantial fraction of the population is religious, but absent when only a minority belong to religious organizations. Thus, there are clear geographic variations in the power of religion to deter delinquency.
State Church: An officially endorsed denomination by a government, such as the Church of England (Smith and Green 1995: 1025).
Stations of the Cross: Fourteen images that depict the Passion of Jesus in his last hours, from condemnation through his crucifixion. Stations of the Cross are found in some Roman Catholic churches and Episcopal churches. Mel Gibson fashioned his film The Passion of the Christ from the Stations of the Cross (Prothero 2008: 284).
Stigmata: The imprinted wounds on the hands and feet that resemble the wounds of Jesus Christ. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) was the first to report experiencing stigmata. The Roman Catholic Church is cautious about the validity of stigmata (Smith and Green 1995: 1026).
Strictness Theory: This theory suggests that strict religious groups will tend to retain members and foster ongoing commitment, while more lenient churches will tend to lose members and exhibit lower levels of commitment. Kelley (1972) posited three primary aspects of strictness: 1) ideological; 2) lifestyle or behavioral; 3) and policing.
Sub-Cultural Identity Theory: A theory that posits that religion survives and can thrive in pluralistic, modern society by embedding itself in subcultures that offer satisfying, morally-orienting collective identities which provide adherents with meaning and a sense of belonging.
Subjective Life Satisfaction Measures: These variables measure a respondent’s self-assessment of life satisfaction with respect to family life, job, education, etc. Subjective assessments contrast with more “objective” measures, such as quality of life metrics, social status or physical health. Examples of such items can be found in the Measurements: "Health, Satisfaction with," and "Happiness, Self-rated."
Sufism: A term used to describe a wide variety of mystical and disciplined orders found throughout the Islamic world. It is an eclectic movement that draws from Christian and Gnostic elements. There is an emphasis on ecstatic experience, the immediate knowledge of God, in contrast to secondhand knowledge from theologians (Melton 2009: 927).
Suicide, Religion and: All three large monotheistic world religions (i.e., Christianity, Islam and Judaism) prohibit suicide for emotional or personal reasons. Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Hinduism generally are opposed to suicide, although there are exceptions. For example, Hindu scripture condemns suicide for personal reasons, but in the case of terminal disease or severe disability, death through fasting may be allowed, although it needs to be conducted under community regulation (Subramuniyaswami 1992). In general, religiousness tends to be associated with lower suicide risk (Kroenig et al. 2012), although this is not uniformly true (e.g., suicide bombing).
Sunday School: An educational ministry for children and adults usually held before or after worship services in Christian churches. In Judaism, there are educational classes for children that serve a similar purpose and are sometimes called Hebrew school. The Sunday school movement migrated from England to the United States in the 1790s, although the purpose at the time was to teach working-class children how to read (Prothero 2008: 100).
Sunday, William "Billy" (1862-1935): Billy Sunday was a prominent evangelist who led revivals in the early 20th century. He passionately advocated a prohibition of alcohol and strengthened conservative Protestantism. For more information on Billy Sunday, click here.
Sunni Islam: A branch of Islam that teaches that the process of interpretation of the law was closed in the 10th century. Before that there were four legal traditions: Hanafi, Malaki, Shafi and Hanbali. Sunnis are expected to follow one of the four traditions, which is somewhat difficult for American Muslims from different schools who share the same mosque. Sunnis make up 90 percent of the one billion Muslims in the world (Mead et al. 2005: 339-340).
Supernatural: A term referring to forces or entities beyond or outside nature that can suspend, alter, or ignore physical forces (Stark and Finke 2000: 277).
Supernaturalism: The existence of mystical powers that transcend the usual technological constraints and physical limits of everyday life. An economic perspective on religion would argue that supernaturalism is a reasonable response to scarcity, insatiable desires, and otherwise unattainable rewards (Iannaccone and Berman 2006)
Superstition, Religion as: Superstition is defined as “any belief or attitude, based on fear or ignorance, that is inconsistent with the known laws of science or with what is generally considered in the particular society as true and rational” (Guralnik 1986:1430). Superstitions include walking under a ladder or avoiding the number 13. Some critics of religion view religion as just silly superstition (see Gorsuch 2002). If religion is just superstition, then the psychological processes and correlates of religiousness should be similar to measures of superstition. Instead, psychology research in general suggests that religion and superstition are two independent constructs. For example, Johnston and colleagues (1995) found separate factors for beliefs involving paranormal, superstition, extraordinary life forms and religion. Hynam (1970) found that superstition was positively correlated with a lack of clear social norms while religion was negatively related. While there may be elements of religion that inconsistent with the laws of science, like miracles, it is perhaps unwise to reduce religion to “just superstition” (Hood, Hill and Spilka 2009:25).
Supply and Demand, Religious: Supply-side and demand-side approaches to religious participation offer two competing perspectives for changing religious landscapes. The “demand-side” theories suggested that religion is in demand during times of greater stress or national trauma and perhaps will be less demanded over time due to secularization (see Bruce 2002). “Supply-side” theories, including religious economies models, suggest the supply of religion, number of religious organizations, services, and settings play an important role in religious participation. Stark and Finke (1992) argue that the unregulated religious economy in the United States historically allowed the supply of religions to match the demand for religion, which they suggest is prevalent in all societies. Olson (2011: 137) notes that it is very difficult to distinguish which of the two causal scenarios is most correct.
Supply-Side Model of Religion: Supply-side models of religion suggest that changes in religious markets impact religious participation or vitality in society. Specifically, the number of religious organizations, services, and settings play an important role in religious participation (Olson 2011). Stark and Finke (1992) argue that the unregulated religious economy in the United States historically allowed the supply of religions to match the high demand for religion. This perspective is debated by demand-side theories of religion, like secularization theory (see Supply and Demand, Religious).
Support for Religion in the Public Sphere, Measures of: Survey measures assessing the degree to which people approve or disapprove of public displays of religion. Typical topics include prayer in schools and the display of religious symbols in public. Froese and Mencken (2009) constructed a scale incorporating these different topics. Examples of these measures are found in the 2006 General Social Survey and the 2005 Baylor Religion Survey, both of which are available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Surah: The chapters in the Koran, arranged from the largest in content to the smallest. The 286 Surahs detail the revelations communicated through the Prophet Muhammad. Since they are ordered by size, and not chronologically or thematically, it can be difficult to follow without any additional commentaries. For this reason, the hadith accounts can be very useful in understanding the context of certain passages. Muslims believe that the Koran was initially preserved in oral and written form during the lifetime of the Prophet. Muslims also do not believe that Muhammad was the author, nor editor, of the Surahs because they consider the scriptures to be the eternal word of God (Esposito 2011: 9).
Synagogue: The Jewish building for public worship. Since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, the synagogue has been a central component of Jewish religious and cultural life (Smith and Green 1995: 1041).
Synod: An official meeting of ministers and other members of the Christian church. This term also can refer to an association of churches, such as the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (Smith and Green 1995: 1044).
Taliban: Islamic militants who were trained in Pakistani refugee camps during the Russo-Afghan war. The Taliban took control of Afghanistan in the mid-1990s and turned it into a theocratic state under Mullah Muhammad Omar. The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 because the state was providing shelter and protection to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda (Prothero 2008: 285).
Talmud: A text of commentary and traditions supplementing the Torah and other Old Testament writings. There are two Talmuds: the first is called the Talmud of the Land of Israel, and was completed in Israel between 400-500 CE. The second is called the Talmud of Babylonia, and was completed around 600 CE in present-day Iraq (Smith and Green 1995: 1048).
Tantra: An esoteric tradition common to both Hinduism and Buddhism (see Tantric Buddhism). It often defies caste and gender orthopraxy, and is believed to lead to nirvana faster (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-11).
Tantric (Vajrayana) Buddhism: A form of Buddhism that combines elements of the Theravadan tradition and the Mahayanan tradition based on the belief that everything is permeated by a single power (Shakti) emanating from God. It originated in India around the fifth century CE. It manifests itself in three ways: positive masculine, negative feminine, and the union of the two. Tantric Buddhism is known for its esoteric rituals, including sexual rituals (Melton 2009: 1047).
Taoism: One of the three "Great Teachings of China," along with Buddhism and Confucianism. Lao Tzu (570-490 BCE) founded Taoism, while Chuang Tzu (370-290 BCE) further advanced it in China. They viewed Confucianism as an empty set of rituals, and supported self-cultivation through naturalness and spontaneity. This is known as "philosophical Taoism," as opposed to "religious Taoism," which is a later form that emphasizes physical immortality through meditation and dietary practices (Prothero 2008: 286).
Televangelism: The use of television to teach viewers about Christianity. Well-known televangelists include Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Benny Hinn. The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) is an example of a Christian television station used for the purposes of televangelists. For how survey researchers study televangelism, click here.
Temperance: The proper control of one's desires and one of the four cardinal virtues in the Catholic tradition. It's often associated with abstaining from alcohol (see Temperance Movement) (McBrien 1995:1244).
Temperance Movement: A century-long effort, beginning in the 19th century, to denounce alcohol consumption in the United States. Many temperance organizations, like the American Temperance Society (est. 1826) and Women's Christian Temperance Union (est. 1873/1874), had explicit connections to Protestantism and Christian thought. Seven of the 16 founders of the American temperance Society were clergyman. The temperance movement slowly declined in the 1930s, as Prohibition became increasingly unpopular (Reid et al 1990).
Temple: Religious buildings for ritual activities and public worship (see also Synagogue for Jews). They are commonly known in Judaism, Mormonism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. There also existed temples in Mesopotamia, ancient Greece, and ancient Rome (Smith and Green 1995: 1059-1062).
Ten Commandments (Decalogue): Religious and moral laws given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai. This story is found in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. The Ten Commandments begin with obligations towards God and end with obligations toward one another. There are Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish variations of these statutes (Prothero 2008: 190).
Tension: A term referring to the degree of distinctiveness, separation and antagonism in the relationship between a religious group and the "outside" world (Stark and Finke 2000: 281).
Tertiary Religious Behavior: “A matter of religious routine or convention accepted on the authority of someone else” (Clark 1958: 25). This is in contrast to sincere, truly-inspired religious behavior (Primary Religious Behavior) or religious behavior done out of obligation (Secondary Religious Behavior).
Theism: The belief in God (Reid et al. 1990: 1167).
Theologian: A person who systematically studies theology or some aspects of theology. In Colonial America, theologians usually were educated pastors who might instruct prospective ministers in a college setting. Theologians became professional academicians and specialists after the advent of seminaries in the 19th century (Reid et al. 1990: 1170).
Theology: The study of God and of his relationship with created reality (Reid et al. 1990: 1170).
Theravada Buddhism: One of the oldest schools of Buddhism that looked to the writings of Sariputra, an early disciple of the Buddha whose method of interpreting Buddha's teachings was very conservative and emphasized the role of the monastic life as the way to nirvana (Melton 2009: 1043).
Tibetan Book of the Dead: A collection of Buddhist texts focused on the state between death and rebirth. The texts describe a 49-day journey that includes unconsciousness at the moment of death, reawakening in a bodiless form, and the appearance of both peaceful and wrathful deities (Smith and Green 1995: 1075).
Torah: The Hebrew term ("teaching") broadly refers to both the oral and written Jewish Law. More narrowly, it refers to the first five books in the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, which Jewish believers consider their most sacred text (Prothero 2008: 287).
Tradition: See religious tradition.
Transubstantiation: A Catholic doctrine that the Eucharistic bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ in a literal sense. The term means "substance crossing" or "substance changing." It is based on the literal interpretation of the Last Supper in the Gospel accounts. The Benedictine monk Paschasius Radbertus (c.785-c.860 CE) is credited as the first explicit proponent of the doctrine, although the actual term first appears around 1130 CE. The Protestant reformers rejected this doctrine (Reid et al. 1990: 1184).
Trinity: The Christian term for the community of God made of three "persons" (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). The term itself is not in the New Testament, although the persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are mentioned. The distinctions between the three are relational and not believed to be a separation of power. Jesus is said to be the Son of God. The doctrine of the trinity is somewhat controversial, for critics (e.g. Muslims and Unitarians) claim that it is polytheism, while Christians traditionally defend the doctrine as communal monotheism (Smith and Green 1995: 1100).
Turban: The head covering worn by some Muslim males in Afghanistan and in Iran (Esposito 2011: 248).
Ummah: The Muslim community of believers (Esposito et al. 2012b: G-10).
Unchurched: Those who do not attend or have stopped attending religious services.
Unclaimed Population: As used by the ARDA, the unclaimed population are those that are not adherents of any of the 236 groups included in the Religious Congregations & Membership Study, 2010. This number should not be used as an indicator of irreligion or atheism, as it also includes adherents of groups not included in these data.
Unction: The sacrament of healing in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. Since Vatican Council II, Catholicism has used the term "Anointing of the Sick" rather than "unction." This sacrament is based on passages in the New Testament books of Mark and James, as well as early Christian tradition. Medieval practice in Western Christianity limited the sacrament to those who were dying. Vatican Council II restored its earlier general purpose (Reid et al. 1990: 1194).
Unification Church: A new religious movement founded in Korea by Sun Myung Moon in 1954. The full name of the movement is the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity. Unification theology is based on Moon's interpretation of the Old and New Testaments. It claims that Jesus' mission was to restore spiritual and physical salvation to the world, but due to his crucifixion, he was only able to bring spiritual salvation. Moon claims that physical salvation comes through marriage, and as a result, Moon selects members of the church to be married. Their children are considered to be free of a "fallen nature" (Smith and Green 1995: 1109).
Unitarianism: The belief that there is only one God, and thus Jesus was not divine in essence. This tenet dates back to the Protestant Reformation, where Michael Servetus and Faustus Socinus were opposing the concept of the Trinity. Famous Unitarians include Issac Newton, John Locke, and John Milton (Mead et al. 2005: 368). For modern Unitarian/Universalist churches, see the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.
Universalism: The belief that ultimately all individuals will be saved (Reid et al. 1990: 1205). For modern Unitarian/Universalist churches, see the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.
Upanishads: A collection of texts at the end of the Vedas that record early Hindu speculations on Brahman, atman and moksha. These texts are very influential to Hindu thought (Esposito et al. 2012a: G-5).
Vajrayana Buddhism: See Tantric Buddhism.
Vatican City: An independent state within the city of Rome governed by the pope. It was established by the Lateran Pacts in 1929, and later ratified by the Republic of Italy in 1948. The area is 108.7 acres and has a population of 1,000, making it the smallest country in the world. Its famous buildings include St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel (Smith and Green 1995: 1114).
Vatican Council I: A church-wide council held for Catholics from 1869 to 1870 in Rome at St. Peter's Basilica. Led by Pope Pius IX, the purpose of the Council was to deal with contemporary problems of the time, but it is best known for establishing the definition of papal infallibility (McBrien 1995:1296-1298).
Vatican Council II: A church-wide council held for Catholics from 1962-1965 to renew the church and update Catholic teachings, especially involving the liturgy, religious freedom, and ecumenism (Smith and Green 1995: 1114). For more information on Vatican Council II, click here.
Vedas: The most ancient and sacred texts of Hinduism. It is a large body of Sanskrit texts collected by the Brahmans, or priestly class, who were Aryans who occupied North India. They are dated from 2000-1000 BCE. Until recently, it was preserved through oral tradition (Smith and Green 1995: 1114).
Virgin Birth: A Christian teaching that Mary conceived Jesus without a human father. God miraculously made Mary pregnant without the use of sexual intercourse with Joseph. This doctrine is accepted by Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Protestants, and Muslims. This doctrine is not the same as the Immaculate Conception (Prothero 2008: 289).
Virginia's Religious Disestablishment (1786): In 1786, the Virginia legislature passed a bill by Thomas Jefferson ending the Anglican Church's formal establishment as the state religion. Although Virginia was not the first state to disestablish religion -- North Carolina claimed that honor in 1776 -- it marked the turning point in American disestablishment because of the state's massive population and the out-sized political influence. Virginia's disestablishment became important to future legal battles regarding the separation of church and state. For more information on this historical event, click here.
Vishnu: The most popular Hindu deity. He is said to have 10 different incarnations, including the Buddha (Prothero 2008: 289).
Volunteering, Measures of: These survey items measure whether individuals are giving time, money or other resources to their religious group or to organizations beyond the religious group. Examples can be found in the 2006 Portraits of American Life Study, 2005 Baylor Religion Survey, 2003 National Study of Youth and Religion and the 2002 General Social Survey, all of which are available in the ARDA’s Data Archive.
Voodoo (Vodou): An African-Christian religion originating in Haiti. Followers serve divine spirits and accept possession by those spirits for spiritual and healing purposes. Recently, the Roman Catholic Church in Haiti attempted to suppress Voodoo. It has spread to Noth America in the cities of New York, Miami, Montreal and is significantly present in New Orleans (Smith and Green 1995: 1126).
Vulgate: The Latin translation of the Bible used by the Roman Catholic Church. In the late fourth century CE, Jerome put together a Latin translation that translated from the Hebrew of the Old Testament instead of the Greek Septuagint as was common at the time. It was deemed the official version of the Bible of the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century CE, and all Roman Catholic translations were required to use it until 1943 (Smith and Green 1995: 1127).
Wahhabism: A conservative Sunni Muslim movement that seeks to return the Muslim world to the pure Islam in the Koran and restore traditional morality in society. The term derives from the founder of the movement, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792), although the term is considered derogatory. Proponents of the movement prefer being called "Muwahhidun" or Salafis. It recently spread to Afghanistan through the Taliban, and has influenced leaders of al-Qaeda, like Osama bin Laden (Prothero 2008: 290).
Ward: A congregation in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon).
Warrior Monks: Japanese Buddhist monks who participated in armed violence in the eighth century. They were used to protect the monasteries' interests as they continued to grow. Most of the conflicts were between monasteries, but some warrior monks would threaten the government if their demands were not met. Warrior monks were particularly influential in eleventh through twelfth centuries, but their influence abated when Japan was unified in the sixteenth century (Smith and Green 1995: 1130).
Wesley, Charles (1707-1788): Charles Wesley was an important leader of the Methodist movement. He was influential in having his brother, John, join the group that eventually became the Methodists. He also was a prolific hymn writer. Some of his well-known hymns include "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today." For more information on Charles Wesley, click here.
Wesley, John (1703-1791): The founder of Methodism. He was ordained in 1725 in the Church of England. From 1729 to 1735, he led the Holy Club, a group of students who were called Methodists. They performed acts of piety and charity. After his disastrous missionary trip to America, he returned to England. In 1738, he had a religious experience that convinced him the activities of the Methodists could be empowered by grace through faith in Jesus. This led to a revival and a 52-year ministry up until his death (Reid et al. 1990: 1241). For more information on John Wesley, click here.
Western Liturgical Family: Churches represented by or originating from the Roman Catholic Church. Such offshoots include the Old Catholic Church and the Polish National Catholic Church, which differ from the Roman Catholic Church in their rejection of the authority of the pope (Melton 2009: 82). To interactively explore the history of Catholics in America, click here.
Westminster Abbey: The central church of English Christianity. It also is the traditional site for the coronation of British royalty. It was once a Benedictine Abbey, and legend has it that Peter consecrated it (Smith and Green 1995: 1131).
White, Ellen Gould (1827-1915): Ellen Gould White was the co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, along with her husband, James Springer White. She promoted Saturday as the Christian Sabbath and advocated biblically-based health initiatives. For more information on Ellen White, click here.
White, James Springer (1821-1881): James Springer White was the co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, along with his wife Ellen Gould White. For more information on James Springer White, click here.
Whitefield, George (1714-1770): George Whitefield was the leading preacher and revivalist of the First Great Awakening in the American colonies. George Whitefield was a Church of England clergyman and itinerant preacher who made seven trips to the American colonies, attracting large crowds during this "preaching tours." For more information on George Whitefield, click here.
Wicca: The common term for many different traditions of Neopagan Witchcraft, also known as "the craft." It is a nature-based religion that celebrates seasonal and life cycles (Smith and Green 1995: 1131).
Willard, Frances (1839-1898): Frances Willard was a Christian social activist who promoted temperance, women's suffrage, labor reform and home-centered family life. She became involved in the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in 1874 when she began preaching at daily temperance meetings in Chicago, and she eventually became WCTU president in 1879 (see Temperance Movement). In her later life, she promoted Christian socialism, making her a forerunner of the Social Gospel Movement. For more information on Frances Willard, click here.
Williams, Roger (1603-1683): Roger Williams was a theologian, advocate for the separation of civil and church authority, and founder of Rhode Island. For more information on Roger Williams and his role in American history, click here.
Winthrop, John (1588-1649): John Winthrop was the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He was famous for describing the colony as a "city on a hill." For more information on John Winthrop, click here.
Witherspoon, John (1723-1794): John Witherspoon was an influential Presbyterian minister in Colonial America. As president of the college of New Jersey (Princeton), he helped expand the college's curriculum, endowment, and enrollment. He also was influential in American politics, serving as a delegate to the Continental Congress, New Jersey state legislature, and the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence. For more information on John Witherspoon, click here.
Worship (Christianity): The public and ritual honor given to God in the name of Jesus Christ. It often consists of words (prayers and other ritual formulas) and sacred acts (see sacrament). Protestant churches tend to stress the verbal aspect of Christian worship over sacramental activity. Catholic and Orthodox churches place a larger emphasis on the sacraments (Smith and Green 1995: 260).
Worship Style: The types of activities that occur within the context of worship services in a given religious group. Some worship styles are more liturgical (e.g., Catholic Mass), and some are more spontaneous (e.g., Pentecostal services).
X, Malcolm (1925-1965): Malcolm X was an active and controversial minister/spokesman for the Nation of Islam from the mid-1950s until 1964. He brought national attention to his religious group and the problems facing the black Americans, though his negative comments toward whites and the civil rights movement received national criticism as well. For more information on Malcolm X, click here.
Yiddish: A vernacular language of Ashkenazi Jews. It is a combination of medieval German with elements from Hebrew, Slavic and other romance languages. It has been used since the Middle Ages and continues to be used today (Smith and Green 1995: 1143).
Yin/Yang: Two forces that oppose, yet complement each other in the world according to Confucianism, Taoism and religion in China. Yin is dark and passive, while yang is bright and active (Prothero 2008: 290-291).
Yoga: A term meaning "union," specifically referring to union with the divine. Early forms of yoga were related to ascetic practices and Hindu philosophy, but now many use it for physical fitness and mental health. In 1893, yoga was introduced to Americans by Swami Vivekananda, the first Hindu missionary in the United States. The practice took off in the 1950s and 1960s, and now it is considered mainstream (Prothero 2008: 291).
Yogi, Maharishi Mahesh (1918-2008): Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was the founder of Transcendental Meditation and a popular religious figure of the 1960s and 1970s. He became a mentor to rock groups like the Beatles and The Rolling Stones. For more information on this important figure, click here.
Yom Kippur: A Jewish holiday 10 days after the Jewish New Year that entails a 25-hour fast day from dusk until nightfall the following day. It also is known as the Day of Atonement, where Jews seek atonement from God for past sins. It is considered one of the most solemn Jewish holidays, and synagogues are often very crowded on this day (Hinnells 1991: 34).
Young, Brigham (1801-1877): Brigham Young succeeded Joseph Smith as Mormon president. He led the Mormon exodus to Utah and helped expand the church to 150,000 members. Young was one of the most influential leaders in Latter-day Saints history, although critics have noted his controversial history of plural marriage, ban on African-American priesthood, tacit support for slavery, and wars with the American government. For more information on Brigham Young, click here.
Zakat (Alms-giving): One of the Five Pillars of Islam. Zakat (alms-giving) is the sharing of one's wealth, generally to either an administration or government (Hinnells 1991: 143).
Zen Buddhism: A mystical school of Buddhism founded by Daosheng (Tao-sheng) (360-434 CE), who added to Buddhist meditative techniques the doctrine of instantaneous enlightenment-the attainment of enlightenment in one single act. It illuminates the goal of mystical truth in both its objective and subjective aspects (Melton 2009: 1046).
Zionism: It relates to the persistent belief that God's covenant with his people, the Jews, is linked to Palestine and Jerusalem, in particular, and that that land is rightfully theirs (Reid et al. 1990: 1303). The growth of Zionism came with the 1917 Balfour Declaration that committed England to the Zionist cause (Melton 2009: 897).
Zoroastrianism: The religion founded by Zoroaster (c. 1400 BCE) that reforms ancient Persian polytheism into a monotheistic belief system. Zoroastrian teachings include the Avesta and the Pahlavi literature. It is considered dualistic since it has a good god, Ahura Mazda, and an evil god, Angra Mainyu. The religion has influenced Judaism, Christianity and Islam, specifically in the concepts of heaven and hell, resurrection of the dead and final judgment (Hinnells 1984: 362-363).
Statistical Terms ▲
Administration Methods: The various ways of administering a survey questionnaire to respondents. Pencil-and-paper methods have a wide tradition, whether the questionnaires are handed out in group settings or sent through the mails. Some of the most expensive datasets in the ARDA, such as the General Social Survey, were obtained through face-to-face interviews, whereby a trained interviewer visits the home of the respondent and spends time asking the questions out loud. Less expensive alternatives include telephone interviewing and direct computer administration of a questionnaire to respondents. Different administration methods have various advantages and disadvantages, all of which researchers should keep in mind.
Age, Cohort and Period Effects: These are three common ways to conceptualize the effect of time on individual outcomes. A person’s age is simply the number of years since he or she was born, and this measure taps into considerations of the life cycle, e.g. adolescence, adulthood, etc. A birth cohort is a group of people born in the same period, who therefore shared common experiences at similar ages, e.g. experience of college campus protests in the 1970s. Cohort effects are distinct from period effects in that period effects relate to the period in which the survey was administered, regardless of the age of the participant.
Case: A single unit being studied, such as a person or organization. If 100 people in a congregation were surveyed, then the study contains 100 cases.
Census: An official enumeration of the population, with details as to age, sex and occupation. Usually differs from a survey in that it attempts to count all individuals instead of just a sample.
Concept: A concept is a definition which describes latent or abstract phenomena such that certain observable phenomena, and not others, may be seen as an indicator of the concept. Concepts are the classificatory tools for constructing theory and formulating hypotheses concerning observable and measurable phenomena.
Contingent Survey Items: Survey items that are asked of certain respondents based on their response to a previous survey item. Not all items in a questionnaire apply to all respondents, so often respondents are asked to skip one or more questions, depending upon how they answered earlier ones. For example, questions about the respondent’s spouse will be asked only if the respondent is married. In the 2005 Baylor Religion Survey (available in the ARDA’s Data Archive), many questions concern “your current place of worship.” For each of these, around 480 respondents have missing data and most of them are people who lack a place of worship. While analyzing existing data, it is crucial to understand the implications of the skip pattern in the particular dataset.
Correlation: Correlation means "to go together, to vary in unison." For example, people who attend church frequently also tend to pray frequently. Correlations can be either positive or negative. A positive correlation means that the two variables go "up" or "down" at the same time. Prayer goes up with attendance and vice versa. A negative correlation means one variable goes "down" as the other goes "up." Correlation does not mean that one variable actually causes another. Prayer may or may not cause attendance to increase, just like attendance may or may not cause frequency of prayer. Saying something is correlated simply states that the two variables vary together.
Data Dredging: The process of scanning through data looking for remarkable statistics, such as an unexpected correlation between two items. Sometimes this activity is disparaged as a “fishing expedition,” although, of course, sometimes one does catch something worth keeping. The technical term is “data dredging,” using a similar metaphor of blind trawling through seas of data. Especially when tests of statistical significance are inappropriately applied, this is seen as one of the more egregious sins a social scientist can commit, yet it can also be a legitimate method of discovery.
Dependent Variable: A dependent variable represents the “effect” or outcome of an independent variable. For example, joining a religious sect may be the outcome (dependent variable) of feeling disadvantaged by society (independent variable). It’s difficult to distinguish “cause” and “effect” in non-experimental studies, so the terms independent and dependent variables are used instead.
Experiment: An experiment is a manipulation of key variables to examine their consequences. Typically, in experiments with human beings, a group of research subjects is divided at random into two or more groups. Perhaps one group is a control group, to which nothing unusual is done, but a second group is the treatment group. A hypothetical example is having people fill out a questionnaire about religion, but at random half of the respondents do so while religious music is playing in the background. Results can then be compared to see which religious attitudes become stronger when the music is played.
Independent Variable: Variables that are treated as if they are “causes” for a certain outcome of the particular analysis. In an experimental study, researchers manipulate the independent variable, for example dividing research subjects into two groups at random and treating them differently. The treatment is clearly the cause of any significant differences in the dependent variables across the two groups. In analyzing existing questionnaire data, we do not have the luxury of changing anything, so we can seldom be sure which variables are causes of changes in other variables. Thus, we speak of independent variables as if they were treatments that preceded a certain outcome.
Index: An index is a way to combine similar measures into a single measure. Consider how you would measure the religiosity of a person. You could ask the person a single question, such as "how religious are you?" But a more useful strategy might be to ask a series of questions (e.g. frequency of prayer, attendance at religious services, etc.) and combine them into an overall "religiosity score."
Indicator: An empirical manifestation of a concept; for example, the indicator "number of those attending church services" often represents the concept "attendance." See also: "Measure\Measurement."
Measure/Measurement: A measure is a way to scientifically represent some part of the world. This is easier in the natural sciences. If you want to know the weight of an object, you can measure this fairly clearly and accurately. But what if you wanted to measure the religiosity of a person? You could ask in a survey how religious he or she is, how frequently they attend religious services, how often they pray, or some other "measure" of religiosity.
Missing: Data that is absent in a survey. Missing data occurs for a number of reasons. A case may have refused to answer a question, or did not have an opinion on a question. If a person is filling out a survey, he or she may have unintentionally skipped a question. Sometimes a question is only meant for a particular subgroup, such as males. In these cases, females would be intentionally missing from that particular question.
N: The number of cases in a survey. The "N" also can represent the number of people who responded to a particular survey question or the number of people with a particular characteristic. For instance, a study may have surveyed 100 people, but for some questions only 95 or 87 gave responses (see "Missing"). Or, if only 43 of the 100 people were male, the "N" for males is 43.
Oversample: The process of sampling certain groups beyond what their representative numbers in the general population, making them overrepresented in the data. For example, the influential 1963 Survey of Northern California Church Bodies (see ARDA’s Data Archive) was administered to members of a range of specific denominations, not to the general public, and in a limited geographic area. In this case, the very name of the survey suggests that it is a survey of church members, not a random sample of all adults living in the area, but often one must study the codebook and description of a particular survey project carefully to understand exactly what the sample was.
Percentage: A proportion in relation to a whole sample or population usually represented by the number 100. It is computed by taking the number of cases with a particular characteristic and dividing by the total number of cases. For instance, if you wanted to know the number of Catholics in a survey, you can take the number of Catholics and divide by the total number of cases in the survey.
Population: All individual units (i.e. people, organizations, nations, and so on) within a defined group. Before doing a survey or census, researchers must ask exactly what population they are interested in studying. For instance, the "population" of a nation could be all of the individuals in the nation. The "population" of a religious group could be all members or congregations.
Post-hoc Scales: The development of multi-item scales from a secondary analysis of existing data. For example, 16 years after the 1963 Survey of Northern California Church Bodies, Rodney Stark, one of the original principal investigators, returned to the data in order to refine conceptions of sectarian tension, the extent to which religious groups distance themselves from secular norms. Several items relevant to this issue were included in the original questionnaire, which he, along with William Bainbridge, developed into a multi-item scale of sectarian tension. It is generally best to do this on the basis of theory, although at times a more empirical approach may be appropriate.
Rate: Unlike absolute or raw numbers, rates attempt to make comparisons across units (e.g. states) more meaningful. Consider the absolute number of evangelical adherents in California and Alabama. California has many more evangelicals than Alabama, but it also has many more people. One way to compare the "evangelical" nature of these two states would be to create a rate. How many people out of 1,000 are evangelical in California and Alabama?
Recoding: The process of re-categorizing/changing how survey responses are coded. For example, the original survey measure may have coded responses for “Don’t Know” or “No Answer,” which often are recoded as missing data so that a proper analysis may be conducted. The recoding process must be done with care and explicitly noted in the write-up for a secondary analysis.
Relevance: Relevance refers to the degree to which a survey item is meaningful to a respondent. Common problems of relevance include item nonresponse or even patently false or inconsistent responses to contingent survey items. Simple language, explanation of the question or offering the option to not answer are common ways to deal with question relevance.
Reuse of Existing Items: Surveys often reuse questions from other studies because the items are well-established and validated and because including old items in a new questionnaire allows researchers to compare results across different studies, replicating and extending results that are already in the scientific literature. However, a researcher may choose to change existing survey items because of flaws discovered in prior use of those items.
Sample/Sampling: Most social research relies on sampling (specifically, random sampling). It is a way to examine only a small percent of a population and obtain results that are extremely similar to what you would find if you did a census of the population. Let's say you wanted to know the opinions of your congregation on an issue, but your congregation is particularly large. It would take a great deal of time to ask every person your question. A much faster way would be to sample 10% of the individuals. If you randomly select those individuals, then your results will be virtually the same as if you had asked everyone and any differences will have a known range of error. This is why you often see statistics presented with a "margin of error."
Statistic: A number derived from a sample that represents some characteristic of a defined population. For instance, "56% of a congregation's membership is female" represents a statistic if the number came from a random sample of the congregation. If every unit (i.e., person) was counted in a census, then the number is usually called a parameter instead of a statistic.
Survey: A method of obtaining information directly from an individual or organization. A survey typically consists of a series of questions and is usually only given to a sample of a particular population. The ARDA's Data Archive primarily consists of surveys, but also contains census and other forms of data.
Theory: A theory is a set of statements, or hypotheses, about relationships among a set of abstract concepts. These statements say how and why the concepts are interrelated. Furthermore, these statements must give rise to implications that potentially are empirically falsifiable (Stark and Bainbridge 1987).
Time-Series Data: Time-series data are data that chart changes over time. Different data points allow one to measure increases, decreases or very little change. Certain surveys, like the General Social Survey, use similar survey items over various years to measure changes in social attitudes. Likewise, surveys may ask the same questions over time to the same respondents in order to do a panel analysis. Generally, the more data points across time one collects, the more accurate one may be able to measure the pattern of change.
Variable: Almost everything in the social world is a variable. People vary in their sex, income, religious affiliation, political opinions, and so on. Surveys attempt to measure this variation by asking questions and providing a range of options for answers. Most social research can be viewed as trying to understand the relationship between different variables. For instance, how does variation in income relate to variation in prayer? Do those with higher incomes pray more or less than lower income individuals?
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