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Glossary of religious terms
(Starting with "B")



By B.A. Robinson,
Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance,
Canada

http://www.religioustolerance.org/glossary.htm






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Note: Conservative Christian faith groups often define terms very differently than other faith groups and secular movements. The former are shown in italics in the below lists of words.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | K | L | M | N | O | P | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Babel, tower of: A tower mentioned in Genesis 11. The Bible describes how there was only one language used prior to construction of the tower. God was offended by the construction, and caused its builders to speak in different languages. Almost all linguistic experts, except those who are conservative Christians, consider the story to be a myth.
Backmasking: A type of subliminal message in which a second audio track is recorded backwards on top of a record's music. It is a common belief among the public that such messages bypass the conscious brain, enter the subconscious and motivate the individual to take certain actions. One rock group actually inserted a backmasking section on one of their records as a joke. There is no evidence that backmasking works.
Bahá'í World Faith: A world religion, founded in 1844 CE by Baha'u'llah (Glory of God) in Iran. Its roots are based in Islam. With the exception of its beliefs about homosexuality, and the makeup of its Universal House of Justice, it promotes democracy with equal rights to all, regardless of gender, race, nationality, etc. It has spread across the world. Its followers experience heavy oppression in Iran.
Baphomet (a.k.a. Sigil of Baphomet): A pentagram (a five pointed star) with one point downwards and two upwards, within a circle. A goat's head is drawn within the star. This is used by many Satanists as a religious symbol.
Baisakhi: The Sikhs' New Year's celebration. 
Baptism: The English words "baptize" and "baptism" are derived from a Greek root: "baptizr," which means "to immerse," "to dip under," or "to wash." Within Christianity, it is usually performed by a member of the clergy in a church setting, thus welcoming an individual into the church.  Denominations disagree about the method (immersion or sprinkling), the age at which the ritual is done, and additional consequences of baptism. Some Christian groups maintain that baptism is required before a person can be saved; some say that only those baptized in their denomination or in a certain way can be saved.  Still others consider baptism to be merely an indication that a person had been saved in the recent past.
Baptism for the dead: This is a procedure that was employed among some Christian groups during the second century CE. Today, it is followed by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints -- the Mormons. Ancestors who died outside the church can be baptized by their descendents who are alive today.
Baptists: A group of Protestant Christian who, according to religious historians, originated in the English Separatist movement of the 1600s. However, some Baptists believe that they can trace their history directly back to the New Testament period. In the U.S., they consist of dozens of denominations  that do not baptize infants, but who baptize individuals by immersion after they have personally professed their faith.  Baptist congregations are independent; full authority resides in the membership of each church. The largest American Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, deviated from centuries of tradition by expelling congregations who had decided to welcome sexually active gays and lesbians as members.
Beget: To father, or sire.  Etymology is: Indo-European "ghend" > Old English "begetan" > Middle English "biyeten" > Modern English "Beget."
Begotten: A past participle of beget.
Beltane: One of the four major Sabbats celebrated annually by Wiccans and other Neopagans on the evening of APR-30. It is based on an ancient Celtic seasonal day of celebration.
Bhagavad-Gita: The "Song of the Lord" -- a holy text revered by followers of Hinduism and Iskcon.
Bible: This word has many meanings:
- The holy text used by Christians. It is includes Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament), Christian Scripture (New Testament). Some faith groups also include a group of writings called the Apocrypha. The word originated in the Greek word "biblos," which means "book." The Greek word came from the ancient Phoenician port city of Byblos (now Jubayl in Lebanon).
- It is sometimes used to refer to the holy texts of other religions.
- It is sometimes used to refer to an all-embracing book on a specific topic, from computers to fly fishing to astronomy.
Bible Code: A book by Michael Drosnin which promoted the concept that the Bible contains prophecies which are hidden by a special code. This belief became popular during the 1990s, but collapsed when it was found that similar codes could be extracted from any book of similar length.
Biblical authority: This is the belief -- near universally held among conservative Christians -- that: "the Bible, as the expression of God's will to us, possesses the right supremely to define what we are to believe and how we are to conduct ourselves." 2 Steven Ibbotson states: "The Bible is authoritative because it is God's inspired word to humanity." 3 Religious liberals commonly discount some sections of the Bible as authoritative because they are judged to be profoundly immoral when compared to today's religious and secular moral standards.
Biblical wordview: A personal perspective on humanity, deity and the rest of the universe based on the Bible. There are many such worldviews, reflecting various conservative, mainline, liberal, Gnostic, post-Christian and other belief systems. The Barna Group defines a conservative Protestant biblical worldview as including eight beliefs:
- Absolute truth exists.
- The source of moral truth is the Bible.
- The Bible is without error in all of its teachings.
- That eternal spiritual salvation cannot be earned through works while on earth
- Jesus led a sinless life while on earth.
- Everyone has a responsibility to share their religious beliefs with others.
- Satan is a living force, not just a symbol of evil.
- God is the creator of the universe, omnipotent, omniscient who still rules the universe today.

Barna found that 8% of adult American Protestants, 5% of adults generally and less than 0.5% of Roman Catholics "have a [conservative Protestant] biblical world view." 1

Biblicism: Having a particular regard for the Bible as the Word of God and the ultimate authority for religious belief and morality.
Bibliolatry: Worship of a book, particularly the Bible. A term of criticism levied against individuals who give an excessive regard to the text of the Bible.
Bibliology: This word has a secular and a Christian meaning:
- Secular: A discussion of books.
- Christian: The study of the Bible and the doctrines derived from it.
Birth of the Bab: A Baha'i holy day honoring of the founder, Mirza 'Ali-Muhammed, (1819-1850 CE). He assumed the title Bab ("the Gate.") 
Birth of Baha'u'llah: A Baha'i annual celebration of the birth of their teacher and Messiah, Mirza Husayn-'Ali-i-Nuri (1817-1892). He was the Manifestation predicted by the Bab.
Birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji: A day when Sikhs commemorate the birthday of their founder.
Bishop: (From the Greek word episkopos: supervisor). In the early church, he was a chief priest at a church. Later, the role became that of a priest with administrative duties over a group of churches within a geographical area called a diocese.
Bitheist: Synonym for duotheist; a person who believes that there are two deities -- typically one female and the other male, as in Wicca, or one all good and the other all bad, as in Zoroastrianism.
Black magic: The use of religious rites and rituals to harm another person. One example from the Bible was when Elisha issued a curse against 42 children who were bothering him. The children were torn to shreds by she-bears. See 2 Kings 2:23-24.
Black Mass: An imaginary inverted form of the Roman Catholic mass involving black candles, desecrated materials stolen from a church, prayers recited backwards in Latin, etc. Such rituals have been performed by members of the Church of Satan as a publicity stunt.
Black Muslims: A group of Muslim organizations for African-Americans, including the Nation of Islam.
Black theology: The belief that Israel, as described in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), was a nation of blacks. Jesus was black; his purpose was to liberate fellow blacks from oppression by white Gentiles.
Blasphemy: Swearing in the name of God, denying the existence of God, saying evil things about God, asserting incorrect beliefs about God, etc. One religion's affirmation of their God is another religion's blasphemy about their God.
Blessed be: A frequently used greeting-blessing by Wiccans and other Neopagans.
Blood Atonement:
- A group of theories that attempt to explain how Jesus' torture-death resulted in a mechanism by which people's sins can be forgiven. Other explanations, sometimes called "bloodless atonement" theories, account for the forgiveness of sins on the bases of Jesus' teachings and life.
- A belief in the early Mormon church introduced by Brigham Young. It has since been abandoned by some Mormon denominations. Some crimes were considered so serious that the perpetrator's salvation required that he be killed and his blood mixed with the earth.
Blood libel: A false belief which has endured since the 1st century BCE. It states that members of a religious group kidnap, abuse, ritually murder and sometimes eat the body of a member of another religion. Groups creating this groundless fable include ancient Greek and Roman Pagans, Christians, Nazis, and Muslims. Innocent religious groups victimized by the fable include Jews, Christians, Wiccans, Druids and other Neopagans, and Roma (Gypsies). The hoax exists today mostly among some Muslims (against Jews) and some Fundamentalist Christians (against Wiccans, Satanists and other religious minorities).
BlСѓt: Service of the Gods; kinship between the Gods of Norse Heathenism and the people.
Bodhi: A Buddhist term which means to have achieved enlightenment; to understand the ultimate reality.
Bodhisattva: A Buddhist term to describe a person who is embarked on the path to enlightenment.
Bodhi Day: The day when Buddha decided to sit under the bodhi tree, and remain there until he reached enlightenment.
Body of Christ: This often refers to the physical body of Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ.) Other times, it refers to the "invisible church" which is made up of true Christians, past and present. Unfortunately, there is no consensus concerning who is a "true" Christian, so that there is no agreement over the exact makeup of this group.
Bon Festival: This is a day when the followers of Shinto honor the souls of their ancestors. People visit graveyards.
Book of Life: In Christianity, a list of saved individuals which is maintained by God.
Book of Mormon: One of four texts considered to be divinely inspired and authoritative scripture by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) and other Mormon denominations. Mormons believe that Joseph Smith, their founder, translated the Book of Mormon from golden plates left by an early American society. Some researchers believe the Book to have been written by Smith, and partly based on an earlier book "View of the Hebrews" by Ethan Smith (no relation).
Book of Shadows: A personal diary of a Wiccan or other Neopagan in which she/he records their ritual activities.
Born again: The process by which a person repents of their sins and trusts Jesus of Nazareth as Lord and Savior. Conservative Protestants believe that this is the only way that one can get to heaven. Some of these denominations do not require that a person repent first.
Brahma: The creator God and member of the Hindu trinity of deities, which also includes Shiva and Vishnu.
Brahmin: A member of the priestly class in Hinduism -- the highest caste in India.
Brainwashing: (a.k.a. thought control, mind control, coercive persuasion). A non-violent method that uses mind control techniques to convince a person to abandon some of their basic beliefs and adopt the beliefs of the indoctrinator. The anti-cult movement teaches that many small religious groups, which they call cults, engage in brainwashing. Sociologists and mental health researchers who are not involved in the anti-cult movement generally reject the concept.
Branch Davidians: Popular name for a doomsday, destructive cult, the Students of the Seven Seals, which was led by David Koresh. Dozens of their members died when their compound burned to the ground in Waco, TX.
British Israel movement: A belief that the ten lost tribes of Israel -- those conquered and assimilated by the Assyrians circa 722 BCE -- became the British people, and sometimes the inhabitants of the former British Empire, including the U.S. and Canada.
Buchmanism: The Moral Rearmament movement founded by Frank Buchman (1878 - 1961). He organized the Oxford Group in 1929, which became Moral Rearmament, an inter-faith group, in 1938. Its goal was to change society one person at a time, by promoting absolute purity, unselfishness, honesty and love.
Buddha: A Buddhist term used to refer to Prince Siddhartha, (560 - 480 BCE) after his enlightenment.
Buddha Day: A celebration of the birthday of the Buddha.
Buddhism: A world religion, founded in the 6th century BCE by a Hindu: Siddhartha Gautama, His followers called him "the Buddha" or "the enlightened one." It has about 300 million followers, almost all located in Asia. Buddhism is experiencing a rapid growth in North America. It is perhaps the least violent of the world's major religons.
Bull: From the Latin word "bulla" a seal. A papal statement in which he speaks ex cathedra on a matter of belief or morality. Such a statement is regarded by Roman Catholics as infallible.
Burning Man Festival: An annual gathering in Black Rock Desert, NV. Creative individuals create artistic works, dance, chant, sing, etc. At the end of the festival, a wooden image in the form of a man is burned. This is apparently derived from the burning of a wicker statue of the spirit of vegetation by the ancient Celts. That statue also was in the form of a man.


References:

  1. "Most adults feel accepted by God, but lack a biblical worldview," The Barna Group, 2005-AUG-09. at: http://www.barna.org/.
  2. Millard J. Erickson, "Christian Theology," Baker, (1985), Page 241.
  3. Steven Ibbotson, "Biblical Authority," Prairie bible Institute, (2000), at: http://instructor.pbi.ab.ca/


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