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Glossary of religious terms
(Starting with "X", "Y" or "Z")

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

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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.

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Xylolaters: Literally "wood worshipers." A disrespectful term used to refer to Eastern Orthodox believers who revered images and icons.
Yahweh: A vocalization. favored by most theologians, of the tetragammaton -- the name of God ("JHWH") found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). An alternative pronunciation is Jehovah.
Yarmulke: a Jewish head covering traditionaly restricted to males. "...the Code of Jewish Law says, 'It is forbidden to walk four cubits without a head covering'." 1 Synonym: kippah (also spelled "kippa")
Year-day theory: A theory in which a day in some passages of biblical prophecy is held to be equal to a calendar year. This relationship is stated in Numbers 14:34. The theory has found extensive application in interpreting prophecies in Daniel and Revelation. It has been used repeatedly to estimate the second coming of Christ; the answers have always been wrong
Ying and yang: A Taoist belief that the universe is make up of pairs of opposing forces, like male and female, positive and negative. One's task is to harmonize these forces, both within one's body and in the rest of the universe. A mythical "Yellow Emperor" wrote: ''The principle of Yin and Yang is the foundation of the entire universe. It underlies everything in creation. It brings about the development of parenthood; it is the root and source of life and death it is found with the temples of the gods...Heaven was created by the concentration of Yang, the force of light, earth was created by the concentration of Yin, the forces of darkness. Yang stands for peace and serenity; Yin stands for confusion and turmoil. Yang stands for destruction; Yin stands for conservation. Yang brings about disintegration; Yin gives shape to things..."
Yoga: A Hindu method of learning that includes exercises, breathing sequences and meditation. It is designed to aid in enlightenment. The exercise component of Yoga is often practiced in the West as an aid to healthy living.
Yule: An ancient Celtic seasonal day of celebration at the time of the winter solstice. Depending upon the year, the solstice may fall on DEC-20 to 23. A popular minor Sabbat (holy day) observed by Wiccans and other Neopagans.
Zealots: Originally, the name of a small group of Pharisees in 1st Century CE Judea who used terrorist tactics to attack the occupying Roman Army. Their goal was religious and political independence from Rome. The term has since evolved to refer to any extreme radical religious group or individual.
Zen: A Japanese school of Buddhism which has become popular in North America. It is similar to the Chinese school of Buddhism known as Chan.
Zoroastrianism: This religion was founded in ancient Persia, perhaps during the sixth and seventh century BCE. Many scholars believe that numerous religious concepts first appeared in Zoroastrianism, and were later adopted by Judaism, and Christianity. These include: heaven, hell, resurrection of the body, the Messiah, final judgment, and the battle of Armageddon. Once a religion with many followers, it currently only has about 200,000 members; most live in Iran and India.


  1. "Ask Rabbi Simmons: Kippah - Yarmulke," at:

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