Feb 16

In a Word

It is time to let you in on one of the great tools of religious debate: Define Your Terms.
Occasionally I get some feedback (thank you John). Sometimes that feedback indicates some confusion over issues because I forgot to define my terms clearly.
So here are 10 Terms (in no particular order) you need to know and a simple definition.

1. Creationism: the religious belief that the Universe and life originated "from specific acts of divine creation." For young Earth creationists, this includes a biblical literalist interpretation of the Genesis creation narrative and the rejection of the scientific theory of evolution. I, as a Theist (one who believes in a god), am not a creationist because while I believe Genesis 1 to be true, I think the truths it conveys are theological and not a guide to how to build a universe.

2. Fundamentalism: the cultural and religious tendency to reduce everything to a few core principles. In specific Christian Fundamentalism typically revolves around five stated fundamentals:
Biblical inspiration and the infallibility of scripture as a result of this, Virgin birth of Jesus, Belief that Christ's death was the atonement for sin, Bodily resurrection of Jesus, and the Historical reality of the miracles of Jesus. The problem with all Fundamentalist movements is the tendency to associate doctrinal issues with cultural norms. Thus conflating, for example, a particular belief about Jesus with how someone dresses.

3.Spiritualism: belief that spirits of the dead have both the ability and the inclination to communicate with the living. Most modern movements, in the US and Europe at least, come from the 1840s in upstate New York.

4.Pagan: a person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions. Although typically this also suggests polytheistic beliefs in the West.

5. Liberal/Conservative/Progressive/Moderate: Nonsense words that have no definition outside of context. Someone who has liberal economic policies might be a social conservative or anything else. I try to avoid these words unless they are specifically used by the people I am talking about. I suggest you do the same.

6. Henotheism: is the belief in and worship of a single god while accepting the existence or possible existence of other deities that may also be served. Likely most ancient faiths, and a fair amount of modern ones if you substitute the word "deities" for "principals" or "goods", were henotheistic in practice even if they were monotheistic officially.

7. Pantheism: is the belief that everything is an aspect of divinity. Everything.

8. Magic(k): the use of rituals, symbols, actions, gestures and language with the aim of exploiting supernatural forces. Far, far more common than people think. Everyone of those "Like and Share and Jesus will bless you" is an example of Magic. Magick refers specifically to Aleister Crowley's system and more generally to that of his contemporaries and most of late Victorian and 20th century occult practices.

9. Secular Humanism: embraces human reason, ethics, and philosophical naturalism while specifically rejecting religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience, and superstition as the bases of morality and decision making. The elevation of human reason to the ultimate judge.

10. Religion: An organized system of beliefs with a few foundational commonalities. Catholics and Presbyterians have the same Religion, but different Denominations. Suni and Shia have the the same Religion but different branches of it. Sihks and Muslims do not have the same religion, they are just from similar parts of the world.

I should add about a dozen more, but I said 10 and I am sticking to it.

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