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agnostic(agnos'tik), n. 1. a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience. 2. a person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge in some area of study. 3.agnosticism: form of skepticism that holds that the existence of God cannot be logically proved or disproved.
atheism(A'thEiz"um), n. 1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God. 2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.
apologetics (upol"ujet'iks), n. (used with a sing. v.) the branch of theology concerned with the defense or proof of Christianity.
big bang theory a theory that deduces a cataclysmic birth of the universe (big' bang') from the observed expansion of the universe, cosmic background radiation, abundance of the elements, and the laws of physics. Also called big'-bang' mod"el. Cf. steady state theory.
brainwashing (brAn'wosh"ing, -wE#034;shing), n. 1. a method for systematically changing attitudes or altering beliefs, originated in totalitarian countries, esp. through the use of torture, drugs, or psychological-stress techniques.
creationism (krEA'shuniz"um), 1. the doctrine that matter and all things were created, substantially as they now exist, by an omnipotent Creator, and not gradually evolved or developed. 2. (sometimes cap.) the doctrine that the true story of the creation of the universe is as it is recounted in the Bible, esp. in the first chapter of Genesis. 3. the doctrine that God immediately creates out of nothing a new human soul for each individual born. Cf. traducianism.
creed (krEd), n. 1. any system, doctrine, or formula of religious belief, as of a denomination. 2. any system or codification of belief or of opinion. 3. an authoritative, formulated statement of the chief articles of Christian belief, as the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, or the Athanasian Creed.
cult (kult), n. 1. a particular system of religious worship, esp. with reference to its rites and ceremonies. 2. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, esp. as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult. 3. the object of such devotion. 4. a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc. 5. Sociol.a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols. 6. a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader. 7. the members of such a religion or sect. 8. any system for treating human sickness that originated by a person usually claiming to have sole insight into the nature of disease, and that employs methods regarded as unorthodox or unscientific.
deism (dE'izum), n. 1. belief in the existence of a God on the evidence of reason and nature only, with rejection of supernatural revelation (distinguished from theism). 2. belief in a God who created the world but has since remained indifferent to it.
deity (dE'itE), n., pl. -ties. 1. a god or goddess. 2. divine character or nature, esp. that of the Supreme Being; divinity. 3. the estate or rank of a god: The king attained deity after his death. 4. a person or thing revered as a god or goddess: a society in which money is the only deity. 5. the Deity,God; Supreme Being.
Deus vult (de'OOs vOOlt'), [key] Latin. God wills (it): cry of the Crusaders.
dogma (dog-ma), 1. a system of principles or tenets, as of a church. 2. a specific tenet or doctrine authoritatively laid down, as by a church: the dogma of the Assumption. 3. prescribed doctrine: political dogma. 4. a settled or established opinion, belief, or principle.
evolution Concept that embodies the belief that existing animals and plants developed by a process of gradual, continuous change from previously existing forms. This theory, also known as descent with modification, constitutes organic evolution. Inorganic evolution, on the other hand, is concerned with the development of the physical universe from unorganized matter. Organic evolution, as opposed to belief in the special creation of each individual species as an immutable form, conceives of life as having had its beginnings in a simple primordial protoplasmic mass (probably originating in the sea) from which, through the long eras of time, arose all subsequent living forms.
existentialism (eg"zi-sten'shu-liz"um, ek"si-), [key] —n. Philos. a philosophical attitude associated esp. with Heidegger, Jaspers, Marcel, and Sartre, and opposed to rationalism and empiricism, that stresses the individual's unique position as a self-determining agent responsible for the authenticity of his or her choices.
fact (fakt), n. 1. something that actually exists; reality; truth: Your fears have no basis in fact. 2. something known to exist or to have happened: Space travel is now a fact. 3. a truth known by actual experience or observation; something known to be true: Scientists gather facts about plant growth.
faith (fAth), n. 1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability. 2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact. 3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims. 4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty. 5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith. 6. the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.: Failure to appear would be breaking faith. 7. the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one's promise, oath, allegiance, etc.: He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles. 8. Christian Theol.the trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved. 9. in faith, in truth; indeed: In faith, he is a fine lad.
freethinker (frE'thing'kur), n. a person who forms opinions on the basis of reason, independent of authority or tradition, esp. a person whose religious opinions differ from established belief.
gnostic (nos'tik), [key] —adj. 1. pertaining to knowledge. 2. possessing knowledge, esp. esoteric knowledge of spiritual matters. 3. (cap.) pertaining to or characteristic of the Gnostics. —n. (cap.) a member of any of certain sects among the early Christians who claimed to have superior knowledge of spiritual matters, and explained the world as created by powers or agencies arising as emanations from the Godhead.
God (god), n. 1. the one Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe. 2. the Supreme Being considered with reference to a particular attribute: the God of Islam. 3. (l.c.) one of several deities, esp. a male deity, presiding over some portion of worldly affairs. 4. (often l.c.) a supreme being according to some particular conception: the god of mercy. 5. Christian Science: the Supreme Being, understood as Life, Truth, Love, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Principle. 6. (l.c.) an image of a deity; an idol. 7. Divinity of the three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as many other world religions. See also religion and articles on individual religions.
idol (Id'l), n. 1. an image or other material object representing a deity to which religious worship is addressed. 2. Bible. a. an image of a deity other than God. b. the deity itself. 3. any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion: Madame Curie had been her childhood idol. 4. a mere image or semblance of something, visible but without substance, as a phantom. 5. a figment of the mind; fantasy. 6. a false conception or notion; fallacy.
ideology (I"dE'oluòjE,), n., pl. -gies. 1. the body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc., that guides an individual, social movement, institution, class, or large group. 2. such a body of doctrine, myth, etc., with reference to some political and social plan, as that of fascism, along with the devices for putting it into operation. 3. Philos. a. the study of the nature and origin of ideas. b. a system that derives ideas exclusively from sensation. 4. theorizing of a visionary or impractical nature.
laity (lA'i-tE), [key] —n. 1. the body of religious worshipers, as distinguished from the clergy. 2. the people outside of a particular profession, as distinguished from those belonging to it: the medical ignorance of the laity.
mythology 1. a body of myths, as that of a particular people or that relating to a particular person: Greek mythology. 2. myths collectively. 3. the science or study of myths. 4. a set of stories, traditions, or beliefs associated with a particular group or the history of an event, arising naturally or deliberately fostered: the Fascist mythology of the interwar years.
nihilism (nI'uliz"um, nE'-), n. 1. total rejection of established laws and institutions. 2. anarchy, terrorism, or other revolutionary activity. 3. total and absolute destructiveness, esp. toward the world at large and including oneself: the power-mad nihilism that marked Hitler's last years. 4. Philos. a. an extreme form of skepticism: the denial of all real existence or the possibility of an objective basis for truth. b. nothingness or nonexistence.
Ockham's Razor All things being equal, the simplest explanation for something is usually the correct one.
omnipotent (omnip'utunt), adj. 1. almighty or infinite in power, as God. 2. having very great or unlimited authority or power.
omnipresent (om"nuprez'unt), adj. present everywhere at the same time: the omnipresent God.
omniscient (omnish'unt), adj. having complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding; perceiving all things.
pagan (pA'gun), n. 1. one of a people or community observing a polytheistic religion, as the ancient Romans and Greeks. 2. a person who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim. 3. an irreligious or hedonistic person.
philosophy (fiòlos'uòfE), n., ùpl. -phies. 1. the rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct. 2. any of the three branches, namely natural philosophy, moral philosophy, and metaphysical philosophy, that are accepted as composing this study. 3. a system of philosophical doctrine: the philosophy of Spinoza. 4. the critical study of the basic principles and concepts of a particular branch of knowledge, esp. with a view to improving or reconstituting them: the philosophy of science. 5. a system of principles for guidance in practical affairs. 6. a philosophical attitude, as one of composure and calm in the presence of troubles or annoyances.
physics (fiz'iks), n. (used with a sing. v.) the science that deals with matter, energy, motion, and force.
placebo. inert substance given instead of a potent drug. Placebo medications are sometimes prescribed when no drug is really needed because they make patients feel well taken care of. Placebos are also used as controls in scientific studies on the effectiveness of drugs. So-called double blind experiments, where neither the doctor nor the patient knows whether the given medication is the experimental drug or the placebo, are often done to assure unbiased, statistically reliable results. placebo effect: a reaction to a placebo manifested by a lessening of symptoms or the production of anticipated side effects.
polytheism n. the doctrine of or belief in more than one god or in many gods.
rationalism (rash'u-nl-iz"um), [key] —n. 1. the principle or habit of accepting reason as the supreme authority in matters of opinion, belief, or conduct. 2. Philos. a. the doctrine that reason alone is a source of knowledge and is independent of experience. b. (in the philosophies of Descartes, Spinoza, etc.) the doctrine that all knowledge is expressible in self-evident propositions or their consequences. 3. Theol.the doctrine that human reason, unaided by divine revelation, is an adequate or the sole guide to all attainable religious truth.
religion (rilij'un), n. 1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. 2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion. 3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions. 4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion. 5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith. 6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice. 7. religions, Archaic.religious rites. 8. Archaic.strict faithfulness; devotion: a religion to one's vow. 9. get religion, Informal. a. to acquire a deep conviction of the validity of religious beliefs and practices. b. to resolve to mend one's errant ways: The company got religion and stopped making dangerous products.
science (sI'uns), n. 1. a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws: the mathematical sciences. 2. systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation. 3. any of the branches of natural or physical science. 4. systematized knowledge in general. 5. knowledge, as of facts or principles; knowledge gained by systematic study. 6. a particular branch of knowledge. 7. skill, esp. reflecting a precise application of facts or principles; proficiency.
secular (sek'yulur), adj. 1. of or pertaining to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred; temporal: secular interests. 2. not pertaining to or connected with religion (opposed to sacred): secular music. 3. (of education, a school, etc.) concerned with nonreligious subjects. 4. (of members of the clergy) not belonging to a religious order; not bound by monastic vows (opposed to regular).
secularhumanism any set of beliefs that promotes human values without specific allusion to religious doctrines.
theism (thE'izum), n. 1. the belief in one God as the creator and ruler of the universe, without rejection of revelation (distinguished from deism). 2. belief in the existence of a god or gods (opposed to atheism).
theocracy (thEok'rusE), n., pl. -cies. 1. a form of government in which God or a deity is recognized as the supreme civil ruler, the God's or deity's laws being interpreted by the ecclesiastical authorities. 2. a system of government by priests claiming a divine commission. 3. a commonwealth or state under such a form or system of government.
theology (thEòol'uòjE), n., ùpl. -gies. 1. the field of study and analysis that treats of God and of God's attributes and relations to the universe; study of divine things or religious truth; divinity. 2. a particular form, system, branch, or course of this study.
theory (thE'urE, thEr'E), n., pl. -ries. 1. a coherent group of general propositions used as principles of explanation for a class of phenomena: Einstein's theory of relativity. 2. a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact. 3. Math.a body of principles, theorems, or the like, belonging to one subject: number theory. 4. the branch of a science or art that deals with its principles or methods, as distinguished from its practice: music theory. 5. a particular conception or view of something to be done or of the method of doing it; a system of rules or principles. 6. contemplation or speculation. 7. guess or conjecture.
Yahweh n. a name of God, transliterated by scholars from the Tetragrammaton and commonly rendered Jehovah. Also,Yah'we,Yahveh,Yahve, Jahveh, Jahve, Jahweh, Jahwe.
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