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Glossary of religious and spiritual terms

Starting with the letters "EA" to "EU." Terms
beginning with "EV" to "EX" are listed elsewhere.

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  • Easter: This is the most important holy day of the Christian calendar. Easter Sunday commemorates the day in the springtime when the resurrection of Jesus is believed to have occurred. The date is calculated by one formula by most Eastern Orthodox churches, and by another formula elsewhere in Christianity. Easter Sunday falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after MAR-20, the nominal date of the Spring Equinox. It can be on any Sunday from March 22 to April 25th. Eastern Orthodox churches sometimes celebrate Easter on the same day as the rest of Christianity. However if that date does not follow Passover, then the Orthodox churches delay their Easter - sometimes by over a month.

  • Ebionites: (From the Hebrew root "Ebion" which means poor, oppressed or humble.) A group of Jewish Christians. Some theologians believe that before Paul came on the scene, the Ebionites (or their predecessors) formed the original Christian movement. This included the people who knew Jesus best: his disciples and family. They were led by Peter and James. They rejected Paul's writings, believing him to be an apostate from the Mosaic Law. They denied the deity of Jesus, viewing him as a the final and greatest prophet. Most rejected the virgin birth, and believed that Joseph and Mary were Jesus' parents. The members were scattered during uprisings circa 70 and 134 CE. The movement died out by the 5th century CE.

  • Ecclesiology: A field of study related to a faith group or groups function, organization, structure, practices, and nature.

  • Eclectic tradition:  A set of beliefs and/or practices which has been selected as the best from the full diversity of those available. Eclectic Wicca, for example, involves selecting portions from a number of established Wiccan traditions in order to create a faith tradition that an individual Wiccan feels most comfortable with.

  • Eco-justice: is a term used by many ecologists to refer justice for the Earth and all species of life who live in it. It involves a major change from our present anthropocentrism to biocentrism and geocentrism -- making the health of all life forms and the Earth itself of paramount importance.

  • Ecumenical: From a Greek word meaning worldwide. Any movement which attempts to bring together various denominations or traditions within a single religion. The term is used most commonly to refer to Christian intra-denominational efforts.

  • Eid ul-Adha: Muslims celebrate this Feast of Sacrifice at the conclusion of the Hajj. It recalls Abraham's willingness to ritually murder his son in response to a command of God.

  • Eight adversities: A term used in Buddhism to refer to rebirth: in Hell, as a hungry ghost, as an animal, in Uttarakuru (a very pleasant place where there is little motivation to practice the Dharma), in a long-life heaven, also where one is not motivated), with a disability, as an intelligent but skeptical person, or in the period -- like today -- between a Buddha and his successor.

  • Eightfold Path: A Buddhist list of the path which one must follow to escape suffering. They include:
    • Panna (Wisdom): Right view and right thought.
    • Sila (Morality): Right speech, action and livelihood.
    • Samadhi (Meditation): Right effort, mindfulness and contemplation.

  • Eisegesis: The process of taking a preconceived belief and interpreting a biblical passage in a way that supports that belief. This is a very common phenomenon, although the interpreter is not generally conscious of the process.

  • Elder: This term has many meanings, both casual and formal:
      • A group of species of shrubs or small trees with white or cream colored flowers and a berrylike fruit.
      • A term used to differentiate on the basis of age between two related persons of the same name.
      • Synonym for Scribes or Pharisees in the Bible.
      • A respected member of an Aboriginal community who is a keeper of the tribe's oral tradition, knowledge, and worldview. Usually an older person recognized for their wisdom and spirituality.
      • The position held by a lay member with teaching and/or administrative responsibilities in many Protestant denominations.
      • A group of individuals with the leadership position in a Wiccan or other Neopagan coven.
      • A priesthood and leadership position in many denominations of the LDS Restorationist Movement including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- the Mormons.
      • A fictional group of individuals in the TV program Charmed who oversee positive magick.
      • The "Elder Scrolls" (TES) is the name of a series of role-playing computer games.

  • Election, unconditional: The second of Calvin's five points of theology. The doctrine states that God has decided, totally on the basis of his own, unknown criteria, to select a small minority of humans and lead them to a saving knowledge of the gospel. The majority of humans are not elected. Without God's help, the gospel is incomprehensible to them; they will never be saved; they will spend eternity in Hell without hope of mercy or an end to their torture. Some Christians believe that God elects that minority of humans for salvation that he knew would eventually choose Him.

  • Elohim: A Hebrew word for "Gods."

  • Emerging church (a.k.a. emergent church or emergent movement): This is another of those predominately Christian religious phrases which mean different things to different people. In general, it refers to a response by mainly Evangelical and mainline Christian believers to engage a rapidly changing culture in positive ways. Some are searchers who feel that they have outgrown the denomination and the religious beliefs of their youth. Others are searchers who are not affiliated with any denomination, and who are seeking for themselves a more spiritual, meaningful, and purposeful life. Common values of the emerging church include a desire to "... imitate the life of Jesus, transform secular society, emphasise communal living; welcome outsiders; be generous and creative; and lead without control." 1 The movement started in New Zealand and has spread to the U.S., Canada, western Europe, and Africa.

  • Endless punishment: The belief that the unsaved will be punished by severe tortures (worms, unbearable heat, horrendous thirst, flogging with whips, etc) for all eternity without any hope of mercy of cessation. The book of Revelation describes Jesus as being present in Hell. Whether he is there to supervise or merely observe the torture is unclear.

  • Endlösung: German word for the "final solution" of the Nazis: to exterminate all of the Jews in Europe in a systematic genocidal murder campaign.

  • Enlightenment:
    • A Buddhist term which means to have grasped the ultimate reality and escaped the endless repetition of birth, life, death and rebirth.

    • A name given to the Age of Reason in the Americas and Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries. It was marked by great advances in science, democracy, industry, human rights, and religious tolerance.

  • Ensoulment: The process by which a soul enters the body of a pre-embryo, embryo, or fetus during the process of conception or at some later time. Aristotle taught that during the first 40 days following conception, a male embryo receives in sequence a vegetable, animal, and finally a human soul. This interval was lengthened to a 80 day interval for female embryos. St. Thomas Aquinas adopted this belief, as did the early Roman Catholic Church. In the sixth century CE, the Justinian Code placed no penalty on abortions performed during the first 40 days from conception, Pope Sixtus V in 1588 abandoned this belief and declared all abortions illegal. The followin pope, Gregory XIV restored the earlier belief. Finally, in 1869, Pius IX restored the earlier belief and the Church has since declared all abortions illegal and grave sins. Catholic Church law does not permit abotions even if required to save the life of the mother.

  • Eparchy: a geographical area under the jurisdiction of a bishop in an Orthodox church.

  • Epiclesis (aka Epiklesis): A Greek word for invocation, in the sense of calling upon, or making an appeal to, or addressing someone. In Christian worship,  epiclesis refers to the invocation of the Holy Spirit.

  • Epiphany: Christians recall the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus on JAN-6. (aka: 12th day of Christmas, Twelfth Night & Three Kings' Day. Eastern orthodox churches celebrate Theophany on this day in commemoration of Jesus' baptism. "Epiphany" means "to make known" or "to reveal." Christians believe that the Magi made the divinity of Jesus known to the world.

  • Episcopal:
    • Part of the name of the Espicopal Church, USA -- the church in the U.S. which is affiliated with the Anglican Communion.

    • Any religious denomination governed by bishops.

  • Epistemology: The study of the nature of knowledge.

  • Equinox: The date and time when the sun crosses the equator. On that day, the daytime and nightime are both very close to 12 hours. This happens about March 21 and September 21 each year. Many religious holy days are synchronized to the equinoxes, including the Jewish Passover, and Christian Easter. Wiccans, other Neopagans, Native Americans and followers of many aboriginal and nature-based religions worldwide celebrate the equinoxes.

  • Eretz Yisreal: Hebrew for "the land of Israel." The area that Yahweh is believed to have granted to the Jewish people in the Hebrew Scriptures.

  • Erntefest: German for "harvest festival." The largest extermination campaign against Jews during World War II happened on this day in the fall of 1943. German Nazis attempted to exterminate all remaining Jews in the Lubin District of Poland. Over a two day period, about 42,000 Jews were murdered at Majdanek, Poniatowa, and Trawniki voncentration camps.

  • Eschatology, eschatological: This term is derived from the two Greek words "eschatos" meaning "final" and "logos" meaning "word." Eschatology means “the study of the last things”. It is used to discuss two topics:
    • The branch of theology dealing with the eventual outcome of the world -- the end of history -- from a religious perspective. In the case of fundamentalistand other evangelical Christian denominations, this typically involves discussion of the rapture, the Anti-Christ, Jesus' second coming, the war of Armageddon, the extermination of most humans on Earth, and other end-time events. These play a minor or no role in liberal forms of Christianity.

    • The branch of theology dealing with death, judgment and the fate of an individual person.

  • Eschatophobia: A fear of an imminent end of the world and of civilization as we know it.

  • Esoteric: A type of hidden knowledge that is generally known only by a few individuals and not by the general public.

  • ESP: An acronym for Extrasensory Perception -- being sensitive to more than the normal five senses.

  • Essenes: One of the approximately 24 Jewish groups active during the 1st century CE.

  • Essentialism: Defining a group of people by one -- or a small set of -- fixed properties. Gender, religion, race or sexual orientation are the most common properties. It assumes that there is no possibility of variation within the targeted group, or potential for change. See racism, sexism, religism and homophobia.

  • Eternal Generation, Eternal Sonship: A belief that Jesus Christ has been the Son of God continuously, from before the creation of the world to the present time. Some Christians have alternative beliefs, stating that Jesus became the Son of God at the time of his ascension, or resurrection, or baptism, or birth.

  • Eternal Progression (LDS and other Mormon Churches): See Exaltation

  • Eternal Subordination of the Son: An early Christian heresy in which Jesus was believed to be forever in a subordinate role to God the Father. This hierarchical concept of the Trinity has been promoted in recent decades by some Fundamentalist Christians. It is often used to support their belief that women should be restricted to inferior roles in the Church, home, workplace, and the rest of society.

Ethical Culture: A movement founded in the U.S. by Felix Adler (1851 - 1933). He advocated replacing religious beliefs and codes with a secular ethic.

  • Ethics: The study of human values and moral conduct. Normative Ethics and Metaethics is a study into ultimate values and how people should live their lives.

  • Eucharist: See Communion

  • Eugenics: Programs by which humans are carefully selected for breeding in order to maximize certain qualities. These programs often involved the sterilization of individuals found unworthy to procreate. The German Nazi government instituted a Mutterkreuz (mother's cross) program which encouraged women who met their racial standards to have many "Aryan" children, for which they could eceive crosses.
  • Euhemerism (a.k.a. evemerism): The belief that ancient deities were actually kings and other heros who were deified, typically after their death.

  • Euthanasia: (Greek for "good death.") An ambiguous term with meanings ranging from "physician assisted suicide" for terminally elderly persons in intractable pain, to German Nazi programs of murdering old and handicapped persons. We recommend that the term never be used, and that a specific term be used in its place.

Words beginning with "EV" to "EX" are listed elsewhere.

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Reference used:

Copyright © 1996 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written on: 1996-MAR-11
Last update: 2014-APR-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

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