Browse the Stylebook by letter

abbess, abbot

The elected head of a monastery. An abbess oversees a community of nuns; an abbot, a community of monks.

Posted in Religion and culture


In Catholicism, a priest grants absolution to a confessed sinner as part of the sacrament of penance. The concept of absolution also exists in Lutheranism, Anglicanism and Eastern Orthodox denominations.

Posted in Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy

Agnus Dei

The “Lamb of God” prayer said three times at Catholic Mass during the breaking of bread. It is also a sacramental tablet of wax stamped with a representation of Jesus as a lamb bearing a cross.

Posted in Catholicism, Christianity

Ahl al-Kitab

Used in the Quran to refer to Jews and Christians; Arabic for “People of the Book.”

Posted in Islam

Al-Isra Wal Miraj

A celebration of Muhammad’s journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, where he ascended to speak with Allah.

Posted in Islam

All Saints’ Day

Celebrated on Nov. 1 by most Roman Catholics, All Saints’ Day honors those in heaven, specifically those who have not been canonized and have no special feast day. It is a holy day of obligation, and all Catholics are expected to attend Mass.

Posted in Catholicism, Christianity

All Souls’ Day

Celebrated Nov. 2 predominantly by Roman Catholics, it commemorates the faithful departed with special prayers.

Posted in Catholicism, Christianity


A person who thinks the question of God’s existence is irrelevant and unimportant.

Posted in Atheism/Agnosticism


This is the site of the final cosmic battle between good and evil, generally referring to the prophecy in the Book of Revelation. The term can refer to an actual battlefield, which some place at Megiddo in what is now Israel. Others use it in a metaphoric sense, or to denote any cataclysmic clash.

Posted in Christianity, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Protestantism


Pronounced “OW-sa-troo.” The modern iteration of pre-Christian Germanic religion; the Icelandic term for “Æsir faith” refers to belief in the Old Norse gods.

Ásatrú has a 4,000-year history; its gods, symbols and rituals have roots dating to approximately 2000 B.C. in Northern Europe. From Bronze Age beginnings through the Viking Age, local variants developed throughout continental Europe, the Nordic countries and the British Isles. While large-scale practice ended with Christian conversion, private worship is documented for several subsequent centuries. Some beliefs and rituals survived into the 20th century as elements of folk religion throughout the Northern European diaspora (including North America).

The contemporary revival began in 1972, with the founding of Iceland’s Ásatrúarfélagið (“Æsir Faith Fellowship”). Since then, practice has spread worldwide through a mixture of national organizations, regional gatherings, local worship groups and lone practitioners. In Iceland the Ásatrúarfélagið is now the largest non-Christian religion.

In 2013, the Department of Veterans Affairs responded to a petition by Ásatrúar in the United States and approved Mjölnir (Thor’s hammer) as an available emblem of belief for government grave markers.

Beliefs and practices vary greatly and span a range from humanism to reconstructionism, from viewing the gods as metaphorical constructs to approaching them as distinct beings. Deities venerated in Ásatrú include Freya, Odin and Thor, but respect is paid to a large number of gods, goddesses and other figures (including elves and land spirits).

The common ritual is the blót, in which offerings are made to gods and goddesses. Major holidays include Midsummer and Midwinter (Yule). Practitioners tend to incorporate local elements into their praxis and are often quite studied in traditions dating to the pre-Christian era.

Ásatrú is also known by adherents as heathenry or the Old Way. Followers should be referred to as Ásatrúar (singular and plural) or heathens.

Although Ásatrú clergy are referred to as goðar (singular goði), the term is not placed in front of their proper names as an honorific.

Posted in Other faiths


A practice or set of practices characterized by physical self-discipline, such as fasting or sleep deprivation, intended to help the practitioner achieve spiritual fulfillment or union with God.

Posted in Religion and culture


The essential, eternal self or soul in Hinduism.

Posted in Hinduism

end times

Lowercase. Generally refers to the time of tribulation preceding the Second Coming of Jesus, though it has parallels and roots in all three Abrahamic traditions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). Sometimes also called the “End of Days.”

Posted in Adventism, Anglican/Episcopalian, Baptist/Southern Baptist, Catholicism, Christianity, Islam, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Judaism, Mormonism, Orthodoxy, Pentecostalism, Protestantism


Refers to a 1,000-year period of messianic peace on Earth. Thus, a phenomenon can be millennial without occurring at a millennium (chronological marker), and vice versa. The turn of a millennium or a century has, historically, intensified manifestations of religious expectation and social enthusiasm.

Posted in Christianity, Protestantism


The belief that Christ will return after the establishment of the millennial kingdom, which arises from divinely inspired human efforts. In mild forms, blends with progressive reforms; in more extreme ones, with violent theocracies.

Posted in Christianity, Protestantism


The belief that Jesus will return before the beginning of the millennium and will be the impetus for the final battle between good and evil. It often includes apocalyptic expectation of Rapture, tribulation, the Antichrist, strong dualist tendencies, emphasis on preparation of self and missionizing.

Posted in Christianity, Protestantism