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Inviting others to Islam; missionary work.

Filed in Islam

Daily Office

Set times of daily Christian prayer dating to ancient days. Various forms of the Daily Office are observed widely in the liturgical traditions, especially Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Anglicanism.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy

Dalai Lama

The title of the leader of Tibetan Buddhism and the spiritual and (now exiled) political leader of the people of Tibet. Dalai Lama is a title rather than a name, but it is all that is used when referring to the man. Capitalize when referring to the person who currently holds the title; lowercase when referring to the title in general. Each dalai lama is considered to be the reincarnation of the last; the current, 14th Dalai Lama left Tibet in 1959 after China’s invasion and resides in Dharamsala, India. Tibetan Buddhists address him as Your Holiness and refer to him in writing as His Holiness.

Filed in Buddhism, Religious titles


Pronounced “DAH-lit.” A term used primarily as a label of self-identity by those from the Scheduled Castes, or lowest subcastes, who no longer identify themselves as Hindus, be they converts to another religion or no longer of any religious affiliation. The term was coined in the 1800s but did not come into popular usage until the 1970s, when it was adopted by Scheduled Caste members who wanted to separate themselves from both the caste system and from Hinduism altogether. Dalit should not be used to refer to all Scheduled Caste members – only non-Hindus who self-identify that way.

Filed in Hinduism

Darbar Sahib

The preferred name for the most prominent Sikh gurdwara, located in Amritsar, Punjab, India. It is commonly known by two other names: Harmandir Sahib, which means “the Temple of God,” and its English-language nickname, the Golden Temple. See also Golden Temple.

Filed in Sikhism

David, Star of

The six-pointed star that is a symbol of Judaism. The star appears in the center of the Israeli flag. It is sometimes referred to by its Hebrew name, Magen David.

Filed in Judaism

Day of Atonement

See Yom Kippur.

Filed in Judaism


In liturgical churches, such as the Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican, a deacon is ordained and operates as a subordinate and assistant to priests or ministers. In other churches, deacons are drawn from the laity to carry out worship and/or administrative duties. Uppercase before a name. The Catholic Church reconstituted its diaconate as a permanent order at the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. The office had a significant role in the early church but gradually fell out of use in Western Christianity. Permanent deacons, as they are known, are not lay people. They can celebrate the so-called “life-cycle” sacraments, such as baptism, marriage and funerals. They cannot celebrate the Eucharist, as a priest can, or hear confessions. In contrast to permanent deacons, transitional deacons are in the process of becoming a priest.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy

Dead Sea Scrolls

Refers to tens of thousands of fragments of biblical and early Jewish writings that were found in caves in Qumran near the Dead Sea between 1947 and 1956. Scholars dispute their importance but agree they shed light on the culture and beliefs of Judaism between the third century B.C. and the dawn of Christianity in the first century.

Filed in Christianity, Judaism


In Catholicism, the beads of the rosary are separated into five groups of 10, called decades. Each decade represents a mystery or event in the life of Jesus Christ. There are four sets of mysteries for a total of 20. See rosary.

Filed in Catholicism


Another name for the Ten Commandments, which is the preferred term. See Ten Commandments.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholicism, Christianity, Judaism, Orthodoxy, Protestantism


A belief in God based solely on natural reason and morality and rejecting revelation, prayer and supernatural acts, such as miracles. Deists believe that God exists as creator of the world but left it to run on its own. The belief emerged in the 17th century and spread during the Enlightenment; many of America’s founders were deists.

Filed in Religion and culture


A god or goddess; having a divine nature.

Filed in Religion and culture


A word that can be applied to any Christian body, though some traditions object strongly to its use. For example, the Catholic and Orthodox churches object to its underlying philosophical assumption that they are just various brand names for a single Christian tradition. Baptists (especially Independent Baptists), the Churches of Christ and some strongly congregational groups strenuously object to the notion that they are in any way an organized bureaucracy. They like to think of themselves as “fellowships.” Christian bodies can be substituted to avoid any potential controversy.

Filed in Baptist/Southern Baptist, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy


Pronounced “DEE-vee.” In Hinduism, the female aspect of the divine. For some, she is the power of Brahman, the unqualified absolute. Typically translated as “goddess.”

Filed in Hinduism


The word devil is lowercase, but capitalize Satan.

Filed in Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy, Religion and culture


Using the word “devout” is problematic in reference to all faiths. It’s one thing for individuals to call themselves that, but it’s another for a reporter to attach the description. It’s a subjective term without a precise meaning to all readers. Words like “serious” or “practicing” or “committed” have similar problems. All these terms mean different things to different people.

When journalists use words like “devout” it implies that the person it is applied to somehow adheres more to a faith’s teachings and practices than others of that faith. And it can too often be viewed as code for fanaticism or extremism or something out of the norm.

Since journalists do not have a direct line into the soul to discern a person’s faith, it is far better to use precise descriptions of a person’s religious practice and observance. For example, “Joe Smith attended Mass every day” or “Jane Smith received a church annulment from her marriage to Joe Smith.” Or “Joe Smith attended worship every week, even when ill.” Or “Jane Smith contributed $200,000 to Trinity Church, where she worshipped.”

Filed in Religion and culture


Pronounced “Dhahm-muh-PAA-dah.” One of the most widely known verse texts of the Buddha’s teaching, it means “the path of dharma” and is part of a collection within the Sutta Pitaka.

Filed in Buddhism


Pronounced “DAHR-muh.” The mode of conduct for an individual that is most conducive to spiritual advancement. It includes universal human values as well as values that are specific to persons in various stages of life. In Hinduism it also refers to individual obligations in terms of law and social law. In Buddhism it is the teachings of Buddha from which an adherent molds his conduct on the path toward enlightenment.

Filed in Buddhism, Hinduism


Pronounced “THIK-er.” The remembrance of God, especially by chanting the names of God to induce alternative states of consciousness. Also sometimes spelled zikr.

Filed in Islam

Dianic witchcraft

A neopagan form of religious tradition that is centered on the divine feminine and Goddess worship. Has some overlap with Wicca, in that members follow the Wiccan Rede, but differs in that most Wiccans worship both the masculine and feminine.

Filed in Paganism/Wicca


Describes Jews who live outside of the state of Israel. It was first used to describe how Jews were forced to scatter after the Babylonian exile in the 6th century B.C. Do not capitalize unless referring to the Jewish Diaspora.

Filed in Judaism

diocesan bishop

A diocesan bishop has jurisdiction over a diocese and is sometimes known as the Ordinary. This person may be assisted by other bishops, known as bishops suffragan. In addition, bishops who retire or resign from their diocese may assist in another diocese in some capacity; the church variously refers to them as assistant bishops, bishops assisting or assisting bishops.

Filed in Catholicism, Christianity

diocese, diocesan

An administrative unit of the Catholic, Anglican or Orthodox church. It is overseen by a bishop and usually covers a defined geographical area. Capitalize diocese when part of a proper name. See archdiocese.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy


Filed in Christianity, Orthodoxy, Religion and culture


An ancient practice, common in the New Age movement, that involves predicting and interpreting future events. Includes such practices as reading tea leaves, reading tarot cards and osteomancy.

Filed in Other faiths

Divine Liturgy

The Eucharistic service in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches. It consists of three parts: the Prayers of Preparation; the Liturgy for the Catechumens, or those preparing for baptism; and the Liturgy of the Faithful.

Filed in Catholicism, Orthodoxy


Pronounced “dee-VAH-lee.” The Hindu “festival of lights” is one of the most celebrated in the Hindu diaspora. It symbolizes the victory of dharma, and good over evil. The word is a variation of the Sanskrit word “Deepavali” and refers to the rows of earthen lamps celebrants place around their homes. Hindus believe that the light from these lamps symbolizes the illumination within the individual that overwhelms ignorance, represented by darkness. Diwali commemorates the return of the avatar Lord Ram (the incarnation of Lord Vishnu), his wife Sita and brother Lakshman to their capital, Ayodhya, after 14 years of exile. The residents of Ayodhya, overjoyed at the return of their beloved king, lit lamps in his honor. Thus, the entire city looked like a row of lights.

Filed in Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism


The systematized principles or beliefs of a religious faith.

Filed in Religion and culture

Doctrine and Covenants

One of four books of scripture for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is a collection of divine revelations and inspired declarations from church founder Joseph Smith and his successors in the church presidency. Mormon scriptures also include the Book of Mormon, the Bible (King James Version) and the Pearl of Great Price.

Filed in Christianity, Mormonism


In religions such as Christianity and Islam, dogmas are considered core principles that must be adhered to by followers. In Roman Catholicism it is a truth proclaimed by the church as being divinely revealed. Dogma must be based in Scripture or tradition; to deny it is heresy.

Filed in Catholicism, Christianity, Islam


A Roman Catholic order of priests founded by St. Dominic in Spain in the early 13th century. They focus on preaching and teaching and take vows of poverty. There is also an order of Dominican nuns.

Filed in Catholicism


The social practice of a woman bringing money or valuables to her marriage is still prevalent in South Asia and other parts of the world. It is not a part of Hinduism.

Filed in Hinduism


See religious titles.

Filed in Religious titles


Pronounced “DO-uh.” The Islamic term for individuals’ personal supplication to God. In Arabic it means calling.

Filed in Islam


Pronounced “DOOR-gaa.” In Hinduism, one of the principal feminine forms of the divine and associated, in particular, with the power to overcome evil. She is the consort of Lord Shiva. See Shiva.

Filed in Hinduism

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