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Pronounced “JI-niz-um.” A sect established in India in the sixth century B.C. as a revolt against Hinduism. It teaches that the way to bliss and liberation from the cycle of birth and rebirth is to live a life of harmlessness and renunciation. Jains do not believe in a creator god; God is any soul who has been liberated from the cycle of birth and rebirth. The supreme principle is nonviolence; Jains believe plants and animals have souls, just as people do, and should be treated with respect and compassion.

Filed in Hinduism, Jainism


Pronounced “JAAH-tee.” A subcategory of varna, or caste. Typically, these subcastes are classified by specific occupations. Initially, jati was not birth-based, but eventually it came to be.

Filed in Hinduism


A somewhat archaic English rendering of the four Hebrew letters, usually transliterated as YHWH, that form the name of God. The preferred term of modern scholars is Yahweh. Jews traditionally never pronounce this name, substituting the Hebrew word Adonai, meaning “my Lord,” and they add vowel markings in Hebrew Bibles that literally render the name unpronounceable.

Filed in Christianity, Judaism

Jehovah’s Witnesses

A religious group that believes in one God, referred to by the Hebrew name Jehovah. Jesus is considered to be Lord and Savior but inferior to God. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not recognized as Christian by the Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant traditions, primarily because they do not believe in the Trinity. Adherents do not salute the flag, bear arms or participate in politics. They also refuse blood transfusions. Jehovah’s Witnesses have no formal clergy titles and do not use honorifics such as the Rev. They refer to baptized members who evangelize as publishers and those who devote greater time to ministry activities as regular pioneers. Full-time workers are called special pioneers. Their gathering places are called Kingdom Halls, not churches.

Filed in Christianity, Jehovah’s Witnesses


In Confucianism, jen (pronounced “ren”) is the highest principle and translates to compassion and humanity derived from genuine love.

Filed in Confucianism


Formally known as the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits were founded in 1540 by St. Ignatius Loyola, a Basque nobleman and soldier. They moved to the forefront of the Catholic Church in missionary work and have also been deeply involved in higher education and social service. Their early work as reformers within the church led to jealous opposition by some other religious orders, including complaints that the Jesuits inappropriately adapted the Catholic liturgy to Chinese culture during their successful 18th-century missionary work in China. Consequently, Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Jesuits in 1773. The order was restored in 1814 but continued to encounter pockets of opposition from inside and outside the church through much of its history.

Filed in Catholicism

Jesus Christ

Christians believe that the person Jesus of Nazareth is the prophesied Messiah and the Son of God incarnate. Jesus is one with God and the Holy Spirit in the Christian Trinity, and is worshipped as God and as the way to salvation. The New Testament gives Jesus the title Christ, which is Greek for “Messiah” or “anointed one.” Jesus’ life, Crucifixion and Resurrection are recorded in the Gospels of the New Testament; his birth is celebrated on Christmas Day, his Resurrection on Easter. His death is commemorated on Good Friday. Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet, but they do not believe that Jesus was crucified or resurrected. They believe he was drawn up alive into heaven, as was the prophet Elijah. Because Christ is a theological term, refer to Christ or Jesus Christ in quotations or in the context of stories about Christians. Otherwise, refer to Jesus. Personal pronouns referring to him are lowercase.

Filed in Christianity


Follower of the Jewish faith. Tradition holds that people are Jewish if their mothers are Jewish or if they have gone through a formal process of conversion, but some Jews argue for a more liberal definition. Many Jews consider themselves “secular Jews” whose connection to Judaism is cultural or ethnic rather than spiritual. Jews believe that God called their ancestor, Abraham, to be the father of their nation, which works toward the goal of establishing a divine kingdom on earth. Use Jew for men and women.

Filed in Judaism

Jewish congregations

Jewish congregations are sometimes called synagogues and sometimes called temples. Many Reform congregations use the latter term, while Orthodox and many Conservative Jews believe the word temple can refer only to the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, which they hope will one day be rebuilt in the messianic age. Do not call a Jewish congregation a temple unless it uses that word in its name. Jewish congregations are autonomous, with no hierarchies controlling their activities. The only formal titles used are rabbi for the spiritual leader of a congregation and cantor for the person who leads the congregation in song. Capitalize these titles before a person’s full name on first reference. Use only the last name on second reference. See Judaism.

Filed in Judaism

Jewish holidays

Judaism observes 12 major holidays. Each begins at sunset and extends to nightfall at the end of the holiday. The most commonly celebrated by American Jews are Passover, which takes place in March or April and lasts for eight days; Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in September or October; the Day of Atonement, also called Yom Kippur, in September or October; Sukkot in September or October; Hanukkah, which lasts for eight nights, in November or December; and Purim in February or March. The High Holy Days are the 10-day period beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur. Judaism uses a lunar/solar calendar, so the dates of each holiday move each year. The year of the Jewish calendar (for example, 2006 ushered in the year 5767) represents the number of years since creation.

Filed in Judaism

Jews for Jesus

This is a proper name of an organization founded by Jews who converted to evangelical Christianity, but see that faith as a fulfillment of the Jewish hope in the Messiah. The organization is part of a broader group of converts who call themselves “Messianic Jews.” Jews for Jesus are known for proselytizing to Jews. They observe Jewish holidays, speak Hebrew in their services, read from the Torah and refer to Jesus by the Hebrew name Yeshua. They also call their houses of worship “synagogues” and their clergy “rabbis.” Mainstream Jewish groups consider Messianic Judaism deceptive and do not want such converts to call themselves Jews of any kind. Messianic Jews and Jews for Jesus should never be grouped together with mainstream Jews in stories or listings. When reporting on them, clearly state that they are Christian by faith, though Jewish by culture or ethnicity.

Filed in Christianity, Judaism


An Arabic word that translates as “struggle” or “striving.” It is most commonly used to describe an inward, spiritual struggle for holiness, though traditionally it has also been used to describe defensive military action against non-Muslims. Today militant Muslims use it to call for aggressive armed strikes against non-Muslims, including civilians, and against other Muslims whom they consider impure – all acts condemned by mainstream Islam. Although many in the media translate jihad as “holy war,” it does not mean that literally, and the majority of Muslims do not use it that way.

Filed in Islam


The religion of the Jewish people. With its 4,000-year history, it is one of the first recorded monotheistic faiths and one of the oldest religious traditions still practiced today. Its beliefs and history are a major foundation for other Abrahamic religions, including Christianity and Islam. It traces a covenant between the Jewish people and God that began with Abraham and continued through Jacob, Moses, David and others to today’s modern Jews. Jews believe that the Messiah will one day establish a divine kingdom on earth, opening an era of peace and bliss. They believe that God called their ancestor, Abraham, to be the father of their nation, which works toward the goal of establishing this kingdom. Throughout history, Jews have been heavily persecuted. The Holocaust is the most high-profile example. The modern Jewish state of Israel was established in 1948. There are three major branches of Judaism. Reform Jews are the largest branch in the U.S., followed by Conservative and Orthodox Jews. See Reconstructionist Judaism for information on a smaller, fourth branch.

  • Reform Judaism: Reform Jews believe that the spirit of Jewish law can be adapted to time and place, so they tend to emphasize social justice issues more than dietary laws, Sabbath rules and other particulars of traditional Jewish life. They are represented by the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, both based in New York City. The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, based in Washington, D.C., is the political voice of the movement.
  • Orthodox Judaism: Orthodox Jews practice strict adherence to traditional Jewish laws, including the rules that prohibit work on the Sabbath and kosher dietary laws that prohibit such things as eating pork products or shellfish and eating meat and dairy products together. Some Orthodox Jews might consider themselves “modern Orthodox,” meaning that the men do not keep long beards or wear traditional garb. Most Orthodox congregations are represented nationally by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, and most of its rabbis are members of the Rabbinical Council of America.
  • Conservative Judaism: Conservative Jews follow a middle path between Reform and Orthodox Judaism. Congregations and individuals vary in terms of how observant they are of dietary laws, and though some do not, many drive to synagogue on the Sabbath. They are represented nationally by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly.
Filed in Conservative, Judaism, Orthodox, Reform


In Islam, the midday Friday congregational prayer.

Filed in Islam

just war

A doctrine with roots in Christianity that posits that governments sometimes – but not always — have a morally justified reason for using mass political violence. It has three parts, known by their Latin names: jus ad bellum, which considers the justice of the cause for going to war; jus in bello, which concerns justice within the conduct of war; and jus post bellum, which concerns the justice of peace agreements and the termination of war.

Filed in Catholicism, Christianity, Government and politics

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