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Religion 101 Midterm Study Guide
Chapter 1
Mystical- dimension of a religious system that emphasizes an element of secret communion,
connection, or identity between human nature and the divine or the really Real
Axial Age- that period of time, roughly between 800 and 200 BCE, during which human civilizations
around the world developed radically new religious orientations
Anthropomorphism- tendency to attribute human form to non-human entities like gods
Diffusion Theory- the hypothesis that the religious complex found in one place came from another place
through migration, trade, war, or other forms of travel
Polytheism- any religious system that holds that there are many gods
Euhemerism- the theory that the gods had originally been human beings who were worshipped in their
own lives for their accomplishments and were later divinized as local gods
Platonic Orientalism- the ancient tendency to locate in the orient (the East) revelation and wisdom,
thought to resemble or prefigure the teachings of Plato
Nonlocal Self- the phenomenon of recognizing ones self most accurately reflected not in the culture and
religion one was born into, but in a foreign framework
Evolutionary Monotheism- the historical phenomenon of polytheistic systems developing into an
accompanying monotheistic system
Cosmotheism- a religious system that understands the physical universe to be a God and posits local
gods as partial manifestations of this cosmic God
Pantheism- position claiming that everything is God and God is identical with the physical/natural
Panentheism- position claiming that the physical universe is within God or is a part of Gods body, but
that God also transcends it
Monotheism- any religious system that holds that there is only one God
Scripture- any set of writings believed to be revealed or divinely inspired
Revolutionary Monotheism- a type of monotheism that denies the existence of other gods rather than
seeing them as expressions of its own cosmic god
Polemics- the art or practice of arguing against an alien philosophical position or religious belief
Apologetics- the discipline of defending through argument ones own religious system or philosophical
Canon Formation- the process whereby a tradition defines the scope and content of its scriptures by
choosing certain texts as authoritative or revealed and rejecting others
Orthodoxy- an ideological system, especially religioususually the one in authoritybelieved to be
straight (orthos), in other words, correct
Heterodoxy- any religious system believed to be other than/at variance with the official (orthodox)
position, hence incorrect, and hence not authoritative
Theology- intellectual domain consisting in attempts to relate human reason to a revelation, particularly
around the nature of God, in the traditions of a given community of believers
Implicit Theology- a model of the nature of God or the gods that is not spelled out systematically but
assumed in the mythology or ritual
Explicit Theology- a model of the nature of God (or the gods) that is spelled out systematically
Doctrine- specific teaching or system of beliefs
Pagan- people (originally from the country side) who do not accept Christianity

Heretics- people who, instead of submitting to the authority of tradition, follow their own opinions and
choose to believe something else
Neoplatonism- Middle Platonism, a continuation of the Platonic tradition in Alexandria after the closure
of Platos Old Academy in Athens, became Neoplatonism from Plotinus on (third century CE)
Gnostics- Jewish and Christian communities of the first centuries CE who emphasized a direct mystical
knowing (gnosis) over literalist belief

Chapter 2
Ancient Wisdom Narrative- an imagined history of religious truth that posits a line of inspired teachers
who passed on a specific revelation
Fundamentalism- a modern way of being religious that relies on highly selective literalist readings of an
inerrant scripture and on a return to fundamentalsthe postulated original truths of the faith
Deism- natural theology that views the universe as a kind of machine assembled by a God who steps
back after creation, leaving the world to its own mechanisms
Natural Theology- a way of thinking about God that relies on the study of the natural world as an
expression of Gods nature, wisdom, and intentions
Projection Theory- a model of religion that posits that the gods and other religious phenomena are
expressions of human nature rendered objective or external to human beings
Romantic Reversal- an employment of projection theory during the romantic movement that suggested
that the human projector may in fact be divine
Idealism- a philosophical position that understands mind as the ultimate nature and source of reality
Historical Jesus- a historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth, as best we can approximate his life and
teachings through academic methods
Christ of Faith- the theological understanding of Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah or Son of God, within
a Christian community of belief system
Historical-Critical Method- contextualizing a text by treating it as a human product written at a
particular time, in a particular place, for a specific audience, and with a specific purpose
Linguistics- the study of languagessometimes pursued from a comparativist angle and aimed toward
modeling the universal structures of language
Modernity- a period characterized by a very broad and influential style of thought and practice, which
emphasizes scientific progress, reason and universalism
Metaphysical Religion- a phrase used to describe those alternative movements in modernity that
emphasizes mind, magical powers, energy, and healing beyond the physical
Spirituality- term used to signal a personal way of relating to the divine or the underlying reality, a way
that is more or less independent of religious authority and its social institutions
Marxism- the philosophical doctrine of Karl Marxa form of dialectical materialism positing that all the
forms of human consciousness, social behavior, political order, culture, art, and ideology (the
superstructure) are produced by their corresponding economic systems (the base)
Materialism- a position according to which matter is the primordial factor or existent in the universe
False Consciousness- any form of awareness that relies for its stability on the person remaining ignorant
about the true nature, dynamics, and/or origin of his or her ideas and beliefs
Holocaust or Shoah- the systematic murdering of approximately ten million people, mostly Jews, in the
labor prisons of the Nazi concentration camps
Race- a persons or a groups identity, as constructed on the basis of skin color or presumed physical

Class- the place of an individual or group in a hierarchal society system, usually determined by birth,
wealth, education, and/or political power
Gender- the standard model of what it means to be a man, a woman, or some third gender in a
particular culture
Altered States of Consciousness- forms of mind, often of an extreme religious nature, tht are
experienced as radically other than the social ego
Counterculture- a youth movement, roughly from 1960 to 1975, that aimed to counter established
society and to embrace alternative forms of consciousness and culture
Tantra- an umbrella term covering a set of Asian traditions that emphasize the unity between the divine
and the human nature, particularly as this unity is manifested in the human body and its erotic energies
Perennialism- position claiming that the difference major religions all posses a single mystic truth or a
common core
Contextualism- position claiming that human behavior and experience are best explained as the product
of local linguistic, social, and political processes that cannot be universalized
Constructivism- position claiming that all forms of human experience, including religious forms, are best
explained as constructed through local processes

Chapter 3
History of Religions- branch of the study of religion that emphasizes the comparison of religious forms,
often of an extreme nature, across large stretches of space and time
General History of Religions- the full historical sweep of humanitys religious experience, form
prehistory to the present day
Both-And- the paradoxical cognitive structure that robust comparison often produces
Principle of Extremity- the hypothesis that the dynamics of religion can best be seen in extreme forms of
religious experience, where they are magnified and therefore rendered visible
Reflexivity- capacity to think about thinking, become aware of awareness, and hence free consciousness
temporarily from the parameters of society and ego
Humanities- the study of consciousness coded in culture
Culture- the entire network of institutions, laws, customs, symbols, technologies, and arts that constitute
the life of a particular society
Initiation- a set of formalized activities and teachings through which a persons social or religious
identity is transformed
Cultural Anthropology- the study of human nature through the analysis of social practices, symbols,
myths, rituals, and so on
Liminal State- the middle or in-between phase of an initiation in which the persons old identity is
Secularism- any system of thought or practice that does not invoke a religious principle and does not rely
on explicitly religious values
World Religion- a religious tradition that has expanded beyond its original cultural context, to reach a
global audience
Religion- any set of established stories, rituals, mental and bodily practices, and institutions that have
built up around extreme encounters with some anomalous presence, power, or hidden order
Sacred- that which is special or set apart from the ordinary and is often experienced as a power or
presence at once terrifying and attractive
Profane- that which is ordinary, banal, or mundane

Experience- a subjectivity felt, perceived, or cognized event that is self-evident to the person having it
Magic- ritual practice in which an assumed correspondence between a mental state and some aspect of
the physical world allows the former to influence the latter
Alchemy- a practice that combines chemical and spiritual techniques to transform matter into gold and/or
the human being into spirit
Agnosticism- position claiming that we cannot know the truth about religious matters; it is often
combined with the conviction that science is the only reliable means of knowing
Insider-Outsider Problem- the question of who makes a better scholar of religion: the inside believer
or the outside analysts
Plausibility- the degree to which an idea is accepted or rejected within a particular cultural context, very
often irrespectively of its objective truth or falsehood
Religious Question- any question that attempts to address matters of ultimate concern, such as the nature
of reality, the meaning of life, or the purpose of suffering

Chapter 4
Mythology- a systematic study of myths and sacred stories
Transcendence- state of being above, beyond, or outside the natural-physical world
Immanence- being present in (or coextensive with) the natural or the physical world
Liturgical Rituals- religious practices designed to honor, worship, or praise a deity
Funerary Rituals- religious practices around death and the handling of corpses
Libation Rituals- religious practices of spilling a liquid, often over or before the image ofa deity, and
often in commemoration of the dead or chthonic deities
Pilgrimage Rituals- ritual acts of traveling, for a religious purpose, to a place held to be sacred
Life-Cycle Rituals- religious practices around a biological event or a social transformation related to a
biological event (such as birth, puberty, marriage, death)
Civil Religion Rituals- public ceremonies that draw on religious structure for political purposes, thus
imbuing the city or nation-state with sacred values
Sacrifice- a ritual in which some vegetable, fluid, animal, or human being is offered to a deity, sometimes
trough violence and usually in hopes that the deity will give something in return
Blood Sacrifice- a sacrifice that involves killing an animal or a human being
Gift Model of Sacrifice- an implicit or explicit understanding that a sacrificial offering is a gift to the
deity for which something is expected in return
Scapegoat Model of Sacrifice- model that works on the implicit or explicit assumption that the sacrificial
offering is a replacement or stand-in for the community
Divination- any practice, formal or spontaneous, that attempts to intuit, predict, or fathom the future,
usually toward some practical end (such as deciding on a course of action)
Prophecy- the use of altered states of consciousness to predict the future or to criticize a political or
religious authority
Omens- signs that occur either spontaneously in nature or in a formal ritual context and indicate that
somethingoften something of a bad natureis about to happen
Founding Myth- sacred story about the founding figure of a religion
Hagiography- an idealized story of a saint or founder that expresses the self-understanding and values of
the tradition in question
Asceticism- a religious lifestyle of discipline and denial of bodily pleasures for spiritual ends

Chapter 5
Cosmogony- myth about the genesis of the universe
Anthropogony- myth about how human beings came to be
Draper-White Thesis- a model of the interaction of religion and science that emphasizes conflict and the
attempted suppression of science by religious authorities
Merton Thesis- a model of the interaction between religion an science that emphasizes forms of
concentration pursued for religious ends
Ecology of Religion- the study of religions as expressions of their natural local environments
Hierophany- a manifestation of the sacred through the medium of a natural object or event, for
instance a tree, a rock a place, an image, ora celestial phenomenon
Purity Codes- a set of rules and attending moods and assumptions that structure a particular community
around the binaries of purity and pollution
Binary- any set of opposites (self/other, subject/object, mental/material, inside/outside) within a cultural
or cognitive system that structures thought, feeling, and behavior within that system
Contagion- the belief that an attribute of a social nature (like pollution or impurity) can be transmitted
through touch or physical contact
Hierarchy- any system that subordinates lower classes of people to higher classes of people whiin an
idealized social whole
Endogamy- practice of marrying strictly within ones close social subgroup
Commensality- the required practice of eating within ones own social class or subgroup
Kosher Laws- dietary rules prominent in many forms of Judaism
Structuralism- method within anthropology that understands particular social phenomena as meaningful
parts of a larger meta-system, whole, or structure
Cosmology- study of the origin, evolution, and structure of the physical universe
Deep Ecology- a broad environmental movement that seeks to awaken human beings into the biological
fact that they are intimate parts of a larger ecosystem, which is their bigger body
Anthropocentrism- tendency to attribute human form to non-human entities like gods
Gaia Theory- the hypothesis that the earth is a self-regulating system
Shaman- a religious specialist found in many indigenous culture, who specializes in trance stats, ecstatic
journeys, healing, magical powers and battle, music, and mythical lore
Entheogen- generating a god within, a modern name given to sacred plants and substances that can
catalyze extreme religious states

Chapter 6
Male Androgyne- a mythical figure, often symbolizing wholeness or divinity, who is both male and
female but whose maleness is privileged as a primary feature
Sexuality- a biologically driven instinct that, although genetically determined to varying degrees, is
nevertheless open to cultural shaping
Gender- the standard model of what it means to be a man, a woman, or some third gender in a
particular culture *****
Sexual Orientation- the specific (but often quite fluid) ways in which a persons sexual desires are
orientated toward an object or objects or a particular gender
Celibacy- a religious state defined by the commitment not to engage in nay sexual activity for the sake of
some religious end

Monasticism- the practice of living in celibacy, within a same-sex community, for the sake of religious
principles or belief
Queer Criticism- thinking and speaking of God from the perspective of queer individuals, who
understand sexual identities as socially invented, and often in unjust ways
Third Gender- general phrase for all those mixed genders, alternative sexualities, bisexualities, or
transexualities that do not follow the traditional binary logic of male/female
Patriarchy- rule by the fathera term that characterizes societies and cultures heavily dominated by
male interests, perspectives, and authority; a very stable, nearly universal feature in traditional social
systems of the past
Moral Relativism- position in ethics claiming that it is impossible to judge fairly between different value
systems on moral matters, since each system is internally consistent and self-justifying
Paternity-Patriarchy Principle- a mode of comparison that follows issues of correct family line,
inheritance, and the privileging of male authority
Circumcision- the cutting of the tip of the foreskin as a mark of religious identity
Transgression- ritual act of subverting a purity code system toward some religious end
Divinization- the process of becoming a god or a goddess
Super Sexualities- altered states of energy and consciousness commonly experienced both as sexual and
as the means of divinization, transcendence, and/or religious transmutation
Erotic- describes a sexual event that also functions as an opening or trigger to a religious experience
Agricultural Pattern- a widely distributed comparative pattern through which sexuality is rendered
analogous to agriculture, the male being viewed as planter of the seed in the female soil
Sexual Trauma- condition in which the psyche has been wounded, cracked open, or otherwise
compromised by some previous sexual violation or negative experience