Atheism The belief that no gods exist.
Baha'i A religion founded by Baha'u'llah (1817–92), who was born in Tehran (in modern-day Iran). Baha'ists believe that there is one God and all religions are part of God's plan. They believe that all people should work together for world peace and unity.
Bible The Christian or Jewish holy book. The Jewish Bible contains a history of Israel and the Jews. The Christian Bible contains the Old Testament (similar to the Jewish Bible) and the New Testament, which describes the life of Jesus Christ and his followers.
Buddha A title meaning “enlightened one”, given to Siddhartha Gautama (563–483 BC), the founder of Buddhism. Through meditation, he reached the state of nirvana, and spent his life teaching others how to do so.
Buddhism A religion based on the teachings of the Buddha. Buddhists believe in four noble truths: life is full of suffering; suffering is caused by desire; suffering can end if we put a stop to desire; there is a path to a state of peace, called nirvana.
Christianity A religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, and the worship of one God. Christians believe God created Heaven and Earth and that he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to save people from sin by sacrificing his own life.
Church A place of worship for Christians, often built in the shape of a cross.
Five Ks Five items worn by Sikhs as symbols of their faith. These are: kesh, uncut hair held in a kanga (comb), kara (wrist band), kachera (underpants) and kirpan (sword).
Five pillars of Islam Five duties that Muslims must perform. These are: to declare faith to Allah (God) and the Prophet Mohammed; to pray five times a day; to give to charity; to fast during the month of Ramadan; to make a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Guru Nanak (1469–1539) An Indian spiritual teacher who was the founder of Sikhism. He was the first of ten gurus (leaders).
Guru Granth Sahib The Sikh holy book, containing nearly 6000 hymns written by 10 Sikh gurus (leaders).
Heaven In some religions, the destination for a person’s soul after death, if they have followed the codes of that religion.
Hinduism A religion based on a set of ideas called the dharma, the truth—that all living things have souls that are reborn many times. Hindus believe the actions (karma) of people in this life will decide their fate in the next. The Hindu religion has many gods who are all different appearances of the supreme spirit, Brahman.
Islam A religion based on the word of God, as revealed to the Prophet Mohammed and written down in the Qur'an. The followers of Islam, called Muslims, believe in one God, Allah. Muslims follow the five pillars of Islam.
Jainism A religion founded in India in around the 9th–7th century BC. Its central beliefs are non-violence to all living things and self-control over physical pleasures and desires.
Jesus Christ A Jewish spiritual leader, born 2000 years ago, whom Christians believe to be the Son of God. Officials feared he would stir an uprising, so he was crucified (nailed to a cross to die). Christians believe he rose from the dead and into Heaven.
Judaism The religion of the Jewish people, who believe in one God who created Heaven and Earth and made the Jews his chosen people.
Mecca A city in Saudi Arabia where the Prophet Mohammed was born. All Muslims pray facing the direction of Mecca and vow to make a pilgrimage there, the Hajj.
Meditation The act of concentrated thought on spiritual matters. Meditation is an important part of all religions.
Mohammed (570–632) The Prophet of the Islamic religion. He was meditating when an angel told him there is only one God, Allah, and that he should become the prophet of Allah. Muslims believe Mohammed is the last in a line of prophets sent by Allah.
Mosque A Muslim place of worship, with a domed roof and towers called minarets, from which Muslims are called to prayer.
Nirvana A state of peace that Buddhists strive to achieve through meditation and good actions.
Orthodox Church A branch of Christianity in which followers believe that their bishops are supreme. Orthodox Christians live mainly in Eastern Europe and Greece. Also known as Eastern Orthodox Church.
Pilgrimage A journey to a sacred place, inspired by religious devotion.
Prophet A person who speaks to followers of a religion as the messenger of God.
Protestant Church A branch of Christianity in which the Bible is the only authority.
Qur’an The holy book of the Islamic faith. Muslims believe it is a record of the words spoken by Allah to the Prophet Mohammed through the angel Jibril (Gabriel).
Religion A collection of beliefs that help people attempt to understand the world. Most religious people believe in a god, or several gods. There are many different religions in the world. Some of the most widely practised are: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism. Though different, they have some features in common. People follow rituals and celebrate holy days, they go to a place of worship to pray, and most religions have priests who conduct religious worship.
Saint An extremely holy person. In Roman Catholicism, the title of Saint refers to someone who has been canonized (officially recognized) by the Catholic Church. Saints are also recognized in other religions. A saint is a tzadik in Judaism, a mu'min in Islam, a guru in Hinduism or a bodhisattva in Buddhism.
Shi’a Islam A branch of Islam with followers concentrated mostly in Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Bahrain. Followers reject the first three Sunni caliphs (leaders of Islam) and believe that Ali, the Prophet's son-in-law who eventually became the fourth caliph, was the rightful leader. In matters where the Qur'an does not offer guidance, they follow the religious writings of the Prophet's family and others close to him.
Shinto The traditional religion of Japan, founded in around 660 BC. Shinto means "Way of the Spirits". It is a set of practices and rituals that form a connection between the spirits—including nature spirits and the spirits of ancestors—and the everyday world.
Sikhism An Indian religion that follows the teachings of Guru Nanak. Sikhs believe in one God who created the Universe.
Sunni Islam A branch of Islam containing the majority (up to 90%) of the world's Muslims, who recognize all of the first four caliphs (leaders of Islam). In matters where the Qur'an does not offer guidance, they draw on a large body of religious writings, based on the Prophet's sayings and actions.
Synagogue A Jewish place of worship.
Taoism Also called Daoism. A philosophy (set of beliefs about life) and religion based on following the Tao (the "way" or "path"). This means living a simple, natural and kind life. Taoism is based on the philosophy of Laozi, who lived in China in around the 6th century BC.
Torah The Jewish holy text, containing the first books of the Jewish Bible, a history of the Jews and the laws that Jews follow. The words of the Torah are written in Hebrew on scrolls that are kept in each synagogue's ark (special closet). The Torah is read to the congregation during synagogue services.
Tripitaka The Buddhist holy texts, containing a set of rules for monks and nuns, the experiences of Buddha and an explanation of Buddha’s teaching.
Consultant: Philip Wilkinson
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