Afterlife In philosophy, religion, mythology, and fiction, the afterlife (also referred to as life after death or the Hereafter) is the concept of a realm in which an essential part of an individual's identity or consciousness continues to exist after the death of the body. Belief in an afterlife is in contrast to the belief in oblivion after death.

Agnosticism/Agnostic The belief that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena. An agnostic is a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in a god.

Anthropic Coincidence (AC) A coincidence in the known physical constants of the Universe when, without this coincidence, life as we know would not be possible.

Anthropic Principle  A philosophical statement that relates the existence of beings that can observe the universe (humans, as far as we know) to the characteristics of the Universe. The Weak Anthropic Principle (WAP) states that “only in a universe capable of eventually supporting life will there be living beings that can be capable of observing that universe.” The Strong Anthropic Principle (SAP) states that  “the observability of the universe relies on and is constrained by the existence of intelligent life.”

Astrophysicist  An expert in or student of astrophysics, the branch of astronomy concerned with the physical nature of stars and other celestial bodies, and the application of the laws and theories of physics to the interpretation of astronomical observations.

Atheism/Atheist Belief that the Universe is without cause, without purpose and without direction, and its existence and evolution is simply the laws of chance at work over a very long period of time, within some sort of self-ordering principle, itself just an accidental. An atheist is not someone who doesn’t believe that there is a god. Rather, an atheist believes that there isn't a god of any sort.

Avatar  A visible representation of something abstract; in Hinduism, an avatar is a deliberate descent of a deity to Earth, or a descent of a Supreme Being (e.g., Vishnu). An appearance or manifestation.

Big Bang  The popular name for the currently prevalent cosmological model. In it, the Universe is thought to have begun 12 to 14 billion years ago as an infinitesimally small, infinitely hot, infinitely dense singularity. The singularity expanded and cooled, becoming the Universe, which continues, to this day, to expand and cool. The Big Bang Theory is also the name of a bloody good situational comedy show.

Copernican Principle Named after Nicolaus Copernicus, this principle states that the Earth is not in any specially favoured or central location. Prior to Copernicus, it was believed that Earth was indeed the centre of the Universe, with the planets and stars going around it.

Cosmology/Cosmologist   Physical cosmology is the scholarly and scientific study of the origin, evolution, large-scale structures and dynamics, and ultimate fate of the universe, as well as the scientific laws that govern these realities.

Deism/Deist  Belief in the existence of a supreme being, specifically, a creator who does not intervene in the universe. The term is used chiefly of an intellectual movement begun in the 17th century that accepts the existence of a creator on the basis of reason, but rejects belief in a supernatural deity who interacts with humankind.

Determinism  The belief that all events are caused by previous events and that the specific outcome of a sequence of events is completely determined. Determinism implies that people have no real ability to make choices or control what happens.

Divine  Of, relating to, or proceeding directly from God or a god.

Doctrine  A belief or tenet, especially about philosophical or theological matters, or, the body of teachings of a religion, a religious leader or organization.

Doctrinaire  Imposing a doctrine without regard to practical considerations.

Ethics  A set of rules and principles governing human behaviour based on concepts of right and wrong conduct.  Ethical:  Behaving according to a set of ethics.

Free Will  The doctrine that the conduct of human beings expresses personal choice and is not simply determined by physical or divine forces.

Fundamentalism/Fundamentalist  When referring to a religion, the belief that the scripture of that religion is divinely given, inerrant, and completely and permanently true. In each of the Abrahamic religions, there is at least one movement that believes its God to be exactly as described in its scriptures, and its commandments as fully authoritative and unchanging.

Although the term originated in the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and referred to a Christian movement that emphasized the inerrancy of Scripture, it has, with time, come to refer to movements within other religions that insist on the complete truth of their scriptures.

More recently the meaning has been expanded again, and now is applied to other schools of thought, including political thought and science, that rigidly adhere to specific sets of beliefs and are not open to other worldviews. Fundamentalist movements are frequently seen as systematically disregarding any input that might challenge their belief system.

god/God  In this blog, the term “god,”(uncapitalized) refers to any deity in myth or religion, including the gods of Greek, Roman and other pagan religions. One can refer to “a god” as in “an Olympic god.” When capitalized, “God” refers to the deity of a monotheistic religion, such as Judaism, Christianity or Islam, however named in that religion. Certain characteristics are generally attributed to God, such as omnipotence, omniscience, good, and involvement with mankind. 
Heresy  Opinion or doctrine at variance with the orthodox or accepted doctrine, especially of a church or religious system.

Immanence/immanent  In religious thought, immanence refers to a deity's relation to the material world in which the deity is present in that world, acting upon it and sustaining it. "Immanence" is often contrasted with "transcendence." (see below)

Irrational Not logical or reasonable; not according to that which is empirical or proven.

Kippah/Yarmulke  The skullcap worn by many Jews to keep their heads covered as a sign of reverence and respect for God. For some, it is also worn as a sign of cultural allegiance. Kippah is a Hebrew word; Yarmulke is Yiddish for the same thing.

Kosmos/Cosmos  The entity that contains both our Universe and anything outside of it. For example, if there was a singularity and a Big Bang, then by necessity, the singularity and whatever created it and caused it to bang could not have been in the Universe, but must have been in the Kosmos.
In this blog, the term is spelt with a “K” to differentiate it from another common use of “Cosmos,” that is, as a synonym for Universe.

Liturgy  The form of public worship characteristic of a religion.

Materialism  The philosophical  doctrine that nothing exists except matter and its movements and modifications.To materialists, matter is primary, and mind or spirit or ideas are secondary, the product of matter acting upon matter.

New Atheists  A group of atheists who, in the early 2000s, have decided to “take it to the theists” in asserting that there is no God and no god is needed to have created the universe. While philosophically their positions offer very little that is new, they are notable for their articulateness, their belligerence, and their apparent conviction that religious belief is the root cause of the majority human ills. For a very brief introduction to the New Atheists, see Posting 6; to read up on them individually, Google “new atheists Wikipedia”

Non-rational Not within the domain of what can be understood or analyzed by reason.

Paradigm  A way of understanding something by use of an example or model. For example: “The paradigm of the universe was once that the earth was in the centre and the sun, moon and stars circled around it.”

Personal Theology  The set of beliefs held by an individual, perhaps as changes to a religious theology, or perhaps built over time from scratch, based on experience, thought, and education. People do not necessarily know that they have a personal theology or what is in it, without some introspection.

Petitionary Prayer  Payers that specifically ask a deity for something or to do something, as opposed to prayers that thank or praise a deity.

Quantum Theory A theory in physics based on the principle that matter and energy behave both as particles and as waves. According to this theory, matter and energy are composed of tiny units of electromagnetic energy called quanta. Quantum theory is used to explain such phenomena as the photoelectric effect and the uncertainty principle. Another term for quantum theory is quantum mechanics, which also refers specifically to the use of quantum theory in studying the structure and behavior of atoms and molecules.

Rational Based on or in accordance with reason or logic.

Rational Theist  One who derives from science a belief that there is a deity that existed before  our Universe, and created our Universe, and likely continues to exist. The rational theist does not claim to know anything more about that deity, but is willing to make certain assumptions about it, such as: it is rational and intelligent; it had a reason for creating our Universe; and it has an ongoing but unknown relationship with our Universe. See Posting 13 for more information about rational theism and rational theists.

Reductionism  The theory that any phenomenon can be understood by breaking it down into its simplest constituent parts and analyzing these parts individually. That is, by looking at the individual constituent processes, scientists can gain an understanding of the whole process. The broadest sense of the term upholds the idea that science can be used to explain everything and that nothing is unknowable.

Religion  A cultural system including beliefs, practices and community, that helps provide a means of understanding the world and humankind's place in it.

Religious Theology  Refers to the theology of a particular religion; the doctrine or belief system that orthodox members of that religion address as a start-point for their personal theology.

Ritual  A set of words and actions performed in a set sequence, and typically imbued with meaning. All religions involve rituals. Other human activities, e.g., life cycle events, civic ceremonies, secular holiday observances, legal procedures, and sporting events, can also include rituals.

Scopes Monkey Trial (The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes) An American legal case that took place in 1925, in which a substitute high school teacher, John Scopes, was accused of violating Tennessee's Butler Act by teaching evolution in a state-funded school. The trial was deliberately staged to attract publicity. Scopes was found guilty and fined $100, although the verdict was overturned on a technicality.

Regardless, the trial served its purpose of drawing intense national publicity, especially highlighting the conflict between Fundamentalists (who claimed that the truth of the Christian Scripture had priority over everything else) and Modernists (who claimed that evolution was not inconsistent with religion.) The case was considered both a theological contest and a trial on whether modern science should be taught in schools.

Scriptures   A body of writings considered sacred or authoritative. Originally, this referred only to the Christian and Jewish Bibles, but its meaning has extended to refer to the sacred books of any religion.

Secularism  The disentanglement of religion and state governance. The opposite of theocracy.

Singularity  The infinitesimally small, infinitely hot, infinitely dense entity from which the Universe is believed to have originated.
There are two other uses of the word in science and mathematics, however, that should not be confused with it.
1. A point at which a function takes an infinite value, especially in space-time when matter is infinitely dense, as at the center of a black hole.
2. A  hypothetical moment in time when artificial intelligence and other technologies have become so advanced that humanity undergoes a dramatic and irreversible change.

Spirituality  A very broad concept, open to a number of interpretations. Spirituality generally involves a sense of connection to something bigger than oneself, as well as a search for meaning in life. While spirituality has some overlap with religiosity, the two are not the same.

State Atheism  An official policy of anti-clericalism, notably in the Soviet Union and other Marxist-Leninist states. This policy involves governmental opposition to all aspects of religion and religious practice, including in the private lives of citizens. State atheism is not the same as state secularism.

State Religion (also called an established religion, or official religion)  A religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state. A state with an official religion, while not secular, is not necessarily theocratic.

String Theory A theory that attempts to provide a complete, unified, and consistent description of the fundamental building blocks and forces of which the Universe is composed. String Theory hypothesizes that all of the fundamental particles of the Standard Model (also known as Particle Physics) are really just different manifestations of one basic object: a string.

Supernatural/Extra-natural  Events, things, actions that are outside of the natural world or inexplicable by science.

Theocracy  A form of government in which a deity is considered the source of all authority, and in which religious law is the basis for, and sometimes indistinguishable from, civil law.

Tautology A statement that is always true by necessity or because of the way in which it is stated. This frequently takes the form in which something is equated with itself.

Theism/Theist  The belief that there is something (or someone) outside of our Universe that has/had any kind of role, intentional or unintentional, in its birth and operation. Some theists believe in the scriptural God, that is, the God presented in the Scriptures and having the characteristics described in those Scriptures. Other theists believe that there is a force or intelligence that created the Universe, and that the the singularity itself couldn’t have existed without some agency having created it and then big-banged it into a Universe. They do not claim to know more about that deity (which I refer to as yotzer), nor to identify it with the scriptural God.

Theology  The study of one or more deities and that deity or deities’ relation to the world and Universe, particularly within the context of a religion. A system of religious beliefs or ideas; the study of religious faith, practice, and experience. The beliefs in a theology generally concern the world outside the material world.

Transcendence/transcendent  In religious thought, transcendence refers to the aspect of a deity's nature and power that is outside the natural world. A transcendent being is thought to be beyond all physical laws, and to surpass humankind’s ability to comprehend, approach or communicate with it. "Transcendent" is often contrasted with "immanent." (see above)

Universe  The totality of everything that is known or inferred to exist as a product of the Big Bang. Some modern theories speculate that there could be any number of other Universes from other Big Bangs of other singularities. The word “Cosmos” is sometimes used to refer to the Universe, as opposed to my use of “Kosmos” to describe what is outside of the Universe.

yotzer  A transliteration of the Hebrew word (יוצר) that means  “creator.” I use the term to refer to the creator of the Universe, as distinct from the God of any particular religion. Humankind knows nothing about yotzer (other than its creative role) but can infer its existence from the fact that something (not someone) had to create the Universe and instil within it, for example, the laws of physics, life-formation and evolution.

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"360-degree Panorama of the Southern Sky" by ESO/H.H. Heyer - ESO. Licensed under CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons