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Nation of Islam

A religious and political organization formed in 1930 by Wallace Fard Muhammad with the stated aim of “resurrecting” the spiritual, mental, social and economic condition of black people in America and the world. Its tenets differ markedly from those of traditional Islam.

Elijah Muhammad took over the organization in 1934 and preached separation of blacks and whites, in addition to calling for a strong morality. After his death in 1975, Elijah Muhammad’s son, W. Deen Mohammed, assumed leadership. (Note the different spelling of the last name.) Mohammed began moving the Nation toward mainstream Sunni Islam and shunning black separatist views. He essentially dismantled the Nation and created his own organization.

In 1976, Louis Farrakhan left the Nation of Islam, but in 1978 he and his supporters decided to rebuild the original organization.

Followers should be referred to as members of the Nation of Islam. The term Black Muslim, once associated with the organization, is now considered derogatory and should be avoided.

Nation of Islam clergymen use the title minister, which should be capitalized on first reference before a name. On second reference, use only the person’s last name.

Filed in Islam, Nation of Islam

National Association of Evangelicals

The leading national fellowship of evangelical denominations, churches, organizations and individuals. Founded in 1942, it focuses on public witness and cooperative ministry among evangelicals. It includes 60 denominations along with other organizations and represents 30 million members.

Filed in Christianity, Protestantism

National Baptist Convention of America

An association of black Baptist churches that formed after a split with the National Baptist Convention USA.

Filed in African-American, Baptist/Southern Baptist, Protestantism

National Baptist Convention USA

The oldest and largest black Baptist organization in the United States. Its formal name is National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., but National Baptist Convention USA is acceptable in all references. (AP style currently adds periods to USA, but the denomination says it prefers USA without periods.) It was formed in Atlanta in 1886. Its current presidential headquarters are in Philadelphia, with its world headquarters located at the Baptist World Center in Nashville, Tenn.

Filed in Baptist/Southern Baptist, Protestantism

National Council of Churches

The formal name of this group, which was founded in 1950, is the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. It is commonly called the National Council of Churches, and that term is acceptable in all references. Use NCC on second reference. The NCC is an ecumenical organization that is the major national umbrella group for mainline Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, historic African-American and Living Peace churches. More than 50 other faith groups, including Roman Catholics, work with the council on humanitarian, justice and interfaith issues.

Filed in Christianity, Government and politics, Interfaith, Orthodoxy

National Missionary Baptist Convention of America

A black Baptist denomination that was formed in the 1980s after a disagreement with the National Baptist Convention of America over publishing endeavors.

Filed in African-American, Baptist/Southern Baptist, Protestantism


A movement founded by B.R. Ambedkar in India in the mid-1950s to encourage members of the Hindu caste of untouchables to convert to Buddhism, which would assure them of social acceptance as well as spiritual guidance. Mass conversions are still held today.

Filed in Buddhism

neo-evangelical, New Evangelicalism

A term coined in 1947 by the Rev. Harold John Ockenga, an evangelical scholar who served as president of both Fuller and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminaries. He used the term for evangelicals who believe that Jesus Christ is the sole means to salvation, but who are more flexible than traditional evangelicals in their interpretation and understanding of the authority of Scripture. Neo-evangelicals are typically more open to critical-historical methods of Scripture study, and some would say that interpreting Scripture in its context would allow for acceptance of committed homosexual relationships and other practices long condemned by the church. The term should be used with caution.

Filed in Christianity, Protestantism


A theological movement that emerged in the 1920s as a scholarly reaction against extreme Protestant liberalism, and drew heavily on the work of the Swiss theologian Karl Barth. It emphasized the sovereignty of God, the seriousness of sin and the revelation of Christian doctrine through Scripture. However, it denied that accounts in the Bible were necessarily historic fact.

Filed in Christianity, Orthodoxy

neo-Pentecostal, charismatic

These terms apply to a movement that developed in the 1960s and 1970s within mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic churches. It is characterized by emotional expressiveness in worship, speaking or praying in “tongues” and healing. Unlike the Pentecostal movement of the early part of the 20th century, the new movement did not result in the creation of new denominations. Instead, its adherents operate within their original denominations.

Filed in Catholicism, Pentecostalism, Protestantism


A term used to describe contemporary paganism, as opposed to ancient paganism. Some groups or individuals describe themselves as “pagan” because they trace their belief and practices back to ancient times and the emphasis on the natural world and goddess worship. Others prefer “neopagan” because their faith blends the old and the new.

Filed in Paganism/Wicca


A contemporary variation of the traditional Indian tantric traditions; often associated with New Religious Movements. Characterized by belief that sex can bring participants closer to the divine.

Filed in Religion and culture

New Age movement

A spiritual movement that developed in Western society in the late 1960s. Adherents link elements of religion with psychology and parapsychology. It remains a loose network of spiritual seekers, teachers, healers and other participants. Followers construct their own spiritual journeys, which are heavily influenced by the mystical elements of many organized religions, as well as native practices such as shamanism and neopaganism.

Filed in Other faiths, Religion and culture

New Atheist

A person who not only is an atheist but believes that religion is, on the whole, harmful and should be opposed whenever it conflicts with science or threatens societal interests. Capitalize both words.

Filed in Atheism/Agnosticism

New Religions studies

The academic discipline of studying New Religious Movements; draws from multiple academic fields, including psychology, history and sociology. See also: New Religious Movement.

Filed in Other faiths

New Religious Movement

A widely accepted term that describes religious groups outside the mainstream. These fringe groups often have roots in Christianity, Judaism or other major faiths but have beliefs and practices that are rejected by mainstream organizations. Some New Religious Movements are not new, and a few eventually evolve into mainstream religious groups. Cults, which are generally considered groups with overly controlling leadership or dangerous practices, are included in this category. New Religious Movements are sometimes called NRMs, but journalists should avoid using the abbreviation. See cult and sect.

Filed in Religion and culture

New Testament

The part of the Christian Bible written after the death of Jesus Christ. The name traces back to the Greek term meaning new covenant. There are 27 books in the New Testament, including the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, as well as the letters of the Apostles and early church leaders.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Baptist/Southern Baptist, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy, Pentecostalism, Protestantism

New Thought

A metaphysical movement with origins in the 19th century, characterized broadly by interest in mental and spiritual health and healing.

Filed in Other faiths

Nicene Creed

The profession of the Christian faith shared by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Catholic churches and most Protestant churches. Its earliest form was first agreed on by the overwhelming majority of hundreds of bishops who met in Nicaea in what is now Turkey in 325, and later expanded upon in 381 in Constantinople and confirmed in Chalcedon in 451. The councils were called to resolve the question of how to understand the divinity of Christ. The creed states that Christ was of one substance (consubstantial) with God the Father and was begotten, not created (made).

Filed in Catholicism, Christianity, Protestantism


A school within Mahayana Buddhism that was founded in 13th-century Japan by Nichiren. It calls on adherents to rely on the Lotus Sutra as the sole scripture needed for salvation, which is attained through veneration of the sutra’s sacred title, Namu-Myoho-renge-kyo.

Filed in Buddhism


A veil worn by some women who are Muslims; it covers all of their face except the eyes. See abaya, burqa and hijab.

Filed in Islam


Pronounced “nir-VAA-nah.” In Buddhism and Hinduism, a state of ultimate peace that is the goal of all beings, which includes freedom from suffering, desire and the cycle of rebirth. The Buddha’s entrance into nirvana at his death is referred to as his parinirvana (pronounced “PAH-rih-nir-VAA-nah”).

Filed in Buddhism, Hinduism


In Buddhism, the major tenet that no “self” exists as an individual, independent substance; rather, the ego is a transitory collection, an ever-changing process of mental formations and impressions. Also called not-self, it is referred to as anatman in Sanskrit and anatta in Pali.

Filed in Buddhism


No hyphen.

Filed in Atheism/Agnosticism


Used among North American Protestants to describe Christian churches, activities or organizations that are not sponsored by a specific denomination. Some non-Christian groups, including some Jews, use the term as well. It should not be used as a synonym for interfaith, interdenominational or ecumenical. Independent would be an acceptable substitute for nondenominational.

Filed in Judaism, Protestantism


An increasingly popular term for people who answer “none of the above” in surveys that ask them to categorize what religion they follow. Many nones say they believe in God and/or consider themselves religious. In the early 21st century, nones are one of the fastest-growing segments in religious identification surveys. Journalists should define the term on first reference.

Filed in Government and politics, Religion and culture

nongovernmental organization

A public or private institution that is not part of a government and is not a business. NGOs, as they are known, usually focus on providing aid, disaster relief or developmental assistance, particularly on an international scale. NGO is acceptable on second reference.

Filed in Religion and culture


No hyphen.

Filed in Religion and culture


Those who do not participate in religious or spiritual matters, including not believing in a higher power, not attending religious services and not participating in religious activities such as praying.

Filed in Atheism/Agnosticism


A person who questions or rejects the idea of a personal God or gods. The word is sometimes used as an umbrella term for agnostics, atheists and secularists; it can also include those who believe in a nonpersonal god — for example, deists.

Filed in Atheism/Agnosticism


A woman belonging to a religious order, typically Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. Nuns are also found in the Anglican/Episcopal, Lutheran and Buddhist traditions. In Catholicism, nuns are cloistered, meaning they live a life of secluded prayer, while sisters are more likely to be engaged in ministry outside the convent. However, the terms have become interchangeable in everyday language. Catholics commonly refer to nuns and brothers as “religious,” as in women and men religious, but that term is often confusing to general readers. Nuns and sisters are not ordained; they are lay people who take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to the superior (leader) of their community. The superiors of some orders are referred to as Mother. Some nuns and sisters continue to use a surname, while others do not. On first reference, follow the appropriate conventions, as in Sister Jane Doe or Mother Teresa. On second reference, continue to use Sister or Mother and the first name if the person is known that way, such as Mother Teresa. Otherwise, use only the last name on second reference. See sister.

Filed in Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy

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