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Pronounced “guh-NAYSH.” The beloved elephant-faced representation of God honored by Hindus and followers of other Indian religions, Ganesh is the remover of obstacles. He is revered for his great wisdom and is invoked before any undertaking. He is the son of Lord Shiva and the goddess Parvati. Also spelled Ganesha.

Filed in Hinduism


Term used to describe men who are sexually attracted to other men. For women, lesbian is the preferred term. When referring to both, say gay men and lesbians, though gay is acceptable for referring to both in headlines. Avoid references to a gay, homosexual or alternative “lifestyle.”

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Baptist/Southern Baptist, Catholicism, Christianity, Gender and sexuality, Mormonism, Orthodoxy, Pentecostalism, Protestantism

Generation X (Gen X, Gen Xers)

The generation often defined as those born between 1965 and 1980.

Filed in Religion and culture

generational replacement

The demographic shift that occurs when members of older generations die and members of younger generations enter adulthood; generally tied to shifts in attitudes over time.

Filed in Religion and culture


In Judaism, anyone who is not a Jew. It is usually a reference to Christians.

Filed in Judaism


Advanced degree of a Tibetan Buddhist scholar, much like a Ph.D.

Filed in Buddhism


Pronounced “glos-uh-LAY-lee-uh.” A form of speaking in tongues. Mentioned as a practice in the New Testament, and a hallmark of contemporary Pentecostal and some charismatic Christians. It is most commonly viewed as a private, heavenly language given by the Holy Spirit to communicate with God. Xenoglossia, also called zenolalia, is another form of speaking in tongues; it involves uttering a foreign language previously unknown to the speaker. Some conservative Protestant groups believe that the gift of tongues ceased after the first century and that current practices are a spiritual counterfeit.

Filed in Christianity, Pentecostalism, Protestantism, Religion and culture

Gnosticism, Gnostics

It has become a blanket term for various, mostly mystical religions and sects. Comes from the Greek word for knowledge, gnosis. Also refers to pre- and early-Christian teachings that there is a higher understanding that can be possessed by only a few. Generally, Gnostics believed that all matter was evil, but that humans carried a divine spark that fell from the Source from which all things came. Through esoteric or secret knowledge, the divine spark could be reunited with the Source. There is debate among biblical scholars about how much influence Gnosticism had on the New Testament. In 1945, a cache of fourth-century Gnostic texts was discovered at Nag Hammadi, Egypt.

Filed in Catholicism, Christianity, Protestantism


Capitalize in reference to all monotheistic religions. Also capitalize such references as God the Father, Holy Ghost and Holy Spirit. However, lowercase personal pronouns, such as him and he. Many Christians consider God to be beyond gender, so be sensitive to the context of the story and avoid gender-defining pronouns when appropriate. Orthodox Jews write G-d to avert the sin of erasing or defacing God’s name. Journalists should respect these Jews’ practice by using G-d in quotes of written material, but otherwise should refer to God.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Baptist/Southern Baptist, Catholicism, Christianity, Judaism, Orthodoxy, Pentecostalism, Protestantism, Religion and culture


Divine essence, or the insubstantial nature of ultimate reality or God.

Filed in Religion and culture

gods, goddesses

Lowercase the words god, goddess, gods and goddesses in reference to polytheistic religions and when referring to metaphorical gods, as in gold was his god. However, capitalize the proper names of specific deities, such as Zeus or Odin, and capitalize Goddess if a monotheistic religion’s believers worship the feminine divine as God.

Filed in Religion and culture


Pronounced “GO-thee.” Title for Ásatrú clergy (plural: goðar). Use when referring to the role of the individual, but do not place in front of a proper name as an honorific.

Filed in Other faiths

golden rule

Variations on this precept, which can be succinctly stated as “Treat others as you wish to be treated,” are found in the texts of every major religion, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Filed in Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Religion and culture

Golden Temple

The holiest Sikh temple, located in the city of Amritsar in the Indian state of Punjab. The temple was built in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. In 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi responded to a security threat by ordering an attack on the Golden Temple, destroying parts of the temple complex, which has since been rebuilt. Also known as Harmandir Sahib and as Darbar Sahib; the latter is the name preferred by Sikhs. See Darbar Sahib.

Filed in Sikhism

Good Friday

In Christianity, Good Friday commemorates the day on which Jesus Christ is traditionally believed to have been crucified. It falls just before Easter Sunday, on which Christians celebrate his Resurrection. Part of the Christian Holy Week.

Filed in Christianity

Gospel, gospel

The word derives from the Old English word Godspell, or “good news.” It is a translation of the Greek word evangelion. This refers to the “good news” that Jesus Christ came as the Messiah, was crucified for the sins of humanity, died and then rose from the grave to triumph over death. Of the many gospels written in antiquity, four came to be accepted as part of the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Capitalize when referring to each or all of the first four books of the New Testament. Lowercase in all other references.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy, Protestantism


Generically it means “free gift.” In Christianity, grace is the unmerited love and favor of God toward mankind, but different traditions sometimes use the word differently, which can lead to confusion. Evangelicals tend to equate grace with salvation. Catholics often use the plural, graces, to refer to any gift that they believe God has endowed the church with — including saints, bishops, the pope and the sacrament of penance. Thus, when Catholics say that other Christian traditions are lacking in grace, they do not mean that they are outside salvation. Grace also refers to a prayer of thanks before a meal.

Filed in Catholicism, Christianity, Protestantism

grand mufti

The most supreme religious leader. One can be a grand mufti of a city, region or country. It is a title used mostly by Sunnis. Capitalize when used before a name.

Filed in Religious titles, Sunni


A Sikh leader trained in all aspects of maintaining gurdwara decorum, including reading from and caring for Guru Granth Sahib. Sikhs often use the terms granthi, gyaani and raagi interchangeably.

A granthi is not clergy. Terms such as priest and minister are not applicable.

Filed in Religious titles, Sikhism

Great Awakening

A period of sweeping religious fervor, revival and renewal that has occurred three times in U.S. history, leading to social and political as well as religious change. The first Great Awakening occurred with religious revivals in the American colonies in the early 1700s. The second is generally defined as occurring in the early- to mid-1800s, and the third at the turn of the 20th century.

Filed in Christianity, Protestantism

Great Commission

Jesus’ instruction to his disciples (as told in Matthew 28:16-20) to “go and make disciples of all nations.” This exhortation has provided the motivation and justification for Christianity’s missionary activities around the world from the time of the early church.

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

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

The largest Eastern Orthodox church in the United States, it is composed of an archdiocesan district made up of New York and eight metropolises — New Jersey, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Boston and Denver. It is governed by the archbishop, and a synod of bishops that oversees the ministry of the metropolises. There are 540 parishes and 800 priests. It is directly under the authority of the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople in Turkey, and is not administratively related to the Church of Greece. See Eastern Orthodox.

Filed in Orthodoxy

Greek Orthodox Church

One of the churches loosely organized as Eastern Orthodox Christianity. It follows the Byzantine Rite.

Filed in Orthodoxy


Pronounced “GUR-dwahr-uh.” A Sikh place of worship that houses the Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib.

Filed in Sikhism


Pronounced “GOOR-pur-ab.” A Sikh holiday that commemorates the birth or death of a Sikh guru. The most significant gurpurab is the birthday of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh teacher, celebrated in November.

Filed in Sikhism


Pronounced “GOO-roo.” Broadly used to refer to a teacher of any subject, but especially of spiritual matters. In Hinduism, one’s spiritual guru is seen to be a representative of the divine, through whom one is given the teachings and practices necessary for enlightenment.

Filed in Hinduism, Religious titles, Sikhism

Guru Gobind Singh

The 10th teacher of the Sikh religion, Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708) led Sikhs in a battle for autonomy and has come to represent the Sikh ideal of the saint-soldier. In 1699, he formed Sikhs into the Khalsa, a spiritual sisterhood/brotherhood, and gave them five articles of faith (the Five Kakaars). He passed the guruship on to the Sikh scripture, known as Guru Granth Sahib.

Filed in Sikhism

Guru Granth Sahib

Pronounced “goo-ROO grunt sah-EEB.” Holy book of the Sikh religion.

Guru Arjan, the fifth Sikh guru, compiled the text in its original form in 1604. Before dying in 1708, the 10th Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh, appointed the text as his permanent co-successor (along with the Khalsa). The name Guru Granth Sahib does not take the definite article.

Guru Granth Sahib is a compilation of the devotional poetry of Guru Nanak, other Sikh gurus and saints of other religions. Sikhs consider it the supreme spiritual authority and living guide of their religion. It is installed under a canopy in every Sikh gurdwara (house of worship), where Sikhs sing, recite and meditate on the scripture. Guru Granth Sahib is also called Adi Granth, but Guru Granth Sahib is the preferred name. See Adi Granth and Khalsa.

Filed in Sikhism

Guru Nanak

Pronounced “goo-ROO NAN-ek.” The founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak was born in the mid-15th century in Punjab, now North India and Pakistan. He is said to have disappeared by the river for three days and emerged with a revelation: “There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim.” In other words, beneath all husks and labels, humanity is one. He wandered the countryside with Muslims and Hindus as companions, singing devotional (bhakti) poetry in wonder of One Formless God. His teachings became the foundation of the Sikh religion and were later recorded in Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book and living guide.

Filed in Sikhism

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