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pagan: pejorative term for an adherent of polytheism, animism, or any religion other than Christianity—or other than western monotheistic traditions more generally; now increasingly value-neutral label for an adherent of neo-paganism or other nature religion.

panentheism: doctrine that God permeates every aspect of the entire creation but is simultaneously beyond it.

pantheism: doctrine that the entire universe collectively is divine, or is God; thus thereis no God distinct from the creation.

pantheon:full assembly of deities in a religion, e.g. the many Greek gods and goddesses or the Daoist pantheon.

parable: story designed to teach a lesson or reinforce a moral; similar to allegory, but the characters are not symbols as with an allegory.

paradigm: overarching set of values, principles, and perspectives through which a cultural group approaches or understands reality; it serves as a sort of template that shapes or defines their understanding.

patriarchy: a society dominated by men.

Patristic Era: period dominated by the Church fathers, patriarchs (i.e., influential male figures) whose theological ideas shaped Christian doctrine  for several centuries after the death of Jesus; typically extends till about the 8th century, but certain Christian groups regard it as longer, or even ongoing.

pejorative: having a negative connotation, expressing contempt or disapproval.

periodization: categorization scheme to characterize a relatively large block of time by some overly simplified unifying feature (e.g., Jurassic Age, Medieval Period, the Renaissance).

phenomena: the objects of a person’s perceptions or items of reality as they are perceived by a person’s senses or mind.

phenomenology: 20th century philosophical movement, spearheaded by Edmund Husserl, which emphasizes the study of human consciousness through the subjective experience of its interaction with items (i.e., phenomena) of reality.

philology: (philos – love + logos – word); the formal study of language, including its origins, grammatical structures, and intended meanings; often narrowly applied to the study of texts in ancient languages.

philosophy: (philia – love + sophia – wisdom); systematic pursuit of wisdom; in the West, it is routinely applied to approaches that primarily use reason in this endeavour.

pilgrimage: a religious journey, entailing some ordeal, to one or more sacred sites.

polemics: the practice of argumentation and refutation of an opponent’s opinions, particularly in theological and philosophical writings.

polytheism: belief in the existence of more than one deity (gods or goddesses).

postmodernism: primarily intellectual and aesthetic movement of the late 20th – early 21st century that developed from modernism; fundamentally characterized by the uncovering of implicit assumptions and hidden structures in human creations for the sake of scrutiny; rejects notions of an objective reality or single, dominant perspective.

predestination: religious concept that disallows free will and asserts that events are fixed to happen in a certain way; for John Calvin this refers to the idea that God determined the destiny of the entire universe and everything in it even before creation.

priest: religious official; typically sanctioned to perform rituals.

profane: not sacred; worldly; everyday or ordinary.

prophet: person who makes proclamations about the will, disposition, or plans of the divine; these can include predictions of what will happen or forecasts of what may happen unless people change their errant ways (e.g. the prophets of the Old Testament).

propitiate: sacrifice or other means to pacify or please gods and spirits; see appease.

proselyte: a convert from another religious tradition.

proselytize: active attempt to convert others to a particular belief.

Protestant: one of many branches of Christianity that developed in protest against the Western Roman Catholic Church during the Reformation.

purity: religiously clean state not in danger of polluting the sacred.




  1. (C)Hillary Rodrigues and John S. Harding 2008; Courtesy Routledge


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