World Religion Database: glossary

Data source: Gina A. Zurlo, ed., World Religion Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2023).

Glossary item Definition
Aboriginal Original indigenous inhabitant of country, of primitive culture.
adherent A follower of a particular religion, church or philosophy. As used here, the term adherents refers to followers of all kinds (professing, affiliated, practicing, non-practicing, etc.) who are present-in-area residents: men, women, children, infants, nationals and expatriates, native- and foreign- born, immigrants, armed forces, displaced persons, refugees, nomads, et alii.
Adivasis Aboriginal tribesmen in India.
adult A person who is 15 years old or above.
affiliated Followers of a religion enrolled and known to its leadership, usually with names written on rolls.
affiliation, religious Membership in, or attachment to a particular organized religion.
Afro-American spiritists Followers of Afro-Brazilian, Afro- Cuban and other African religious survivals in the Americas, low spiritists, syncretizing Catholicism with African and Amerindian animistic religions; low spiritists as opposed to high (non-Christian) spiritists; also Afro-American syncretistic cults with Christian elements. All varieties, including specifically Christian bodies, are detailed in G. E. Simpson, Black religions in the New World (New York: Columbia University Press, 1978).
agnosticism The doctrine that the existence or nature of any ultimate reality or God is unknown and unknowable.
agnostics Persons who claim no religion or claim that it is not possible to know if God, gods, or the supernatural exist.
agnostics Persons professing no religion, no interest in religion; secularists, materialists; agnostics, but not militantly antireligious or atheists. (Formerly termed "nonreligious")
ahimsa (Sanskrit). In Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, the doctrine of non-violence, or refraining from harming others including animals and insects.
Ahmadis Followers of the Ahmadiya movement (qv).
Ahmadiya (Ahmadiyah, Ahmadiyya). Ex-Shia Muslim messianic movement, pronounced heretical by Pakistan, following 1889 founder Ghulam Ahmad.
Alawites Followers of Alawiya, a sect of Shia Islam in Latakia province, Syria, Lebanon and Cilicia (Turkey), also called Nusayris.
Anglican Communion A worldwide family of 25 autonomous Churches and 6 other bodies in communion with the See of Canterbury and with each other, all of whom recognize the archbishop of Canterbury as the focus of unity within the Communion.
Anglicans Christians related to the Anglican Communion, tracing their origin back to the ancient British (Celtic) and English churches; including Anglican dissidents or schismatics in the Western world.
animism (animatism). The attribution of consciousness and personality to such natural phenomena as thunder and fire, and to objects such as rocks and trees.
animists Adherents of animism; sometimes termed pagans, fetishists, traditional religionists, tribal religionists (qv).
Answer_Choices Answer choices available for the religion question (sometimes people chose from among a list provided, or they volunteer their own answer).
Anthroposophy A spiritual and mystical doctrine that grew out of Theosophy and derives mainly from the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian social philosopher.
anti-religious Opposed or militantly opposed to all religion; irreligious, hostile to religions and religious persons.
anti-religious quasi-religionists Adherents of anti-religions quasi-religions (atheism, Communism, dialectical materialism, Leninism, Maoism, Marxism, scientific materialism, Stalinism, et alia).
architecture, religious The art or practice of designing and building churches and temples to convey impressions and ideas basic to religion or Christianity.
areligious, a-religious Noncommittal or professedly neutral concerning religious matters.
argot, religious A special vocabulary and idiom used by a religious group as a means of private communication within the group.
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Data on 18 categories of religion, including non-religious, by country, province, and people.

Countries and regions

Data on all religions, Christian activities, and trends.


Membership data, year begun, and rates of change.

Cities & provinces

Population and religion data on all major cities & provinces.

Peoples & languages

Detailed information covering religion, culture, and geography.


A repository of historical data, including a chronology of Christianity from the 1st to 21st centuries.