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Last updated: Jun 20th, 2015

Language in Religion:

Closeup of patterns that look like alien hieroglyphics, projected onto the blank wall of a building
What do these symbols mean?

When someone says: "Praise be to Allah!" and another says: "Praise the Lord!" and another says: "Praise Jesus!", are they praising the same entity? Another question would be to ask if a fundamentalist Christian, a Catholic, and a non-Christian Deist use the word "God" are they talking about the same entity?

Sometimes we can use different words and mean more or less the same thing, and other times we may use the same word and have totally different intended meanings. These linguistic complications are particularly prevalent in religion for a number of reasons, incuding the history and evolution of religion in society, the different sects of reigions, and the fact that many religions have a large degree of assumed background behind their language.

When most people use a religious word like "God" they often are assuming certain background, often the common elements of much of modern Christian theology. Yet someone might come into the mix and use the word "God" to mean something that falls outside or conflicts with this assumed background to some degree--this person may be misunderstood. Often these people start using words other than "God" so that they're free of this assumed background--but then people end up using other words when their intended meaning is very close to other peoples' understanding of "God". In short, communication becomes problematic.

Awareness is liberating and empowering:

If we are aware of these perceived differences in language based on different background we can avoid making assumptions and we can search for the true meaning behind peoples' words. By freeing ourself of assumptions we can better communicate with people who have differing belief systems and religious backgrounds from our own, and ultimately, we can build a better understanding of other peoples' faiths as well as becoming better able to communicate our own.

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