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Dimensions of religion

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1 Dimensions of religion
Ninian Smart

2 Ninian Smart Roderick Ninian Smart was a Scottish writer and university educator. He was a pioneer in the field of secular religious studies. Educated at Glasgow Academy, he was in the British Army Intelligence Corps from , where he learned Chinese (via Confucian texts) and had his first extended contact with Sri Lankan Buddhism. He continued his studies in philosophy at Oxford University, graduating in 1949, and subsequently in Sanskrit and Pali, the language of the Buddhist scriptures, at Yale. In the 1960s, Smart began challenging what he saw as the ‘intellectual hegemony’ of much contemporary Christian theology. Following his appointment in 1967 to the first professorial chair of religious studies at Lancaster, he developed a new department which, unusually for the time, made no assumptions about the religious convictions of its staff and was attentive to diverse religions and multi-disciplinary in its approach. In the 1970s Smart was also involved in several initiatives in Britain to broaden the public religious education curriculum, previously purely Christian, to include the range of world religions.

3 Smart’s sevenfold scheme of study:
Doctrinal Mythological Ethical Ritual Experiential Institutional Material and artistic *(added in his 1989 text) Smart maintained that the Historical factors (4-6) could be studied empirically, whereas the Para-Historical factors (1-3) required engagement and dialogue in order to be fully understood. Para-Historical Historical

4 1. Doctrinal Systematic formulation of religious teachings in an intellectually coherent form

5 2. Mythological Stories (often regarded as revealed) that pass from generation to generation. Narratives sometimes fit point towards a complete and systematic interpretation of the Universe, God and Humanity.

6 3. Ethical Rules about human behaviour (often regarded as revealed from supernatural realm)

7 4. Ritual Forms and orders of ceremonies (private and/or public) (often regarded as revealed)

8 5. Experiential Dread, guilt, awe, mystery, devotion, liberation, ecstasy, inner peace, bliss (private)

9 6. Institutional Belief system is shared and attitudes practiced by a group. Often rules for identifying community membership and participation (public)

10 7. Material Ordinary objects or places that symbolize or manifest the sacred or supernatural

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