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The Seven Dimensions of Religion

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1 The Seven Dimensions of Religion
World Religions The Seven Dimensions of Religion

2 The Seven Dimensions of Religion by Ninian Smart
Experiential and Emotional Narrative or Mythic Practical and Ritual Doctrinal and Philosophical Ethical and Legal Social and Institutional Material

3 1. Experiential and Emotional
People experience an emotional reaction to something which they believe is life changing or profound A focus on the subjective and emotional; what goes on inside the person Aims to address what it means to “feel the presence of God” Religious experiences allow us to move beyond everyday, ordinary experiences to new, extraordinary levels of consciousness Religion helps humans to make sense of their lives by inspiring (and answering) the “big questions” (human condition, spiritual perfection, identity, purpose, etc.)

4 1. Experiential and Emotional
Religion begins with the religious experience of individuals Buddhism  Prince Gautama experienced enlightenment under the Bodhi tree and became the first Buddha Islam  Muhammad experienced revelations from Allah Judaism  Abram received contact with God Some religions are not so obvious

5 1. Experiential and Emotional
How People Can Experience Religion: Faith – a person does not have to believe in specific doctrines but can just have faith in God Mysticism – a person becomes one with the divine through inward contemplation Vision Quest – is a primal religious practical mystical experience

6 1. Experiential and Emotional
Generally speaking, within the theistic religions, God is experienced as a holy presence who is ‘other’. This presence evokes both fear and fascination. Pantheism is another way in which an individual may experience religion – the belief that God is in all. In non-theistic religions, religious experience usually takes the form of mysticism.

7 1. Experiential and Emotional
Abram (Judaism) Muhammad (Islam) Prince Gautama (Buddhism)

8 The story of Creation in the Book of Genesis
2. Narrative or Mythic Myths are often perceived as falsehoods They convey important truths in a religious context They are non-historical and non-rational but are sources of sacred truth (therefore, myths are powerful and give meaning to life) They are sacred stories passed along orally and commonly tell of the origins of humans and the world They are important because they help guide human behaviour within a faith community The story of Creation in the Book of Genesis

9 3. Practical and Ritual A formal practice that re-enacts a myth or sacred story Symbolic actions (combining words with actions) A form of worship The Eucharist re-enacts the Last Supper The Hajj re-enacts Muhammad’s return to Mecca

10 3. Practical and Ritual Also includes: prayer, gatherings, rites of passage Rituals are: sacramental per formative repetitive social

11 4. Doctrinal and Philosophical
The belief aspect of religions Belief in creeds, doctrines or teachings Are derived from myths and originate from lived religious experiences Are often recorded in sacred texts & scriptures, and serve as foundations Catholics have the Apostles’ Creed, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, and the Paschal mystery

12 4. Doctrinal and Philosophical
Explain the ideas behind a religion Determine what is acceptable and unacceptable (included and excluded) from religion Sometimes the cause of violent conflict between religions

13 5. Ethical and Legal Religion shows attention toward ethics
Ethics – moral principles that govern behaviour (moral correctness) How we act while living in the world Includes sets of teachings that respond to this question Links belief with action Includes obligations and responsibilities Example: Ten Commandments and The Golden Rule

14 6. Social and Institutional
Religious experience moves beyond personal experience; becomes a social experience (creation of religious communities) The shared experience of community empowers individuals and results in organizations of hierarchy of leaders Means belonging to a group, tribe, parish, or congregation

15 6. Social and Institutional
It is through the social dimension that one learns a great deal about religion (relationships help one to connect and share their experience in a powerful and meaningful way) Examples: Sangha (first community of Buddhist monks and nuns); Synagogue (Jewish community); Church (Christian community); Ummah (Islamic community)

16 7. Material Can include sacred architecture, books, music, art, symbols, places, and nature The Bible, cathedrals, rivers, statues The Ganges for Hindus

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