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Explain Briefly Ninian Smart's Seven Dimensional Model Of Religion. Do You Think That Smart's Model Solves The Problems That Arise When Attempting To Define Religion?

1161 words - 5 pages

For centuries Scholars have struggled to come up with a neatly defined term for what constitutes a religion.Many scholar definitions are either substantive or functional. Substantive definitions distinguish religion by common beliefs and practices such as (rituals, prayer or belief in one god). Substantive definitions tend to be too narrow and prejudiced; it would be difficult to consider Buddhism, which is atheistic, as a religion under this definition.Functional definitions tend to distinguish a religion by the needs it fulfils, (peace, comfort, security), the problem with functional definitions is they tend to be to flexible and vague to be considered as definite solutions to what exactly makes a religion "a religion" since there is no clear boundary to where a religion ends and something else such as a political movement or cult begins.Recent scholars have attempted to emphasize the broad nature of religion rather than define it within a narrow framework. One of the best known of these attempts is the seven dimensional model proposed by Ninian Smart, who suggested we approach each religion by looking at it under a number of different dimensions. These are:The practical & ritual dimensionSmart explains that religions tend to express themselves through rituals. Rituals vary greatly among religions and may include activities such as worship, preaching, prayer and meditation. Sometimes these religious practices are elaborate; Catholics break bread and drink wine to symbolise the body and blood of Jesus and sometimes less elaborate; meditation practice in Buddhism or the Quakers who sit together in silence.The experiential & emotional dimensionThe next dimension involves the importance of emotions and experiences in a religion. Just as the rituals of religious practice vary so do the religious experience. The enlightenment of the Buddha, the visionary experiences of Muhammad and the suffering of Christ, all generate strong emotions within the religious individual, giving meaning to the rituals they perform in their honour. For example, breaking bread for Christians would have no meaning if it did not represent the sacrifice of Jesus. Sharp also says that music is a powerful form of expression for many religions as is conversion of faith, Shamanistic visions, and being "born again" all of which are emotional experiences that provide meaning to the enactment of the ritual itself.The narrative or mythic dimensionThis involves the descriptive aspect of religion, which adds meaning to the experiences expressed by the rituals and the emotions they evoke. Most faiths have stories, which have been passed down either verbally or in written form, for example, Torah The Bible and The Quran. These narratives although not always rooted in History are to the believer a faithful record of God or the religion's founder. It gives a historic value and a foundation on which the religion is based. Also related are Religious stories, for example the Christian...

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