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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 Do you think that Smart's model soleves the problems that arise when attempting to defin

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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? 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. ...read more.


Also related are Religious stories, for example the Christian Mass commemorates the Last Supper and the Jewish Passover commemorates the Exodus from Egypt. The doctrinal & philosophical dimension This dimension supports the narrative and deals with the philosophical questions of a religion. Doctrines vary from one religion to another, ranging, for example, from the doctrine of the Trinity in Christianity to the teachings of Hinduism and the nature of God or Buddha's philosophical vision of world. In some religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, there are scriptures in which religious narratives and doctrines are recorded The ethical & legal dimension Many Religions have laws that a believer must adhere to be a true and faithful follower. Judaism has over six hundred complex rules (Including the Ten Commandments) that dictate the framework for living within the community. Similarly Islam abides by law or Shari' which affects both individual and religious way of life. The social and institutional dimension The social side of a religion involves the gathering of the faithful - in a Church, Temple or Synagogue and many religions allocate special days in which they gather for the observance of prayer, family or rest. For Jews it's Saturday, for Muslims it's Friday. ...read more.


According to the scholar Eileen Barker, this would imply that ideologies such as Nationalism and Marxism would both be considered a religion as they both have their own doctrines, ethics, institutions, and so on. Transcendental Meditation would also qualify as a "religion" under this model, regardless of the movement's denial of it being a one. Steve Bruce, a leading sociologist of religion, believes that rather than opting for narrow substantive definitions or broad functional definitions, the definition of religion should reflect common sense and encompass what ordinary people mean when they talk of religion. He opts for the following substantive definition: Religion, then, consists of beliefs, actions, and institutions that assume the existence of supernatural entities with powers of action, or impersonal powers or processes processed of moral purpose. (Block 5, page 37) This would allow non-religions such as Marxism to be excluded, while still including such faiths as Buddhism. In conclusion, I would be more inclined to agree with Bruce's definition of religion, as the inclusion of common sense eradicates to some degree the problem of vagueness that arises from Smart's model. I would also agree that for many a 'religion' is a way of life, a philosophy that enables them to live by morals and principles that help make them better human being. (Word Count 1202) ...read more.

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