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Ninian Smart: Seven Dimensions of Religions Cheat Sheet (DRAFT) by [deleted]

This is a draft cheat sheet. It is a work in progress and is not finished yet.


1. Ritual: Forms and orders of ceremonies (private and/or public) (often regarded as revealed)
2. Narrative and Mythic: stories (often regarded as revealed) that work on several levels. Sometimes narratives fit together into a fairly complete and systematic interp­ret­ation of the universe and human's place in it.
3. Experi­ential and emotional: dread, guilt, awe, mystery, devotion, libera­tion, ecstasy, inner peace, bliss (private)
4. Social and Instit­uti­onal: belief system is shared and attitudes practiced by a group. Often rules for identi­fying community membership and partic­ipation (public)
5. Ethical and legal: Rules about human behavior (often regarded as revealed from supern­atural realm)
6. Doctrinal and philos­oph­ical: systematic formul­ation of religious teachings in an intell­ect­ually coherent form
7. Material: ordinary objects or places that symbolize or manifest the sacred or supern­atural

The Practical and Ritual Dimension:

What the adherents of a religion do as part of that religion

a. Prayer: private and solitary moments of quiet reflection on God; noisy, group singing and chanting; fully prostrate, while prayer is conducted by a priest; kneeling down, reciting memorized prayers bowing down repeatedly in direction of Mecca, chanting from the Holy Qur'an
b. Asceti­cism: severe self-d­isc­ipline, renouncing pleasure; desert fathers and martyrdom, yoga and world-­ren­unc­iation (thorns); Self-m­ort­ifi­cat­ion:** flagel­lation, hair shirts - still the senses; snake handling and drinking poisons in the Appala­chians
c. Posses­sion: hook hanging, fire walking, possession by demons, gods; speaking in tongues glossa­lalia): Pentec­ostal, divine language
d. Modes of dress: Muslim women and the purdah; Muslim man who dies his beard red after pilgrimage to Mecca; novitiate in a monastic order shaves head (tonsure)
e. Pilgri­mage: to Mecca to circle round the shrine (Ka'bah), kiss the stone; holy temples in the Himalayas
f. Ritual: prescribed patterned action in a religious tradition.

 ­ ­ ­ i. Sacrifice: ritual death in which a sacrif­icial victim is offered to god as part of a reciprocal relati­onship between god and human beings. Aborig­inal: life force of victim released. Aztec human sacrifice; Hindu - buffalo sacrifice; Hebrew bible - Abraham and Isaac. Christian: Death of Christ, sacrif­icial lamb, commem­oration in communion
 ­ ­ ­ ii. Initiation into religious community (often synonymous with adulth­ood): Sacred thread: presented to guru receive instru­ction; circum­cision in Aboriginal tribes: ritual killing, resurr­ection of the victim into a new existence; Bar mitzvah: 13 yr boy reads from Torah and becomes a member of the congre­gation.

 ­ ­ ­ iii. Transition and Transf­orm­ation:
 ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ 1. Rites of Passage – mark or bring about change of social position and status, change in physical or spiritual being of initiate; change of life phase (life-­cycle rites: birth, puberty, marriage, death). Example: Death rite in Hinduism: pyre, son recites prayer to fire, burns, strikes head
 ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ 2. Seasonal, calend­rical rites: harvest; rains; birth and death