Dimensions of Religion in Practice

Ninan Smart established that the best way to study a religion is as a phenomenon. With intricate aspects that interact to create a dynamic experience for individuals and groups. In Year 11, the boys have been studying the unit ‘Exploring Meaning’ which looks to study  how religions and spiritualities answer life’s biggest questions. To assist with this, we have been studying Ninan Smart’s seven dimensions of religion, these are: Narrative/Mythic, Ritual, Doctrinal, Social/Institutional, Ethical, Material  and Experiential.

To demonstrate the interactions and relationship of these dimensions in action, we looked at the Catholic practice of the Rosary.

We learned about the core beliefs expressed in the ritual of the Rosary and the impact on the adherent. On a very basic level, we can learn that the beliefs about Mary (doctrinal) stem from scripture (narrative) and tradition. The mysteries of the Rosary link directly to events in the life of Mary and Jesus and so the adherent is able to connect to those experiences on a deeper level. It is also a form of meditation (ritual) and often performed in community (social). In addition to this, to engage in the Rosary, one uses special prayer beads (material) which have a tradition in and of themselves.

To further enhance the experience and understanding of this ritual, the boys were asked to build their own decade of the Rosary which we then recited together.

This was a valuable experience for the boys as not only did it demonstrate the interaction of dimensions of religion in one practice in a faith, but it also become one that they then became a part of themselves.

Next semester, we will be exploring how faith and spirituality has been expressed over time and space as well as change and continuity of practices.

Carmela Wilson
Head of Religious Education