What is meant by "social and institutional dimensions" in religion?

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akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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If you are operating out of a textbook or some type of class instruction, I would turn to that first.  This might involve defining the term in a more concrete way, and the manner in which you should interpret the concept.  I think that the social dimension of religion refers to how religion is felt and experienced in a particular society.  Essentially, I consider the topic to be asking how a particular society's practices reflect the religion in question.  For example, how do we see the social dimension of Christianity in a particular setting?  In terms of the institutional dimension, I tend to see this as the structure that is in place to ensure the religion's survival.  This can be in the form of temples or churches, as well as the configuration in which the religious issues of the sect of worship can be addressed in a definitive manner.  For example, the institutional dimension for Christianity can be seen as the Vatican and the rule of the papal authority.  These are examples of how I see the social and institutional dimensions of a particular denomination.

The Social and Institutional Dimension: how people's interactions are organized as part of their religion

drhtwice's profile pic

drhtwice | College Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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This is one of the categories of Ninian Smart's 7 dimensions of religion. It refers to the social institutions of a religion that organizes people's communities and experiences within that religion. This dimension includes organizational structures such as synagogues, temples, churches, covens etc. that retain and pass down the teachings and traditions of that religion.  

Smart's other dimensions include 1) the doctrinal 2) the mythological 3) the ethical 4) the ritual 5) the material and 6) the experiential. He came up with this system of categories in order to offer a systematic approach to studying religions of the world.

gopikrishna's profile pic

gopikrishna | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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social and the material dimensions have to do with the incarnation of religion. First, every religious movement is embodied in a group of people (congregation or a church) and that is very often formally organized - such as a Church, or sangha or Umma. To understand a faith such as Christianity, we need to see how it works among people. This is one reason why such an important tool of the investigator of religion is that sub-discipline which is known as the sociology of religion. Sometimes the social aspect of a worldview is simply identical with society itself, as in a small-scale group such as tribe. But there is a variety of relations between organized religions and society at large: They can also be revolutionaries and set religion on new courses. In short, the social dimension of religion includes not only the mass of persons (congregation) but also the outstanding individuals through whose features glimmer old and new thoughts of the heaven towards which they aspire. Materials are lacking for my adequate biography of Jesus Scholars are thus divided concerning the accuracy of many incidents recorded in the Gospels. Nevertheless, the career and teaching of Jesus stands out on the pages of the Gospels in their essential outlines.

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