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

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This concept is used by Ninian Smart and others to differentiate between the public and overt face of a religion and other aspects of it.

The social and institutional face or dimension of a religion are the public beliefs and attitudes widely held by an entire faith group. These dimensions encompass the faith's dogmas and creeds. They include the officially approved version of what the group believes. They are the officially sanctioned public practices and activities the group engages in.

It is important to differentiate between this-- what we might call collective faith expression--and the interiority of individual religious belief. For example, the Roman Catholic Church acknowledges that individual Catholics are allowed to differ personally from official Church doctrines on the basis of conscience. However, this does not change the institution's adherence to official doctrine.

The social and institutional dimensions of a faith can also differ from how the faith is understood in sacred...

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gopikrishna | Student

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.