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ninian smart s sociological model of religion

Ninian Smart’s Sociological Model of Religion

There is a relationship between the existence of religions and humankind’s need for meaning. Has religion grown out of a response to the human need to understand the mystery around us? Has our failure to understand, or control forces beyond what we can explain, resulted in a tendency to worship? According to Ninian Smart’s theory, all world religions have the following elements which came into being due to our need to explain mystery.

1 an encounter with the divine
1. An Encounter with the Divine
  • All religions begin with an experience of the divine. The “divine” is that which gives meaning to our existence. Someone has an experience of a greater reality which transforms that person and our understanding of reality. This person is the founder.
  • Example: The disciples meet and follow Jesus.

2. The MythThe encounter with the divine is remembered and retold, first in story form and then in writing. An attempt is made to communicate the experience. Sacred books (scriptures) tell the story of the founder’s religious experience.Example: The disciples tell others about Jesus. These stories later become written down in the “gospels” or Bible.

3. Rituals (Cult)
  • Attempts are made to recreate the encounter with the divine using ceremonies and celebrations.
  • Example: For Catholics, the Mass is an attempt to recreate the experience of Jesus giving himself for us at the Last Supper and on the cross
4. Community
  • People come together who share a common vision of the world based on their understanding of the divine. In most religions, branches or splits occur in the community as a result of a variation in experience, beliefs or world view.
  • Example: The Catholic Church is made up of local church communities.
5. Morality (Code)
  • Members of the community share a common set of values which are rooted in the experience of the divine. These values determine right and wrong.
  • Example: Two Great Commandments
6. Beliefs (Creed)
  • The community shares a common vision of what the world could be like based on the encounter with the divine.
  • Example: The Christian vision of the Kingdom of God; The Apostle’s Creed

Religious Teaching or Doctrine (Creed)

creeds, laws, articles of faith

Community of Faith

Leaders and followers

Morality (Code)

Norms of behaviour, virtues, values, karma, ethics


Religious Experience


God founders

gods mystics

Spirits prophets




satan Encounters with

devils the sacred

evil spirits


Encounter with God


Sacred Stories


Stories which explain sacred realities: hero, creation, divine, natural


Sacred Writings containing myths, history, law, wisdom, teachings, prophecy


Sacred Symbols and Rituals


Symbols (water)

Objects (rosary)

Places (shrines)




Life-cycle rituals

Daily rituals

Weekly rituals


Annual festivals


Choice Self-test:1.St. Luke writing his gospel:a) religious experience b) myth c) ritual d) community e) beliefs f) code2.The Catholic Catechism’s teaching on pre-marital sex:a) religious experience b) myth c) ritual d) community e) beliefs f) code3.Mohammed receiving a vision from the Angel Gabriel:a) religious experience b) myth c) ritual d) community e) beliefs f) code


4.Jewish wedding ceremony:a) religious experience b) myth c) ritual d) community e) beliefs f) code5.Buddhistsa) religious experience b) myth c) ritual d) community e) beliefs f) code6.Jehovah’s witnesses state that only 144, 000 will be saved at the end of time:a) religious experience b) myth c) ritual d) community e) beliefs f) code7.The holy book of Islam called the Korana) religious experience b) myth c) ritual d) community e) beliefs f) code8. Face Mecca and pray five times a day:a) religious experience b) myth c) ritual d) community e) beliefs f) code

neanderthal man
Neanderthal Man
  • The Neanderthal, was a species that inhabited Europe and parts of western and central Asia.
  • Neanderthals had many adaptations to a cold climate, such as large braincase, short, robust builds, and rather large noses — traits selected by nature in cold climates
  • Their cranial capacity was larger than modern humans, indicating that their brains may have been larger, which may be due to their more robust build.
  • On average, Neanderthal males stood about 1.65 m tall (just under 5' 5") and were heavily built with robust bone structure.
  • Females were about 1.53 to 1.57 m tall (about 5'–5'2").
some physical characteristics
Some physical characteristics
  • Projecting mid-face
  • Low, flat, elongated skull
  • Prominent browridge
  • Lack of a protruding chin
  • Broad, projecting nose
  • 1200-1750 cm³ skull capacity (10% greater than modern human average)
  • Large round finger tips
  • Barrel-shaped rib cage
  • Large kneecaps
  • Long collar bones
  • Short, bowed shoulder blades
  • Thick, bowed shaft of the thigh bones
  • Short shinbones and calf bones

Culturally, Neanderthal was fully human He buried his dead.

  • He drew paintings on cave walls.
  • He used fire and tools.
  • He played the flute.
  • He worshipped bears.
  • He was cannibalistic.
  • He cared for the injured and elderly.
  • In essence he did the things that other humans have done down through history.
In summary Neanderthal was more muscular, more agile, and stronger with a greater bone density than modern humans.
  • He also had a bigger brain. He would easily overpower most modern day Homo sapiens. When archeologists describe Neanderthal they often use the word "robust."
  • This is a fancy way of saying bigger, thicker or larger.
cro magnon man
  • Cro-Magnon man an ancestor of modern man, Homo Sapiens Sapiens, living during the last ice age in what is now Europe, most notably in the area of modern day France.
  • Cro-Magnons knew how to make many different tools and weapons, and wore sewn clothes decorated with bone and shell jewelry and ornaments.
  • They were taller and less muscular as their cousin subspecies the Neanderthals that originally habitated those colder regions.
It is named after the cave of Crô-Magnon in southwest France, where the first specimen was found.
  • They had a balanced diet of meat, grain, wild carrot, beetroot, onion, turnip and other foods.
  • Surviving Cro-Magnon artifacts include huts, cave paintings, carvings and antler-tipped spears. The remains of tools suggest that they knew how to make woven clothing.
  • They had huts, constructed of rocks, clay, bones, branches, and animal hide/fur.
  • These early humans used manganese and iron oxides to paint pictures and may have created the first calendar around 15,000 years ago
If Cro-Magnons buried their dead intentionally it suggests they had a knowledge of ritual, by burying their dead with necklaces and tools, or an idea of disease and that the bodies needed to be contained.
  • the humans of this time period led a physically difficult life
  • The Cro-Magnons lived in Europe between 35,000 and 10,000 years ago. They are virtually identical to modern man, being tall and muscular and slightly more robust on average than most modern humans.
  • They were skilled hunters, toolmakers and artists famous for the cave art
  •  most modern Europeans are probably descended from them
 Biologically modern human beings (species Homo sapiens) first appear about 120,000 years ago.
  •  implements for making clothing, engraving, and sculpting.
  • They produced fine artwork, in the form of decorated tools, beads, ivory carvings of humans and animals, shell jewelry, clay figurines, musical instruments, and polychrome cave paintings of exceptional vitality.
 They were tall like modern humans, their skull had no brow ridges, was thin, rounded, with a high forehead, with a projecting chin.
  • Average brain size:about 1,350 milliliters (same as today).
  • As their oral anatomy were identical to modern humans, they could probably speak. They were our ancestor.