Sher wrote:What does the _concept_ of religion mean to you personally? How does the _idea_ of religion itself make you feel?
I am totally okay with the concept of religion. The first book I read on Buddhism was Damien Keown’s little book called A Short Introduction to Buddhism. In it he introduced me to Ninian Smart’s model of the Seven Dimensions of Religion. I post a paraphrased version I created below.
Seven Dimensions of Religion based on the Ninian Smart Model
Practical and Ritual -- Practices such as worship, prayer, regular gatherings, rites of passage
Experiential and Emotional -- Includes religious experiences such as visions, revelations, enlightenment, and general religious ecstasy -- The acute and earth-shaking, as well as the gentler, more mundane religious feelings.
Narrative or Mythic -- Stories that explain and inspire. The "story side" of a religion; includes written as well as oral tales, formal as well as informal teachings, alternative histories, and predictions.
Doctrinal or Philosophical -- The official, formal teachings that underpin the narrative/mythic parts of a religion, though it's important to note that the doctrine doesn't necessarily predate the narrative. Creeds and scripture representing formal teachings are included in this dimension.
Ethical and Legal -- The laws, formal and moral, that shape behavior.
Social and Institutional -- Requires physical form. The Social Dimension consists of the formal organization, such as the church, mosque, synagogue, sangha and other institutions that may come about as a result of the religion; for instance the Salvation Army and Meditation Retreat Centers.
Material -- An outgrowth of religious experience/encounter. This dimension contains all the physical creations of a religion, including buildings and architecture, icons, art, instruments of ritual, music, and symbol. It also includes natural features of the earth which may be important to the system, for instance sacred mountains, stones, holy ground, Jerusalem, etc. The objects of the material dimension may be stunning, elegant works of art, or they may be very simple and plain creations.
I feel that Buddhism, or my practice and sense of Buddhism touches upon or I would like it to touch upon many of these dimensions.
This is very good, thank you Sher.
Jeff, I think the difficulty here is that you seem to be advocating an alternative path to spirituality with the assumption that its superior to what presently exists, and that people should all take that route and avoid formal organized religions.
I happen to approach spirituality in a very similar way to what you are advocating, just don't think this means the "traditional" ways are inferior or unneccessary, in any way.
Many paths, many gates. People choose the path and support system that feels right to them...