For centuries Scholars have struggled to come up with a neatly defined term for what constitutes a religion.
Many scholar definitions are either substantive or functional. Substantive definitions distinguish religion by common beliefs and practices such as (rituals, prayer or belief in one god). Substantive definitions tend to be too narrow and prejudiced; it would be difficult to consider Buddhism, which is atheistic, as a religion under this definition.
Functional definitions tend to distinguish a religion by the needs it fulfils, (peace, comfort, security), the problem with functional definitions is they tend to be to flexible and vague to be considered as definite solutions to what exactly makes a religion "a religion" since there is no clear boundary to where a religion ends and something else such as a political movement or cult begins.
Recent scholars have attempted to emphasize the broad nature of religion rather than define it within a narrow framework.
One of the best known of these attempts is the seven dimensional model proposed by Ninian Smart, who suggested we approach each religion by looking at it under a number of different dimensions. These are:
The practical & ritual dimension
Smart explains that religions tend to express themselves through rituals. Rituals vary greatly among religions and may include activities such as worship, preaching, prayer and meditation. Sometimes these religious practices are elaborate; Catholics break bread and drink wine to symbolise the body and blood of Jesus and sometimes less elaborate; meditation practice in Buddhism or the Quakers who sit together in silence.
The experiential & emotional dimension
The next dimension involves the importance of emotions and experiences in a religion. Just as the rituals of religious practice vary so do the religious experience. The enlightenment of the Buddha, the visionary experiences of Muhammad and the suffering...