Religion is the way man connects with his Creator. At different times in history, among different peoples, religion has meant different paths.
Then there are the divine or revealed religions and religions crafted or embellished by man. And there are some paths that are replete with philosophies and appear like religion, but do not constitute a religion since a Divine Being is absent from the equation.
The ultimate purpose of religion is for man to be just – with himself, others and other things. Goodness, kindness, forgiveness, forbearance, etc. are vital ancillary tools and ends. In life’s entanglements rights and duties abound, initial endowments, opportunities and conditions vary from person to person, when with selfishness as a core human inclination, sometimes scarred by jealousy, misunderstanding, hearsay, superstition and apprehension, injustice can easily prevail. Injustice is the mother of all conflicts. Religion’s purpose is to forestall or reduce foul play, and accordingly maintain or restitute balance and order. The Divine Being’s status is not increased or decreased by whether man is religious. Proper religiosity properly followed only serves to enhance the quality of life for man.
To understand broadly the nature of religion, we need to acknowledge its external and internal dimensions, its moral fabric, and its pervasiveness over time and space.
The external aspect of religions constitutes all its do’s and don’ts, the ritualistic and informal elements – acknowledgement of the Divine Being, prayer, alms giving, kindness, mercifulness, sharing, forgiving, helping, certain types and forms of abstinence, etc. This is a common format for all given to a particular religion.
The internal aspect of religion is about actually believing in the truth and vitality of all of its elements and their collective capacity to deliver positive and lasting outcomes as promised and expected. This takes one from merely submitting mechanically to submitting with heart and mind, thereby being spared lingering doubt and suspicion.
The third aspect of religiosity relates to morality – the ability or sensibility to distinguish right from wrong, fair from unfair, kindness from cruelty, openness from being predisposed, seriousness from frivolity, etc. This is possible on account of the faithful perceiving Divine Presence at every turn, or when failing to do so knowing that Divine Presence glorifies every event, shining or shabby. Thus, being duly aware, a religious person is inclined to moral rectitude.
The fourth and final aspect of religiosity is the knowledge about transparency and ultimate accountability over every action and inaction that one undertakes consciously, freely and with sanity, given what one knows and understands about religious prerogatives and obligations. This connects all of humanity in a final settlement of scores or debts. That is why it is far better to be conscientious while alive so that there is less to settle on that Final Day of Adjudication. None will be unfairly treated, everyone will settle any earthly debt owed others, and the Master of the Ceremonies will be as Merciful on His part as possible. Real religion as a principle pervades space and time. It is not contained on planet earth nor limited to our times.