The default meaning of religions,has unfortunately emerged, as 'worship religions'. The essence of religion has become praying or worshipping X God or Y God in X manner or Y manner. It ought not to have been.
It would have been apt, at least if they have confined themselves to the praying and worshipping methods.
Religions have started interfering into our dress. They ask us to wear a burqa (veil) and not to show our face to the public. They ask us to shave or nor to shave our head or beard. All this is done in the name of God. God asks us not to eat pork or to eat pork. Neither is true.
They started asking us to weave baskets, if we are born in a servant caste and we are unable to serve masters to serve. Neither the Gods nor the priests (of all religions) have a right to weave baskets. Even State has no right to say that. In the feudalist economy-- the landlord, and in the Capitalist economy --the moneyed employer has started prescribing. Over Centuries, they have co-operated with one another, connived and conspired in enslaving the fellow humans simply because the poor did not have the land or money, to draw their subsistence from.
We, should make a distinction here between 'earning subsistence' and 'earning moolah to satisfy fancy-flimsy desires or greed'. If a person is forced to enslave oneself to earn the daily intake of the two pancakes or balls of rice, it must become abominable and despicable on the part of the bourgeois . On the other hand if Hollywood or a Bollywood stars and writers enslave themselves to the producers and play sex on the sets and the screen, we cannot find any justification in that.
Whether a person becomes an atheist through continuous observation and analysis of the evolution of God or not, religion is essentially a personal affair, in the sense that it is to become an exploration into self-exploration -- Who am I? What ought to be my objective and role on this Earth? By the time I vanish from this Earth into the wombs of Grave Yards, would I have fulfilled that objective and role? The foremost objective and role, no doubt, is self-preservation by earning subsistence.
Here the word 'tapam' (penance) used in ramAyana and mahAbhArata (includes bhagavadgIta) comes to aid. This word 'tapam or penance' has constantly been misunderstood, as something to mean self-torture. It is not self-torture. Some descriptions in scriptures, of some obsessive hermits undertaking penance standing on one leg or eating only leaves or sleeping on beds of nails etc. might have led to this impression. This 'tapam' is mental anxiety. What is the anxiety for? For knowing truth about one's identity, role in the Universe, etc. Instead, the hermits have been made to starve or self-torture to please some unseen Gods and obtain boons from them.
This tapam or penance is individualistic. It is not a group-activity done in prayer houses. The meditation which yoga (ashTAnga yOgA of patanjali) and the Upanishads dealt with related to this tapam or self-search. The physical yoga AsanAs are supplement to the mental yoga, as it is necessary to keep the body in well-oiled condition like a well-serviced automobile with good start and good pickup. (It is a different thing that yOgA gurus have become businessmen and yoga has become an international business).
Though tapam or penance is individualistic, a successful tapam will lead to harmony of individual with his society, though there be differences of opinions and views.
While 'inquiry religion' leads to 'enlightenment', 'worship religion' leads to ignorance and blind adherence. All the principal religions of India, including the imported religions, have blind-ignorant adherents, following the dictates of the priests-pastors-clerics, who themselves often tend, not only to be ignorant, but also adament.
Example from vAlmiki rAmAyaNa:
Book 1. (bAla kAnDa). Chapter 62 (sarga 62). Verse 24.
sadasya anumate raajaa
pavitra krita lakshaNam
pashum rakta ambaram kritvaa
yUpe tam samabandhayat
King AmbarIsha was performing a sacrifice to please the God VishnNu. God Indra stole the sacrificial animal, as he was apprehensive of some loss to himself. The advisers for the sacrifice asked the King to fetch a man as the sacrificial animal (See 1-61-8). King bought a youth called Shunashepa for a 100000 cows.
GIST OF THIS VERSE
The King took the permission of the members of the House. Got the boy dressed with red clothes as customary. Got the youth tied to the sacrificial post.
If Ambarisha had done some 'questioning within himself' about 'Whom am I' and 'why I am doing this human sacrifice?'. 'Why should I follow the advice of the priest who is guiding the sacrifice?' .
He would not have consented to the human sacrifice.
For this reason only, I condemn the "worship religions" as blind and ignorant. Other religions too have similar instances. In three religions God asked devotee to sacrifice his own son. Of course, this may be for testing. Whatever it is, the very idea of asking somebody as a sacrifice itself is very ugly. The God might have later on relaxed his dictum and satisfied himself with a goat in lieu of the son. Now, goats are sacrificed in the name of one festival, to please God and get protection from him.