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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sanskrit language -Uniqueness

 Some aspect of Sanskrit language “One of the unique but mysterious features of the Sanskrit language is how many words can be used at three separate and distinct levels of thought. Even whole verses have this remarkable feature. It is one of the factors which have made translation into other languages so difficult. The difference presupposes three groups of people. First there is the literal meaning intended for the householder or worldly man, and a guide to better thought and action. The second is the meaning on a higher level intended for the mumukshi or hungry seeker for God. Here the same words take the reader from the mundane level to the higher level, and the implications. The third is the meaning intended for the soul who has attained or is nearly ready to attain liberation”. This literally leads to both correct, crystal clear meanings and also gives room to those who pander to chaotic and callous interpretations, more so in spiritual texts, I stress spiritual texts, not religious ones, wherein there are always many esoteric intrinsic meanings which unravel only to the enlightened souls and not necessarily to a linguistic scholars or academic thinkers or even intellectual giants.
Mike Magee [don’t miss to see his page] about

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


It is very easy to be generous in offering stereotyped, over general, didactic advices which incidentally involve arriving at such opinions based on judgment: using whatever limited knowledge and perception we have to make a choice based on discretion in comparison with other ways of leading a life.

Therefore, being judgmental and comparing are part and parcel of our very thought process [fortunately or unfortunately one of the most powerful tool we human beings have over the other species] with all its positives and negatives and comparing is an inevitable choice further propelled by our social survival requirements.

So, at the outset itself I feel we should not advocate or inject hypocritical principles to our children because sooner or later they are going to stare at the inherent contradictions of these oft repeated advises, made with good intentions, and their inability to experience life without comparing or making judgments.

Instead what we can do is to expose them to multiple modes of reasoning and give them enough freedom to question, reason out and experience life in their own way in their own terms. They may succeed or not. But they will at least know and feel responsible for what they do, what they become and who they are. Ultimately life is experienced and lived in different emerging contexts and situations and there are no predefined reference templates to do that. What at best can be done is to enable and empower every individual to understand his inherent attributes both strengths and weaknesses and encourage them to adopt certain attitudes which can help them wade through real life situations combing these attributes and attitudes. We can at best educate them what are the best possible attitudes to be adopted at individual level and social level.

Honestly all of us need to accept the fact, at least most of us, do not know what is Reality or what is The Ultimate truth etc.

Let wise philosophers and spiritually enlightened souls have the privilege of spelling out authentic pronouncements on these two often debated, discussed issues around which a lot revolves, namely, Reality and The Ultimate Truth. 

Let ordinary mortals, read, and relish and try to grasp them as far as we can with as many modes of reasoning and through as many methods of approaches as we can.

Instead we must educate and enable them to make sound judgments and appropriate, relevant and reasonable comparisons; inculcate the values of tolerance, compassion etc for a peaceful and harmonious social life.

We need to know that: An A to Z free verse on these different aspects.

Our ambitions are too achievement oriented to accept everything and everyone;
Our beliefs are too blinkered to bear everything and everyone;
Our cleverness is too corrupted to care for everything and everyone;
Our dexterity is too delicate to deftly handle everything and everyone;
Our emotions are too entangled to entertain and engage everything and everyone;
Our faith is too firmly fixed to fly freely and find everything and everyone;
Our generosity guarded to give into everything and everyone;
Our hearts are too hypocritical to harbor everything and everyone;
Our intellect and ideologies are too impervious to include everything and everyone;
Our judgments are too jagged to justify everything and everyone;

Our knowledge is too knotty to know everything and everyone;
Our life span is too limited to learn about everything and everyone;
Our mentality is too meanly molded to manage everything and everyone;
Our notions are too narrow to nurture everything and everyone;
Our occupations are too overloaded to let us observe everything and everyone;
Our perceptions are too prejudiced to permit everything and everyone;
Our quests are too quirky to quench everything and everyone;
Our reasons are too restrictive to realize everything and everyone;
Our senses are too selective and selfish to Boldsatisfy everything and everyone;

Our thoughts are too conditioned to tolerate everything and everyone;
Our urges are too utilitarianistic to understand everything and everyone;
Our values are too vacillating to vindicate everything and everyone;
Our will power is too weak to work with everything and everyone;
Our x-axial greed is too xiphoid not to cut off everything and everyone;
Our yearnings are too yummy to let us yield to everything and everyone;
Our zeal is too zigzagging to give zest to everything and everyone.

On why we compare

On making a choice therefore the inevitability of judging

On thoughts

On reality and perceptions

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Words - how they evolve, grow or get mutilated

Metamorphosis of words and expressions manifest what?

First listen to this wonderful and humorous speech about euphemism .

It spells out humorously the metamorphosis of many expression trying to hide reality for example how crippled or physically challenged or handicapped became disabled and then redesigned into differently-abled or handi-capable etc

Laugh yourself out and then let us get down to find out why it is so?

This metamorphosis of terminology is the manifestation of socio-religio- culturally inherited hypocrisies which very conveniently and fluently coin euphemistic expressions to mask reality or add connotations to existing terms which totally hide the original denotation of the word.

As a person interested, having done some reading, writing, teaching etc in lexicography, linguistics, etymology in some languages, I can say that words used in a particular region, at a particular time, carry with them a whole lot of socio-cultural psychological attitudes, attributes, perceptional biases/inadequacies and ideological conditioning etc.

The whole lot of TV soaps/bubbles called as serials and most of the Bollywood and Kollyhood nonsense are all imbued with these nonsensical terminologies with which the whole society is infected. Everyone who is involved in perpetuating these hypocrisies exhibits a healthy public view and engages in a filthy activity in private.

Hypocrisies get so well ingrained that it is almost automatic, spontaneous, infectious and manifests in all spheres of life be it in family, be it in relationship with the near and dear ones, be it in society, be it in office, be it in closed circle of friends, be it in group of artists, be it in observing traditions or rituals etc. If by mistake anyone acts without these hypocrisies that person would be either branded as eccentric or arrogant or excommunicated or at least ostracized by the rest.

Language is one of the most effective tool for manipulation, brain washing, propaganda etc as it is one the most important carrier of human thoughts and emotions as well as social and cultural taboos and trends. There are lots about and involving language and its politics.

If and when you have time you may read this blog link of mine and all other sub links given in that blog link
 and also
I thought of writing this because a friend of mine a good dancer was wondering and posted in FB page ‘ Why do we insist on creating a culture of shame and taboo around organic human relationships and all that comes from them? Like pregnancy, for instance. Why are people hesitant to use that word?!! 'She is in the family way' - she is where? 'She is carrying' - carrying what? A shopping bag? 'She is expecting' - expecting what? A big chocolate cake all to herself? That she most certainly is! Language is not voldemort. It won't kill you or jinx you to use the right word.’

Language and human beings

Language and its relevance and importance to  human beings as a species is on the whole a very interesting subject where in a lot of aspects remain to be explored

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Religion and Reason

There was an article recently by Devdutt Pattanaik, a well known author with many publications to his credit. It was titled ‘Origins of Religion’  in a popular Indian  newspaper . It has raised more questions than it has answered. I am not even questioning or bothered whether you support, practice, and follow any religion or many religions. But you are trying to make certain sweeping interpretations with more vagueness and trying to ensconce them in flamboyant language and feeble statements like, “ Religions provide humans with maps that help them navigate through life. Yes, religions cause violence because from religion comes the notion of identity. Religions locate us in a cosmic super map. Attack religion and you attack identity, a simple fact that rationalist and atheists do not understand. 

This is precisely what many aspects of religion have done to humanity and diverted them from facing the stark facts and reality life and instead covered them up with all sorts of entertainment, ornamentation, appealing doctrines, ideas etc. Humanity has fallen a prey to these fancies and attractions and failed to experience life as it is with all its superb as well as silly things. Not even imaginations but hyper fancies and hyped up rituals form major part of religious way of life.


All religions are equal and every religion has its own beauty, beliefs, benefits and banalities.

Let us not either over simplify or over generalize to suit our preconceived interpretations and inferences but instead just observe plain facts as they are and be humble enough to accept them and try to understand, not necessarily judge, what they are? What has been their contribution? What are their inherent qualities or attributes? Etc.

What any individual /group do /did /shall do with them merely shows how they relate to it and has nothing to do with the subject matter per se.

For example if there is a cow, it is just an animal. You can do anything with it: leave it to lead its life it wants, or feed it, play with it, milk it, worship it, sit on it and ride, torture it, cut and eat it and so on. So what is done with or to the cow has nothing to do with the inherent attribute of cow but how every individual/group relates with the cow.

Let no one get emotional or act as if they are more enlightened than another religion or sect and therefore more eligible to preach or sermonize others. Let us all calmly and candidly look at facts of history starting from times of recorded history. While the whole world makes lot of money talking and making movies about terrorism and terrorist cause lot of damages to both people and property, very few try to study the underlying reason.

No one in his sane mind will resort to become suicide bomber or assume by causing calamity and ending his/her own life in the process is going to become a martyr? Then what or who causes such trends and tendencies? Be it inquisitions, crusades, saiva samana in fights in ancient Hinduism, the silencing of Bhuddism in India in remote past by Hinduism etc.

We all can see the obvious, if only we are honest. Osho used to say, ' if you say a fruit tree is great you can prove it only based on the fruits that it produces' Especially after what happened in France , I thought of communicating some simple and plain facts which must be addressed and I did to almost all the major media houses in Europe and USA through these links. Religion-its role,  evolution, purpose, religion and science etc. The first two I wrote in the last three days after what happened in France.

Religions, all religions, by themselves are a big problem why?

and fortunately the Vedas and Bhagawad Geetha nowhere mention the word Hindu. So Hindus cannot claim them as their texts though they may be part of epics and literature that has emanated from a place the present day Hindus live and they also convey many excellent and high philosophical traditions that people who follow Sanathana Dharmna have along with many unpleasant rituals of that period.

Actually religion as an entity, I am not confining to the tall claims or great philosophies in any religion, but religion, I mean all religions, as they are practiced or followed do not as Mr. DEVDUTT PATTANAIK  claims, “provide humans with maps that help them navigate through life.” But on the contrary they define the boundaries, construct fences, create cultural biases and reinforce identities to both classify and differentiate human species, human intellectual approaches, human understanding, human compassion etc based on its predefined modes of perception.
Again Pattanaikji “from religion comes the notion of identity”.

As in the cow example given at the beginning of this small write up different identities emanated from how each one related to the cow and not because of the cow.
“We are programmed by habit and constant preconditioning to create defenses against and make fences around us towards anything new [it could be good, better, best or bad I desist from using the usual good, bad and ugly as it has more negatives] that crops up in us or around us. It is a sort of protectionism that goes to envelop in some specific identity or label and further firm up our prejudices and prevent us from experiencing the new. Gradually this identity creates such strong concrete walls that enforce us to experience life only in terms of what is approved of that identity.

Almost all of us are gullible to this attribute of experiencing life through any existing or well established or socially well accepted or religiously sanctioned or personally enjoyable and pleasing identity/identities, which reflect in our actions and attitudes. We are thus led by the expected experiences which must fit into this readymade or readily accepted patterns, I am not saying either they are good or bad, but we are thus prevented from experiencing life as it is happening at this moment.

So, in real terms there is nothing new when we deal with life based on predetermined and past experiences. Or attempt to do things to get a result for a future goal. Thus, in a way we are slaves of our past or to our future. None of our behavior patterns, perceptions, attitudes or attributes are new or authentic as they are guided by prefixed identities.

In fact, in a way, most of the individual problems and group pogroms are the result of identity crisis. This [identity adoration/affiliation] is a very important part of study of personal psychology and socio-psychology which gets neglected or does not get the prominence it deserves because the predominant factors that create these identities and factories that produce these predators are the patrons and promoters of religious and political ideologies. Now recently, technological advancement has also jumped into this band wagon [of course at least this offers tangible comforts and benefits].

These identity creating factories are afraid of free and open minded persons as these open minded persons may start questioning some aspects or the very identity itself.

There is nothing wrong with identities per se nor are they avoidable. For example if someone  is born physically beautiful, mentally brilliant, in a  highly respected family in a particular nation following certain language, religion, culture, tradition etc with some type of specific behavior then that person would be identified with all those things. What can that person do about any of those identities which he is born with, born into, groomed up with along with social inculcation, indoctrination, insistence or voluntary inclination or interest etc?

There is nothing wrong even in human mind getting into judgmental mode based on these identities which is one of the natural consequences of identity affiliation and which is what is happening all over.

There is nothing wrong even in the human mind making comparisons, analysis, criticisms etc based on these identities which are again natural consequences of affiliation to inevitable identities.[1]

The problem crops up when these identities create narrow walls of prisons of the mind and thereby creating incompatibilities and intolerances in the functioning of many vital tools of life and not letting life to move on smoothly in its tracks.

In brief our thoughts, ideas, actions, feelings, interactions, attitudes etc are to a very great extent influenced by how we relate to changing situations /circumstances /scenarios/events/environment/new relations etc while clinging on to our identities.
Even within specific identities there are varying degrees and intensities of manifestation.

It would be pertinent to mention what ― Idries Shah the great Sufi writer says in Reflections
“You have not forgotten to remember;
You have remembered to forget.
 But people can forget to forget. That is just as important as remembering to remember - and generally more practical.”

As a consequence of this [doing everything while clinging on to our identities]our understanding of life itself is to a very great extent depends on how well we understand our relations/relationships to these changed situations /circumstances/scenarios /events/environment/new relations etc.

Any identity is /all identities are a stumbling block to any realization or unbiased relating/relationship as well. AsJames Braha writes, in the wonderful book ‘LIVING REALITY-My Extraordinary Summer with “Sailor” Bob Adamson’,
“You can only know your self by being yourself without any attempt at self-definition and self-description. Once you have understood that you are nothing perceivable or conceivable, that whatever appears in the field of consciousness cannot be your self, you will apply yourself to the eradication of all self identification, as the only way that can take you to a deeper realization of your self. You literally progress by rejection—a veritable rocket. To know that you are neither in the body nor in the mind, though aware of both, is already self-knowledge.”

The real nakedness devoid of any cover of identity, probably this could be one of the connotations of the word ‘Nirvana’, may enable us and equip us to face reality unbiased and without any pre conditioning. Some great souls have even opined that we can even pose real questions only from this state as Terence Mckenna says, “You are not naked when you take off your clothes. You still wear your religious assumptions, your prejudices, your fears, your illusions, your delusions. When you shed the cultural operating system, then, essentially you stand naked before the inspection of your own psyche…and it’s from that position, a position outside the cultural operating system, that we can begin to ask real questions about what does it mean to be human, what kind of circumstance are we caught in, and what kind of structures, if any, can we put in place to assuage the plan and accentuate the glory and the wonder that lurks, waiting for us, in this very narrow slice of time between the birth canal and the yawning grave. In other words we have to return to first premises."

Life is never fulfilled with unfulfilled relationships within the family, with others in the society, with the environment, with the many sciences, subjects, systems that we come across which are useful to us, used by us or we are used by them and so on. So, the quality of life is the manifestation of the quality of the inter play of these various relationships.

Even in parenting after donating a sperm and leasing a womb and initially taking care of the physical well being of the Child it is all about weaving meaningful and mutually respectable relationships psychologically all the while factoring in many socio-cultural changes and the generational differences.

Can we ever succeed in overcoming the difficulties and fulfill all our relationships?

Probably if we sincerely, seriously and sanely try to understand them through two important primary factors, namely completely listening and curiously learning followed by involvement and responsibility and all these done with total intensity and intense totality. Very often the greatest mistakes in our relationships, overall perceptions and evaluations occur because we read three fourths, listen half, understand quarter, think zero and are indifferent to the impact of our actions, reactions, thoughts and words on humanity and the environment. [2]

The vital factor/essence of any relationship is the connectivity /link and the best way to be aware of it, savor it and sensibly understand this vitality is to be detached to the ultimate results, as Bhagawath Geetha says and again to quote Simone Weil,
“ Attachment is the greatest fabricator of illusions; reality can be attained only by someone who is detached”.

Because the fact is life is neither a mere predesigned product with preprogrammed operations nor is it merely any of the existing proclaimed and sanctified order nor is it the result of any mere catastrophic accident.

‘Neither our Brain nor our Character is Cast in Stone’ [3]

Do our perceptions and/or thoughts, feelings, knowledge etc influence our experience or our experiences influence our perceptions and/or thoughts, feelings, knowledge etc?

Do we create our identity and getting confined by it?

Or whether some identity actually influences and/or creates us?

Or can we tweak some parts of the brain surgically and create a complete leap away from affinity to identities so that individual perceptions, actions, attitudes and social behavior etc all can be freer and at least devoid of problems caused by contradictions and ideological constraints?  [After all physiologically even DNA is tweaked to produce unimaginable results][4]

Ultimately one thing is clear that there are neither any absolutes to something as temporal as individual life nor any eternally valid or universally applicable models to emulate as the only way or only option to our mortal life. There are no eternal explanations to everything in any single source. Nor is there any omnipotent panacea for everything. The vague randomness that unfolds as we live life is the very beauty of life and probably the most important sign of human evolution and growth of civilization. No single person is an expert on everything.

All relationships effect a transformation, a transition from a present status influencing and impacting ourselves, others, our environment and our very relationship which causes this and so on. This transformation happens due to many of the factors mentioned above in the normal process in a gradual way or sometimes by suddenly overcoming the constraints of time and space, and due to different affinities to various other identities. This happens when there is unqualified complete love as Jeff Brown points out "You don’t measure love in time. You measure love in transformation. Sometimes the longest connections yield very little growth, while the briefest of encounters change everything. The heart doesn't wear a watch- it’s timeless. It doesn’t care how long you know someone. It doesn’t care if you had a 40 year anniversary if there is no juice in the connection. What the heart cares about is resonance. Resonance that opens it, resonance that enlivens it, resonance that calls it home. And when it finds it, the transformation begins…"

Does reality really require an observer? Not necessarily.

Does reality change because of the observer? Not necessarily.

Has reality any inherent existence irrespective of the presence of the observer?

If it rains heavily in a very remote place uninhabited by any human being, still there would be all effects of a heavy rain irrespective of whether anyone was there to observe it or record it or measure it.[5]

Or as the great Neale Donald Walsch says, “The definition of everything depends on how you look at it. Nothing is as it seems, and the moment you change your perspective you see that. Therefore, there is no such thing as Reality; there is only the reality you create by the way you are looking at something. You are creating your reality through the use of perspective”.

So, very meaningful reality exists of its own within the realm of our observation or sometimes unnoticed, unknown and unnamed, beyond and/or beside the realm of our observation, our measuring it, our labeling etc.

Various gifted souls and scholars have tried to perceive it through various methods, expressed their understanding through different subjects, through different frames of reference in varying degrees of intensities, each one grasping the splendor of different facets of the same diamond called the totality of life. What their understanding unraveled is very educative and enlightening and highly motivating for us to explore further and deeper the meanings of life.

[5] Both Einstein and Ramana Maharshi made almost identical statements that "everything is predetermined". Nobel Laureates Eugene Wigner and Francis Crick (co-discoverer of DNA) made similar statements. The ground-breaking experimental work of Libet and many contemporary cognitive neuroscientists support these statements.

This is the first part of a presentation at the Science and Non-Duality Conference in San Rafael, CA in October 2009. The second part is covered in the video "Intelligence Choice is Impossible"; the third and last part is covered in "You Are Not In Control".

There is a new video "Predestination, free will, control and the illusion of time" which explains much on these concepts.

Additional information is @ website: book: Happiness Beyond Thought: A Practical Guide to Awakening. Downloadable @ youTube: Gary Weber Nonduality FB

Interview @ Towards A Science of Consciousness conf @
All these identity stuff can be found in my blog post
But whatever humanity may do or come up with religion will continue to have its sway because of various factors

I would like people like you who are much read by public, I read all your books , attended a few of your lectures, must first be convinced and then  convey that rationalism and atheism are also very much part of human attempt to explore and understand life. They may sound different, they may approach differently but nonetheless they do unravel much more reasonable, more practically applicable, logically laudable  and easily conformable evidences rather than mundane justification like status quo addicts or passive followers or people who love to confirm to existing views with mere verbal and/or scriptural references/ justifications.

I am all the more appalled by these comments coming as they do just a day before Swami Vivekannada’s birth anniversary who wanted that Man must learn to live with a religion which commends itself to intellectual conscience and the spirit of rationality who also believed that whatever we do must be justified and supported by reason. So I would like to place on record some of his quotes here on this issue of rationality and reason being given a priority in perceiving as well as practicing religion.

“There are four general types of men—the rational, the emotional, the mystical, and the worker. For each of these we must provide suitable forms of worship. There comes the rational man, who says, "I care not for this form of worship. Give me the philosophical, the rational—that I can appreciate." So for the rational man is the rational philosophic worship.

“The scriptures of different religions point out different means to attain the ideals of universal love, freedom, manliness, and selfless benevolence. Every religious sect is generally at variance as to its idea of what is virtue and what is vice, and fights with others over the means of attaining virtue and eschewing vice, instead of aiming at realising the end. Every means is helpful more or less, and the Gita (XVIII.48) says, "Every undertaking is attended with defects as fire with smoke"; so the means will no doubt appear more or less defective. But as we are to attain the highest virtue through the means laid dozen in our respective scriptures, we should try our best to follow them. Moreover, they should be tempered with reason and discrimination. Thus, as we progress, the riddle of virtue and vice will be solved by itself.

“Personally I take as much of the Vedas as agrees with reason. Parts of the Vedas are apparently contradictory. They are not considered as inspired in the Western sense of the word, but as the sum total of the knowledge of God, omniscience. This knowledge comes out at the beginning of a cycle and manifests itself; and when the cycle ends, it goes down into minute form. When the cycle is projected again, that knowledge is projected again with it. So far the theory is all right. But that only these books which are called the Vedas are His knowledge is mere sophistry. Manu says in one place that that part of the Vedas which agrees with reason is the Vedas and nothing else. Many of our philosophers have taken this view.

“When, by reasoning, Truth is comprehended by the intellect, then it is realised in the heart, the fountainhead of feeling. Thus the head and the heart become illumined at the same moment; and then only, as says the Upanishad, "The knot of the heart is rent asunder, and all doubts cease" (Mundaka Upanishad, II.ii.8).

The whole above write up is a reaction to this

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Religion -Its evolution. Origin and Purpose

Unbiased observations about religion-its role and        relevance.

This write up covers in depth many aspects of religion in general and in the journey of studying and reading it I have come across some very interesting works and most of this work has more or less been a process of joining those pearls of wisdom to make it into a bright garland.

1] Embarking on certain subjects knowing well enormity of existing literature, probability of coming up with results not in sync with existing views and the concomitant  immensity of the risks  etc makes the task as daunting as trying to churn up a ocean with a straw hoping to come up with something new.

2] It is all the more difficult when the subject is embedded in a very remote past; most of the contents are pertaining to the context of that period; the main characters have not been seen by many or perhaps anyone; followers are emotionally charged and therefore its doctrines are justified rather than subjected to rational review; but its impact and influence is ensured to spread over the entire width and depth of life as a whole and sometimes, rather more often, even about afterlife, evolution of life etc. It, in short permeates into every sphere of human activity that it becomes almost a second nature and to live without acknowledging its role, even if not accepting or following it, is really impossible.

3] Most of its literature is imbued with massive exaggerations, mind boggling myths supported by selective historical accounts etc.

4] Its ideological perpetuation is ensured through well organized institutions, intellectually appealing interpretations, propped by injecting fear and punishment for non believers or those refusing to follow.

5] I have intentionally refrained thus far from mentioning the subject to let the readers to hunch it, however to proceed further I need to indicate what subject I am discussing. It is none other than Religion.

6] I shall be refraining from venturing into any religion in particular to avoid controversies or at least to minimize the controversies and also it is a fact that I cannot claim to know any religion well enough to analyze it because I cannot claim to have followed any religion that seriously or sincerely.

7] If we are asked to come up with a word cloud about religion in general, not any particular religion, what are the things that come to our mind? In brief they could be the following in general.

8] Let me make it very clear at the outset as the write up is in English it may not include many excellent and important concepts that are conveyed by various religions in their own specific vocabulary from Sanskrit, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, Russian, German, Punjabi, Hindi, Tamil etc

9] So the word cloud on Religion rendered in English would include at least the following:-
Religion; God or Gods or Goddesses; Divinity; Worship; Devotion; Prayers; Religious Scriptures; Sacredness; Sacrifices; Rituals; Traditions; Heaven; Hell; Symbols; Idols; Statues; Reward and Punishment; Virtue and Vice; Sin and Punya [opposite of sin]; Supernatural elements; Social Customs; Cultural activities like Music; Dance; Preaching etc; Great art and architecture; Innumerable literary works; Reverence for Nature and natural elements; Meaning of Life; Origin of Life; Universe; Origin of Universe; Creator; Angels, demons, spirits, wizards and witches; Morality as defined by  certain socio religious mores; Superstitions, Beliefs, Faith, Ferventness, Fanaticism etc; Socially sanctioned and approved norms; Sacred places or specifically assigned places of worship; Debates about  Origin of life and species; Methods of proper living; Mythologies; Miracles; Mysteries; Magic; Epics; Philosophical concepts; Benevolence; Blessing; Grace; Scholarly discussions; Soul; Spirit; Spirituality; Psychological security; Self –Realization; Social cohesion; Reality; Ultimate Truth; Authority; Sanctity; Priests; Saints; Sages; Holiness; Omni present; Omni potent; Scholarly literature; Occult science; Wise men, Popular stars endorsing religious affiliation; Preaching and   Propaganda; Doctrines; Ideologies; Charity; Love; Fear; Humility; Forgiveness; Non violence; Service to humanity; Care and Compassion; Mortality; Immortality; Many more things all ensuring Obsessive Emotional bonding; A Binding Identity so strongly glued that it assigns the very meaning to existence of the individual in a particular society; Sanctifying sex; celebrating  Births and Deaths; Justifying  Wars and Destruction and  Ruins in the name of Religion; Conversions; Rationality; Scrutiny; Science; archeology; ethnography; history; evolutionary psychology; cognitive science; Consciousness; Conscious Awareness; Inner-self; Group Identity; Social bonds; Harmony ; Unknown.

The above list is common factor for almost all religions. This list is neither exhaustive nor exclusive to any particular religion.

10] This bunch of words representing a very wide spectrum of emotions, activities etc including glaring contradictions is because Religion has or has been allowed to permeate into almost all major areas of human life primarily the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of the individual being; the social, and cultural spheres of human beings as a whole; in brief religion is extremely pervasive.

11] Some of the above referred factors have been natural outcomes in the process of evolution of human beings as social creatures, with an additional faculty over other species, namely, Conscious Awareness. This conscious awareness coupled with thought and memory worked to create labels, identities etc to classify, distinguish [ not differentiate] different identities and reinforce them to provide a comfort zone of secured social identity and cohabitation, create a storehouse of collective wisdom and data bank of accumulated knowledge so that human species could concentrate their energies, time, resources to enhance better living, improve upon existing knowledge, help to understand in newer and more ways life and its mysteries and lead happier lives.

12] We must be very clear about one thing that no single subject, however time tested, logical or appealing, be it science or religion can be a panacea for all human problems nor can they even proclaim with axiomatic certitude that some particular thing/theory is most important or impeccable for life of everyone and everything at all times and in all issues.

13] Nothing I have said is either new or unknown but I feel a necessity to recapitulate the facts so that we proceed with the subject matter without any inhibition making a journey into the subject starting from its origin, its immense importance and impact, its relevance in the present day life, especially in terms of whether it needs to be given so much of attention and should it be prioritized over many other factors now etc. 

14] Do we need religion? Can we ignore religion? Why and how religion has evolved? Why every subject, every society, every individual, every culture had to tag on to religion? Is it an intrinsic part of human life or all life or universe? Why must religion get such a priority/greater importance over many other tangibly and obviously useful things for human beings?
All the above questions throw up answers which are in a way inter-related and inter connected.

15] Before we resort to refer to and make use of many or any very enlightened, scientific and scholarly analyzes and discussions on the subject of religion, we need to acknowledge certain undeniable facts of history, or a more preferable terminology would be, story of human evolution wherein religion not only held sway but had dominant role and wherein anything was accepted if, and only if, it had a religious sanction or approval by some religious authority. So all great emperors/leaders/literature/inventions/arts/music/ideas/philosophical concepts/discoveries almost everything had to be scanned and approved by the religious authorities/institutions or were subjected to religio-moral acceptability.

16] In places where religion was observed as a journey of the individual to experience life with freedom unfettered by any restraining religious authority or the necessity to conform to any scriptural confines, especially in some non institutionalized religious groups, thankfully due to lack of institutional control, there popped up lot of literature on astronomy, mathematics, physics, medicine, metaphysics and some other sciences and arts bereft of any religious connection or connotation but they too succumbed to exaggerated extolling of certain godheads, heroes of epics etc. But these types of religious groups were rare and few in number, mostly not within the radius of documented history, literature etc and mostly preceded the history of ferociously functional and institutional identity based fenced frontiers of religions.

17] Therefore, obviously no one can afford to avoid religion, even if he/she feels or is convinced that by and of its own it has no inherent or intrinsic value or appeal.

18] Even where religious institutions dictated and dominated human activity, gradually, despite the overwhelming or rather overbearing influence of religion in human affairs, slowly but steadily scientific reasoning, scientific discoveries, substitutable social systems and political systems, logical reasoning etc made their way and provided human species the much needed tools to explore, decipher and understand themselves and the world through other perspectives as well. They also provided life  the much needed psychological alternatives.

19] As indicated earlier because of its huge influence and impact on almost all spheres of life for a very long time totally doing away with religion is a very difficult task. So the easier option is to accept it, be kind to its positive contributions and blind to its irrelevant rituals, traditions, superstitions etc.

20] However, some well meaning intellectuals and scientists who felt/feel that religious interference has hampered scientific progress and progressive rationality have taken on themselves to expose the irrelevance of religion and all its concomitant paraphernalia or plethora of irrationality in an age when human beings have more advanced and better means to understand and experience life leading to more comfortable life styles and advanced  methods of approaching life which also aid in filling the feeling of lack of psychological solace in the realm of psychological architecture of life especially to free the mind from parochial philistinism.

21] Now let us plough through some of the scholarly literature about religion in general in terms of its role and impact on human psyche and social mores.

22] Evolutionary psychology of religion.

There is general agreement among cognitive scientists that religion is an outgrowth of brain architecture that evolved early in human history. However, there is disagreement on the exact mechanisms that drove the evolution of the religious mind. The two main schools of thought hold that either religion evolved due to natural selection and has selective advantage, or that religion is an evolutionary by product of other mental adaptations. Stephen Jay Gould, for example, believed that religion was an exaptation [A] or aspandrel [B], in other words that religion evolved as byproduct of psychological mechanisms that evolved for other reasons.

[A] Exaptation (a replacement for the teleologically-loaded term "pre-adaptation") and the related term co-option describe a shift in the function of a trait during evolution. For example, a trait can evolve because it served one particular function, but subsequently it may come to serve another. Exaptations are common in both anatomy and behaviour. Bird feathers are a classic example: initially they may have evolved for temperature regulation, but later were adapted for flight. Interest in exaptation relates to both the process and products of evolution: the process that creates complex traits and the products (functions, anatomical structures, biochemicals, etc.) that may be imperfectly developed.
[B] The term spandrel was an architecture term originally thought up during the Roman period to explain the triangle area between two arches that come together. Stephan Jay Gould, a paleontologist at Harvard, and Richard Lewontin, a population geneticist, originally coined this term for the use of explaining secondary byproducts of adaptions and were not necessarily adaptations themselves. The spandrel was an architectural space created as part of the gap between the area where two arches came together and the ceiling of the building. These spandrels as they were named did not actually come into use until later on when artists realized they could make designs and paint in these small areas adding to the overall design of the building.
In evolutionary biology, a spandrel is a phenotypic characteristic that is a byproduct of the evolution of some other characteristic, rather than a direct product of adaptive selection.

23]  I would like to reproduce here what Robin Marantz Henig states, in his column in New York Times  on March 4, 2007 titled  Darwin’s God based on study of Scott Atran ‘s work , Richard Dawkin’s work etc the following:-

Religion primarily evolved if one were to analyze intellectually to define what Scott Atran, a respected  Anthropologist called as “belief in hope beyond reason”. With all its Gods ,Messengers etc to silence the perturbed human mind and persistent human inquisitiveness to at least portray ,if not perceive  something transcendent, unfathomable and otherworldly, something beyond the reach or understanding of science.

This is different from the scientific assault on religion that has been garnering attention recently, in the form of best-selling books from scientific atheists who see religion as a scourge. In “The God Delusion,” published last year and still on best-seller lists, the Oxford evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins concludes that religion is nothing more than a useless, and sometimes dangerous, evolutionary accident. “Religious behavior may be a misfiring, an unfortunate byproduct of an underlying psychological propensity which in other circumstances is, or once was, useful,” Dawkins wrote. He is joined by two other best-selling authors — Sam Harris, who wrote “The End of Faith,” and Daniel Dennett, a philosopher at Tufts University who wrote “Breaking the Spell.” The three men differ in their personal styles and whether they are engaged in a battle against religiosity, but their names are often mentioned together. They have been portrayed as an unholy trinity of neo-atheists, promoting their secular world view with a fervor that seems almost evangelical.
 “Religious belief is an outgrowth of brain architecture that evolved during early human history. What they disagree about is why a tendency to believe evolved, whether it was because belief itself was adaptive or because it was just an evolutionary byproduct, a mere consequence of some other adaptation in the evolution of the human brain.”       

Atran wrote. “They cannot explain why people can be more steadfast in their commitment to admittedly counterfactual and counterintuitive beliefs — that Mary is both a mother and a virgin, and God is sentient but bodiless — than to the most politically, economically or scientifically persuasive account of the way things are or should be.”    
“Our psychological architecture makes us think in particular ways,” says Bering, now at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. “In this study, it seems, the reason afterlife beliefs are so prevalent is that underlying them is our inability to simulate our nonexistence.”                               
“Religious and secular rituals can both promote cooperation,” Sosis wrote in American Scientist in 2004. But religious rituals “generate greater belief and commitment” because they depend on belief rather than on proof. The rituals are “beyond the possibility of examination,” he wrote, and a commitment to them is therefore emotional rather than logical — a commitment that is, in Sosis’s view, deeper and more long-lasting.       

Atran says he faces an emotional and intellectual struggle to live without God in a nonatheist world, and he suspects that is where his little superstitions come from, his passing thought about crossing his fingers during turbulence or knocking on wood just in case. It is like an atavistic theism erupting when his guard is down. The comforts and consolations of belief are alluring even to him, he says, and probably will become more so as he gets closer to the end of his life. He fights it because he is a scientist and holds the values of rationalism higher than the values of spiritualism.

24] Steven Pinker of  Harvard University in his lecture titled ‘The EvolutionaryPsychology of Religion’

Presented at the annual meeting of the Freedom fromReligion Foundation, Madison, Wisconsin, October 29, 2004, on receipt of “TheEmperor’s New Clothes Award.” Spoke on these lines:-
“The first is that religion gives comfort. The concepts of a benevolent shepherd, a universal plan, an afterlife, or just deserts, ease the pain of being a human; these comforting thoughts make us feel better. There's an element of truth to this, but it is not a legitimate adaptationist explanation, because it begs the question of why the mind should find comfort in beliefs that are false. Saying that something is so doesn't make it so, and there's no reason why it should be comforting to think it so, when we have reason to believe it is not so. Compare: if you're freezing, being told that you're warm is not terribly soothing. If you're being threatened by a menacing predator, being told that it's just a rabbit is not particularly comforting. In general, we are not that easily deluded. Why should we be in the case of religion? It simply begs the question                                  

The second hypothesis is that religion brings a community together. Those of you who read the cover story of Time might be familiar with this hypothesis because the geneticist Dean Hamer, whose new book The God Gene inspired the cover story, offered this as his Darwinian explanation of religion. Again I think again there's an element of truth in this. Religion certainly does bring a community together. But again it simply begs the question as to why. Why, if there is a subgoal in evolution to have people stand together to faceoff common enemies, would a belief in spirits, or a belief that ritual could change the future, be necessary to cement a community together? Why not just emotions like trust and loyalty and friendship and solidarity? There's no a priori reason you would expect a belief in a soul or a ritual would be a solution to the problem of how you get a bunch of organisms to cooperate.                                                                      

The third spurious explanation is that religion is the source of our higher ethical yearnings. Those of you who read the book Rock of Ages by Steven Jay Gould, who argued that religion and science could co-exist comfortably, are familiar with his argument: since science can't tell us what our moral values should be, that's what religion is for, and each “magisterium” should respect the other. Religions have given us stonings, witch-burnings, crusades, inquisitions, jihads, fatwas, suicide bombers, gay-bashers, abortion-clinic gunmen, and mothers who drown their sons so they can happily be united in heaven.[ I am tempted add here  a Yiddish expression: "If God lived on earth, people would break his windows."]

 To understand the source of moral values, we don’t have to look to religion. Psychologists have identified universal moral sentiments such as love, compassion, generosity, guilt, shame, and righteous indignation. A belief in spirits and angels need have anything to do with it. And moral philosophers such as Peter Singer (one of tomorrow’s honorees) who scrutinize the concept of morality have shown that it is logically rooted in the interchangeability of one's own interests and others
Ambrose Bierce in The Devil'sDictionary, which defines "to pray" as "to ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner, confessedly unworthy."                                 

Death, of course, is the ultimate apparent evidence for the existence of the soul. A person may be walking around and seeing and hearing one minute, and the next minute be an inert and lifeless body, perhaps without any visible change. It would seem that some animating entity that was housed in the body has suddenly escaped from it.

So before the advent of modern physics, biology and especially neuroscience, a plausible explanation of these phenomena is that the soul wanders off when we sleep, lurks in the shadows, looks back at us from a surface of a pond, and leaves the body when we die.

To sum up. The universal propensity toward religious belief is a genuine scientific puzzle. But many adaptationist explanations for religion, such as the one featured in Time last week, don't, I think, meet the criteria for adaptations. There is an alternative explanation, namely that religious psychology is a by-product of many parts of the mind that evolved for other purposes. Among those purposes one has to distinguish the benefits to the producer and the benefits to the consumer. Religion has obvious practical effects for producers. When it comes to the consumers, there are possible emotional adaptations in our desire 

25] So we cannot make sweeping statements like what H.L. Mencken said that “the most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It's the chief occupation of humankind.” This poses an enigma to the psychologist.

26] Here are some very interesting and thought stimulating blogs, sites etc which throw enough light on various aspects of religion in general.

On the origin of religion
[the comments therein are also quiet interesting]

27] Here is another interesting enough site about why there is always a debate or conflict between Religion and Science but this site is not very much in depth, still useful for starters.
28] Here is one that triggers debate on religious views
29] A spectrum of theories on Religion

30] A very exhaustive work based on lot of reference by Scott Atran ‘ In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion (Evolution and Cognition Series) 

31] The best account of this book is given here by Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, in Human Nature Review
"With almost 1000 references and discussions of most of human history and culture, from Neanderthal burials to suicide-bombers in the Palestinian anti-colonialist struggle, this book is consciously and truly encyclopedic in scope, and shows both breadth and depth of scholarship...the reader finds himself constantly challenged and provoked into an intellectual ping-pong game as he follows the arguments and the huge body of findings marshaled to buttress them...Atran managed to combine the old and the new by relating the automatic cognitive operations to existential anxieties. This combination will be a benchmark and a challenge to students of religion in all disciplines."

32] Another good book is ‘Origin of Religions-an open eye by -B.K.Karkara

33] A very comprehensive and controversial and thought provoking book by John Morreal and Tamara

‘The Religion Toolkit: A Complete Guide To Religious Studies’ andby the same authors ‘50 Great Myths About Religions’

34] Another important book is ‘The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life’ by  Emile Durkheim

35]And Social Origins of Religion By Roger Bastide and Translated by Mary Baker

36] The Post-Secular in Question: Religion in Contemporary Society edited by Philip Gorski, David Kyuman Kim, John Torpey, Jonathan  VanAntwerpen

37] Durkheim's Sociology of Religion: Themes and Theories  By W. S. F. Pickering

 What is the purpose of religion?

38] Throughout the history of man, religion has been present. Religious beliefs have affected everything from personal ethics to national politics. It has been an integral part of many societies in our past and present. However the question remains: 

39] What is the purpose of religion?

I would like to quote from this link

“Religion has been presented to explain unknown intellectual problems (Comte, Tylor), to explain strong and abstract emotional feelings (Marett, Malinowski, Freud), to oppress social groups (Marx), to connect society (Durkheim), to explain arbitrary suffering (Weber), etc.

Many other purposes for religion have been theorized but no universal answer has been found.

Will a single answer ever be found? Is there only one answer?

Possible answers, further questions or any comments are welcome!

Religion has elements that are the same for everybody, for example it does unite (the origin of the word is re, again, and ligare, to tie together). So, you are correct in that religion creates community, but the greater question is for what purpose? To make peace? To create understanding?”

40] Purpose of Religion

From the Writings of Baha'u'llah:

The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men.  (Baha'u'llah:  Gleanings, p. 215) 

41] Martin Luther King provided an elegant if not perfect answer to this :-

"A religion true to its natures must also be concerned about man's social conditions. Religion deals with both earth and heaven, both time and eternity. Religion operates not only on the vertical plane but also on the horizontal. It seeks not only to integrate men with God but to integrate men with men and each man with himself." 

42] And in this link which is more or less like  a college essay but places general facts in plain perspective

“The Purpose of Religion Introduction

Religion is derived from the two latin words “re” and “ligare” which means “to reconnect”. The concept of religion is relatively recent considering that humanity has been on earth for at least 200,000 years and the oldest living religious traditions namely Hinduism date back to only 6000 BCE. So for over 95% of human history, men and women have nourished their sense of spirituality without any formal religious constructs.

Religion, misused and exploited, can be the most dangerous and the most persuasive force on Earth, but at its best, can be the path of re-connecting a person to higher spiritual truth and the reason behind the most loving and noble actions.”

43] In these two links referring to part –I and part II  explains the purpose of religion in a very interesting manner

Steve McSwain Speaker, Author, Counselor to Congregations, Ambassador to the Council on the Parliament for the World's Religions, and Spiritual Teacher, delves a bit in detail and with a heavy heart observes in part 2

“While all religions share the same essential purpose, they also seem to share the same essential problem. Though they start out right they soon end up obsessed with matters of lesser importance. Observe:

Instead of a bridge to God, religion is often a barrier to God.

Instead of freeing people from their burdens, religion itself is the burden.

Instead of knowing God, religion is obsessed with knowing about God.

Instead of divine acceptance, religion is preoccupied with guilt and failure, and the depiction of God as a deity displeased about both.

Instead of bringing unity to humanity, religion is the principle cause of most disunity, with its endlessly expanding hard-drive of beliefs, dogmas and doctrines around which little egos collect to argue, debate and ultimately divide.

Instead of peace and tranquility, religion is, for many its practitioners, a circus of endless activity, programs and meetings all of which are time-consuming and exhausting….” And concludes it with this paragraph, “Again, just as it is outlandish to believe your religion is going to convert the world to its way of thinking, it is equally outlandish to develop a belief system that would leave behind the world you can't convert. We've got to learn to get along. "No tree has branches so foolish as to fight among themselves" (Native American wisdom).”

44] The purpose of religion is reiterated here more as a wish in this link

“The true purpose of religion is not to enable a certain person to rule and play God, or a certain group of people to rule and play gods. Rather, it is to prevent all people from playing God, and help all people recognize how and why all human beings are related as children of God.

Thus, Jews are supposed to be taught that we should not do to others what is hurtful to ourself, Christians are supposed to be taught that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us, and Muslims are supposed to be taught that no one is a true believer in Allah until he loves for all others what he loves for himself. Likewise, Buddhists are taught that we should treat others as we treat ourself. Hindus are taught that we should not do unto others anything that, which if it were done to us, would cause us pain. Taoists are taught that we should regard our neighbor's gain as our own gain, and our neighbor's loss as our own loss. And, the founders of all true religions have also said that the search for the Divine should be not in the world, but within.

These virtuous teachings and spiritual values are at the very core of all genuine religions. They are compatible and consistent with all the other core universal spiritual values that all enlightened ones taught, about unconditional love, peace, freedom, honesty, humility, tolerance, forgiveness, compassion, charity, and pacifism.

Religion is supposed to help human beings understand how and why abiding by these virtues will bring joy, harmony, and peace. And that is why religion is supposed to help human beings acknowledge the real God, the Omnipresent Great Spirit-Parent which loves us all, which is God by any other name.

In fact, God can also be called the Universal Consciousness, or the Divine Creative Force, or the Eternal Divine Light Energy-Source of our existence, and the very Essence of all life and form.”

45] Here is another link PAULO COELHO'S BLOG

“My daughter, Heather, recommended a book to me and I have started to read it. It is called Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho and Margaret Jull Costa. As I have begun to read it, I found these two lines that struck me. “They don’t understand that religion was created in order to share the mystery and worship, not to oppress or convert others. The greatest manifestation of the miracle of God is life.” And I was particularly attracted by two excellent comments both by a person called Isabelle Payette which run thus,

“I don't care about money, prestige and power... but even less about worship. I study all the sciences and that gives me enough to chew on. That is why education exists: To unfold some of the mysteries of nature. Organized religions are for people who don't want to bother searching for themselves and just want to gobble man-made stories and fables of all kinds. The universe is a beautiful place and I want to take care of it just as much (if not more) as anyone of any religious denomination.. Love and compassion have nothing to do whatsoever with religion. A moral sense develop out of the normal unfolding of several developmental stages early in life. If some of these stages go awry, one will need to revisit it at some point because it will create some form of chaos in one' life. The flow can be re-established in several ways (eg meditation, yoga, healthy nutrition, education/therapy, creativity, enjoyment of nature, etc). Religion is like the blind leading the blind. It goes nowhere... just babysitting until you wake up.

Science does not change, it evolves with the new evidence and technology. We're just connecting the dots. Unfortunately, sometimes, people connect things that don't even have anything whatsoever to do with each other. We don't need an answer for everything but only to understand better what is going on in the world so that we can better protect it and reduce suffering any way we can. When someone says something without any shred of evidence, why should we believe it? That is just plain stupid - you call it faith. Conscious awareness does not come from God but it does have many levels. Lower levels are preoccupied by security, sensations and power - which are where most people who believe in God are - and the next 4 levels are something we learn as we detach from the ego. At the highest level, you feel the unity and the connections between every living creatures. I don't see why people need to read some outdated book to understand why and where they are at or even where they should be going. That is the kind of thing you need to learn for yourself by reflecting on your experience and learning from it. Your job is to EVOLVE into the higher planes of your own consciousness which is to say to participate in the unfolding of the full potential of the Universe.”.

46] Here is a wonderful speech on the methods and purposes of religion

47] From

According to Erich Fromm, “humans have a need for a stable frame of reference. Religion apparently fills this need. In effect, humans crave answers to questions that no other source of knowledge has an answer to, which only religion may seem to answer. However, a sense of free will must be given in order for religion to appear healthy. An authoritarian notion of religion appears detrimental.”

William James said it well: "The science of religions would forever have to confess, as every science confesses, that the subtlety of nature flies beyond it, and that its formulas are but approximations."

William James also writes "That the mind itself has a higher state of existence, beyond reason, a superconscious state, and that when the mind gets to that higher state, then this knowledge beyond reasoning comes.... All the different steps in yoga are intended to bring us scientifically to the superconscious state or samadhi.... Just as unconscious work is beneath consciousness, so there is another work which is above consciousness, and which, also, is not accompanied with the feeling of egoism.... There is no feeling of I, and yet the mind works, desireless, free from restlessness, objectless, bodiless. Then the Truth shines in its full effulgence, and we know ourselves- for Samadhi lies potential in us all- for what we truly are, free, immortal, omnipotent, loosed from the finite, and its contrasts of good and evil altogether, and identical with the Atman or Universal Soul." *

* My quotations are from VIVEKANANDA, Raja Yoga, London, 1896. The completest source of information on Yoga is the work translated by VIHARI LALA MITRA: Yoga Vasishta Maha Ramayana, 4 vols., Calcutta. 1891-99.

48]  gain William James writes in his The Varieties of Religious Experience chapter 20 titled conclusion. Here I have changed the order of certain sentences and statements.

“To learn the secrets of any science, we go to expert specialists, even though they may be eccentric persons, and not to commonplace pupils. We combine what they tell us with the rest of our wisdom, and form our final judgment independently. Even so with religion. We who have pursued such radical expressions of it may now be sure that we know its secrets as authentically as any one can know them who learns them from another; and we have next to answer, each of us for himself, the practical question: what are the dangers in this element of life? and in what proportion may it need to be restrained by other elements, to give the proper balance?”

“But this question suggests another one which I will answer immediately and get it out of the way, for it has more than once already vexed us. Ought it to be assumed that in all men the mixture of religion with other elements should be identical? Ought it, indeed, to be assumed that the lives of all men should show identical religious elements? In other words, is the existence of so many religious types and sects and creeds regrettable?

To these questions I answer 'No' emphatically. And my reason is that I do not see how it is possible that creatures in such different positions and with such different powers as human individuals are, should have exactly the same functions and the same duties. No two of us have identical difficulties, nor should we be expected to work out identical solutions. Each, from his peculiar angle of observation, takes in a certain sphere of fact and trouble, which each must deal with in a unique manner. One of us must soften himself, another must harden himself; one must yield a point, another must stand firm,- in order the better to defend the position assigned him. If an Emerson were forced to be a Wesley, or a Moody forced to be a Whitman, the total human consciousness of the divine would suffer. The divine can mean no single quality, it must mean a group of qualities, by being champions of which in alternation, different men may all find worthy missions. Each attitude being a syllable in human nature's total message, it takes the whole of us to spell the meaning out completely. So a 'god of battles' must be allowed to be the god for one kind of person, a god of peace and heaven and home, the god for another. We must frankly recognize the fact that we live in partial systems, and that parts are not interchangeable in the spiritual life. If we are peevish and jealous, destruction of the self must be an element of our religion; why need it be one if we are good and sympathetic from the outset? If we are sick souls, we require a religion of deliverance; but why think so much of deliverance, if we are healthy-minded? * Unquestionably, some men have the completer experience and the higher vocation, here just as in the social world; but for each man to stay in his own experience, whate'er it be, and for others to tolerate him there, is surely best.

THE material of our study of human nature is now spread before us; and in this parting hour, set free from the duty of description, we can draw our theoretical and practical conclusions. In my first lecture, defending the empirical method, I foretold that whatever conclusions we might come to could be reached by spiritual judgments only, appreciations of the significance for life of religion, taken 'on the whole.' Our conclusions cannot be as sharp as dogmatic conclusions would be, but I will formulate them, when the time comes, as sharply as I can.”

“Summing up in the broadest possible way the characteristics of the religious life, as we have found them, it includes the following beliefs:

1. That the visible world is part of a more spiritual universe from which it draws its chief significance;

2. That union or harmonious relation with that higher universe is our true end;

3. That prayer or inner communion with the spirit thereof- be that spirit 'God' or 'law'- is a process wherein work is really done, and spiritual energy flows in and produces effects, psychological or material, within the phenomenal world

Religion includes also the following psychological characteristics:

4. A new zest which adds itself like a gift to life, and takes the form either of lyrical enchantment or of appeal to earnestness and heroism.

5. An assurance of safety and a temper of peace, and, in relation to others, a preponderance of loving affections.

In illustrating these characteristics by documents, we have been literally bathed in sentiment. In re-reading my manuscript, I am almost appalled at the amount of emotionality which I find in it. After so much of this, we can afford to be dryer and less sympathetic in the rest of the work that lies before us.

The sentimentality of many of my documents is a consequence of the fact that I sought them among the extravagances of the subject. If any of you are enemies of what our ancestors used to brand as enthusiasm, and are, nevertheless, still listening to me now, you have probably felt my selection to have been sometimes almost perverse, and have wished I might have stuck to soberer examples. I reply that I took these extremer examples as yielding the profounder information.

Knowledge about a thing is not the thing itself. You remember what Al-Ghazzali told us in the Lecture on Mysticism,- that to understand the causes of drunkenness, as a physician understands them, is not to be drunk. A science might come to understand everything about the causes and elements of religion, and might even decide which elements were qualified, by their general harmony with other branches of knowledge, to be considered true; and yet the best man at this science might be the man who found it hardest to be personally devout. Tout savoir c'est tout pardonner. The name of Renan would doubtless occur to many persons as an example of the way in which breadth of knowledge may make one only a dilettante in possibilities, and blunt the acuteness of one's living faith. * If religion be a function by which either God's cause or man's cause is to be really advanced, then he who lives the life of it, however narrowly, is a better servant than he who merely knows about it, however much. Knowledge about life is one thing; effective occupation of a place in life, with its dynamic currents passing through your being, is another.

The world of our experience consists at all times of two parts, an objective and a subjective part, of which the former may be incalculably more extensive than the latter, and yet the latter can never be omitted or suppressed. The objective part is the sum total of whatsoever at any given time we may be thinking of, the subjective part is the inner 'state' in which the thinking comes to pass. What we think of may be enormous, the cosmic times and spaces, for example,- whereas the inner state may be the most fugitive and paltry activity of mind. Yet the cosmic objects, so far as the experience yields them, are but ideal pictures of something whose existence we do not inwardly possess but only point at outwardly, while the inner state is our very experience itself; its reality and that of our experience are one. A conscious field plus its object as felt or thought of plus an attitude towards the object plus the sense of a self to whom the attitude belongs- such a concrete bit of personal experience may be a small bit, but it is a solid bit as long as it lasts; not hollow, not a mere abstract element of experience, such as the 'object' is when taken all alone. It is a full fact, even though it be an insignificant fact; it is of the kind to which all realities whatsoever must belong; the motor currents of the world run through the like of it; it is on the line connecting real events with real events. That unsharable feeling which each one of us has of the pinch of his individual destiny as he privately feels it rolling out on fortune's wheel may be disparaged for its egotism, may be sneered at as unscientific, but it is the one thing that fills up the measure of our concrete actuality, and any would-be existent that should lack such a feeling, or its analogue, would be a piece of reality only half made up.

By being religious we establish ourselves in possession of ultimate reality at the only points at which reality is given us to guard. Our responsible concern is with our private destiny, after all.

In a still more radical vein, Professor Ribot (Psychologie des Sentiments, p. 310) describes the evaporation of religion. He sums it up in a single formula- the ever-growing predominance of the rational intellectual element, with the gradual fading out of the emotional element, this latter tending to enter into the group of purely intellectual sentiments. "Of religions sentiment properly so called, nothing survives at last save a vague respect for the unknowable x which is a last relic of the fear, and a certain attraction towards the ideal, which is a relic of the love, that characterized the earlier periods of religious growth. To state this more simply, religion tends to turn into religious philosophy.- These are psychologically entirely different things, the one being a theoretic construction of ratiocination, whereas the other is the living work of a group of persons, or of a great inspired leader, calling into play the entire thinking and feeling organism of man."

And William James continues in the same book , “Taking creeds and faith-state together, as forming 'religions,' and treating these as purely subjective phenomena, without regard to the question of their 'truth,' we are obliged, on account of their extraordinary influence upon action and endurance, to class them amongst the most important biological functions of mankind. Their stimulant and anaesthetic effect is so great that Professor Leuba, in a recent article, *(2 The Contents of Religious Consciousness, in The Monist, xi. 536, July, 1901.) goes so far as to say that so long as men can use their God, they care very little who he is, or even whether he is at all. "The truth of the matter can be put," says Leuba, "in this way: God is not known, he is not understood; he is used- sometimes as meat-purveyor, sometimes as moral support, sometimes as friend, sometimes as an object of love. If he proves himself useful, the religious consciousness asks for no more than that. Does God really exist? How does he exist? What is he? are so many irrelevant questions. Not God, but life, more life, a larger, richer, more satisfying life, is, in the last analysis, the end of religion. The love of life, at any and every level of development, is the religious impulse. *(3 Loc. cit., pp. 571, 572, abridged. See, also, this writer's extraordinarily true criticism of the notion that religion primarily seeks to solve the intellectual mystery of the world. Compare what W. BENDER says (in his Wesen der Religion, Bonn, 1888, pp. 85, 38): "Not the question about God, and not the inquiry into the origin and purpose of the world is religion, but the question about Man. All religious views of life are anthropocentric." "Religion is that activity of the human impulse towards self-preservation by means of which Man seeks to carry his essential vital purposes through against the adverse pressure of the world by raising himself freely towards the world's ordering and governing powers when the limits of his own strength are reached." The whole book is little more than a development of these words.)

49] Religion is hard to pin down. I don't think it has clear cut boundaries.

Most dictionary and wiki definitions are on the right track. Most religions are a subset of supernatural spiritual belief systems, the shared ones typically with dogma. Most started as cults but have become established over time and less reliant on one living person.

50] This link attempts to come out with a more comprehensive definition of religion

“A religion is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence. Many religions have narratives, symbols, and sacred histories that aim to explain the meaning of life and/or to explain the origin of life or the Universe. From their beliefs about the cosmos and human nature, people may derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferredlifestyle. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.

Many religions may have organized behaviors, clergy, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, holy places, and scriptures. The practice of a religion may include rituals, sermons, commemoration or veneration (of a deity, gods or goddesses), sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, initiations, funerary services, matrimonial services, meditation, prayer, music, art, dance, public service or other aspects of human culture. Religions may also contain mythology.

The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with faith, belief system or sometimes set of duties; however, in the words of Émile Durkheim, religion differs from private belief in that it is "something eminently social". A global 2012 poll reports 59% of the world's population as "religious" and 36% as not religious, including 13% who are atheists, with a 9% decrease in religious belief from 2005. On average, women are "more religious" than men.[6] Some people follow multiple religions or multiple religious principles at the same time, regardless of whether or not the religious principles they follow traditionally allow for syncretism

51] Psychology of Religion Pages  By Michael Nielsen, Ph.D.

52] Positive Atheism

53] The Psychology of Religion  Joseph McCabe                   

54] The following site gives a graphic record of origin of religions      

55] Here is one on Origin of Major Religions

56] One on Timeline of Sacred Texts

57] one on Sacred texts

58] Value/role of  religion

Organized religion emerged as a means of providing social and economic stability to large populations through the following ways:

Organized religion served to justify the central authority, which in turn possessed the right to collect taxes in return for providing social and security services to the state. The empires of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia were theocracies, with chiefs, kings and emperors playing dual roles of political and spiritual leaders.[9] Virtually all state societies and chiefdoms around the world have similar political structures where political authority is justified by divine sanction.

Organized religion emerged as means of maintaining peace between unrelated individuals. Bands and tribes consist of small number of related individuals. However states and nations are composed of thousands or millions of unrelated individuals. Jared Diamond argues that organized religion served to provide a bond between unrelated individuals who would otherwise be more prone to enmity. He argues that the leading cause of death among hunter gatherer societies is murder.

59] In his book The World Until Yesterday, Jared Diamond states: "An original function of religion was explanation. Pre-scientific traditional peoples offer explanations for everything they encounter..."

Experience taught Stone Age people the difference between what poisoned them and what satisfied their hunger. Experience made them able hunters and gatherers, and later made them adept at herding. Their minds gathered empirical realities necessary for survival.

the same write up well explained for easy understanding here

60] Notable People in Psychology of Religion     

Does everyone need religion? And what are the supposed functions of religion?        

Religion isn’t for everybody — others find their “purpose” or create their “purpose” other ways.

On the other hand, as you know, laws of physics don’t change from place to place and from time to time

Yes — agreed. This is part of why religion is different from science. It’s also why literature and other of the humanities are different from science — what is “good literature” is often a culturally dependent judgement, whereas I do firmly believe in an objective reality, described by laws of physics that are universal.

61] Philip Goldberg’s  on the several functions of religion  in this link   

In brief  With alliterative flair, Goldberg lists these functions:

1. Transmission: to impart to each generation a sense of identity through shared customs, rituals, stories, and historical continuity.

2. Translation: to help individuals interpret life events, acquire a sense of meaning and purpose, and understand their relationship to a larger whole (in both the social and cosmic senses).

3. Transaction: to create and sustain healthy communities and provide guidelines for moral behavior and ethical relationships.

4. Transformation: to foster maturation and ongoing growth, helping people to become more fulfilled and more complete.

5. Transcendence: to satisfy the longing to expand the perceived boundaries of the self, become more aware of the sacred aspect of life, and experience union with the ultimate ground of Being.

These are  explained in detail in the link above

62] The Horrible truth about religion as practiced in most places are indicated here

63] Great site with lot of interpretive literature available   

64] Surprisingly a very pertinent statement from a link on medicine      

“There are times in our evolution as a cultural species when we need to unlearn what we think we know. We have to move out of the comfort of certainty and into the freeing light of uncertainty. It is from this space of acknowledged unknowing that we can truly grow”.

65] I would like to conclude from one of my favorite author Bertrand Russell

The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:

1.         Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.

2.         Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.

3.         Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.

4.         When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.

5.         Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.

6.         Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.

7.         Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

8.         Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.

9.         Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.

10.    Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.