Quite often, this question, ‘what is religion’ comes to my mind. Which religion is the best of them all?
In order to address the first question of religion, a broad definition may help. Religion is basically a philosophy of living, which gives us a way to live our lives, a way to find what is wrong or right at different levels (personal and social). Many people believe that religion results in a disciplined life and contributes to the survival of the group, that follows the religion. By survival, it is not simply living, it is living a life with minimum contradictions and maximum alignments.
In order to answer the second question, we shall look further into the basic components of various religions. There are basically two easily identifiable components of religion; one is personal, and the other is the social component. The personal components of religious practices involve being spiritual, answering metaphysical questions (the question beyond reality, what we can experience through our senses), doing practices which give us a sense of discipline, like the daily puja, namaz, chanting etc.
Thus, in my opinion, religion does address the personal aspect of being; that is, to live a disciplined life, at a personal level. Religion has social components also, such as joint prayers, pilgrims, processions, melas, etc. I believe the social characters of religion enable a person to live a disciplined social life. The origin of this social character to religion comes from the very social character of a human being.
Before answering the second question, about which religion is the best, we shall understand the over-socialisation of religion. By over-socialisation, I mean that every aspect of life is linked to religion. The economic interests, the political interests, and any other interests that can be thought off are linked to religion. This over-socialisation leads to a general understanding, that to secure our interests, only our religion will help us.
An eternal religion is a religion which does not need to be preached, doesn’t need regular loudspeakers announcements, doesn’t need to be asserted through big rallies, because they may seem to be simple social components of religion, but they are quite overlapping of the other components. No religion is perfect. The more we stick to the rigidity of religion, the more we constrain ourselves from enjoying the eternal religion of humanism.
There is no particular scripture for humanism, and there are no particular rituals associated with the following of humanism. In fact, I believe all religions are based on humanism. It is the over-socialisation of religious practices, that make us believe that our religion and philosophy, which we are following, are the best for us. We should follow a religion and our practice for that particular religion should be humanistic.
Compassion and empathy for others, irrespective of their religious philosophy, is the essence of humanism.
It is not difficult to understand and follow humanism, it can be done within the folds of your personal religious philosophy, by understanding and countering the over-socialisation within a religion. The over-socialisation of religion needs to be weeded out to make our religions more humanistic.
Humanism is human-centric and helps us in leading a disciplined life as human beings, both personally and socially.