Prior to the developments of human knowledge mentally man was in total darkness and was living under the spell of fear. Fear of darkness, disease, death, lightning, thunder, storm, volcanic eruption, formidable animals and so on made him surrender to them and worship them for mercy and survival. Those objects of fear became Gods. In fact Gods and temples are the products of fear only.
According to the developments of knowledge Gods too were created for worship.
To safeguard themselves from the horrors of the spirits of the dead men and destructions of Nature, ancestral worship and Nature worship were in vogue. Then animal, human, natural and supernatural aspects were combined together in the form of idols for worship besides personification of Nature. Likewise Gods such as Sakti, Siva, Indra, Varuna, Mithra, Surya, Vishnu, Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, Allah, etc. have come into the human world and many religions as a consequence appeared in the world to rule the minds of men both for good and bad.
With the help of his knowledge and intelligence the primitive man made stone weapons to fight against enemies, formidable creatures, etc. Then he miraculously discovered the way to produce fire and used it for his protection in the night times and for cooking food. Afterwards he made wheel to move about using domestic animals and soon invented agriculture, cattle rearing and farming. His knowledge improved by doing inventive, creative works and he became a civilized being. However, the limitations of his senses and the incomprehensibility of his mind to know about the secrets of life, Nature, Universe, God gave him the knowledge that he is incomplete and imperfect and that a thing called Spirit higher than the mind is there and by means of which perhaps all the secrets of the Universe can be known and all his fear of the forces beyond his control or power, he could not overcome death and achieve immortality.
Being a finite being nothing was eternal and absolute and felt very much dissatisfied over his helplessness to overcome his limitations, incompleteness and imperfection. Somehow he wanted to overcome his limitations physically, mentally and spiritually and save himself from all threats, controls and dominations. On search he discovered that some force is controlling the affairs of men, Nature and the Universe. He felt perhaps if he communes with such a force or power he can solve, save and lead himself to the state where he can be eternally free and happy. The result is the birth of his first Encyclopaedia of Knowledge called Religion that came into existence mainly for the attainment of physical, mental and spiritual freedom in toto.
Religion is all about the creative evolution of man meant for the general guidance of all with moral code of conduct to be followed for total salvation in life. It is a system of faith and worship of God. It shows the means to reach divine hood from manhood and solve all the problems on the way thereby. In short the functions of religion are to give peace, education and knowledge of life and culture to achieve everything in order to make human life a complete one.
Religion is all about human faith, the up gradation of human nature from the animal nature to the divine nature and the spiritual realization of the Self and God. Human faith comes of the personal knowledge of the realization of and the feeling of God. Faith without such realization is not real but a blind one which is leading towards superstition only. Superstition is a misleading thing and is always not dependable for the development of man's self in anyway in life.
Truth and Love
All the religions of the world though called by different names like Hindu, Christian, Islam, Buddhism, Zion, etc. preach about the same things like discipline, unity, brotherhood, truth, love and peace and among these, Truth and Love are the most precious things of human values which are really helpful to bring out the divinity in every human being. And that is why religious philosophers say that Truth is God and religious persons say that Love is God.
Religion, Science and Politics
The German philosopher Max Mueller says that religion is the practical form of philosophy and philosophy is the rational form of religion. So, religion is concerned with the feeling, heart and spirit whereas philosophy is concerned with the reason, mind and intellect. The Scientist Albert Einstein also says that 'science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.' The political sage Gandhi has shown to the world that politics can be made more effective and fruitful with moral values like Truth, Non-Violence and simplicity as the basic means to achieve political ends. Therefore great men have proved that great things can be achieved in the public life of the world through religion.
On the other side, religion has done great harm to mankind by means of religious conversions. In the name of religion there were and are so many wars in the world. In the Middle Ages the Crusaders waged war with many countries in the name of Christianity, conquered and converted many European countries into Christianity and established a Christian empire with the Roman Catholic Church having full control over them for about eight centuries. Then in Africa and Asian States too there were religious domination by both Muslim and Christian conquerors. Even today there are wars between Jewish Israel and Islamic Arab countries, Protestant and Catholic Christians in Ireland, Muslims and Christians in Lebanon, the Shias and Sunnis of Islamic communities of Iran and Iraq on sharing of river water and communal fights among various religious groups of the people of India and so on. So, what is the best way to solve these religious disputes, disparities and problems?
One God and Tolerance
The solution lies in adopting the best things common to all religions as the best means to overcome these crises. The common things are faith in one God though called by different names like Allah, Jesus and Krishna and love in the relationship of human beings. Faith in one God is not a difficult matter to practice. But to practice love with everyone is an impossible thing. For, we can love only intimates, friends and dear fellow men and not all. So, in public the best thing to do is to practice tolerance like E.M. Forster or non-violence or ahimsa like M.K. Gandhi which is the civilized way by which religious disparities can be solved and peace, unity and brotherhood can be established in the world. And as far as religion is concerned that is the way to follow human culture in life.
Looking at the history of the religions the Vedas are the oldest heard holy religious scriptures in the world. The Four Vedas [Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana], Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita [of Mahabharata Epic] of Hindu Religion, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam are most important religions of the world. Of the Holy Scriptures Bhagavad-Gita has the capacity to be considered as the Universal Religious script suitable for all the people in the world because of its universal scope, unity in diversity. The Four Vedas called the book of knowledge is a heard revelation of the knowledge of Truth or God. Upanishads are the philosophy of the Vedas, Vedanta is the concluding part of the acme of human thought and Bhagavad-Gita or the song of the Lord is the essence of Hinduism which is the easily understandable and follow-able holy script of Hindu religion. Likewise, The Bible or the holy book of stories of Christian religion and the Koran or the holy words of God of Islam [peace with God or submission to Allah] religion are the life guide books of the respective religions of the world.
Of all the religions, Buddhism only does not talk about God but about morality and human life only. The Old Testament of the Bible common both for the Christians and the Muslims but the New Testament of Jesus Christ is followed by the Christians and the Koran of Mohammed is followed by the Muslims. Christianity and Islam are other worldly, preparing the people for the death and for the present or single life only, whereas Hinduism is for this world and the other world preparing both for the life and the death and for the various lives of the future too till the cycle of births and deaths is completed. Hindu religion because of its vast scope can be called as the universal religion talks about Dharma, natural or eternal order or Law of Nature, Duty, theory of Karma and Liberation, the achievement of absoluteness. Christian religion says that all the men of the world are sinners and their salvation lies only with Jesus Christ and Islam says that Allah is the only God and Mohammed is the last prophet superseding all the messengers of God to be obeyed, whereas Hindu religion which is not a strict one has choice for all the people of the world.
Gita and Buddhism
The expression of the greatest development of human knowledge can be found in the Buddhism and the Bhagavad-Gita of India. Indeed the greatness of India lies in its religion, philosophy, literature and culture and what is not in them is no where to be found in the world. Buddhism is just a corollary or a branch of Hindu religion meant for all and the common people because of its crystal clear, simple and easily follow-able nature. Buddhism says that desire is the root cause for all the problems, miseries, sufferings and the cycle of births and deaths in the world. Non-attachment should be followed to overcome desire; meditation has to be done often to get enlightenment and wisdom; and love should be shown to all. As far as love is concerned Christianity seems to be only a corollary of Buddhism. Then the way to overcome the cycle of births and deaths and the duties and sufferings connected with them has to be found and followed individually till perfection and purity are achieved to attain Nirvana or serenity of soul or salvation or total liberation.
Hindu religion is all about the up gradation of human life to achieve divinehood or moksha or state of Brahma or liberation or absoluteness through the path of Dharma, order and righteousness. Human life is nothing but existence, knowledge, bliss and absolute. Life is for happy living and is not for leading a life of drudgery, sufferings, miseries, etc. and so, it is worth living.
It is well known that everyone is born for a noble cause. So, everyone has to be noble in thoughts, words and deeds. But what could be that noble cause? God is the all pervading spirit, the Universal Spirit, the Universal Consciousness activating everything everywhere with infinite power eternally. Everything starts from and ends with this infinite power which has no beginning and no end, which is immanent and transcendental, and absolute and independent but everything within is finite, temporary, imperfect and interdependent with one another. Of all the creations man only seems to be exceptional, rational and unique. So, man's beginning must be in God and therefore man's end should also be in God only. Because of this noble cause not only man has to be noble in mind, heart and soul but also has to lead noble life and finally embrace God nobly. If he is not so, he has to make himself so by practice and fulfill his destiny with full realization.
The Fate of a person in the present birth is already determined and decided by the good or bad acts of the past birth or births and so also the fate in the subsequent births is decided by the acts of the present birth.
Nothing is non-perishable, permanent and real in the world, Nature and Universe. Even the human body, youth, beauty and strength are all not permanent and cannot give peace and happiness forever. Therefore attachment to materials, land, ladies, name, fame, power and position should be curtailed. The mind should be purified and kept free from the evils such as desire, jealousy, lust, anger, fear, etc. For everything is illusion and nothing is real, imperishable, permanent and eternal except the soul or the atman or the inner spirit which is the part and parcel of the all pervading spirit. Meditation should be done often in the thought of God, the infinite power of eternity. That is the way to overcome illusion and reach reality.
In short, the policy of non-attachment should be followed in life by doing duty according to one's dharma so that likes and dislike, profit and loss, etc. can be met with the same state of mind which helps human existence to be stable. This type of life is called the life of yoga. Bhagavad-Gita advocates mainly four types of yoga that are 1. Yoga of Knowledge, 2. Yoga of Devotion, 3. Yoga of Duty and 4. Yoga of Concentration. A person living such a mode of life will be calm, unruffled and balanced in mind even in adverse situations, trying circumstances and times of predicament. Next, real knowledge should be gained by intellectual thought that is as steady as the Sun for proper guidance in life. Then the enjoyment of life should be based on non-attachment and real knowledge. After that only it is possible to relinquish all the earned best things for the posterity and commune with the all pervading spirit spiritually to become one with the absolute at the end.