I am taking a great risk by sharing this view, in a sense. But I must stress that it is my personal view based on my own reflections, research and reading and I do not expect nor need anyone to accept this view. However, I do welcome criticisms or comments so that I may learn.
I reject “religions”. By religion, I mean generally a set of belief complete with its rituals, dogmas, and symbols.
Firstly, I find that they are based largely on superstitions and conjectures that have been transmitted from generation to generation. Each generation accepts what it has inherited unthinkingly. It is difficult to validate or prove superstitions or beliefs that are founded on conjectures – hence the insistence of “belief or faith” as opposed to reason. “This is my belief” is often the concluding remark of religious people who are unable to reason out the contents of their belief.
I find that religions are man-made. Due to the fact that religion is man-made, the later inheritors of the religion usually have to refer to the experts of the religion ie those who are well versed with it. It is usually impossible to discern the teachings of a particular religion with Reality because it often departs from Reality. For example, if I was to tell you that the sun-God mithra will be furious if you do not worship it, how can you validate this claim with Reality? Thus, you need the expert or clergy of the sun-god Mithra religion to explain, what “worship”, “furious” and even who this mithra back to you. If you belong to this Mithra religion, obviously, you will be at a loss to practice it without the help of their clergy. Common sense, intelligence and knowledge of facts/Reality will be insufficient to make you a religious Mithra worshipper. You need the clergy, the ‘knowledgeable people of the mithra religion”.
On the other hand, if I was to tell you that the plant will die if you do not constantly water it, you will be able to validate this yourself with reality. You do not need the botanist to explain this to you, though he will be able to explain it clearly by referring to further realistic experiments. All you need is common sense, intelligence and knowledge of botany. You can get all this from Reality. Whether you believe or disbelieve is irrelevant to the plant – it will die if you do not water it. This is Reality. This is Ad-deen.
Secondly, Religions also appear to be cultural in nature but seem to derive its authority and “higher status” from a claim of “divine source”. It is this claim of divine source that seems to blur the fact that it is actually cultural practices. Religious culture, if I may call it, is again at variance with the demands of Reality. For instance, if you are a Mithra worshipper, you may be required to chant certain prayers to him/her/it if say you have a new born baby as way of expressing gratitude. Logic and common sense will not be able to understand how this chanting will in any way affect the well being of the baby. Like wise it may defeat reasoning to figure out how this act of chanting equals expression of gratitude to the god.
On the other hand, making the best possible efforts for the well being of the baby would appear to be the common sensical approach inline with the Reality of the baby’s needs. This is Ad-deen or the “way of life which is consistent with the general laws of nature”. For example, feeding the baby with the proper baby food will have an impact on the baby while chanting “holy words” will not. If mere words can have an effect on the laws of nature, than it will seem that all we got to do to avoid floods is to chant the rain or the water away. Obviously that will not work. The way to avoid floods is to take realistic steps to avoid them in line with nature. Taking positive actions in line with Reality is Ad-deen. Chanting is religious.
Thirdly, religions are much occupied with symbols and rituals. Form to them is important rather than substance. To a Mithra worshipper, for example, it may be important that he constantly bows to the sun in the middle of the afternoon. He may be taught that the best form of worship is when the sun is high in the sky such that there is no shadow. So, to attain this “best form of worship”, he spends his entire life trying to achieve this.. He will also spend his life talking about it, the “virtues” of so doing, the “inner peace attained” and will also try to persuade his family, especially the children to follow suit. The fact that his quest to attain this worship does not positively contribute to the betterment of the world or those around him is irrelevant. To him, it is a religious duty that must be performed.
On the other hand, in life one must forever seek to control his own base desires, emotions and ability to think. If you allow negative traits, for example like greed, to control you, you may harm yourself and others. Thinking skills are very important in life to survive. You must cultivate the habit of gaining knowledge and evaluating what you see and hear so that you can grasp Reality. A proper understanding of Reality will allow you to live as effectively as possible. For example, it is from our understanding of physics and mathematics that we are able to improve the way we live. Understanding Realistic knowledge has a real effect on life. This is Ad-Deen. To me religious knowledge actually sedates one’s understanding of reality, sort of creating a “dream world”. When you do or think about things that are contrary to nature, then you are being zalim or “unjust” to yourself.
Fourthly, since Ad-Deen is grounded in Reality, there can be no real disputes. For example, no one will dispute that one need food and water to live. There is unity in Ad-Deen. Only a fool will say, for example, that you do not need transport to move from one place to another. On the other hand, religions, since they are man-made and founded on conjectures, invariably leads to disputes and disunity. Even the clerics will dispute among themselves. This is possibly the reason why you find that sectarianism is common among religions. Since common sense has no place, it is usual that emotional stances among the diverse sects results not only in disunity but enmity between them. This is due to the need to “uphold” religious beliefs.
Would you be angry if anyone disagrees with you that water is essential for living? Of course you wouldn’t because it is a fact grounded in Reality or Ad-Deen. On the other hand, a Mithra worshipper may get angry and call you a disbeliever if you tell him that standing constantly under the sun may cause skin cancer. IN the face of pure faith, reason does not have a role. Your act of reasoning with a religious person will be taken to mean that you are challenging his belief. To him, you are trying to burst his fragile bubble that he has carefully and painstakingly build around him.
Part Two: Ad-Deen Approach of the Quran.