The Lifecycle of Religion
Religions are born in times of some major social and/or political change, which causes intense stress for people.
Religion answers the pain and stress people feel. A person that is most conscious of this pain comes up with a message that uplifts the spirit of the population and gives an answer to that pain. That is the prophet or father of that religion or sect.
The message, in one way or another, promotes integration with a higher essence: God, who loves and will save us from the pains of life.
I suggest that religion starts as an (I) phenomena: the desire to connect with something absolute and powerful that the religious belief will remove their pain in this life, and provide eternal bliss in the next life. For that, a powerful entity, God, must be served.
When a religion is born, there are no written manuals. No sacred books. The message of the founder of that religion is potent and causes the masses to join. Over time, new leadership of that religion emerges and institutionalizes the religion into “manuals:” how to practice the religion. That is when the religion becomes organized and the (A) role is introduced.
Over time, the (I) progressively gives space to (A) because (A) is much easier to follow and requires much less emotional energy than (I). Increasingly, people believe that by following the (A), just by following the rituals and the prayer regime, they are practicing the religion faithfully. Form takes over function and we now have a full-blown religious bureaucracy with hierarchy, rules, and punishments. We have organized religion.
The danger of organized religion is that many people forget its essence: to integrate with God and with each other. The spiritual essence of all religion, I suggest, is the promotion of love. In its essence, it is a system of values, not of rituals. As (A) dominates and (I) is lost, we can get some crooks or sexual predators involved in the organized religion. They go through the process, pray, and serve, but the spirit is gone and all that is left is an empty shell of rules and rituals.
Ichak Kalderon Adizes