There are not many people out there who have their own religion; just themselves in one religion made up on their own. People like to have a sense of belonging.
Therefore most, if not all, religions have a huge communal aspect to them. While a person does gain some personal experience in any one religion in some form or another, religion is not solely personal. It is widely social.
Someone who is brought up in a certain community that has a particular religion typically does not change his or her religion later on in life. The person grows adapted to the religion that he or she was forced upon. Typically the person does not change religion because he or she wants the acquiescence of their community. Therefore religion is not for person gain, but for acceptance in the community in which he or she lives. More generally, an individual is likely to take up the same religion that is predominant in the area in which he or she lives.
Religion is an issue of community values, not personal experience. This can be seen by taking a look at all the component parts of religion. One of which is belief.To even begin a religion a people have to set a certain belief. Whether it be monotheism, polytheism or no theism at all, a certain faith structure is crucial in order to have and maintain religion. This belief or faith is chosen, yet again, by the people of the area. They are the ones that decide what to believe and how to believe it.
Then the people come who, more by convenience than be choice, partake in these certain beliefs. It is almost considered necessary for people to believe the same ideas who are in the same community in order for more peaceful living. For example, a person would not find a Christian practicing their faith in Indias predominantly Hindu villages. If a person was born in India he/she would more than likely practice the Hindu religion just as if a person that was born in South Chinas Taoist areas would practice Taoism. This is not a personal choice.
It is a community effort in the way that the community forces their ways upon an individual. In order for these beliefs to occur, though, people must engage in conversation with one another to be knowledgeable about the correct belief of their particular religion. This stands true whether or not the religion is orthopraxy or orthodoxy. Without people setting the beliefs, there are no beliefs. Most often these beliefs are influenced by another component of religion: family values. Family has much to do with religion. It is usually family that decides a religion.
In Christianity it is the parents who baptize the infant. They decide that their child is going to follow the Christian religion. The baby has no say in the matter. Therefore, it seems logical that as that child gets older, he or she would just stick with that religion instead of upsetting their parents to whom they are supposed to obey. This concept holds true for most all children of all religions. In the Hindu religion, the family as well as the community has structure to it. Hindu families are positioned by caste, the color of their skin.
Within the family, there are rules to go by. These rules were set by the community and followed by all. One can not marry out of caste, except on some known circumstances and job as well as food are all caste related.
In this structured lifestyle how would it be possible for someone to say that he or she would like to practice a different religion than the community and/or family? Unless exile was not a big deal to the individual, one would naturally not even fathom it. Family has a great impact on childrens lives. Instead of going out and learning all the religions and then later on picking the one religion they feel suites them best, kids are often stuck with the religion of their parents. Therefore, how could one say that their religion is for personal experience when it was not themselves that picked that religion in the first place but rather just a series of events that lead them to that particular faith? Plus, in most areas, communities generally have superior family values. So, by the scare tactic the children stay in a religion that they grew up in rather than a religion they could personally relate to better and have more personal gain. By the time that the children grow up, they are so fine tuned into the religion that they grew up in that they do not explore other religious ideas even if it would benefit them.
Family habits become traditions and those traditions latch on to a person to become rituals, which is yet another element of religion.Rituals are practiced throughout all religions. From Christianity to Hinduism to Buddhism to Taoism rituals are observed invariably.
Although some, like Taoist rituals, are very severe, like taking ones own life drinking an elixir, people follow them without a doubt. They do this not for personal gains, but for the recognition and approval of the community. Rituals are proven to be very social since most of the time performing one is done in a group.
Therefore, while a person does gain individual experience participating in these rituals, the social aspect of them is predominant. Rituals are done throughout the community. It is the community as a whole that decides which rituals are going to fit with the religion and which ones are actually going to be practiced. If the community decided that one such ritual was no good, no one would do it anymore. It would not matter if he or she liked it or not. Personal or individual preferences would not matter if it conflicted with the majoritys vote. Coincidently, if a person did perform a banned ritual, they would most likely be exiled, excommunicated, or alienated from that community and/or religion.
An example is Buddhism. In Buddhism a person can get kicked out of a community for wrong behavior, it is an orthopraxy religion. Therefore the thought of getting kicked out of a community affects the way a person thinks and acts.
An individual will do just about anything for acceptance. So, if all a person has to do is believe what others believe and perform the rituals others perform in order to stay in a certain community, they will do so. Rituals, in a way, are like hand me downs. They are not learned by reading written materials, they are learned by practice. Never-the-less this leads to the next religious constituent: sacred texts.
Sacred texts are found in most religions. They are written laws maintained from the time they were made. These scriptures are not made for one persons benefits but for all the peoples of the religions benefit. Usually people of the same religion will gather to read and or perform some of the sayings in these holy writings. In Hinduism there are the Vedas; in Christianity there is the Bible and so on.
Religion could not be anymore a social aspect of life. It is a way for human beings to connect with each other. Influenced by family and enforced by the community, religion is something practiced for acceptance in a community and not for personal gain. Even if a person would rather change his or her religion, chances are he or she will not even bother due to their need for acceptance in the group that they live in. People feel better about themselves when they say that their religious affiliation is not just a mere follow the leader type game, but a deep personal and individual decision upon which impacts their lives tremendously. While this may be true for a select few, the majority of people must admit that latter of the fact.
Whether they actually do admit it, though, is simply up for grabs.Bibliography: