Religion is the fulcrum on which one's life turns from one experience to another. Great many religious leaders have over centuries attempted to give a direction to man's yearning for spiritual experiences. Man finds through this experience the path for realization of self. The ultimate self realization is achieved by great souls by renouncing all worldly ties and concentrating on the eternal being of no form and figure. I agree that this is a little abstract and every man or woman cannot undergo such experience by his own efforts. There are many who have attempted to reach such a state of mind by concentrating on the inner soul which could show the way. From times immemorial great many souls have reached a state of absolute realization and have shown the path towards achieving the ultimate.
However religion in the present times have fallen into disrespect due to men attempting to create an aura for themselves and hoodwink the uninitiated and the unwary. Over the past several centuries many have founded religions claiming that they have found the real path to achieve the way to God. They preach a set of ways to realize the goal. There are umpteen ways to do so but today it has become an industry where the ultimate aim of such men and women is to enrich themselves by convincing more and more to look for salvation by following the path shown by the founders of their sect. There is a conflict of principles between followers of different sects and clash of personalities. This ultimately lead to religious fanaticism.
I always believed that religion is not a merchandise and to realize one's true self it is not necessary to follow the path shown by men however eminent they are. There are umpteen number of practices and rituals to follow but ultimately it is only one's own efforts to eliminate mundane thoughts and concentrate on the inner self that will lead one to eternal life.