A lot of philosophical discussions, especially older philosophies, tend to revolve around religion and religious beliefs. Due to the recent (last 100 years, perhaps) backlash against religion in general, a lot of these philosophical ideas get ignored or rejected just because they are explained in terms of the religious beliefs.
In my mind a religion is a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of your existence that helps you define your way of life. We all have our beliefs and we make that a part of the life we lead. As the beliefs get shared and adopted by more and more people, then that religion starts becoming popular and slowly gets formalized into rituals and commandments. However, unless it appeals to your rational intellect in some way or form (faith / fear / logical reasoning / scientific reasoning, etc.), you cannot make it a part of your life.
Most of the religions have a philosophical base and the ideas are expressed in simpler terms of terminologies and contexts that people can easily relate to. The philosophical ideas themselves can be quite interesting and "rational" but the expressions could get totally "irrational" over time. Some of the customs that were popular a thousand or even four thousand years back may seem quite absurd to our generation now, triggering a rejection of the basic ideology itself. It may not just be time but sometimes the ideas are expressed in terms of what most people understand/believe in, but that does not mean that the idea or the philosophy is not agreeable to the rest.
The view of a full moon across a lake is always a visually pleasing experience. Now, say, someone gets a chance to experience this beauty from the top of a cliff and spreads the word that if you drive up the mountain, park in the north facing parking lot and look at the full moon across the lake, you can really appreciate its beauty. People with SUVs able handle the treacherous mountain start checking it out and find it to be a good relief from the pressures of their daily lives. The cliff becomes a famous attraction for people looking for some peace and solitude. As time passes, the drive morphs into "Your worries will disappear if you drive up the mountain and park in the North facing parking lot!". Does this mean that you now reject the beauty of the full-moon just because you are green and refuse to drive a Hummer up a mountain? Does it take anything away from the beauty of the sight of the full moon across a lake? Based on the idea that a full moon is a pleasant sight, you do what your rational intellect and the situation allows you to even if it is a quick peek at the moon out of your living room window during the television commercial break.
The ability to see through delivery mechanism can expose you to some interesting ideas that have withstood the test of time. Some of these ideas that form the basis of a religion could really be interesting and stimulating and perhaps help you refine your way of life. The shortcomings of the delivery mechanism simply mean that you need to define it in your own terms, in terms of what seems rational to you, for your own life.
Religion itself has to grow with time. The great saints and prophets explained the philosophies in a manner befitting the society of their time in order for people to be able to easily understand and accept them. Some of the concepts were presented as opinions and suggestions and some in terms of rituals and commandments. These suggestions have to evolve with time; otherwise the evolving society will reject it.
As responsible individuals, it is upon us to understand the core values of the religion(s) along with the philosophies behind them rather than blindly following it or even rebelling. And it is upon us to think and contemplate, for accepting or rejecting the ideas at face value without contemplating upon them brings about fundamentalism.
I will, in this blog, try and put forth some of the ideas I have understood from the ancient Indian Advaita Vedanta philosophy in a way that appeals to my intellect and liking. I am in no way saying that this is the right way to look at it; this is just an explanation that helps me understand it better...
Essence of Advaita Vedanta
Drishti-Srishti Vada and Schrödinger’s Cat
Concept of God
The cycle of life and death