REFLECTION: The function(s) of religion
Religion has always offered two very important but two very different functions. First of all, religion acts as a way of creating meaning for the separate self. It offers myths, stories, tales, narratives, rituals and revivals which help the separate self to make sense of and to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
This function of religion does not usually or necessarily change the level of consciousness in a person. In that sense it does not deliver radical transformation. It does not deliver a shattering liberation from the separate self altogether. Instead, it consoles the self, fortifies the self, defends the self, and promotes the self. And as long as this separate self believes the myths, performs the rituals, mouths the prayers, or embraces the dogma, then the self – it is fervently believed – will be saved, either now in the glory of being God-saved or Goddess-favored, or in an afterlife that insures eternal wonderment.
Religion has also served, in a usually very small minority, the function of radical transformation and liberation. This function of religion does not fortify the separate self – but utterly shatters it. What is experienced is not consolation but devastation, not entrenchment but emptiness, not complacency but explosion, not comfort but revolution. In short, not a conventional bolstering of consciousness, but a radical transmutation and transformation at the deepest seat of consciousness itself.
– Ken Wilber