Many modern thinkers and intellectuals consider religiosity as a spiritual relationship between the individual and his Creator. And they, consequently, argue that any individual of the society has the right to believe in and refuse to believe whatever he/she may like, provided that such a “faith” would not transgress on the rights of others, their own spiritual faith, or their own right to believe in something completely different.
Such views might be theoretically true, but only to some extent. Romantic as they might be, such views over-simplify the issue at stake and overlook a lot of key issues of contention. For instance, they overlook the key difference between faith, as a spiritual status, and religiosity, which is a mere strict practice of certain religious obligations, including way of worshipping. So, spiritual faith and religiosity are not one and the same and they are not necessarily inter-connected. In many cases, they might even be in contradiction with one another.
First of all, we have to bear in mind that each folk, people, nation or community share together a certain “collective spirit and memory” exactly as every individual has own soul and spirit. Through their historical progress towards civilization, human communities have had various forms and patterns of ‘religions’. We rarely find any people without a certain spiritual faith. Some ancient peoples believed in or worshipped various deities, while others have had various forms of religious affiliation with a certain degree of sanctity and sanctification. Such a spiritual affiliation is usually expressed or demonstrated through a wide variety of scriptures, stories, poems, works of literature, works of art, symbols, folklore, proverbs, traditional costumes, codes of ethics and conduct, and a lot more. The combined body of all of this forms what is usually known as the common heritage, the collective soul and memory and the specific way of life distinctive of each and every people or community and commonly known as their “identity.”
Second, we have to admit that religions, in general, have been able to maintain such a wide-scale domination and long-lasting survival thanks only to their collectiveness. Few, if any, of the prevalent religions have been the outcome of a free individual faith. They have rather attained their supremacy through major transformations and major events, such as conquests and/or similar major events.
Followers of a certain religion might think that their own is the only God-given true faith, forgetting or overlooking the fact that this is exactly what followers of other religions believe. Each claim a certain ‘monopoly’ of truth and each believes that their own faith is the only true one.
Truth, in fact, is an everlasting quest that takes the individual and the community along its unending path. In other words, religious beliefs have undergone such a long process of evolution and transformations and will continue to go through a lot more of evolution according to the dynamism of life, intellectual progress and civilizational progress.