Fr. Anthony de Mello, a great spiritual director and retreat master of India, tells a story of a yogi who went to the desert to meditate and to have a vision of God. When the yogi came back from the desert ( perhaps after many years) the people were curious to know how God looked like. How could he express in words what he experienced deep in his heart! No one can convey the supreme truth in words. But people insisted. So the yogi gave them a sutra, a sentence condensing his experience. Sutra is the expression of truth condensed in a sentence. It was imperfect and incompetent, but he thought it would help at least some of them to try to adventure the experience he had. But, what happened was: they concentrated on those mere words and made sacred scriptures (and dogmas) out of them. The words became the articles of faith, (and, the leaders of people made laws out of them) and were enforced on people. Some people went to foreign countries to teach those words, even sacrificing their own lives. The yogi was disappointed because this was contrary to what he expected; and no one tried to have an experience of God. He regretted that he had spoken of his experience of God. He wished he shouldn't have said anything about God.
The Bible contains words which are imperfect expressions of certain people who had the experience of God. The purpose is that the people should have the opportunity to experience God. But people made religion out of it. They made dogmas and articles of faith. They made rules and regulations, and enforced on themselves with the pain of excommunication. Practice of such laws became customs and traditions, and they called them sacred traditions. No one was to alter anything of those "divine laws" on "sacred traditions." Anyone who preached for changes was crucified and condemned to hell fire.
Jesus preached for changes. He asked people to liberate themselves from those laws and "sacred" traditions to have the real experience of God. He challenged their laws and regulations, and the traditions and customs. So he was condemned to death. He was crucified.
We are guided by two powers within us--the ego self and sacred self. (See Wayne Dyer, Your Sacred Self, pp. 2-3). Your ego self is your selfishness. It is the power that holds you back from progressing, from knowing your real power. Sacred self is the divine self of you. It is the awareness of your divine reality; it is the awareness that you are created in the image of God. This awareness leads to higher level of living by triumphing over ego self. It is the power of growth that we see in every living being. This is the energy of growth. Some authors may call it intelligence. Our spiritual life is a pilgrimage from the bondage of power of ego self to the power of sacred self. It is a journey from bondage to liberation, from law to love; a journey from Egypt to Promised Land; a journey from the kingdom of ego to the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is near; it is not far away according to Christ. It is within us. When we have this awareness, we liberate our sacred self from the power of ego self, and we actualize the kingdom of God in the world. This is the adventure we have to make in our lives.
Religion is to guide us in this adventure of life. It is done not by enforcing of laws and regulations, but just by guiding. Through liberating human minds religion brings harmony and peace in society. All the sacred books and all prophets of all religions teach technics of this liberation. Nevertheless, many religious leaders adulterated this mission with dogmas, creed, rituals, customs, traditions, laws and regulations. Everything was to protect religion (the institution), not society. Religious leaders sought political power and wealth for this "mission." Religion became an instrument for achieving power. Religion was, and is, used to maintain "power." Even the Church, which claims to be the continuation of Christ, is a contradiction to Christ's life style and teaching. Jesus did not claim any earthly power. He plainly declared this before Pilate. When people wanted to make him a king, he just escaped from them. He even acted against the existing customs and traditions. He preached against the laws that were made to protect "religion" but not people. He asked them to observe but one law--the law of love. He did not reject any one. But the religious leaders do segregate; they excommunicate. The style of the decrees of an ecumenical council of the Church (Trent council) was excommunication. This practice is continued even now, though not very common.
In our modern world there is so much religious hatred and racism. There is a severe gap between the rich and the poor. There is also prejudice against "sinners" and "tax collectors." We want them to be executed by our judicial system. If somebody is condemned to death by a jury, we the religious people "celebrate" that condemnation. See how the religion is guiding the people! We shall hope that there would be a change in the approach.