In my opinion religion’s only purpose is to help the individual achieve his long term spiritual goal. How? Religion, like all else in life, has its own primary education of rituals, which are further re-inforced by the secondary education in mythology. Eventually each one, depending on his/ her personal motivation, must go through the university education of philosophy, if the final goal of understanding the Unity of all Creation has to be understood, which is the essence of each religion. Practiced religions differ on rituals and mythology but are very similar when it comes to philosophy. Philosphy is the most important part of religion and helps each individual evolve as per his own understanding. Once you reach the summit and look down you will find any number of paths, both charted and uncharted, to reach the summit. All paths will finally reach the summit if you keep on climbing. Each individual has his own perception of his Creator, irrespective of his religion. Even in the same religion, we may follow the same rituals and may have been fed on the same mythology, we still would have our own perception of the Creator in our brain/ mind, which will be different from every one else. Rituals and mythology provide us humans the basis to develop the faith to go onto bigger things in the spiritual field. Rituals and mythology are taught/ learnt through pandits/ mullahs/ granthis/ priests. They would in all probability be inadequate guides to help one progress in the Doctorate of spiritualism. We need to understand this important difference - a primary or secondary school teacher cannot guide one at the Doctoral stage. Only some one who has ‘been there/ done that’ can show the way. The trudging has still got to be done by the individual. This is the spiritual realm and has nothing to do with politics and democracy.
Politics on the other hand has to do with our needs to live a purposeful and fulfilling life in the physical world. Human needs are common, irrespective of religion. We all need certain facilities, freedoms, laws that can fairly regulate our rights and responsibilities, and the like. Any good politician, irrespective of religion, should be able to provide us with all this in a democracy, as long as we can hold him accountable, as in the West. However, in South Asia vote banks are created on the basis of religion, caste etc. and this does not help anyone but the politician and his coterie. The only way out, I believe, is through separation of the physical world of politics from the spiritual world of religion. Education and strengthening of our democratic institutions is probably the only answer. We Indians, irrespective of caste or religion, need to understand this basic fact. Once this happens there will be no majority/ minority vote bank to woo and politicians would have no choice but to concentrate on providing good governance.