A recent Ottawa Citizen "Ask the Religion Experts" question was, "how do you define religion?"
WSO's Balpreet Singh's answer from a Sikh perspective is below. For the replies from the other Experts, please see here .
How we define religion depends on whether we are taking a legal approach or a spiritual one.
Defining religion legally is important, because freedom of religion is a constitutional right in the Canadian Charter of Rights. In order to understand the scope of that protection, it’s important to understand what religion is in the first place.
Because there is so much diversity in religion, it is important to have a wide and encompassing definition so as to err on the side of caution, rather than having a definition that may exclude certain groups or persons. So, at the most basic level, I think we can agree that religion is a system of belief and worship that has a nexus with the divine.
Spiritually speaking, however, the Sikh faith has quite a bit to say about what true religion is. The closest word to “religion” for Sikhs is dharam, which encompasses the terms divine order, duty and righteous actions. Dharam is known as the child of compassion. So for Sikhs, religion is much more than just a label or a nominal self-identifier. It has to be system of living. According to the Sikh Gurus, there is only one true religion and that is love. Sri Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs said, “only those who love will attain God.”
Religious labels have little meaning. It doesn’t matter what religion one professes to belong to, what matters is the content of one’s character and one’s actions. If religion serves as a force for compassion and righteousness in life, then it is good. If it is limited to ritual and dogma and does not help others or improve the world, it is hypocrisy.
So, at its spiritual essence, true religion is the path that allows us to realize God. Everything else is just details.