Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Religion has gotten a bad rap. It’s often contrasted with relationship, as if the two are contradictory, but not so in translations of Scripture. Religion is actually meant in part to bring us into relationship with God in and through Christ, and is about Christ-likeness, and God’s will for God’s people in Christ. One could say from both Scripture and maybe especially tradition, that religion involves rituals which help ground us in the gospel. Yes, rituals can become empty, but actually any practice such as the popular veneration given to “personal devotions” is in fact a ritual.
Religion worth the name is active on the ground. If it’s just about the afterlife, and getting people prepared for that, then you can count me out. Why? Because Scripture itself contradicts that, and especially Jesus himself, who went about doing good. We as his followers and as church are meant to do the same. It’s about love for our neighbor as ourselves which is closest to what love for God means. If it’s all about everyone being responsible for themselves, then we’re missing a note, indeed not in harmony with, if we’re even playing the tune of the gospel at all.
Basically what I’ve heard is a shrill harsh word against sexual sins, against socialism which is called communism, and what seems to me during the years I’ve witnessed it, a retreat into basically a strict personal application of Scripture, with an emphasis on personal salvation. And what is worldly being considered most anything that contradicts that.
Instead we have to get back, yes to Scripture itself, to Jesus understood rightly, the culmination of it. And we’ll certainly find the promise of the afterlife. But an emphasis on doing good now, taking care of our neighbor, watching out for each other, having a prayerful, active concern for the world. Anything less than that is neither religious in the proper sense, nor actually Christian.