Is religion made by man or by God?
Religion can refer to various things.
If by religion we refer to the Sanskrit word dharma, then that is definitely not man-made; that is our intrinsic nature, the very fabric of our being.
However, we normally don’t understand religion this way. To gain a sense of its normal meaning, let’s analyze the word etymologically and functionally.
Etymologically, or in terms of the roots of words, religion refers to “respect for what is sacred, reverence for God,” or “obligation, the bond between man and God.” These roots indicate that religion is the means by which we bond with God in love. Religion provides us tools for inner transformation by which we can learn to love God. So it can be said to be a type of treatment – a treatment for the soul. This spiritual treatment cures the misdirection of our love and enables us to love the eternal instead of the temporary, God instead of the world.
Religion as a spiritual treatment is not so much a set of dogmas or rituals as a set of universal principles. These principles are intrinsic to existence, as is say gravity. We may call gravity by different names in different languages; we may or may not comprehend the origin or cause of gravity; we may or may not know the mathematical equations that describe it. But still gravity exists and acts. The same applies to the principles that comprise religion. Just as the universe is made by God, so are these principles that govern our destiny in the universe. So, when by the word “religion” we refer to these principles, then again it is definitely made by God, not man.
Functionally, we often use the word ‘religion’ to refer to different religions like Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. These great religions have usually begun with a primeval revelation in which God shared the knowledge of the principles of religion. So, at their roots, these religions are God-made. However, over the course of centuries, they have undergone many changes. Not all the forms that they have taken are geared towards helping people to love God. Many concocted ideas and practices have been added in it. So, much of what goes on in the name of religion today is man-made.
Therefore, to the extent that today’s religions are in accordance with the words of God, to that extent they can be said to be made by God. To the extent that they deviate from those divine words, to that extent they are man-made.