For majority of people, the word "religion" might come to mean prayers, rites, customs, traditional beliefs, ceremonials, duties, certain dogmas, asceticism, fasting, feasting, theology, philosophy, morals, ethics, spirituality, passions, emotions, and so on & so forth.
For me, "religion" actually consists of the inner development of the individual, the evolution of his consciousness in a certain direction which is considered good.
As far as I understand it, religion lays stress on this inner change and considers outward change as nothing but the projection of this inner development. There can be no doubt that this inner development powerfully influences the outer environment. But it is equally true and more obvious/correct that the outer environment also powerfully influences the inner development. Both act and interact on each other.
It is possible that few selective and rare individuals can rise above external circumstances and outer environment, and reach great inner heights.
But for large groups, communities, societies, and nations, a certain measure of external development is essential before the inner evolution can take place.
A man who is the victim of economic circumstances, and who is constrained and restricted by the struggle to live, can very rarely achieve inner consciousness of any high degree. A class or society that is downtrodden and exploited can never progress inwardly. A nation which is politically and economically dependent on another and subsequently dictated & exploited, can never achieve inner growth.
Thus even for inner development, external freedom and a suitable environment become necessary. Hence every serious attempt must be made to gain this outer freedom and to change the environment so as to remove all hindrances to inner development.
One thing is pretty sure and certain - No man can live without religion !
There are some egoistic people who declare that they have nothing to do with religion. But that is like a man saying that he breathes, but that he has no nose.