In the beginning of most spiritual journeys, “God” must be perceived in a concrete form as something separate from our self. This is so the devotee can pour himself into the symbol. “I am going to surrender my will to a higher will, etc.” If there is no symbol of a power greater than our self, than we will always continue to rely on “me,” which gives continuity to ego or a sense of exclusive individuality, hence building it up.
So, religion in this manner is helpful in creating this symbolic receptacle. For example, “claiming Jesus as lord and savior” helps relieve a tremendous burden of responsibility, and there are many testimonies from people who have felt a breaking down of ego through this proclamation. The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism also break down the “me” if one pours them self into it and practices diligently. AL Halaj, can show you the way through Islam to break down ego. The Bhagavad Gita points the way in Hinduism.
The purpose of the various religions is to create a receptacle or symbol to unload our conditioning that says “survive at all costs.” This establishes a trust in Reality that is experienced in the absence of thought. In truth, religion is a collection of beliefs. These beliefs were never intended to be taken as truth, but merely used as a sign post, or trash bag to empty ego.
In short, having this receptacle is necessary; but the most popular religions do not encourage to throw out the receptacle with the trash once and for all. Instead, it is encouraged to identify and create a new egoic character as a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, etc. This is why you say “religions do not lead to enlightenment;” because enlightenment is what you already are. Your True Enlightened Self is revealed when you pour your trash into the symbol, then once and for all throw the trash bag out with it.
In conclusion, religions do lead to enlightenment; but very few teachers encourage the process of throwing out the religion or symbolic receptacle in the end (bad for the spiritual ego). Although, if you look deep enough into the religious scriptures; this total abandonment is encouraged.
With great Joy,