Humans have an innate desire and craving for expansion since their source is infinite. They labeled this infinitude as God that resides externally. Religion caters to the human need for expansion and greater freedom (called God). This is an expansion from limited self to greater self is the evolution of human search for God and evolution of religion. This expansion happened gradually over the centuries in the world from tribal Gods to a One God that is Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent.
TRIBAL GODS: Most ancient people have different deities for different tribes, each proclaiming that their God is superior and more powerful than the others. Then they fought to decide on whose God is superior and victors God was claimed superior over the loser. The Christian crusades of 11th to 13th century, European wars of religion of the 16 the and 17th century, Muslim conquests of 7th to 19th century and the Spanish Reconquuista of 8th to 15th century are the examples of this religious warfare. ONE GOD IN THE HEAVENS: Later on the concept of one God evolved who is powerful, residing in the sky and heaven that is omniscient and omnipotent. He was a distant God that is all powerful and watching over us.
GOD IN NATURE: Then evolved the concept of God in the nature that we see daily. God is not only in the sky, but also on earth as cosmic intelligence. God is now closer than before. GOD WITHIN: Further evolution is the concept that God is within each one of us as Atman. This further evolves into a state where we are like fish swimming in the water that is God, which is outside, within and inside us. Thus god and we became inseparable. In this stage Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is within us. While these concepts evolved over centuries, these concepts repeat itself in humans during each of our spiritual journeys.
All religions are paths towards this expansion and freedom towards realization of Divinity. While some religions address some aspects of this progression, the Sanathana Dharma in its doctrines caters to all stages. THE STAGE OF TRIBAL GOD: DISTANT GOD (GOD IN HEAVEN): This stage in Sanatana Dharma is called DUALISM (DWAITA). At this stage God and the devotee are separate. Symbols, Icons of worship, rituals play a big role. Pleasing the God to get blessings becomes an important element. One drawback at this stage is the element of superiority of their symbol of God is very possible because of their ignorance.
THE STAGE OF GOD IN SKY AND IN NATURE: In this stage there is some closeness and relationship as son, devotee or kinship with God. This stage is called QUALIFIED NON-DUALISM (VISISTADWAITA). This is an intermediate stage in spiritual progression. I AM GOD: GOD WITHIN ME: This mature stage is full expansion of human potential with an attitude of Oneness and Omnipresent God. God is felt within through and through us. This stage is called NON-DUALITY (ADWAITA). Here are the examples from Vedas, Bible and Ramayana for these 3 states of development. DUALITY QUALIFIED NON-DUALITY NON-DUALITY (DWAITA) (VISTADWAITA) (ADWAITA) I am in the light The light is in me I am the light I am the servant of the Lord I am the son of the Lord Me and my father are one I am the servant of Rama I am the Devotee of Rama I am Atman Rama All religions evolved to cater to the spiritual need of the times, geography.
Thus each one is unique with one commonality of destination. All of them help the seeker merge into Divinity. While this is the truth, some religions because of the dogmas that crept into their religions due to self interest and selfishness of leadership claim exclusivity. They thus promote conversion to their religions by giving incentives. . Any religion that claims exclusivity to the Truth and any religion that has one way as one size fits all is a commercial religion or a commercial enterprise that sells its products claiming exclusivity. Any religion that does not believe in Oneness of humanity and acceptance of other religions as legitimate path to Divinity are either not a true follower of their founders of the religion or commercial salesmen of that religion. There are different needs at different stages like same physics is taught in elementary school, college and university differently. Childhood adult and elderly needs are different. Similarly the needs at different stages of spiritual maturity are different. Sanatana Dharma caters to the full spectrum of religious evolution of humans.