On the other side, what about tradition and history? Aren't structure and sacrosanctity both integral parts of a well-rounded spirituality? Is the paradigm shift away from "religion" an unwarranted reactionary response? Is the statement, "I'm not religious - I'm just a Christian" just a trendy thing to say?
In framing the discussion, it may be helpful to think about some definitions. Religion is particularly slippery in this regard, because knowing what a word means in the information age is much more complex than simply looking up. You also have to look at how the word is used at all levels of discourse - spiritual, scholarly, and popular.
So, semantically speaking, we can see that religion is elusive. But that shouldn't stop us from trying to understand it. When you pare it down and throw away the trappings and tassels, I'd suggest you're left with "An ideological structure for spiritual belief." At this level, there isn't much to object to; we have to look a little deeper.
It seems it may be less about what religion is and more about what it has become. It is criticized (I think justly) as serving as "A system that we construct to make us feel good about ourselves and our spirituality", or, even worse, "A way to manipulate God and/or others."
It might also be possible that the place of religion within Christianity has been misunderstood or distorted. Most of us would grant that Christianity includes "an ideological structure for spiritual belief," but does that adequately describe what Christianity essentially is? I don't think so. Jesus came that we might have life, and life abundantly.
Jacques Ellul, in his book The Subversion of Christianity, states that true Christianity is anti-religion and argues for desacralization on every level. Donald Miller's book Blue Like Jazz bears the subtitle "Nonreligious thoughts on Christian Spirituality." Brad and Wayne, cohosts of The God Journey, are convinced that religion has distracted people from the gospel. And Steve Brown (the old white guy) is just sick of it.
C. S. Lewis, however, sees some things worth keeping. Take this excerpt from Letters to Malcolm:
It is well to have have specifically holy places, and things, and days, for, without these focal points or reminders, the belief that all is holy and "big with God" will soon dwindle into a mere sentiment. But if these holy places, things, and days cease to remind us, if they obliterate our awareness that all ground is holy and every bush (could we but perceive it) a Burning Bush, then the hallows begin to do harm. Hence both the necessity, and the perennial danger, of "religion."*
Based on what Ellul has written, it appears he would differ from Lewis on this. Ellul doesn't believe in holy stuff - he believes in a holy God. Granted, the two may not be mutually exclusive, in which case his argument would be based on a straw man. (Do you see the problem? This discussion picks up burrs faster than an Australian Shepherd in a vacant lot.)
If you will notice, the title of this post is a question. So is the rest of it.
*C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, (Harcourt, 1992), 75