One thing is common with the history of religion and the law, i.e. both are closely connected to the development of civilisation. Philosophically observing, we find that religion and law are the two sides of the same coin. The basic necessity behind the commandments of religion and the provisions of law, is to devise a way of life for the smooth functioning of any society.
According to the philologist Max Muller, the root of the English word ' religion ' the Latin 'religio' was originally used to mean only " reverence for God or the Gods, careful pondering of divine things, piety." In his book, The varieties of religious experience, the psychologist, William James, defines religion, as the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude." George Lindbeck, a Lutheran and a post-liberal theologian, says that religion does not refer to belief in 'God' or a transcendent Absolute, but rather to a kind of cultural and linguistic framework or medium that shapes the entirety of life and thought.
In Sanskrit, the word 'dharma' is sometimes translated as 'religion' also means law and duty. Medieval Japan at first had a similar union between ' imperial law ' and ' Buddha law'. In Hebrew, there is no equivalent of religion. Judaism does not distinguish clearly between religions, national, racial or ethnic entities. One of its central concepts is ' halakha ', sometimes translated as ' law ', which guides religious practices and belief and many aspects of daily life. Islamic teachings on the other hand though revealed through Quran and Prophet, provides entire jurisprudence for its followers.
Religious criticism has a long history, right from 5th century BCE. There were religious critics in ancient Greece, such as Diagoras, ' the atheist of Melos ' and in the 1st century BCE in Rome, with Titus Lucretius Carus's De Rerum Natura. During the Middle Ages to Renaissance, potential critic of religion were Giordano Bruno. In the 17th and 18th century AD, David Hume and Voltaire criticised religion. Whereas, the recent 19th and 20th century critics include, Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley, Jeremy Benthem, Carl Marx, Charles Bradlaugh, Robert Ingersol, Mark Twain, Bertrand Russell, Siegmund Freud, etc.
The renowned legal luminary, scholar and author of several law books, Professor Dr. Tahir Mahmood has discussed at length on the subject in his new book, Religion Law & Society Across the Globe. The book was recently released by Hon'ble Vice President of India, Dr. M. Hamid Ansari, at New Delhi, among the large gathering of dignitaries, judges, lawyers and academicians. The book was published in the 50th year of his writing career by publishing giants, Universal Law Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd. The Hon'ble Vice President of India Hamid Ansari praised the book and the author alike. He said that the book will be a welcome edition for the law libraries. Dr. Ashok K Chauhan, Founder-President of Amity Chain of Universities pointed out that Dr. Tahir Mahmood has got the same authority on Hindu Law as he has on Muslim Law. He said that Dr. Mahmood has the rare distinction of having been cited in his lifetime in a large number of court judgments including that of the Supreme Court of India.
The book has covered subjects: Place of religion in political and legal systems of India and a large number of other countries, legal parameters of religious freedom, rights and problems of minorities, women's legal status and rights, communal harmony and peaceful co-existence, resolution of religious disputes by the courts etc. All the chapters in the book have been drawn from the addresses delivered by the author in various national and international conferences in India and abroad and columns written by him in leading English dailies of the country.