Unfortunately, ONLY the Hindu religion has fostered and protected Hindu philosophy. No other religion finds it necessary to remember or propagate the timeless truths of Hindu philosophy among humans.
Sikhism has done it and still does. Sikhism has made enormous efforts to protect and foster Hinduism and its philophical heritage.
Fair enough. But this is an interesting comment, because it shows how a faith (Sikhism in this instance) can sit comfortably with the title "religion" and still protect entities that do not require God.
If I may use an analogy, Allah does not need the Kaaba. Allah can exist without the Kaaba. But Islam chooses to protect the Kaaba as a symbolic holy structure (It is Islam's form of idol-worship).
So the tag "religion" encompasses human behavior that goes beyond mere belief in God to folklore, habits and cultural history of the people who follow that religion.
Christmas itself is complete cooked up nonsense, because Christ was not born on that day and the festival immortalizes a former pagan ritual.
It is only some Hindus who worry about the "religion" tag, and by doing so they fall into what I see as a needless attention diverting trap. In order to understand this trap, you have to approach and view Hindus as a Muslim, or as a Christian missionary of some centuries ago.
If you were born into Islam or Christianty in the early era and were brought up as a devout religious person, you would see humans as clear black and white.
Only some people will be saved by God. You have to be a good Christian/Muslim to be saved by God.
Anyone who does not accept this God and is not a good Muslim (or Christian) HAS NO GOD.
He who has no God has no religion. He who has no religion MUST be saved. My religion (Islam/Christianity) demands compassion. I simply MUST save anyone who has no God.
For me the answer to the question "Does this person have religion" should be YES only if he is a Christian (or a Muslim). If not, he is Godless and must be saved. This is programmable and can be gamed, so clear is the rule.
Both Islam and Christianity have this clear, easy to understand "digital" 1 or 0 answer to the question of religion.
Initially, there was only Christianity that organized to give people God under this 1 or 0 paradigm. Islam's biggest success was in breaking violently into the world and establishing itself as a "religion" by force, despite the earlier presence of Christianity.
These two religions came into violent conflict, and until the West became "secular" it was difficult or impossible for one of these to survive alongside the other in the same geographic area.
When both these religions met Hindus, they found people "without God". Deeper examination found Hindus to have false Gods. The only way Christians could "explain" Hindus to themselves was by going back to their books and coming up with the answer "pagan". The only way Muslims could explain Hindus to themselves was to go back to their scriptures and find that these were "kafirs". In both cases Hindus had no religion, they were Godless and needed to be brought under (an Islamic or Christian) God.
By the time Islam and Christianity "met" each other again in India, they had already fought enough battles to understand that there could be more than one religion. They both understood that other religions had to be fought because theirs was the only true religion. The other was always false.
In India, Islam and Christianity met a mix of people who sometimes fought and sometimes did not fight. Those Hindus who fought in the name of some God had to be opposed because they were following a false God. Those Hindus who did not fight but accepted Islam or Christianity had to be "saved" because they had no God.
This "mixed" behavior of Hindus could not be given one label as one religion. This is what led to the idea that Hinduism was not one religion, or was, at best multiple religions.
If we can accept the story so far as being reasonably representative of the truth, we can move on to what Hindus felt when faced with all these saviors.
Hindus never defined themselves as a "religion" and so could not ay "Yes we have a religion". This was quite convenient for the saviors who had to save Hindus.
However the one common denominator of all saviors who came to India, whether of an Islamic flavor or of a Christian flavor, they were disruptors. They disrupted and destroyed old social and cultural structures while they claimed to rescue and save.
Because both religions were predatory, and sought to change everyone and remove everything that existed, Hindus had no answers. Hindus had no single banner or single God to rally around. For too many centuries, Hindus had already evolved as people who mostly did not fight over God, and at the very least had never developed rules that asked for fighting if Gods were not similar.
But Hindus did survive. Although they did not have a single God or a single banner, and although they could not describe themselves as a single religion, and although Muslims and Christians could not identify a single Hindu religion, Hindus survived because they have a common set of beliefs of right and wrong. That common set of beliefs of what is right and what is wrong is Hindu Dharma. Hindus protected their Dharma, either by fighting, or by Hudaibiya. Hindu Dharma is Hindu religion.
It is a convenient trap to say Hindus are not one religion. From the Christian and Islamic viewpoint a group without a religion MUST have a religion forced down their throats.
Hindus who fail to realise that the word "religion" merely means "The belief you will fight for" and "the belief you will impose on others" will flounder in the neverneverland of the Godless.
The single Hindu religion is Dharma simply because
1) that is what Hindus have fought to preserve
2) that is what will not go away
3) that is what Hindus agree to impose on others.
I think the nature and boundaries of what Hindu Dharma is has been defined by Pulikeshi earlier. But Just because Hindu Dharma is not a male humanoid like the Muslim or Christian Gods does not make Hindu belief any less of a religion.
Religion does not mean God. It refers to belief. It is belief, and not God that makes the Kaaba and Christmas sacred. Similarly it is the belief in Dharma, and not any particular God that makes Hinduism a religion. The definition of the word religion==God was broken forever when Christianity and Islam accepted each other as religions. Two Gods. Two religions. Therefore religion is not restricted to one God.
It is important in this world to have religion, whether or not you have God. Your religion is a red flag that tells others that there is something you will fight for and kill someone else over. It is a complete waste of time to argue whether Hinduism is a religion or not when the vast majority of Hindus show behavior that is characteristic of any religion - i.e they will fight and kill over their beliefs and they will seek to hold and impose those beliefs over and above any new information fed to them.
Let us please put this "Is Hinduism a religion?" question aside and look at the consequences of Hindu and Muslim religionists
interacting with each other.