Hmmmm... This thread is really strange. I don't mean that to be rude. I've kept out of it but I'm shaking my head a bit because a lot of this seems to be re-runs of a few recent discussions, just with different words. I'm reading lots of feelings and passion, but most of the words seem to be running cover or acting as excuses for the drama.
However, in fairness to the OP I'll attempt to answer! I've described my understanding of religion in the other thread. In accordance with that I would say that my understanding of the religious impulse is that which compels one to explore the numenous and perhaps motivates the recurrent question "why?".
I guess I would also have to say that I find it remarkable that there are some who would seek to have us believe that they are "rational" followers of Buddhism:
"I follow the teachings of a semi-historical ancient Indian guru who abandoned a life of comfort and privilege in order to terminate his existence for evermore, and who wanted to teach us to do the same. I know who he was and what he taught with very little certainty, and much of what I presume to be his teachings and biography I only know from the efforts of his fanatical believers to record them over 2500 years. Historians will likely never be able to pin down much about the man or his teachings with any certainty. This is me being rational and logical. Oh and he could travel to different dimensions and he had superpowers and so did some of his followers and did you hear the story about the little girl who flew through the air?"
Yeah right. Real rational and non-religious.
The religious impulse to me then, I guess, is very much like conscience or higher instinct - it's a little bit of luminosity that pierces the grey of even the greatest worldly pleasure and drives us to dig deeper despite the promises of the sensual world. It's the common sense that lit up like a spark the first time we encountered the dhamma and we knew we'd found the raft. It's the bit of courage and extra-rational security that gives us the fortitude to wade into the unknown with the certainty that we will reach the other shore. It's the unflinching better nature that isn't afraid to square up to the abyss and face our aeons of accumulated conditioning.
So yeah. Chalk me up once again as one of those soft religious types. I don't flaunt it or brandish it as an identity in my day-to-day life, but if the alternatives are what they seem to be then maybe it's time for to start wearing a badge.