Every action is conducted for a purpose (goal) and the goal is determined from the last result. Let's take cooking for example. When a woman goes to the kitchen, she just grabs any vegetables, chicken, and spices and then when she is asked what she is going to cook, she simply answers,"I don't know." It means she doesn't know the purpose of the ingredients she grabbed. She doesn't know what dishes she will make. In the beginning, she has to know what she is going to cook, then gets the ingredients and cook them. That way, she knows the purpose of the ingredients, i.e. to be made into chicken curry, for example.
When someone decides to learn about religion of Islam, he must find out the purpose for learning the religion. When he attends religious group and preaching, he must know what he is looking for. What is the expectation out of learning about religion? Is it to increase knowledge? Is it to calm himself? Or is it to change his attitude?
He must choose only one goal as it is impossible to reach them all. If the goal is increasing the knowledge only, please remember the saying of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): knowledge without action is just like lightning and thunder without rain. If the goal is to calm himself, it can be sure that such thing is for temporary only.
So, the goal of learning religion that must be sought is the changing in attitude, that is, increasing the quality of obedience towards Allah (God) The Almighty. Logical consequence out of this expectation is that a person must choose proper method of learning religion. He must choose the method that requires him to think or contemplate about the teaching (of Islam) and life. Doing contemplation actually means bringing the knowledge in the brain to the heart (soul). If it is already transferred to the heart (soul), then certain belief will be formed. And from that strong belief, there will be action related to that strong belief.
Contemplation (thinking) —-> belief ——> attitude, behavior
Attitude and behavior are the reflection of what a person believes. If a person believes that stealing is wrong, he will not steal. If a person believes that it's alright stealing from a rich person, then sometimes he steals sometimes he doesn't steal, depending on how rich a person he meets. If a father has a belief in his heart that all religions are good, he will not object when his daughter or son wants to convert to religions other than Islam. However, if a father has strong, deep belief that only Islam approved by God, he will not allow his daughter or son to convert. Another example, if a mother believes that her son belongs to her, she will have no doubt hitting him and yelling at him. However, if the mother has a belief that her son is a mandate from God, then she will not dare doing any harm to her son.
Attitude and behavior cannot be determined by the knowledge in the brain. In other words, they cannot be determined by "I know". When thieves are asked whether it is right to steal, most of them (if not all) will answer that stealing is wrong. When killers, murderers are asked whether it is alright to kill, again, most of them will answer that killing is wrongdoing. They know but they don't believe. That's why, the knowledge in the brain can't determine the attitude and behavior. The knowledge must come down to the soul, through persistent contemplation (thinking) until it becomes a belief. Attitude and behavior are the reflection of the belief.
A person must reach the belief by himself. Unlike a wood or a stone, he must 'carve' himself to become 'beautiful'. That's because belief is not transferrable. A teacher can transfer his knowledge to the students. Parents can transfer some skills to the children. However, a belief can't be transferred by someone else. A belief can't be transferred by famous religious man. A person must do the work all by himself.
In addition to life contemplating or thinking quality, when a person wants to learn religion, he must find religious group or preachers that are serious or not fooling around. Many preachers mix their public preaching with jokes. Often, the jokes are more than the religious talks. If a person is serious in pursuing his goal of obtaining change in attitude, he must find the religious group or preacher that doesn't mix the jokes with the truth. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "Do not mix the truth with jokes, for the truth will be thrown out by the heart. Too much laughing hardens your heart".
So, set your goal and start 'working'…
There is in the body a lump of flesh. If it becomes good, the whole body becomes good and if it becomes bad, the whole body becomes bad. And indeed it is the heart.(saying of Prophet Muhammad, pbuh)