Religion meets human needs in three ways main and on three primary levels; the first is on the level of transcendence–taking the individual beyond the individual into a field of reality greater than themselves and yet indwelling within/including them.
The second is on the level of individual realization and experience–this is the individual level of personal contemplation and insight.
The third is on the level of communal experience–this is the level of the community gathering out of shared values in order to support and reinforce itself.
The word of the religion, its insights, its teachings, its ideas is the catalyst that both evokes the individual realization and the glue that unites the community together. As such, it is the fundamental aspect of the religious community.
The word of the religion can serve many functions; on the one hand, it just may use fear to motivate ethical action and dissuade vicious action. On the other, it may appeal to desirable qualities and aspects of experience–to life, to wisdom, to understanding–in order to inspire a wish to emulate an embody them. It may guide the aspirant to new levels of consciousness, to consciousness of new aspects of experience, and to new insights into the world, humanity, and the self (or lack thereof!). It may divide people and bring them together. It serves many functions, some ideological, others psychological, others philosophical, others sociological, and others theological. We must be careful not to gloss over this grand diversity out of a wish for focused answers.