People interested in Chan practice often find it difficult to have religious faith. As faith is intrinsically emotional, and Chan practitioners emphasize personal cultivation to gain physical and mental benefits or the experience of Chan, they find it hard to accept religious faith. This is actually a great mistake.
Many people think that Chan practice depends solely on their own efforts, requiring self-reliance, while those who practice by reciting the Buddha's name depend solely on external help. Both of these views are incorrect. In reality, Chan practice also requires external help, and the practice of reciting the Buddha's name also requires one's own effort. One can hardly become an accomplished Chan practitioner through one's own efforts. In India, China and Tibet, all meditators need the support and assistance of teachers, Dharma-protecting deities, and the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. That is why Chan monasteries in China erect and worship the statues of Dharma-protecting deities such as the eight divisions of divinities and the four deva kings.
In the past, eminent masters often encouraged Chan practitioners to "entrust their bodies to the monastery and their lives to the Dharma-protecting deities" during Chan meditation. You don't need to be concerned about your body since it will be taken care of by the masters on duty. You simply follow the monastery's routines. However, to achieve good results in your practice, you need the support of Dharma-protecting deities. Without such assistance, one may face physical and mental obstructions, which may turn into demonic hindrances. Practicing Chan depending solely on one's own efforts without believing in the power of the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and Dharma-protecting deities cannot be considered practicing Buddhism at all.
I think I'm not far from the truth if I say that hardly any Western Zen (Chan, Seon, Thien, however you prefer) teacher talks about the presence and meaning of such religious faith in their respective communities and publications. They might have some rituals they preserved that were originally expressions of belief in different entities but those ceremonies are explained only as a nice tradition and nothing more.
Is there any change in this attitude in the West in recent years? Will it ever change? Or is it important not to mention anything resembling a religion when advertising Zen (Buddhism) to Westerners?