Throughout history religion has been used as an excuse for all sorts of actions by human beings against other human beings. Why does religion lend itself to this, against its very teaching ?
Religion is an instrument of power successfully wielded by its official representatives. It is applied to people’s consciences. It exercizes pressure. It kindles enthusiasm. It creates fanaticism. A few leading figures are followed by the masses. The masses are hoping for a reward, expecting and demanding a reward, for their good deeds. Religion tells them what good deeds are. The masses will accept what is put over with authority, in a loud voice. All they have to do is follow and the reward will be theirs. The masses are greedy. They follow whoever makes the best promise. They take what they can. It might cost them their lives sometimes, in religious wars, for example, but the objective is worthwhile. The survivors’ booty will be all the bigger. And everybody who fights the infidel will go to paradize. The same fate is reserved for the truly faithful who fights the wicked Christians. They’ll all meet again in the same place.
One religion fights another. Different denominations of the same religion are at war with one another. Missionaries go out to propagate their respective belief. They all hold the monopoly of truth which, very unselfishly, they don’t want to keep to themselves, but insist on spreading, worldwide, if possible at all. This can frequently not be done before the path has been smoothed by military action.
Religion is noisy and outspoken, nobody would take notice of it otherwise. Religion gives people the burning conviction that they are right and the others wrong. People do and believe as they are told, this is what justifies them. It saves them the trouble of taking the initiative themselves. All they have to do is follow. Follow their leader against those that are wrong. And the reward will be theirs, in this world or the other. Let’s hope so, anyway.
Religion is an important feature of Society. Like any other ideology. It has a unifying effect. It contains people within well-defined bounds. It creates law and order. It has a reassuring effect. It grapples with the problem of the invisible world for those who believe there is one. It enables people to have a reasonably good conscience and to ‘see the mote in their brother’s eye’ : all that’s left to be done is pull it out.