Missinglink: "Religion is a racket and a snare."
Is it though? Sure it can be used as such, and perhaps often is, but that is my point it isn't the religion but how it is used.
In another forum it was suggested that the world would be a better place without religion, to which someone else replied that they doubted it because something else would take its place - although I wonder if this would not just be a re-emergence of religion. No matter I don't believe that if there was no religion the world would be any better. Conversely I don't believe religion really makes the world a better place either.
Humans are naturally social animals. It's a survival trait. They form groups. They are also naturally wary of groups to which they don't belong. You can see this manifest at all levels. As an individual walking down a quiet street you become alert when someone else approaches, especially at night. You become more alert if you come across a group, being two or more people. You become even more alert when you don't identfify with that group. The group may or may not be a threat but your survival instinct kicks in and you become wary. This is why people get so upset with teenagers hanging around, younger children or adults don't identify with them and become intimidated.
I could go on to explain how these basic instincts translate upwards in scale to countries. Suffice to say churches are more a manifestation of people wanting to congregate, belong and identifiy with a group, that they are based around a religion is merely what makes them churches. What that group does and how it interacts with other groups depends on the dynamics within the group, what the leaders say.
Yes this desire to belong and identify with a group is exploited to varying degrees by various groups especially churches, but not all churches do it and not all do it to the same degree. Like I said religion is a tool, it is not a force. The religion doesn't snare you rather the church may do or may play on a natural desire to belong to recruit members.
I've seen TV adverts in Houston Texas for churches expounding the virtues of the social and networking possibilities within the church. I was told while there that the best way to get a social life and the only way to network was to join a church.