I appreciate that at the ground level, religion provides many kindnesses and support for people.
My beef is with the organisations, the Churches and Temples, synagogues and Mosques and all those institutions and in particular, the hierarchies and power structures; frequently also the holders of those positions, especially at the upper end of the hierarchies. Look at their finances, and you can see very quickly that being in charge of such sums, will corrupt anybody. This list is from Wikipedia:
This does not include say the Moslem Church in Iran, which has the whole country at its disposal, as do others.
According to a 7-year-old Guardian article: Religion in the United States is worth $1.2tn a year, making it equivalent to the 15th largest national economy in the world, according to a study. With financial clout like that, of course religion gets involved in all aspects of everyday life.
The purpose of religious organisations has been a subject of debate and discussion throughout history. While many argue that their primary goal is to serve as a source of spiritual guidance, moral values, and community support, others assert that underlying these noble intentions is a pursuit of power. This perspective posits that religious organisations, regardless of their faith or denomination, often seek influence and control over individuals, societies, and even governments.
One of the key arguments supporting the idea that religious organisations aim for power is rooted in their historical role as influential institutions. Throughout various epochs, religious institutions have played pivotal roles in shaping political landscapes, cultural norms, and social structures. The alignment between religious and political authorities has often been a symbiotic relationship, with each reinforcing the power of the other. In many cases, religious leaders have wielded considerable influence over rulers and governments, contributing to the establishment of laws and societal norms that reflect their religious doctrines.
Furthermore, the organizational structure of religious institutions itself can be seen as a mechanism for accumulating and maintaining power. Hierarchical systems, with clergy at the top, allow for centralized control and decision-making. This concentration of power can be leveraged to influence followers, shape religious interpretations, and establish doctrines that serve the interests of the institution. The ability to dictate moral standards and guide the beliefs of a significant portion of the population provides religious organisations with a unique form of power.
Another aspect of the argument is the economic influence that religious organisations often command. Many religious institutions amass substantial wealth through donations, tithes, and various forms of financial support from their followers. This financial power allows them to engage in activities beyond the spiritual realm, such as funding educational institutions, hospitals, and charitable endeavours. However, it also opens the door to potential exploitation and manipulation, as financial contributions may come with expectations of reciprocal influence.
Moreover, the role of religious organisations in shaping public opinion and influencing social attitudes cannot be overlooked. Through preaching, religious teachings, and moral guidance, these institutions can impact how their followers perceive various issues, from social justice to political ideologies. This influence over the mindset of a community contributes to the religious organisation's ability to shape public discourse and, consequently, hold sway over political and societal dynamics.
In conclusion, while the primary purpose of religious organisations is often framed in terms of spiritual guidance and moral development, the pursuit of power cannot be entirely dismissed. The historical, organizational, economic, and social dimensions of religious institutions contribute to a nuanced understanding of their role in society, acknowledging both their positive contributions and the potential for power-seeking behaviour.