Trends, Looking back.
Religions, like all human institutions, are perhaps a complex mixture of beneficial and harmful parts, sometimes connected inseparably and sometimes not. In the deep past they were probably very beneficial, but became gradually more harmful over time, until today they probably do as much harm as good, and will probably become almost completely harmful in the near future.
That is not however a plain path, there have been times when religion was very good. In part because, one of religions great strengths, is as an alternative voice to the nation state. So that in Europe it hit an especially low during early classical times, when it became little more than a number of profit addicted cults, almost entirely subservient to and supportive of the nation states. Which failing led almost certainly in part to the invention of classical philosophy, to compensate for religions inability to provide needed wisdom, and ask pertinent questions. Eventually Rome fell, for many reasons, but in part because, fanatical new monotheist cults, which at first arose for the same reason and to address the growing rich poor divide, in the end became anti-intellectual because secular philosophy was seen as elitist. And eventually those religions, having again gained as share of power, decided to side with the increasingly corrupt state against secular thinking.
In the dark ages which followed however, when the nation state became little more than badly organized armed thuggery, religion had perhaps its greatest high spot, becoming the retreat of those who opposed the culture of violent mindlessness, and sought to keep alive a vestige of knowledge and humanity. By the middle ages however, the nation states began to become real communities again, and religion, once more became a servant of the state, trying to gain a share of the power and wealth, which now could be gained again without resort to violence, in consequence it became corrupt and anti intellectual once more, contributing therefore to the Renaissance, the rebirth of secular thought.
Now however, in part because of the revived interest in democracy, but for other deeper reasons, the nation states of the West and most of the developing world, see their main function as human welfare, happiness and the protection of human rights, supported by the increasing power of secular charities. ( America and the other fading super power, are no doubt, to different degrees, exceptions, but it is a bad idea to see things just from a purely local perspective. ) Then as the nation states increasingly take on those beneficial roles, and see welfare as the basis of both their power and prestige, then religion if it is to offer anything at all, must turn to those who oppose welfare and rights for its support. To borrow from popular culture. The tides of history are driving it inexorably towards the dark side.
I concur that this is the trail we have cut though history wearing the yoke of religion. But I don’t think it was our only option, not implying that’s your conclusion. I would add one word at the end of your final sentence “AGAIN”
Thanks, now what do we about it?
The Crusades were military campaigns sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church during the High and Late Middle Ages
Early alchemists, physicists and astronomers like Galileo Galilei had their lives threatened by the Catholic Church. They have never been paragons of reason, instead, they prefer mystification.
The Abrahamic Faiths have a considerable history of starting in a society (either by infusion of the practice or a immigration of followers) and being basically accepted. As time goes by and their numbers grow they become more vocal, more radical, more violent. And then the hosting society kicks them out, and they scream "PERSECUTION".
In todays world there are even greater mixes of religions and gods. For myself there is the scientific method. I also have a few minor gods I worship as well, such as spicy food and military models.
For others there's football (proper football not the American rules rugby erroneously known as football in America). Within this there are many saints who are worshiped by millions.
Then the classic god botherers.