Sorry this is a bit long.
The perhaps the most false of all religion's claims is, that it can lead people away from being self centred and into a deeper selfless enlightenment. Maybe it does, but if so, why does it so often seem that religion is a form of narcissism organized, and all about the followers feelings of arrogant self importance ? A member posted a text recently, which claims, to show religions selfless enlightenment.
"self-committing faith in Christ as one’s lord and saviour; or by the total submission to God which is Islam; or by faithful obedience to the Torah; or by transcendence of the ego, with its self-centred desires and cravings, to attain mokha or Nirvana. "
Yet everything that it talks about, "Self -committing", "total submission" or "faithful obedience" are all about things that the follower can do to gain contact or take part in something greater than that which nature gives. Even Nirvana, is about a, greater death, something to attain because you get to be somewhere and someone special. If enlightenment involves selflessness, then it is a strange sort of selflessness is it not, to try and escape your narcissistic self, only by losing your self in something bigger, or to be valued by something or someone greater. Is that not the final aggrandizement of the narcissist by proxy ? And there are good reasons for that. Not least because truly enlightened and selfless people are not needy, they do not have any use for religion or anything else, only narcissists are needy. So religion has to promote narcissism to survive. It offers the pretend carrot of enlightenment, (Hell, guilt and sin, are the stick.) but like the donkey in the story, the follower of religion can never be given the enlightenment, it must always dangle just a little distance away, to keep them coming back. And they do, again and again, each new sniff of pseudo-enlightenment and false wisdom satisfies for a while, but then they must go back again for another fix.
The only true selfless enlightenment is secularism, and that was perhaps what a lot of the religious thinkers of the ancient world, Jesus, Mohamed, the Buddha were actually striving towards. Some, such as the Buddha may have almost got there. Though they could not finally reach it, or express it successfully, not because they were stupid, but because they did not then have the understanding and language to express it, that we have today, only the language of religion, which simply was not up to the task.
I think those that lack empathy and compassion recognise in themselves they have this flaw. They do want to fit in and be like everyone else so they search for answers about themselves. Which brings us to the question; "What organisations profess to be experts in empathy?' The answer, of course, is organised religion. Can't blame them as numbers suggest it is true what religions claim to represent.
So for me it's no surprise religions are full of narcs. They are intelligent logically, just not emotionally, so they rote learn their doctrine, become expert in it, and start climbing this new social structure they find themselves in, stepping on others to improve their social status as narcs do. Me me me, it's all about them.
Those with empathy don't fully fall for it and we call them religious moderates.
I agree with your thesis. Whatever benefit religion conferred in the past, in this age, it is an obstruction to BOTH moral and intellectual development. And not just an obstruction, but a dumbing down of people's morality and their awareness. HOW religious practice damages the brain is the question. The Trump cult demonstrates a worst case giving context to all the other ugly behavior in service to religion.
It seems to me that the sole purpose of religion to create a division within the individual to make him or her into an obsequious servant to some ‘higher good’ that resides in the realm of the imagination.
I could never understand why people kneel down to offer prayers up to a God of whom it has been said: “God is omnipresent”.
Religion is probably one of the earliest and lowest forms of carrot and stick training. The carrot being a promised state of eternal bliss in an imaginary place called heaven and the stick being eternal suffering in an imaginary place called hell. It all stinks of control of the mind of man with the base exhortation to become an obedient sacrificial animal with the promise of an imaginary reward if you do and an imaginary punishment if you do not follow commandments.
The worst scam ever perpetrated on humanity, by itself, has been the lie of religion.
The reasons are endless, but the outcome is always the same.
Self-aggrandizement and favor.
It's led the way for nearly every other negative human trait.
ALL religion is evil.
There's no reasonable excuse to keep it around.
I am sure that I shared how my cousin (first cousin, once removed) wrote on FB about how god loved her SO MUCH that he kept a tornado away from a town where she was having dinner until she was safely away from the place.
Sheer narcissism. Apparently, god loved her more than the people who lost their lives, homes, and businesses in the tornado. He loves her more than he loved them: she is special.
Also, I have encountered many Xtians who are so ingrained in the "fact" that they are correct and know god better than anyone else, they feel free to consign others to hell. This is even blasphemy as only god can send people to hell. Their overwhelming need to be right is a narcissistic trait. The concept of the "elect" and that they belong--even those who do not consign others to hell--is narcissistic, too. If I point out that Revelations say that there are 144,000 elect, they evade the point.
Buddha got the closest, but his followers are human, after all, and it is hard to divest one's self of ego. Personally, I don't see having "ego" as a negative unless it is used to assert superiority over others.