PZ Myers, at Pharyngula, is always informative, often provocative, but always worth reading. I think his recent post (Sanctimonious monsters) is a classic – and gets right to the point. Within modern religions there are two trends – a progressive, humanitarian trend and a reactionary, anti-human trend.
“I am often told that religion is a source of morality. I’ve read the Bible myself; I can see that there were moral philosophers at work behind that book, that we have a tradition of law in the Old Testament, with a fellow named Jesus adding social justice and concern for the poor and weak in the New that are actually rather commendable. I also see a lot of myth and error and misplaced obsession with the supernatural that rational people are willing to set aside to focus on the core humanitarian message … or at least they do so in the best of circumstances.
Yet what I also see in modern religion is a re-prioritizing: the secular concerns that should matter, the egalitarian word of a religious tradition that valued the cohesion of the social fabric and demanded equal treatment for even the least of society is ignored, given a little lip service perhaps, but made subservient to the intangible theological nonsense of prayer, of an invisible god, of submission to dogma and hope in an unevidenced afterlife. It’s a religion that has shifted its eyes from a task to be done here on earth to an unearthly vision of a magical unseen world run by an ethereal tyrant who must be placated.”
I think that this subservience “to the intangible theological nonsense of prayer, of an invisible god, of submission to dogma and hope in an unevidenced afterlife” is at the root of so much that is wrong with religion today. It drives the anti-science hysteria of creationists (and some climate change deniers) as well as the murderous activities of some jihadist terrorists today.