From what I can discern, it appears to me that religion had a dual purpose. Man was reaching for the eternal, the spirit within, trying to explain things. The Neanderthals buried their dead with some ceremony; it goes that far back- so prior to recorded history.
So they developed theories, they tried to get in communion with their conception of the divine.
As societies developed and became less hunter gather and more agrarian oriented, and towns and cities were created, religion grew, too. I believe that the other purpose for religion came into being then, too. To govern. It would have seemed natural and logical to those earlier societies for religion to have a major role in governing. And, thus, it did.
What do governments do? Besides administer and oversee, they're big on control. Earlier societies were really big on control and everyone having a place in society. Not very upwardly mobile. Spartan society is a good example of this, but not the only one.
Since governments were even more controlling in those times than they would be in modern Western society (and some- though not all- Eastern societies), this dovetailed with their religion. They used religion to govern; sometimes rather cynically, I feel. One of the reasons Constantine I was Christian was that he thought this religion would be a better governing and unifying factor than the Roman pagan one
Separation of church and state is a relatively new concept but I think there were bits and pieces of this idea for a long time before the founding of the US, Australia, the French Revolution and so on.
But religions and their churches are innately controlling. They "know" what's best. The commandments and other directives are how they want us to live our lives. And, to be fair, if stealing, murdering and so on are prohibited, then, yay, it's a much better society. Those rules were needed.
But now they're not needed. We have plenty of laws in all the cultures and nations. We have local law, national/federal law, and we have international law. We have statutes and case law. We have parliaments, congresses, and so on.
Religion still has its innate controlling factor. You see it more in cults like CofS than you do in the larger mainstream religions. But the latter still can be invasive. Catholicism and Mormonism come in for a lot of criticism about that. Both churches have implemented many changes to move with the times, but they still have that aspect.
I believe that this is why my Dad, after leaving CofS and Scn, used to rant about organized religions. I think he saw that theres something intrinsic there that will always be problematic. I also think that's why people often look askance at the non Scn venues. (what? did you really think I didn't get it?)
My question to scholars of religion, to friends, to clergy of any elder religion or any cult- but especially to those of the most controlling ones such as Islam - is
Mankind's society has changed and morphed so much over the millennia that human nature isn't even what we once thought. People's views and behaviors have evolved. Not just our bodies. So why couldn't people move forward from organized religion? Is it possible to outgrow it?
Clergy may say that we will be rudderless. We won't be able to reach for the divine.
I say we have a lot of resources. I think we can have the ideas be where we can get to them, have scholars we can consult, even practitioners- but that we are ready to leave the nest and fly solo. That doesn't mean we don't have religion or ideology. It means, IMO, that those are resources. If you want auditing, go get some but don't sign anything. If you need to learn to meditate, have chelation or healing or a prayer session- have it. But don't let it govern you.
It will never be perfect.It will never be fool proof. But I think that we can outgrow being part of a church (or cult or....) without being cut off from ideas, practices or other people.
And if we go to a practitioner, some guru to teach meditation, some Wiccan who may do something, get married in a Christian Church or a Synagogue, then those things and people are there only to guide and not to make us part of anything.
This seems to already be done by many Buddhists. (though not all)