The world has so many problems, it's hard to know where to turn. Very often, people choose to turn to religion as religion seems to have the answers. On an individual basis, religion can have a positive effect. Many lives have been brought back from the brink of collapse by an alliance with one religion or another. Still, if religion had a handle on truth, the world would be a much better place than the problem-filled thing it is. There would be more agreement and less argument, right? In my view, the problem with religion goes back to what religion was created for in the first place. Religions were created as a way to control the masses. They were designed to take away our right to choose.
If you look at the basics of religion, you see some commonalities. Typically, you find a supreme being and a list of rules to be followed in order to be "saved". This is as true for the native who worships the active volcano he lives beside to the Christian who believes he is a sin-filled creature who can only be saved by the the sacrifice of the perfect man/god. The question is, where do all these "rules" come from?
Look at Christianity. It's definitely been an evolutionary process. Jesus preached his message for about three years and gained many followers. Those closest to him went to various places in the world to spread that message. What they taught varied somewhat, depending on which points had impacted them the most. The earliest Christian writings to date, written in Aramaic (which was the language Christ spoke), were copied and translated into other languages, often with errors. At times the original stories were embellished and added to. Other Christian writings are more recent and originally written in other languages altogether (mostly Greek). The apostle Paul, the most prolific Christian writer, did not even know Jesus personally and had been very active in persecuting Christians until his conversion. Paul's greatest accomplishment perhaps was the fact he was the person who took the message of Christianity to Rome, where we first see the effects of control on Christianity.
The year was A.D. 325, and the Roman Emperor Constantine was in power. Seeing that most of the people he ruled were Christian, he decided to make the state religion Christianity. At that time, the churches were largely disjointed and believed many different things. There were also still many pagan beliefs being practiced. Constantine invited religious leaders of the day to come together in order to unify the thoughts and beliefs of followers. The result was the Council of Nicaea, which was responsible for cannonizing the current New Testament and generally defining what Christianity believed. Dissent and self-thought were discouraged. What motivated Constantine? The need to give his constiuents a uniform, more easily followed set of rules to help keep them in line.
Look at religions today. Many impose a limiting authority over their followers. If you commit this sin or that sin you are condemned to eternal hell. This motivates many believers to follow the rules, and it maintains order. You can even see this influence in politics as people try to impose their personal religious beliefs on society at large. In countries where the state is controlled by religion, the religious rules must be obeyed or dire (and often deadly) consequences will result. Control and religion seem to go hand in hand.
A well-known Christian belief states that Jesus came to set the captive free. I do believe he taught the way to freedom, and it has nothing to do with the rules and regulations imposed on us through religion. Jesus also taught that the kingdom of God is within. To me, this point is key. We can indeed find our own answers as we learn to connect to the God that is contained within each one of us. Problems arise when we limit our beliefs to information gained outside ourselves. The problem with religion is that it does not set us free. It makes us slaves to those who desire to control us.