Religion is a False Phobia
When a new predator arrives on an island, it often wipes out some of the existing prey species because the prey have no genetically-passed fear of the new predator. For example, humans wiped out the dodo from the island of Mauritius this way because dodos had no fear of humans.
Humans have evolved a mechanism to deal with this problem. They have a wetware scheme for rapidly installing new phobias. Parents can learn new phobias from experience and can instill them in their children with hypnotic songs, bedtime stories and by example demonstrating fear but mostly by repeated warnings.
The catch is, that same mechanism can also be used to induce false-alarm phobias, and these phobias then propagate from generation to generation mutating and causing havoc. Two examples of common false phobias are a phobia of elderly, white-bearded, invisible men (aka Christianity), homophobia, garter snakes and black cats. These false phobias accumulate over the generations and induce all manner of irrational and cruel behaviour.
It is difficult to remove such false phobias even when you have recognised them intellectually as false. One of the most rapid and effective methods is called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing). It requires the conscious co-operation and effort on the part of the person with the false phobia, so it cannot, for example, be used to deprogram murderous religious fanatics who do not want to be deprogrammed.~ Roedy (1948-02-04 age:69)