I am often forced to contemplate whether or not religion is harmful inherently to our existence or if only through its misuse and abomination. These days, I cannot see the difference. The question is essentially - Is religion itself bad? Or do humans do bad things in the name of religion? What's the difference? Again, I don't see one. As Voltaire famously wrote, "As long as people believe absurdities, they will continue to commit atrocities."
No one pondered and studied this question more than Thomas Paine. Fortunately for us, he wrote, with great eloquence, on the subject in The Age of Reason. Interestingly - considering the pre-Darwinian context of his writings, one stands in amazement of his insight. He knew the origin of the world around him was greater than the church's explanation. But the church's adherence to flawed explanation and its efforts to restrict further examination (one can only suppose because its fear of the truth) was the aim of Paine's dissatisfaction. Consider this passage from the above mentioned text:
"[W]hen a system of religion is made to grow out of a supposed system of creation that is not true, and to unite itself therewith in a manner almost inseparable therefrom, the case assumes an entirely different ground. It is then that errors, not morally bad, become fraught with the same mischiefs as if they were. It is then that the truth, though otherwise indifferent in itself, becomes an essential, by becoming the criterion, that either confirms by corresponding evidence, or denies by contradictory evidence, the reality of the religion itself."
All religions are built upon lies and deceit. The idea that good will eventually come from them is irresponsible. It is an idea overdue for abandonment.