All religions point to this single theme: to be nice to others. Protecting self and others from mayhem through deference to long-evolved social conscience may be the purpose and definition of religion. Such reverence may be a powerful solution to the tragedy of the commons, where society is the commons and individual self-interest is the challenge.
There may be no better solution or formula than wise unselfishness for allowing a healthy society. I believe the pinnacle of intelligence is to want good for others.
Most religions tend to promote healthy living and individual choices, but often this is strongly related to how we treat others. We can also guess that being good to others is a universal principle with obvious rewards.
This idea of Karma may be one of the oldest ideas to endure the ages. History and beyond it, tells us that ‘what goes around comes around’. It is logic to suppose we attract our own kind, thus possibly washing out from among good generous people through selfishness into our own ‘birds of a feather’.
Religious and Non-religious Superstition
Religion, evolving over millennia, may hold truths modern science or evolved society may have momentarily displaced. For example, eighteenth century blood-letting is one of those ideas which supposing human brains have come up with. Try to find that idea in any ancient scripture.
Other attempts at proscribing healthy living have survived from long ago, offering great nuggets wisdom. Yet other ideas may simply be superstition incorporated into old religious records.
Over time what we call superstition has in part slowly filtered or evolved out of proper religion, which is more about right behavior than about leaving food for various entities and the like.
Now I cannot judge for others what is right or not, but I want to be honest concerning what I consider superstition, and that it may interfere with useful healthy thinking. There may be purpose or truth to some ‘superstitions’ that we do not yet understand, which is why all people should be allowed to freely exercise non-harmful religion.
Excuse my approach, but if believing in a god means yielding to long-evolved social ideas, hopefully filtering out themes of superiority and superstition, then 'god' does exist as a force, similar to the 'invisible hand' of Adam Smith economics. This is not a direct argument for or against theism.
Hitler taught the foolish but convenient and self-appealing idea that one race is superior to another. Slavery in America was excused under a similar idea.
While such ideas exist in ancient religious texts and may have given some degree of social order in the past, it seems obvious to me that humans of various races are exceedingly similar in biology and about equal in intelligence.
Many modern religions have interpreted such cultural and religious elements to accept the universal truth that all mankind deserve equal rights to freedom.
It does not take a genius to judge between kindness and cruel behavior. Yet none of us are fully qualified to know where all the lines lay. Momentary human advancement may fail to outstrip ancient religious ideas. We must consider every angle. But the summary of religion is to to be nice to others.