Think of this as Volume 17, Number 1 of A-Clue.com, the online newsletter I've written since 1997. Enjoy.
No one knows the nature of God. We each take the final step alone, and no one has reported back anything but an emptiness or a bright light that drew them in briefly, before life in the form of a science-taught doctor pulled them back.
Faith replaces understanding. We choose to believe this or that. And faith is organized through religions. Faith represents “revealed” truth, stories that may be true or may not be, but are believed by their adherents because we're all afraid to die and we all want answers before we go.
There is nothing wrong with faith, but religions are human institutions. As such they are subject to the same forces that drive businesses, universities, and states. You're either growing or you're dying. A business that stagnates starts to die. Without growth you go backward. The process can seem invisible, to those inside, but it's an inevitable unraveling in every case.
You grow by getting more. More money, more power, more customers or adherents. To grow you contend. You must be aggressive, even ruthless at times. The result is conflict. Those who lose conflicts die quickly. Those who withdraw die more slowly, but they do die.
Trouble is, this is incompatible with the nature of God. Sure, I said that's unknowable, but almost everyone agrees that the nature of God is not human, that human nature is not God's nature. What makes you successful in building an institution is not what brings you to a higher understanding of God. Any man or woman of faith will tell you that.
So Buddhism was driven out of India by the more aggressive Hindus. So the Bahai' and Zoroastrians were driven out of Iran by the more aggressive Muslims. So animism was driven out of the Americas, and Africa, by more aggressive Christians and Muslims. So it is within Christianity – passive groups like the Quakers, Unitarians and Episcopalians lose adherents to more aggressive, fundamentalist sects that demand more of their members and constantly evangelize for more.
Powerful religions make demands of their adherents. To grow, they make more demands, and demand more adherents. They demand obedience. The power of a religion is directly related to the amount of crazy stuff its leaders can convince adherents to do. Acts of greed, of brutality, or murder, are routinely committed in the name of religious power, and these acts go unpunished. In fact, groups that don't engage in these acts fade away, they lose adherents, they die.