If we look back at the beginnings of religion, as we all (should) know, it was a device set up for the authorities to subdue and control the masses.
For example, the first Christian Church as we know it, was established early in the fourth century. The Bible is littered with politically convenient edicts designed to govern the people (For the one in authority is God's servant for your good. Romans 13:4). Hence, governments took free rein in fleecing the naive, gullible, uneducated and profoundly superstitious masses of their earnings (This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Romans 13:6)
So, here we see the word of God being used as an excuse to rob the poor rather than the reason.
Now, moving forward to the present we can experience the self-realisation of religion being elevated to an entirely different level in terms of impacting upon (Nothing like a few corny, bureaucratic, au courant cliches, is there?) the common folk who are really using religion as an excuse rather than a reason for their belief. Could it be that they don't necessarily believe in God but use their faith as an excuse to validate their fears and prejudices?