Over a period of years, each religion acquires layer upon layer of “temporal” law. The term “temporal” is a reference to time and means that the laws were appropriate to the circumstances of one period of history, but may have become obsolete when the circumstances changed in later years. Unfortunately, these laws tend to remain “on the books” in spite of the changed circumstances and they accumulate over time.
In addition, many of these laws had less to do with enforcing behaviors that have a spiritual foundation than they did with increasing the wealth and power of the governing religious body (the church, the temple, the priests, the bureaucracy etc.). That’s why Jesus went to the temple and “overthrew the tables of the money changers and the seats of them that sold doves”. It wasn’t just Jesus. It was the reason behind the entire Protestant Reformation.
Some of these now obsolete religious laws have survived and have become church “dogmas”, their purposes forgotten in the mists of time but still adhered to by religious authorities as well as by most of the faithful. Many of these dogmas had real economic, hygienic or political benefits at the time they were formulated, but over the course of time, improvements in public health, technology, education or changes in social circumstances have rendered them less beneficial or, in some cases, counterproductive. Still, over the centuries, layer upon layer of this temporal politics tends to accrete around the spiritual nucleus of the religion.
While each religion starts out small, they all end up BIG. In the beginning, each religion starts as a relatively simple set of laws which forces people to live together in harmony and to treat each other as they themselves would want to be treated. As such, they retain their spiritual character and are self-reinforcing. But governments, being what they are, all want to grow. They naturally try to gain power and wealth for their leaders and the bureaucracy that works for them. All forms of entrenched government become corrupt over time, and even religious governments eventually fall prey to the same vices.
As a result of all this excess obsolete baggage acquired by mainstream religions over the centuries, it has become easier for skeptics in modern technological societies to persuade an uneducated public that religions in general are obsolete and can safely be discarded in favor of secular laws. This is probably the largest mistake that a ruling elite can make. Just because some of the dogmas of religious doctrine have become obsolete, there is no reason to believe that core religious beliefs are useless as well.
All religions with a metaphysical foundation (all the major religions and their offshoots) contain a core of their dogma that is essential to maintaining the common morality that binds its people into a unified nation. Abandonment of the foundational religion leads, over the generations, to an overarching social anarchy covered over by a thin layer of secular “political correctness.” Eventually, this anarchy can be controlled only with a powerful totalitarian government (North Korea and the old Soviet Union are good examples, and China is well on its way to complete secular government control using social media and the force of arms). However, anarchic societies maintained by force always fall into poverty and misery, and they have only limited lifespans. The Soviet Union lasted seventy years, but eventually fell as a result of moral decay at the top with rampant poverty, widespread social apathy, alcoholism, suicide and shortened lifespans underneath!