We may consider following our religion's practices and believing in a god as being good for our spiritual growth, but are they really?
Most major religions have some core texts, a raft of practices, a set of expected beliefs, and an organisation that maintains a steady stream of propaganda that supports all those. These are purportedly trying to make their adherents' lives, thinking and beliefs more akin to the idealised life portrayed in their tales of their founder's life. Yet, most major religions have been used by their adherents to wage wars, persecute those that disagree with them, and even aligned with mass-murderers. How does this happen?
The issue is that following so-called religious rules and practices does not make us enlightened. It is the conscientious basking in the light of our souls and letting them guide our lives that does that. Some practices may help get to the threshold of being able to do that, but the last step must be deliberately and willingly undertaken. Otherwise, all the rest is just a pretense to fool ourselves or others. It is a deception. Unfortunately, our societies are built upon a lot of deceptions and self-deceptions, given the plethora of pyramid belief schemes we need to convince ourselves that we are civilised.
That last step is difficult because it requires us to let go of a lot of those delusions and see them for the empty constructs that we have fooled ourselves into thinking were solid foundations for our lives. Jumping this ship of delusions for something that may seem to us like a fairy tale is a big ask, so most of us retreat back into the relative safety of our delusions. This is understandable, but unfortunately leaves us at the mercy of those whose power comes from the maintenance of those delusions, among which are the religious institutions that are supposed to help us.
So, why do those religions work against the best interest of their adherents. Partly it is because once their founders passed, after following lives of constant and rapid experimentation, those left were faced with rapidly growing numbers of adherents that wanted guidance. Thus began the writing down of the teachings and the lives of the founders, leading to a standardisation of them, but unfortunately a more rigid organisational structure to look after them.
However, as with all organisations that humans build, they attract those who thrive upon wielding their power, perhaps benignly at first, but increasingly to supposedly protect the organisation, and then just for the power over others it allows. Of course, there are those who seem more guided by the original premises of their religions, but they are opposed by factions that want to maintain their power. We have seen this with Pope Francis and their ongoing battle with conservative Catholic factions.
Within religions, there are many who go off on their own tangents, which is not necessarily bad in itself, but with offshoots like the evangelical branches of Christianity, we see such radical deviance into promoting extreme selfishness, aggrandisement or even violence. Given that many so-called Christians have never read the Bible enough to know what it actually states, they are falling prey to such anti-Christian ideas and behaviours, just because they become so immersed in the emotional frenzy of frenetic pastors and their beholden congregations.
Selfishness is the province of our personalities as our higher selves do not have such notions. Some selfishness is part of the learning to identify as a separate being which then gives us a sense of being a centre of creative power. However, our personalities have limits on their actual power, so if we get hooked on power, we have to rope others into believing we do, and that is usually done by using others who believe to persuade or force compliance from those who don't until they acquiesce or even believe themselves. This is how pyramid belief schemes are built and maintained.
If we let ourselves be guided by beliefs that promote selfishness, which is admittedly easy if we grew up in the midst of masses of those who did, we will interpret texts from our guiding scriptures as supporting that view. It is this thinking that may persuade us to not read all our scriptures so that we may use our ignorance as a moral shield. Certainly, many using scriptures to promote selfishness bet upon this willful ignorance.
When this hijacked religious philosophy is taken as the rational for societies, we see its outcome in those societies exploiting their citizens for the benefit of the extremely selfish. This is where most western societies are at, riddled with gross wealth inequality and poverty in its midst.
We see this selfishness playing out when we use prayers for selfish reasons, use our self-talk as if it comes from Jesus or god or whomever we supposedly revere, withhold charity as a way of teaching self-reliance, and persecute others as if we are the righteous agents of the divine. These are all self-delusions to cover for our selfishness and lack of compassion. These are what we must sacrifice to be able to take that step into the divinity within ourselves, beyond all the religious hype that actually hampers us from reaching illumination.
It is from there that we can begin to undo all the self-delusion because it will be clear that it does not serve us at all. Selfishness divides us from the unity of the world that our higher selves inhabit, free of all the delusions. We will have travelled a path that took us away from that world, but to which we can return much wiser and stronger in our ability to master our creative nature and so be co-creators with the divine.