Psychologists have found is that during hard times or times when people feel they are losing control of their lives, they are more prone to adopt religious beliefs and superstitions. During the great depression of 1929, for instance, the most authoritarian churches saw a rise in attendance.(Excerpt from: Mano Singham’s recent post on http://machineslikeus.com/) Another instance: Hurricane Katrina strengthened the faith of survivors.
Religion, all religion, thrives on misery. When there is no misery or oppression religion creates misery and/or oppression with imagined enemies or conditions.
For example, the simple criticism, any criticism, of religion becomes a source of oppression for believers. Any individual who utters such criticism becomes an object of scorn, and in some cases is labeled the anti-christ. Individuals who dare to reveal their unbelief are viewed as evil, immoral creatures without a shred of decency. Despite the many examples of the religious committing atrocities, revealing examples of the religious as indecent and immoral, such information is ignored, or worse, cloaked in secrecy, perhaps even explained away.
Much evidence supports the notion that religion, belief, is not so much a hold-over from our primal past as a result from prevailing conditions. There have been many cataclysms in humanities past upon which religion has found a bountiful feeding ground. Good times usually coincide with a decline in faith. In times of plentiful food and other commodities the morale of people improves and they have no need for the crutch of religion. Religion waits patiently for the next calamity to surge once more.
In a desperate attempt to defend their faith many faithful try to label non-belief a religion. Whereas belief is based on information that cannot be verified, has never been verified, non-belief is based on reason, with fact-based reason.