There is a purpose.. well, lots of purposes for religion. Religion serves as the continuity- of- culture maven, dietician, clothing critic, guilt thrower, source of reassurance, fate decider, mercurial justifier of actions, hypocritical hipster and absolver of wrong for the human psyche. It's a useful set of rules backed by what some call the manipulation of young minds and others call faith and grace. Touchy subject, anyone?
Religion was prevalent in my family. Not one single religion, but with many common rules. Eat this on this day, fast on this day, sing songs, wear certain clothes, behave this way, always be afraid of something. And always plead to your invisible boss who may or may not deem to help you or could condemn you, and may do that just to play with you. Oh, and if you don't do what you're told, everyone will at best be nasty to you and at worst will turn their backs on you and pretend you're dead.
But it had its upside. It was nice to be part of a group of people, to belong somewhere, even though it was so conditional. We had some very funny times. I always loved the singing and we made good music. I took away from it a pretty good moral sense and knowing right from wrong.
But it also divided my neighborhood. Strangely, religion wasn't an issue when you were on your own block, but if those same kids and you were on a different block, you and they were likely with fellow religious clan, and it was little kid street war. Propaganda abounded about the other religions and their followers. Even parents and siblings promulgated it. I remember going to the movies with junior choir kids and getting in a sort of gang fight with kids from another church. And we were all Christians.
The fact is that religion has power. People will use that power. That's why I no longer belong and will never again join an organized religion (funny, considering I think my purpose in life is to agitate). The fault lies not in our Gods but in ourselves.