Lately I have been interested in the writing and thoughts of the famous, early 20th Century muck-raker, H.L. Mencken. Mencken wrote highly controversial pieces in the 1920s and 1930's. He was a libertarian and an atheist. Although I don't share his atheism, I find his writings about religion to be insightful and often humorous. I am currently reading the Kindle version of "H.L. Mencken on Religion," a collection of his essays on the subject.
Sometimes Mencken's conclusions are the same that I previously grasped on my own. For example, how religions tend to ensconce rules into a needless permanence, and continue obeisance to those rules long after the rules no longer make sense. Mencken writes, echoing thoughts of Nietzsche:
1. Every system of morality has its origin in an experience of utility. A race, finding that a certain action works for its security and betterment, calls that action good; and finding that a certain other action works to its peril, it calls that other action bad. Once it has arrived at these valuations it seeks to make them permanent and inviolable by crediting them to its gods.
2. The menace of every moral system lies in the fact that, by reason of the supernatural authority thus put behind it, it tends to remain substantially unchanged long after the conditions which gave rise to it have been supplanted by different, and often diametrically antagonistic conditions.Perhaps the best example of this is the Jewish and Muslim prohibitions on pork. When the ancient Jews created that prohibition, there were sound health reasons for it. Pigs carried a variety of diseases that could be passed onto man through his diet, trichinosis being the most obvious example. However, modern methods of raising farm animals and of curing and cooking the meat make these risks of small consequence today.
Another example is ritualistic slaughter, a practice that shames both Jew and Muslim, in that it is unnecessarily cruel and painful to the animals being slaughtered. The original requirements of ritualistic slaughter were based on reasons of health. Only freshly killed animals should be eaten, in order to avoid food poisoning, and steps were laid out by which this was to be accomplished. However, modern means of slaughter affect nothing of any consequence in the meat produced. The old ways should give way to better, more modern ones.