Religion is a product of society and religious beliefs are only as enlightened as the societies that foster them.
The most primitive belief systems are those that seek to circumvent catastrophic natural occurrences by appeasing the supernal powers that control them. Societies based on these beliefs are structured around this system of appeasement with categories of actions proscribed by society as improper or unacceptable and groups of people in these societies are often placed under prohibitions or banned from full participation in social exchanges because they are defined as unclean or incapable of spiritual purity by birth, gender or occupation. Most of these cultures are patriarchal and the traditional roles of women are among the most strictly defined since primitive patriarchal cultures regard women's biological functions as naturally impure and their status is equivalent to that of property.
When these societies evolve, their belief systems, now formalized as religions, often address the first steps into beliefs concerning some form of survival after death. Animal and ancestral spirits are conceived as benevolent totems and guides on the one hand while the most feared are aligned with the more primitive nature spirits, becoming malevolent forces and avengers on the other. Societies of this sort often retain the basic structure of prior beliefs as traditional laws.
In religions based on tribal customs, such as the Judaic, Christian and Islamic religions, the cultic nature of traditional beliefs still retain the most primitive taboos based on religious appeasement, beliefs in an afterlife are fundamentally simplistic and new knowledge that reveals the true nature of reality is rejected as blasphemous. The degree to which this fundamentalist worldview holds sway over the populace depends greatly on the power the spiritual leaders have over the laws of their society.
Not until a society begins to understand the natural world is it capable of constructing logical and moral philosophies and an enlightened spirituality. It is only then that the power of natural phenomena loses its numinous aura and the ghosts of the dead are banished from the altars of worship. Yet, even in enlightened societies, there are those who remain mired in tradition, whose worldview continues to support these powers and ghosts from the past. This is especially true in societies whose traditions have been recorded, since not only are the traditions sacred, the records themselves are considered inviolable. The power of traditional spirituality then depends on the control wielded by its spiritual leaders and the degree to which the populace accepts newly revealed knowledge.
One of Britt's 14 Characteristics of Fascism is that "governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions."
This can be applied to any state where the power of religious fundamentalism is entwined with the power of the state. While new laws may be enacted to further the state's agenda and some old laws may be replaced, most will be ''reinterpreted" from this combined political/religious fundamentalist view.
States based on tribal religious traditions, or who support these traditions predominately, are in conflict with each other and with the more enlightened secular factions within themselves and that conflict will continue until the laws enacted and the moral values espoused by an enlightened society are no longer controlled by the power of spiritual leaders. This separation of church and state is a political and legal doctrine derived from the concepts of John Locke, the doctrine on which the United States of America was founded. In this view, the United States has been an enlightened state since its inception. The dominance of Christian and Jewish religious traditions in the political arena, however, constantly challenges the concepts of democratic freedom and social justice.
Anyone supposing that ideologies with a bias against spirituality, including organized religion, are more likely to produce enlightened societies should remember the failed experiments in communism and fascism during the twentieth century. In societies espousing these ideologies, rigid obedience to the state itself became a sort of theology. Social Democracy, one form of enlightened society, is very clear on its condemnation of what it calls a new imperialism, "Wherever it has achieved power it has destroyed freedom or the chance of gaining freedom. It is based on a militarist bureaucracy and a terrorist police. By producing glaring contrasts of wealth and privilege it has created a new class society."
In contrast, an enlightened society is built on the assumption of moral responsibility by its citizens and on respect for the rule of law. It requires the separation of religion and government to prevent the elevation of the state to a theological entity and the freedom to express civil dissent by all citizens to prevent the descent of the state into an authoritarian political ideology. The rule of law supports the regulation of the commercial, military and law enforcement sectors, while moral responsibility requires the implementation of social programs to provide education, health services and a minimum, equitable income. The balance between what is just and what is fair, between legal and moral codes, must be adjusted as society evolves to ensure the opportunity of growth for all without undue burden for any.