Williams-Crawshay, Rupert. The Comforts of Unreason
We have already seen how great are the mental comforts of believing in a Universal Good (suitable defined) and of constructing a moral code designed to attain that goal. But these are as nothing to the physical comforts of inducing a sufficient number of other people to adopt the same code for themselves. For then they will all believe that it is right to do the things you want them to do, and they will often do these things even when they are against their own interests. This is, of course, quite understandable, since they have been persuaded (or taught) not to think things out for themselves, but to accept your code as their guide, a process which, when applied to the young, is generally called “building up character”.
The advantages of such a course are so overwhelming that, in fact, the history of the world provides a long series of examples of the way in which a small ruling class has controlled and restricted the education of the remaining majority so as to ensure its unthinking adoption of a prescribed code. The fact that the ruling class has usually maintained its ascendancy for quite a long time, and has fought savagely when it was finally threatened, is, I think, evidence that this prescribed code must, as a rule, have been based on a conception of “the Good” which was in effect the “good” of the ruling class, however much it may have been said—and however much the ruling class may have deceived itself into believing—that it was the universal good.
Such a code will of course be immensely more efficient if it is incorporated into a religion. For (a) it becomes more rigid; (b) the penalties for questioning it or disobeying it are increased by extension from this temporal world into the eternity of the next; (c) the ultimate Good is so firmly identified with superhuman interests that there is no chance of anyone’s suspecting that he is sacrificing his own interests for those of a small group of other men; (d) if the world is as God made it, the way it is arranged should not and cannot be altered and (e) men should not expect happiness in this world, but in the next.
Whatever other functions a religion may have, and however beneficent these may be, this short and incomplete list of typical religious tenets shows that it can be in practice most useful instrument in the hands of a ruling class. And it seems most unlikely that any ruling class could be so foolish as not to take advantage of it.