I had an interesting discussion with my sister re religion. She has become more "spiritual" as time goes on. Here’s the basic analysis.
All religions have the following:
1. Some kind of ritual(s);
2. Some kind of belief(s) in something that cannot be proven; and
3. A process or goal for achieving an emotional state which we might call communing with or contemplating a deity.
She further believes that the actual rituals and beliefs of any given religion are secondary. They are merely the means to the end (the emotional state).
The rituals and beliefs are necessary to pass the religion from generation to generation. One cannot pass a religion on to the next generation without rituals and beliefs. However, they are not important in and of themselves. The beliefs are often probably wrong as a matter of fact unless they are taken as metaphorical. The rituals and beliefs are part of the psychological support used to cause the emotional state.
When someone like Bill Mahr or Richard Dawkins takes aim at religion, they do not account for the fact that the actual beliefs are not the real point of religion. They are more a means for an end.