One of the common threads running through the polite theological discourse on Everything is the assumption that religion exists as a prop--a way for people to be told what to do and think.

There's more to being religious than that! It is possible to have a sincere religious belief without being in search of a mental prop. In fact, the many of the most intensely religious people have also been (in the broad sense) iconoclastic. It is possible, and desireable, for a believer to break new ground and think independently.

In Christianity, the ultimate independence of the believer is expressed through the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, God who manifests within each person. Even the most institutionalized churches teach that the Spirit inspires actions and ideas independently of their religious structure, and these churches have always had members who faithfully followed what they believed to be a divine inspiration that was personal, not mediated through their religious authorities.

This sense of personal inspiration hasn't prevented visionaries from remaining faithful to their religious tradition. Christian history is filled with people who have broken new ground without breaking out of their church.

So religion, particularly Christian religion, isn't merely a prop. Sure, there are people who use religion as a substitute for thought. These people are often the most vocal believers because they have to shout in order to drown out their own brains--but they don't represent the majority and they manifest only the most shallow form of religious belief.