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Open Discussion: What is the societal function of religion?

What is the societal role of religion? From the time of the Ancient Egyptians to the contemporary United States, the common people have long considered the chief executive (pharaoh, emperor, king or president) to be in touch with the divine. Why would leaders of government find religion useful?

Why would leaders of government find this useful?

Thousands of years ago some very wise, smart, intelligent, observant men, before things like germs and bacteria were even imagined, noticed such things as cross-contamination, as Trichinosis or other parasitic infections being related to specific animals, and they made rules that greatly protected their population from sickness and death. Attributing these rules to God, their effectiveness in evidence as the population were persuaded to heed them, they became dietary laws that were literally to live by. Other very wise, smart, intelligent, observant men attributed to God their rules for social, political, and economic reform and advancement under which their populace thrived. Still other men, using the term loosely when speaking of this acquisitive, greedy, misogynistic, repressive, oppressive, loathsome lot have found they can usurp these guidelines and distort them to fit their own agendas of money, power, greed, or just flat out sadism. Have I missed anyone?


I would also add that millions of years ago we would explain natural phenomena over which we had no control, such as extreme weather, as a sign of the gods' pleasure or displeasure with our behaviors. If we did not "act right" or "do right" or were not "in communion" with the gods, then bad things would happen - floods, droughts, famine, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. If we acted right, did right, etc. then the gods smiled and we had fair weather and bumper crops. It was the only way we knew how to explain nature.
So would that mean that now, since science affirms nature, do we have any need for a chief executive? Since the gods no longer hold power over the behaviors of humanity, how do we teach our children to "do what is right, because it is the right thing to do"? How do we teach the cause and effect of Love and Forgiveness, Mercy and Empathy, Compassion and Peace?