Dear Rabbi, It seems to me that fear is at the heart of every religion, and fear is used to by the leaders of every religion to control those who subscribe to that religion. Can you prove me wrong?
Rather than prove you wrong, I tend to agree.
Every religion posits a dis-ease that it then sets out to cure. For Buddhism it is suffering, for Christianity it is sin, for Hinduism it is ignorance, for Islam it is pride, and for Judaism it is exile and its accompanying sense of alienation. Regardless of the specific dis-ease they promote and promise to cure, religions are united in the notion that something is wrong. And there is something wrong. What is wrong is the notion that there is something wrong.
Yes there is suffering, sin, ignorance, pride, and alienation—in this the religions are correct. Where they are mistaken is in the notion that these realities are somehow wrong, that we can and must overcome them, do away with them, find a way to escape from them.
It is our desire to escape from suffering, sin, ignorance, pride, and alienation that makes these things problematic. These states are real, but they are not problems to be solved; they are experiences to be lived.
And because we long to escape from reality we invent religions that problematize reality and promise us a way out of it: If we would do X we will get Y where Y is a life without suffering, sin, ignorance, pride, and alienation, and X is whatever the religious promise makers demand of us. As long as we cling to our desire to escape we make ourselves easy marks for those who promise a way of escape.
What is the result of all of this? Fear. Trying to live up to the demands of the priestly powerbrokers “we conduct ourselves in fear during the time of our stay on earth,” (I Peter 1:16). And this is by design: as long as we fear we will not question the reality of what we fear.