Engineering Religion

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This topic is vague and open-ended.  I'm leaving it that way deliberately.  Perhaps some interesting, better defined topics will grow out of it.  Or perhaps it's too far afield from the concept of less wrong cognition to be of interest here.  So I view this topic as exploratory rather than as an attempt to solve a specific problem.

What useful purposes does religion serve?  Are any of these purposes non-supernaturalistic in nature?  What is success for a religion and what elements of a religion tend to cause it to become successful?   How would you design a "rational religion", if such an entity is possible?  How and why would a religion with that design become successful and serve a useful purpose?  What are the relationships between aspects of a religion, and outcomes involving that religion?  For example, Catholicism discourages birth control.  Lack of birth control encourages higher birthrates among Catholics.  This encourages there to be a larger number of Catholics in the next generation than would otherwise be the case,  Surely there are other relationships like this?  How do aspects of religion cause them to evolve differently over time?