It seems to be a fact of life that we can't get rid of religions. They just seem to fill an empty place that exist in many people's minds. However, could it be possible to change the existing more old-fashioned religions to better suit the needs of the modern societies?
It is already quite obvious that many of those modern world-religions that were born in the early agricultural societies are in practice not good tools in post-industrial societies anymore.
Replacing wholly even the very worst of the current religions is simply a quite impossible task. Humanity seems just not to have matured enough for the creation of belief-systems that would be judged on their own real merits. Men are seemingly still not ready to judge beliefs based on how well they really do really serve the needs of humans, human societies and humanity at large.
The claim for divine source simply still is one of the main reasons for the success of all of these existing hundreds of competing ideas of 'divine truth'. People clearly do seem to want this kind of 'divine certainty'. In fact, just these claims do still give religions a real competitive edge over other human ideologies. There is a clear need for having a set of rules in a society that do not change mid-game. In the past religions have even offered safety nets against the whims of autocratic rulers and a safe home-base for a return to normality after different kinds of upheavals in society.
People simply seemingly suspect religious ideas if their real human origins are seen too clearly. This is why cults are so easy to detect. They have not had time to shroud their origins in the mist of myths, where the human authors of the religion are not simply seen as human authors anymore.
However, even Mormonism is seen as a quite credible religion now after enough time has passed. This is true, even if this strange religion was founded by a convicted con-man. So, even the fact that there does exist hundreds of competing 'divine revelations' does not bother a true believer, as others are simply classed as false. The one that you have been brought because of accidents of history (or sometimes by basis of personal taste in the United States) is the Only Right One.
All this does not mean that there would be many wise and wonderful ideas in modern world-religions. Of course, there are. Successful religions are normally a result of a group effort of often very intelligent people. They have tried to convey the parts of then current available wisdom that they have seen as important.
However, the world and the needs of individuals and society change. However, some religions clearly do not respond to this change as well as others. A major reason for this is unfortunately just the level of belief in the divine and unmovable nature of the central ideas of the religion. Fortunately, many religions have already changed even dramatically during their history. It is quite probable that change will happen in the future also.
The fact is that our world just is much more stable now than during most of previous human history. The secular basic society and its rules can already provide the basic stability that humans have traditionally sought after in religions.
Humanity as a whole can now even dramatically change the world which it does inhabit. None of the current world religions does address this major issue. On the other hand, the more and more important idea of unity of the whole human race is deeply embedded in the core ideas of Humanism.
The only realistic way forward just could be at least try to push the current crop of world-religions to modernity. The spread of humanistic ideas has already changed Christianity even immensely in the modern times. These very very slow , but big changes are often hard to spot. However, the general acceptance of basic humanistic ideals has been going on the background in the Western world for centuries. Most of all it has changed the western religions for the better during the last centuries.
Perhaps we would just need a wave of 'New Humanism' that would initiate change also in the religions like Islam, that have largely until now been left untouched by the general spreading of basic humanistic ideas to this day.
(This piece was completely refurbished on 15th of January, 2013)