The recent political firestorm and public turmoil related to building a mosque in the vicinity of Ground Zero is just the latest manifestation of religion-based discrimination. But, while religious and political leaders are encouraging tolerance, it is the nature of religion, itself, that ignites and fuels this division in human society.
Religions evolved as a consequence of our natural fear and were molded by our tribal instincts. Ingrained in youth and spread by the zealotry and, in many cases, the violence of its missionaries, religion thrives on intolerance. Since its very existence depends upon the acceptance of specific beliefs and rituals, all non-believers are identified as threats to its survival. All religions have produced terrorists and, one might argue, their is a subtle terrorism at the heart of many religions; fear and guilt sustain them.
While religious leaders might openly call for tolerance, the message to their devoted followers is quite the opposite. Theirs is the one true religion and all others are false or frankly demonic. Of course, they save their most vicious attacks for those who most strongly oppose the blight of religious indoctrination and discrimination: atheists.