This is why religious institutions in all countries and all societies have put enormous energies into building artistic superstructures for their faiths. The European Cathedrals,
the Daoist Temples,
the Islamic Mosques,
the Sikh Gurdwaras,
etc, all embody the unifying principles of the faith. Moreover, the rituals, music and art of these religions are also not mere epiphenomenon but absolutely essential to the way these institutions created a collective aesthetic vision for the people.
If, contrast, the ideal is to make people feel like ants about to be squashed by the boot-heel of the "master race", we design buildings that are huge and inhuman looking, like in Nazi Germany.
In liberal democracies, where no such unifying force exists, the marketplace ends up in control. That means we end up with the sort of ugly mess that is known as a "strip mall"---Walmarts next to MacDonalds next to Speedy Muffler,
or, miles and miles of vile suburban sprawl.
What I am getting at is the idea that morality is ultimately a branch of aesthetics. That is that ultimately the only real reason we pursue a difficult moral path as opposed to simply the line of least resistance is because we find the life lived on moral values to be more beautiful than the one that follows mere expediency. And just as some people have no sense of taste, so some people have a terrible sense of morality. Religions exist to a large extent to codify and perpetuate a specific aesthetic tradition, one that has huge impact on how we order our lives and related both to other people and the greater world around us.
It might be that we can replace religion with something else, but as a practical fact, I simply cannot think of what that might be. If we replace it with politics, we end up with totalitarianism or some sort of Ayn Randesque utopian/dystopian vision of the market. History teaches us that whenever a government has tried to do away with religion, the movement supporting it increasingly takes on the trappings of the religion that it sought to eliminate.
Please note, however, that even though I see an inevitable role for religion in human society, I do not think that its present form is viable. The excesses that Hitchens catalogues in his book simply cannot be ignored and they flow directly from certain key elements in religion as it currently exists. If it is going to continue---and I cannot see how it cannot---it is going to have to change mightily. Perhaps in a future post I will try to identify what religion might look like if it is going to co-exist with the modern world.