The rituals of religion are shared and those who participate in them are drawn into another kind of relationship with their neighbours than those that prevail in the world of "getting and spending". People hunger for this kind of membership and the power of religion resides in its ability to provide it. In the rituals of a religion all worldly differences are overcome: the Sultan bows in submission beside his subjects and the good-natured fool takes communion beside the crook who cheated him. The ritual shines on both of them from a place beyond their ordinary experience and includes them in a community whose home is in some way not of this world. And in the Christian case the ritual records a primeval sacrifice, born of love.In addition to its ability to provide consolation and to help people deal with "metaphysical loneliness," Scruton contents that religion also can be an incubator of fundamental virtues like humility and justice, as well as reinforce the principle of human equality:
[Religion] contains idiocy, prejudice, ignorance and stupidity in all the proportions that these are displayed by mankind as a whole. But that is its great virtue: it can draw people, whatever their talents and intellectual powers, into a shared apprehension of their condition. It can teach humility and justice, and remind the one with power, knowledge, wealth or artistic talent, that he is the equal of the one beside him in the moment of worship, however ignorant, weak or sinful that person might be. And to both of them it offers hope.I would add one point to Scruton's argument -- that religion can serve as a counterweight to both radical individualism and overwhelming state power. Religion at its best calls human beings beyond themselves to care for others and to be concerned not with their own wants and desires, but with transcendent moral truth. For the same reason, religion can serve as a balance against the power of the state -- when the state demands immoral action, religion can provide the intellectual framework and moral tradition to thwart tyranny. Martin Luther King, Jr., Oscar Romero, Franz Jäggerstatter, Lech Walesa, and others too numerous to mention testify to this fact. This point is so strong that even Christopher Hitchens has acknowledged it.