Hmmm....your basic point seems to be along the lines of the standard religion being the "opium of the masses" type argument - religion largely be designed to keep the common people in line.
Originally Posted by BlueWing
Yes and no. In regards to Catholicism - or even Christianity in general, this does not entirely apply. It's often noted that in contrast to other Near Eastern traditions, the Biblical tradition involves man continously questioning and even confronting God at various times.
Questioning different aspects of the universe, and thus understanding the nature of God, has always been an important element to the Christian intellectual tradition. Reason and faith are not enemies, but rather allies.
For the last 50 years or so, it's now well-established among scholars on the importance of Christianity on the development of science as we know it today.
Concerning the political implications; well Christianity has always held great skepticism towards earthly authority. Linda C. Raeder provides a good summary of this in "Augustine and the Case for Limited Government":
"Augustine was the first major philosopher to reject the deeply normative politics of classical thought and its conception of the state as the highest achievement of social existence. For Aristotle, the polis was the “perfect community”—the fulfillment of human association and the precondition for the cultivation of intellectual and ethical excellence. Cicero too defined the state in normative terms; a “republic,” he maintained, was an “assemblage [of men] associated by a common acknowledgement of right and by a community of interests.”3 To the classical mind, human flourishing was inextricably entwined with the flourishing of the state; personal and political fulfillments were symbiotic and inseparable.4 Not exactly the mentality conductive to an authoritarian regime now isn't it? Leo XIII wrote extensively about this in his encyclical on Human liberty. In order for liberty to truely exist, one must adhere to a principle higher than the state, and that principle most often is provided by religion.
Augustine, the mystical Christian sage, was not impressed with such views. For he held a higher allegiance—to his God—along side which the human state and its strictly secular concerns paled to insignificance. Moreover, he held no illusions regarding the essence of political authority—coerciveness. Coercive rule was, for him, a necessary aspect of human existence but certainly not one worthy of reverence..... "
Christianity teaches that man is sinful, therefore a leader cannot be endowed with absolute powers. This was very much the case during the Medieval period, where the power of Kings were actually significantly limited, especially by the Church.
In terms of social doctrine, the Catholic Church has always insisted on "subsidiarity", ie power concentrated at the lowest levels possible, so as to limit the power of the government.
By contrast, as many historians now acknowledge, as secularism gained ground, the old notions of human sinfulness(ie imperfect) were also swept aside, replaced by the notion that humans could perfect themselves through reason. And thus government itself should govern through reason. It was under this that we saw the rise of "Enlightened Despotism", where rulers essentially centralized power to an extent unthinkable during Medieval times.
And of course it was from "Enlightened Despotism" that the origins of the totalitarian state arise.
Yet this isn't even restricted to Christianity. Chinese Emperors ruled under the Mandate of Heaven. Yet that mandate declared that a ruler must be just in order to obtain it. If a ruler wasn't just, then the people were obligated by this mandate to overthrow it.
And so many other cases. Secularism has proven more susceptible to brutal authoritarian measures than religion.