Starting with The Velveteen Rabbit, winding through the Bible, and ending up somewhere around Greek mythology, a conversation with a fellow atheist grew increasingly uncomfortable as she insisted that all fiction is dangerous because too many believe it to be true and act accordingly. Too, she felt justified in acting violently both in deed and word to rid the world of what she considers a plague of delusion.
I would agree that religion is largely based in that which never existed, and it would be great if more religious people focused on that which does exist instead of crediting and blaming that which does not. There are those religious, however, who have stepped far beyond their personal beliefs and embraced the needs of their fellow human beings. How is this possible when religious belief is so myopic? It’s possible because even though religion is myopic, people are not.
The rabbit in The Velveteen Rabbit probably never existed, but a few things in that story do in fact exist: dependence, scarlet fever, hope, and love. The moral of the story isn’t to hold the rabbit up as a god and hold scarlet fever up as the devil; it is to hold love in high esteem. If you do come across someone who holds the rabbit up as a god, how are you any better a person for ripping the rabbit's head off in the name of reality? And what have you done for those in the world who suffer?
Yes, religion has been used to perpetrate some of the world’s worst crimes against humanity, but just as religion is not the source of all things right, it isn’t the source of all wrongdoing either. People are the source of that which is right and/or wrong, and it has never mattered to the recipient or victim whether the purveyor of the deed believed in God or got their idea from an episode of Friends.