Under the cover of religion
The scene is familiar to all of us. In the film, someone (sometimes the good guy, sometimes the bad) is trying to escape. It appears that he will be caught, but just before his adversaries close in on him, he manages by means of activity or costume to blend in with the other people around him. He escapes because those seeking him are not looking for the appearance which he has now assumed. His cover ensures that he will escape notice.
In a similar way, much wickedness is done with apparent impunity while disguised in the garb of religious activities. It almost seems that if one cites a few verses of Scripture from the Bible and employs a vocabulary sprinkled with the terminology of religion, there are many people who will assume that the speaker is godly. For others, the wearing of a title such as "Reverend" or "Pastor" is enough to ensure that one’s behavior will not be closely scrutinized or criticized.
As a result of this gullibility or an unwillingness to evaluate the works of others (see Matthew 7:15-20), religion has often been used as a cover for unholy activities. For some, it is the opportunity for the satisfaction of greed. Blessings come in as the money goes out…of the mark’s wallet. Some "ministers" use the camouflage of religion to prey on unsuspecting women. We are probably all familiar with stories of incredible violence committed against people whose only crime is that they are affiliated with a different religious group; such behavior is justified under the cover of "religious fervor."
As already suggested, we can know the nature of the plant by the fruit that it bears (Matthew 7:15-20). Jesus identified the Pharisees of the first century as a group who gave the outward appearance of being righteous by their ostentatious religious ritual and yet they took advantage of the helpless (Matthew 23:14). Jesus described them as being righteous in appearance only; inside they were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (vs. 27-28).
Religious activity may be used to cover the true nature of some people’s character and/or behavior, but in the final judgment, God will see right through such window-dressing. It may seem that men commit wickedness with impunity in this world, but everything is naked and open in His sight (Hebrews 4:13). God is not fooled by any religion which is practiced merely as a cover. For this reason, it is important that we are not only able to recognize the genuine article, but that we ourselves PRACTICE a religion that is pure and undefiled (James 1:26-27).
I am not sure who is in the worst condition – the people who don’t recognize wickedness dressed in the trappings of religion or those who have seen religion used as a cover and are understandably skeptical of "organized religion." Unfortunately, the skeptics sometimes become suspicious of everyone associated with "religion" or "church" and sacrifice their own opportunity for a relationship with God.