What makes every religion so different? Why are there people who are extremists when it comes to religion and others who are willing to find out about other religions? Why do people take religion to extreme levels when everyone is still human whether they believe in the god or in nothing, whether they believe in science or religion or both? What are your thoughts on this?
Religions are not "just religions"; they are cultures as well. Just try moving somewhere that people do not have the same religion as you, and you will soon discover how they differ from you in many, many perspectives. Because religions ingrain a certain cultural behavior and beliefs into people, there are conflicts among people since each group feels it is in the right, or are encouraged to perceive others as "the enemy."
Often religion is intertwined with other motives, as well. Religion is seldom the only explanation for conflicts, there are usually economic, demographic, political, and other factors at work that either exacerbate religious differences or are exacerbated by them. So while I agree that religious extremism is a destructive force, I would argue that it cannot be understood in isolation.
Religion is religion. What it all comes down to is that we all worship the same being, just in different ways . . . so what's the rub? We ought to allow all men the right to worship who, how, or what they may and others should allow us the same priviledge. Unfortunately, most wars are fought for four main reasons: money, land, power, and religion. It's really a sad, sad thing!
Family and tradition are a big part of how people identify themselves in the world. People want to feel accepted and to belong to someone or something--and this extends to non-religious things like businesses, sports teams and the like. Why do sports fans get in heated fights outside in the parking lots at game time? It's because they are loyal to their teams to the point of fighting. This is true with anything that humans attach themselves to. Rival gangs get upset if they see the wrong color approach them! It is definitely a human flaw to tie ourselves to certain groups to the point of fanaticism or extremism. I think that true worshippers of any religion do not engage in extremism to gain power and control over others. The true worshippers are those who are peaceful and live what their religion teaches rather than judging others who aren't in it.
I think it's the same reason that some people are conservative and some are liberal. People are simply different. There's not a lot of reason to expect us to believe the same things or have the same values. You can have people from the same family who have very different views on religion so I really think it's to some extent born into our personalities.
My thoughts on religion is that it is something which many who are involved in religion tend to be staunch about. A person's religious beliefs are something he or she takes very seriously. That said, the religion chosen attracted them for a reason (same ideology). Therefore, any religion which speaks against the person's thoughts would not seem right to them.
On the whole, there are not too many things which people can hold tightly to anymore (politics and religion aside). Therefore, people tend to protect the ideas which bring them closer to other groups and separate them at the same time.
About the idea that we "all worship the same being."
This might be true of Muslims, Christians, and Jews; maybe even for Hindus. It might even be true for Atheists and Communists, who spend a lot of time talking about God and her supposed nonexistence, but I doubt that it is true for Buddhists, Confucians, Taoists, or Yorubans.
About the ancient nature of religious texts
Communism is a relatively new religion. It's intolerance and violence probably set a record for death and destruction in the twentieth century.
Seems to me that war is organised theft. It has nothing to do with religion, any more that it has to do with any other part of culture, except for wealth. War's association with religion might provide a justification, but the cause must be theft.
I think the major reason for religious conflict is that religions are based on unalterable, ancient texts supposedly from the Divine Creator of The Universe. And religions encourage their believers to believe their special book to the exclusion of all other things.
Unfortunately, there are many 'holy books' and they all completely disagree with each other. All believers of all faiths believe that their book is a unique and perfect set of instructions for the organisation of humanity. This leads to conflict between religious groups.
You mention that many religious people are tolerant, and this is true, but many people/societies are not tolerant and in their hands, a 'god-given' set of intolerant pseudo-laws is a very, very dangerous thing.
Rather foolishly, on youtube last week, I watched an unedited video of a man cutting another man's head off with a knife, because his victim had renounced his belief in Islam. The Koran says that if you renounce Islam you should be killed, so this guy was doing what his 'god' told him to do. And I'm sure he believes he is a very good person and that god is pleased with him, and you will never convince him otherwise, because his holy book can never be wrong.
Religious wars happen mainly because they are based on texts written 1000s of years ago by men, not Gods. And they are wrong, self-righteous and intolerant.