Mohsin Hamid in Dawn:
Religion, like love, is at its core about sincerity. Saying you love your spouse or your child in public as loudly as possible does not make it true. But imagine a state where everyone was encouraged, indeed coerced, to do this. By law, no one would go to work on their child’s birthday. Wedding anniversaries would be marked with televised speeches. In order to be issued with passports, childless couples and the unmarried would be forced to fill out special declarations to the effect that their status was not of their choosing.
What would happen? People would lie. In order to be accepted and get ahead, they would say one thing and believe something else. And by so doing, they would devalue truth (and indeed love) in their society. They would create an environment of hypocrisy in which those who love and those who don’t love both claim to love, where those who don’t love would be denied the chance for honest self-assessment, and where those who do love would find the words they use to express their feelings drained of meaning through rampant misappropriation. The result would be a society utterly toxic to love and to its own people.
The same is true of religion. A state that mandates religious practices, as Pakistan does, is a state that mandates hypocrisy, because the law can only govern outward behaviour. It can say that such-and-such behaviour is prohibited, but it cannot say that such-and-such belief is prohibited. And as the gap between belief and behaviour widens, hypocrisy sets in. People with beards still kill. People who cover their heads still steal. People who thank God for their victories still cheat. And because so many people do these things, the split between religion and morality becomes profound and widely accepted.