I am taking a class this quarter on Religions of China and Japan. Its a pretty good class, and we are currently studying Buddhism, which is quite interesting. My teacher made an offhand comment today that caught my attention; he said that Monasteries and Churches were essentially the first corporation. That is, no one person held control of the property of the corporation, but it rather belonged to "the Church" as a rather amorphous entity, and the dominant institution of that age.
For anyone who has not heard of it, you should check out a movie called "The Corporation" (link). It is a documentary which psychoanalyzes the corporation as a human being, which it is under the law. The conclusion that is reached is that the corporation is a psychopath, an entity which is incapable of self-recrimination, and is by definition a blame-mitigating device.
This has some interesting parallels to organized religion... what do you think?