Many historians and philosophers believe that religion is a form of informal social control. Other groups that are a form of informal social control are education system, unions, clubs, service organizations, and political action groups.
Formal social controls are found in crime and punishment where the rules are defined by the governing group or head and punishments are well defined for infractions, such as, stealing, speeding, assualt, etc.
Both kinds of social control benefit society as a whole and give people purpose and directions. All groups have either stated rules and expectations or implied requirements. This benefits both the group, members of the group or society as a whole.
Religion is a take it or leave it proposition. You can belong, and if you like the structure, you can work to make the goals and direction of the group internalized and therefore a part of your personality. In this country, you are not compelled to belong. You make that choice yourself. In this sense, social control is not a negative thing at all, but is a positive thing both for individuals, religious organizations and usually for society as a whole.
Most religions promote giving and assisting members of our society that need help, food, clothing, housing, emotional support, and generally allow members of the community to belong to something bigger than themselves. They also teach values and lessons that are aimed at spiritual experiences. This form of social control benefits us all and to me is not a negative thing at all, it is more a positive thing.
Some people choose to believe that their way is the only way and that all others are wrong. This comes with any organized group and is a phenomena known as ethnocentrism. Extremists cannot accept others as they are. This is normally not part of the Christian experience and rarely is a condition of informal groups.
Even though I am not a member of any organized religion at this time, I am glad that we have them and see a lot of the good that they do for the community. This informal method of social control has wide ranging positive effects on our communities and society in general.