Opposite. Religion is often a tool for groups to pursue their own agenda.
I don't like the idea of persecuting people for their thoughts.
Some, not all, religious people are tremendously intolerant of people with differing beliefs.
Yes but that's true of every group. It's not an indictment of the religion itself, but the people who claim it.
Actually, religious intolerance seems to be the standard from what I've seen. Most of the orthodox Jews I've met are very down on Jews who don't keep the Torah laws. And Christianity and Islam fought each other for a thousand years during the middle ages and the battle just looks like it's heating up again.
I don't think you can separate the religion from the people. The relgious movements and their books are a plan for belief and living and many times it's a very negative, narrow world that's created.
The exception would be religions who make intolerance of others a core belief of the religion. Some small Christian denominations, Muslims sects and Jewish sects believe this but it is a very unusual.
Jesus was referring to the intolerance of the Jewish leaders who wanted to keep tight control of "Salvation". The Jewish leaders believed Gentiles were unable to be Saved and did not tolerate them ie they were unclean. Jesus wiped away that notion and actually brought Salvation to them. IOW Jesus was giving away what they were selling.
Actually, salvation as in the Jewish religion is not that much of an issue. Judaism is more concerned with the everyday conduct of people than anything else. Jesus fought the Pharisees over rituals he thought were meaningless like keeping kosher ("it's not what goes into a man that counts but what comes out of him"), washing hands before meals, offering of sacrifices where the
offering should have gone to the parents (It was something about "honoring father and mother" that he quoted).
Salvation is more the concern of Christianity. Sure, in Judaism right conduct should lead to a place in what Jews call "the world to come", but I think you're applying Christian viewpoints to Judaism.
Also, Jesus fought the Saduccees too. They were the priestly caste who controlled the wealth of the temple. They fought the Pharisees. (Called the "payrushim" in Hebrew ie, the "interperators").
The Pharisees and Saducees clashed because the Pharisees thought that correct interperatation of the Torah (and that's really where Jesus differed from the Pharisees, in interperating the Torah, where Jesus believed he was the ultimate interperator, the Messiah and the Son of God, if not God himself), was the critical issue of who should rule Israel.