Abram, who later became Abraham and fathered what would become Judaism, Christianity and Islam, left his home because he was fed up with the local religion. So he took off and started a new one. And it has continued in much the same way since then.
The fact is that there are some astoundingly good people who are religious. The three Abrahamic religions are based on noble principles of justice and charity. Most people who devote their lives to their religion practice those principles to a greater degree that the average person. Critics of religion who point to all the evil done in the name of God by religion naturally provoke the sincere souls who practice the humanitarian aspects of their faith and participate in a community of others who do the same.
That religion has corrupt, evil practitioners no more makes it an inherently malignant institution than Tammany Hall made American democracy inherently malevolent. It is, however, undeniable that lots of very, very bad people do very bad things in the name of their religion, while claiming they are doing the work of God or Allah.
But in the increasingly heated debate between atheists and defenders of traditional religious practice, there is yet another approach.
Religion abhors atheism, but does God? If God lives, He is not an imaginary friend who ceases to exist if you don’t believe in Him. God can employ atheists to His purpose just as He does believers. In fact, atheists are frequently more moral, better people than many who profess religious beliefs.
God does not require worship and he does not require one insignificant being in His incomprehensibly large universe to defend his reputation from another.
The biblical story of Babel in the Book of Genesis describes God’s confounding the language of the peoples of the earth, ”that they may not understand one another's speech.” But people have the capacity to learn other languages. What they can learn but not accept is another’s creed.
|Tower of Babel|
The founders of the first monotheistic religion understood how codification of religious practice countered God’s design that our relationship with Him should be evolutionary. Judaism separated the Written Law, consisting of the Five Books of Moses, the books of the Prophets, and Psalms, from the Oral Law. Jewish tradition teaches that the penalty for writing the Oral Law was death. The motive being that old beliefs and traditions were supposed to die out as our progressive comprehension made them irrelevant.
The Babylonian Talmud was recorded in violation of the law to preserve knowledge that Diaspora Jews feared would be lost. By doing so, they created a template changing Judaism from an evolving body of understanding into a time capsule of antiquated rituals. And all major religions operate from similar templates.
If we are God’s children, then evolution can be seen as the maturation and education of mankind. Religion is the invention of answers of which the inventors have no way of knowing. As a caveman would not be able to comprehend the principles of advanced physics, we are far from the ability to comprehend neither the nature nor the will of God as it applies to the universe. Yet the arrogant presumption of that capacity is the embodiment of what religion represents.
To criticise religion is not a denigration of religious people. But just as Marxism has individual adherents who are good people, in practice, that system always leads to totalitarianism. So is religion a poison tree that sometimes produces beautiful fruit.
This is not an argument to discard faith. It is an argument to have faith in God and His ability to guide you personally and directly without an intermediary.
Every soul is its own cathedral, each mind its own bible. As God’s creations, we have the individual capacity to be a prophet and messiah to ourselves, if only we learn to listen and to use the gifts He gave to all of us.