There are 2 things you have to know about religion:1) It is totally a man made invention, usually for men to exercise power and control over men and women, and 2) It really has nothing to do with the existence of God.
In 1844 a Baptist minister named William Miller pronounced that his investigation had led him to conclude that Jesus was returning to Earth very shortly and true believers had to get rid of all their earthly possessions and gather at an appointed place if they wanted to be swept up into the kingdom of heaven with God. A disciple of Miller’s named Samuel Snow divined that the exact date of this occurrence would be October 22, 1844. Thousands literally got rid of everything, met at the appointed time only to be rudely disappointed when nothing happened. Not to be discouraged Snow said that he just got the date wrong and gave a new date for this “rapture.” A study of human behavior would find it fascinating that even more thousands showed up for the second event, only of course, to be disappointed again. Yet since reality and logic seldom have anything to do with human functioning, the movement behind these false predictions kept growing and growing. Today they are known as 7th Day Adventists and claim membership in the millions.
Although raised in a Jewish household I really have no affinity for any organized religion. I remember (about 4000 years ago) when I brought my soon-to-be wife home to meet my very religious parents. Since my beautiful wife looks nothing Jewish (you might compare her to a brunette version of Bo Derek) and had a very un-Jewish sounding maiden name, my mother was convinced I was marrying a “shiksa.” She was already sticking her head in the oven ready to turn the gas on, before I could restrain her.
I do believe there is a cosmological force out there that is greater than ourselves but I don’t know what that force is. Perhaps it’s the collective energy of all living beings in the universe. Remember if there is a God in the traditional sense He would be God of a gazillion other planets with a gazillion other lives, not just planet earth. But I don’t believe that God is an old man in a long white beard wearing a white toga and sitting on a golden throne somewhere out there. Actually I think that if God did have a gender it would more likely be female since that is where the birth of new life begins.
As for organized religion I have to agree with Christopher Hitchens that it has ruined just about everything. For centuries from the Roman Empire through the Renaissance the church played the dominant role in European society. Kings and Queens with few exceptions trembled before the power of the the church which was responsible for pogroms, anti-semitism, burnings at the stake and other all-time favorites. I always wondered at the anti-semitism part since Jesus was a Jewish rabbi and all his disciples were Jews. There was no Christianity in the time of Jesus. Of course I always felt the the Jewish hierarchy made a terrible blunder by not recognizing Jesus as at least a prophet if not the messiah. I mean his teachings were very enlightened, such as-let him who is without sin cast the first stone. Because of this blunder they deprived me of all the fun stuff like presents the gentile kids were getting at Christmas. Even the Muslims recognize Jesus as a prophet in the Quran. And don’t get me started on the contradictions in the old and new testament. Is it an eye-for-an-eye or do you turn the other cheek. And the Green Bay Packers as good as they are would have a hard time repeating their Super Bowl win if they couldn’t touch the “pigskin” as admonished in the old testament.
Years ago I knew a man who was converting from Christianity to Judaism. (Usually it’s the other way around.) Seems he was marrying a Jewish girl and like my parents, her parents had a “thing” about that. I told him if he did convert he was entitled to 2000 years of retroactive persecution. Because the hallmark of organized religion or at least fundamentalist religion is intolerance. I guess fundamentalists believe that the only way to save your soul is to use coercion to force you into their belief system. Such is the state of the human condition in today’s world.