In the beginning, let us suppose there was god and then came the universal atom. There was an explosion and a lot of coming together, solar furnaces lighting and burning out over ages until primates on a verdant rock in the backwoods of the universe discovered the existence of the divine. In the ages that followed this discovery, the discovery of god drove the innovation of the written language as its primary purpose. Many of the most cynical people I've spoken to credit religion with terrorism and atrocity, but it is my position that religion is not to blame for those things. Consider for a moment the psychological concept of conditioning, which is concerned with concepts like stimulus-response and reinforcement. If we now consider the characteristics of evil, we can reason something interesting about the human condition. It would be easy to take what is not mine, but usually wrong. Yet I am rewarded, and someone else is punished. If I give to someone in charity, I make a sacrifice and someone else gains. It's as if I have reversed the behavior of stealing and punished myself. Is it not true, then, that psychology would on brief examination conclude that human beings are conditioned toward the easier, more rewarding behavior? It is only in being punished for having done no wrong that we begin to understand the merits of good deeds, otherwise humanity appears to be conditioned toward evil. A society where selfishness is embraced would be a society in which every member of is free to thin the herd. I consider such a situation unsustainable. It is reasonable to me that religion exists partly to educate the people on the merit of good deeds. Rules were needed and an authority was needed to enforce them. Who made that determination: god or man? We know from scripture that man wrote it down and that most of the logic that suggests it was divinely inspired is circular in nature. If society is changed from selfishness toward good deeds, a new problem emerges: it becomes larger and larger. This appears to be another purpose for religion: establish lasting control over the populace and create a source of authority. This raises a big question: was it god's idea, or was god an invention of ancient society? There are plenty of people who claim to be spiritual but not religious. This implies that they are aware of something supernatural, but not because of religious teaching. I'm sure many of the people who make this claim don't understand the implication, but I refuse to believe they all have the same failing. The idea of god is an easy one to dismiss as a delusion of some kind, but the existence of all those people and so many different religions complicates things. Do they sense something I can't? I spent the last few months engaging such people in discussion, trying to locate the origin of their spirituality. I'm disappointed to say that most of them offered fallacies or bravado in response. My questions appear to be received as a threat and it's hard to conclude that would be the case in persons who are committed to their beliefs. There has been a common thread to those beliefs, however: the answer is "unknowable." This poses a problem. It starts as a semantic problem: how can something that is clearly already known by someone be unknowable? It appears to be an idea designed to excuse the believer from the duty of asking questions. Can there be something "real" that can never be "known?" Accepted definitions of "real" call for verifiable existence, which suggests that the answer can only be that there can be nothing real that can never be known. I would propose to them that they have experienced something internally that may or may not be some kind of a delusion and that whatever it is, it must be a knowable thing if it is in fact real. More simply: if we grant that it is not a delusion, we must concede the idea that it can never be known by anyone. Therefore, I must continue attempting to discern the true nature of the spiritual. The truth continues to be that spirituality arose in many places at different times and that religion is not necessary for an understanding of it. Today, religion ultimately exists as something of a crutch in most cases. It does not encourage us to ask questions, but instead insists the answers are written down for all to see. Most of the original scripture designed for ancient cultures is now irrelevant, but it remains in the scripture regardless of that. In the modern age, religion is sometimes used to manipulate voters into supporting oppressive social policy and other times used to radicalize the angry and aggrieved into violent instruments of hateful destruction. Of course, that is unfortunately not news; it has happened before. Is religion the root cause of that destruction? When the terrorist blows himself up in the name of his god and murders innocents, it is most likely because he is angry about some wrong and committed to retribution. In his case, religion was not the cause. When the evangelist appears at funerals to protest the (irrelevant, at that point) sexuality of the dead, it is plausible that he considers his protest essential to the morality of society. In his case, the scripture may be responsible, but it is more likely how he chooses to interpret the scripture that is the problem. Unless we are gods ourselves, there is nothing divine about those problems. Certainly nothing directly attributable to religion. Is religion accountable? Perhaps, to the extent that it still exists to be used for manipulation. If there is a god, I don't know anything true about it. I wouldn't even know if he is responsible for creation. The nature of god could be completely unlike the typical description of a divine immortal being. For all I know, god is the spark of life itself. The catalyst, and nothing more. I don't know if such a god stays with us after we are given life. Maybe it does. Maybe it is at the core of all life that continues to exist. The answer - if there is one - continues to be more unbelievable than anything my imagination can conceive. edit: I seek criticism. Philosophers: tear it apart. edit2: although there are several much longer posts about, since it was asked for, here is your summary... tl;dr: * Religion is blamed for evils in society. * It apparently exists to counterbalance evils and as an instrument of social control. * If there is god, it must have preceded religion. * I recommend you read the paragraph about the "unknowable." Starting with the sentence before "This poses a problem." In short, the conclusion: if we grant the supposed "unknowable" is a true experience, we must also grant that it is knowable to someone, somewhere, eventually. * Moderation exists and is the norm in religion, but... * Religion is often used as a tool to control people and convince them to do bad things. * We should not blame religion for how it is used, we should blame the people who are using it.