I confess. I was a blinded Catholic believer when I was much younger. I was even part of the founding members of a religious organisation in school back in my high school days (I actually squirm in disbelief now). I wasn't self-righteous or anything like that (I hope) and still got along with heaps of people, regardless of their religion or belief.
Ironically when I went to DLSU, which is a known Catholic university, I got introduced to several professors who presented different ways of thinking. I met different people who were very outspoken about their beliefs - my professor in Contemporary Philosophy was an "out of the closet" Atheist, my other Philosophy professor was an Existentialist, and a classmate of mine was an Agnostic. I have never encountered such diversity!
Being a person with a very open mind, I listened and saw the validity of their arguments. I found myself leaning towards Existentialism during my first year of university - that is until I had Mr. Monera for a Religion class.
It was a Bible Exegesis class, which involves an extensive and critical interpretation of a text. In this case, we were made to pick certain books of the Bible and conduct research to determine history, tradition, and authorship of the books.
Wow, so God didn't write the Bible after all! Fantastic stuff, isn't it? Turns out that the Bible was a collection of stories written by men. These stories went through a lot of heavy editing at the First Council of Nicaea during the time of Emperor Constantine in 325 AD. During this time, a lot of the books, now knows as the Gnostic Gospels, were removed. Basically, the Council developed what we know of Christianity now and the divinity of Jesus Christ - man, but not man-like. Son of God who knew no woman, who couldn't possibly have any sort of relationship let alone a family.
From an Existentialist, I have become Agnostic. I began to read books that would question the validity of Religion and existence of God. I have been Agnostic for 11 years now and people say that it's natural progression would be turning to an Atheist.
I may be a few steps away from that now... especially since September 11 happened.
I am not saying that Religion doesn't do anything good for people. Sure, there are people who truly feel like their lives have improved because of it and best of luck to them. What I gripe about are those who feel like they are better than everyone else because of their faith and thus do evil things in the name of their God.
As Steven Weinberg, the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize winner in Physics, said, "Religion is an insult to human dignity. Without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."
The idea of a Greater Good is fantastic. Very ideal. But, if you take the scriptures literally, what you have is a racist, petty, jealous, unjust, and unforgiving God. Why would we want to emulate someone like that?
Have a chat with fundamentalist Christians and right wing Muslims and you'll see my frustration. You can never have a logical argument with these people. Both are convinced that the other is believing a lie and that they are the only ones going to heaven.
If you are open minded and secure in your personal belief, please read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. It has been on my bedside table for the past few days but it's not the best bed time book. It's guaranteed to keep you awake and think.
Also, watch the following documentaries:
The Root of All Evil? by Richard Dawkins and God On My Side by Andrew Denton.
I encourage a healthy and logical debate about this. Feel free to post your comments and I will discuss your concerns to your heart's desire. Nothing revitalizes me more than a intellectual spar.