It's funny but it was not until I left religion that I became interested in understanding it. All of it is a bunch of crap but I like ancient Egyptian religion it's no more unbelievable than the rest. Seem's most people when they become atheist do become more interested in religion. I guess we all have our motives for studying religion but mine is not to win an argument. I guess I'm jealous that some one can tell such an unbelievable pile of crap and for some reason people eat it up. I'd like to invent a religion I'm pretty sure I can do a better job. lol. In my religion women would be treated as queens. Any smart man knows you are sure to win if you keep the women happy.
Much of our culture and past is rooted in religion. The study of religions is a valid, and, to be honest, wholly remarkable field. The important part is to view this field of study as a form of archeology. It's useful to understand who we are and where we came from, but if you try to live your life by these ancient ways, then you'll be that weird backwards guy who does everything the old fashioned and difficult way that messes everything up for the rest of us.
When I was falling away from Christianity and believing in god, I initially thought to myself, "What do I replace this with? I need to find out what belief system/religion fits me best."
And then I realized I don't NEED any religion. We humans don't need to believe in anything.
Our baseline is the observable, testable world and universe around us. Nothing more. There is NO reason to think there is a supernatural realm just as much as there is no reason for us to believe that intelligent purple creatures made of titanium live on a planet 22 light years away. If, while living life and observing what is around us, we find evidence that leads to the possibility of something supernatural, then I'm all for further testing and examination of that.
Until then, just be and live the best you can and do the best you can for the most people possible until the time comes that your consciousness disappears and the organic matter in your body stops functioning.
Every group has lots of mediocre members who simply blend into the whole, and a few bright stars like yourself that shine. No member is useless, or a waste of space/time/resources, but a few are worth the extra effort to raise up higher. I love to learn, but I try to vary my field as much as possible, from science to ancient crafts, to religion, to fiction, to odd skills, even occasionally to languages, but I never get far in many. I get too bored with it. But I very much admire those who can take a more limited range of learning and thought and progress it much farther. Yes, Atheism is becoming trendy, but that's a good thing. It means it's spreading, and it means more of those special people will take it and make it soar.
I'm studying the religions because I want to deconstruct them back to their essence and then rebuild that essence in atheist terms. It turns out that the essence is morality. This job is now done. Along with the essence are a lot of other trappings, such as: culture, social gathering, a charismatic founder (oh dear), an organization, and, erm, followers. The essence is so abstract that it seems meaningless to most non-religious people, and although it's the highest and most beautiful mystery of mysteries, it's hard to get worked up over a biological principle and a "sacred diagram". Interestingly, all the currently-religious people I've explained it to recognize it straight away.
Totally understand where you're coming from. Since admitting to myself I'm an atheist, strangely enough I've been obsessed with religion.
I guess I feel obliged to understand exactly what it is I'm rejecting, to see if I'm missing anything.
Although in my experience most religious people aren't extremely concerned with the veracity of their beliefs, almost all define themselves by them. I find this fascinating- you can understand a facet of a person just by reading about their religion.
A lot of churches are thrilled to have people ask about their theology. ASK, not debate (different thing for a different time). Subtle, simple questions are powerful, too, in leading a person to reevaluate their beliefs.
I've learned a lot from speaking with my Christian friend. She was the one who inspired me to check out religion in the first place, because of her admirable moral qualities. When she says that praying to Jesus made her flu get better, I can easily relate to this in terms of the atheist religion I've worked out, and appreciate where she's coming from. She's supplied me with some quotes from the Bible and saved me the trouble of hunting for them. The Bible is so damn long. The Dhammapada on the other hand is short and nicely organized.