I have often pondered the place of Religion in our existence. It is so diverse and universal. Most cultures have some form of superstitious and supernatural belief. Along with this belief comes the rituals and rites that help solve the perceived problems that exist on this realm.
I have almost noticed that people on this forum often use religion and different faiths interchangeably. The more I think about the issue, the more I am convinced that I am against RELIGION, but not necessarily faith in a supreme being*. Most peoples issues are not with the notion of a supreme being, but rather with the actions and behaviour of people who insist that there is one. Lumping these people all together as religious.
Is there room for a faith in God without resorting to religion? And if so, then where does that place the person who has such faith? For they surely do not fit well in the religious camp, nor do they fit well in to the atheistic camp. Has anyone else experienced this dilemma? Or am I unique in my psychosis?
You might not be looking for a deconversion story as a response; but you really sound like you are at a similar point to a stage I went through. So thought I'd share a little...
Looking back... The first step in my deconversion came when I decided there was something corrupt about the church I was raised in. I still believed, so once I was old enough to choose for myself, I went to a different church. It didn't take me long to go through a few churches, each time discovering the same underlying problems. The second step came when I decided that all religions had problems; corruption, hypocrisy, ignorance, etc. I struggled with this for awhile but decided man had meddled with religion too much; I wanted nothing to do with religion or the church, but I still had my faith and my Bible. I held to this for quite some time; but once I truly read the Bible, then re-read some of it - I realized it was all a crock, all man made.
Yup. That's pretty much how my story went, too. I held onto the idea of God for a while before finally letting go. After a while though, the idea just became more and more impractical. Since the Bible was clearly man-made and full of contradictions, errors and outright bias, and every other religion in the history of the world is man-made, I finally realized the concept of God is man-made. We made God in our image (as humans).
It's really hard for me to say it's OK for people to believe in a god or gods because I'm actually not OK with children having imaginary friends. I think the imagination is a beautiful thing, but a person has to be able to differentiate between it and reality at some point in life. Just like children outgrow their belief in Santa and the Easter Bunny (not only because they gain a better grip on reality, but also because they aren't infatuated with the idea any longer), humans should outgrow their need for God.
Wouldn't we try to encourage our kids to outgrow certain behaviors? If a belief in God was harmless, I'd be OK with it (although still disapproving), but there are too many ways in which that belief infiltrates everyone's lives.
I truly understand where you're coming from, as I went through this phase, as well. My deconversion story is very similar to Johhny's. But that's not what you want to know.
There is harm in believing in a god without religion just as there is harm in believing in qi without believing in accupuncture (one of its rituals). Belief in superstition closes your mind to evidence-based reasoning. The practicing accupuncturist doesn't care whether clinical studies completely disprove their ritual or their philosophy. It doesn't shake their belief in qi. It does make them antagonistic to evidence-based medicine since they perceive it as a threat to their beliefs.
Likewise belief in, for instance, the Christian God requires acceptance of at least a portion of the Christian Bible. From this Bible, religious scholars have derived the age of the earth as 6,000 years, that humans did not evolve, and that pi is equal to exactly three. When evidence-based science disproves their religion's claims, it makes the religious practitioners antagonistic to science. This leads to the problems we are having with the education system in Texas and Louisiana.
When you begin to actively believe in things for which no evidence exists and, at least in the case of qi, overwhelming evidence exists against it, you close your mind to reason. This is why belief in a god outside of a religious framework is just as harmful intellectually as believing in a god with a religious framework.
I went through a similar period in my life, when I had rejected organized religion as fundamentally flawed, and the source of more ill than good. I spent some time with 'unorganized religion', just me and my beliefs, and when I found that even those were unsupported by (or even in contradiction to) the evidence, I shifted to a more deistic point of view. I had faith that there was something out there, some supreme being, but I also felt that mankind's religions consistently got their attempts to understand that something wrong, often horribly so. I had, at that point, faith in the watchmaker god, one that set up the universe, its laws and structure, started it running, and then stepped back and let it run without interference.
In time, with more thought, reading, and study, I shifted from deistic to pantheistic, and eventually admitted to myself that I had not evidence to support my belief in any kind of deity, and came to the position I hold now, an agnostic atheist.