The world is once again erupting in acts of hatred. Acts veiled by declarations of righteousness and twisted morality.
Religion is a topic that can cause great controversy. My views on religion, God and morality may not be yours.
Is a destructive force.
First off, I do not subscribe to any organized religion. I don't denounce them, I just don't believe in them. Most (if not all) organized religions were formed many centuries ago. Through the years, they evolved into instruments of control for the various societies that used them. Kings used them to guarantee obedience. To the unwashed, impoverished, they represented hope and a promise of something better than the miserable life they lived.
Modern religions still maintain some elements of this, but they try to focus on morality, community and faith (hope). Frighteningly, more and more governments and other institutes of power are using religion as their control tools. People are afraid, and fear makes religion a good tool of power. A tool that we are seeing used everywhere, including western cultures.
Religions cling to texts written centuries or millennia ago. They use these texts to justify actions, selecting the ones that work and dismissing the ones that don't. It is important to realize that these texts are not divine; they were written by men. Some may claim that these were the words of God transcribed by men, and I won't argue with that. Regardless, they were written by men, and have been transcribed by men, retranslated by men, reinterpreted by men. Every civilization has added their spin to them. This is not to say that they don't have relevance; they do. But they cannot be taken to be the only truth to live by. To do so would be to assume that God has not spoken since then, and that no wise men have existed since then. This is ridiculous.
Humans are intelligent beings. We have the capacity for great wisdom. We all, in our hearts know what is right and what is wrong. We are a social, communal species. To survive, we must cooperate. We must not kill, we must help each other, we must educate and share learning and knowledge, we must protect and preserve the elements of life that sustain us, we must love, we must minimize hate, we must strive to understand each other and our surroundings and we must go on.
When religions (and other powers) twist this knowledge to its own use, it corrupts.
Does not exist.
At least, not as an all-powerful overseer. God is probably the most confusing of all religious elements. Early stories of God would have us fear God's power. Throughout history, God has been a fickle being, able to show great mercy and issue great punishment. Modern religions have tried to focus on God as a caring, loving being not responsible for the great tragedies and horrors in the world. I certainly have an easier time with this.
But now, we see religions preaching that God takes sides. Radical religious groups do God's work by murdering countless innocents. Other's protect God's word by building walls, removing freedom, free-will and access to education.
God is frequently referred to as 'he'. I think this is rather interesting, and shows the evolution of an instrument of control created by men with ambitions of power. Certainly, if we are to believe that a God is a benevolent creator and care-giver, would it not be more appropriate to refer to 'she' as a mother figure?
In any case, we all seem to create God in our own image, and maybe that's closer to the truth than we think. Do I believe in God? No and yes. No, I do not believe in 'he' or 'she' guiding events on whims only understood by God. Yes, I do believe in God as a force of creation that somehow unifies us all, and as a force we cannot understand.
Is an act of desperation.
I cannot, will not believe that a God listens to, and selects prayers to answer. To believe this is to believe in a God that is more demonic than benevolent; more sadistic than nurturing. How can I believe in a being that would look down and say, "Oh well. Nobody prayed hard enough for her. Guess that little girl burns in that car. Tsk, tsk". How can I believe that an act of prayer would bring more home-runs to that millionaire baseball player, but no food to that boy living in squalor.
Now, I do believe prayer has a place in human comfort. Like meditation, prayer can help us focus and find paths that lead us to where we want to go. I believe there are elements within us that we don't, and may never understand, and that prayer is one way in which we can focus our senses and thoughts to achieve an end. Group prayer, brings us together as a community, and community's can do great things.
I hope exists.
Is there a heaven? Is there a hell? I don't know. Certainly, I don't believe there is a hell. Hell requires judgment. Judgment requires a judge. A judge goes against everything I believe above.
I have to believe in an afterlife. Otherwise, this life has no meaning. It may be simply what I leave behind; my thoughts, my creations, my children. And somehow, whatever it is that I am carries on through this. It may be that my spirit, my soul moves on to another level or another place.
All I know is that I have to believe in something. To do otherwise is too sad.