Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let's begin.
Religion. The mere mention of the word gets people fired up. And why? Because for most people, it's a very large part of who they are, the core of their belief system, and for lack of a better word, it's what "controls" their mindset, in their dealings with other people, and with life in general. It doesn't matter what country you live in, or what you do for a living, everyone has some sort of "system" of morals they believe in, things you do, and things you don't do, and most importantly, the belief in someone, a spiritual being, a "god", that has "control" over everything. Well, no, even that doesn't cover it, because there are some religions that think no one is in control. And some that think there are many "beings" in control. And some that think it's the stuff here on earth that we "answer" to, or that are sacred, and should be deemed just as alive and sentient as ourselves. Still others believe that we are just here, on our own, but that we get help from spiritual beings that are more "evolved" than us, but are not "gods". The list goes on and on.
To confuse things even further, within the same religious group, there may be several dozen different "denominations" or "sects", all who profess to believe in the same basic doctrine, but their activities and practices are different, as is usually their interpretation of their given religion's sacred text. All the mainstream religions have these "books", usually thousands of years old, supposedly written by the hand of their chosen "god" or a prophet who had the ear of that "god". They usually have guidelines on how we as humans are supposed to live, how to treat each other, and how we should deal with things should we find others who do not follow the same ideas. So, when different people, of different religious beliefs come in contact with each other, there are usually problems, and violence often ensues. Some of the books say that those that do not believe should be summarily executed. Others just say that everyone should be "converted" to that belief system, or suffer dire consequences in the "afterlife".
The question I have then, is religion a good thing for us to have? Should we trust in something so strongly that it moves us to try to control what other people do and think? I firmly believe that everyone is entitled to believe what they choose to believe, and that no one here on this earth is above anyone else, and has the right to choose for anyone else what they can and cannot do, or what they themselves choose to believe. Religion is what makes people do just that however, and it's so bad, it's become part of our systems of government as well. There's no such thing as a true democracy, because even in THIS country, the people who started things had a belief system of their own that pervaded everything that they deemed "right" and "wrong", so the system of government that they built followed those beliefs, even to this day. There were no other religious practices represented in the forming of the government, and while it is designed to provide representation for ALL people, the majority rules, and therefore, if the majority of people belong to one particular religious group, their ideas win. But why can't we have a government not based on ANY religion's ideas?
One big reason I can think of is that it would be difficult to completely separate religious beliefs from the making of law. People use their own moral code to create laws, and their moral code comes straight from their religious beliefs. It's like saying that you could create a law about murder, without thinking about whether or not you think it is wrong, and what penalties should be paid should a person commit murder. Each of us has an idea on that, and every one of us gets that idea from what we believe in our religious practice. I think some laws could be considered as "common sense", such as that law about murder, I mean, it doesn't take any conviction to any "god" to say it's probably not a good idea if the populace is allowed to murder each other without penalty, that would be called "anarchy", and there would be chaos.
What I'm talking about however is making law about things that, in my mind at least, ought to be a personal choice of the individual, and not the choice of those in government, or any group of individuals that finds that choice offensive to their own beliefs. In this country, it's things like who can marry, while in other countries, it's things like who have jobs or own a business. Personally, I think the government has no right to make those decisions, as they do not affect the populace as a whole, but are rather the choice of each citizen individually. But those religious beliefs creep into the minds of those who make the laws, and then therefore, the laws in essence ARE that religion. As a matter of fact, I just read today that the word "religion" in some ancient languages was synonymous as the word "law". The pervading religion was in fact the "law" of the day. But should it be that way for us today?
Many people in ancient times did not know how to read and write for themselves, and so they depended on their leaders to give them the direction they needed on what was acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Religion gave them that. They knew exactly where they stood in the grand scheme of things, and what was expected of them in their society. But today, with the internet, and the ability of global communication, and education systems that have most citizens able to read and write for themselves, is it really necessary for our governments to decide what is right and wrong for us as individuals? I think not.
There's no easy answer to the "religion" question. Some things about religion are great, it gives us a moral compass, it gives us something to share with our fellow believers, and it's very good for humans in general to feel like there is something out there to strive for. But when it is used against others of differing beliefs, I see no good coming out of it. Only hatred, bigotry, and violence. All through history we see it. Wars have been started and fought over religion. This god or that god's name has been used in the subjugation, torture, and mass murder of millions of innocent people. Everyone's common sense sees that in retrospect, those supposedly religious acts were in fact atrocities against mankind. But what if no one is killed, or tortured? What if they are just prevented from making a choice that should be theirs, because of a religious government? Is that any LESS a travesty?
What I wish is that people could and would see PAST their own religious beliefs, and realize that some things are not their place to choose for someone else. We've even got big businesses with religious affiliations trying to make laws now. They come out saying that they support one decision over another, to attempt to sway those in the government to vote that same way. And indeed to try to sway the public to see it their way too. But it's still a religious issue. There is no cause for any business, whether private or public, to become involved in a law that pertains to a personal choice. NONE. Leave the people alone, let them do what they want, as long as it does not harm anyone else. That's just common sense. They might as well come out and tell us that it should be a law that we can't eat where we choose, we can only eat at THEIR establishment, because the others are "wrong". It's a personal choice that should not be dictated to me by anyone, or otherwise, we don't live in a free country at all. Let's just have them tell us what car we can own, or where we're allowed to live, and better yet, let's have them tell us in what profession we will work. Yeah, seems moronic, sure, no one would live with that. But it's ok with us to let the government tell us who we can marry? Really? Wow, that's pretty amazing. I could have sworn it was my choice who I picked out as a spouse. Oh well, I guess they'll pick me someone that suits me, and I'm sure we'll get along just fine.
Makes sense, right? That's religion for you. Sometimes it's good, but at times like this, all I can say is that it's BAD, very bad. Let's keep our religions to ourselves shall we? I have mine, you have yours. You have your personal decisions, I have mine. Can't we all just leave it at that?