What are your views on religion? Do you affiliate with one and do you think it's an overall positive force on the human condition? Would society be better without it?
Oh boy. Get ready for a book..
If most people involved in religions actually practiced the real concepts behind the religion, we would be ok. A moral code for living life, kindness, dedication. These are fine concepts, and most (not all) religions have these concepts somewhere at the core of them. However, people have a way of perverting the true messages of religion for their own benefit, and because they are power-hungry. It is just the way of people.
But since there are so many people who do not know how to think for themselves, and who are desperate, desperate, desperate for a quick and easy solution to their suffering and greed, religions quite literally tend to bank on that. Then there are "christians" who spread nothing but hatred and actual wished/realized death on any number of other humans. For these reasons, the world as we know it would be better if religion as we know it were abolished.
I personally think religions are fascinating because of this power they wield. They make otherwise good people bad. They make weak people think they are strong in a very dangerous way.
They make people more at peace with their lives, and particularly their deaths- My mother works in Hospice and she says one thing is for sure, no matter what the religion or belief system, the people who know they are going to die and have real "faith" or whatever you want to call it, go more peacefully.
The bare-bones definition of spirituality that I like to subscribe to is anything intangible, or "other-wordly." That's why folk lore, talk of fairies and dragons and unicorns, paganism, witchcraft, dungeons and dragons, astrology, mysticism, the list goes on.. can oftentimes be viewed in a 'religious' sense. I don't necessarily think that's very realistic, but it makes sense why people would get to that thought process when you think about it.
I personally am not a part of any organized religion, but I do have my own strong moral code and "belief system" if you want to call it that. I am very spiritual, in fact. I believe there is such a thing as spirit, and I believe, hesitantly, in God. I do not believe in God the way almost anyone else does, so I usually don't even tell people that. But since I have some time to explain myself here, I will go into more detail. I think of spirit as a force that we can never come face to face with, but we feel in a very real sense. It is present and stronger in some places and environments and people. It is love, light, positivity, kindness, more love, comfort, purpose. We can tap into it whenever we'd like, as long as we keep open our hearts. I have also done energy work, walked a peace pagoda, meditated.
If I were to pick a religion to be a part of, though I don't think I ever will, it would be Quakerism. Let me tell you what my understanding of Quakerism is. You may very well be familiar with it, but since the vast majority of people aren't, please don't be offended if I 'school you' for a few moments. The way most people know about Quakerism (Quaker oats guy aside) is that most of the stops on the underground railroad were run by Quakers. They also were at the forefront of prison reform when it first started - in those days it was to make treatment of criminals more humane at the time of corporal punishment. To this day, a large percentage of Quakers are extremely active in social and other humanist justice. A good rule of thumb is.. What would a hippie do? That's what a Quaker would do. They were eating vegan and "raw" diets before it became a fad. They were thinking about recycling and sustainable energy for as long as those concepts have existed.
Quakers have a very direct relationship with God. He is not that big angry untouchable force all powerful in the sky, He is actually within you. Quakers believe in "the light within." This light represents all that is good, and positivity, love, and kindness. Quakers also believe in the value of simplicity. They don't necessarily say you shouldn't have electronics or anything like that, but when you focus your energy on too much superficial shit, how can you really tap into the spirit as successfully?
The "service" is this: Quakers in a certain town, or borough in NYC, meet on Sunday mornings. They meet at not a church, but a 'meetinghouse.' There is no minister or priest, because another strong concept behind Quakerism is pure equality, and coming to any decision using consensus only. Everyone sits in as close to a circle formation as possible. It is entirely silent for an hour, except when someone is "moved" with a "message from God." This can be a song, a dance (not so often, but those are my favorite), or just an idea about living life, and what is important.. what someone noticed about people, interaction with our environment, world politics, whatever moves the person. They sit back down, and there is a time to reflect. If someone else is led, they stand as well.
One last thing: Quakers are THE most tolerant religion out there, as far as I've seen. (A close second is Universal Unitarian). There are plenty of gay and lesbian Quakers, Jewish Quakers (yes really), Pagan Quakers (yep), etc etc etc. It's about individuality as much as it is about community. It's about making life as rich as possible, and above all else about kindness. Quakers are very much into the healing work, and Buddhism. There are several workshops about Buddhism given in Quaker settings, you can probably see why.
As you may have guessed, I have been involved in Quaker goings-on for many years, but I still do not consider myself one, and I'm not sure I ever will. Quakers are so cool with that too. There's none of that "we want to convert you" business.