So this is a big topic. Everybody has their own opinions on religion and what it means to be religious, which means that I am most certainly not alone in the opinions I have and that there are just as many people who would agree with me as would disagree.
Beating around the bush, whoo!
My views on religion are primarily informed by the fact that I am a Christian. What that means exactly for me is the subject of another day (Day 17 actually), but it is useful for now to serve as a starting foundation to understand where some of my ideas come from and what I believe religion's place is in the world.
I believe that everyone subscribes to some kind of religion or another. Atheists would probably like to bite my head off at that statement, but I believe that the term religion can be applied beyond the systems of faith - such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam - that it is traditionally associated with. Science has rapidly evolved into a kind of religion, a central hub for explaining the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, with the greats in their fields evoked much in the same fashion as the Catholic saints. Whereas people once reached for the supernatural to give them hope and direction for their lives, people adhere to the tennants of Science. It even has its own zealots; people like Dawkins who evangelize the virtues of Science. I don't want to come across as a science hater - in fact I love science and try to get beyond the false barrier put up between science and faith - but it does provide a very good example of a modern, non-spiritual religion.
Religions can be tricky things. Much of what we find wrong with religion happens when it is separated from its core set of beliefs, when the practices and the rules become more important than the heart of the practice. This is the case in Christianity anyway. We often get a really bad rap because of some crazies in the States who are trying to prove a point by being as controversial as possible. Honestly, I get a little disgusted and ashamed when the news reports on groups like the Westboro Baptist Church. Much like the Pharisees of old, these groups miss the point - that we are all imperfect beings in need of love and grace - and fill the void with legality and hate. This is religion without faith, religion gone wrong.
I believe that religions can be a powerful force for good in the world, just as long as they are on the right path.