Last night I went with my brother and sister to see Religulous, Bill Maher's documentary on religion. I enjoyed it, since for most of the movie Bill was pretty much echoing my own thoughts on the issue of religion back at me, and it's always fun to have someone famous tell you how smart you are. ;o)
You could call me skeptically agnostic. I think it's unlikely that there is a supernatural, omniscient, omnipotent being who created the universe and listens to Littly Jimmy's prayers every night, but I'm willing to concede that it's possible. I think that atheism is almost a religion itself, with its own dogma and its own set of fanatics, and I'm not quite willing to slide that last little bit over to the there-is-no-god side of the religious continuum.
What I do believe, however , is that god does not exist in the form preached by the big monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). I think that all three of those are patchwork religions, pieced together by taking bits from other religions that came before them and mixing them all together. I think that initially, religion was a way for ancient people to answer the questions they had about their lives and their surroundings. Making up a story about how the sun is a fiery chariot being pulled across the sky is a perfectly reasonable way to explain something that would otherwise be wholly unexplainable. So, people made up their stories, and passed them on to their children, and before you know it, everyone took the stories for granted as being the truth. Eventually, some people figured out that they could take these stories and use them to control the actions of those around them: those who were not in power could use the stories to get power; those that were in power could use the stories to cement it.
Fast forward a few thousand years, and basically the same thing is happening. Parents teach their children about their religion, and after hearing the stories umpteen times the children just learn to accept them as fact. Those who are in power are still using religion to to maintain that power. The only difference is we should know better by now. Back in the Bronze Age, if a respected member of society told you that Earth and the Universe was created in seven days, don't really have a choice but to believe him. We should know better by now. We have all the information available that we could ever want, and yet people still cling to ideas that were conceived thousands of years ago. I don't get that at all.