Below is a comment I posted in response to an article published in The Guardian today, titled Is religion a force for good... or would we be happier without God?. The article is an interesting read, asking five 'leading thinkers' what their take on religion is.
The sphere of religion today, as perceived by the general public, is in definite need of elucidation. As the article shows, the commentators themselves hold on to the negativities of religion as things that, for them at least, actually constitute what religion is about.
The role and purpose of religion itself is heavily scrutinized because many only see it for the harm that ignorant and non-understanding religious followers have done, using their faith as an excuse for their own misplaced infallibility.
Ideally it should be about encouraging benevolence, including non-violence and moral discipline. Other beneficial traits of religion include the search for mystical truths and spiritual discernment within ourselves and the world we live in, in order to better understand our place in existence (both personally and collectively).
Would we be happier without God?
This is irrelevant. Yes, some people may be happier without the god in their head that they think is god. Others would say that without god they would have no reason for being, but this only illuminates their lack of understanding and courage in the face of life itself, or their incapacity to at least hold their friends and family as reasons for being.
Even as a mystic, I cannot fully describe my conception of god, or even hope to convince another person as to the validity of my conception, unless they too have had similar spiritual experiences as mine. Still, I choose to seek the divine, keeping sacred these aspirations, even if only to have the solemn experience of sacredness toward life itself.
Although I am spiritually inclined at times, and hope to see religion someday in better favour with the general public, I also understand the animosity toward its insult to reason among the intellectuals and free-thinkers. With them I am in accordance; I easily dismiss much of what religious people pander to the masses, because they think they speak for the divine when they are only promulgating biased and one-sided doctrines and philosophies. Yet I am also put off that many disdain spirituality itself in light of these inaccuracies, and would rather tear down everything it is associated with than seek an open-minded and cautiously skeptic reciprocity of learning and tolerance.