Religion is becoming increasingly irrelevant nowadays, almost as if it were an anachronism. Especially religions which haven't evolved with time. Sometimes, what a religious scripture preaches might be grossly offensive to modern human being. Homosexuality is proscribed both in Christianity and Islam, and in many Islamic countries it is a criminal offence which warrants a death sentence. Till the mid 20th century, homosexuality was a crime in much of Europe as well. Misogynist ideas can also be found in some religious texts, where women are valued less than men. Inasmuch as there's no proof that substantiates these things, I don't believe in Heaven and Hell, no more than I believe in Moksha (Heaven) and the endless cycle of rebirth (metaphoric Hell).
An educated person living in a free society - and almost all free countries enforce strict separation of church (or temple, gurudwara, mosque et al) from state - will invariably know that some actions like rape, torture, abuse of human rights, incest and so forth are absolutely unacceptable. Morality is a subjective thing, each person may choose to adhere to his own code of rectitude, and as long as he's not causing harm to anyone else, I couldn't give two hoots whether he's "religious" or not. Bill Gates was a merciless jerk who screwed countless other peers, but I'd pick an admirably philanthropic Gates over an uber religious and morally irreproachable priest who spent his entire life praying all day. And by the same token, I admire Angelina Jolie a lot more than some of her other contemporaries who've had less scandalous pasts but have done jack squat for others.
There are enough troubles in this world as it is, many of which need our immediate attention. I'd rather people devote the time to these issues than be religious and moral and ethical but utterly solipsistic. I've always suspected there's something inherently selfish about religion; it's all about doing good so that the gates of Heaven will be open to you, or do good to attain Moksha, in that there's a desirable consequence that awaits us, almost as if we're enticed and induced with the promise of great wonders to "do good". I'd rather live without such "guidance" and bribery. If I am a moral and ethical person, let it be because I live in a free country and respect its laws and am a sympathetic person who believes it is incumbent upon me as a social being to help those in need to the best of my ability and repay my society, and not because it grants me the moral high ground over another person or because my religion promises me otherworldly rewards for my good deeds.
Edited by joie de vivre - 11 April 2011 at 10:26am