Recently, I have had to speak for God and against religion that I think I should collate my thoughts somewhere.
My take on Religion:
Religion has long since outlived it use. In the early days of human development, people were under no barrier and the development of human beings with regard to their environment was literally in infant stages. As time went by, the early human realized that without any kind of a forced social structure, the more dominant specimens will get the best of food and men/women (as happens in every other animal society). And based on the popular 80-20 Pareto Principle, it would have come to be that 20 percent of the population enjoyed 80 percent of the 'good' stuff. So as time went by, this pattern could have come to be unsustainable which resulted in the institution of religion. Humans decided to deify anything that could not be classified with their knowledge/experience. But as with any first system, the religious system had certain drawbacks, which was why the legal/Governmental branch of structuring came into being, where the people were fooled into thinking about 'social good', common good and other such principles. But both the systems had few basic similarities that the power to decide what was acceptable and what was not acceptable was vested with a few individuals. Most of the rules/regulations were based on the current knowledge in science and social living. But as we have apparently seen in politics, unless there is a continuous improvement in any system, it is sure to go to waste. The problem with religion has been that people have not only neglected to improve religion as the change with time, but have rather regressed a lot. Since I have been brought up as a Hindu, I can confidently say that the folks have started concentrating more on the means than the end. I cannot otherwise, understand how people are now fighting over which matam is greater or whether worshiping Narayanan or Mahadeva is going to get you moksha. I have seen thousands of brahmins claiming to be devout and performing sandyavandhanam thrice (twice) a day, claiming to read the vedic scriptures but totally ignoring the basis of santhana dharma. People are proud to say that they can recite a particular stanza from the Gita, but they are more or less blind as they cannot see past the metaphors that kṛṣṇa uses to drive home the concept of God and who the brahman is. More awful are the folks who perform a 1000 parikarams, 20000 homams and all that without thinking once to see if they do sandyavandanam everyday. Even more inexplicable is the fact that people more often than not have heard about 'Thoonilum Iruppar, Thurumbilum Iruppar' logic, but do not pause to think that a God who can reside in a thing like a pillar or a twig, can as well be manifest in an orphaned kid or the homeless guy who is asking you for a couple of rupees at the street end. And to add insult to injury, you see folks fighting over religion. Christians, claiming to be followers of Jesus of Nazareth, condemn gay people - I do not know if Jesus particularly said Love Everyone* (* - does not include homosexuals or immigrants). I cannot, for lack of a better term, understand the religion of Islam, so I don't want to include it here. I see conservative people saying that being homosexual is not natural. Tell them that certain animals indulge in homosexual behavior in the absence of the opposite sex and they tell you that they do that to copulate/reproduce. While they recognize that nature/God is powerful enough to make 2 same sex animals reproduce under certain circumstances, would it be that impossible for nature to influence certain humans to turn homosexual so that the population explosion and the subsequent plunder of the ecosystem be controlled? As fantastic as this idea might sound, think about how an ape would have reacted if another ape told that one day their species will give way to humankind. Nature is too complex to be understood and it works in various ways - so never dismiss something that you don't understand.
I'm a strong believer in God - Not that that God has 4 hands and either a mace or a trident. The God is the untapped potential/power inside each one of us. We can choose to give it a particular form - male or female - and try to tap the potential by meditating on it. This doesn't mean that Sri Rama didn't exist. For all you know, he might have been one of those humans who truly had self realization and so was considered God by others and we continue to believe that without realizing the significance behind it - as has been the wont of the human race. Surely, even for staunch non-believers, they've got to accept that there are certain things which are beyond control - while we know that all living organisms grow, based on scientific evidence, we do not know why they grow. We can say that the Universe originated with the big bang - but what caused the big bang to occur in a particular time instant in the way it did? Our current scientific, technological and mathematical prowess do not allow us to give a concrete answer to these questions - some of us have tried but there are no definitive answers - so I cannot see a logical/rational reason to eliminate the existence of God - in fact the more you analyze nature and the world around, the more you are awed by the total lack of scientific progress/explanations regarding many things.
Human race has always been an arrogant one. We talk about we impacting the planet, global warming and all that - but what we are trying to do is to analyze the impact of a process that has been in effect for 200,000 years on a system that is 4.54 Billion Years old. I agree that these numbers are again the result of the same human mind - but since both the numbers are from the same source, humans, I can assume that the error factors in them balance each other out. If the current global warming is solely caused by the human kind, I would really like to know what caused the original Ice Age and the subsequent meltdown. The day that we, humans, realize that we are but just another living species whose control over the planet and the ecosystem is as limited as that of any other living species, we should have a much better life
(P.S: Don't start telling me that how man made certain species extinct by hunting etc - biological extinction has always been there - just that we think that we are superior than a lion hunting a deer versus a human being killing a deer - the reasons might be different, but the basic act remains the same. And also, we see that man causes a particular impact on the environment based on 30 years of data/observation, but you never know how its going to play out when nature/the biological system decides to restore parity. For more confusion, read about the recent article on how the planting of more trees is causing slower wind speeds which impacts the effectiveness of wind mills and you shall start realizing that we trying to understand Earth and trying to extrapolate or predict its behavior is like a blind man trying to feel the tip of the titanic's hull to judge its size)