There is a grave danger to be found in religious thinking. When one views the world through the context of a particular religion he will eventually have to cast reason aside in the name of a higher truth.
We are seeing it play out before us in our days. The homosexual community is fighting for equal marriage rights and their most staunch opposition is coming from the religious who must -- if they wish to hold dear their scriptures -- declare that homosexuality is wrong and must therefore not be allowed.
To try and reason with them would not help. It is not reason that they answer to, but God. This would be something quite noble, if they knew, in fact, it was God instructing them and not ancient man. I used to be embarrassed when my secular friends would challenge me on homosexuality. I would have to shrug and admit that God didn't explain why it was wrong, he simply said it was, and therefore, I must.
Knowing in your heart that something is true without having fact to back it up, should make one deeply suspicious of his beliefs. I am always astonished that religious people are comfortable saying they don't care whether their faith is in fact true (though they no doubt think it to be), because it offers them a structure for life that they enjoy. Perhaps it is just who I am, but I am not going to suspend my reason simply because it feels good! I am not going to condemn someone as immoral if I can't present a logical argument to prove that claim.
I know there are many religious people who do not judge others and would not say their beliefs should be used as objective truth. Rather they live quiet lives, worshiping their God and living by his word. With such people, I have no complaints, and as you will see further, I think this is the only way to be religious today.
The danger inherit in this type of closed religious thinking is clear: When someone will suspend his reason in the name of an unproven religious commandment, what's to stop him from performing the greatest cruelties in the name of religion? The extreme factions of Islam are certainly our most recent example of the dangers in such thinking. I need not bring other examples here, for you only need to read the Old Testament to see that many children of Caananites and Amalekites were killed in the name of Divine command.
I am not saying that we need to abandon all religious thought. To say that the system which brings happiness and meaning to the lives of millions of people needs to be eradicated, I am not so bold. I cannot, without overwhelming proof, say such a thing.
What I am purposing is a certain humility that needs to come coupled with religious belief today. An understanding that since no god has stepped forward on a global sense and the arguments for a particular religion are, at best, a metaphysical hypothesis, means that religion is an individual decision and not to be pushed on others. When faced with a logical argument combating faith, the believer must step away. Religion cannot impose itself on anyone, and religious practitioners should know they are acting out of an inner feeling and therefore should not try to force others to feel the same way.
I am afraid of religious thinking. Afraid that many people are against certain groups simply because they have a feeling that a certain faith is the correct one; and that reason and logic are secondary to what one may feel in their heart is true.
This is not true of most atheists. Since he has no doctrines he must believe are true, when he finds out that the world is in fact round and not flat, he has no problem (or should have no problem, provided his pride isn't entangled it) correcting his world view to fit the facts.
We live all of our lives, or at the very least strive to make all our decisions based on logic. We pride ourselves, and rightfully so, when we best a man using a reasonable argument. Yet, when it comes to our religious beliefs, we hold tightly to them even in the face of reason.
I feel that where an atheist looks for supporting evidence to prove a claim is correct; the theist knowing the claim is correct tries to find evidence to support it.
Which system should we trust?
Of course, those who believe, believe. They therefore, would read what I have wrote and say: "I am not acting against reason, I am listening to my God; that may be the most reasonable thing to do!" The challenge I have for such a person is: Do you know that you are listening to God, or do you feel you are listening to God? Why have you accepted the claim of your religious leader? Do you always trust people without demanding facts? Are you not at all suspicious that just as there are many religious which claim to be true, and you would posit they are not, that yours, as well, may not be true? Why should you abandon reason for faith? And finally, and perhaps most importantly, what will stop you from causing harm to others, if your faith commands you to?