A little bit of ranting about religion.
Religion is defined as, " a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. ", by our friends at Dictionary.com.
I could try giving examples of all of the good results of religion, but that wouldn't be nearly as interesting as all of the horrible ways it has been used to make this world an even more horrific place. Additionally, there wouldn't have been any reason for me to excuse those who cherish hope, and the change that it has always, without fail, brought about. Good change, not the "He said that I could have whatever I want, but then why is his system destroying my life?" kind of change.
We'll be starting off with (and probably sticking to) organized religion, since that's the type of religion that I've dealt with the most. It's now story-time, so rejoice and go on as people usually do about these occasions.
Once upon a time, there was a fundamentalist church of the independent baptist variety. In fact, there still is. They claim that they follow the true instructions of God, so that anyone else will suffer eternally in the pits of Hell. Because God, in his inexplicable love of His creations, decided to create a realm of perpetual damnation for everyone who doesn't believe in him like this church tells them to.
Anyhoo, according to this church, women are inferior to men because God said so. So, you can wear pants if you want to, ladies, but it'll cost you your eternal soul. Why? Because the Bible has an example of a man wearing pants, so a woman wearing pants is cross-dressing. And you know how angry God gets when you do that. Just angry enough to burn you alive forever.
Now it's time for a story within a story, and that would be the 100% completely true account of Adam and Eve. You see, God made Adam first, because guys are better. He was doing just fine in the Garden of Eden until God decided to make Eve, who was obviously less intelligent, and most importantly, super Eve-il (Hah! Get it? Because Eve sounds like the first syllable of "evil", and...).
One day, a snake began talking to Eve. Apparently she had discovered shrooms in the Garden. This snake asked her, "Do you want to stop being a soulless, moronic creature and obtain consciousness? God obviously doesn't want you to know that you're alive, but He did conveniently place the Tree of the Knowledge of Life, Death, Good, Evil, etc. right over there."
So Eve ate the fruit and became a conscious person. She didn't want to leave Adam in his primal stupidity, so she "deceived" him into becoming a person too. God found out after He got back from his walk. Adam and Eve were tripping on the Fruit of Consciousness, and were hiding in the bushes.
Adam, looking down at himself, asked, "My God, what is that thing!"
"It's a penis, good sir." God replied. "You've had it this whole time."
"Dude, it's kind of freaking me out, man. Get me something to cover it up, because it's scary and evil!" And then God created pants for Adam, and a dress and apron for Eve.
God then asked if they had eaten the fruit of His magical tree. Eve said, "The snake told me to do it!" Adam also had an excuse, one that has been passed down for thousands of years, "She's a woman, and I'm a man, so she's wrong!"
God had been been growing that plant for a while now, and didn't appreciate that humanity was helping itself to His stash. So He said, "Man, you now have to work to grow your own stuff. Woman, you're evil, so you get childbirth."
The End. Sort of.
After going to this church for several years, I thought, "Maybe God isn't some giant old man watching us from his floating golden city, waiting to cast us into Hell. He might be a manageable, symbolic way of looking at all of existence, instead of an angry, jealous tyrant ordering us to constantly kill each other. Too bad people just want a God that they can use as an excuse to control or slaughter others."
You see, the moral of the stories is, you can attempt to understand existence and live respectfully within nature by believing in a "God" who is a representative of all "Creation", or you can use a vengeful "God" to force your prejudices and hatreds upon other people. I have seen far more of the latter, which is why I do not participate in organized religion any longer.