Before I get the Christian Coalition out here banging on my door or the Mormon Mafia hunting me down, hear me out. I plan to make some parallels that I think you as a RATIONAL individual should see and understand. This is not to say that all of you that read this will understand or even consider this as possible.
Just hear me out. Once you have read this THINK about it, don't PRAY about it, just think.
What put me in this mode of thought was an email I received from a very wealthy prince in Nigeria that needed my help to get millions of dollars out of the country. In exchange for my help he was willing to give me hundreds of thousands of dollars! Yes, just for me being a good Samaritan and helping him to fraudulently sneak millions out of the country, he was willing to give a stranger a ton of money. I have received hundreds of these emails in the past and have at times even participated in "scam baiting" where I would toy with the scammer, wasting his or her time and resources with the ultimate goal of keeping them busy and away from the uneducated or unsuspecting.
Usually the emails went something like this:
Usually as you can see in this excerpt, they ALWAYS use God and pity/mercy to get you to buy in to their little scheme. Of course, you know how this ends right? You jump in, thinking that you are going to get some large sum of money for doing a "favor" for a poor widow etc. Once they have your information, and have strung you along with some official looking documents, they will hit a "snag", oops! You need to come up with some money to bribe the banker, pay off a Govt. Official, release the funds from the holding house etc... Once you have paid this, they will have something else come up and eventually they bleed you dry, and sadly you NEVER see one penny of the money they promised you.
You would NEVER in a MILLION YEARS do that would you? I didn't think so, you are way to rational to fall for something that obvious and silly right?
Let's look at religion. I am not going to pick on a specific religion per se. I will however use examples from different religions so that you can see the parallels.
First: religion promises all "faithful followers" a place in Heaven. All you have to do is follow all of the rules and regulations set forth in the Bible, Koran, Book of Mormon, Old Testament or whatever religious text a group says is "from God" etc. Of course the rules are convoluted, many times contradictory (See my Taking the Bible Literally post) and not to mention impossible. But, since God is unchanging and perfect, it's the way it has to be.
Second: religion will use hellfire, brimstone and of course good old fashioned guilt to get it's followers to "donate" their time, income, abilities and sometimes lives. Of course, they aren't actually donating it, they are ostensibly exchanging this for a "ticket to Heaven". Some religions even go as far as to mandate a percentage of the followers income that MUST be donated in order to be "worthy" of going to heaven. Of course in the REAL world outside of religion, tactics such as this are commonly known as EXTORTION here in the good ole' US of A the FBI usually puts folks in prison for that kind of behavior.
Third: religion will also mandate to it's followers acceptable modes of dress. The Mormons mandate long underwear for their members, Islam demands women cover themselves from head to toe, except in the presence of their husbands alone, I am not sure but I believe Scientologists are required to wear their tin foil hats to meetings still, the Amish in their hyper conservative dress as well as the Menonites and many others all requiring their members to dress a certain way. This of course is done under the guise of making ones self pleasing to the lord. Really it is about control.
These are just three points to ponder.
Here is the last point. After you donate your time, money and life to the church of your choice. Live the rules as confused as you are to the best of your ability and dress in the acceptable manner prescribed by your leaders, prophets, imams, and priests. What does religion do to you?
They hit you with the WHAMMY!
You have to take it all on FAITH that you will actually get the "reward" promised for doing all this stuff. Now, before you go off and have a tizzy fit and say "It's all based on faith, you have to have faith" etc... then say something about how God will damn you if you are faithless, I want to ask one last question. If you can answer this honestly, I think you will see it my way.
Did the followers of Jim Jones get their reward, and if God really does exist, why can't all religions agree on who and what God is? Since it's supposed to be a Universal Truth that God exists, tell me why can't any religions agree on who or what God is supposed to represent?
Don't give me: "my church is true, others are false" we all know and you know too, that is ridiculous!