Nothing is so firmly believed as that which we least know.
-- Michel de Montaigne
The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way.
-- Bertrand Russell
The problem with traditional religions is that followers of them are led by books written by people (or least transcribed by people, translated by people, interpreted by people, etc. -- even if you are psychotic enough to believe some supreme being actually physically wrote something or caused it to be written via "divine inspiration," I hope you'll at least give me that). This is not a problem except that these texts impose clear moral and ethical standards where they are actually not agreed upon. Allowing someone the freedom to choose to follow said texts is, of course, the whole point of religious freedom (really freedom in general). The difficulty arises when this standard is then applied to others, and no discussion is accepted because "it's in my holy book."
Take the example of suicide. (Only because it is a bit less contentious than so many other things verboten via religious texts.) Some say "it is a sin." Period. End of discussion. Others say it may be the correct thing to do, say if undue pain and suffering is occuring. Unfortunately, the debate will be squelched if one participant in the discussion keeps pointing to the place in their holy book where it's listed as a sin, and... Hey, that's it! End of discussion!
The interesting thing here is that there is NO OTHER PLACE where we end the discussion in such a manner. Only religion. This is the down-side of the "leap of faith," and the major problem with organized religion, i.e., teachings that are not allowed to change. The "leap of faith" is insurmountable barrier by its very nature.
In other words, the question is: where, if anywhere, do we allow absolute authority? I sure bloody hope the answer is "nowhere."
So there. That's my opinion.
If you are up for a bit of humor on a closely-related note, here is a hilarious set of Questions for Bible-Thumpers. It contains choice phrases like "There are many books that are so good that once I start reading them, I can't put them down. The Bible is not one of them. How is it that God, or an author directly inspired by God, does not write as well as (for example) Michael Crichton?"
The key to this tract is that it doesn't just speak to "bible-thumpers".... it speaks to anyone who is allowing their thinking to be constrained by a particular text.
Todd Hodes, <mylastname @ myfullname dot org>