I have a quick question for some of you....Was your religion forced on you as a child by your parents and friends or did you research and discover what you really want to believe in?
My parents are Catholic. We have never discussed it, but I believe that both of my parents felt very uncomfortable with the rigid lifestyles they were both raised in, especially my father. So as I was growing up, my family never went to church except for the baptism thing when I was a child, and at weddings. When I was 3-4 years old I was taken to a protestant chapel and learned about the bible there, but of course I don't remember too much about that except for a couple of the stories they taught me. I was told at home about the life of Christ and about the stories in the bible and I began to read it a little bit myself. Over time living in a Christian society I learned all of the basic cultural biblical references as well. I was in no way forced to believe in Christianity and was probably raised in the most lax environment possible in a Christian family, indoctrination-wise.
When I was about nine years old, I began to elaborate and expand on the knowledge I was given of religion. Right now, I see a few things as being more important in this development than others.
First of all, I think that every Christian should ask them an important question. If there was no heaven, if god did not exist and if Jesus was just a mortal man, would you still follow him? For me, the answer was yes, and it made me realize what is important in a religion: The ideal, not the idol. I do believe in the divinity of Jesus, though as for the Old Testament I see it more as a strategic information tool and something cryptic and hard to pull good meaning from, but I still think there is a lot of truth in it. I believe in an afterlife, something that may be like heaven, may not be. I don't think there is a hell, though. Maybe there is some sort of purgatory, or maybe everyone has another adventure waiting for them, which would be just fine with me.
I think that religion is something to be taught as a base, but it must be risen from and not used as a crutch. Religion is a base by which one establishes belief; it is a starting point, but not the absolute end. The absolute end is when one finds truth in their own way; by truth, do I mean god? Do I mean harmony? Do I mean nothing? That is the question which the truth can answer, and for everyone that answer will be different but just as beautiful.
I believe that there are many paths one can take in life. I believe that atheists, Muslims, Christians, or whatever you may be, we are all impartially loved by god. We are not judged by god, the same way that a cup of water spills but is not judged by the distance the water has to fall. I do not believe in karma, karma is a judging abstraction. One flaw in many religions is the need for judgment. People seem to require judgment to live their lives well. They need consequences, punishment, and a downside. But I think the best way to live life is to experience it, and live it the best way you can, just because you do and for no reason else.
I do not believe that some people are given salvation while some are damned. Perhaps, some become lost, and maybe the soul itself can be extinguished, snuffed out, by one's own losing of it. But not because it was taken from them or they gave it away, but because they lost it amidst themselves. Don't do things right, or wrong. Just do what is best, which will end up being right.
That is not to say that there are evil things. But I think that evil is badly defined. Evil as I see it is about as evil as a chemical reaction. But never mind that for now.
I think that everyone knows of God, and that some people can extinguish this knowledge. But not atheists. Atheists have as much faith as you or I do. Faith in the world, faith in the now and in themselves, and that is what loving God can be. Those who extinguish God from themselves extinguish existence, they deny. They deny for reasons that run in loops, inexplicable and unrationable. Like a gear broken loose, not being turned or turning, just spinning in circles touching nothing. This spreads, and we call it evil. Maybe that is the right word; it sure can be if you want. Etymology is more important than you think, if the definition is solid. But there is never a point where a person cannot be brought back. Saying one is in this state is folly, a way to define something as solid and unchanging for efficiency's sake and no other reason.
My words are hard to orient properly, but I did what I could. I hope that helps.