I am still pondering the complexities of prayer and finding my way to a truth that I can be comfortable with. But it is a twisted and complicated path which I can't seem to lay out in words at the moment. So instead I'd like to talk about something else that has been bothering me lately. Religion as a weapon against spirituality.
I have encountered many people on my quest who are angry with the church. Many of them rightly so. They feel lied to, manipulated, and angry. There are some valid points to be made about the history of the church and the abuses of power that have caused pain and suffering 'in the name of god'. But the church is not god.
It seems contradictory to me to acknowledge that an institution is corrupt and then use that knowledge as proof of the non-existence of the power they were seeking. We don't stop believing in democracy when greed and unchecked power lead us into war. We don't stop believing in love when a person full of selfishness breaks our heart. We don't stop believing in science when new information proves old theories incorrect. So why do we hold god responsible for the shortcomings of religion?
This is exemplified most clearly for me in the use of the bible for proof there is no god. If you believe the bible is a book created by man how can it prove anything about the existence of god? Using inconsistencies and questioning the time the bible was written can be used to prove that it isn't an inerrant document set down by god but it doesn't prove there is no god. Understanding the history of how the works were written, collected, selected, and excluded helps us understand the men (and no, I don't mean this in the universal mankind sense, women weren't allowed) who were part of it. But you can only use the history of the bible to point out its own flaws. You can't discredit a document, or more precisely a collection of documents, and then use that very discredited document(s) to prove your point.
People also love to talk about the pain and suffering inflicted on humanity by religion in the form of war, oppression and shame. Again, the evidence of these events is overwhelming but it only condemns the religion, not god. The same is true for the wanton wealth some religions use in the creation of holy places while people starve. A symptom of religion but still not god.
When I hear people using these examples to discredit or disprove god it confuses me. That's like blaming your body for lung cancer after years of smoking. Your body didn't cause your cancer and god didn't cause the ills of religion. I haven't found a particular religion that I find without fault or flaw but I don't need to. I don't confuse religion with god and therefore don't need to reconcile the two.