"I've sworn off agnosticism, which I now call cowardly atheism." James Cameron. Bullshit. Granted; you are the man and yes, you have the two biggest grossing films of all time under your belt and can apparently fix massive oil spills. But this line is hogwash. There is nothing cowardly in agnosticism. In fact the world's preeminent atheist, Richard Dawkins, is truly an agnostic. Read his work: In 'The God Delusion' he says it plainly that as a scientist he cannot discount the possibly that a supernatural being exists. Ergo, Dawkins is an agnostic.
My view of those in the modern world is that they are willfully - and pleased to be so - ignorant. They go about their daily lives not really giving a damn about the divine, and every so often they go to church, or synagogue, or whatever to appease God. At the end of the day it is about fear. Not fear in some sort of hell, but fear in death. The ultimate question religion tries to answer is that of the afterlife. In this guise, religion is comforting to the majority. It's Pascal's Wager, living life in belief of God has everything to gain and nothing to lose. I believe it's likely that our consciousness ceases to exist upon death. I sure hope I am wrong though, because that is a scary fucking thought.
Regardless, the question "is there a god?" is a separate question from the question of religion. Yes most religions are centered in the belief of some sort of supreme, super-natural, and judgmental being. But would you be surprised if you died and had a sit down with God where he said, "Yes I exist, and I am the creator. But no, I did not have anything to do with the 'holy' scripture, or religions by which you humans have chosen to live your lives." I wouldn't. In fact, that actually makes a lot of sense to me. To be an atheist today means you subscribe to your world-view by choice. Like Dawkins, most atheists are in-fact agnostics. This is because atheists tend to be the more educated, scientifically minded people. And as scientists they cannot and will not answer the 'God' question with one hundred percent certainty. So let's forget about the 'God' proposition and focus on religion.
I believe that when you look at the history of religion there was a breaking point. A point where religion stopped being useful for humanity and began being destructive. Before monotheism, humanity was a disaster, with very little societal morality, etc. at this point in time religion was beneficial to humanity. But I do not believe that it was rooted in the divine. Our ancestors wrote the torah, the koran, etc., as a code of laws of sorts, for the time. Humans are social animals and really fucking smart. So it is important for us to define our social relationships in a clear cut manner. For centuries this is what religion did. Religion certainly ushered humanity from barbarism to civility. The problem is that it now threatens to bring us back to barbarism, as plenty of the modern world's uncivilized behavior is rooted in religion.
The question of whether religion has been historically good or bad, to me, is an unnecessary one. What are you going to do? Sit there with a scoreboard and count every death one by one. "Well these 115 deaths were religious based..." Useless and frankly a null point because for a lot of them it could be argued either way. Take the crusades for example. Depending on which lens you wish to view them through you could reasonably say that they were a human inspired, or a religious based tragedy. You can view history through so many different lenses, perhaps you might say that the crusades were more a product of the times, etc. The point is that taking historic stock of religion is arduous and ultimately useless.
What is useful, however, is looking at religion today and the prospects of a society that believes in religion versus one that is without faith. To put it plainly, what are the pros and cons of religion in the modern world? To me, it's a no-brainer that religion currently has a negative effect on the human race as a whole. Amongst other things, religion is an extremely polarizing entity. So much so that people kill others and/or themselves in its name. To abolish religion is an easy sell to me. Obviously not for others. In the name of religion today we have suppressive regimes that abuse their citizens. Ritualistic killing. Female circumcision. People are taught to hate and kill and even commit suicide. The fact is that in the modern world, we don't need religion anymore. We need to move past the notion that we should devote our lives in the service of something we have never seen. We need to believe more in the power of humanity than in the power of the divine. This could usher in transformative change. It will never happen, not for hundreds of years at least, but it's nice to think about. Regardless of whether you believe in a particular religion, it should be your duty as a responsible human being to take care of this planet which has given you life. To take care of your fellow man trying to do the same. Look I'm just a monkey trying to do right by his monkey brethren. And I'm more than okay with that. Watch the movie 'Jesus Camp', it will scare the shit of your, seriously. In it, Ted Haggard, the besmirched pastor and former head of the council which overseas thirty million American evangelicals, says that kids love religion because it gives them hope and purpose. Without it all you have is natural selection, basically suggesting that intelligent design is much cooler for children because God formed them with his own hands. Why do religious thinkers believe this way? I happen to believe the natural selection is damn cool. Over millions of years our monkey ancestors were whittled down to the best and brightest: homo-sapien, and now you are here today, reading this shit on the internet. Religious people say they derive purpose from the divine, and that those without religion are lost, and purposeless. That is a load of shit. Purpose can be found everywhere, and why not in service to the whole of humanity and this beautiful planet we call home.
So, what happens when you die? Shit, I dunno. Let's all agree that we don't know. We don't know if there is a God. We don't know what existence is, in fact, we take our existence, more so the existence of the universe for granted. Maybe you want to pray on Sundays, or everyday for that matter. Fine, waste your time, if it makes you happy then great. If it makes you kill then you have no place on my planet, get the fuck off!