I've been chatting with a friend of mine of late and the subject of god and religion arises. He is far more a believer than I but not necessarily religious. Still there is definitely a level of faith in him that I've never achieved. I've gone through various phases of my spiritual life. My mother left the Catholic church as a young adult because she was tired of being told what movies she couldn't see, so my childhood was very much a patchwork of going to various churches while she sought a spiritual home. In a not unexpected (at least for me) twist of fate, she didn't find one until she was dying in a Catholic hospice and discovered maybe she hadn't left the church as far behind as she thought.
As a pre-teen I was obsessed with the Catholic church myself, maybe as a form of rebellion, maybe because I like rituals and high drama with my spirituality. My grandmother thought this a wonderful thing and began taking me to church each Sunday. I never received communion though so I wasn't fully participatory. I took it very seriously though and remember praying regularly, for the outcome of baseball games mostly. By the time I was a teenager I found the church left me cold. In fact Christianity left me cold. I started reading up on Wicca and paganism. Somehow I felt a religion that pre-dated the Judeo-Christian ones, would somehow be closer to a universal truth. I considered myself a Wiccan witch, kept my sabbaths and did my rituals. Funny thing about that though, when you start to meet people in that religion in large groups you can get a little freaked out by them. As an adult I've met a lot of people (or virtually met them at least), often knitters, who are lapsed pagans like me and they're always cool but I sure as hell didn't find them back then. I left the trappings of Wicca behind and settled in to what is basically a non-practicing pagan. That's what I declared myself to be for most of my adult life.
My views now could best be described as wide ranging I suppose. I believe in something, I just can't put a name, face or particular faith to it. I think religion is a crutch but that's not an insult. People need crutches to survive and there is nothing wrong with that. We all put the face we need on the spirit who helps us get through our lives. I had mother issues so I needed a Mother Goddess. Many need a paternal figure and we all need to believe in unconditional love and acceptance. Even if it seems many of today's most vocal Christians don't seem to espouse it.
I like the idea of deism, which at its most basic says that the world is fundamentally too amazing not to have been created by a sentient being but that being moved on to other things and plays no part in our lives today. I can get behind that but on occasion I still fall back on talking to my Goddess or casting a protection spell in my head just to make me feel better. I'm not above using crutches myself.
I have friends who are atheists and I'm supportive of that as well. In the end they too have faith, in science, in themselves and in the idea that this is all there is and that's ok. I think if you can believe and accept that it must be very freeing in its own way.
I suppose the people I actually feel bad for are what my Dad called himself, a hopeful agnostic. My Dad loved science and was raised in the Presbyterian church. He's the one who taught me to read the bible as literature and to question anything and everything but he really and truly wanted to believe in something bigger than himself and something more than this life. Like the deists he found it hard to believe the order and beauty of nature was a random occurance but couldn't quite make the leap to having faith in something. I think that's very sad.
I suppose in the end I think the most important thing is belief, whether in its something or just in life itself. Also we need to understand far better than one person's spiritual path doesn't look like another's. No one religion, faith or belief has the answer for everyone. In fact in my mind it should be a fairly private journey, only shared with those who you discover are on the same path. A certain amount of certainty in a natural scientific order of things or karma or heavenly reward makes getting out of bed everyday a little easier and anything that makes life a little easier is good for the soul.