Does religion have value? I believe so, but it's hard to find truth, happiness, or God through religion. That's a bold statement, I know. What's easy to find in a religion... is that religion's definition of who God is, its definition of happiness and its definition of truth. It's hard to learn these things for yourself as long as you are listening to that religion's definitions, and not learning, questioning, and listening to your own discoveries. The things that I have learned in my life, things that matter to my happiness, are things that I learned on my own. Truths that I have learned, and things that bring me happiness, I learned through trial and error, and questioning. We all do.
I read a post the other day on reddit by an exChristian called, Quitting the church and Bible reading made me more loving. This person explained that the reason he began to analyse his religion was... "too many Christians I knew and ESPECIALLY those in ministry were impatient, sarcastic and very closed minded...Then I got to thinking why I was different from them. I mean, I believed in the same God and followed the same religion but the nicer and more loving I got, the angrier and more intolerant they got. I then figured out two major differences between me and the Christians I knew. 1) I had stopped going to church. 2) I had stopped reading the Bible...It was amazing that simply stopping doing those two things created a wide chasm between me and the church going Bible readers. They seemed to get more negative, more filled with pessimism and being judgmental and self righteous while I was being filled with a sense of wonder and longing to explore life."
So what did this person learn from his religion? I don't know he didn't say, I'm sure he learned some good things, but the main things that he found to be true or that brought him joy, he discovered himself. He gained a sense of wonder and a longing to explore life, and as he moved away from the confines and dictates of his religious dogma it allowed him to see life as a place of exploration; he became less judgmental, nicer, and more loving. Of course, this is only anecdotal, but it's a very common theme among people who leave their religion.
This is not a push for people to leave their religion. It's an acknowledgment of my belief that it's hard to learn for yourself through a man made religion, and trust me... anyone that's in a religion and thinks they have the truth, I have been there! I know how strong those convictions are, and if it's serving you well, then stay there. But... if it is taking you away from any kind of relationship with family or friends, if it is separating you from others, making you believe that you have a better knowledge, understanding, or the truth regarding our existence here, it's probably not serving you well. If you are not discovering your own path, and truths, and are relying on your religion's definitions, it's probably not serving you well.
My nephew is a doctor. He's an intelligent, kind, upstanding individual. He was valedictorian of his high school, served a mission in Italy, attended BYU, and got married in the temple. His life was on track for a complete Mormon success story. Then something happened, he and his wife divorced before he got out of medical school. Then after a year or so, he stopped attending church. My sister-in-law was so distraught over this. I thought, what a shame that because of our religion we worry about our children because they aren't going to church, or stopped believing the faith they were taught. Anyone on the outside of our religion, would look at this young doctor and say, wow, what a great person, that's all they would see.
These are biases that religion causes, and they can separate families. I have two favorite books/movies that I have gained much insight from. One is: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and the other is, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman. Both of these authors have learned from their experiences in meaningful ways, and have shared that wisdom with us. In other words, they have learned truth. They have learned things through their experiences that lead them to joy and happiness. Here's a few of my favorite quotes from Dan Millman:
..."everyone tells you what's good for you, they don't want you to find your own answers, they want you to believe theirs."
"Everything you'll ever need to know is within you..."
"The journey is what brings us happiness not the destination."
"Life has three rules: Paradox, Humor, and Change.
-Paradox: Life is a mystery; don't waste your time trying to figure it out.
-Humor: Keep a sense of humor, especially about yourself. It is a strength beyond all measure.
-Change: Know that nothing stays the same."
"Enlightenment is not an attainment, it is a realization. And when you wake up, everything changes..."
"A fool is 'happy' when his cravings are satisfied. A warrior is happy without reason. That's what makes happiness the ultimate discipline."
..."focus all your energy not on struggling with the old, but on building the new."
"Never struggle with anyone or anything. When you're pushed, pull; when you're pulled push."
And my favorite one of all:
"There are no Ordinary Moments"