Note: I've been meaning to post this for quite awhile. If you don't agree with it, that's fine. Bashing will get you deleted. Constructively disagreeing is fine. Before you get up on a high horse, read the link titled, "Devin" over in the right-side column.
First off, I'm a Christian. I've studied and hold to heart the doctrines of several other faiths considered "evil" by most others of my own faith (ie: wicca, asatru, taoism, gnosticism, etc. - I like to study).
One of the biggest controversies expressed is issues of "hate". It completely blows my mind how most people of my religion center their lives around hate. In the words of my best friend: "God and I get along great, it's his fanclub I have the problem with". I find this to be true more often than not.
When I was in grade school I went with the neighbors to a southern baptist church. One of those fire-and-brimstone places. I quit going after a very adamant sermon given on "children are born with the devil in them, and it's our job as parents to beat it out of them." Later, as a teenager, I got into a debate (very heated) with a lutheran pastor. He claimed that *all* children unbaptised - especially those born out of wedlock - would spend eternity in "limbo". That seriously pissed me off.
My whole life, the man who meant the most to me was my uncle Devin. My grandfather was sexually abusive, some of my other uncles as well, my mother had a habit of continuing that cycle with the men she brought home. It was a party, I was the pizza and everyone was invited. The rest of my family was either involved, oblivious or had deserted the family core long ago and were unable to help - or simply stayed out of it.
My longest-term step-father (they got married when I was 8 and she's still with him)was physically abusive and very controlling. I didn't help matters much by being obstinate and mouthy, mind you. Not that there's EVER an excuse for beating a child or demeaning anyone.
Through it all, there were two people who were my rock: my uncle Devin and my aunt Darla. Devin is explained in great detail here. he was my best friend and my big brother. he was practical and always kind. He gave everything he gained to those he thought needed it. And he was gay. I am unbelievably protective of that fact. This man was so beaten down by the idea that God would turn His back on him that he was seeing a psychiatrist to STOP being gay. That in itself is a sin, in my eyes. Why should he have to feel that way for expressing love?
One of the DUMBEST reasons I can see for an argument is what a person does (without harming another) out of love. When a large portion of the new testament was written by a man who committed crimes against Christians (Saul who became Paul), there is, to me, no sane argument for threatening another person with eternal damnation because of who they happen to be in love with.
Here's an argument: The majority of Christian symbolism and fable originated from pagan ways. Christians have committed as many or more crimes against others for their own faith. Look at Mormons (I was one until I was 7). Genocide for the furtherment of a religion. The burning times (I have an ancestor who was burned - Bessie Dunlop in 1576). And then there are all the modern icons of the Christian faith who instigate so many crimes against gays and modern pagans. It's sickening.
Why am I a Christian then? I believe in Christ and his teachings. But I also view the bible from a scholarly aspect: A day in God's time is not necessarily a human day: compare the events of genesis to the charts of evolution and you'll probably be surprised... It actually coincides quite a bit, when put into context. The people writing down these words had no concept of science as we know it. How would anyone of that time understand the concept of evolutional generation?
I believe in the Bible - as a study tool, as a reminder and as a guidebook. Realistically, it is more unchristian to judge and condemn than to love someone of the same sex. If God IS love, then there is no evil in love.
I feel the same way about the whole "Lord's prayer" thing. The bible says a) Pray in this *manner* and b) you shouldn't use ritual or repetitive prayer. The Lord's prayer was meant as an OUTLINE. For instance:
Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name.
(Hey, you're a cool Dad, I really like you)
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
(Gee, I can't wait until your promises come true)
Give us this day our daily bread.
(Please help me keep my head above water)
And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us.
(It wasn't very nice of me to take revenge on Bob for making me mad. I forgave him, and I hope you and he can forgive me)
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.
(Can you please stand by me so I'm less likely to screw up again?)
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
(You're really cool and you've come though for me before, so I have faith you'll do it again.)
(the actual meaning of this word is "let it be so".)
People from one religion have a habit of mocking those of another because of their own faith's ritual behavior. Like Wiccan circles (pagans say "blessed be" - same thing as amen) or Hari Krishnas. One reason is that it's easier to mock something you don't understand than to find out more about it. But the fact is, every religion has it's own rituals.
Then why is so much of the Christian faith centered on ritual if the bible says not to be? Repetitive behavior creates a comfort zone. The bible also says not to be religious, but spiritual.
I also believe in a lot of other doctrines. I believe that there can't really be a hell if we have a merciful, loving God who loves us as his own children, unless you deny God all together and pish-posh Him hatefully. If your child committed a crime, you might accept that they have to be punished, but it would be really hard to stop loving them and hope they'd change. Therefore, I believe in Karma, which is essentially "do unto others". I believe that the core of almost every religion is basically the same, when broken down to it's bare bones. I believe that an omnipotent creator has no sex - the he/she term is used in a descriptive sense only because we have no other means to describe it easily. God is God. Which is where I think other religions got polytheism. There are many facets to God. And there are plenty of other beings in that realm: angels, helpers (whatever you need to call them; labels don't matter). I believe all Gods are one great and omnipotent God our creator.
Most importantly, I believe that your brand of religion is less important than simply having faith in something. Simple faith. Faith of a child.