So you studied theology just to hone your arguments for disproving it, or you had a falling out of some kind with some church? The reason I ask is that it seems like some of this stuff you are saying is incongruent. That and I sense and underlying hostility towards religion. I had some good arguments with Klast about this. He had no belief but no malice for those that did have it. As I have no malice for people who don't share my beliefs. I have a couple old friends who were pedal-pushing mormons and now they talk like you do.
I have no malice towards religion. I have the same view of believers as I would have of someone who believed the earth is flat. They are misinformed. My level of apprehension for a belief structure is directly proportional to the open mindedness of the individual. You seem quite open minded.
I have never really believed in God and found that my reasoning was affirmed by my studies which I chose because they interest me.
I actually some of your exact thoughts about organized religion, which I'm against overall. If there's a divine/mystical force that we're all connected to then why do we need some "club" to experience it, and why should we seek to contain or lable it? One thing I've leared in my 45 years is that everyone has an agenda. The Catholic's agenda is to make more Catholics. The best I can tell about Buddhism's agenda is that it exists to promote well being and cherish all life. I see where there's a controlling tendency in one but not the other.
And I think every belief system has some value. Throwing the baby out with the bath water. I agree with much of what you are saying about organized religion, but it wasn't science that gave us the golden rule. And I'm assuming that you agree the golden rule has some rational and tangible benefit to society, yes?
I can agree with this to a point. If the exercise is rooted in the pursuit of knowledge rather than control it has some redeeming value. I think that the golden rule is common sense humanity. Not everything must arise from science but it must arise from critical reasoning and thinking for ourselves.
On religion in general:
I feel some mystical connection to something greater than myself. Some people do and some people don't feel the same thing, and I have respect for both. Whether you do or don't isn't really my problem. There's a great part of our individual reality that is subjective, and that mystical connection is part of mine. That built in connection for me came with a built in indicator light that tells me what what I am doing is conduscive to that connection and when it is not.
But I'm very hesitant to place a lable on that connection or try to contain it to something when it seems quite obviously un-containable. I don't think this connection expects/requires/needs/wants/demands under threat of force to join any sort of club for it to be valid. I don't believe it can be contained in a single book. This connection seems remarkably self-contained. My connection to this "force" is my connection to it. Other people might have their connections but those are their connections. When a Christian calls it "God", I believe we are talking about the same thing, though again, I don't like to label it. And when I hear a few certain parts of the bible the little indicator light glows. For most of it though, the light is dim. And a great deal of the "Christians" I have talked to have twisted that connection into something self serving. They cherish all life except when they don't.
I have no frame of reference to address this other than regurgitating philosophers or old texts. I do not dismiss it except to say it is based in faith and therefore unsubstantiated.
Proof of this "force":
As an engineer I know good work when I see it. That's really all the proof I need. If we each live a thousand years, at best we will scratch the surface of the beauty and magisty that is the reality we live in. I look around and I have profound respect for the level of engineering and the attention to detail I see in the smallest of things. There's no way that perfection and level of engineering is achieved on accident. 1,000 monkeys at 1,000 typewriters will not produce a NYT best seller. Sorry, they won't. So all this whole reality as random happenstance? I'll never believe that. Science talks about the "laws of nature" but every law must have an arbiter. And much like I see when I look at my aunt's cookies, I see the universe as a labor of love for what ever created it / flicked the dominos / whatever. I don't see things like love and brotherhood as randomly generated constructs.
I could discuss this aspect of the pro intelligent design theories all month if you would let me.
To summarize your assertion, It is so perfect that it could not be by accident. Not so.
I would question this scientifically by asking if it is so perfect then why is there millions of years of evolutionary change and why is this change ongoing? Why would the intelligent design not start with perfection instead of scaling it over millions of years?
I would question this philosophically by asking how would a disorderly universe be possible from what we know of physical laws and our observations of reality? What would a disorderly universe look like? Our ideas of order come from the our observations of reality and reality is necessarily orderly because it's the standard of what exists. The idea that a contradiction could exist is simply ludicrous on its face.
On the topic of your personal beliefs, Freecare, I am not against you. You seem to be open minded enough to discuss these issues with rationally.