One way or another, this is a discussion that is needed. Generally it's not an easy discussion, because it tends to cause emotional reactions. Try to control yourself and learn something. There is important stuff here though actually the most important topic might be Faith. It is really why I am writing this at the moment, because it is so important and so badly needs to be explained, but I'll cover the other two topics some because they all seem to fit together. You are quite welcome to jump ahead though to any topic that interests you. This is meant as an initial draft, not a final draft and it is not in the context it belongs in.
First topic: GodsDoes God exist? Everyone seems to want to know. First off, I should say I've argued with atheists on this point far more than believers. There is no way to know, that is why they call it faith, most commonly known as an unsupported belief. For the atheists out there though, in my experience your arguments are that of ideologically driven fanatics and reason is no part of your discussion. My favorite atheist can hold in his mind at the very same time both that it is impossible for Gods to exist and that the Singularity is a foregone conclusions. I hate tell you that the Singularity is basically a scientifically sourced description of a God, quite capable of anything described in the Bible or other holy writings. Really, I don't see a huge difference between the Singularity and the most widely known God meme, the Medieval Catholic God Concept (the MCGC). That is the "one" all God that is very well known to Christianity and Islam. The abilities described for both the Singularity and the MCGC would be about the same and show things about human thought more than anything else, though there is more history attributed to the MCGC. Speaking of holy writings, on a more traditional note about Gods and there have been a lot in history, while I have said there are eight definitions of God, I find that only two seem really important. They are God the Creator and God the Lawgiver. Both of those are pretty universal to all religions, though not completely. Be clear that how Gods were looked at had to be different then than now. Don't be a jerk about it. Try to understand the point of views of different peoples and different times or don't claim to be trying to understand Gods and religion. I would guess that the "Creator" role of a God helps with both the cohesiveness of a tribal group and to provide a logical root premise for the philosophical models of the world that all humans have, to some degree of sophistication or another, for organizing their conceptual framework of the world and existence. It is necessary... Now God the Lawgiver is something else entirely, though it too can provide root reasons for existential questions that are important to human models of their world. More importantly though it can serve as the foundation of their survival strategy, that is their moral system. The importance of moral strategies will be discussed more elsewhere, but suffice to say they are perhaps the most important single aspect of human survival whether you like it or not or whether you understand it or not. Briefly I will say that the primary function of religion is to husband the moral strategy of a people. I mention that to support the statement before it about the importance of moral strategies to survival. If you doubt it, consider the Jews. At this point, the term Jew, refers far more to a belief system than a tribe. They did rule the Western world from when Sargon the Great conquered the Sumerians until they were in turn conquered by the Indo-Europeans we know as the Greeks, Romans, etc. (That is probably when anti-Semitism started.) The point is that they have been fantastically successful at the business of survival, so much so that they have attracted the murderous attacks of so many other warlike peoples. Yet they have survived and it is based on a survival strategy maintained, taught and husbanded by their religion. Before we forget where this discussion started, that strategy is believed to have been taught to them by a God. Whether it was or not, the strategy is respected and followed largely not because there is some history that proves it works as some modern human might think, but because it is supposed to have come from a God. (Though I suspect the priests knew quite well how effectively it worked.)
Faith is one of the most important topics related to survival there is. The trouble is that the meaning of faith has been intentionally obscured. Faith is defined in the dictionary a few ways, primarily in a religious context, but also as an unsupported belief. So, if religion didn't exist, would faith? I assure you it would. Without faith, religion would not exist. The second definition is far more important than the first, because you have faith in many things including yourself. Understand it's real meaning and you can understand so much.
When I first started my study about how humans could survive into the future, I had to confirm one premise and that is that our survival instinct is powerful and pretty much overrules all the rest of our behaviors. (In biological terms for humans, that may not just mean personal survival. It's more complicated than that.) This is obvious in terms of biological and evolutionary theory, but I needed to confirm it and I was able to. Interestingly, it was usually expressed as creativity. So, have you ever heard of a name for human survival instinct though? Probably not. They talk about animal survival instincts, that an animal may chew off its foot to escape a trap, but we never mention human survival instincts though we know at least someone will cut off their arm to escape a rock. For that matter humans can be awfully hard to kill and survive under ridiculous circumstances while some animals just give up when they are in a strange situation. My guess is that "survival instinct" has been the primary target of human evolution since we started agriculture and cities, maybe before that. So what is the name of "human survival instinct"? That is the key. Mostly why we don't have a name for it is because the Western Church basically declared that humans do not have instincts because that would mean we have an animal nature rather than that we are divine. I'm not sure about that conflict exactly, but that is a bias built deeply into our culture. I also know we have powerful instincts. Our survival instinct is like an emotion and can be seen in a person like love or anger. Like other emotions it can grow slowly or flower suddenly. You would think though that there has to be a name for something that basic and powerful. Well, there is. It was just stolen. If you know its name you can see it in yourself and others more clearly and easily. You can see its effect in every human thing.
Morality is how we tell right from wrong. In this story, right is what is good for survival. Wrong is what is bad for survival in the evolutionary sense. We have moral instincts that can guide us a fair amount, but while they are deep, they are very limited especially in terms of dealing with change, so we have learned moral systems which are learned survival strategies. Part of moral instinct is to find and even create these moral systems. The instinct to use moral systems is shown by that people fight to the death over them. Religion was created by them for their preservation. Interestingly and problematically, part of moral instinct includes not examining them real closely after they are learned, though that is not an absolute. It's easy to figure that our basic survival instinct is tied to our instincts about survival strategy. Our morality tells us right from wrong. It is our survival instinct that makes us choose and follow our moral direction. The name of that survival instinct is Faith. It is why we make choices about right and wrong. Morality is how we decide, but faith is why we decide. Think about it in yourself and others you know. You can see it materialized in the work of an artist or crafter. The rightness of their work, often recognized as beauty, is an expression of their faith. It is why they did it right. Think about it and more and more you will be able to recognize it. The better you understand it, the better you will be able to make decisions about right and wrong yourself. The importance of this cannot be underestimated. Don't ask me. Look within yourself. Look at others and see their choices about right and wrong. There are some people that you just know to be very good. Look at them and you will see their faith. It drives their moral choices, that is, every choice they make. There are few things more important you can learn besides being able to recognize faith in yourself and others. It is your most basic nature.
The thing is that religion has stolen the word and claimed they own it. It's one of the main things I criticize religion for. It does not belong to them. You may have faith in God, but that doesn't do much for God. Actually, faith in a God can aid survival, especially when religion is the main repository of moral strategy and law. It can help with group cohesiveness too which can be so important to survival, but there was little reason to steal the word faith and claim that human's best instincts belong to a God, when it is so important to people and it is theirs.
Some people believe God made humanity. Some people say evolution made humanity. I think some even say God used evolution to create humanity. What I don't think is contested is that we have powerful survival instincts including moral instincts and that is what is important here. It means whether God is driving this or evolution, it's all about survival. Faith is far more about that than any God. Whether you believe in a God or evolution, our purpose and drive seems to be the same, survival. It is also about development into far more than we were and far more than we are now. That describes our history and it describes the aspirations of our minds and instincts, including faith.
Oh well, I never quite got to religion, but it's a fascinating topic, so I will. Faith though seems to me to be the most interesting topic. It's so important and so misunderstood.