I've come to understand religion on my own terms:
-a way to have community, centered around Goodness
-a way to make good of evil
-another method of social control (conformity with the morality of the priest, the church hierarchy (the pope, especially), or "submission" to an imam or whatever, dogma repetition for sheeple)
another layer of value inculcation, besides parents, law, peers: sin and confession, work ethic
-a way to make sense of our minds, explained simply
(such as in terms of souls and prayer, rather than telepathy or schizophrenia)
-a reassurance that someone is in charge, knows what they're doing, bears responsibility.
Justice, karma, reward/punishment:
-Your sins are forgiven. Go, and sin no more.
(the perfect criminal justice system, in my view)
-a hope for life after death, immortality, utopia (heaven)
-a promise of justice, when the legal system doesn't seem to work, or be enough. (e.g. circles of hell)
unfortunately, it's usually another instance of
in group/out group, superiority/inferiority, truth/delusion, (if not understood as a dichotomy between outright good/evil)
My understanding of God is just goodness, in the aggregate: the goodwill and love in the entire human community, across place (and some would say time), which is wrongly defined (but more easily understood) as a single being. God is an easy way to understand the goodwill, charity, and love of (mostly) strangers.
Also, there's the Most Powerful person (or perhaps Entity/space alien) in the world/universe, who may or may not be moral, and that changes, like an alpha male gorilla. This is where Death enters the picture, because the power to kill is the most powerful act. I suspect very few people actually believe in an afterlife, or in anything but oblivion. But it's a good story for the kiddies, I guess.
Mostly, God is a word and a meme, that -like Santa Claus- seems real and has real effects. The belief in ghosts and souls gives hope and something to look forward to at death, and the belief in prayer makes the schizophrenic normal, as well as erodes the concept of privacy, when your dreams come from a Source, and when your thoughts and behavior are being monitored, so be good for goodness sake (because whoever's in your head may have the power to make your life better/worse)!
4 hours ago