There are many good things to be said about religion. It tends to correct improper social behavior. It may produce humility in those who see themselves as failing to meet their religion's demands. It provides hope (whether founded on truth or not) for a better afterlife. It motivates acts of benevolence, such as responding to tragedies such as the tsunami that killed thousands in southern Asia, hurricane Katrina, or the earthquake in Haiti. And, nearly every religion has some version of the "golden rule." But is it really religion that provides all of these things? Some of them, such as benevolence, social restraint, and observing the "golden rule" are practiced by atheists, as well. When all is said and done, religion merely "draws a line in the sand," and produces hope in some, and hopelessness in others. Those who are devout see a glimmer of hope, while those who see the practice of their religion as unrealistic or impossible to which to adhere, tend to lose all hope.
There is, however, good news for any and all who want hope in this life, and a certainty of joy everlasting. As I have written previously, religion is doomed to failure. What I would suggest to you is that there is a way you can experience a relationship with God that does not involve religion. In fact, it is the opposite of religion. It does not give you a list of dos and don'ts to please God and avoid His punishment, but it gives you a family relationship with God the Father. Romans 8:15-17a says, "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father. The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. And if children, then heirs - heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ...."
So, how does one receive the Spirit? In John 3:1-8, Jesus tells Nicodemus that there is a second birth for all those who believe in Him. Christians call it being "born again." It is a bringing to life of one's spirit by the Holy Spirit. When one does something he or she knows displeases God, it is called sin. Sin immediately kills spiritually. When a person who is dead spiritually believes in Christ, he or she is given new life, life in the Spirit. Paul describes it well in Ephesians 2:1, "And you hath He made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins." How did God make me alive? His Spirit convinced me of the following truths:
*I have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
*The wages (payment) of my sin is my death (Romans 6:23a).
*God loved me even while I was still a sinner, and Christ died for me (Romans 5:8).
*God's gift to me (totally unearned) was Spiritual life through Jesus Christ, my Lord (Romans 6:23b)
*When I confessed Jesus as my Lord, and believed in my heart that God raised Him from the dead, I was born again (Romans 10:8-9).
Don't you long for a relationship with God? If you do, I want you to know, religion won't give it to you. Only faith in Jesus Christ will make you a child of God. Trust Him and see.