These are the half-hearted believers. They don't really know or even care if they believe, but they follow religious rules (drop a buck in the collection basket, choose to give up carbohydrates for a few specific days) because that's just how life is. These are the people who don't even notice the hints of religion in their daily lives- printed on our currency, included in our Pledge of Allegiance- because they just follow the structure their respective religions have set out for them. And that's fine. If religion can sit on the back burner and these people are happy, that's fine (though a few priests and religious officials might take offense).
But sooner or later these people use religion as a justification...
Why can't she be our daughter-in-law? Well, she's not Catholic. Why can't my cousin marry his true love? Well, he's gay. God wouldn't approve. Why can we start this war? Well, God would appreciate it. How can we get elected this November? Well, God is there for us... as a political tool. As a social tool. As a way to keep out the people we don't want to associate with, to keep down the people who have always seemed below us.
Because they're not like us. They're not the ones who follow the holy words of God (-ahem- the ones we only listen to at Christmas and Easter, the ones we block out so that we can plan ahead to where we'll seat Aunt Esther at the dinner table).
And if religion wasn't the justification, we'd find something else. I'm not knocking religion, and I'm especially not knocking faith. But it just strikes me how very convenient religion is as an excuse, a backup, a solid reason to do whatever we like. No one can say anything against God, of course, and of course God isn't about to let us know what He really thinks... So in the name of religion and the name of God, people kill and speak hatefully and alienate unalienable rights... without retribution.
There's no way to stop this relentless use of religion as rock-solid justification; all I can do is draw our attention to it and hope that we'll realize that perhaps religion has become a way for us to not be entirely accountable to ourselves. Lack of accountability is nice sometimes, I must admit... But using religion as an excuse for our own actions is not. (If we're going to pretend that we do everything because God is watching, can't we at least make it a positive thing? Let's use God as an excuse to do good, not evil... Let's be more accountable to ourselves, not less.)
And so I leave you with this thought: Is your religion about faith, or justification? Solace of the soul, or of the insecure human mind? If your answers are the former, God bless you; but if your answers are the latter, something needs to change.