And then there are more ephemeral beliefs such as faith in the basic goodness of others or that it is right to treat others as you would want to be treated. It is by no means necessary to hold religious beliefs to create a belief system consisting of faith statements whether organized or disjointed. So some of us will attempt to organize our beliefs in line with traditions that we receive, while others will attempt to create systems ex nihilo, and indeed, some will not care about order and simply live by the beliefs they find necessary.
I've gotten to the point in my life where I am much more interested in learning from others about how and why their beliefs matter than trying to convince others that my beliefs are superior. That may be surprising, coming as it does from a religious professional. I have chosen religion because I find it easier to hone my own beliefs by comparing and contrasting them to the collective wisdom of centuries of tradition. That doesn't mean that I don't believe in the evolution of belief. The gift of tradition is that I don't have to reinvent the wheel. I also don't have to take it on as a burden. Rather, it is a tool that I can use to shape the particular beliefs that will get me through my journey.
It is also clear that we are beings that rely on ritual. We all do repetitive acts that connect us with others and place us in a historical context. Whether it is blowing out candles on a birthday cake or taking a bit of bread and grape juice on a Sunday in a church, we value ritual. Different religions provide different rituals, I'm not going to suggest that some are superior to others. But again, my personal decision is to practice Christianity, not because it is the only path to truth, but because it is the one that I know best. It simply seems foolish to pursue another path when this one is so ingrained in me. That is why I feel so sorry for those who reject religion because they have been damaged by it. Theirs is a longer path because they must do so much work on their own. Where I am comfortable using religious language to describe my spirituality, they must create new language and understandably hear my language in the context of their pain.
Still, I desire to be in community with all who seek to apply belief to living, because that should always be our aim in life. I admit that religious institutions have too often worked more to preserve their existence than to be relevant change agents for the betterment of the world. That in itself is a decent argument for atheism. But in the end, I am sure that those of us who take time to ponder how to live ethical lives can gain strength in being in conversation and community. Knowing that I can never fully describe the being I call God since God is necessarily greater than my limited ability to comprehend, I am content to say simply that God is love. Logically then, love is God. Isn't that a simple enough place for us to begin our conversation? And, yes, it is also mind-blowing when you stop to consider it.