Is religion redundant? Is the idea of God a terrible waste of human thought, time & energy? A fantasy, a projection of weak-minded, feeble people - looking for Mommy or Daddy in the sky?
There is so much to do just to keep the world in half-decent working order... food to grow, tools to make, houses and machines to build and maintain, clothes to weave, illness to treat, crime & violence to subdue, poverty & injustice to resist, alleviate...
There are so many subtle, practical decisions to be made inside each active human association, each group out there devoted to carrying out some necessary task...
Where does religion come into play here, if it does at all?
For some reason as I was trying to get to sleep last night I was thinking about my father, some of his ordinary "manly" qualities : his work ethic, self-discipline, responsibility, probity, diligence, sobriety, prudence, devotion, humility, enterprise, stoicism. His "salt of the earth" aspect... thinking of him, in his 80s, sitting at his little card table paying his bills, taking care of other people....happy simply to be able to keep his own free house in order, every day... (and of my mother, who sustained him through many dark hours...)
& thinking of the symbolic image of "the Father" - this activity of providential providing (Robert Frost's line comes to mind, "Provide, provide!"). This image of the sustainer, the solid Rock... one who has been given responsibilities to carry out, and who, in order to do so, must make a habit of self-denial. The guardian, the manager, the caretaker... the servant... (there's another word I'm trying to think of in this regard - ? stewardship).
& the spiritual freedom of the one who acts and serves creatively, energetically, in these ways - freed from his or her own merely egotistical self-indulgences, by way of helping others...
So again, though : where do religion, God, Christianity come in here, if they do? Aren't we talking about ordinary virtues, human qualities of character - making good with the cards one is dealt?
What a hard question to answer! And there is no simple answer. On the one hand, many people are guided and sustained by a moral universe informed by their faith in God. On the other hand, there is no doubt that secular and non-religious people can be just as loving and morally upright as any of their God-fearing neighbors.
I like what I think was Roger Williams' perspective on this questions. I think he might assert two basic things about it. First, he would say that God offers spiritual light, by which we can actually see : and what we are able to see are the manifold goodness and virtue in people everywhere - a whole world of varied tribes & faiths, yet sharing in this universal inheritance from God : the inherent propensity to love and do good. Not that all are good : but that Mankind in general has been given the capability to be and do good. Second, I think he would say that faith in God, and in Jesus Christ, is itself a gift of divine grace to the believer. It is something extra - a dose of spiritual joy direct from God, direct from the kingdom of heaven. Yes, life can be good on earth, for those who love and do well : but what Jesus offers is the "good news" : the message of everlasting life. The essence of this playful extra is intellectual joy - is spiritual glee - is (in Roger's term) soul liberty.
"I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." "No one comes to the Father but by me." So Jesus in the Gospels declares. Does this represent merely an outmoded, superstructural ideology, mythology? A psychological compensatory mechanism? A false consciousness?
Ultimately your answer to these questions depends upon the roots of your worldview. My own answer (today, anyway) draws again on my own understanding, ie. : 1) the cosmos we experience is inextricably bound up with mind and consciousness; 2) meaning and consciousness, in turn, are rooted in identity, in Personhood; 3) there is a substantial, cosmic, shared Personhood, of which our own experience is only partial, only a foretaste. Such basic ideas, for me, provide a kind of intellectual ground for this further, more mysterious perspective : that our life on this planet is a drama, a "miracle play", a divine comedy. It is the play of a Creator who works to restore this particular creation - by coming in person, and asking us to join him in one Spirit (children of God).
We are finally "at home" on earth, and in the universe, when we can hear this "still, small voice" - this speech which emerges from and penetrates through mankind as a whole - this "prophetic" sound of a loving Maker - this Logos, this order - hidden, manifest, living & dying in us and with us.