(You might want to check out the Einstein wasn't religious node for the background to this question, but it's not required.)

It seems to me that the term religious should be clearly distinguished from words like spiritual, thoughtful, and theistic. There are a lot of words to describe people who search for meaning and pattern in the universe--"religious" describes only a subset of those people, namely those who identify themselves as belonging to a religion, a socially identifiable group of believers.

Update: The traditional defintion of "religion" implies a life directed toward God (substitute your favorite word for "the ultimate" if necessary), not toward "personal perfection." There are plenty of atheists who are very serious about becoming moral people and improving the lives of others--can they be called religious? If so, then religion is just a synonym for "moral living--" a definition which plays into the hands of religious bigots.

I would say that "religion" consists of our relationship with the ultimate and with other humans in that context...but that definition might be flawed because I'm not sure if it can be applied to religions that don't have a personal God.

Two things I've been told in life might apply here:

1) "Going to church has as much chance of making you religious and going to a garage has of making you a mechanic."

2 ) "There are a lot of chirstians, but not a lot of christianity."

I have found these both to be quite true form my own experience. I used to attend church regularly, but as i got older, I started to notice the politics going on behind the scenes. In this, case 1) above was evident. Many of the people higher up in this particular church attended regularly, but you very rarely saw them anywhere else! eg: didn't attend fund raisers, didn't help out after services and the like.

Also, the hypocrasy was more noticeable. The whole notion of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" seemed to go out the window. For example: many of the people round my age were getting affirmed, but I chose not to because I didn't belive I had the faith at that time to do it, and have it actualy mean something to me. After the others were affirmed, very few of them spoke to me. Point 2) above.

Again, I point out that this is my own experience, and that there are many good churches out there. This one turned me off religion as a whole, as I saw people preaching, but not practicing.

If you can stay true to your beliefs (no matter what they may be), then you have strength, and my respect.
Haggis quotes one of my favorite bumper stickers in a writeup above:

"Going to church has as much chance of making you religious as going to a garage has of making you a mechanic."

I agree: it depends on whether you go there and pay attention to what's said, or whether you just go every 5,000 miles because you're supposed to.

I never saw much point in going to church "because that's what people do on Sunday"; I wasn't interested in the subject, and didn't want to spend the morning being told I'd go to Hell if I didn't believe the tenets of one faith or another.

I approached religion academically, through The Sociology of Religion and other books in that same vein. I was curious what being religious meant to others. That, along with a wonderful assignment -- to attend services with a religious group with which I was unfamiliar, and report on the experience -- sparked my own personal interest in religious questions.

Mind you, I'm not so much interested in religious answers. What I enjoy is thinking about religious questions. If I wanted answers, I'd go to church.

So I guess you could say I change my own oil.

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