I hate to use Catholicism as an example again, because I'd like to introduce some diversity, but once again it's the example I know best.
I know the concept of rationality is very important with a lot of posters here, and I know in the past (think Middle Ages) the Catholic church did a lot of things without a clear rational justification. (or at least not a positive one - I'm discounting reasons like "seizing more power" or "going along with political leanings" and things of that nature) However, in recent years, the Catholic church has made a push to think carefully before they rule on some question of religious beliefs, to think of a rational basis for their ruling. Granted, this reasoning is based on a number of assumptions, or axioms, that the Catholic church has (such as, God exists, Jesus exists and is the Son of God, etc. - the Catholic church may have proofs for this, and I apologize if this is the case because I haven't read them). But they have a rational, logical basis for their decisions (at least, the ones I have read
) that follows logically from the initial axioms, and yes they do consider scientific evidence.
So how do we reconcile this fact with the fact that people still seem to say things like "oh I don't know, just because" when they are questioned on some of the tenets of their faith? The proofs exist; most often they haven't made the effort to bother learning them or understanding them. Within the Catholic church, any time a new explanation for a rule comes out, there's an effort to help people understand it; the priests will try everything short of going door-to-door to help people out. (this has been my experience)
So please, don't automatically assume that every tenet of religion is done for some completely irrational religious belief. If you disagree with a religion's particular belief, likely it's because you disagree with one of their base axioms.
Here's an example: Abortion. (oh god please do not turn this into an abortion debate*) One axiom of the Catholic church is that all life, from the moment of conception until the moment of death, should be protected and respected regardless of the nature of their creation and the nature of the person and their actions. You may disagree that life begins at conception, or that people who have committed heinous crimes should be allowed to live, or that a woman should be required to carry a fetus (who may or may not qualify as human depending on your view) if she was raped or if carrying the fetus to full term will kill her. You might have reasons for these beliefs that involve justifications like the importance of personal choice; the importance of the utility of a person and their potentially harmful effect on a community; or that science may have shown that life doesn't begin at conception; or an argument that scientifically speaking, human life doesn't count as human life unless there is brain function. There are a million reasons why you might disagree with the Catholic church's stance. But those are your own axioms. You have chosen to accept them, and you can keep digging and digging and asking "why did I chose this reason? on what rational basis is this reason founded?" until you reach the base axiom, and at that point you will have to say that you quite simply believe in that axiom.
*If you want to respond to this argument, DO NOT talk about the reasons why abortion is right or wrong, unless it's to correct my characterization of the Catholic church's stance. You are welcome to continue using the example though, it's just that this is not the place to have this discussion. If you want to disprove what I've said, your best bet is to disprove my claim that everyone's beliefs can be reduced to a set of unprovable axioms - even atheists or agnostics.
So my point is this: First of all, religions generally have a lot more rationality behind their decisions, but observers of this religion fail to understand the reasoning and therefore seem to have an irrational belief. Also, please stop saying things like "I am not religious because I see supposed Christians acting like hyprocrites so I assume the religion is the fault of this." Second of all, behind their belief system everyone has a set of unprovable axioms. Even agnostics or atheists who believe that science can explain everything are still placing their trust in something that's unprovable - you can't prove that science CAN explain everything. (or maybe you can and I have missed out on life by not studying philosophy much more deeply than I have. correct me if I'm wrong please!) Third, a disagreement in axioms should never lead to repression of dissenters, as Philwelch said above. It should also not lead to belittling the dissenters, at least not the well-educated ones who can clearly explain themselves, as has been done frequently in this thread. (maybe it's just me, but a lot of posts have had a sort of sneering undertone when they spoke of religious conservatives. yeah they can be intolerant assholes sometimes *cough* Fred Phelps *cough* but that doesn't mean you have to sink to their level.)